Tuesday, October 01, 2013

"Saviour Of All Men": What Does It Mean?

In the midst of his instruction to Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:10:

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.

There is a flow to this section, leading to that last part of verse ten that I want you to get.  Old wives fables may have said that bodily exercise was superior to exercising yourself unto godliness, which wasn't true --  godliness is eternal, compared to the temporality of bodily exercise.  Because you could count on that being true, Paul was willing to suffer in a bodily sense in behalf of godliness.   That God was a living God that would reward Paul's labor was motive enough.  He could preach to everyone knowing that God was the Savior of all of them, that He had done everything necessary for any one of them to be saved.

What I described is how the passage reads, but you get the interesting soteriological truth in the midst of this practical section:  "the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe."

What's my point?

When I have either talked to or read Calvinists, they usually define "all men" or "all" as all the men who God will save.   That's obvious, isn't it?  That's never been obvious to me.  Really, it's always seemed weird, and a definite force when I hear someone trying to explain that.  For a Calvinist, it's the "L" in "tulip," their acrostic, "limited atonement," that looks like it is contradicted by "all."  "All" doesn't match up with a belief in limited atonement.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 say that "Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all." Isaiah 53:6 says, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."

I start by thinking that "all" really does mean "all."  I know that "all" doesn't always mean everyone in the world in every usage of "all," but when it comes to certain "all" passages, it seems like everyone.  With the addition of the last part, "all" in 1 Timothy 4:10 reads like "all."  If "all" means only those who believe, then one wouldn't add "specially of those who believe."  It wouldn't be special or unique to those who believe if it was already only those who believe.

Paul preached the gospel to everyone since God is the Savior of all men.  He thought anyone he preached to could be saved.

I wondered how Calvinists would explain this.   For instance, John MacArthur said it couldn't be universalism, as if your only two choices were Calvinism and then some form of universalism.   He said that the last part of that verse shows that the two parts, the Savior of all men and the Savior especially of those who believe, are talking about the same thing.  And by the same thing, MacArthur says the first part is about God protecting and preserving all of mankind and the second about eternal salvation.

Those actually aren't the same thing.

I agree that the two parts are talking about the same salvation, but that would mean explaining them as the same.  They are the same in that God provides salvation for all men.  He is the Savior of all men.  Those who don't believe will not be saved, but that doesn't mean that God is not their Savior.  He's their Savior -- they just didn't believe in Him.   He is a Savior especially of those who believe, because they receive the salvation.   That's the simple explanation, the obvious one.

Calvinism doesn't work as an explanation without all five points.  Strict or pure monergism is contradicted, again to them, by "all" meaning "all."  1 Timothy 4:10 sounds like faith is the deciding factor for participating in the salvation God has provided.  Without limited atonement, it all falls apart, so they have to hold it together by these forced, strange, contrived interpretations of "all."


22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kent,

I couldn't agree with your remarks more. A few years ago I offered some extended comments on this passage to a Calvinist who insisted the text fit well with Calvinism. If you don't mind, I will post my comments to him here.
______________

Part One

Few texts present a stronger case for an all-inclusive atonement than 1 Tim. 4:10. It not only confirms unlimited atonement but perfectly illustrates redemption accomplished and redemption applied, an issue Calvinists routinely confound.1 Paul says, "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" (1 Tim. 4:10).


Here's an every-man atonement with the conditional application of its benefits. By contrasting "the Saviour of all men" and "specially of those that believe," Paul highlights both the comprehensive and the contingent in the work of Christ. Jesus is the Saviour of all men because He tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9), provided a ransom for every man (1 Tim. 2:6), and became the propitiation for every man (1 Jo. 2:2). And, even though He's the objective Saviour of all men as far as His provision is concerned, He's not the effective Saviour of all men until its application, until men actually repent and believe. That's what 1 Tim. 4:10 says.


One writer remarks, "Paul accordingly thinks of Him as 'the Saviour of all men, specifically of them that believe.' The concluding phrase shows that God is not the Saviour of unbelievers in the same sense that He is of believers. This statement cannot be used to support an unscriptural universalism which teaches that all men will be saved. 'God is Saviour of all men, by His intention, offer, and propitatory work (1 John 2:2). But as on man's side that salvation can only be realized by faith, His saving relation to those who believe is something over and above His relation to all. He saves all potentially--those who believe, actually.'"


tjp

Anonymous said...

