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?