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The Salvation of All Men

One of the great recoveries of the Reformation was the restoration of biblical preaching. Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Luther, John Calvin and other reformers took seriously the fact that God spoke to His people through His Word, and thus the preaching they engaged in was characterized by the simple explanation and straightforward application of the Bible to the congregation.

In John Calvin’s sermon from 1 Timothy 2:3-5, “The Salvation of All Men”, he argues clearly from the Word of God that since God desires the salvation of all men, we should seek the same thing in every way we can. St. Paul is not making a claim about the eternal destiny of every individual person in a way that would overthrow the doctrine of election, but he is expressing the expansive will of God that we see in the book of Acts: the gospel is not for the Jews only, but for everyone. Therefore, we should seek to bring everyone to Jesus.

He goes on to explain how election, far from defeating evangelism, actually promotes the godly character that an evangelist needs to have. If I think that I was the one who chose God, or that something in me rather than in His sovereign choice led to my salvation, then there exists something in me that sets me apart from other men. Not only would I then have something to boast about on my own, apart from Jesus, but when I seek to evangelize, I take that pride with me, and instead of pointing men to look to Christ alone for mercy, I try to get them to look for that special something in themselves that will lead them to salvation. Put simply, if election is rejected, pride sneaks into its place, and pride, not election, is the true enemy of evangelism.

Further, Calvin shows how election helps the evangelist to know his mission: the evangelist is not charged with changing hearts, for this is something he cannot do. It is the work of God alone, by His Holy Spirit, to change a sinner’s heart, and while He uses the preacher and the evangelist to communicate the message of salvation, it is God alone who does the saving. But how many of our evangelistic methods and schemes today are targeted and designed specifically to reach deeper and be more effective than the foolishness of preaching? If we learn this one lesson, and trust more in God’s power to carry out His decree of election through the simple preaching of the gospel instead of the charisma or cleverness or marketing schemes that the church is so in love with today, then we will indeed have learned something truly valuable and helpful that will cause our evangelism to mature.

In this sermon, we hear clearly the call to evangelism, the call to humility, and we hear a challenge to our hearts: we don’t desire all men to be saved like God does, and so we don’t do what God does. Confronted by the reality of who God is, we are the ones who need to repent of the fact that we lack this holy desire, and we need to change our hearts and minds, being transformed by the Word of God so that we too desire the salvation of all men. God desires all men to be saved, and He lives like it. Do you desire all men to be saved? Then live like it!

But in addition to the challenge of this text, we also experience the profound comfort of knowing the heart of God. You serve a God who wants the world to be saved! He does not simply “tolerate” you being here. He eagerly welcomes you into His family. What joy does it put in your heart to know that God looks on the world, looks on all men, looks on you with love and compassion, and desires that you be saved? Maybe some days you go through life feeling lonely or unloved, or maybe you even look around at church and think “Nobody here wants me. I don’t fit in; there’s no place here for people like me.” The Word of God says that you do belong here, and that you are wanted and loved. Be joyful! God desires all men to be saved, and that salvation includes you.

John Calvin’s sermon “The Salvation of All Men”, can be accessed here: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/calvin/calvin_36sermons.html#sermon32

Posted on Wednesday, October 29, 2014 by CJ Bowen