1 Timothy 4
The last few blogs focused on the “timing” of God’s plan to save all men – i.e. how He plans to do it through several squadrons or harvests (distinct groups if you will). I hope that this helps alleviate some of the questions that must be burning within anyone who does not have the time to search these things out for themselves. Understanding that God isn’t going to accomplish His plan of Universal Reconciliation all at once gives us a little bit of clarity moving forward. We can now begin to open up more and more sections of Scripture that detail this glorious plan of His without being bogged down with uncertainty about how it will all work out.
In this blog we will be looking at 1 Timothy 4:10 which describes the fact that though God is the savior of all men, believers receive a “special” salvation. In this letter Paul is speaking with Timothy (his understudy), who was put in charge of the Church at Ephesus; a place of hostile dynamics concerning spiritual warfare (see the book of Ephesians). Paul gives much practical advice in his letter to Timothy, not the least of which is a bit of advice given in Chapter 2 which we have already looked at – that God’s plan (which will not fail) is to save all men, b/c Jesus gave His life as a ransom for all. In light of this fact Paul encourages us to be generous in our prayers for all men (see 1 Timothy 2:1-6, as well as my blog here).
But fast forward a few chapters and Paul begins to warn Timothy that the Spirit prophesies that in the latter (end) times some will fall away from the faith by running after demonic and deceitful doctrines (4:1). Some (many in fact) have used this very verse to condemn Universal Reconciliation, claiming that it is a deceiving and demonic doctrine. But Paul details the doctrines that he is referring to in verse 3 saying,
“men who forbid marriage and advocate the abstaining from foods…”
Paul clearly is not referring to Universal Reconciliation, which if he was would absurdly contradict not only what he wrote in chapter 2, but what he is about to write here in chapter 4. I do not mean to be a tattletale, but the doctrine of forbidding marriage has been adopted by the Roman Catholic Church in regards to the office of a priest. Basically if you want to be a minister of Christ in the Catholic Church you have to be single. This doctrine alone has led to the monstrous perversion and abuse that has finally come out into the light in recent years, scandalizing the Catholic Church. And the abstaining from certain foods, though not explicitly an expressed doctrine, is certainly dogmatized by the 7th Day Adventists.
But Paul declares that such things have been,
“created [by God] to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude, for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” (4:3-5)
We will have much more to say about this in a later blog as it relates to Peter’s vision in Acts 10 where God demolished the Jewish preconception that the clean and unclean food laws actually concerned people (Gentiles). God told Peter that what He has cleansed was to no longer be considered unclean. Peter then declares that God told him not to consider any “man” unclean anymore. This has massive Universal Reconciliation implications – all men have been cleansed by Christ’s sacrifice!
But getting back to the topic at hand, Paul says that God created all things to be received with thanksgiving, and that prayer sanctifies it. In the same manner God Himself will receive all men back onto Himself with great rejoicing and giving of thanks, for they will all be sanctified through the prayers, which Paul told us earlier to lavish on all men!
Paul then comments a few verses later,
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” (4:9,10)
This is the specific point of this blog – that though God is definitely the savior of believers that salvation is not exclusive to believers. Although believers receive a unique salvation in this life that does not mean that the rest will not also partake of salvation. This truth might not seem 100% obvious with just a quick glance at this verse, but lets look at it again with some details highlighted.
The first part should be pretty obvious, but how exactly does the second part relate to the first? The word “especially” used here is simply an adverb form of the word “special.” Thus this verse states that all men will be saved, but believers get a special salvation! I don’t know about you, but that absolutely fascinates and excites me!
It is possible, however, that some might accuse me of jumping to conclusions here, and that I’m incorrectly reading into what Paul is saying here. Some might say that Paul is mentioning that God is mankind’s only savior, and only believers will actually be saved. However, the context of chapter 2 and how it connects to the beginning of chapter 4 here would discredit such an interpretation. On top of this Paul employs this exact term in another verse, which gives us a very obvious context by which to better understand how this word is employed. He says,
“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, ESPECIALLY to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
Paul is not saying that we should do good ONLY to the household of faith, rather he is saying that we should do good to all men, and while we are doing good to all we should reserve a “special” goodness to give to fellow believers. The same goes for the verse in 1 Timothy; Paul is not stating that God is going to save ONLY the believers, but rather that He is going to save ALL men, but believers in this life will receive a “special” salvation.
It is “special” b/c as we saw in the previous blogs on timing we are the,
“first to hope in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:12)
“God has chosen [us] as first fruits of salvation.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
“if the first fruits are holy, the lump (harvest) is also.” (Romans 11:16)
Our salvation is “special” b/c we sanctify the rest of the harvest. We prepare the REST for salvation. The “rest” includes the whole world. We get to usher in all the rest, we will get to participate in their deliverance!
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing (revelation) of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)
We will be part of setting all creation free! We will set them free from their slavery/bondage to corruption, which is sin and death. What greater privilege could there be than that! But to be a good Bible expositor, we ought to apply the principle that, “every truth is to be confirmed by two or three witnesses.” (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1) Therefore, is there another verse in Scripture that declares something similar to what Paul has mentioned above in 1 Timothy? I’m pretty sure that you have probably guessed that there is.
1 John 2
There just happens to be other verse that is uniquely similar to 1 Timothy 4:10 as it also contains a statement about the propitiation of not only believers, but of all men. It is found in 1 John 2:2,
“[Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
Like Paul, John is declaring that Jesus’ death and atonement for our sins doesn’t just cover those who accept and receive it; it covers the sins of the whole world! So it becomes apparent that there is a distinction between believers in this life, and those who will come to the Lord later. God’s intent is not to cause our head to swell, as if we were better than everybody else; no, His intention is to help us realize that we will have responsibility, that we will be involved with bringing the rest into the Kingdom. We will be uniquely situated to assist in bringing the rest of the world to Christ!
God is the Savior of all men with believers receiving a special salvation. This is b/c we are the ones who will help prepare the rest in recognizing that which has already been accomplished for them. He is not only the propitiation for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world.