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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « The Subject of All Theology | Main | Sola Scriptura (Part 1) by Pastor John Samson »

    Understanding 1 Timothy 4:10 by Pastor John Samson

    "For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." 1 Timothy 4:10 (NKJ)

    1 Tim. 4:10 is a verse that has had many interpretations. Here are the main three:

    (1) The Universalist Interpretation - "God is the Savior of all men" means that all who have ever lived will be saved. This of course is contrary to all sound doctrine. If this was true, the rest of the verse would have no meaning whatsoever when it says "especially of those who believe."

    (2) The Arminian Interpretation - God wants to save everyone but His desire is many times thwarted by the obsinate free will of man. God is able to save all men, but though all can be saved, only believers actually are. Certainly this is a popular view, but we must be clear that this is not what the text says. It does not say God wants to save, but that He actually saves: He is actually the Savior (in some sense) of all men.

    (3) The Reformed Interpretation - God is the Savior of all men (in one sense) and especially of those who believe (in another sense). Let me be quick to say that this is not the only way reformed people have understood this verse, but I do believe this is the correct interpretation.

    As we study the terms "salvation" and "Savior" we find many nuances - many different ways - God saves. The most important aspect of salvation is to be "saved" from the wrath of God (Romans 5:6-9; 1 Thess. 1:10), but salvation also includes the idea of rescue from enemy attack (Psalm 18:3); preservation (Matt. 8:25); physical healing (Matt. 9:22; James 5:15), etc. God "saved" not only Paul's life but everyone else on board ship with him in Acts 27:22, 31, 44. There are numerous ways that "salvation" takes place, but that's a complete Bible study all in itself.

    When we study the word Savior (Greek: soter) in the LXX version (Greek translation of the Old Testament), we see the word used in a way that is far less grandiose than that which we generally think of the word. One example is Judge Othniel, who is called a Soter (Savior) or deliverer because he delivered the children of Israel from the hands of the king of Mesopotamia (Jud. 3:9). 2 Kings 13:5 talks of God giving Israel a "Savior" so that they were delivered from the hands of the Syrians. The judges of Israel were "saviors" as Nehemiah 9:27 states, "in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies." (see also Psalm 36:6)

    A great deal more could be said to substantiate this idea of a savior, but I think the above would make the point. God provides food (Psalm 104:27, 28), sunlight and rainfall (Matt. 5:45), as well as life and breath and all things (Acts 17:25), for "in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). God preserves, delivers and supplies the needs of all who live in this world, and it is in this sense that He extends grace to them, saving them from destruction every day they live.

    God is also gracious in allowing many to hear the proclamation of the Gospel.

    All of these mercies are refered to as "common grace." It is common only in the sense that every living person gets it. This grace should actually amaze us because God is under no obligation whatsoever to give it to anyone. It can never be demanded. God sustains the lives of His sworn enemies, often for many decades! However, as wonderful as it is, it is only a temporal grace because all unregenerate people eventually die and will face the judgment (Heb. 9:27).

    I believe then that 1 Timothy 4:10 teaches that we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior (Soter - preserver, sustainer, deliverer) of all people (showing mercy to all, each and every day they live), especially of those who believe (who receive full salvation from His wrath and everlasting life).

    Posted by John Samson on February 8, 2006 07:41 PM

    Comments

    Thanks for the article. I have often had Arminians try to throw me for a loop on this text. I just simply point out to them that this verse, in my opinion, is teaching the same truth as Acts 4:12 and John 14:6.

    That is, there is only one Savior (one way to God) who saves, which is Christ.

    Arminians often read in the text, "God wants every single person to be saved," therefore according to them this text undermines unconditional election. But as we know, such a meaning is absent from this verse.

    Thanks,
    Alan

    The important thing to remember when discussing this text with Arminians is that most of them are not universalists. If they are not, then they are already admitting that "savior" can be used in a different sense. With this admission, it becomes just as likely that another application of the word "Savior" could be the appropriate one. To decide on this we would use the Analogy of Faith as well as the immediate context. I believe both would point towards a Reformed understanding.


    In Christ alone,
    mike

    What is the origin of the word Armenian?

    Armenians are people from Armenia, a country in Europe.
    But I think you meant to write "Arminian." :-) This describes people who believe, for the most part at least, the teachings of Jacob Arminius. I've written a very short history about the issues involved here http://www.reformationtheology.com/2006/01/the_five_points_of_calvinism_b.php#more

    but you can also study more by reading the following articles at the following link http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/arminianism.html

    Although, if I may suggest, the word "Arminian" is often used more broadly as those who would hold to a form of synergism (that would be a cooperation of two or more factors in regeneration). As such, Molinists, Weslyans, etc., are all often called "Arminians".

