Lesson 22 – Particular Redemption
In this study, we will examine one passage of Scripture which Arminians, Universalists, and others use to teach the doctrine of General or Universal Atonement. We have not studied all such Scriptures, but we have studied a sufficient number to give us some experience in the correct interpretation and application of Scripture. With diligent, prayerful, study the student of the Scriptures who cares enough to find out what the Bible really teaches, has been given a few tools and guidelines with which to work.
Before considering our passages, let us look at a few principles of Bible study which are essential to “rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15).
1. We must first see who is doing the writing and to whom he is writing. This will often greatly clarify the meaning of a passage. In one of the Scriptures we will study II Peter 3:9. A knowledge of the writer and the persons to whom the epistle is addressed, is absolutely essential to a correct understanding.
2. The context (what goes before and what follows after) of a passage usually MUST be considered if a Scripture is to be correctly interpreted. An example of a Scripture where a knowledge of the context greatly helps is Hebrews 2:9 where the following verses show who the “every man“ (literally “every”) is.
3. Scripture never contradicts itself. Therefore, for example, the “all” of I Timothy 2:6 must be interpreted in the light of the “many” of Matthew 20:28.
There are other principles to consider, but these are basic and it is impossible to understand the Bible without keeping them in mind.
“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.”
(I Timothy 4:10)
In my mind, there are two possible explanations of this passage. I will give both and then tell you which one I favor:
First, we know that the passage DOES NOT teach that Christ actually saved every member of the human race–this would be Universalism and no Bible believer is a universalist (one who believes that every human being will be eternally saved).
Second, this Scripture does NOT say that Christ is the POTENTIAL Saviour of every human being; that is, that He provided salvation for all on the cross, but the salvation will not really be theirs unless they accept it. No, this passage does not teach that. It does not say that God is the “potential Saviour” but, that He “is the Saviour” of all men. So this Scripture doesn’t teach the Arminian view any more than it does the Universalist view.
A. One possible explanation of the passage goes something like this: God is the Saviour of all His elect ones (the “all men”) but in a special way He is the Saviour of those elect ones who believe the truth, or in a special way He is the Savior of those elect ones who are REALLY believing in Him (by strongly exercising their faith). Now this is a possible explanation of the Scripture.
B. Another explanation goes something like this: Eternal salvation from sin is not even under consideration in this passage. Notice that “the living God” is here mentioned not the Lord Jesus Christ in His specific role as Redeemer. The work “Saviour” (SOTER in the Greek) can also mean “deliverer” or “preserver.” God is the preserver of all mankind in the sense that “He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). All mankind is indebted to God for these temporal gifts without which they would immediately perish.
But God is “specially” the preserver and sustainer of “those that believe” (the elect). Even in this temporal life, as David said, “I have been young, and am now old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25).
God specially preserves His people from all manner of danger, both natural and spiritual. This is seen by the hedge that God had around Job (Job 1:10).
I personally favor the last-given explanation, primarily because of the way that the New Testament usually speaks of “believers.” There is a definite sense in which the New Testament speaks of all the elect as “believers.” They did not believe IN ORDER TO become elect, but they believed when they came into contact with the gospel, BECAUSE they had been elected. Of course, this was true only of those elect who had already been born again when they heard the gospel. Paul rejected the preaching of Stephen (Acts 7:58; 8:1) because he had not yet been born again. But, because he had been elected (Ephesians 1:4) he was eventually born again by the Holy Spirit (on the road to Damascus) and then he MANIFESTED his new life by believing the witness of Ananias (Acts 9:17-18). Every elect child of God is given faith (the ability to believe) when he is born again by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22; II Peter 1:1; Philippians 1:29, etc.). So, the New Testament usually puts people into two classes: the believers (children of God) and the unbelievers (those who are not God’s children).
Therefore, I understand the “those that believe” of I Timothy 4:10 to be the children of God.
A partial list of Scriptures that will show this great contrast between believers and unbelievers in the New Testament is as follows: John 3:16; Acts 13:48; Mark 16:16; I John 5:10; Ephesians 1:19; Philippians 1:29; Hebrews 11:6; I John 5:1,5; John 3:36.
I will now give a few quotations from the works of others that may help to shed light on this matter:
THE INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT by George Ricker Berry, “because we have hope in a God living, Who is Preserver of all men, specially of believers.”
THE CAUSE OF GOD AND TRUTH by John Gill, p. 52, “The words are to be understood of providential goodness and temporal salvation; which all men have a share in, more or less, God the Father and not Christ, is here called “the living God,” who is “the Saviour of all men,” that is, the preserver of all men; who supports them in their being and supplies them with all the necessaries of life, and “especially them that believe,” who are the particular care of His providence.”
THE ATONEMENT by Arthur W. Pink, p. 264, “The ‘living God’ of I Tim. 4:10 is the Father (see Matt. 16:16), and ‘Saviour’ there means Preserver–in a temporal way.”
THE NEW TESTAMENT AND WYCLIFFE BIBLE COMMENTARY, p. 855, “Savior (Gr. SOTER). Used in the sense of “deliverer”; the word can have a wider and a narrower meaning . . . Paul’s conception of God is such that all the blessings, deliverances, and kindly providences which men experience are to be attributed only to Him (Matt. 5:45). In a special and higher sense, He is the deliverer of those who believe . . .”
AN ANTIDOTE TO ARMINIANISM by Christopher Ness, p. 55. “All this implies not eternal preservation, but only temporal providence and reservation; for the wages of sin would have been paid at the birth thereof, and the world (through confusion by sin) would have fallen about Adam’s ears, had not Christ been the glorious undertaker.”
We have memorized Matthew 1:21; John 10:11; Matthew 20:28; Hebrews 9:12; I Peter 1:18-19; I Peter 2:24; Hebrews 9:28; and II Corinthians 5:21.
Let us memorize Galatians 3:13.