Answers to Arminian Arguments

compiled by Rolaant McKenzie

Answers to Arminian Arguments | Doctrines of Grace Outlines |
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The following are common Scriptural passages used by Arminians when raising objections against the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation.1

Genesis 6:5-6; Ezekiel 33:11:
God is hurt by our actions, so He can't be in control of our destinies.

Answer: Even though God is Spirit (John 4:24), He is often spoken of in physical terms (Isaiah 37:17, 45:12, 51:5). This is done as an aid to our finite minds in comprehending the infinite God. In the same way, God is said to be "grieved" by our actions to help us understand His moral nature and standards (Ezekiel 33:1-10).

Deuteronomy 30:19-20; Joshua 24:15:
An offer of choice implies the freedom and ability to choice.

Answer: People with "totally depraved" natures, left to themselves, choose to reject the true God because He does not appeal to them (Romans 1:18-24). When God, by His grace, changes the nature of His elect, they choose to come to Him because they now desire Him (Psalm 73:25-28).

Psalm 69:28:
"Let them be blotted out of the book of life" indicates people can lose their salvation.

Answer: A better way of translating the verse would be, "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living" (NKJV, see also KJV). The reason this is a better translation is "living" in Hebrew is an adjective, not a noun. Thus, David is not praying for his enemies to be eternally damned; he is simply asking for them to be killed (i.e. to be no longer among the "living [ones]").

The preceding context further confirms this interpretation. (verses 22-27) Throughout these verses, David is praying for temporal judgments to come upon his enemies, eternity is not being discussed. The "salvation" David is asking for in verse 29 is salvation from his enemies, not eternal salvation. The Psalm simply doesn't have eternity in view, but temporal concerns.

Isaiah 53:6:
Christ died for "all" people.

Answer: "All" in this verse does not refer to every person who has or will live. It refers only to those whom will have "peace" with God (verse 5).

Ezekiel 18:24, 32:
If a righteous person turns from his righteousness he will die. So people can loose their salvation. And God has "no pleasure in the death of one who dies."

Answer: "die" in Ezekiel 18 does not mean "damnation" just as "live" does not mean eternal life. The chapter is discussing temporal rewards and punishments, not the eternal state. It is directed towards the "house of Israel" and concerns its current "Babylonian captivity" and the coming Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem (verse 31).

The people are claiming their captivity and the coming destruction are due to their ancestors’ sins, not their own (verse 2). Ezekiel is correcting their misconception and telling them that they are being judged for their own sins (verse 4). But God will relent if they "repent and turn from their transgressions" (verse 30).

Matthew 23:37:
"Jerusalem" represents individual Jews who are capable of resisting God's grace. Therefore irresistible grace is not true.

Answer: Jesus in this passage is referring to the Jewish leaders who, as is pointed out in verse 13, put up hindrances and obstructions before those under their authority in the external proclamation of the Word of God. This passage provides no evidence that God's grace is thwarted by unregenerate men.

John 1:29, 3:16, 4:42:
Christ "takes away the sin of the world," God loves the "world" and Jesus is "Savior of the world." So the atonement is universal, not limited.

Answer: "world" (Greek kosmon) does not necessarily mean everyone living on the entire earth (Luke 2:1; John 1:10, 7:4,7; Acts 17:6; Romans 1:8).

John 3:16:
God gave His one and only Son to the "world"

Answer: Arthur Pink's comments are helpful in understanding this well known passage.

Many people suppose they already know the simple meaning of John 3:16, and therefore they conclude that no diligent study is required of them to discover the precise teaching of this verse. Needless to say, such an attitude shuts out any further light which they otherwise might obtain on the passage. Yet, if anyone will take a Concordance and read carefully the various passages in which the term "world" (as a translation of "kosmos") occurs, he will quickly perceive that to ascertain the precise meaning of, the word "world" in any given passage is not nearly so easy as is popularly supposed. The word "kosmos," and its English equivalent "world," is not used with a uniform significance in the New Testament. Very far from it. It is used in quite a number of different ways. Below we will refer to a few passages where this term occurs, suggesting a tentative definition in each case:

"Kosmos" is used of the Universe as a whole: Acts 17:24 - "God that made the world and all things therein seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth."

"Kosmos" is used of the earth: John 13:1; Ephesians 1:4, etc., etc. -- "When Jesus knew that his hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world He loved them unto the end." "Depart out of this world" signifies, leave this earth. "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world." This expression signifies, before the earth was founded -- compare Job 38:4 etc.

"Kosmos" is used of the world-system: John 12:31 etc. "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the Prince of this world be cast out" -- compare Matthew 4:8 and 1 John 5:19, R.V.

"Kosmos" is used of the whole human race: Romans 3:19, etc. -- "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God."

"Kosmos" is used of humanity minus believers: John 15:18; Romans 3:6 "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you." Believers do not "hate" Christ, so that "the world" here must signify the world of unbelievers in contrast from believers who love Christ. "God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world." Here is another passage where "the world" cannot mean "you, me, and everybody," for believers will not be "judged" by God, see John 5:24. So that here, too, it must be the world of unbelievers which is in view.

