1 Timothy 2:4-6 – Who Will Have All Men to be Saved

, posted by Godismyjudge

Dan (Arminian) and Turretinfan (Calvinist) briefly review Dan’s discussion with Leighton Flowers on total depravity, then dig in to 1 Timothy 2:4-6. The main points of discucurrance were talking “all men” to mean everyone or not, does Christ’s being the Mediator and ransom guarantee effectual mediation and freedom or not, should we pray for everyone and is the reference to testification related to preaching the gospel to everyone?

Explanation of the Passage

1 Timothy 2
1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in
authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Verse 1 tells us to pray for all men. Even on Calvinism, since you don’t know who the elect are, you shouldn’t leave anyone out of your prayers.

Verse 2 indicates that Christians were having trouble with those in authority and many commentaries think this included the reigning emperor, Nero. Freedom
from wars and persecutions, will facilitate the spread of the gospel. But why think this includes Nero?  Because he is one of the individuals that were in authority.
He does not say some people in the category of those who are in authority. Notice Paul is talking about the individuals in authority – all who are in authority.  Categories are comprised of individuals and in this case, all of them. 

3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

The word “for” (gar in Greek) has a connecting force. It’s like saying “and here’s the reason.

God wants us to pray for all men to because He wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, that is to come
to faith.

Imitate God. If He is willing that all men should be saved, it is meet to pray for all.  – Chrysostom (Homily on 1 Timothy 2:4)

Individual people come to the knowledge of the truth, reinforcing our observation that Paul means all the people in the categories, and not abstracted categories. 

 “All men,” say they,—”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. I know how to get rid of the force of the “alls” according to that critical method which some time ago was very current, but I do not see how it can be applied here with due regard to truth. I was reading just now the exposition of a very able doctor who explains the text so as to explain it away; he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it. I thought when I read his exposition that it would have been a very capital comment upon the text if it had read, “Who will not have all men to be saved, nor come to a knowledge of the truth.” Had such been the inspired language every remark of the learned doctor would have been exactly in keeping, but as it happens to say, “Who will have all men to be saved,” his observations are more than a little out of place.  – Charles Spurgeon, Salvation by Knowing the Truth, Sermon (1516)

There’s a difference between God’s desires and predestination.  If God predestined someone to salvation and they were not saved, the would indeed be a problem for omnipotence, since omnipotence is invoked by God’s choice, not just by His desire.  We can get into “then God failed”, but God hates sin and sin happens.


Even if you don’t want to become Arminian, you could take a moderate Calvinist reading.  I agree with John of Damascene, who on this passage articulated the antecedent/consequent will of God distinction. God wants everyone to be saved and come to faith, but if they don’t come to faith, He wants to punish their disobedience and unbelief.    

5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

In verse 5, Christ is said to be the one Mediator between God and men. There is no article before Anthropos, so “men” here is used in a general sense and as
such can‘t exclude anyone. Here, and in Hebrews 2, we see unlimited atonement is rooted in the incarnation – God the Son assuming human nature, to save the
human race.

The one God and one Mediator have the same scope.  Men who have creators have a mediator. 

Let’s pretend for a second that it did mean “elect” men. Doesn’t that imply that non-elect men could have a different mediator? Could they go to Mary or Buddha?

Men is being used generally. There can’t be exceptions. Consider the similar passage in John 14: “no man comes to the Father but by me”. Could this mean no “elect” man comes to the Father but by Christ? Could others get to heaven another way? NO!!! Christ is the only way to the Father, He is the only Mediator. No one can have another mediator. No exceptions.

Men is being contrasted with God. The picture here is the creation and the Creator. God on one side and everyone who is not God on the other side. Men and
man are juxtaposed.  Had salvation been intended only for one group, Christ’s union with that specific group would have been referenced.  Christ is the One who
has voluntarily taken his stand between the offended God and the offending sinner. Christ is the foundation of salvation, and offers salvation, so he is Mediator in this twofold sense.

The reason Christ can mediate for all is because He gave himself as a ransom for all. This is co-extensive with those for whom we are to pray, it’s co-extensive with those for whom God wants to save and it is co-extensive with those who can have no other Mediator besides Christ.

The ransom is the price of freedom, not the freedom itself.  It’s the sacrifice or death of Christ, not the application of His blood. We agree that the price was of infinite value and no one is justified apart from faith.  There’s a difference between provision, which is for all, and application, which is by faith and in
union with Christ.  The ransom or price of redemption is part of the object of faith. The efficacy of the price of redemption pertains to application, which
is through faith.  Notice the order, first Christ dies to be the foundation of salvation.  Then He offers you that salvation. Then you believe.  Then you are saved through the application of Christ’s blood.

We are commissioned to testify Christ’s death as a ransom to all men.  Paul was appointed to teach the gospel to the gentiles in truth and faith (verse 7).  In due season does reference this great commission era we live in.  People remain unsaved and are blamed because they do not come to the knowledge of the
truth.  No one can be blamed for not believing Christ died for them, if it’s not true that Christ died for them. We are the messengers delivering God’s sincere offer to everyone.      

In our last discussion on 1 Tim 4:10 “who is the Savoir of all men, especially those that believe”, you more or less granted that all men meant everyone living at the time. Rather than a contrast between men and God as we have in 1 Timothy 2, in 1 Timothy 4 we have a contrast between believers and by implication unbelievers. Paul’s usage in chapter 4 harmonizes with his usage in chapter 2.

Summing up what we have found regarding Christ’s death for all…

Christ’s death is:

  1. co-extensive with the all men for whom we are to pray,
    including unbelievers who persecute the Church,
  2. it’s co-extensive with those for whom God wills to be saved
    and to come to faith,
  3. It’s co-extensive with those who have one God
  4. it’s co-extensive with those who can’t get mediation
    elsewhere
  5. it’s co-extensive with those who’s nature Christ took on,
  6. it’s co-extensive with those we should preach to.
  7. It includes each individual within the categories (like
    individuals in authority)
  8. It’s consistent with the usage of 1 Timothy 4:10