1 Timothy 4:10

Friday, 5 January 2018

For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10

In the previous verses, Paul spoke of godliness. It should be what we work towards because “godliness is profitable for all things.” He further stated it has the “promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” In view of these words, “For to this end,” meaning godliness, Paul now says that, “we both labor and suffer reproach.”

It is for the sake of godliness, that “we,” meaning all who are faithfully pursuing Christ, are willing to work constantly, devote ourselves completely, and toil tirelessly. This is exactly what the word he uses, kopiaó, means. It gives the sense of toiling both physically and mentally, and doing so until worn-out.

Along with that, the faithful believer is willing to “suffer reproach.” Some translations say “strive” rather than “suffer reproach.” Whichever is correct, they both carry a heavy meaning. To suffer reproach signifies a willingness to bear shame, accept verbal abuse, and the like. To strive signifies agonizingly pressing on in the exhausting labors.

The reason why the steadfast Christian is willing to bear these things is “because we trust in the living God.” The words here fail to give the fullest sense of what is said. They rather say, “we have our hope in the living God.” Because of knowing God personally through Jesus Christ, we have a sure foundation on which to rest our hope. Paul described godliness in verse 3:16. Each point of that explanation dealt with the Person and work of Christ.

Because God accomplished those things through Christ, our hope in God is both strong and rational. We can place our hope in the living God because of what He has already done for us in Christ Jesus. Think on it! He was “manifested in the flesh.” He was “justified in the Spirit.” He was “seen by angels.” He was “preached among the Gentiles.” He was “believed on in the world.” And, He was “received up in glory.” Anyone who truly believes these can confidently place their hope in the living God.

Paul then defines the “living God” with words which must be taken in the proper context. He say that He “is the Savior of all men.” The word sótér, or “Savior,” means just that. It is consistently translated as this throughout the New Testament. But because of the seeming difficulty these few words cause, some scholars equivocate on the meaning of the word by calling Him the “Provider.” That is also an acceptable translation of the word, and it would square with Old Testament verses about God, but it is not Paul’s intent. He has been consistent in his use of the word to indicate “Savior.”

However, Paul does not stop with the words which say that He “is the Savior of all men.” Instead, he continues with the words, “especially of those who believe.” The Bible’s words are consistent on the doctrine of salvation. Paul’s words follow in this consistent teaching throughout His epistles. Neither teaches the heresy of Universalism, meaning that all are saved, nor do they teach the false Calivinist doctrine of “Limited Atonement.” Rather, the Bible teaches salvation under two broad concepts – potential and actual.

Paul’s words concerning the living God (meaning Jesus whom He described in verse 3:16) being “the Savior of all men,” is that He is potentially so. He and no other can bring salvation, and He offers it to all. Thus He alone is the potential Savior of all men. This is the doctrine of “unlimited atonement, potentially.” However, Paul’s words state further, “especially of those who believe.” This is God’s actual salvation in Christ for those who have actively believed and received. This is the doctrine of “limited atonement, actually.”

Paul never denies the doctrine of free-will in man, nor does he ever teach that all men are saved. Rather, he actively teaches that man must receive God’s offer of Jesus Christ, and those who do not will not be saved.

Life application: The gospel message is simple and pure, but it is something that is not universally applied to all men. Rather, it is universally offered to all men, and it then must be received. Be a receiver, be saved, and be reconciled to God through the precious saving blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Glorious God, how good and precious it is to see the depth of Your love. You were willing to enter the stream of time and human existence and come in the Person of Jesus Christ, and then to endure the difficulties we face, to endure the reproach of those You came to save, and to bear the burden of a cross-death for our sins… such love is actually beyond our ability to fully grasp, but we can know it is there. May we be wise and discerning, and may we be willing to call on and hold fast to Christ our Lord. Thank You for Your love, displayed in Him. Amen.

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