Universal offer of Salvation in the Pastorals

I posted a while ago about limited atonement, and included a reference to 1 Tim 4:10, which I think is a helpful verse that can defuse some of the contentiousness about this point.  As I have been studying the Pastorals in more detail over the past few months, I have been on the lookout for more verses about the scope of salvation.

The first passage of note is 1 Tim 2:1-7, with the recurring word “all” (πάντων) standing out. Paul starts off by asking us to pray for all people (1 Tim 2:1). It becomes clear that praying for their salvation is in view since God desires all people to be saved (1 Tim 2:4). 1 Tim 2:6 then goes on to say that Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all. These verses certainly fit nicely in the Arminian framework, and have to be qualified somewhat by Calvinists.

1 Tim 2:7 does however state that it is this universality of salvation that has resulted in Paul becoming a preacher to the Gentiles. In other words, the force of the all in this passage may be that Paul wants to say that God’s heart is for all nations, not just the Jews, and that Jesus is the Saviour for all nations, not just the Jews. This is why in 2 Tim 4:17, Paul says he wants all the Gentiles to hear the gospel.

Then we have 1 Tim 4:10. Here, God is the “Saviour of all people”, but especially the Saviour of “those who believe”. I take this to mean that he is the only Saviour available to people, but only actually saves those who believe.

The final verse of note is in Titus 2:11, which speaks of the “appearing of grace” (referring to Jesus’ incarnation). The coming of Jesus brought salvation for all people, which unless we are universalists, means that it provided a way of salvation available to all people.

In summary, the Pastoral epistles regularly speak of the offer and availability of salvation in universal terms, and if we want to be biblical Christians, we should do the same. Jesus is the only Saviour available to the people of this world, and his sacrifice was sufficient to atone for the sins of the world. As a Calvinist I am happy to affirm this. The sticking point remains at why some avail themselves of this salvation, and others do not. Is it rooted in the eternal choice of God, or in human free will?

3 thoughts on “Universal offer of Salvation in the Pastorals

  1. There are, of course, at least two alternative interpretations of the Titus 2 passage.

    The first sees verse 11 in the context of the “household rules” which make up the bulk of the chapter. In this context, the “all” could refer to the different categories of people being described in the passage – older women, younger women, husbands, children, young men, slave and masters. The grace of God, Paul says, has appeared that offers salvation to all of these different types of people.

    The second view, which you allude to, is to read the verse in universalist terms. The grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to every human being, and will be effective in bringing about this outcome, even for those who enter hell.

  2. thanks Al, that first view is not one I had considered, and does fit well with the context, especially since I think verse 15 likely refers back to the household rules, and therefore 11-14 should be thought of as related quite closely.

  3. I think you need to consider the context in which Peter says the same thing in his first letter. My current understanding is that predestination in Romans 8 and the ‘we’ part of Ephesians 1 refers to OT Israel. Thus Abraham and David were glorified (no forcing the text to say it’s as if saints have already been glorified). In Ephesians 1 there are numerous allusions to Deuteronomy (and, to a lesser extent, Isaiah and Daniel). The exegeses in question are on pfrs.org. Leaving aside the eschatological stuff on there, I think most of their views are correct, and I think the way they look to the Early Church for guidance is sensible.

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