God Desires “All People” To Be Saved

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [1 Timothy 2:3-4]

Has someone ever quoted this verse to you, asserting that God desires the salvation of every individual on the planet? At first glance it may seem that this is the case. Like most any verse, it would be easy to single one out and boldly state what it means. But is this the case ? It seems pretty clear… Right?

Let’s begin by reading 1 Timothy 2:1-7,

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” [1 Timothy 2:1-7]

Here, Paul urges the church to pray for all people, because God desires that all people be saved. He goes on to say that Christ gave His life a ransom for all, and that he [Paul] was appointed to teach faith and truth. Seems easy to understand. But one detail usually gets overlooked here. Paul qualifies who “all people” are:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” [1 Timothy 2:1-2]

The “all people” are all types of people: kings and those in authority specifically in this passage. The Christians in Paul’s day, and since have experienced persecutions from kings and those in authority. The tendency of some may be to not want to pray for these men. But Paul urges them to pray for even these because God desires the salvation of all men: kings and authorities. Christ even gave His life as a ransom for these types of people. He then gives a reason for praying for them: “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” When we pray, we ought not to pray for these kings and authorities to simply “go easy on us” or to be “overwhelmed with morals.” Rather, pray for their salvation – that they might believe the good news of Jesus Christ. After all, God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

This Scripture doesn’t speak of God desiring the salvation of every single individual who has ever lived, rather God desiring the salvation of all types of people – specifically kings and authorities. If there are people who constantly slander you for your faith in the gospel or even beat you for your faith in the gospel, don’t ignore them or develop hatred for them. Instead, pray that the Lord would replace their stoney hearts with hearts of flesh, that they might repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Apart from Christ, we are just as wicked, even if we aren’t slandering Christianity or beating those who call themselves Christians. That Jesus came and lived a perfectly holy life on behalf of wicked men, spilled His blood on the cross on behalf of wicked men, was buried on behalf of wicked men, was raised to life 3 days later on behalf of wicked men so that the wrath and judgment of God would not befall these wicked men. God would instead see the righteousness of Christ on their behalf, and they would be forgiven for their grievous sins.


5 thoughts on “God Desires “All People” To Be Saved”

  1. Some readers might be surprised that Spurgeon took the Arminian view of I Timothy 2:4
    Spurgeon: You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. “All men,” they say,–”that is some men”: as if the Holy Ghost could not have said “some men” if he had meant some men. “All men,” say they; that is, some of all sorts of men”; as if the Lord could not have said “All sorts of men” if he had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written “all men,” and unquestionably he means all men. . . . As it is my wish that it should be so, as it is your wish that it might be so, so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, he is not less benevolent than we are. . . . It is God’s wish that the sick should not suffer. Do you doubt it? Is it not your own wish? And yet the Lord does not work a miracle to heal every sick person. It is God’s wish that his creatures should be happy. Do you deny that? He does not interpose by any miraculous agency to make us all happy, and yet it would be wicked to suppose that he does not wish the happiness of all the creatures that he has made.”

    Hugh L. Williams, in his excellent article on this sermon, gives a Calvinist reaction to Spurgeon’s assertion: “This is wrong. The Holy Ghost did not by the apostle write ‘all men.’ He wrote pantas anthropous. Now the question is what does the phrase mean.” Williams goes on to show that this undoubtedly means “all without distinction” rather than “all without exception.”

    But more of what Spurgeon thinks he knows: “He has an infinite benevolence which, nevertheless, is not in all points worked out by his infinite omnipotence; and if anybody asked me why it is not, I cannot tell…”

    He can tell you dogmatically what the texts means. When confronted with contradiction, instead of examining again his view, he accepts contradiction. Spurgeon labels those who do not accept that the Bible contains contradiction as rationalists: “Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation. They are, without knowing it, following the lead of the rationalists. Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, ay, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonizes them.”

    So let’s examine what a “hyper Calvinist” says about I Tim 2:4. I quote John Calvin: “This passage of the apostle (1 Tim. ii. 4) was long ago brought forth by the Pelagians, and handled against us with all their might. . . . I have nevertheless extorted from Pighius this much: that no one but a man deprived of his common judgment can believe that salvation was ordained by the secret counsel of God equally and indiscriminately for all men. The true meaning of Paul, however, in this passage now under consideration is perfectly clear and intelligible to every one who is not determined on contention. The apostle is exhorting that all solemn “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: for kings and all that are in authority.”

    “Who does not see that the apostle here is speaking of orders of men rather than of individuals? Indeed, that distinction which commentators here make is not without great reason and point; that nations of individuals, not individuals of nations, are here intended by Paul. . . .”

    “But Paul teaches us (continues Georgius) that God ‘would have all men to be saved.’ It follows, therefore, according to his understanding of that passage, either that God is disappointed in His wishes, or that all men without exception must be saved. If he should reply that God wills all men to be saved on His part, or as far as He is concerned, seeing that salvation is, nevertheless, left to the free will of each individual; I, in return, ask him why, if such be the case, God did not command the Gospel to be preached indiscriminately from the beginning of the world? why he suffered so many generations of men to wander for so many ages in all the darkness of death? …”


  2. don’t let you’r theology redefine the meaning of words,in Roman’s 3;23 Paul says “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God) does this mean all kinds?all means all and that is all that all means.


    1. Hm. So all always means all? You sure you want to go there? Is that how language works? Doesn’t the context define a word?

      4Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. (Matt 3:4-5)

      “All Judea” “all the region about the Jordan” went to see John the Baptist. So is it your view that every single individual that inhabited these cities went to see him? Not one person was in any of these cities?

      “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22)

      All are certainly dead in Adam, but I guess, borrowing your hermeneutic, since “all means all and that’s all all means” then, everyone is made alive – ie saved. Right?

      You don’t even follow this rule outside of the Bible:

      Let’s say you and I bought a pizza. I have 4 pieces, and walk out of the room. When I come back, the pizza is gone, to which I ask, “You ate it all?!” Would you assume that though I knew I had 4 pieces, I somehow was under the impression you ate the entire thing? Of course not. “All”, like any word, is limited by it’s context.

      If I said, “I like Publix supermarket (a market we have in FL), I shop there ALL the time.” Would you assume that I shop there every second, minute, hour, or even day? No. I hope not.


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