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1 Timothy 2:4

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

"All" in 1Ti 2:4, cannot be taken for every man individually, since it is not the will of God that all men in this large sense should be saved: for it is His will that some men should be damned, and that very justly, for their sins and transgressions. Unto some men it will be said, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." If God willeth all men to be saved, then all men will be saved, for "He (God) doeth according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth" (Dan 4:35). God faileth not, He cannot be disappointed in His own will, for He worketh all things after the counsel of it. Again, in Heb 2:9, Jesus is said to "taste death for every [man];" it is in the very next verse restricted to "sons brought to glory," and in Heb 2:11, to "sanctified" ones. 1Ti 2:6 ("who gave Himself a ransom for all") is rendered in the parallel text in Tit 2:14, "who gave Himself for us." Now, who are the persons called "us" in this text? Are they not particularized as "redeemed from all iniquity, purified and made a peculiar people?" For "all" of this description Christ gave Himself a ransom, and for none else.

The prophet David saith, "All men are liars;" take the word strictly, and he must be a liar that saith so.

L Boettner     Reformed Doctrine
If the words of 1Ti 2:4, that God "would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth," be taken in the Arminian sense it follows either that God is disappointed in His wishes, or that all men without exception are saved. Furthermore, the doctrine, which imputes disappointment to Deity, contradicts that class of Scripture passages which teach the sovereignty of God. His will in this respect has been the same through the centuries. And if He had willed that the Gentiles should be saved, why was it that He confined the knowledge of the way of salvation to the narrow limits of Judea? Surely no one will deny that He might as easily have made known His Gospel to the Gentiles as to the Jews. Where He has not provided the means we may be sure that He has not designed the ends. The reply of Augustine to those who advanced this objection in his day is worth quoting: "When our Lord complains that though he wished to gather the children of Jerusalem as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but she would not, are we to consider that the will of God was overpowered by a number of weak men, so that He who was Almighty God could not do what He wished or willed to do? If so, what is to become of that omnipotence by which He did whatsoever pleased Him in Heaven and in earth? Moreover, who will be found so unreasonable as to say the God cannot convert the evil wills of men, which He pleases, when He pleases, and as He pleases, to good? Now, when he does this, He does it in mercy; and when he doeth it not, in judgment He doeth it not." Verses such as 1Ti 2:4 it seems are best understood not to refer to men individually but as teaching the general truth that God is benevolent and that He does not delight in the sufferings and death of His creatures. It may be further remarked that if the universalistic passages are taken in an evangelical sense and applied as widely as the Arminians wish to apply them, they will prove universal salvation, - a result which is contradicted by Scripture, and which in fact is not held by Arminians themselves.

There is a sense in which Christ did die for mankind in general. No distinction is made as to age or country, character or condition. The race fell in Adam and the race taken in the collective sense is redeemed in Christ. The work in Christ arrested the immediate execution of the penalty of sin as it related to the whole race. His work also brings many temporal and physical blessings to mankind in general, and lays the foundation for the offer of the Gospel to all who hear it. These are admitted to be the results of His work and to apply to all mankind. Yet this does not mean that He died equally and with the same design for all.

Even man, who is but the creature of a day and subject to all kinds of errors, develops a plan before he acts; and a man who acts without design or purpose is accounted foolish - if you fail to plan you plan to fail! Before we make a trip or undertake a piece of work all of us set goal and then work to attain that goal in so far as we are able. Regardless of how some people may oppose Predestination in theory, all of us in our every-day lives are practical predestinarians. As E.W. Smith says, a wise man "first determines upon the end he desires to attain, and then upon the best means of attaining it." Before the architect begins his edifice, he makes his drawings and forms his plans, even to the minutest details of construction. In the architect's brain the building stands complete in all its parts before a stone is laid. So with the merchant, the lawyer, the farmer and all rational and intelligent men. Their activity is along the line of previously formed purposes, the fulfilment, so far as their finite capacities will allow, of preconceived plans.

The larger our enterprise is, the more important it is that we shall have a plan; otherwise all our work ends in failure. One would be considered mentally deranged who undertook to build a ship, or a railroad, or to govern a nation without a plan. We are told that before Napoleon began the invasion of Russia he had a plan worked out in detail, showing what line of march each division of his army was to follow, where it was to be at a certain time, what equipment and provisions it was to have, etc. Whatever was wanting in that plan was due to the limitations of human power and wisdom. Had Napoleonís foresight been perfect and his control of events absolute, his plan - or we may say, his foreordination - would have extended to every act of every soldier who made that march.

