Addressing Texts that “Contradict” Romans 9, III. 1 Timothy 2:4

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.

Categories: Theology

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8 replies

  1. I think it easy enough to understand that "all" does not mean every single person on the planet. We use the word "all" and "everyone" to mean a select group of people (i.e. everyone in an audience, etc etc…) nearly on a daily basis.

    However, I wanted to comment on the free will part of your post. I believe that the Scripture does teach free will or at the very least things are explained in the context of free will because we live in that context. Doctrines of free will are derived from countless verses in the Scripture. The error comes in with the denial of sovereignty and pre-destination.

    The issue is that people are trying to conform the scripture to their mind, as you stated above (instead of their mind to the Scripture). They cannot fathom that free will and complete sovereignty can exist at the same time.


    I posted on the subject about 4 years ago:


  2. @Brian

    Thanks for you comments, brother. I did in fact read your post on the freedom of the will, but, to be honest, your argument that all Scripture "has a tone of free will" without giving explicit teachings on the subject is not very convincing. You did make a good observation with which I do agree–that those who are in Christ are those who are truly free, and those who are not in Christ are slaves to sin and to death.

    But my issue is that you state, "So as not to confuse things at the moment, I will not go into the even deeper issue of freedom as one of the elect vs. bondage as one of the lost." Then of whom are your speaking of in your post? Only prelapsarian Adam and Eve had a will that was not bound to sin and death. You cannot speak of the will of man apart from sin, because that is precisely who all men are in Adam. The consistent teaching throughout Scripture is that in his sin and apart from the supernatural regeneration wrought by the Holy Spirit, men will choose idols over God every time. Preaching the Gospel to a natural man is is like preaching to a sane man, "You are free to eat that pile of dog dung on the ground there." The natural man is infinitely more repulsed by God than a sane man is by eating a pile of dung, and yet we tell him he is free to do it. He won't do it, because his passions and idolatry will not let him. It is as the apostle wrote, "The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2Cor. 4:). Therefore, there is no freedom of the will apart from the work of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1, 2).

    As far as I can tell, the "spirit of free will" that you see in Scripture is your presupposition placed over Scripture. We as fallen men are as free to come to Christ as Lazarus was free to come forth from the tomb.


  3. As Jonathan Edwards stated, "The Sovereignty of God is the stumbling block on which thousands fall and perish." Great post.


  4. That post was definitely just a gloss without a Scripture list involved, the reason being that a list of Scriptures with a "tone" of free will would be a huge list indeed.

    The best thing to do I suppose would be to start with what many arminians use in their arguments (which I am not agreeing with per se).

    As far as not diving into the lost man vs the saved man, that was apart from the point since that is a whole different (yet related) can of worms…you did a good job explaining that above though…a lost person is bound by sin and they are slaves to it, they are not free.

    My post was addressing Christians…I suppose I should have made that more clear. Specifically, Christians that believe in free will or Christians that believe that there is no such thing as free will.

    I explain things a bit more in other posts, however, many of those posts were over 4 years ago (before tags were used)…I am in the process of going back through old posts and tagging them which should make certain subject matter easier to fine.

    it will be difficult to sum up without writing too much, but…

    I believe the lost man is bound by (and a slave to) sin, simple as that, he can do no right…now whether there is freedom to "move about" similar to how a slave could move his legs in chains…I haven't really thought about that yet…

    The saved man has genuine free will inside of God's complete sovereignty.
    God's sovereignty can never be completely understood because it takes place outside the realm of "time" as we know it (God is not bound by time)…it is impossible for a human to think about anything outside the bounds of "time" (even the very thought of thinking outside the bounds of time is actually rooted in time, heh), therefore, for all practical matters (inside our bounds of time) we (Christians) have free will…

    when I decide to walk outside, I made that decision right then and there and I did it, I can stand up right now or sit down if I want to, nothing is stopping me, that is free will and it is genuine, on the flip side of the coin, absolutely NONE of it takes place outside of God's sovereignty…I tried to make that pretty clear

    now most people would basically say I am being double minded or what I'm saying just doesn't make sense and you can't have both…and that was the point of the post, it doesn't matter if it makes sense, they are both truths that are taught in the Scripture

    that being said, I am going to put together a list of Scriptures that points out what I mean by "tone of free will"

    as always, keep up the great posts, I enjoy reading them



  5. @Brian
    Thanks for the clarification, brother. And I sympathize with the multiple posts dilemma. And sometimes posts are just going to be taken out of context because they were written four years ago.:) Thanks as always for the input.

    The longer I live as a Christian and interact with other Christians, the more apparent that truth becomes. It's very sad, I think.


  6. I am not a Bible scholar by no means but it seems that you are attacking the Christian people & that only your view & belief is correct because you are in the word daily & go to Bible College. I have a daily relationship w/ Jesus Christ & am on my face daily & God says to come w/ a childlike faith & how can predestination be understood by a small child? Does all not mean all? Does predestination mean predestination as you see it or does it mean that God simply desires for all of us to come & be His adopted child! Yes God is God & he knows all just like I know my child better than anyone! Why pray? Why go & spread the Gospel if it's already been decided? Why are we here? Why has Jesus not already came? I don't have big words to write but this is the analagie I can give…. If I give my child the choice of eating a salad or a bowl of ice-cream I know that my child is going to chose the bowl of ice-cream! but just one day my child may suprise me & say no mommy I want the salad….. I have studied & read the scripture over & over & I gave my life to the Lord as a young teen & nowhere do I conclude that my God would give up everything to come & die for only the "chosen" ones to go to heaven…. God does not desire for a human soul to go & spend an eternity in a place such as hell where the soul will live…. The bottom line is in the end none of these issues will even matter… what will matter is if you excepted Christ! It is sad that Christians are against other Christians instead of coming together & trying to reach a lost & dying world but instead are worried about issues that really don't even matter! How does the world see us?


  7. @Anonymous
    I appreciate your passion, but I would challenge you not to say that these things do not matter. Election, predestination, etc. obviously do matter to God since he through the apostles and prophets does address them throughout his Word in texts such as Romans 8-11, Ephesians 1, 1 Peter 1, and several other places. I am by no means questioning anyone's salvation, but I am questioning people's natural understanding. God commands us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, and that is done through meditating on and understanding his Word. We are never called upon by Christ to accept him, but we are called to demonstrate that we have been accepted by him by growing in holiness and godliness, killing the passions of our flesh by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is not a one-time decision.

    Therefore, my goal in this post was simply to understand the text as it was meant to be understood, namely that Jesus Christ desires for all classes of men to come to him by faith not simply the poor and impoverished. This is the accurate understanding of the text, and it is what the Holy Spirit through the Apostle desired to communicate. To use this text otherwise causes confusion and rails against the work of God.

    I appreciate you bringing up the questions, "Why go? Why pray? Why preach the Gospel?" I will address those questions soon in a post based upon 2 Corinthians 2, where the apostle writes:

    14But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

    Hopefully that post will give you a better understanding on why my passion is for the Nations. Blessings.



  1. | Go Hard, or Go Home. » Why I Refuse to Labor beside an Arminian in the Great Commission

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