1 Timothy 2:4

Thursday, 23 November 2017

…who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:4

Paul’s words of this verse continue to be based on what he said in verse 1. There he exhorted Timothy to pray “for all men.” It is this which is on his mind. The fact that prayers are to be made immediately excludes the doctrine of universal salvation. Some will use this verse, torn out of its full context, and state that if “God our Savior” of verse 3 “desires all men to be saved,” and if nothing can thwart His will, then all must be saved. That is an abuse of the immediate context, and it completely denies numerous passages in Scripture which clearly refute such a false claim.

There is a difference between God actually saving all men and Him potentially saving all men. God’s desire is that all be saved, but His nature demands that all must be saved in a certain way. Even God cannot violate one of His own intrinsic traits. God is merciful, but He cannot violate His righteousness in order to grant mercy, or He would then be unrighteous. The plan of redemption includes (in fact it necessitates) the free will of man. The fact that God sent His Son into the world to die as a payment for man’s sin shows that He desires that all be saved. However, if man does not accept the payment, he remains unsaved. Therefore, Jesus died potentially for all, but He actually only died for those who receive the offer of His atoning death.

Jesus’ work is fully sufficient to pay for every sin ever committed, but not every sin will be paid for because the payment is not received. Thus the doctrine of “universal salvation” is false. On the other side of the same coin, the doctrine of “regeneration in order to believe,” which is taught by Calvinism, is also false. It excludes free-will as well, but instead of claiming that all are saved, it instead claims that only those God predestines, and then regenerates in order to believe, will be saved – the doctrine of “limited atonement.”

In this, the claim is that God regenerates a person in order that they may believe, they then believe, and they are then saved. In other words, they are saved before they are saved. There are several logical arguments against this, chief among them is that the Bible never teaches this. It is convoluted and denies the unlimited scope of God’s atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus – something implied in Paul’s words here, and in Peter’s words of 2 Peter 3:9 (and elsewhere). Again, one must look at what is potential and what is actual. Christ’s death can potentially save all; it does not actually save all.

The salvation of man is then tied up in Paul’s final words of the verse, “and come to the knowledge of the truth.” In order to be saved, one must “come to the knowledge” which will allow this to happen. Like praying for “all men,” it is the responsibility of believers to share the gospel to all men as well. Paul’s implication is that one cannot be saved unless they come to the knowledge of how to be saved. This statement dispels both universalism (all are saved) and Calvinism (God regenerates a person in order to believe/limited atonement). Logically, without the knowledge of the truth, salvation will not occur, and logically if God actively does something to change the heart of man before he receives God’s offer, then there is actually no need to evangelize anyone. Instead, He would simply instill in the one He has chosen this knowledge and be done with it. But even Paul said that he could have resisted the truth. In Acts 26:19, he stated that he was “not disobedient to the heavenly vision” that was given to him. This implies that he could have rejected it. He was not regenerated in order to believe, and neither is anyone else. It is a false doctrine.

Albert Barnes gives three points on this matter – 1) That salvation is provided for all; 2) That salvation should be offered to all people; 3) That people are to blame if they are not saved. Score 1 for right thinking. Albert Barnes is correct.

Life application: It is too bad that people feel the need to rip verses out of their intended context in order to justify bad doctrine. Even when shown to be wrong, they will allow pride to step in and override what is painfully obvious. May we never presume to do this. Instead, let us search the Scriptures with a desire to teach what God has submitted in this magnificent book of clear doctrine and right thinking. Let us teach in accord with the offer of salvation to all who will but come.

Lord God, it is more than glorious that You have offered Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of man. And it is more than incredible that You have allowed us the choice of accepting or rejecting this offer. In the end, You are shown gracious and merciful, and yet You are shown holy and righteous. If we fail to accept Your offer, we only have ourselves to blame. It is a magnificent display of love and wisdom, and one which displays Your infinite glory. Great are You, O God, and greatly are You to be praised. Amen.

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