Spurgeon on 1 Timothy 2:3-4

The following is an exposé of Calvinist C.H. Spurgeon's shoddy exegesis, written by a brother in the Lord Jesus.

The following are excerpts (in red) from Charles H. Spurgeon's sermon entitled "Salvation by Knowing the Truth" and my comments (in black).

"God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."--1 Timothy 2:3, 4.

MAY GOD THE HOLY GHOST guide our meditations to the best practical result this evening, that sinners may be saved and saints stirred up to diligence. I do not intend to treat my text controversially. It is like the stone which makes the corner of a building, and it looks towards a different side of the gospel from that which is mostly before us. Two sides of the building of truth meet here. In many a village there is a corner where the idle and the quarrelsome gather together; and theology has such corners. It would be very easy indeed to set ourselves in battle array, and during the next half-hour to carry on a very fierce attack against those who differ from us in opinion upon points which could be raised from this text. I do not see that any good would come of it, and, as we have very little time to spare, and life is short, we had better spend it upon something that may better tend to our edification. May the good Spirit preserve us from a contentious spirit, and help us really to profit by his word. 

Why, of course, Mr. Spurgeon! You wouldn't want to say anything controversial now, would you? After all, you have the biggest "church" in England, and you want to keep it that way! The Metropolitan Tabernacle got huge for a reason, didn't it? It certainly wasn't because you said anything that would offend those carnal minds sitting in your pews, was it? On the contrary -- the ears need to be tickled, the carnal need to go away happy, the wicked hearts need to be soothed with words of peace. Now you wouldn't want to rock the boat, would you? You wouldn't want to say that those who believe that God wants every man without exception to be saved are unregenerate, would you? Of course not -- you don't believe that yourself. You speak peace to John Wesley, who said of this passage, "Who willeth seriously all men - Not a part only, much less the smallest part. To be saved - Eternally." Yes, you agree with John Wesley, your brother in Satan. You're one big happy family with the God-haters.

It is quite certain that when we read that God will have all men to be saved it does not mean that he wills it with the force of a decree or a divine purpose, for, if he did, then all men would be saved. He willed to make the world, and the world was made: he does not so will the salvation of all men, for we know that all men will not be saved. Terrible as the truth is, yet is it certain from holy writ that there are men who, in consequence of their sin and their rejection of the Savior, will go away into everlasting punishment, where shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. There will at the last be goats upon the left hand as well as sheep on the right, tares to be burned as well as wheat to be garnered, chaff to be blown away as well as corn to be preserved. There will be a dreadful hell as well as a glorious heaven, and there is no decree to the contrary. 

So, if this will does not have "the force of a decree or a divine purpose," then there is a less forceful, less purposeful will in God? There is a hierarchy of desires in God, such that there are some desires that have great irresistible force, while others are irresistible to some and can be thwarted by others? Well, Mr. Spurgeon, you don't believe the same Bible I do. My Bible says, "But He [is] in one [mind], and who can turn Him? Yea, His soul desires, and He does [it]." (Job 23:13) "declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past those things which were not done, saying, My counsel shall rise; and, I will do all My desire" (Isa 46:10).

What then? Shall we try to put another meaning into the text than that which it fairly bears? I trow not. You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. "All men," say they,--"that is, some men": as if the Holy Ghost could not have said "some men" if he had meant some men. "All men," say they; "that is, some of all sorts of men": as if the Lord could not have said "all sorts of men" if he had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written "all men," and unquestionably he means all men. 

Charles Spurgeon, you fool! And you claim to be a preacher of the Word? You are a joke. The Holy Ghost did not write "all men"! He did not write English! The Holy Ghost wrote Greek! The Holy Ghost wrote pantas anthropous! [Since the web browser doesn't support Greek letters, I must put English letters for Greek.] Now the question is, what does pantas anthropous mean? Does it mean every single human being without exception? If it does, then would you say that John 12:32 means that Jesus will draw all men without exception to Himself? Hmmm, let's check ...

Well, well! You preached a sermon on this very passage entitled "The Marvelous Magnet"! So let's see if this "Marvelous Magnet" draws every single individual without exception. Here's what you say:

The text says that Jesus Christ will draw all men unto himself. Now, all men who hear of Jesus Christ at all are drawn, but they do not all yield. Some of them pull back, and the most awful thing that ever happens to a man is when he pulls back till Jesus lets him go. What a fall is that, when the drawing power is taken away, and the man falls backward into a destruction which he himself has chosen, having refused eternal life, and resisted the Saviour's power! Unhappy is the wretch who strives against his own salvation. Every man that hears the gospel feels some measure of its drawing power. ... Does not Jesus sometimes tug hard at your conscience-strings, and, though you have pulled back, yet has he not drawn and drawn again? ... Do not pull back, lest his drawing should cease, and you should perish.

