1 Timothy 2:4
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
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(4) Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.—Here St. Paul gives some explanation of his exhortation, that “the congregation should pray for all men.” Our prayers after all—for those far off, as well as for those near—will be in strict harmony with the will of God. “Imitate God,” writes St. Chrysostom;” if He wills that all men should be saved, it is surely natural that prayer should be offered for all; if He willed that all should be saved, do thou will it now; and if in earnest thou wiliest it, then pray.”

One or two points must ever be held in mind when this great statement of St. Paul’s is used as a proof of “Universal Redemption.” We must remember the position it occupies in the argument, it being only introduced as a reason for the exhortation to pray for all. Then the words must be looked at very carefully. God’s-will is not to save (sōsai) all—if that had been His sovereign will He would have saved all; but His will is that all should be saved—all should come to the knowledge of the truth; not to the knowledge of the mere theoretical, but of the practical and saving truth as revealed in the gospel. “In other words, through the sacrifice and the death of Christ all are rendered capable of salvation (salvabiles); that some are indisputably not saved, is not due to any outward circumscription or inefficacy of the divine will, but to man’s rejection of the special means of salvation which God has been pleased to appoint, and to which it is His divine will that man’s salvation should be limited. Redemption is universal, yet conditional—all may be saved, yet all will not be saved, because all will not conform to God’s appointed condition.”—Bishop Ellicott.

2:1-7 The disciples of Christ must be praying people; all, without distinction of nation, sect, rank, or party. Our duty as Christians, is summed up in two words; godliness, that is, the right worshipping of God; and honesty, that is, good conduct toward all men. These must go together: we are not truly honest, if we are not godly, and do not render to God his due; and we are not truly godly, if not honest. What is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, we should abound in. There is one Mediator, and that Mediator gave himself a ransom for all. And this appointment has been made for the benefit of the Jews and the Gentiles of every nation; that all who are willing may come in this way, to the mercy-seat of a pardoning God, to seek reconciliation with him. Sin had made a quarrel between us and God; Jesus Christ is the Mediator who makes peace. He is a ransom that was to be known in due time. In the Old Testament times, his sufferings, and the glory that should follow, were spoken of as things to be revealed in the last times. Those who are saved must come to the knowledge of the truth, for that is God's appointed way to save sinners: if we do not know the truth, we cannot be ruled by it.Who will have all men to be saved - That is, it is in accordance with his nature, his feelings, his desires. The word "will" cannot be taken here in the absolute sense, denoting a decree like that by which he willed the creation of the world, for then it would certainly be done. But the word is often used to denote a desire, wish, or what is in accordance with the nature of anyone. Thus it may be said of God that he "wills" that his creatures may be happy - because it is in accordance with his nature, and because he has made abundant provision for their happiness - though it is not true that he wills it in the sense that he exerts his absolute power to make them happy. God wills that sickness should be relieved, and sorrow mitigated, and that the oppressed should go free, because it is agreeable to his nature; though it is not true that he wills it in the sense that he exerts his absolute power to produce it. A parent wills the welfare of his child. It is in accordance with his nature, his feelings, his desires; and he makes every needful arrangement for it. If the child is not virtuous and happy, it is his own fault. So God wills that all people should be saved. It would be in accordance with his benevolent nature. He has made ample provision for it. He uses all proper means to secure their salvation. He uses no positive means to prevent it, and if they are not saved it will be their own fault. For places in the New Testament where the word here translated "will" (θέλω thelō), means to desire or wish, see Luke 8:20; Luke 23:8; John 16:19; Galatians 4:20; Mark 7:24; 1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 14:5; Matthew 15:28. This passage cannot mean, as many have supposed, that God wills that all kinds of people should be saved, or that some sinners of every rank and class may be saved, because:

(1) the natural and obvious interpretation of the language is opposed to such a sense. The language expresses the desire that "all men" should be saved, and we should not depart from the obvious sense of a passage unless necessity requires it.

(2) prayer and thanksgiving 1 Timothy 2:1 are directed to be offered, not for some of all ranks and conditions, but for all mankind. No exception is made, and no direction is given that we should exclude any of the race from the expressions of our sympathy, and from an interest in our supplications. The reason given here for that prayer is, that God desires that all people should be saved. But how could this be a reason for praying for all, if it means that God desired only the salvation of some of all ranks?

