Joe: "why EU can't use 1Tim 4:10"

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In His Blog Joe writes:
1 Timothy 4:10 is an example a text used to rally support: “We have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” This verse is used to claim that if God is the Savior of every single person, he will in the end save every single person from Hell, whether before or after entry. But even if this use of “all” applies to all ‘humans’, Universalists are still forced to admit that in this text “those who believe” must necessarily be a subset of the “all people,” a group greater in number than “those who believe”. God as the ‘Savior of all’ can here be understood in a number of ways consistent with Scripture and this text, but it is impossible to legitimately use this verse to support the Universalism position. In fact, it argues against it. For within a Bible that affirms so strongly that not ‘all believe’, not only are Universalists unable to produce a single text that does affirms positively that ‘all believe’ (even if ‘in the end’), they are faced with this text, one of their founding pillars, which so clearly highlights that ‘those who believe’ (and consequently, enter life) are not ‘all people’ of whom God is the Savior.


(Note: I haven’t been involved in discussions with Joe much, if any, so far, my attention being elsewhere. Including sucked through the goop in my nose the past few weeks. :wink: But I wanted to comment on this a moment.)

Yes, I agree that 4:10c doesn’t in itself have to be read universalistically, though it ought to be obvious why universalists would appreciate it: it testifies to the scope of God’s intention and action. Kaths and Arms alike refuge in this verse against Calv notions that God is not in fact the Savior of all.

And yes we have to acknowledge that there is some sort of distinction here, between “all mankind” and “especially those”. Those of us (myself included) who acknowledge the personal responsibility of sinners to repent, have no problem understanding how God is especially the Savior of those who now trust Him as their Savior, while still being Savior of everyone who hasn’t yet trusted Him to save them from their sins. But still, Joe is right that 10c doesn’t in itself offer specially positive support for Kath over against both Calv and Arm positions.

Yet Joe then turns right around and goes too far himself in reading in an argument against universalism here. 10c would only be evidence against universalism if it stated that the others who do not currently believe will never believe. But of course it doesn’t say that. And if it did, not only would that be testimony against Arminianistic theology, too, in favor of Calv notions of election, it would be testimony directly refuting any point to evangelizing, since none of those others would ever believe! Indeed, it would count as testimony against hope of salvation for anyone beyond whoever was a believer at the very time St. Paul was writing, including (to say the least) every living person today–such as Joe himself!

The exclusion that would guarantee this verse against universalism, also would guarantee Joe (and every person born after the composition of 1 Tim, as well as most people alive at the time of 1 Tim) could never be saved. Which would be ridiculous. But if true it would certainly be ridiculous to continue hoping in God’s salvation of even ourselves (not even hoping for God’s salvation of other people), for we must all (after Saint Paul) be Calvinistic non-elect. Including John Calvin, and all Calvinistic Christians since the time of Saint Paul.

If we today were once of those in that larger group of whom God is the Savior though we did not believe, then there can be no intrinsic bar (so far as this verse is concerned) against all that group being eventually brought to believe in God by God Who is their Savior.

Can more be said from this verse, or its surrounding contexts? I think so, though I have to admit the points are subtle and I don’t expect people convinced of the hopelessness of God by apparently strong testimony elsewhere to think otherwise from this. But the points are related to why universalists have often, through our history, appealed to this verse, not only as a doctrinal affirmation we can share with Arminians, but as positive encouragement for our hope in God and in God’s totally victorious salvation for all mankind of whom God is their Savior.

First, when I read that God is the Savior of all mankind, I recall the answer of Jesus to the opposition of the Sadducees regarding the resurrection: that God not only was but still is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “Now, He is not the God of the dead (or of corpses), but of the living; for all are alive to Him!” Shall God Who is the Savior of all men, for all are alive (or even “live toward”) Him, cease being the God Who is the Savior of all men? Shall all not be alive toward Him?

I do not think it takes a greatly robust faith in God to believe that He is, and ever shall be, the God and Savior of all men. This is why I have said I would still be a universalist even if there was a never-ending stalemate where some sinners managed to always refuse to repent and accept their Savior. My universalism is based on my faith in God; not on what sinners may or may not do. The question is whether the actively Living God shall stop acting to be Savior of all men, whether of God’s own choice or because God was forced to stop being Savior. I answer, no.

But can we truly hope in God to always be Savior of all men?–never to stop being Savior of all men?

Here I come to my second point: there is another half of verse 4:10! (Actually there are three parts to it, which is why I have been referring to 10c so far.)