Part Two
______________

This text challenges Calvinists who constantly assert "all men" means "all without distinction" or "men of every class." Given their understanding of "all men," Calvinist interpreters read the text this way: "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of [all sorts of elect men], specially of those [elect men] that believe" (1 Tim. 4:10). Here Calvinists are left, as they are in Jo. 3:17 and 2 Cor. 5:14,15, with the possibility that some of the elect may not believe. And if they make "all men" mean "all sorts of men," then they turn "the elect" (those who believe) into one of the sorts of men. In other words, "To say that the two expressions, 'all men' and 'those that believe,' are coextensive would be to make Paul declare that God is the Saviour of those who believe, especially of those who believe." A useless tautology indeed.


Over the years Calvinists have answered 1 Tim. 4:10 in various ways. One way has been to say the word "Saviour" in the text means "Preserver." Thus, Christ is the Preserver of all men (especially faithful men), which is a fact true enough, but not here.1 Here He's the Saviour of all men (that is, the One Who possesses saving benefits for all men, the One Who delivers from sin). Another strategy, not all together different from the previous one, has been to say "Saviour" refers to the kindness of God. Hence, the expression "the Saviour of all men" means nothing more than God is kind to all men, which, again, is a fact true enough, but it's not the point Paul's making here. A third solution has been to say God provides many temporal blessings such as life, strength, pleasures, sustenance; and in this sense He's the Saviour of all men. Like the others, however, this one too fails to purge the passage of its universal sense of an every-man atonement. Unequivocally, Paul affirms Jesus Christ is not only the potential Saviour of all men but the actual Saviour of all who believe.


We concur with the writer who says, "There must be intrinsic truth in the first part of the sentence, that God is the Savior of all mankind in some real sense, that is, in the objective, potential sense. All can agree that Paul's clarifying phrase narrows the truth down to the ultimate reality--that only believers will be saved. Here, as frequently, the truth is two sided." We think fair minded readers will agree that 1 Tim. 4:10 scuppers limitarianism and the erroneous opinion that God's love for all men is something less than a redemptive love and that Christ gave Himself for the elect alone. To make, as Calvinists do, 1 Tim. 4:10 to mean God is the Saviour of believers only misses the point of the text.


tjp

Anonymous said...

Part Three
__________

It seems rather strange that God is the Saviour "especially of those that believe" if He's not also the Saviour of all men. Such language militates against Calvinist restrictionism. In a vital and authentic sense God must be the Saviour of all men (and possess adequate grounds for being so) to be the special Saviour of those who believe. Scripturally speaking, God is the Saviour of all men precisely because He died for all (Jo. 3:14-16; Heb. 2:9; 1 Jo. 2:2). If He's not the Saviour of all, then it makes little sense to say He's the Saviour "especially of those that believe." Clearly, the phrase "especially those that believe" signals an atonement whose benefits are for all and sure to every believer.


Again, in an important sense He must be the Saviour of all men to be the Saviour "especially of those that believe." The Calvinist explanation that He's the Saviour of all in the sense that He cares and provides for all (but in a greater sense for the saved) is unacceptable. Clearly, something pertains to those who believe in a sense that it does not to those who don't. The text groups all men under one Saviour and then divides them on the basis of belief. And there's no indication that those who believe do so for special (or decretive) reasons. Galatians. 6:10 may offer an interpretive paradigm for 1 Tim. 4:10. Just as God is the Saviour of all men, so Christians are to do good to all men; and just as God is the special Saviour of those who believe, so Christians are to be special helpers to those who believe. The parallel is striking.


God doesn't confine the offer of salvation to some men only or to various classes of men. He offers salvation to all who come under the sound of the gospel; and He's genuine and sincere in His offer, granting saving benefits to all who respond and withholding them from all who don't. He has no more limited the cross to the various ranks and stations of men than He has to various men. He's the Saviour of all. Unfortunately, some have taken Paul's statement that God is the Saviour of all men to mean all will necessarily be saved. However, the qualifier, "especially of those that believe," restricts God's saving activity to believers only.


tjp

Anonymous said...

