“Who Desires All Men to be Saved”

Many of the mainstream religious doctrines of our age are based upon the fallacy that God has predetermined our eternal fate. This concept simply is not supported in the scriptures. Paul clearly states in I Timothy chapter 2:1-4 that God desires everyone to be saved.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (I Timothy 2:1-4)

Paul implicitly states the desire of God for all mankind to be saved. The only way you could winkle the contrary from this passage is if “all” really doesn’t mean all. But, the word (πᾶς – pas) that Paul uses here, without a doubt, encompases the breadth of humanity. Strong’s Greek-English dictionary defines this word as: “Including all the forms of declension; apparently a primary word; all, any, every, the whole.” (Strong’s G3956) If God truly desires everyone (all) to be saved; how can he predetermine or “predestine” anyone to eternal torment?

Further I urge you to consider Paul’s immediate subject while writing this encouraging statement. Paul begins by addressing something we, most likely, do with some regularity; pray for those in authority. Paul directs us to pray for our leaders, and he lists two main reasons for our “fervent prayer” (James 5:16). First we gain benefit from good stewards of our land and, mainly the ablitity to live quite and peaceable lives. I think the second reason Paul gives is also quite clear; so that all men might be saved. When taken in context with the passage this sheds new light on God’s desire for all men to be saved. We must pray for our leaders so that they too may come to a knowledge of the truth and therein obtain salvation. Polititians, as a whole, throughout all time have largely been despised by their constituents for the hubris that can accompany power. It is as if Paul is exhorting us to pray for our leaders, for even they can be saved. If their eternal fate was predetermined why bother praying for them? If they are predestined to eternal life, do they need our prayer’s? If to eternal fire, will our prayer’s do any good? Why then, would Paul tell us to pray for our leaders unless their eternal destination is not set? The clarion call throughout all time has always been simple: You have a choice!

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15)

Jesus tells us simply while answering Nicodemus’s question that God desires all men to seek him, and that God desires all men to be saved. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17) Jesus came to save the world. Does this scripture say that Jesus came to save only those who are predestined? No. It does say that Jesus came to save the entire world. Furthermore Jesus plainly tells what we must do to obtain his salvation. The end of verse 16 clearly states that our salvation is founded upon belief in the son of God. Again, you can choose to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Or, you can choose to believe that he is not the Son of God. Your choice.

Finally, if God predetermines our eternal fate wouldn’t he have done so throughout all time? How did God proclaim the fate of the Children of Israel before they entered the Promised Land? Their fate for good or ill was based upon their choice. God desired that they would follow him, he desired that they would seek his will. In Deuteronomy chapters 28 – 30 are a list of blessings that would accompany the people if they choose to follow the will of the Lord. In the same passage is described a list of curses that would hound the people if they choose to abandon God and follow the people of the land. There, on mount Gerizim and mount Ebal, God made a covenant with the people. Their lot in life was determined by their fulfillment of the covenant. It was not predetermined, for God desires all to be saved. So…

“choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,[…]. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

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  1. Dwain
    May 8, 2009

    Very convincing article explaining the reason that “few will find salvation and many will not” is contingent upon the choice of each individual person, not on God’s predetermination. He desires “all” to be saved [1 Tim 2:3,4].
    A careful analysis of God’s Eternal Purpose reveals that the primary purpose of the creation of man was that they might glorify God by declaring His “Worth-ship” [Rev 4:11]. The Lord made all things for Himself [Prov 147:11] for His glory [Rom 11:36]. He created “all” mankind with the ability and responsibility to choose his/her own way of living for good or evil. God’s pleasure is derived from the voluntary free-will choice by man to serve Him. What pleasure could there be in glory and worship of those [few?] whom He had eternally predestined to be righteous and worshipful?

    God’s Eternal Purpose also had a contingency plan to redeem “all” fallen man. The plan of redemption involved the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son for “all” people. If God had already, before the foundation of the world, predetermined the “few” who would be saved, why did He require the supreme sacrifice of His Son, if the “many,” by His predetermination, were destined to the broad way that leads to destruction.

