A Study of 1 Timothy 2:4
1 Timothy 2:4
God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
“Who will have all men to be saved”
Do we understand this?
The title of this article is:
“Is It God’s Will that All Men Be saved?”
Is that really so?
Clearly we can see that there are many people who died unsaved. In our lifetime we could see the life and death of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin, who definitely died unsaved. Terrorist suicide bombers definitely die unsaved, because they commit murder the last second of their life.
If God wants all men to be saved, why does He not save them?
Is God not almighty in power?
If it is God’s will that all men be saved, who can hinder Him to carry out His will?
God demonstrated His power when He stopped Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus, and three days later God saved him. Saul of Tarsus was the archenemy of Christ. If anyone deserved to go to Hell, it was Saul of Tarsus. But God saved him mightily, to the uttermost.
Those who oppose the doctrines of grace are frantically searching the Bible for proof texts to prove that man has a free will, and that people come to Christ out of their own free will.
God has done all He could; Christ has made salvation available to everyone in the world, and now it is up to us to accept that salvation. God has done His part, and now we have to do our part of accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior.
Is this not what is being taught these days in most churches around the world?
In addition, they have the NIV Bible, which is probably the worst one to learn the Gospel from. It is the NIV Bible, which teaches people that they have to accept Christ.
Listen to this example from the NIV:
“I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
That is NOT what the Bible says at all.
The NIV contains muddied waters. But those who oppose the doctrines of grace love the NIV, because it supports their view. Those who believe in a gospel of salvation by their “own free will” are called Pelagians, after the 5th century monk Pelagius, who first suggested this doctrine. The Roman church adopted the philosophy of Pelagius. In fact there were two popes in the 6th century who were so in awe of Pelagius that they called themselves after his name. A close follower of Pelagius was Jacob Arminius, a 16th century professor at the University of Leiden, in the Netherlands, who also taught that natural man is not spiritually dead in trespasses and sins as is taught in Ephesians 2:1, but natural man is still capable of reaching out and accepting Christ as his Savior. His followers are called Arminians. Their starting point is 1 John 2:2, that Christ died for the sins of everyone in the whole world. Well, 1 John 2:2 teaches just the opposite of what the Arminians make out of it.
Arminians are searching the Bible for nuggets of gold that will support their theories. All they find is dust that looks like gold, it shines like gold, but it is only gold dust. In this article I am going to show that 1 Timothy 2:4 is another flake of gold dust.
Why am I teaching you these things?
I am doing that to give you ammunition when you go to battle against those who are called Arminians. Therefore, these are very important lessons to learn, because God left us in this world to do spiritual battle against the forces of Satan.
Let me give you a brief outline of the sermon, and of what 1 Timothy 2:4 teaches:
First, I am going to show that the word “all” usually does not mean “all, inclusive of every individual”.
Second, I am going to show that the context of 1 Timothy 2:4 does not allow to interpret the word “all” to mean “all, inclusive of every individual”.
Third, I am going to show that the Pastoral Epistles forbid interpreting the word “all” to mean “all, inclusive of every individual”.
In order to make my proof as convincing as possible, I will restrict my references to the Pastoral Epistles only. So let us begin with the first point:
The Word “All”
In 1 Timothy 4:4 in your KJV you do not see the word “all” there. That is because the same Greek word that was translated “all” in all the other verses, has been translated here “every”.
1 Timothy 4:4
For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
From its context we understand that this statement refers to food. A believer may eat not only bread and vegetables, but also meat, and even meat that was offered to idols. A believer may eat everything that he wants to eat, but only everything that is edible. We are not allowed to eat lead, or poisonous mushrooms, or human flesh, but we are allowed to eat everything that is edible and that is harmless. Therefore, when we read, “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused”, it does not really mean everything there is.
The word “every” is restricted to that which is edible, and that which is harmless to our bodies, and that which does not conflict with our human dignity. The word “everything” does not mean “everything in the world”. Now look at verse 10,
1 Timothy 4:10
For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
Is God here described as the Savior of ALL men?
Does this refer to each and everyone in the world?
God added the phrase: “especially of those that believe”, which means that the force of “All men” is directly restricted to only those that believe.
1 Timothy 5:20
Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
Does this refer to all the people in the world?
The word “all” cannot mean all individuals in the world. It only refers to all those who were involved in this particular sin.
1 Timothy 6:13
I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;
1 Timothy 6:14
That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Do you see that in verse 13?
“God, who quickeneth all things”.
Does this mean that God will make everything alive on the Last Day?
The rocks will not be made alive. And if this is to be understood spiritually, we know that Satan is dead forever. Therefore, “all things” does not mean all things that have been created. In this context “all things” refer to everything that is alive has been made alive by God.