Part Four
_________

As "the Saviour of all men," God has placed all in a savable position (2 Cor. 5:19), even though all won't be saved. Only believers will reach Heaven. It's hard to image how an every-man atonement, with its benefits taking effect upon faith, could be more clearly expressed. That Christ died for all men is evident (1 Tim. 2:4,6; Heb. 2:9; 1 Jo. 2:2). He even died for those who deny He bought them (2 Pet. 2:1), who trample Him under foot (Heb. 10:29), who finally resist Him (Acts 7:51), and who finally perish (2 Pet. 3:9). The atonement opens the door of salvation to all men. It's an actual (not a hypothetical) provision for the sins of the world.


All the Calvinist explanations have an unnatural construction to them. Few believers would come to the conclusions limitarians do unless they had prior reasons to do so. The drift of Scripture favors an every-man atonement. Limitarianism simply doesn't agree with either the soteriology of Scripture (Isa. 53:11; Jo. 3:14-17; 8:24; 20:31,32; Ro. 5:14,15; 2 Cor. 5:14,15; 1 Tim. 2:4,6; 4:10; Heb. 2:9; 1 Jo. 2:2), the commission of Scripture (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15,16; Lk. 24:47), or the invitations of Scripture (Prov. 1:20-23; Isa. 1:18; 45:22; 55:1,3; Eze. 18:32; 33:11; Mt. 11:28-30; 22:4; 23:37; Lk. 14:17; Jo. 7:37; 2 Pet. 39; Rev. 22:17).


God invites all to come (Mt. 11:28-30; Rev. 22:17). And His invitation rests on the truth that all things are ready (Mt. 22:4). Scripture magnifies this point. He invites all because adequate provision exist for all. Can anyone suppose God would prepare a gospel feast for a thousand and then invite a million? Every man who hears the gospel has the right to assume the invitation is genuine and that the provision is real. But only an every-man atonement can support an unrestrained invitation and assure every man there's a corresponding provision to his invitation. To claim God invites more than He can accommodate sleights both His wisdom and integrity. Besides, not to assume an actual provision stands behind God's invitation is to make Him a deceiver.


tjp

Anonymous said...

Part Five
_________

That Christ died for all is fully attested in Scripture (2 Cor. 5:14,15; 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9; 1 Jo. 2:2). And, as previously noted, His death for all doesn't mean all will of necessity be saved. Interestingly, Scripture never suggests that those who die Christless also die crossless.1 Nor does it suggest all the cross's redemptive benefits are exhausted on those who are ultimately saved. "All are savable; all aren't saved" is the uniform teaching of Scripture. Yet limitarians work unceasingly to bring down unlimited atonement and replace it with an injurious and defective limited atonement.


Potentially, Christ is the Saviour of all men; effectually, however, He's the Saviour only of those who believe. He won't and can't save those who reject Him. He won't save men in spite of themselves. He only saves those who "come unto God by Him." It's clear that such universal terms as "all," and "all men," and "every man" point to an all-inclusive atonement, which is clearly their meaning in the redemptive contexts in which they appear. It's certainly how many have understand them over the years. Yet Calvinists, as well as other limitarians, are insistent that we interpret all universal terms in a very restricted fashion, especially when they appear in salvation passages. There's no Biblical authority for such an insistence, but only a desire to uphold a aberrant theological system.


We agree with the writer who said, "There are, in a word, places and connections in which the word 'all' must mean all men, and whenever it does mean all men it does not mean anything else or anything less. Once settle this meaning, and the 'general' passage gets, in one sense, a very 'particular' character. . . . Moreover, it will be born in mind that the presumption wherever the word 'all' and 'world' are found is in favor of their universal sense, and it is incumbent upon those who reject that sense in any individual case to give satisfactory reasons why they thus reject it. The burden of proof manifestly rests upon them."


tjp

Anonymous said...

Part Six
________

It's true when "all," as well as other universal terms (every, whosoever, etc.) is used in a physical or geographical sense that it sometimes doesn't mean "all without exception or exclusion." This is certainly the case with "all" in such expressions as "all the world should be taxed" (Lk. 2:1) and "there should be a great dearth throughout all the world" (Acts 11:28) and "whom all Asia and the world worshippeth" (Acts 19:27). Clearly, the "all the world" in these instances (and others) implies limitation. For example, all the world (that is, every person in it) wasn't taxed by Rome. And of course the entire globe didn't experience the famine of Acts 11:28. Moreover, all the world--that is, every person in it--didn't worship Diana of Ephesus.