Joe uses the translation “We have our hope set on the living God Who…” …Who will stop being the Savior of all men someday? No, WHO IS THE SAVIOR OF ALL MEN. And also especially the Savior of those who believe in Him, but our hope is not supposed to be only set in that!–we are not supposed to hope only in God for ourselves as saved! Even Calvs agree with that!–though they would have a hard time agreeing that God is truly the Savior of all men (except in some merely potential but not truly applicable sense.)

The Greek there is even stronger than the standard translation of hope, or setting our hope, however.

There are two terms in the NT which are occasionally translated “hope”. The weaker one is {prosdokao}, toward-seem, and involves a sort of willful opinion of good about the future, or at most a literally desperate plea: a request (the term can mean praise-toward or even flattery) beyond what the person has any reason to expect but feels they must try or be lost.

Sometimes this is the kind of hope people have toward God for salvation. But Calvs and Arms as well as Kaths typically teach, with good reason, that our hope in God is stronger than this. (Though Calvs might say that the non-elect could only hope in this weaker sense!–and be unsurprisingly disappointed.) Anyway, this isn’t the kind of hope being referred to in 4:10b, or in the majority of references to hope in the New Testament (including among “these three” that shall be remaining: faith hope and true love. Nor for that matter is this weaker hope what true love “hopes all things” in that same hymn of 1 Cor 13.)

The other, much stronger and more usual term–and the term used here at 4:10b–is {elpizo}. It’s the verb for “expect”, and is also used for “rely” (as in “on Him the nations shall rely”). The noun form would mean expectation or reliance.

This is a very strong term, and in case there was any doubt about whether it should be used strongly here, Paul insists (in verse 9), “Faithful is this saying and worthy of every welcome!”

What is the saying that is faithful and worthy of every welcome (wholehearted acceptance with rejoicing, culturally speaking); worthy also of toiling and being reproached for (10a)?


That means I should RELY and EXPECT the Living God to be the Savior of all men!

And I do. As does every other Christian universalist.

This is the kind of reliance and expectation for salvation that Calvinists insist upon for the elect: God is our Savior and we can trust and rely on God that He shall succeed in His purposes. But they do not rely, much less expect, that God is the Savior of all men. Not really so, only at most potentially so.

Arminians profess to believe that God is the Savior of all men, and even expect and rely on this–today. Only for today, though. Tomorrow God may not be Savior of all men; we cannot rely on this (per Arm theology) and even should expect a tomorrow will come when God will choose or be forced to stop being the Savior of all men.

But I and other “Katholic” Christians say:

“Faithful is the saying and worthy of every welcome–for for this we are toiling and being reproached–that we rely on the living God Who is the Savior of all mankind!–especially of believers!”

(“Rejecting the teaching of those whose consciences have been cauterized, we believe and realize instead the truth that every creature of God is ideal and nothing is to be cast away, being taken with thanksgiving, for it is hallowed through the Word of God and pleading.” (1 Tim 4:2-5). True, Paul is talking about dietary habits and marriage there, but he’s taking a position that will put him at odds with Jewish as well as with pagan notions of faithfulness to God. That isn’t something to be done lightly; and it is probably meant as an enacted proclamation to the people around them about something. I suggest it is a proclamation for which they will be reproached and receive hard blows; a proclamation Paul goes on almost immediately afterward to proclaim. :slight_smile: )


I agree with much of what you said. I think I’m falling in line with Barth (what I’ve read of him) in that it is ALWAYS dependent upon the action and movement of God, that is regarding any creatures breath and life. If God does not intervene in the death of someone - meaning no available resurrection - then that person will remain dead forver.

To me the biggest failure is to disregard the non-contextual exegetical method of love. What I mean is to simply think that God has included gentiles into the fold of election and not see it through the lens of love will mislead one. For most God making one new man out of the two (Jew and Gentile) has nothing to do with man and God but just with some abstract tactic of God in which he wants only some to be saved.


I want to mention, by the way, that Joe’s actual post covers a lot more than why he thinks EU can’t use 1 Tim 4:10; the paragraph Sherman mentions seems to be all Joe talks about that topic in his post.

My little essay, consequently, shouldn’t be construed as answering everything he brings up in his blog post. That would require a few more essays. :slight_smile:


Joe’s reply seems to be primarily an argument against Arms. His argument, if I’m following him correctly, is that Christ’s death was not for all, only for those who will be saved.

I’m not quite sure I follow his objection to the idea that the punishments of Hell are designed to turn people to Christ?

Anyway, Joe quotes A.W. Pink on four particular passages where Pink attempts to demonstrate that “all” or “every” does not mean “all without exception”. The verses are:

1 Tim 4:10 Pink demonstrates that “all” = those who believe. That’s not a problem if we believe that all will eventually believe. [Note: On second look, my comment on this verse is incorrect, I’ll comment again in a new post.]