And if this is true of man, how much more is it true of God! "A universe without decrees," says A.J. Gordon "would be as irrational and appalling as would be an express-train driving in the darkness without headlight or engineer, and with no certainty that the next movement it might not plunge into the abyss." We cannot conceive of God bringing into existence a universe without a plan, which would extend to all that would be done in that universe. As the Scriptures teach that God's providential control extends to all events, even the most minute, they hereby teach that His plan is equally comprehensive. It is one of His perfections that He has the best possible plan, and that He conducts the course of history to its appointed end. And to admit that He has a plan, which He carries out, is to admit Predestination. "God's plan is shown in its effectuation to be one," says Dabney. "Cause is linked with effect, and what was effect becomes cause; the influences of events on events interlace with each other, and descend in widening streams to subsequent events; so that the whole complex result is interlaced through every part. As astronomers suppose that the removal of one planet from our system would modify more or less the balance and orbits of all the rest, so the failure of one event in this plan would derange the whole, directly or indirectly.

If God had not foreordained the course of events but waited until some undermined condition was or was not fulfilled. His decrees could be neither eternal nor immutable. We know, however, that He is incapable of mistake, and that He cannot be surprised by any unforeseen inconveniences. His kingdom is in the heavens and He rules over all. His plan must, therefore, include every event in the entire sweep of history.

In regard to 1 Timothy 2:4,6 "Who... for all", we scarcely need point out that in Scripture the word "all" is used in various senses. Oftentimes it means, not all men without exception, but all men without distinction - Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, men and women, rich and poor. And in 1Ti 2:4-6 it clearly is used in that sense. Through many centuries the Jews had been, with few exceptions, the exclusive recipients of God's saving grace. They had become the most intensely nationalistic and intolerant people in the world. Instead of recognizing their position as that of God's representatives to all the people of the world, they had taken those blessings to themselves. Even the early Christians for a time were inclined to appropriate the mission of the Messiah only to themselves. The salvation of the Gentiles was a mystery that hat not been know in other ages (Eph 4:6; Col 1:27). So rigid was the pharisaic exclusivism that the Gentiles were called unclean, common, sinners of the Gentiles, even dogs; and it was not lawful for a Jew to keep company with or have any deals with a Gentile (John 4:9, Acts 10:28; 11:3). After an orthodox Jew had been out in the marketplace where he had come in contact with Gentiles he was regarded as unclean (Mark 7:4). After Peter had preached to the Roman centurion Cornelius taken the others who were gathered at his house, he was severely taken to task by the Church in Jerusalem, and we can almost hear the gasp of wonder when, after Peter told them what had happened, they said, "Then to... (Acts 11:18) Consequently this was a truth that it was particularly necessary to enforce at that time, and it was brought out in the strongest terms. Paul was to be a witness "unto all men" (Acts 22:15), that is, not to every individual in the world, but to Jews and Gentiles alike. Used in this sense the world "all" has no reference to individuals, but simply to mankind in general.

When it was said of John the Baptist that "There went... (Mark 1:5), we know that not every individual did so respond. We read that after Peter and John had healed the lame man at the door of the temple "all men (Acts 4:21) Jesus told his disciples that they would be "hated of all men" for His name's sake (Luke 21:17). And when Jesus said, "And I, if I be lifted up ... (John 12:32), He certainly did not mean that every individual of mankind would be so drawn. What He did mean was that Jews and Gentiles, men of all nations and races, would be drawn to Him. And this is what we see is actually happening.

Matthew J Slick
First of all, Jesus is the mediator for the believers, not the unbelievers. To me, "men" in this verse can only mean the elect, the Christians. Though I understand how an Arminian would interpret this verse, the Calvinist position is more consistent with the rest of the scriptures I've examined.

Second, considering that "all" in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 1 Corinthians 15:22, and Rom 5:18 can only mean the Christians, it follows that when we approach verses like 1 Timothy 2:4-6, there is legitimacy in interpreting it in a consistent manner with the other verses; that is, the "all" is the elect. Therefore, 1 Timothy 2:4 can have two possible interpretations:
      1) The Arminian: The "all" means every individual.
      2) The Calvinist: The "all" means the Christians. But since the Arminian interpretation would contradict the interpretations found in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 1 Corinthians 15:22, and Rom 5:18, we are left with the Calvinist interpretation as the only legitimate one; namely, that the "all" means the Christians.

      Also, there is the problem of answering how the desire of God is thwarted. The Arminian position has the desires of God frequently thwarted in addition to having the decision of God depend on the decision of man. God can only save someone if that someone makes the right choice.



An Exegetical Study of 1Timothy 2:4

An Exposition of 
1Timothy 2:3-4

An Antidote Against Arminianism
Christopher Ness

John Calvin