"Kosmos" is used of Gentiles in contrast from Jews: Romans 11:12 etc. "Now if the fall of them (Israel) be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them (Israel) the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their (Israel's) fullness." Note how the first clause in italics is defined by the latter clause placed in italics. Here, again, "the world" cannot signify all humanity for it excludes Israel!

"Kosmos" is used of believers only: John 1:29, 3:16-17, 6:33, 12:47; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 2 Corinthians 5:19. We leave our readers to turn to these passages, asking them to note, carefully, exactly what is said and predicated of "the world" in each place.

Thus it will be seen that "kosmos" has at least seven clearly defined different meanings in the New Testament. It may be asked, Has then God used a word thus to confuse and confound those who read the Scriptures? We answer, No! nor has He written His Word for lazy people who are too dilatory, or too busy with the things of this world, or, like Martha, so much occupied with "serving," they have no time and no heart to "search" and "study" Holy Writ! Should it be asked further, But how is a searcher of the Scriptures to know which of the above meanings the term "world" has in any given passage? The answer is: This may be ascertained by a careful study of the context, by diligently noting what is predicated of "the world" in each passage, and by prayer fully consulting other parallel passages to the one being studied. The principal subject of John 3:16 is Christ as the Gift of God. The first clause tells us what moved God to "give" His only begotten Son, and that was His great "love;" the second clause informs us for whom God "gave" His Son, and that is for, "whosoever (or, better, 'every one') believeth;" while the last clause makes known why God "gave" His Son (His purpose), and that is, that everyone that believeth "should not perish but have everlasting life." That "the world" in John 3:16 refers to the world of believers (God's elect), in contradistinction from "the world of the ungodly" (2 Peter 2:5), is established, unequivocally established, by a comparison of the other passages which speak of God's "love." "God commendeth His love toward US" -- the saints, Romans 5:8. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth" -- every son, Hebrews 12:6. "We love Him, because He first loved US" -- believers, 1 John 4:19. The wicked God "pities" (see Matthew 18:33). Unto the unthankful and evil God is "kind" (see Luke 6:35). The vessels of wrath He endures "with much long-suffering" (see Romans 9:22). But "His own" God "loves"!!

-- Arthur Pink, "The Sovereignty of God", Appendix 3, The 
    Meaning of "KOSMOS" In John 3:16

John 12:32:
Christ will draw "all peoples" to Himself.

Answer: "Peoples" (NKJV) or "men" (KJV) is not in the Greek. It simply says "all" (pas). For a discussion on this word, see 1 Timothy 2:3-4 below. Also, Jesus teaches that one first has to be "drawn" (Greek elkuse) by the Father to come to Him (John 6:44, Acts 21:20, and James 2:6 where the same word is translated "drag" in the NKJV).

In the context of John 12:32, especially in light of the fact that some Greeks came to see Jesus (John 12:20), reveals that Jesus will draw men from every "kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Revelation 5:9), not from Israel only. So universalistic salvation is not taught in this passage.

Acts 7:51, 24:25:
People can resist the Holy Spirit and consequently, God's offer of salvation. Therefore God's grace is resistible by man's free will.

Answer: People often resist the conviction of the Spirit and God's offer of salvation. The issue is whether the unregenerate can thwart the grace of an omnipotent God. If God according to His appointed time did not overcome the sinner's rebellious will and cause him to accept Jesus Christ by faith, then none would ever be saved.

Romans 12:3:
God gives every man a "measure of faith," so all have the ability to choose to accept God's offer of salvation.

Answer: This passage does not teach that every person on earth without exception has faith. At least the kind of faith that makes them morally neutral so that they will choose Christ by their autonomous free will. Paul is talking to the believers in Rome in this passage. Grace is granted by God to believers to think soberly, not think more highly of themselves than they ought, and to make good use of spiritual gifts according to the proportion of faith given to them.

2 Corinthians 3:16:
The "veil" is taken away after one turns to the Lord; so people are capable of turning to God on their own.

Answer: The "veil" being removed is one of misunderstanding the Scriptures. (verse 14) The question still remains, how do people turn to the Lord in the first place? (see verse 5).

1 Timothy 2:3-4:
God desires "all" to be saved.

Answer: "all" (Greek pas) in Scripture does not necessarily mean every person on the face of the earth. (Matthew 3:5, 10:22; John 3:26; Colossians 1:23) Paul uses the word 22 other times in 1 Timothy and in many of these references it does not refer to "all existing examples of" something but rather "all kinds of" something or some other meaning (1 Timothy 1:15, 2:1-2, 6, 8, 11, 3:4, 11, 4:4, 8-10, 15, 5:2, 10, 20, 6:1, 10, 13, 17).

Particularly pertinent is 6:10, "For the love of money is the root of all evil" (KJV). Money was not the "root" of Satan’s rebellion or the Fall of Adam and Eve, or many other sins. However, money is "a root of all kinds of evil" (NKJV; note: There is no definitive article "the" in the Greek).

