There are some verses that are often thrown around in theological debates, 1 Timothy 2:4 is one of them. Let’s add in a few of the preceding verses to give us a bit of context. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 says “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.“
This chapter of Timothy is full of instructions for the church regarding their gathered worship and is part of a broader section in which Paul gives descriptions of what godly living looks like in a local church.
Maybe that verse didn’t really stand out to you, because you believe everyone will be saved. Or maybe you asked, if that’s true, then why isn’t everyone saved? Or, how does God’s will match up with people dying without any indication that they are Christians? Or maybe you’re asking, If God is sovereign why doesn’t he just save everyone?
This is a complicated, but very important issue. There is no way I can cover such a massive topic in depth in the space of a short blogpost. But I hope that a few thoughts may be helpful to you and fuel the desire for further study.
It’s important to look at verses like this in their context because, for example, some of you might have been taught universalism, the idea that everyone is saved in the end. However, we read in other passages, for example in Romans 2, that God will judge the sins of the world. It’s clear that those who are not Christians, and have rejected Jesus, will be under the eternal judgment of God.
God makes it clear in the Bible that Christians will be saved and spend eternity in the presence of God and all those who reject Jesus and are not Christians will spend eternity under His wrath in hell.
So, thinking back to 1 Timothy 2:4, how do we reconcile the truth that God wants all people to be saved and passages like Romans 2 that talk about judgment and hell?
This is where we need to make sure that we are rooted in Scripture. To understand what it means that God wants all people to be saved we need to step back and look the broader of the Bible.
In the bible two kinds of God’s Will are mentioned; first His Sovereign Will which refers to God’s control over the world and our lives. This will cannot be broken. What God has ordained, we cannot stop or hinder. This sovereign will of God is largely unknown to us. We see it unfold as we look back to the past, but we cannot always see it looking forward. This aspect of the will of God is responsible for His calling and saving people. For the sake of time and brevity, I cannot go into the important topic of a person’s responsibility in the matter of salvation too. That’s the topic of another post.
The second kind of God’s Will mentioned in the Bible is His Moral Will, referring to His holiness and godliness. God’s moral will is reflected in His commandments ‘you shall not kill’ ‘You shall not steal’ and so on. Humanity can and does break God’s moral will all the time.
1 Timothy 2:4 is about God’s Moral Will, that all people would repent and be saved, but it is not His sovereign will that all people in the world will be saved. Every church, should be a pillar and foundation of the truth, that’s what 1 Timothy 3:15 says. Meaning that every church and every believer is to hold out the good news about Jesus and tell it to the world. God’s moral will is that everyone would hear about Jesus and come to know Him.
How much of your time as a believer, and as a church, is spent telling people about Jesus?
It’s estimated that the current population of the world sits at 7.9 Billion people. Of those 7.9 billion people, 3.27 Billon are classed as unreached, meaning that they have few or no Christians and little to no knowledge of the Bible or Jesus at all. Meaning that 42.5% of this worlds population have no or little idea about Christianity.
Are we really reflecting God’s Heart for the world? God has a heart for the world that all would hear about Jesus. As Christians, we should be reflecting His heart and sharing the gospel.