2 Timothy 1:15
This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.
“All they which are in Asia”?
We know that this cannot refer to all the millions of people which live in Asia. Even if we consider just the province in Asia Minor called Asia, we understand that Paul could not possibly have known all the people who live in that province. Besides, Paul could not have known if there were some in Ephesus, or in Laodicea, or in Troas who were still on his side. Therefore, what it means is this: “All the friends from Asia who were of Paul’s company, have forsaken him”. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter from his last imprisonment in Rome.
2 Timothy 2:7
Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
Does this mean that “the Lord will give Timothy understanding in all things” such as shipbuilding, and diamond cutting? No!
This does not mean all the things in the world. The meaning of this verse is this: “The Lord will give you understanding in all the things that you have need of”.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
“The grace of God that bringeth salvation” has not literally appeared to all men, because all men are not saved. It cannot refer to men living before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It also cannot refer to people who have not been born yet when Paul wrote this letter.
What then does this verse mean?
It can only refer to the thousands of people who were contemporaries of Paul, and who heard the preaching of Paul or heard those whom Paul sent out into the mission fields of Asia and Greece. The context makes it clear that this verse means: “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to free men and to slaves, to people of various classes and various standings in society”.
To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.
“Showing all meekness unto all men” cannot refer to all men in the world. In this context “all men” refers to those few who come in contact with you and who will try to seduce you into sin.
So we see that, as a rule, the word “all” generally does not mean the sum of all the individual parts. Therefore, “all men” in 1 Timothy 2:4 does not refer to each and every person in this world.
1 Timothy 2:4
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
What then does “all men” mean in 1 Timothy 2:4?
First of all, we have learned from the eight examples that I have given, that the context dictates what the interpretation must be. I would like to broaden the context to the Pastoral Epistles and take a passage from 2 Timothy 1:9-11.
What Is God’s Plan?
Is it God’s plan that all men be saved?
God’s plan is summarized in 2 Timothy 1:9-11:
2 Timothy 1:9
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
2 Timothy 1:10
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
2 Timothy 1:11
Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
What does this passage say?
First of all, our salvation is not according to our works.
It is because all our works are at least tainted with sin. The Bible declares this, and it is also easy to see. Take anything that you have done today. For example you drove your car to church. Have you done it so perfectly that it could not be improved. No! It could have been done better. It means you made a few mistakes. In God’s vocabulary there are no mistakes; they are all sins. Anything you do, if it is not done as perfectly as when God Himself would have done it, is imperfect, which means it is tainted with sin. There is sin all around us and within us. That is why our salvation is not according to our works. Suppose for example that our salvation depends on saying the sinner’s prayer, or it depends on our acceptance of the Lord Jesus.
Don’t you think that our sincerity enters into the picture?
What if you are not sincere enough?
That is sin.
What if you do not have enough faith?
That is sin, and so on.
Can you see that we have nothing to offer that is free from sin?
Secondly, We have nothing to offer to God, and that is why our salvation is “not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began”. Our salvation was given us. It was a free gift from God in Christ. God gave this gift to whomever He wanted to give it to. God did not make those decisions at the spur of the moment, but God decided whom to give it to before the world began.
Definitely God did not look down the corridors of time to bestow His grace on those who would turn to the Lord Jesus in faith. That is not grace, and then we would be back into a salvation by works again. God chose those on whom He would bestow this gift of grace. Grace means unmerited favor.
How can you merit unmerited favor?
It is impossible to deserve unmerited favor, otherwise grace is no more grace. Those whom God chose to give this gift of grace to are called “the elect of God”. A problem: the elect are all humans; they are full of sin.
Thirdly, verse 9 starts with the words: “Who hath saved us”.
How has God saved US?
God did not plan to save all the people in the world, but God planned to save only His people, the elect of God. Also, Verse 10 says: “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death”.
How did the Lord Jesus Christ become our Savior, and how did He abolish death for US?
All these questions focus on the cross of Christ and find their answer in the Atonement of Christ on the cross.
What did the Lord Jesus Christ accomplish there on the cross?
1) Christ saved US, is the same as Christ redeemed US. In order to become our Savior, or our Redeemer, He first had to become our Kinsman. That is why the Hebrew word for Redeemer is the same word as for Kinsman.
2) Also, there is no redemption possible unless there was first bondage. The Bible says that all mankind came into the world in bondage to sin and to Satan: “In sin did my mother conceive me”, which means that I was already in bondage to sin at the moment of my conception.
3) Next, there is no redemption possible unless there is a ransom. The Lord Jesus said that He came into the world “to give His life a ransom for many”, that is, the many who belong to the elect of God.
4) Next, there is no redemption possible unless there is deliverance. The Bible says that God has “delivered us from the power of darkness and has translated us into the Kingdom of His dear Son”. God could only do that legitimately after He has cleansed us from our sins.
How did God cleanse us from our sins?
God sent the Second person of the Triune Godhead into the world as our Kinsman. He came into the world “to save His people from their sins”. He remained fully God but He also took on a human body. That is why He qualified to be our Savior, to save us from our sins and from all the bad consequences of our sins. He qualified to be the sinless, spotless, Lamb of God to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
How did He become our atoning sacrifice?
He took our place to bear the wrath of God for our sins.
2 Corinthians 5:21
For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
That is how Christ saved His people from their sins. When He redeemed US, He saved us mightily; “He saved us to the uttermost”. Arminians do not believe that Christ actually redeemed anyone, but that He only provided the possibility of redemption, but that is contrary to what the Bible declares.
Fourthly, We read in verse 9: “He saved us and called us with an holy calling”.
What does that mean?
The word “holy” means “separate, or special”. “He called us with a special calling”. The general call to come to Christ goes out to the entire world. The special call comes only to God’s elect people. The special call is the effective call empowered by God’s grace, which no one can resist. “Many are called, but few are chosen”. God the Holy Spirit arranges the affairs of this world in such a way that all those who are God’s elect will come under the hearing of the Gospel, and they will be irresistibly drawn to believe. They do not believe out of their own initiative, because the Lord Jesus said in John 6:
“No man CAN come to Me except the Father, which hath sent Me, draw him”.
Fifthly, Christ redeemed US “and abolished death for US”, meaning He abolished death for the elect of God.
Why did He abolish death?
When the Lord Jesus Christ endured the payment for our sins He actually purchased us out of the power of Satan, and He purchased us body and soul. Our deliverance occurs in two steps. The first step occurs in our lifetime when our soul is totally delivered: God the Holy Spirit gives us a new soul, which means that we have been Born Again, and that soul will live forever. Our body is also delivered from the power of Satan at the same time, but our body is still the old Adamic body that is inclined to sin. When God made a new soul within us, God gave us eternal life. Eternal life means it is life forever; there is no more death. Therefore, what God has done in our soul cannot be undone by anyone, not even by ourselves. The saints will persevere unto the end of their life on this earth. Therefore, once we have been saved in our soul, the redemption of our body is sure. The second step, the deliverance of our body from this sinful world occurs when Christ comes for the second time, and then He will give us a new glorified body that is able to stand in the presence of God. Then our deliverance will be complete. But when this sinful body dies and is put in the grave, our soul goes immediately to live and reign with Christ in heaven. We glorify God on this earth, but we never stop glorifying God, even when this old body dies. And when we have received our glorified body we will glorify Him even more for all eternity.
Therefore, we can see from 2 Timothy 1:9-11 that God did not plan to save all men, and therefore Christ did not suffer and die for the sins of those people who themselves are going to Hell. Now, let us turn to the second point that I promised way in the beginning, that is: I promised to show that the context of 1 Timothy 2:4 does not allow to interpret the word “all” to mean “all, inclusive of every individual in the world”.
What Is the Context?
1 Timothy 2:1
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
1 Timothy 2:2
For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
1 Timothy 2:3
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
1 Timothy 2:4
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
1 Timothy 2:6
Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
1 Timothy 2:7
Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
Let us first suppose that the Arminians are right in assuming that the word “all” in verse 4 means “all individuals in the entire world without exception”. Now look at verses 4 and 5, and remember that the two verses are linked by the word “For”, which means literally “Because”. What is the meaning of this context? “God our Savior, who will that all individuals without exception be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. Because there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”.
What is the meaning of connecting verses 4 and 5?
There is none! It sounds like nonsense.
It is just a stringing together of disjointed words. That is not what God hath joined together here in this passage. God could not have said that. And remember that these two sentences, as they stand, are not unrelated. They are directly joined by that little word “For”, meaning “Because”. “Because there is one God”? The Arminian supposition that the word “all” in this text would mean “all men without exception” takes away the meaning of the “Because”, and what we have left are words without meaning. This cannot be the correct interpretation.
On the other hand, let us learn from the Pastoral Epistles and understand that the word “all” in 1 Timothy 2:4 does not mean “all individuals in the entire world without exception”, but it means “all the elect, who were all kinds of men, chosen from all classes of people, from every tribe or nation or kindred or tongue”.
Then the text of 1 Timothy 2:4-5 says, paraphrased:
“God wills that all kinds of men be saved of every people and nation, of every position and class. For example, it refers to people not only from the Jews, but also from among the heathen, for one God rules over all nations together, and between God and all those nations only one Mediator mediates, who is not a Jew, nor a Greek, but He is the man Christ Jesus”.
