1 Timothy 4:10 “we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.”
In what sense is God the Saviour of all men? There are three basic explanations of what this verse is teaching -
#1. Universalism - all men (women and children included) who have ever been born or will be born are or will be “saved”, and no one will be finally lost or condemned.
#2. The Arminian explanation - God is the POTENTIAL Saviour of every individual, but the EFFECTIVE Saviour of only those who chose of their own free will to believe the gospel.
#3. The Calvinistic view - God is the Saviour of all men only in the sense of the common grace to all His creatures whereby His goodness and mercies are extended to all men without exception in preserving their lives from temporal harm and danger according to His will and grants them common blessings and benefits such as physical life, food, sunshine and rain.
In this study we will take a closer look at these three different views and hopefully come to a better understanding of the whole counsel of God and what Christ accomplished through His redemptive work on the cross of Calvary some 2000 years ago.
Universalism can easily be dismissed as being contrary to the clear teachings of the Bible. We know that many will end up in the lake of fire and will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. See for example Matthew 13:47-50; Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 and Revelation 20:10-15.
Typical Arminian explanation - Adam Clarke (an Arminian theologian) writes in his commentary - “Who is the Saviour of all men - Who has PROVIDED salvation for the whole human race, and has freely OFFERED it to them in his word and by his Spirit. Specially of those that believe. - What God intends for ALL, he actually gives to them that believe in Christ, who died for the sins of the world, and tasted death for every man. As all have been purchased by his blood so all may believe; and consequently all may be saved. Those that perish, perish through their own fault.”
Arminianism always “proves too much” and denies many other clear teachings of Scripture. God doesn’t “provide” salvation, He saves. “Thou shalt call His name JESUS, for He shall save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21.
God doesn’t “offer” salvation, He gives it. “As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh; that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.”
John 17:2 God doesn’t “intend” anything, He does it. “He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” Ephesians 1:11.
As for “tasting death for every man” and being “the propitiation for the sins of the whole world” please see http://brandplucked.webs.com/hebrews29everyman.htm
And the reason you and I may believe the gospel is because God Himself gave us the faith to believe it and did not give faith to others. See http://brandplucked.webs.com/originoffaith.htm
Notice that the Scripture here in 1 Timothy 4:10 does not say God “wants to be, or intends to be” their Saviour, nor that God “wishes, hopes or desires” to be their Saviour. But rather that He IS the Saviour of all men. In what sense then IS He the Saviour?
The words for “save” and “Saviour” have more than just one limited sense of meaning in both the Old and New Testaments.
Webster’s Dictionary gives these several meanings to the verb to save:
1.to rescue or preserve from harm, danger, injury, etc.; make or keep safe
2.to keep in health and well-being: now only in certain formulas: God save the king!
3.to preserve for future use; lay by: often with up
4.to prevent or guard against loss or waste of: to save time, to save a game
5.to avoid, prevent, lessen, or guard against: to save wear and tear
In the Scriptures themselves we see the words “save” and “saviour” often used in ways that do not teach nor even imply “the eternal salvation of the soul”. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
The Hebrew word for Saviour is #3467 yah-shag and is variously translated as “to save, to be safe, to deliver, to help, to rescue and to preserve”.
It is often used in the sense of to save from harm, destruction or from ones enemies and it can be done either by God or by man. In fact, God’s word refers to human beings who deliver others from harm as “saviours”. See 2 Kings 13:5 - “And the LORD gave Israel A SAVIOUR, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians”; Nehemiah 9:27 “Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them; and in the time of their trouble...thou gavest them SAVIOURS, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.”
In Genesis we read the story of how God Himself sent a famine into the land of Egypt and there He raised up Joseph to SAVE many lives, including those of the Egyptians. In 45:7 we read: “And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to SAVE your lives by a great deliverance.” This clearly was a physical deliverance from harm; not the salvation of their souls.
In the New Testament the word “save” is frequently used when the salvation of the soul is not in view at all. See for example Luke 6:9 - "Is it lawful on the sabbath day to do good, or to do evil? to SAVE life, or to destroy it?". And Luke 23:35, 37, 39 where the word “save” is used and it is not talking about eternal life - "He SAVED others; let him SAVE himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God." "If thou be the king of the Jews, SAVE thyself" and "If thou be the Christ, SAVE thyself and us."
The Greek word is #4982 sozo and is variously translated as “to save, to make whole, to be healed, to be well, and to preserve”.
“And the prayer of faith shall SAVE the sick.” James 5:15. Being healed from a disease or sickness is called being “saved”. Anytime there is healing, whether in the life of a believer or a non-believer, it is God’s work of saving them.
When Paul and 275 other passengers (most of whom were not believing Christians) were on the sea voyage to Rome, a great storm came up and the boat was eventually broken to pieces and their lives were in great peril. Notice how the Holy Ghost uses the word “save” in this context.
