"...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


    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.


    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,

    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

    but you can also study more by reading the following articles at the following link

    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 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.

    First of all, I respect your interpretation of a verse that for a Calvinist is almost impossible to defend. I am not a Calvinist, but I respect when Bible believing Christians endeavor to explain the whole Bible as opposed to ignoring certain verses. It is the mark of a someone who cares about the truth. Indeed, both sides of the argument encounter passages that are difficult to interpret.

    That being said, I believe this is not the correct interpretation because the salvation that believers enjoy is in no way similar to the concept of "common grace". If the word "Savior" that applies to "all men" is referring to common grace, then "those who believe" would only be receiving "more common grace" or "an extra level of common grace". Like say, more good things on earth, or more temporary pleasures (which is what the wicked enjoy).

    Now the Greek word for "Savior" here is "sótér", meaning "a savior, deliverer, preserver.". In every occurrence of this word in the Bible, it is used of Jesus or God. It is never used in any other sense. And in fact, whenever the Bible speaks of God "saving, delivering, and preserving" people, it is only in reference to those who are righteous; never the wicked. So I find the common grace interpretation, while a good effort, to be a major contortion of the text.

    I believe the proper interpretation is that salvation is available to all (the Bible does word it this way often regardless of your viewpoint), but chosen by few. Which contradicts the doctrine of Limited Atonement. Another reason I am not a Calvinist. But regardless, we must remember not to interpret verses solely through the lens of our theology, for our theology should change to accompany the Word, not vice versa.

    Much love to my brothers and sisters with whom I disagree.

    To God be the glory.


    Contrary to your assertion, the verse was not in any way "almost impossible to defend." If you are not a monergist (the position held by Calvinists), then you are a synergist and it is actually your interpretation of the text which is impossible to defend. The text DOES NOT SAY "salvation is available to all but chosen by few" nor is this an accurate interpretation of the words. Take a look at the text again. That is not what it either says or suggests. It is actually YOUR theology which is being imposed on the text, not mine, for the interpretation I provided allows the text to say what it says without adjustment or addition. I stand by what I wrote in the article. God is the Savior (soter – preserver, sustainer and 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).

    Judgement of whether a person is saved or not saved (salvation) is God's business.
    I strongly believe we should leave the judging of salvation to Him, He who knows the heart.

    My ? is, Are not all sins paid for.
    GOD let satan out of his prison !
    Jonah was released from hell Jonah 2;6

    Pastor John Samson wrote:"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."
    that seems to me that the Pastor doesnot understand the universalist version. God saves all people in the end. But the believers will live in the next age, in the millennium and ik the age of the ages, when there is a new earth and a new heave. The non-believer doesnot have that. He is dead, the 2nd death. He will be saved after that, when even death is conquered 1 Cor 15.

    Could it be the Holy Spirit has given this wording to ensure that no one reading that verse could reason that they are excluded? They will see their repentance and faith from THEIR perspective. At least until they grasp it's all of God :)

    I agree with those that said we should not let our theology dictate how we interpret Scriptures, but rather Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures should dictate our theology. I have written a study of the biblical word SAVE that should help our understanding, and will be glad to send it to you via email upon request [email protected]

    It might be a useful article for a future blog via Reformation Theology.

    Why is it Calvinists must routinely take the simplest of words and turn them into complex doctrine?

    They have become today's Pharisees. THEY present themselves as having THE true understanding of Scripture. THEY are the ones who understand every jot and tittle, and the nuances of every tense of every verb.

    Their systematic theology is there to take away any mystery...everything MUST fit perfectly, even if obscure meanings must be employed, and the word "all" qualified to not mean "all" when it simply says "all" period. They are hardened against any other thought.

    And many of those I meet are arrogant. They are right...I am wrong. And even as a missionary and devout student of the Word, shall I count how many times I've been "given the look" or heard the exasperated sighs for not agreeing with them?

    Why can't we read this glorious Common Book given to and for the common man with common words?

    I have to agree with Andy. Not to take these verses at face value is wrong. I am not a universalist. But finding all doesn’t mean all is ludicrous. What about believers from all tongues and nations? What is the underlying thread? Faith! Then repentance. God bless you friend.

    I have to agree with Andy. Not to take these verses at face value is wrong. I am not a universalist. But finding all doesn’t mean all is ludicrous. What about believers from all tongues and nations? What is the underlying thread? Faith! Then repentance. God bless you friend.


    "Ludicrous" is a strong word to use (as you do here) so let me reply in kind by saying that to interpret the word "all" as always meaning "all without exception" leads to ludicrous and totally illegitimate conclusions. It is context that determines the right interpretation of the word "all" and this is true in English as well as Greek. Context: when a mother of 8 children is about to leave the house and asks "are all in the car" context determines that by using the word "all" she is not asking if all the world's population is in the car but all the children in her family. Similarly, if a teacher about to start teaching a class asks "are all here?" the class is not being asked if all on planet earth are present in the classroom, but all within a certain group - those students signed up for the class. This is true in any language and to fail to take this into account in biblical interpretation leads to ludicrous interpretations, which are totally illegitimate. In both analogies above, to interpret the word all as meaning "all people everywhere" is NOT the true interpretation and meaning of the word "all", no matter what is said about taking the words at face value. It is the person who takes context into account who is actually caring about true interpretation, not the person who dismisses context as some kind of bias or a failure to deal with the text as written. I hope you will consider this as I am sure you correctly interpret the word "all" in everyday life, as each time it is used, there is a context that is understood. Applying the use of context in Bible interpretation is to honor the Holy Spirit and the meaning intended by the author.

    Its quite simple. This is one of what I call the “orphan scriptures” which has no parent doctrine or theology willing to take it in because it points to a meaning that is outside what many are willing to consider.
    However it does belong to a family of passages which when taken together form a doctrine that is undeniably universalist in it’s implication.
    Hell is not forever and God swore that he would not stay angry with man firever. That puts a limit on hells duration. Those who beleive are saved from hell. Those who do not beleive will be subjected to a remedial punishment which is both in line with justice AND the soul changing requirements of Holy Fire.
    Jesus said everyone will be salted with fire. Paul said every mans works will be tested with fire.
    Hell is the second death. Believers die thier second death during the sanctification and fiery trials of life. Then they die thier first death biologically. For as it is written, He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
    Unbeleivers will first die thier biological death and then the second death will be hell where the fire will do in them much more harshly what fire did in the beleivers time on earth.
    Thier souls will pass through the “iron smelting furnace” and the “crucible for silver” in order to deal with the corruption of thier soul due to the curse of sin. Then at the time the Lord determines they have been properly purified, they will brought out of the fire and given the opportunity to bow the knee and confess Jesus. For as it is written, Every knee shall bow, both things in heaven and on earth and UNDER THE EARTH. and EVERY tongue confess Jesus is Lord. This is why Peter tells us that Jesus went into the lower parts of the earth and PREACHED THE GOSPEL to those from the flood. Even the second death is defeated by Christ for as it is written, the last enemy to be defeated is death after every man is saved in proper order. 1 Cor 15:22-26
    We are told that in Christ God will reconcile all

    This does not adequately explain the verse. You contend that the verse has some other meaning than saved from punishment but that does not seem acceptable since it also includes believer in the same sentence. Samson's comment also does not adequately explain universal reconciliation since his explanation would violate human free will, i.e. what if a person wants nothing to do with God and God forces him to spend eternity (everlasting and not just an age) with God. So I am back to square one in determining what is actually being said.


    You have a false understanding of the will. All want nothing to do with God (to use your words) unless God intervenes to take out the stony heart so that they then WANT what they did not want before. Because you do not understand that, you are not open to what the text actually states, and states clearly.

    “Reformed theology does NOT teach that God brings the elect “kicking and screaming, against their wills,” into his kingdom. It teaches that God so works in the hearts of the elect as to make them willing and pleased to come to Christ. They come to Christ because they want to. They want to because God has created in their hearts a desire for Christ.” + “It still seems that if God gives grace to one person, in the interest of fairness he “ought” to give grace equally to another. It is precisely this “oughtness” that is foreign to the biblical concept of grace. Among the mass of fallen humanity, all guilty of sin before God and exposed to his justice, no one has any claim or entitlement to God’s mercy. If God chooses to grant mercy to some of that group, this does not require that he give it to all.” - Dr. R.C. Sproul

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