Historically, every nation had their own gods. The Jews had Jehovah, who they did not want to share with other nations who had their own gods. God the Holy Spirit opposed this foolish concept of God by sending out the Apostle Paul, declaring that there are not many gods, but there is only one living God for all the nations. Therefore there is only one Mediator between God and all the nations. Christ is the Mediator, not because He is a Jew, but because He became a man.
Now look how verse 7 precisely fits that context: “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (which means one who is sent out) a teacher of the Gentiles”. And look how this interpretation fits the first three verses of this chapter.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for “all men”; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
The words “all men” in verse 4 clearly refers to the words “all men” in verse 1. It is obvious that the words “all men” in verse 1 do not refer to all the people in the world, but these “all men” are specified in verse 2: “Kings and all that are in authority”.
And why do we pray for them?
We pray for them “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty”.
This is a promise of God. Our praying does not accomplish anything by itself. Our prayers must rest upon God’s promises, and God’s promises rest firmly in the decree of God’s counsel, and the decree of God’s counsel includes “all men”. God’s promises do not float in the sky, but God’s promises come forth out of God’s eternal decrees, and God’s promises are themselves the revelation and the declaration of those decrees.
What is God’s eternal decree for “all men”?
That All the Gentiles Might Hear
2 Timothy 4:17
Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. (The lion representing Satan.)
2 Timothy 4:18
And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
What is God’s decree and what is God’s promise here?
God’s decree is that all the Gentiles might hear the preaching of the Gospel. That is why God left us in this world that we may bring the Gospel to every tribe and nation and people and tongue. We simply must be faithful in declaring that Gospel.
What is God’s promise here?
It is that “the Lord shall deliver us from every evil work”. God will not abandon His faithful workers. It does not mean that our body shall be preserved. Our body is not faithful. But it means that God shall protect our souls from being overtaken by evil attacks of Satan.
Now, let us turn to the third point that I promised way in the beginning, that is: I promised to show that the Pastoral Epistles forbid interpreting the word “all” to mean “all, inclusive of every individual in the world”. I do not have the time to list all the relevant passages, so I will only use two.
A Peculiar People
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem US from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.
What does it mean, “A peculiar people”?
It means “a special people”, a people redeemed by Christ for his own possession. It certainly does not mean that Christ purified everyone in the world, but it refers to those who have been purchased, or redeemed by Christ on the cross. And since they are Christ’s possession, the Spirit of God indwells them; therefore they are “zealous of good works”.
Who is God speaking about?
God is speaking about the elect of God.
But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, (the cross)
Not by works of righteousness which WE have done, but according to his mercy he saved US (past tense), by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Which he shed on US abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
That being justified by his grace, WE should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Who is God speaking about?
God speaks about those whom Christ saved, past tense, using the pronouns WE and US.
Who are WE and US?
Certainly God does NOT speak about all the people in the world. God speaks about a select group of people for whom Christ became the Savior when He went to the cross and paid for their sins. And then, in our lifetime “He saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost”. God did all of that 100%. We did not contribute one iota toward our salvation. Verse 7 says that we are justified by His grace. Let us be clear on this that we are not justified by our faith, but we are justified by His grace. It is 100% a free gift.
Whom is God speaking about?
He is speaking about the elect of God.
Let us sum it up: When we preach that it is NOT God’s will that all men be saved, we will be maligned and persecuted, we will be shunned and parents point their fingers at us, telling their children: Do not follow that cult. But we must obey God rather than man.
For I Know Whom I Have Believed
We have already looked at the preceding verses, verses 9-11. Now look at verse 12,
2 Timothy 1:12
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Paul writes: I suffer these bonds and these afflictions because I am a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. Because I preach the liberty we have in Christ, I am persecuted.
Nevertheless, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day”.
I did not see a Bible until I was 40 years old; then I began to read. As the years enfold God made me realize that He is the one who helps us in every chapter of our life.
Sometimes He brings us a lot of hardship, but then He also teaches us that He will carry us through. If we feel the sorrows are so overwhelming that it feels like we cannot hang on, then we learn that God in His faithfulness will not let us go. And then we learn that He is able to keep us regardless of our circumstances. He teaches us that His Word is so true when He says:
“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”. And then we can thank God for bringing us through the valleys. What we learn is that God never makes a mistake. We do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.
God saves us by His grace, and God chose whom He would save out of this mess of mankind. Let me read to you the first stanza:
I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me He had made known,
Nor why, unworthy (me), Christ in love redeemed me for His own.
But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I ‘ve committed unto Him against that day.
By Alfred Chompff