  2. May 12, 2009

    @Dwain Thank you for the comment. While thinking about this topic I wondered what the complexion of the Bible would be like if predestination was true. Would there have been the concept of a covenant relationship that is predicated on seeking God? Would God have sent the prophets like Isaiah, and Jeremiah to plead for repentance if his people were destined to captivity? Would God have included the indelible themes of redemption, repentance, and seeking the lost if we did not have a choice?

  3. Andrew Bignell
    June 6, 2009

    My “David versus Goliath” story.
    I nervously called Greg Koukl from “Stand to Reason” Sunday (12 May 2009). (see 20 min audio link below)

    Greg Koukl is a man I love, he is actually a very gracious ambassador for Christ, and challenges me to do much better when the rocks are being hurled at me.

    Keep in mind that:
    My phone call was to point out that Greg’s view doesn’t make sense, based on his own article.
    This is something that he is an expert in doing to others.
    He has not only held his view for many years, he has studied and debated publicly for many years. I am a novice concerning Calvinism.

    He states that his article “Bad Arguments against Calvinism” (see link below) was a solution regarding an apparent contradiction 1) God desires all and 2) God elects only some.

    God desires all to be saved but Man can thwart God’s desire (I agree).

    I quote Greg’s own article word for word;
    “The simplest way to describe them is God’s moral will–what He morally desires, but doesn’t always take place (like salvation for everyone)”

    He then (on the radio) confirms that to deny a literal all is a WEAK argument and states that his solution is a better argument.

    My Question

    God desires Person A to be saved.
    God doesn’t Elect Person A before they are born.

    How did Person A thwart God’s desire for Person A to be saved?
    God thwarts His own desire?

    It took some time for me to get him to understand the logical flaw (Calvinism Unconditional Election).

    Then (at 17 mins 12 secs) he drops the bomb.

    17:12 GK

    Maybe the phrase (AB Scripture) that God wants to save them ALL is a mistaken phrase. I DON’T THINK THAT GOD WANTS TO SAVE THEM ALL! IF HE (GOD) WANTED TO SAVE THEM ALL HE WOULD!

    He repeats this a minute later.

    18:06 GK

    We have established that man CAN thwart God’s desire. Wouldn’t it be logical to say that

    1) God wants to save them all
    2) This want/desire can be thwarted by man.

    Therefore ALL are NOT saved and Election isn’t unconditional.

    So instead of acknowledging the contradiction, he embraces in his terms a “weak argument”.

    I’m not expecting to solve the theological debate but for those looking at the logical side of the debate, this is a major concession from a well armed defender of Calvinism.

    Greg’s article
    “Bad Arguments against Calvinism”

    20 minutes audio from str.org podcast – 12 May 2009

  4. June 6, 2009

    @Andrew Bignell Thank you for the comment, and for sharing your personal experience with this issue. You make a very relevant point. God granted each and every person the power of choice. The power of free will. We all have the choice to either serve God, or not. God could have created perfect servants that do his will perfectly, but he didn’t he created us. God only wants servants that choose to follow him, and are willing to sacrifice much in his service. God wants a people that recognize his love and reciprocate it freely. In my opinion our willing, and voluntary service is pleasing to God. In that vein I really appreciate the symbolism of the bondservant that is depicted in Deuteronomy 15:16-17. It describes a man who has been a servant for a period of time. At the end of his service he understands the goodness of his situation and he decides to stay with his master. At that time he voluntarily agrees to serve for the remainder of his days. In this same way God has given every person the choice to serve him, or leave.

  5. June 7, 2009

    @Andrew BignellThanks for your comments Andrew. I agree with your conclusion and Richard’s follow up. I would also submit the following idea: God’s desire for all mankind’s salvation is summed up in the universality of Christ’s sacrifice. God wants all men to be saved, therefore Christ died for all humanity’s sins: 1 John 2:1-2, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (2) And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” Christ’s sacrifice makes it possible for any human being to come to the Lord if they accept the gospel message. A predetermined, arbitrary election leads us to conclude that Christ only died for the elect (“limited atonement” as it is known in Calvinism). The Bible teaches Christ’s universal sacrifice and universal invitation.

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