However, when "all," along with other universal terms, is used in a moral, spiritual, and ethical sense, it does mean "all without exception. For instance, "all under sin" (Ro. 3:9) means all men without exception are under sin; "all are gone out of the way" (Ro. 3:12) means every person has deviated from the divine standard of rectitude; "all the world may become guilty before God" means every man without exception stands condemned before God (Ro. 3:19); "all have sinned" (Ro. 3:23) means every person without exception has missed the divine mark of moral and spiritual perfection; "so death passed upon all men" (Ro. 5:12) means all men without exception or exclusion are spiritually separated from God; and "judgment came upon all men to condemnation" (Ro. 5:18) means every man carries the divine sentence of condemnation against him. In these, and many other similar passages, "all" must mean "all without exception or exclusion, every single person." Thus, in its moral, spiritual, and ethical usage (Isa. 53:6; Jo. 3:14-17; 8:32; Ro. 3:22; 5:18; 2 Cor. 5:14,15; Heb. 2:9; 1 Jo. 2:2), "all" must be taken in its broadest sense, thereby confirming unlimited atonement; for the atonement is a moral, spiritual, and ethical issue.


tjp

Anonymous said...

He is the only possible Savior of all, but as you pointed out faith is the deciding factor. So where does this faith come from, I say God.

If that is true, then He himself is the deciding factor in that He gives faith to some, but not all.

Paul

Lance Ketchum said...

The five points of Calvinism are the logical (deductive) progression based upon eisegesis and the presupposition that election is salvational. The presupposition is wrong and therefore the deductive progression is wrong also. No one is chosen to be saved!

d4v34x said...

Election not salvational? That's not what Paul says.

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Paul.

Thanks for commenting. I'm saying that the verse makes faith the deciding factor and the way the verse actually reads is that the individual is responsible for the faith. I agree with you that faith is a gift of God, but I don't agree that faith is not available for all. We can't be saved without faith and we can't believe except we obtain faith from God, but I don't know of anyplace that says God gives faith to some and not to others. Scripture doesn't read that way. The verse itself doesn't say "especially the ones who received the gift of faith." He is the Savior literally "of believing ones." Anyone reading that wouldn't be getting that this was because God gave them the ability to believe, but because they did believe. God is not less sovereign when He is as sovereign as He says He is. A Sovereign God does it as He wills.

Anonymous said...

God does not give faith to all or else all would have faith. I tend to view it as S. Lewis Johnson does. Anyways, I am Calvinist and this verse does not bother me in the least.

Paul

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Paul,

It seems simple to me, based on the cumulative passages. Faith is offered to all, but not received by all. How does it come? By means of the God's revelation, by the Word of God (Rom 10:17). Some, however, suppress it out of unrighteousness. Since salvation is not by works, faith isn't a work. It is granted. But not everyone receives it. Ultimately, if faith is a gift, it must still be received. It is granted, but someone must still receive it. I understand that Calvinism says that a dead man (total depravity) can't receive it, but the grace of God allows someone to receive it. The Word of God is powerful, so someone can receive it. The conviction of the Holy Spirit allows someone to receive it. That fits with 1 Timothy 4:10 and then those passages on faith.

Thanks again.

Lance Ketchum said...

"Called" in Rom. 8:29-30 is vocational (Eph. 4:1) which leads into the new priesthood of all believers in Romans 9,10,and 11. The context in chapter 8 is moving from practical sanctification to ultimate sanctification (glorification) where the believer priest spends 7 years at the marriage supper of the Lamb during the Trib. and then returns with Christ at Armageddon to be grafted into Israel as her new Melchizedekan priesthood to rule and reign with Christ.

George Calvas said...

Calvinism and its presuppositions (TULIP) are the product of high-minded intellectuals who wrest the scriptures to there own destruction (doctrines of Nicolaitans)and make disciples the "two-fold" child of hell than themselves.

Man always chooses to believe or not believe, even the faith that comes from God (i.e., the faith of Christ). That truth is evident throughout the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Kent,

Thanks for the interaction and I'm glad you pointed to Rom 10:17, what I find interesting is that faith comes from hearing the word, but we know that there have been many who have never heard the word. To me that means that not all had the possibility to receive this gift.That means that faith has not been offered to all.