Incredible. There it is. You believe that Jesus Christ, "The Marvelous Magnet," draws all without exception to Himself, but that drawing is not effectual for all without exception. Some can resist the Savior's power. I guess the "magnet" that you believe in isn't so "marvelous" after all, is it? Your god's grace can be resisted. Your god is not my God, Mr. Spurgeon. My God has power over every single man without exception. When my God draws someone, that person has no power to pull back against the Almighty. Your god is the weakling god of Arminianism.

At least you're consistent. Wherever the English Bible says "all men," you believe it is every person without exception. So let's see what this means when we come to Romans 5:18: 

"Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life."

So, according to you, Mr. Spurgeon, God says in Romans 5:18 that by the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the free gift came upon every single human being without exception unto justification of life. You MUST interpret it that way, because, after all, according to you, the Holy Spirit said, "all men," and if the Holy Spirit had wanted to say "all men whom Christ represented," the Holy Spirit would have said so. So what are people doing in hell, Mr. Spurgeon? You must believe that God LIED when He said that the free gift came upon every single human being without exception unto justification of life!

I know how to get rid of the force of the "alls" according to that critical method which some time ago was very current, but I do not see how it can be applied here with due regard to truth. 

Since when do you have "due regard to truth," Mr. Spurgeon, you liar?

I was reading just now the exposition of a very able doctor who explains the text so as to explain it away; he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it. 

Yeah, those people who actually apply the rules of grammar in exegesis -- who needs them when you have Mr. Spurgeon to give you the "real" meaning, which he claims to have been written by the Holy Spirit in English!

I thought when I read his exposition that it would have been a very capital comment upon the text if it had read, "Who will not have all men to be saved, nor come to a knowledge of the truth." Had such been the inspired language every remark of the learned doctor would have been exactly in keeping, but as it happens to say, "Who will have all men to be saved," his observations are more than a little out of place. 

Who are you, Mr. Spurgeon, to say that this man's "observations are more than a little out of place"? You, who say that the Holy Ghost wrote "all men" instead of "all kinds of men"! And do I not note a bit of hypocrisy here? You said you don't want to be controversial or get into wrangling, but when it suits your purpose, you will engage in wrangling against those who would interpret this verse in a way that gives all glory to God. Ah, I know where you're coming from, you hypocrite. If someone wrangles against your brothers in Satan, the Arminians, then it is from a "contentious spirit." But if you wrangle against someone who interprets a passage in an anti-Arminian way, then it's okay. Yeah, I get it.

My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. 

Since when were your doctrinal views ever consistent? And if your doctrinal views are inconsistent with the Bible, then what does it say about your doctrinal views?

I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. 

Oh -- so you think that orthodoxy and inspiration are sometimes incompatible. Since your "orthodoxy" takes a back seat to "inspiration," then you are either saying that the inspired Word of God is not orthodox in some places or that you are really not orthodox. Which one is it?

I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God. I never thought it to be any very great crime to seem to be inconsistent with myself; for who am I that I should everlastingly be consistent? 

So that's what you consider "orthodoxy," Mr. Spurgeon? Consistent views with yourself? Well, Mr. Spurgeon, I have some news for you: orthodoxy is the STRAIGHT DOCTRINE that comes from SCRIPTURE, NOT FROM ANY MAN.

But I do think it a great crime to be so inconsistent with the word of God that I should want to lop away a bough or even a twig from so much as a single tree of the forest of Scripture. God forbid that I should cut or shape, even in the least degree, any divine expression. So runs the text, and so we must read it, "God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." 

So when the English Bible says "all," it always means "all without exception," eh, Mr. Spurgeon? After all, "the Holy Spirit said 'all'"! 

Does not the text mean that it is the wish of God that men should be saved? The word "wish" gives as much force to the original as it really requires, and the passage should run thus--"whose wish it is that all men should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth."

And how would you know about the original, Mr. Spurgeon? You just said that "a very able doctor" had no business applying the rules of Greek grammar to this passage!

As it is my wish that it should be so, as it is your wish that it might be so, so it is God's wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, he is not less benevolent than we are. 