(3) in 1 Timothy 2:5-6 the apostle gives reasons showing that God wished the salvation of all people, and those reasons are such as to prove that the language here is to be taken in the most unlimited sense. Those reasons are:

(a) that there is one God over all, and one Mediator between God and people - showing that God is the Father of all, and has the same interest in all; and,

(b) that Christ gave himself a ransom for all - showing that God desired their salvation.

This verse proves:

(1) that salvation is provided for all - for if God wished all people to be saved, he would undoubtedly make provision for their salvation; and if he had not made such provision, it could not be said that he desired their salvation, since no one can doubt that he has power to provide for the salvation of all;

(2) that salvation should be offered to all people - for if God desires it, it is right for his ministers to announce that desire, and if he desires it, it is not proper for them to announce anything contrary to this;

(3) that people are to blame if they are not saved.

If God did not wish their salvation, and if he had made no provision for it, they could not be to blame if they rejected the gospel. If God wishes it, and has made provision for it, and they are not saved, the sin must be their own - and it is a great sin, for there is no greater crime which a man can commit than to destroy his own soul, and to make himself the eternal enemy of his Maker.

And to come unto the knowledge of the truth - The truth which God has revealed; the "truth as it is in Jesus." notes, Ephesians 4:21.

4. "Imitate God." Since He wishes that all should be saved, do you also wish it; and if you wish it, pray for it. For prayer is the instrument of effecting such things [Chrysostom]. Paul does not say, "He wishes to save all"; for then he would have saved all in matter of fact; but "will have all men to be saved," implies the possibility of man's accepting it (through God's prevenient grace) or rejecting it (through man's own perversity). Our prayers ought to include all, as God's grace included all.

to come—They are not forced.

unto the knowledge—Greek, "the full knowledge" or "recognition" (See on [2467]1Co 13:12; Php 1:9).

the truth—the saving truth as it is in, and by, Jesus (Joh 17:3, 17).

The apostle produces a clear, convincing reason, that the duty of charity in praying for all men is pleasing to God, from his love extended to all, in his willing their salvation, and their knowledge and belief of the gospel, which is the only way of salvation. From hence our Saviour’s commission and command to the apostles was universal: Go and teach all nations, Matthew 28:19; Preach the gospel to every creature, that is, to every man, Mark 16:15; he excludes no people, no person. And accordingly the apostles discharged their office to their utmost capacity, Colossians 1:24. But a question arises, how it can be said that God would

have all men saved, when that the most of men perish? For the resolving this difficulty, we must observe, that in the style of Scripture the will of God sometimes signifies his eternal counsel and decree; that things should be done either by his immediate efficiency, or by the intervention of means: or, secondly, his commands and invitations to men to do such things as are pleasing to him. The will of God in the first sense always infallibly obtains its effect, Psalm 115:3; thus he declares: My counsel shall stand, I will do all my pleasure, Isaiah 46:10; for otherwise there must be a change of God’s will and counsel, or a defect of power, both which assertions are impious blasphemy. But those things which he commands and are pleasing to him, are often not performed without any reflection upon him, either as mutable or impotent. Thus he declares, that he wills things that are pleasing to him; as, I will not the death of a sinner, but that he should turn and live, Ezekiel 33:11; and sometimes that he will not those things that are displeasing to him, as contrary to holiness, though he did not decree the hindering of them: thus he complains in Isaiah 55:12: Ye did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not. This distinction of the Divine will being clearly set down in Scripture, answers the objection; for when it is said in the text, that God

