In this past Sunday’s passage from I preached, 1 Timothy 2:1-7, verse 4 is a sticky verse that merits a bit more attention. Paul speaks of God as one who “desires all people be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
The fact that God desires all to come to salvation might seem to conflict with the equally biblical truth of election. Some might legitimately ask, “If God chose people to be His followers, then how could He desire that all come to salvation”?
We know that Jesus died for all from 2 Corinthians 5:15; “and he (Jesus) died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” A similar message is found in John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
At the same time we read in Romans 9:21-23 that God has created some people for wrath and others for glory.
New Testament author Ralph Earle says it well when he quotes Vines as saying, “Salvation is universal in its scope but conditional in its effect.” God’s benevolent heart of mercy extends to all people, even though only some will be saved.
The context of 1 Timothy makes clear that false teaching was occurring in Ephesus, and some exclusionary practices were being advanced such as denying the practice of marriage and eating particular foods (though not Cheetos!).
Most commentators suggest that there was likely a wrong exclusivist teaching perhaps implying that God chose favorites, like the Jews and excluded others. Paul simply wanted to correct that false impression.
We know that all people have access to the Gospel, so the message is universal. But we also know that only a few will follow Jesus, which makes that universal message exclusive. There is only one way to the Father, and that is through faith in Jesus, the mediator between God and man, who was our ransom.
May God bless you with a safe and relaxing 4 th of July!
Rescued by Christ,