Home > Hermeneutics > There are many expressions used in the Scriptures indefinitely rather than specifically, and which are not to be understood without qualification

There are many expressions used in the Scriptures indefinitely rather than specifically, and which are not to be understood without qualification

Arthur PinkThere are many expressions used in the Scriptures indefinitely rather than specifically, and which are not to be understood without qualification. Some of them are more or less apparent, others can only be discovered by a comparison and study of other passages treating of the same subject. Thus, “the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it” (Acts 28:28, and cf. 11:18) did not signify that every one of them would do so. Similarly,

“The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5)

and “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17) were simply announcements that the grace of God was to overflow the narrow bounds of Israel after the flesh. So too “the world” has a variety of meanings and is very rarely synonymous with all mankind. In such passages as John 7:4, and 12:19, only a very small part of its inhabitants were included. In Luke 2:1, the profane world is in view; in John 15:18, 19, the professing world, for it was the religious sections of Israel which hated Christ. In John 14:17, and 17:9, it is the non-elect who are referred to—compare “the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5), whereas in John 1:29, and 6:33, it is the world of God’s elect, who are all actually saved by Christ.

Another word which is used in the Bible with considerable latitude is “all,” and very rarely is it found without limitation.

“All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22)

obviously means whatsoever we ask that is according to God’s will (1 John 5:14). When the apostles said to Christ, “All seek for Thee” (Mark 1:37), that “all did marvel” at His miracles (Mark 5:20), and that “all the people came unto Him” in the temple (John 8:2), those expressions were far from signifying the sum total of the inhabitants of Palestine. When Luke tells his readers that he “had perfect understanding of all things from the very first” (1:3), and when we are informed that Christ foretold all things (Mark 13:23) unto His apostles, such language is not to be taken absolutely. In like manner such statements as “all glorified God for that which was done” (Acts 4:21), “this is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law” (Acts 21:28), “thou shalt be His witness unto all men” (Acts 22:15), are to be regarded relatively. Consequently, in the light of those examples, when he deals with “He died for all” (2 Corinthians 5:15) and “gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6), the expositor must ascertain from other Scriptures (such as Isaiah 53:8; Matthew 1:21; Ephesians 5:25) whether they mean all mankind or all who believe.

The same is true of the expression “every man” (see for instance, Mark 8:25; Luke 16:16; Romans 12:3; and compare 2 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Corinthians 4:5). So too the words “all things.” Neither “all things are clean unto you” (Luke 11:41) nor “all things are lawful unto me” (1 Corinthians 6:12) can be taken at face value, or many Scriptures would be contradicted. “I am made all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22), must be explained by what immediately precedes. The “all things” of Romans 8:28, has reference to “the sufferings of this present time,” and the “all things” of 8:32, means the “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). The “times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21) is at once modified by the words immediately following: “which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began,” and most certainly none of them predicted the restoration of the Devil, and his angels to their pristine glory. “To reconcile all things unto Himself” (Colossians 1:20) must not be understood to teach undiluted Universalism, or every passage affirming the eternal damnation of the Christless would be contradicted.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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