“And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that WE SHOULD BE SAVED was then taken away.” Acts 27:20
“And now I exhort you to be of good cheer; for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you (including the vast number of unbelievers), but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve...Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot BE SAVED.” Acts 27:22-31
Again, it was a physical salvation from physical harm that was in view here, and it was God who did the saving.
These are all part of what is called the common grace of God in His goodness to all His creatures. It is in this sense that He is the Saviour of all men whenever they are delivered out of trouble, harm or sickness.
When Paul preached to the pagans in Lycaonia he reminds them of the general goodness of God in preserving their lives, saying: “Nevertheless He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Acts:14:17.
Paul again preached to unconverted heathen in Acts 17 and tells them: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is LORD of heaven and earth...seeing He GIVETH TO ALL life, and breath, and all things”.
It is God Himself who keeps all men alive from breath to breath and provides us with good things. It is in this sense that He is the Saviour and Preserver of all men.
“He maketh the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45
The prayer of Nehemiah recounts: “Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all that are therein; AND THOU PRESERVEST THEM ALL.”
“Thou preservest man and beast.” Psalm 36:6
This I believe is the true sense of the phrase in 1 Timothy 4:10 where we read that God is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
A few Calvinistic expositors
Matthew Poole - for he is the Saviour, that is, the Preserver, of all men, preserver of man and beast, as the psalmist speaketh, a more especial manner the Saviour of those that believe. This seemeth rather to be the force of the text, than to understand it of eternal salvation. God is not the actual Saviour of all; besides that this seemeth to speak of a work proper to the Father, than to the Son.
John Calvin - "the word Saviour is here a general term, and denotes one who defends and preserves. He means that the kindness of God extends to all men. And if there is no man who does not feel the goodness of God towards him, and who is not a partaker of it, how much more shall it be experienced by the godly, who hope in him?"
Notes from Calvin’s commentary - "The word Savior is not here taken in what we call its proper and strict meaning, in regard to the eternal salvation which God promises to his elect, but it is taken for one who delivers and protects. Thus we see that even unbelievers are protected by God, as it is said (Matthew 5:46) that “he maketh his sun to shine on the good and the bad;” and we see that all are fed by his goodness, that all are delivered from many dangers. In this sense he is called “the Savior of all men,” not in regard to the spiritual salvation of their souls, but because he supports all his creatures. In this way, therefore, our Lord is the Savior of all men, that is, his goodness extends to the most wicked, who are estranged from him, and who do not deserve to have any intercourse with him, who ought to have been struck off from the number of the creatures of God and destroyed; and yet we see how God hitherto extends his grace to them; for the life which he gives to them is a testimony of his goodness. Since, therefore God shows such favor towards those who are strangers to him, how shall it be with us who are members of his household?"
John Gill - "Who is the Saviour of all men; in a providential way, giving them being and breath, upholding them in their beings, preserving their lives, and indulging them with the blessings and mercies of life; for that he is the Saviour of all men, with a spiritual and everlasting salvation, is not true in fact.
Specially of those that believe; whom though he saves with an eternal salvation; yet not of this, but of a temporal salvation, are the words to be understood: or as there is a general providence, which attends all mankind, there is a special one which relates to the elect of God; these are regarded in Providence, and are particularly saved and preserved before conversion, in order to be called; and after conversion, after they are brought to believe in Christ, they are preserved from many enemies, and are delivered out of many afflictions and temptations; and are the peculiar care and darlings of providence, being to God as the apple of his eye: and there is a great deal of reason to believe this, for if he is the Saviour of all men, then much more of them who are of more worth, value, and esteem with him, than all the world beside; and if they are saved by him with the greater salvation, then much more with the less; and if he the common Saviour of all men, and especially of saints, whom he saves both ways, then there is great reason to trust in him for the fulfilment of the promises of life, temporal and eternal, made to godliness, and godly persons."
Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary, by Robert Hawker (1753-1827) - “God our Savior is, in truth, the Savior of all men, in nature, and providence. For He is both the Maker and Upholder of all things. The very enemies of Christ, are upheld by Christ; for all power is his, in heaven, and in earth. In his mysterious union of Person, and his government; everything is ruled by his control. Hence it is most truly and blessedly said, that Christ is the Savior of all men. For he killeth, and he maketh alive; he wounds and he heals. Deut. 32:39. But while those things are strictly true, in relation to the departments, both of nature and providence; in the departments of grace and glory, as this scripture most blessedly adds, he is specially the Savior of those that believe. In no sense but the former, as relating to temporal things; can Jesus be said to be the Savior of all men. And in none but the latter, in things both temporal, spiritual, and eternal; can any but his body the Church have claim? Ephesians 1:22-23. Oh! if the world did but consider how much they owe their preservation, and the enjoyment of the most common blessings of nature and providence, to the Lord Jesus, how would they stand amazed at his goodness, and be shocked at their own undeservings! And if the Lord's people had but a more lively sense of their special mercies, in all the departments of life, nature, providence, grace, and glory: how would their souls be often melted in them, in the contemplation of that love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. Ephesians 3:19.”
All of sovereign grace, believing the Book - the Authorized King James Holy Bible,
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