will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth; and in the same sense by St. Peter, that God will have none perish, but come to repentance, 2 Peter 3:9; we must understand it, not with respect to his decretive will, but his complacential will, that is, the repentance and life of a sinner is very pleasing to his holiness and mercy. And this love of God to men has been declared in opening the way of salvation to them by the Mediator, and by all the instructions, invitations, commands, and promises of the gospel, assuring them that whoever comes to Christ upon the terms of the gospel shall in no wise be cast off; that no repenting believer shall be excluded from saving mercy. Who will have all men to be saved,.... The salvation which God wills that all men should enjoy, is not a mere possibility of salvation, or a mere putting them into a salvable state; or an offer of salvation to them; or a proposal of sufficient means of it to all in his word; but a real, certain, and actual salvation, which he has determined they shall have; and is sure from his own appointment, from the provision of Christ as a Saviour for them, from the covenant of grace, in which everything is secured necessary for it, and from the mission of Christ to effect it, and from its being effected by him: wherefore the will of God, that all men should be saved, is not a conditional will, or what depends on the will of man, or on anything to be performed by him, for then none might be saved; and if any should, it would be of him that willeth, contrary to the express words of Scripture; but it is an absolute and unconditional will respecting their salvation, and which infallibly secures it: nor is it such a will as is distinguishable into antecedent and consequent; with the former of which it is said, God wills the salvation of all men, as they are his creatures, and the work of his hands; and with the latter he wills, or not wills it, according to their future conduct and behaviour; but the will of God concerning man's salvation is entirely one, invariable, unalterable, and unchangeable: nor is it merely his will of approbation or complacency, which expresses only what would be grateful and well pleasing, should it be, and which is not always fulfilled; but it is his ordaining, purposing, and determining will, which is never resisted, so as to be frustrated, but is always accomplished: the will of God, the sovereign and unfrustrable will of God, has the governing sway and influence in the salvation of men; it rises from it, and is according to it; and all who are saved God wills they should be saved; nor are any saved, but whom he wills they should be saved: hence by all men, whom God would have saved, cannot be meant every individual of mankind, since it is not his will that all men, in this large sense, should be saved, unless there are two contrary wills in God; for there are some who were before ordained by him unto condemnation, and are vessels of wrath fitted for destruction; and it is his will concerning some, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned; nor is it fact that all are saved, as they would be, if it was his will they should; for who hath resisted his will? but there is a world of ungodly men that will be condemned, and who will go into everlasting punishment: rather therefore all sorts of men, agreeably to the use of the phrase in 1 Timothy 2:1 are here intended, kings and peasants, rich and poor, bond and free, male and female, young and old, greater and lesser sinners; and therefore all are to be prayed for, even all sorts of men, because God will have all men, or all sorts of men, saved; and particularly the Gentiles may be designed, who are sometimes called the world, the whole world, and every creature; whom God would have saved, as well as the Jews, and therefore Heathens, and Heathen magistrates, were to be prayed for as well as Jewish ones. Moreover, the same persons God would have saved, he would have also

come to the knowledge of the truth: of Christ, who is the truth, and to faith in him, and of all the truth of the Gospel, as it is in Jesus; not merely to a notional knowledge of it, which persons may arrive unto, and not be saved, but a spiritual and experimental knowledge of it; and all that are saved are brought to such a knowledge, which is owing to the sovereign will and good pleasure of God, who hides the knowledge of Gospel truths from the wise and prudent, and reveals them to babes: whence it appears, that it is not his will with respect to every individual of mankind; that they should thus come to the knowledge of the truth; for was it his will they should, he would, no doubt, give to every man the means of it, which he has not, nor does he; he suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, and overlooked their times of ignorance, and sent no message nor messenger to inform them of his will; he gave his word to Jacob, and his statutes unto Israel only; and the Gospel is now sent into one part of the world, and not another; and where it does come, it is hid to the most; many are given up to strong delusions to believe a lie, and few are savingly and experimentally acquainted with the truths of the Gospel; though all that are saved are brought to the knowledge of such truths as are necessary to salvation; for they are chosen to it through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:4. Ground of the previous thought. The general intercession is καλ. κ. ἀπόδ. before God, because He, etc. It is not unusual to give in a relative clause the grounds of a previous statement. Ὃς πάντας ἀνθρώπους θέλει σωθῆναι (comp. Titus 2:11)] The chief accent is laid on πάντας (corresponding with ὑπὲρ πάντων, 1 Timothy 2:1), which is therefore placed first. God’s purpose of salvation extends to all, and therefore the prayer of Christians must include all. Wiesinger, however, is right in remarking that “the apostle in ὃς κ.τ.λ. does not mean specially to give a reason for prayer for the conversion of all men, but for prayer generally as a duty of universal love to men.” Chrysostom puts it differently: μιμοῦ τὸν Θεόν· εἰ πάντας ἀνθρώπους θέλει σωθῆναι, θέλε καὶ σύ· εἰ δὲ θέλεις, εὔχου· τῶν γὰρ τοιούτων (τῶν θελόντων) ἐστὶ τὸ εὔχεσθαι.

The true connection of thought is obscured if we supply the intermediate thought, that prayer for all, and specially for kings, serves to maintain the peace without which the spread of Christianity would be hindered.[87]

καὶ εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας ἐλθεῖν] The same connection of words is found elsewhere only in 2 Timothy 3:7; on the meaning of ἘΠΊΓΝΩΣΙς, see my Commentary on Colossians, pp. 74 f., Remark.