Ah, Spurgeon, here's your god -- a god who wishes that everyone without exception would be saved. And you accurately say that your god is just like you -- just as you wish that it should be so, your god wishes that it should be so. Your god is made in your own image. You fashion an idol that is like you.

Then comes the question, "But if he wishes it to be so, why does he not make it so? " Beloved friend, have you never heard that a fool may ask a question which a wise man cannot answer, and, if that be so, I am sure a wise person, like yourself, can ask me a great many questions which, fool as I am, I am yet not foolish enough to try to answer. 

Of course you're not able to answer it, you fool. Your god is a god of contradictions. Your god is a god who wishes something would happen yet does not make it happen.

Your question is only one form of the great debate of all the ages,--"If God be infinitely good and powerful, why does not his power carry out to the full all his beneficence?" It is God's wish that the oppressed should go free, yet there are many oppressed who are not free. It is God's wish that the sick should not suffer. Do you doubt it? 

I don't just doubt it, I oppose it. It is not God's wish that every single sick person without exception should not suffer. If a sick person is suffering right now, it is because God desires that he suffer. For whatever God desires, THAT HE DOES. That's the God of the Bible. That's not the touchy-feely poor excuse for a god that you believe.

Is it not your own wish? And yet the Lord does not work a miracle to heal every sick person. It is God's wish that his creatures should be happy. Do you deny that? 

I most certainly deny that it is God's wish that every single one of his creatures should be happy. If a person is not happy right now, it is because God desires that he not be happy. That's the God of the Bible. That's not the touchy-feely poor excuse for a god that you believe.

He does not interpose by any miraculous agency to make us all happy, and yet it would be wicked to suppose that he does not wish the happiness of all the creatures that he has made.

Okay, great! Mr. Spurgeon, you call me wicked! Excellent! Now I know I'm on the right track!

He has an infinite benevolence which, nevertheless, is not in all points worked out by his infinite omnipotence; and if anybody asked me why it is not, I cannot tell. I have never set up to be an explainer of all difficulties, and I have no desire to do so. It is the same old question as that of the negro who said, "Sare, you say the devil makes sin in the world." "Yes, the devil makes a deal of sin." "And you say that God hates sin." "Yes." "Then why does not he kill the devil and put an end to it?" Just so. Why does he not? Ah, my black friend, you will grow white before that question is answered. I cannot tell you why God permits moral evil, neither can the ablest philosopher on earth, nor the highest angel in heaven.

God does not permit evil; He decrees and causes evil. And He does it for His own glory. He caused sin to come into the world in order to (1) glorify Himself in the salvation of the elect, (2) humble His people and cause them to continually need the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and (3) glorify Himself in the damnation of the reprobate. 

This is one of those things which we do not need to know. Have you never noticed that some people who are ill and are ordered to take pills are foolish enough to chew them? That is a very nauseous thing to do, though I have done it myself. The right way to take medicine of such a kind is to swallow it at once. In the same way there are some things in the Word of God which are undoubtedly true which must be swallowed at once by an effort of faith, and must not be chewed by perpetual questioning. You will soon have I know not what of doubt and difficulty and bitterness upon your soul if you must needs know the unknowable, and have reasons and explanations for the sublime and the mysterious. Let the difficult doctrines go down whole into your very soul, by a grand exercise of confidence in God.

Oh, yeah, Mr. Spurgeon -- don't think about things that show your god to be a contradictory god. Just "swallow them by faith." Don't chew on them, because it will show your god to be a two-faced, "yes" and "no" god -- just take a big gulp and believe contradictory things. Those "difficult doctrines" shouldn't be contemplated, they should just be accepted. What a bunch of bull.

GOD IS A LOGICAL GOD AND NEVER CONTRADICTS HIMSELF. If you believe in a god who wishes something would happen that he does not cause to happen, YOU BELIEVE IN A FALSE GOD. You are encouraging your listeners to swallow a contradiction -- to not think about the fact that they believe in a contradictory god. You are encouraging them to just open wide and swallow heresy "by faith." "Oh, don't think about it," you say, "Just accept it." So all the unthinking dolts like you just swallow their blasphemous notion of god and go on their merry way, thinking that they have "just accepted" some profound truth that they don't understand. Talk about the blind leading the blind.

I thank God for a thousand things I cannot understand. When I cannot get to know the reason why, I say to myself, "Why should I know the reason why? Who am I, and what am I, that I should demand explanations of my God?" I am a most unreasonable being when I am most reasonable, and when my judgment is most accurate I dare not trust it. I had rather trust my God. I am a poor silly child at my very best: my Father must know better than I. 

