This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Tim. 2:3, 4).
As promised, I am continuing my survey of texts that supposedly contradict the doctrines taught in Romans 8-11, et al. Several weeks ago, we dealt with the texts of John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9 and how those classic texts supposedly portray God as a God who is, respectively, desperately in love with the world and is wringing his hands at the thought that any person on this planet should have to perish. We demonstrated through these texts’ context and through biblical theology that this is not the God that is portrayed in these verses, but instead we find a God who is quite the opposite.
Despite this clarity in context, we must realize that we live in a reader response society and among Christians who use the Bible as a reference book rather than the meat upon which they feast daily. Thus we find not Christians who read the Scriptures through and thoroughly in its own context, but we find Christians who google, “Why Calvinism is evil,” and find a website of some other person who also only uses his Bible as reference book and then compiled a list of verses and spouted the infamous lie that Calvinists do not believe in evangelism and missions, despite the fact that the greatest preachers and evangelists (e.g. George Whitefield, C. H. Spurgeon, etc.), the leaders of great revivals (e.g. Jonathan Edwards), and the one who is called the father of modern missions–William Carey–were all Calvinists.
It is in this context that we teach the ignorant. Most people who fill our churches have not been, as the apostle commanded, “transformed by the renewal of their minds,” but instead attempt to conform Scripture to their minds. For this reason, people hold to such doctrines as free will, not because Scripture teaches that men are free, but because they believe that they are free because their experience teaches them that they are free. They have no categories for being dead in their trespasses, enslaved to sin and death, blind and deaf to the truth, etc.–all of which Scripture declares of those apart from Christ. Thus, people in our churches presumptuously believe that if men are commanded to do something by God that they by their nature and strength have the ability to do it, and they strive, like foolish Nicodemus, to crawl back into their mothers’ wombs because God commanded them to be born again.
Please forgive me for the lengthy introduction, but I believe that it is necessary to understand the nature of the beast with which we have to deal. And now we come to 1 Timothy 2:4, where the apostle writes, “[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This text seems to be straightforward on the surface, and it seems pretty safe by its declaration to do what Sunday School literature has done for decades, viz. cut out Romans 9-11 from their literature. But again, therein lies the assumption that we saw in John 3:16’s kosmos, namely that “all” means every person who has ever lived since Adam to the telos despite class, race, etc. But let us step back a couple of verses in 1 Timothy 2 just to make sure this interpretation is the apostle’s intention.
In 1 Timothy 2:1, the apostle writes, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” Given that this verse is in the context of the “all people” in verse 2:4, it is probably safe to say and destructive not to say that Paul is speaking of the same persons in verse 1 as he is in verse 4. Now, let us add verse 2 to verse 1, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, etc. … be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Did you see what the apostle did? He clarified all people with “kings and all who are in high positions.” Why? So that Christians might live peaceful and godly lives in the state where they live.
As in John 3:16, where Nicodemus the devout Jewish Pharisee was told that Jesus the Messiah came not merely for the Jews but for all the Nations, so the impoverished Christians who are being addressed through the apostle’s letter to young Timothy are learning that Jesus did not merely come for the poor, but he came for all classes of men, even for kings and those who are in authority. Here in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, we find reinforcement that the Gospel is not a social gospel, nor is it a racial Gospel as Nicodemus thought in John 3, but it is a universal Gospel. Jesus came to redeem men from all tribes, tongues, social classes, and skin colors. Indeed, we find that this is the apostle’s intentions in this text for he writes in v. 2:7, “For this I [a Pharisaical Jew] was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher to the Gentiles in faith and truth.” In other words, God appointed Paul, a Jew of Jews, to be the preacher to the Gentiles to demonstrate that God’s Gospel is not for a single people, but for the whole world.
Is not this a better understanding of the text than a cheap proof text? I implore you, no matter your theological tendencies, read God’s Word as God intended for it to be read. The devil knows the Scriptures much better than you or I do, and he has twisted them from the beginning of time to serve his purposes. Please do not be like him.