[K:NWTS 24/1 (May 2009) 34-35]

Calvin on Universal Salvation[1]

Howbeit, Saint Paul, having spoken of servants, says that God’s “grace has appeared fully to all men.” As if he should say that God thought it not good to chose[2] only the great and noble men, and such as are in reputation[3], but he has spread out[4] his mercy even to the basest[5], such as the world rejects, such as the world disdains and such as are had in contempt[6]. Those God has vouchsafed to honor by putting them into the array and degree of his children[7].

And so we see why Saint Paul speaks here of all men: whereby we may judge what soundness[8] is in these busybodies that meddle with expounding of the holy Scripture, which is not to be understood according to their vein[9], when they say God will have the whole world to be saved, and the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of the whole world. Therefore, it follows that men have free wills and that there is no election nor predestination to salvation[10].

But if beasts should speak, they must needs have a little more reason than this[11]. For Saint Paul’s meaning, in this text as well as in the other to Timothy, which I have expounded there, is nothing else but that God calls the great ones, though they are not worthy, and that he ceases not to adopt the little ones and to reach out his hand to receive them, though the world despise them.

[1]  From “Sermon 12 on the Epistle to Titus” (Titus 2:6-14, esp. v. 11: “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men”) as found in Sermons of M. John Calvin on the Epistles of S. Paule to Timothie and Titus (1579; reprint 1983) 1179; cf. CO (Calvini Opera) 54:531-32 for the French text. The sermon was preached at St. Pierre on the morning of September 29, 1555. For the dating, see the discussion in T. H. L. Parker, Calvin’s Preaching (1992) 150-52, 166-67. Calvin begins this sermon, “The last Sunday I showed…” (1169), indicative of his customary lectio continua in preaching morning and afternoon through a book of the Bible on the Lord’s day. Spelling and punctuation have been modernized.

[2]  Fr. literally: “that God is by no means content to chose”.

[3]  Fr. literally: “held in esteem”.

[4]  Fr. “or expanded”.

[5]  Fr. literally: “smallest”, “littlest”.

[6]  Fr. literally: “held in opprobrium”.

[7]  Fr. literally: “putting them among the rank and degree”

[8]  Fr. literally: “folly”, “blockishness”.

[9]  Fr. literally: “style”.

[10]  Fr. literally: “and that there is no election nor predestination to salvation at all”.

[11]  Fr. literally: “they ought to have a little more judgment than this”.