I do not doubt, Mr. Spurgeon, that you are a most unreasonable being when you are most reasonable. I would go further to say that you are also a most unreasonable being when you are most unreasonable. But don't expect the people of God to be like you. The people of God know that God is REASONABLE and that believing what He says in His word is REASONABLE and thus NON-CONTRADICTORY. You are saying that believers need to be unreasonable, and when they are unreasonable, that is when they are really "swallowing things by faith" and are thus the closest to the truth. But you know what? You have just turned the truth on its head. It is when believers are REASONABLE that they believe the truth, because the TRUTH is REASONABLE. And the TRUTH is NON-CONTRADICTORY.

An old parable-maker tells us that he shut himself up in his study because he had to work out a difficult problem. His little child came knocking at the door, and he said "Go away, John: you cannot understand what father is doing; let father alone." Master Johnny for that very reason felt that he must get in and see what father was doing--a true symbol of our proud intellects; we must pry into forbidden things, and uncover that which is concealed. 

So how does this story relate to the text at hand? What God says in His Word is NOT CONCEALED! So when God says that He wishes all kinds of men to be saved, this is not a "forbidden thing" or a "concealed thing" -- it is a WIDE OPEN, OUT IN PLAIN VIEW thing! And yet you would call those of us who think on these things and who believe that God is non-contradictory to be proud. Oh, Mr. Spurgeon, you sound so humble to the carnal mind. "I'm a fool. I'm a silly child. I don't know anything. I just swallow contradictory truths by faith." Oh, how humble this sounds to the deluded minds of your unregenerate audience! But it is the height of pride. It is proud and arrogant to say that God is unable to convey His truth to His people in His Word without contradiction. You self-righteous arrogant hypocrite -- it is YOU who are full of pride!

In a little time upon the sill, outside the window, stood Master Johnny, looking in through the window at his father; and if his father had not with the very tenderest care just taken him away from that very dangerous position, there would have been no Master Johnny left on the face of the earth to exercise his curiosity in dangerous elevations. 

Oh, how quaint. A nice little story to go with the sermon. Tickle, tickle. And it is nothing but vain wind. 

Now, God sometimes shuts the door, and says, "My child, it is so: be content to believe." "But," we foolishly cry. "Lord, why is it so?" "It is so, my child," he says. "But why, Father, is it so?" "It is so, my child, believe me." Then we go speculating, climbing the ladders of reasoning, guessing, speculating, to reach the lofty windows of eternal truth. 

This is no speculation or guessing. God reveals His truth in His Word. And since God is a logical, non-contradictory God, all of the truth that He reveals is logical and non-contradictory. There IS, however, REASONING. Yet you, Mr. Spurgeon, would have the people to throw reasoning out the window, throw thinking out the window, and just take a big gulp of contradictions "by faith." "Oh, it doesn't matter if it's contradictory," says your god, "Don't think about it. Just believe it." That's not my God.

Once up there we do not know where we are, our heads reel, and we are in all kinds of uncertainty and spiritual peril. If we mind things too high for us we shall run great risks. I do not intend meddling with such lofty matters. There stands the text, and I believe that it is my Father's wish that "all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth." But I know, also, that he does not will it, so that he will save any one of them, unless they believe in his dear Son; for he has told us over and over that he will not. He will not save any man except he forsakes his sins, and turns to him with full purpose of heart: that I also know. And I know, also, that he has a people whom he will save, whom by his eternal love he has chosen, and whom by his eternal power he will deliver. I do not know how that squares with this; that is another of the things I do not know. If I go on telling you of all that I do not know, and of all that I do know, I will warrant you that the things that I do not know will be a hundred to one of the things that I do know.

"I don't know how my god wishes, desires, things to happen that he does not make come to pass. I don't know how this god of mine, who says he is sovereign and accomplishes everything he desires, doesn't accomplish everything he desires. But no matter, I will just swallow it all whole without chewing on it, because since it's contradictory, it's too high and lofty for me. I just know it's true. So stop thinking about it so much. So what if it's a contradiction. So what if some people think they have the true meaning by looking at the context. Don't bother yourselves with such things. Just take it on faith. Faith is the opposite of reason, you know. If you do too much reasoning, you won't be able to take things on faith. Take that leap of faith, wherever it takes you, even if it seems wrong and contradictory and unreasonable. Go on and leap. Go on and swallow. It won't hurt a bit."

And so we will say no more about the matter, but just go on to the more practical part of the text. 

As if the truth that God wishes that all kinds of men be saved is not practical.