Saturday, October 04, 2008

John Calvin on Romans 5:18

This is one of my favorite quotes from Calvin's universalist statements. This is from John Calvin's Commentary on Romans 5:18 (the link goes to one of my previous blog posts where one can read the quote in a larger context and get more of my thoughts on the subject):

He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.

Justification is "propounded" (i.e., offered or set forth) to all, but not in reality "extended" to all. That is, all men are offered justification, but not all men are actually justified. That's Calvin's meaning here.

Calvin explains that this is so "for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world...." No question about the meaning of that, is there? It's not out of context, and it isn't denied by anything in the quote itself. Calvin is asserting this: "Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world...."

Notice the parallelism between Christ's suffering for all on the one hand and the indiscriminate offer to all on the other hand. The "all" here must be really "all," because the suffering is for "the whole world" and the offer is "indiscriminately to all." The ideas explain and reinforce one another. And it isn't "the world of the elect," because some of those for whom Christ died and to whom he is offered, "do not receive him."

It couldn't be clearer.


Derek Ashton said...


I've been studying Romans 5 recently, in fact I just looked at this verse because a Pelagian friend challenged me with it. In studying, I came across Calvin's quote and had to smile. Now I find you commenting on the very same quote. I like the way you tie a bow on this, proving that Calvin really did teach a type of unlimited atonement and the free offer of the Gospel. He'd have some strong words for the hypers, I have not doubt.

Derek Ashton

Duane Hensley said...

Trying to use verbal gymnastics to explain away Romans 5:18 to fit the Calvinist viewpoint is just plain silly and ridiculous. Calvin's explanation is the classic distinction without a difference fallacy. To make matters worse there are many more scriptures in the Bible that are completely opposite of the Calvinist view. Much more than there are scriptures to bolster the Calvinism. In other words Calvinists have only a few scriptures to refer to and then try to explain away the many more scriptures that don't fit.

Anonymous said...

Its so clear. Sin vs sins. Jesus died for sin (the condition) but his blood was shed for the sins. The gift was offered to ALl men but not reveived by all. Only the chosen are given faith to reveive the gift He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it. You did not choose me. I chose you. No one comes unless the Spirit draw him. Calvinism is correct and Biblical