The connection of the two expressions σωθῆναι and ΕἸς ἘΠΊΓΝ. ἈΛ. ἘΛΘΕῖΝ may be regarded differently. Hofmann takes them to be in substance identical; Heydenreich takes the latter as an explanation of the former, “showing how and by what means God wishes to effect the salvation of all;” he therefore regards the ἘΠΊΓΝΩΣΙς Τ. ἈΛ. as the means of the σωτηρία. So, too, Winer (p. 514 [E. T. p. 692]): “at first the general purpose is mentioned (ΚΑΊ, and in pursuance of this), then the immediate purpose (as a means of attaining the other).” It is explained in the same way by Wiesinger, van Oosterzee, and others. But it seems more natural to regard the ἘΠΊΓΝΩΣΙς Τῆς ἈΛΗΘΕΊΑς as the goal to which the rescue (ΣΩΘῆΝΑΙ) leads (so, too, Plitt).[88]

[87] Mosheim (Instit. Hist. Eccles. maj. I. 36): Id sanctus homo tradit: nisi pax in orbe terrarum vigeat, fieri nullo modo posse, ut voluntati divinae, quae omnium hominum salutem cupit, satisfiat; bellis nimirum flagrantibus haud licuisset legatis Jesu Christi, secure ad omnes populos proficisei.

[88] In this verse the idea of the universality of God’s purpose of salvation is clearly and distinctly expressed. Calvin, in order to save his theory of predestination, has to take refuge in an exposition more than ingenious: de hominum generibus, non singulis personis, sermo est; nihil enim aliud intendit, quam principes et extraneos, populos in hoc numero includere.1 Timothy 2:4. “The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11) as was foreshadowed in the O.T.; e.g. Psalm 67:2, “Thy saving health among all nations”. God is, so far as His inclination or will is concerned, “the Saviour of all men,” but actually, so far as we can affirm with certainty, “of them that believe” (1 Timothy 4:10). These He saved, ἔσωσεν (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5), i.e., placed in a state of being saved. But here St. Paul does not say θέλει σῶσαι, but θέλει σωθῆναι; for by His own limitation of His powers, so far as they are perceived by us, the salvation of men does not depend on God alone. It depends on the exercise of the free will of each individual in the acceptance or rejection of salvation (so Wiesinger, quoted by Alf.; and, as Bengel notes on ἐλθεῖν, non coguntur), as well as on the cooperation of those who pray for all men; and, by so doing, generate a spiritual atmosphere in which the designs of God may grow.

It is also to be observed that since salvation means a state of being saved, there is no difficulty in the knowledge of the truth following it in the sentence, as though it were a consequence rather than a precedent condition. This is indeed the order indicated in the Last Commission: “baptising them … teaching them” (Matthew 28:19-20). So that there is no need to suppose with Ell., that καὶ εἰςἐλθεῖν was “suggested by … the enunciation of the great truth which is contained in the following verse”.

εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας ἐλθεῖν: This whole phrase recurs in 2 Timothy 3:7. For ἐπίγνωσις ἀληθείας see reff. In Hebrews 10:26 both words have the article. It has been shown by Dean Armitage Robinson (Ephesians, p. 248 sqq.) that ἐπίγνωσις is not maior exactiorque cognitio; but, as distinguished from γνῶσις “which is the wider word and expresses ‘knowledge’ in the fullest sense, ἐπίγνωσις is knowledge directed towards a particular object, perceiving, discerning, recognising”. Cf. 2Ma 9:11, ἤρξατοεἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἔρχεσθαι. ἀληθεία occurs fourteen times in the Pastorals; and often with a special Christian reference, like ὅδος and εὐσέβεια. See e.g. in addition to this place, 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Timothy 4:3; 1 Timothy 6:5, 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 2:18; 2 Timothy 3:8; 2 Timothy 4:4, Titus 1:14. It is a term that belongs to the Johannine theology as well as to the Pauline.4. who will have] The exact rendering is that of R.V. who willeth that all men should he saved—not the stronger word bouletai, ‘desireth,’ with a definite purpose. Chrysostom’s comment is “if He willed to save all, do thou will it also; and if thou willest, pray for it”: and Theod. Mops, in the Latin translation “evidens est quoniam omnes vult salvari, quia et omnes tuetur, quia est omnium Dominus.” Thus the Greek fathers accepted St Paul’s words in their prima facie sense. The Latin fathers seek to guard their application; and St Augustine actually says “by ‘all’ understand ‘all the predestined,’ because men of all sorts are among them.” The phrase is not “willeth to save all,” which would have been very near to universalism; but there is implied “the human acceptance of offered salvation on which even God’s predestination is contingent” Alford.

be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth] Notice the order of the words; salvation is according to the N. T. usage, past, present and future.

