“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1Timothy 2:3-4
Has God purposed salvation for the whole world? Those who hold an Arminian view of salvation would say “yes” and would turn to passages like 1 Timothy 2:4. On the other those who hold a Calvinist view of salvation would say that God only wants to save for those He elected (i.e. the elect). So what does 1 Timothy 2:4 really teach?
Although the idea that Christ died for everyone sounds compelling, it also poses some serious theological problems, particularly on the Sovereignty of God and the efficacy of the sacrificial atonement of Christ. It is always a good practice to check the implications of the statements that one makes.
Can God desire something and fail to carry it out? If so, what would be the cause of that disappointment on a Sovereign God? Does He want to save the whole world? Then why doesn”™t He save the whole world since He is Omnipotent (all powerful)? Does His will and purpose get jeopardised by human free will and choices of man?
If God cannot do what He desires to do then he is not sovereign. If God has to rely on something outside of Himself to fulfil His will, then He is not sovereign. If God does as much as He can to save a person but they can still reject Him, the God is not omnipotent. But the Bible declares that “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that He pleases.” Psa 115:3.
The efficacy of the atonement
The Bible tells us that Christ came so that He could save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21) and reconcile us to God (Rom. 5:10). If God”™s will is to save the whole world and some people die lost in their sins and separated from Him, then the atonement of Christ failed to fulfil its purpose and God is disappointed.
“To say that God the Father has purposed the salvation of all mankind, that God the Son died with the express intention of saving the whole human race, and that God the Holy Spirit is now seeking to win the world to Christ; when, as a matter of common observation, it is apparent that the great majority of our fellowmen are dying in sin, and passing into a hopeless eternity; is to say that God the Father is disappointed, that God the Son is dissatisfied, and that God the Holy Spirit is defeated. We have stated the issue baldly, but there is no escaping the conclusion. To argue that God is “trying His best” to save all mankind, but that the majority of men will not let Him save them, is to insist that the will of the Creator is impotent, and that the will of the creature is omnipotent. To throw the blame, as many do, upon the Devil, does not remove the difficulty, for if Satan is defeating the purpose of God, then, Satan is Almighty and God is no longer the Supreme Being.” A.W. Pink
What does 1 Timothy 2:4 teach?
So what does Paul mean when he says that God desires “all people“ to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth? Paul does not mean that God wants to save all people, as in the whole world, but all kinds of people irrespective of office, gender or race, class etc. Salvation is not for the rich or poor only and neither does it depends on the race or status of the individual but for all kinds of people. So the “all people” that Paul is referring to is all people without distinction not all people without exception. This we see from the immediate context:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,” 1Tim. 2:1
Paul wants supplications and prayers to be made for all people. Now the question is who are these “people” that Paul is referring to? Fortunately for us, we don”™t have to look very far since Paul himself then explains who he is referring to by “all people” In the verse that follows. “For kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Paul does not want them to pray for only a certain group of people but for all kinds of people including kings and those that are in higher positions.
Paul goes on to say, in verse 5, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” We do not have a mediator for kings and another mediator for magistrates and so on but we have only one Mediator Jesus Christ who is the mediator for all man. Jesus Christ died for all people without exception since God desires to save all people.
1 Timothy 2:4 teaches that God desires to save all kinds of people i.e. all people without excepion not only the poor but also the rich, not only the people in lower positions but also kings and magistrates. It has nothing to do withÂ God desiring to save the whole world; if God wanted to save the whole world, He would.
Soli Deo Gloria