Study of 1Timothy 4:10
Study on the Extent of the Atonement)
The purpose of
this doctrinal tract is to set forth, in a readable outline form,
a positive polemic for the doctrine of definite atonement — a doctrine
which the author is firmly convinced glorifies the triune Jehovah
to whom salvation belongs.
outline method is used to assist the reader in his study of three
theologically controversial verses in the Pastoral Epistles on the
"salvation of all men." The outlines which follow were
originally prepared as separate theological tracts in conduction
with an exposition of 1Timothy and Titus at Grace Reformed Fellowship
The author gratefully
acknowledges the assistance received from William Hendriksen's Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles
— an excellent work by
one of the foremost, if not the foremost, sovereign grace, New Testament
commentator in our generation.
AN OUTLINE OF THE THEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATIONS
CONCERNING I TlMOTHY 4:10: "WE TRUST IN THE LIVING GOD, WHO
IS THE SAVIOUR OF ALL MEN, SPECIALLY OF THOSE THAT BELIEVE."
I. SOTERIOLOGICAL INTERPRETATIONS.
A. Universal Salvation.
1. God is the Saviour of all
man in the sense that ultimately He actually saves each
and every human being who has lived or will on the earth.
2. Objection. This view is contrary
to all biblical teaching. Not all men are saved in the full,
spiritual sense. Moreover, if this were true, why would
Paul have added, "specially of those who believe"?
The last phrase of this verse would make no sense.
B. Free Will Salvation.
1. God wants (desires) all men
without exception by their own free will to be saved (cf.
1Tim. 2:4). However, in the case of some, His will can be
and is effectually resisted through obstinate unbelief,
because man has a free will and God will not force His will
upon man. As a result, God's foreknowledge is understood
to mean foresight; that is, God foresees who will believe
and chooses them to be saved (cf. Notes
on 1Tim. 2:4).
2. Objection. The text in I Timothy
4:10 does not say that God wants (desires) to save, but
that He actually saves: He is actually the Saviour (in some
sense) of all men. Also, resisting the divine will — in
the absolute sense — is impossible. Likewise, it is impossible
for God's foreknowledge to be limited (even voluntarily
or by man's faith). Otherwise God would not be God! (Cf.
Acts 13:48; Eph. 1:11; 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29.) Furthermore,
the biblical meaning of "foreknowledge," when
used of God, does not mean mere foresight, but an everlasting,
intimate relationship stemming from an eternal electing
love (cf. Rom. 8:28-29; Eph. 1:4-5; I Pet. 1:2).
C. Modified Free Will Salvation.
1. God is able (has provided)
salvation for all men without exception upon the condition
of faith. But all can not (will not) be saved, only those
who exercise faith; that is, only the elect are actually
saved: the non-elect are only provisionally or hypothetically
saved (placed in a salvable position) but are never actually
2. Objection. While it is true
that only those who believe will be saved, this interpretation
of the text dodges the issue. The verse does not say that
the living God is able to save, but has provided
salvation for all men without exception. It says, "He
is the Saviour of all men." But "all men
have not faith" (II Thess. 3:2) because saving faith
is a gift from God; is it not (Phil. 1:29; II Thess. 2:13)?
If faith is a gift from God, why does not God give saving
faith to all men without exception? Does one's ability to
believe lie within his own will (cf. John 1:13; 6:44; Jas.
1:18), or solely within the sovereign grace and good pleasure
of God? (Cf. Matt. 11:25-27; John 6:63; Eph. 1:11; II Tim.
D. Distributive Salvation.
1. God actually bestows
salvation — in the full, evangelical sense of the term —
on all kinds (classes) of men. He gives to all of
them everlasting life; that is, He gives everlasting life
to all kinds (classes) of men. "All" is a relative
rather than an absolute term.
2. Objection. Although It is true
that God does desire that prayers be made on behalf of the
salvation of all kinds (classes) of people (cf. Rom. 9:24;
1Tim. 2:1-2, 4; Rev. 5:9; 7:9), this truth does not fit
the context here because of the final phrase, "specially
of those that believe."
INTERPRETATION (FREE GRACE SALVATION).
A. This is the correct interpretation. It
is found by making a thorough study of the term "Saviour"
(in both its noun and verb forms1)
in the context of the chapter, the epistle, the New Testament
and the Old Testament.2
The final phrase "specially of those that believe"
clearly Indicates that the term is here given a twofold application.
Of all men God is the Saviour, but of some men, namely, believers,
He is the Saviour in a deeper, more glorious sense than He is
This clearly implies
that when He Is called the Saviour of all men, this cannot mean
that He imparts to all everlasting life, as He does to believers.
The term "Saviour," then, must have a meaning which
we today generally do not immediately attach to it. And that
is exactly the cause of the difficulty. Often In the Old Testament,
the term meant "to deliver — (verbal form) or deliverer
(nominal form)" — both with reference to men and God (cf.
Judg. 3:9; II Kings 13:5; Neh. 9:27; Ps. 25:5; 106:21). Also,
in the New Testament, reference is made to the Old Testament
where God delivered Israel from the oppression of Pharaoh for
He had been the Saviour of all, but specially those who believed.
With the latter, and with them alone, He was "well pleased"
(I Cor. 10:5). All leave Egypt; not all enter Canaan."
POINT: In both the Old and New Testaments the term "Saviour"
is often used to speak of God's providential preservation or
deliverance which extends to all men without exception. (Cf.
Ps. 36:6; 145:9; Matt. 5:45; Luke 6:35; Acts 17:25, 28.) Moreover,
God also causes His gospel of salvation to be earnestly proclaimed
to all men without distinction; that is, to men from every race
and nation (Matt. 28:19). Truly the kindness (providence or
common grace) of God extends to all. But even the circle of
those to whom the message of salvation is proclaimed is wider
than those who receive it by a true saving faith.
B. Conclusion. A paraphrase of what Paul
is teaching in I Timothy 4:10 is this: "We have our hope
set on the living God, and in this hope we shall not be disappointed,
for not only is He a kind God, hence the Saviour (i.e., preserver
or deliverer in a providential, non-soteriological sense) of
all men, showering blessings upon them, but He is, in a very
special sense, the Saviour (in a soteriological sense) of those
who by faith embrace Him and His promise, for to them He imparts
salvation, everlasting life in all its fulness.
THE LIVING GOD IS THE PROVIDENTIAL
PRESERVER OF ALL MEN; BUT HE IS ESPECIALLY SO FOR BELIEVERS,
FOR HE NOT ONLY PHYSlCALLY AND TEMPORALLY DELIVERS THEM, BUT
HE ALSO SPIRITUALLY AND ETERNALLY SAVES THEM.
1The verb form of
"Saviour" is used in I Timothy 4:16. Unless salvation
is by works and not by grace, it must be translated "preserve"
or "deliver" in verse 16. And this makes sense in context.
For Paul is saying to Timothy: "Take heed unto thyself, and
unto thy doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt
save thyself (i.e., preserve or deliver thyself from those who depart
from the faith and teach false doctrine as described in the first
part of the chapter), and them that hear thee." Furthermore,
the term "living God" is used elsewhere in conjunction
with His providence (cf. Acts 14.15).
is taken from a tract written by Dr. Gary D. Long, The
Salvation of All Men, Grace Abounding
Ministries, 1977. pp 7-9.
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