Past, 2 Timothy 1:9, ‘God who saved us and called us.’

Titus 3:5, ‘he saved us through the laver of regeneration.’

Present, Romans 13:11, ‘work out your own salvation.’

Acts 2:42, ‘The Lord added … those that were being saved.’

Future, 1 Peter 1:5, ‘guarded unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.’

2 Timothy 4:18, ‘will save me unto his heavenly kingdom.’

And here we are evidently to understand by the two clauses first a rescue from ignorance and sin, from life in untruth, and then an advance from this first knowledge of one’s true self as a sinner to the complete and perfect knowledge of the truth. So far then as the word ‘salvation’ and ‘saved’ are used to describe an experience of the first of these two stages, and are understood to be so limited, the language is Apostolic; and that indeed is a more incorrect usage which refers the word only to final safety, without guarding it as in our collect by a defining epithet “towards the attainment of everlasting salvation,” and without remembering the express statement of the Prayer-Book Catechism that by Baptism we have been now “called to a state of salvation.”

At the same time, so far as any teachers or evangelists regard all as finished and completed at conversion, they ignore and contradict the latter clause here; God willeth that all should come to the full knowledge of the truth, and not stay ever resting on a past acceptance of the message of forgiveness. The word for full knowledge, epignosis, is repeated four times in these Epistles, 2 Timothy 2:25; 2 Timothy 3:7; Titus 1:1, and is contrasted with the knowledge, falsely so called, of the heretical teachers, cf. 1 Timothy 6:20; Titus 1:16.

The simple verb is rendered by Westcott, John 3:10, to ‘perceive by the knowledge of progress, recognition.’ See also on John 2:24.

The force of the distinction between the simple and compound word is well seen in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “Now I am getting to know in part; but then I shall fully know, even as God knew me fully.”1 Timothy 2:4. Πάντας) all, not merely a part, much less a very small part; 1 Timothy 2:3, note.—ἀνθρώπους, men) lost in themselves.—θέλει, [‘wills’] wishes) in serious earnestness of wish: ibid.—σωθῆναι, to be saved) This is treated of, at 1 Timothy 2:5-6.—Καὶ εἰς, and unto) This is treated of, at 1 Timothy 2:6-7.—ἀληθείας) of saving truth.—ἐλθεῖν, to come) They are not forced.Verse 4. - Willeth that all men should be saved for will have all men to be saved, A.V.; come to for to come unto, A.V. All men, etc.; to show that it is in accordance with God's will to pray for "all men" (ver. 1). (For the doctrinal statement, comp. ver. 6; Titus 2:11; 2 Peter 3:9, etc.) Who will have all men to be saved (ὃς πάντας ἀνθρώπους θέλει σωθῆναι)

Lit, who willeth all men, etc. As who, or seeing that he, giving the ground of the previous statement. Prayer to God for all is acceptable to him, because he wills the salvation of all. Θέλει willeth, marking a determinate purpose.

Come to the knowledge of the truth (εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας ἐλθεῖν)

The phrase only here and 2 Timothy 3:7. Ἑπίγνωσις is a favorite Pauline word. See on Romans 3:20; see on Colossians 1:9; see on 1 Timothy 2:4; see on 1 Timothy 4:3. It signifies advanced or full knowledge. The difference between the simple γνῶσις and the compound word is illustrated in Romans 1:21, Romans 1:28, and 1 Corinthians 13:12. In N.T. always of the knowledge of things ethical or divine, and never ascribed to God. For ἀλήθεια truth, see on sound doctrine, 1 Timothy 1:10. It appears 14 times in the Pastorals, and always without a defining genitive. So, often in Paul, but several times with a defining genitive, as truth of God, of Christ, of the gospel. The logical relation in the writer's mind between salvation and the knowledge of the truth is not quite clear. Knowledge of the truth may be regarded as the means of salvation, or it may be the ideal goal of the whole saving work. See 1 Corinthians 13:12; Philippians 3:8; John 17:3. The latter is more in accord with the general drift of teaching in these Epistles.

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