Archive for April 2010

The “Many” and the “All”

April 26, 2010

Therefore as by the offense 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. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous (Romans 5:18-19).

Some are confused by passages of Scripture which carry both “many” with “all” in its context dealing with the salvation of all. This selection from Romans 5:18-19 is an example.

In this passage the word “many” does not exclude all. The word “many” does not exclude all, except specifically by context. Context always determines word meanings.

Example:

“There were many people at the ballgame.” So, how many were at the ballgame? All were.

The “many” is a reference to a quantity – a large quantity, and in this example it includes everyone at the ballgame. In this case the word “many” refers to “all,” and no one is excluded.

Another Example:

“There were many people who spoke Spanish at the ballgame.”

In this case we have limited the quantity of the “many” by the context. The “many” now are not the entire size of the crowd attending the game, but the size of those speaking Spanish at the event.

We see in Romans 5:18 that the effect of Adam’s offense, as well as Christ’s righteousness, was on ALL.

In :19 we see how large the “ALL” group is – they are “MANY” effected by the actions of the two men.

The “all” in :18 describes the effects to be without the exception of anyone. The “many” of :19 describes the massiveness of the effect – the “all” were not just a “few” (small in quantity), but “many” (large in quantity.)

Romans 5:19 says, “For by one man’s disobedience MANY were made sinners.” How many were affected by Adam’s disobedience? ALL! (We know this from the “all” in :18.) The “all” was a massive group, as shown by the use of the word “many”!

Romans 5:19 also says, “so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” How many were affected by Christ’s obedience? ALL! (We know this also from the “all” in :18). The “all” was the same massive group, as shown by the use of the word “many”!

In Romans 5:18, the exact same “all” who were condemned in Adam’s offense were the exact same “all” who were justified in Christ’s obedience.

In Romans 5:18, the exact same “many” who were made sinners in Adam’s disobedience were the exact same “many” who were made righteous in Christ’s obedience.

Let’s say that the ballgame we mentioned earlier was a professional football game; and only 100 people were in attendance.

“All at the game wore red jerseys.” This means that everyone at the game wore a red jersey. None would be excluded in this “all” – but this “all” would not be “many” since only 100 people were there. As stated earlier, “many” is defined by its context. So, in this example the “all” would not be “many,” because 100 people at an 80,000 seat NFL stadium would never be referred to as “many.” The “all” would be only a “few.”

Now if the stadium was full of people, and everyone without a single exception wore red jerseys, then it could be said that “all” wore red jerseys, and that there were “many” red jerseys there. The “many” and the “all” would be the same in the context. So it is with Paul’s teaching in Romans 5:18-19.

The “many” and “all” can also be seen in other similar “salvation of all” passages. Be on the lookout for them.

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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© 2010

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