Paul

Kent Brandenburg said...

Paul,

Romans 1 says everyone has had an opportunity to hear. It says they knew God and glorified Him not as God. Men are responsible for the revelation God gives them, but everyone gets enough so that all are without excuse. Your theory above doesn't match up with Romans 1 at the least.

Anonymous said...

I fail to see how general revelation helps, I see nothing there about hearing. The passage is a condemnation passage. Surely you're not saying that man can be saved apart from the Word? I agree that man is responsible, but that doesn't change the fact that God does not give faith to all.

Luke said...

It helps to look at other verses to understand the verse in Timothy. Romans 9th chapter is a good place to start.
Romans 9:16,18-23 KJVS
[16] So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. [18] Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy , and whom he will he hardeneth. [19] Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? [20] Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it , Why hast thou made me thus? [21] Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? [22] What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: [23] And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
You need to view the big picture to understand what God is doing. Simply put he is educating His children. To do so, He created a educational theatrical production, so to speak, and assigned different roles. Vessels of wrath fitted for loss or ruin. Vessels of mercy. In order to educate His children, it was necessary to allow them to acquire the knowledge of good and evil, in order to be like Himself and the Word, Ge 3:22. Once mankind acquired that knowledge, then it was a matter of teaching the vessels of mercy maturity.
Hebrews 5:14 KJVS
[14] But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Hebrews 12:11 KJVS
[11] Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
If you think about it, in order for God to mature the body of Christ, it was necessary for both good and evil to exist. If you have raised children your overall purpose with loving guidance, is to hopefully bring them to maturity. That simply could not be done in a perfect world, That is especially true with the body of Christ.
James 1:12 KJVS
[12] Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

So, in short, that is what God is doing. Back to Ro 9:22. People only learn through experience. Obedience is a result of learning there are consequences involved with disobedience. So God of course saw the need to show His wrath, so that His power would be known. Rule of law, compliance, is achieved by a show of force. Punishment for disobedience. See http://www.justifiedfreely.com/?p=372



Craig Kuha said...

Very good post and discussion. You wonder if Paul was thinking of Adam when he was talking about the clay and the potter. I may be wrong but in a sense Adam after acquiring the knowledge of good and evil and becoming as like God-gen 3:22 that he was then a vessel fitted for destruction . Then of course God protected him from the tree of life. The whole knowledge of good an evil is fascinating to me. Thanks.

Luke said...

Craig, If God is going to subdue all things under Christ's feet, so God can be all in all, 1 Co 15:28. And John states this.
1 John 4:16 KJVS
[16] And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
I view those two scriptures as a if then statement. If God is going to be all in all, then all must be made perfect in love. Imagine a sock that is inside out, is this world. Filled with men who are slaves to the flesh and the lusts of the flesh. God reaches inside that sock and grabs the toe, the body of Christ, who are made slaves to righteousness, and as He pulls the toe of the sock through itself. He matures the body of Christ and then the rest of the world. All men need to be made perfect in love. But to do so the have to be exercised in their choices regarding good and evil. In regards to Adam, in Luke he is called the son of God, Lk 3:38. I can't honestly say I know his standing in regards to the vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy. At one time I viewed the vessels of wrath as Israel of the flesh. See Gal 4:22-26 but now am leaning toward the opinion they are the rest of the world. It depends how you view certain scripture verses.
Romans 11:32 KJVS
[32] For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
I don't know if you can view this verse in light of Ro 5:19 or not. I suppose it matters not because a vessel is not to ask why have you made me thus, Ro 9:20. But this world that God made according to His purpose, has many different variables and different roles we all are assigned to play. All is necessary for the ultimate maturity of all. It is hard to keep that in mind from the micro perspective at times. But it helps to keep a macro view in life, that is why our Lord said forgive them for they know not what they do. And Stephen said this.
Acts 7:60 KJVS
[60] And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Stephen walked in love and must have understood and believed what Peter said, Acts 3:21, and looked at things in the macro perspective.

Craig Kuha said...

Thanks, I'll chew on that awhile. I used to listen to the Bible Answer Man on the radio and he would answer questions like this. But I haven't heard him in a few years. One other quick question. What does the S stand for in KJVS. Thankyou.