    He is also savior of all men in that He removed the tree of everlasting life from the Garden so we wouldn't be eternally cursed. Then made a way for us to be redeemed through Christ.:)

    It says God is savior of all but in a special way believers not "only" believers otherwise the "savioor of all men " would not be a statement worthy of ALL acceptation lok up all worthy and acceptation in a concordance

    I don't see how this so hard to take at face value. Are the "every" knee and tongue also limited?Isaiah 45 and 46 seem clear to me. Don't the inhabitantas of the world learn rightousness at some point in the future.as Isa26 states.Won't all Israel be saved in a single day. Was it hard for God to convert Saul in an instant? I don't believe 1Tim 2:4 is a hard verse to believe at all,just as it is.

    One of those very confusing scriptures. Glad it's clear to you, it's still "clear as mud" to me and perhaps one of those scriptures we'll never understand until the other side of glory, if even then. Can you be absolutely 100% sure, without a doubt, that it couldn't mean what it actually says even with the interlinear Hebrew/Greek bible translating verbatim? And yes, it's a rhetorical question.

    John, your interpretation is noteworthy. An alternate interpretation that I prefer is based on the scriptures' definition of "all men" which is defined as ethnically not numerically comprehensive (Rom. 3:22-23; 4:16; 5:18; 10:12; 11:32; Lk. 3:6; Acts 2:17; Jn. 12:32; Titus 2:11; etc.) . God is the Savior of the nations or men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev. 5:9-10). The Holy Spirit prophesied in John 11:48-52 through Caiaphas “that it was expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish” which Christ did for the “people” or the “children of God” of the Jewish nation. His sacrifice saved the Jewish nation from perishing via the elect Jewish believing remnant. Likewise His sacrifice was not for “the [Jewish] nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” His sacrifice preserved an elect remnant of all the nations from perishing, which saved the nations via the elect believing remnant and fulfilled the promise to Abraham that “all the nations will be blessed in you.” God is the Savior of all peoples and especially believers, but not unbelievers.

    Richard, that is an understandable hypothesis. But to say "God is the Savior of all peoples and especially believers" would be superfluous. The distinction must be, as John Samson posits, based on the way in which God is a Savior for all people versus the way in which He is a qualitatively greater Savior especially for believers.

    At the end, the phrase 'the Savior of all men' will come to mean savior only of those who believe from all nations.
    For me, this seems to twist the text since 'especially'conveys the priviledge of the beleivers rather than the exclusion of the rest of men. Especially When we read it in the light of Romans 2:12-13

    Josh and Dan, thank you for your helpful and thought provoking comments. As John Samson pointed out 1 Tim. 4:10 does not support universalism or speculative redemption (Arminianism). No one need wonder the rest of their life if this verse somehow disproves effectual redemption. John’s interpretation of this verse has merit and should be seriously considered. God cares for the unsaved is a truth the scriptures teach which has an obvious application to the elect before conversion.

    Christ “gave Himself as a ransom for all (ethnically universal term)” (1 Tim. 2:6) because “God our Savior…desires all men… to come to the knowledge of the truth [believe]” (1 Tim. 2:4). The gist of this earlier 1 Timothy passage is Christ purchased all for God our Savior so that they would be saved by believing (1 Tim. 2:4-6). Redemption by purchase delivers from blindness and unbelief. This parallels the passage under discussion that God is the Savior of all men, especially those that believe (1 Tim. 4:10). God is the Savior of all future believers (almost 2,000 years of believers since 1 Timothy was written), but especially the Savior of those who have experienced this salvation having believed. The verse is applicable before the foundation of the world when all believers were in the future (1 Pt. 1:19-21) or at the end of the age when contemplating what God had accomplished (Rev. 5:9-10). That seems to be the essence of what Paul is saying, but I can always resort to John’s interpretation if needed.

    Dear Bro. For me it's simple. HE is saviour of all men. That's it. HE has shed the blood for all. Jn 3:16 HE gave HIS SON for all but "whosoever believe in HIM shall not perish but have eternal life." The one who believes in HIM is believer. He is saved by HIS grace. HE IS SAVIOUR OF ALL MEN is a confirmatory statement. but if I do not believe I will not be saved. I must not compare GOD. If I am not ready to be saved then how can this change the truth that GOD is saviour of all men? For me HE is saviour of all men. HE did not die only for believers but for all. HIS grace is for all but whosoever believes is saved. Let us not categorise SALVATION as there is one salvation one saviour.

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