Similarly "all" in 1 Timothy 2:4 does not refer to every person who has or will live. It refers to all kinds of people as opposed to only Jews (Matthew 13:47; Acts 10:34, 11:18; Revelation 5:9).

Moreover, if God wanted every person to be saved, then everyone would be saved since His will always comes to pass. (Isaiah 55:11; Psalm 33:10, 115:3, 135:6) But the Bible clearly teaches some will be damned (Matthew 25:26; Revelation 20:11-15, 21:8).

1 Timothy 4:10:
God is the Savior of all men.

Answer: God is the Savior of all men in a providential way, giving them being and breath, upholding them in their beings, preserving their lives, and providing them with the blessings and mercies of life (Matthew 5:45). He obviously is not the Savior of all men when it comes to eternal salvation, otherwise those who use this text to deny a definite atonement must also affirm universalism.

Titus 2:11:
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." So God’s grace is available to everyone.

Answer: Note the "For" at the beginning of the verse. This conjunction means this verse is an explanation of what has preceded. The preceding verses are injunctions to Christians on how we should live. It is only Christians who are looking forward to the Second Coming (verse 13). Thus "all men" refers to "all Christians" (see discussion on "all" for 1 Timothy 2:3-4 above).

Hebrews 2:9:
Christ tasted "death for everyone." So the atonement is universal.

Answer: "one" is not in the Greek. The word is pas which means "all" or "every." But "all" of whom?

Verse 10 begins with "For" which means the following verses will explain the previous ones. In these verses the writer refers to "sons" (verse 10), "brethren" (verses 11 and 17), "children" (verses 14-15), and "the seed of Abraham" (verse 16). These terms best describe "those who are of faith," not people in general (see Galatians 3:6-16).

Hebrews 6:4-6:
A description of true believers who are in danger of loosing their salvation.

Answer: Everything said in this passage could apply to Judas (Mark 3:13-19, 6:7-13), Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:13-17), and the people in Matthew 7:21-23. But it is very doubtful any of these ever genuinely believed (see John 17:12 and Acts 8:21, and note the word "never" in Matthew 7:23). Also, the writer believes the recipients will do "things that accompany salvation". (Hebrews 6:9) One of these "things" is perseverance (Hebrews 3:14; 1 John 2:19).

2 Peter 2:1:
The false prophets are "denying the Lord who bought them" so Jesus died even for unbelievers.

Answer: This verse is not discussing the atonement of Christ. 1 Peter was written to Jews. So it is probable that 2 Peter was also. (1 Peter 1:1; Galatians 2:7) To a Jew who was not a Christian "the Lord" would most naturally refer to God the Father, not Jesus. And the Jews were "bought" by God in the Exodus.

2 Peter 2:20-22:
People escape "the pollutions of the world" and then return to them.

Answer: Notice, the text simply says they have "known the way of righteousness" (verse 21). There is no mention of belief or salvation. And the "dog" and "sow" return to their old ways (verse 22). They never ceased to be dogs or sows.

2 Peter 3:9:
God is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

Answer: "any" or "all" of what? Dogs? Chickens? There must be an antecedent to the pronouns. In 3:3-7, Peter is discussing "them" (i.e., unbelievers). In verse 8 he addresses the "beloved." The beloved are those to whom the epistle is addressed, "those who have obtained a like precious faith with us" (1:1). Thus, God is not will willing that any of the beloved should perish. And, since God gets everything He wants, this verse becomes a proof-text for eternal security.

Moreover, the context of this passage is when the end of the world will come (3:7, 10). Peter is teaching that God will wait until "all" have a chance to repent. If "all" refers to everyone who has lived or will live, then the world would never end as new people are being born all the time! But if the reference is to all of God’s people, then the world will end when the last of the elect (a large but finite number) has repented and believed.

1 John 2:2:
Jesus died for the sins of "the whole world" not just the elect.

Answer: In 5:19 John writes, "the whole world lies under the sway of the evil one." But "the whole world" here cannot include believers (4:4). Thus, "the whole world" only includes all of a certain class of people. 5:19 refers to the class of the lost; 2:2 to the class of the elect.

Revelation 2:7:
Only those who "overcome" will ultimately be saved.

Answer: John declares in his first epistle, "who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:5).

Revelation 22:17:
"whosoever desires" is called to salvation.

Answer: A literal translation of the Greek phrase o thelon would be, "the one desiring". And the main issue still remains, where does this desire initially come from, within the person or from God? The desire and ability to repent and believe in Christ cannot come from within our own sinful natures (Jeremiah 13:23; Romans 8:7; 1 Corinthians 2:14, 12:3). So it must come from God (John 6:44)!

 

Note:
1 An Arminian is one who ascribes to the theological system developed by Jacob Arminius (1560-1609). The Five Points of Calvinism were originally drafted to contradict the five points of Arminianism.

A portion of the text of this section is adapted from:

Arminian Arguments Against the Five Points of Calvinism: Scripture Study.
Copyright 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry.

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