2 Cor 5:14 Pink demonstrates that “all” = those who live. Not a problem if we believe that all will eventually live.

1 Tim 2:5-6 Pink says that “ransom for all” = “ransom for many” as Christ says in Matt 20:28. Since “many” would be included in “all” and not the other way around, I don’t find a problem with that.

Heb 2:9 Pink demonstrates that “every” = sons. Once again, that’s no problem if one believes that in the fullness of time **all **will be sons.



I thought it was interesting that he was willing to allow the scope of the all, hypothetically, so long as it was an Arminian all without the Calvinistic persistence implied by the earlier phrase of that verse (which he didn’t discuss at… all. I didn’t plan that pun, I promise. :stuck_out_tongue: )

He would have done better to try to argue against both Arms and Kaths that the all of 1 Tim 4:10 couldn’t mean all. But maybe that was the point to attempting the comparison with the other verses.


In what ways are we to do good to believers that we are not to do to all people?


Good points, Sonia.

If “all” actually means “All sons”, then let’s be consistent here. That also means “No daughters.” If the commentator is happy to expand the word “son” to include daughters, why isn’t he happy to expand the word “all” to include, well, everyone?

Anyway, the poor man seems to have no imagination. “O the accuracy of Holy Writ!” He bursts into a small song of praise over the aptness of one word of Scripture, yet paints a monstrous picture of his heavenly Father without blinking an eye. Straining at the gnat, he swallows the camel.

Bill: Can God save everyone?
Fred: Sure. If he wants to.
Bill: And does he? Does he want to?
Fred: You gotta be joking. He’ll save the few he’s chosen, and Praise God, I’m one of them! The rest he’s going to burn. And they deserve it.
Bill: So… he could save us all if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. And you worship him? You love him with all your heart?
Fred: Hey! You don’t want to mess with God! Give him his due. I’m just so grateful he chose me!
Bill: Well, I wish you joy in his company. I’m off to find a God who’s actually worth* loving*.


Does anyone object to me copying snippets of these replies to Joe’s blog?

:laughing: I imagine that wouldn’t go down well.

:laughing: :cry: It’s funny and sad because people basically say this, and wonder why the church struggles to grow and show the fruits of the Spirit :unamused:


In my post above I wrote:

Jason’s comment made me realize I had mistaken something (Thanks, Jason!), so looking again, it appears that the paragraph on this verse is by Joe, and is not a quote from Pink. :blush:

Joe actually takes an Arminian stance on this verse, arguing that while Jesus is the “Savior of all”, the all are not saved, but only the subset which consists of those who believe.

So my answer to that of course is: I believe that all will believe.

However, Joe seems to take exception to that as unbiblical, saying:

Maybe Joe would disagree with my interpretation, but I can provide a number of passages which, to me, seem to affirm that all will believe. Here’s a few that come readily to mind:

Isa 45:23 By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’

Phl 2:9ff Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Rev 5:13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

Rev 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”



I wish I was a quicker thinker, so I could’ve said these over coffee with Joe (If you didn’t already guess, 1Tim 4:10 was one of the main passages he raised over coffee). I was just so taken aback, almost speechless, that he thought “Saviour of all” was just a title and didn’t actually mean He saved all! I thought that the “especially” was the first fruits, the people who believe this side of death.


And there is also

God WILL HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED, and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4)


The assumption that Joe seems to be making is that faith will always be a condition for salvation. But my understanding is that faith (as defined in Heb 11:1) is only a condition for salvation in this lifetime, and will cease to be a condition for salvation after the resurrection of the dead because it will no longer be necessary or possible to exercise. If this is the case, then the fact that believers are spoken of as a subset of the category “all people” in no way suggests that only believers will be saved.


:laughing: How did I forget that one.

Starting a 2:3b:
enopion [in the sight of]
tou [the]
soteros [Saviour]
hemon [of us]
theou [God]
hos [who]
pantas [all]
anthropus [humans]
thelei [is willing]
sothenai [to be saved]
kai [and]
eis [into]
epignosin [on knowledge]
aletheias [of truth]
elthein [to be coming]


People are quick to answer that verse with: “God wants/wishes for all to be saved, but even God doesn’t always get His way.” :open_mouth:

Not only do we have direct scriptural contradiction of this idea (Is 46:10, Is 45:23, Is 55:11) we can also believe that that God does get His way because Jesus teaches us to pray: “Thy will be done.” And I have trouble believing that Jesus ask things of the Father, that the Father does not grant. If we pray anything according to His will it will be given to us. And He is able to do abundantly, exceedingly beyond all we could ask or think, therefore let us not be remiss in asking for the very thing He clearly desires and has commissioned us to labor towards!



I would then laugh, and say “God is all powerful, He always succeeds!” :sunglasses: