Part 1

Section 451 Timothy 2:4.

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

These words are often used to oppose God's decree of reprobation, and in favor of universal redemption; but with what success will be seen when it is observed,

1. That the salvation which God here wills that all men should enjoy, is not a mere possibility of salvation for all,[1] nor putting all men into a salvable state, nor an offer of salvation to all, nor 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, has provided and occurred in the covenant of his grace, sent his Son into this world to effect, which is fully effected by him.

2. That the will of God, that all men should be saved, is not a conditional will,[2] or will that depends upon the will of man, or anything to be performed by him: for if this was the case, none might be saved; and if any should, salvation would be of him that willeth, and of him that runneth,and not of God that sheweth mercy,contrary to the express words of scripture (Rom. 9:16) but this will of God, respecting the salvation of men, is absolute and unconditional, and what infallibly secures and produces it: nor is it such a will as is distinguishable into antecedent and ill 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; with the latter he wills or not wills it, according to their future conduct and behavior: but the will of God, concerning man's salvation, is one entire, invariable, unalterable, and unchangeable will; He is in one mind; and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth even that he doth (Job 23:13). Nor is it merely his will of approbation or complacency, being only expressive of what is grateful and well pleasing to him; but it is his ordaining, purposing, and determining will, which is never frustrated, but is always fulfilled. I know it is observed by some, that it is not said that God will sw~sai salvos facere,save all men, as implying what he would do; but that he would have all men swqh~nai salvos fieri, to be saved, as signifying their duty to seek after salvation, and use all means for the obtaining of it, which, when effected, is well pleasing to him. But the other sense is to be abundantly preferred.

3. That the all men whom God would have to be saved, are such whom he would also have to come to the knowledge of the truth;that is, not a mere nominal, but experimental knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as the way, the truth, and the life,or of the true way of life and salvation by him; and all those whom God saves, they are brought by his Spirit and grace to an acquaintance with these things, which is an act of his sovereign will, and an instance of his distinguishing favor; for whilst he hides these things from the wise and prudent, he reveals them to babes: even so, Father, says Christ, for so it seemed good in thy sight (Matthew 11:25, 26). Hence,

4. By all men whom God would have to be saved, we are not to understand every individual, of mankind, since it is not the will of God that all men, in this large sense, should be saved; for it is his will that some men should be damned, and that very justly, for their sins and transgressions; ungodly men, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation (Jude 1:4); and to whom it will be said, go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.Moreover, if it was the will of God that every individual of mankind should be saved, then every one would be saved; for who hath resisted his will?or can do it? Does he not do according to His will in the armies of the heavens, and among the inhabitants of the earth? (Rom. 9:19; Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11). Nay, does he not work all things after the counsel of his own will?and it is certain that all men, in this large sense, are not saved, for some will go away into everlasting punishment, when the righteous shall go into eternal life (Matthew 25:46). Besides, the same persons God would have saved he would have come to the knowledge of the truth;but this is not his will with respect to every individual of mankind; were it his will, he would, no doubt, ,give to every man the means of it, which he has not done, nor does he; for many hundred years he suffered all nations to walk in their ways, and overlooked the times of their ignorance. He showed his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel; he hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them (Acts 14:16; 17:30; Ps.147:19, 20). From many to whom the Gospel does come, it is hid; some are given up to strong delusions to believe a lie, and few are savingly and experimentally acquainted with the truth as it is in Jesus.

5. There are indeed[3] many things urged in favor of this large sense of the phrase all men.As,

1. The exhortation of the apostle, in verse 1, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.But surely by all men,is not meant every in, individual man, that has been, is, or shall be, in the world; millions of men are dead and gone, for whom prayer is not to he made; many in hell, to whom it would be of no service; and many in heaven, who stand in no need of it; nor should we pray for such who have sinned the sin unto death (1 John 5:16) .Besides giving of thanks, as well as prayers, were to be made for all men; but surely the apostle's meaning is not that the saints should give thanks for wicked men, and persecutors, and particularly for a persecuting Nero; nor for heretics or false teachers, such as Hymeneus and Alexander, whom he had delivered to Satan; the phrase is therefore to be taken in a limited and restrained sense, for some only, as appears from verse 2, for kings and for all in authority;that is, for men of the highest, as well as of the lowest rank and quality.

2. This sense is contended for, from the reason given in verse 5, for there is one God,"who is the God of all, the common Father and Creator of all men." Now, "it is said, thus he is the God of all men in particular; and so this argument must show, he would have all men in particular to be saved." To which may be replied, that God is the God of all men, as the God of nature and providence, but not as the God of grace, or in a covenant way, for then it would he no distinguishing favor or happiness to any people, that the Lord is their God; he is indeed the one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all,meaning believers, to whom the apostle writes (Eph. 4:6; Rom. 10:12); the same Lord is rich unto all,but then it is to them that call upon him.

3. This is argued for from the one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus;but it should be observed, that he is not said to be the Mediator between God and all men, and much less every individual man; and since he is expressly called, the Mediator of the new covenant (Heb. 12:24), he only can be a Mediator for those who are in that covenant; and it is plain, that he has not performed the several branches of his meditorial office, the oblation of himself on the cross, and his intercession in heaven, for every man; and though the nature he assumed common to all men, was endued with the best of human affections, and subject to the common law of humanity; yet, since it was assumed with a peculiar view to the elect of God, the seed of Abraham, they share all the peculiar blessings and favors arising from the assumption of such a nature.

4. It is observed that Christ is said, in verse 6, to give himself a ransom for all,which is understood of all men in particular; but it should be observed also, that this ransom is ajnti>lutron uJper pa>ntwn, a vicarious ransom substituted in the room and stead of all, whereby a full price was paid for all, and a plenary satisfaction made for the sins of all, which cannot be true of every individual man, for then no man could be justly condemned and punished. The sense of these words is best understood by what Christ himself has said, The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give his life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). So the Hebrew word lk, all,to which this answers, signifies sometimes many,a multitude; and sometimes only a part of a multitude, as Kimchi[4] has observed. Wherefore,

5. It is better by all men to understand some of all sorts, as Austin[5] did long ago, and is the sense in which the word all is to be taken in many places; as in Genesis 7:14; Matthew 4:23, 24; Joel 2:28; and is the meaning of it in verse 1, and well agrees with the matter of fact; since Christ has redeemed some of all nations, some out of every kindred, tongue, and people; and God saves and calls some of every rank and quality, as kings and peasants: of every state and condition, as rich and poor, bond and free; of every sex, male and female; of every age, young and old; and all sorts of sinners, greater and less. It is[6] indeed said, that, according to this limitation and sense of the words, God is willing some of all kindred and people should be saved;it may more truly and properly be said, that God would have all men to be damned, and that Christ died for none; since they for whom he died are none, according to this doctrine, comparatively to the greater number for whom he died not. To which I answer, it does not become us to say what might be more truly and properly said by God, or an inspired writer. However, this is certain, that as there is a whole world that lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19), so there is a world that shall be damned; which agrees with what the apostle Paul says in so many words, that the world shall be condemned, We are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned or damned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32). Moreover, though they for whom Christ died are but few comparatively, yet they cannot be said, in a comparative sense, or in any sense at all, to be none; and indeed, when considered by themselves, are a number which no man can number. But,

6. I rather think that by all men are meant the Gentiles, who are sometimes called the world, the whole world, and every creature (Rom. 11:12, 15; 1 John 2:2; Mark 16:15); which is the sense, I apprehend, in which it is used in verse 1, where the apostle exhorts, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all in authority;which was contrary to a notion that obtained among the Jews, of whom there were many in the primitive churches, that they should not pray for heathens and heathen magistrates.[7] The apostle enforces this exhortation from the advantage which would accrue to themselves; that we may lead a peaceable and quiet life, in all godliness and honesty;besides, says he, This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men,Gentiles, as well as Jews, to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth,and therefore has sent his ministers to preach the gospel among them; and the doctrine of the grace of God has appeared to these, all men,in order to bring them to it; for there is one God of Jews and Gentiles,who, by his gospel, has taken out of the latter a people for his name and glory; and there is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus,who, not like Moses, who was the Mediator for the Jews only, but is for the Gentiles also; and is become our peace, that hath made both one, reconciled both in one body on the cross; preached peace to them that were afar off, and to them that were nigh; through whom, as the mediator, both have an access by one Spirit to the Father; who also gave himself a ransom for all (Eph. 2:14-18), to redeem the Gentiles as well as Jews; which was to be testified in due time to them, as it was by the apostle, who adds, Whereunto I am ordained a preacher and an apostle (I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not,) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity;and then concludes, I will therefore that men pray everywhere,and not be confined to the temple for public prayer, another Jewish notion and practice, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting.Seeing then there are some Jewish notions pointed at in the context, and the whole is adapted to the state and case of the Gentiles, under the Gospel dispensation, there is a good deal of reason to conclude that they are designed here; whereby another principle of the Jews is confuted, which is, that the Gentiles should receive no benefit by the Messiah when he came; and is the true reason of most, if not of all, those universal expressions, relating to the death of Christ, we meet with in Scripture. From the whole, since these words cannot be understood of every individual man, they cannot be thought to militate against God's righteous decree of reprobation, nor to maintain and support universal redemption.


[1] Vorst in loc.

[2] Ibid. et Amica Collat. cum Piscator, p. 8, 13, 28; Curcell. Relig. Christ. Instit. 50:6, c. 5, sect, 7, p. 366.

[3] Whitby. p. 120, 121; ed. 2. 117, 118.

[4] In lib. Shorash rad. llk

[5] Enchirid. e. 103.

[6] Whitby, p. 114; ed. 2. 111. To the same purpose, Curcellaeus, p. 365, and Limborch, p. 332

[7] See Lightfoot, vol. 1. p. 301.

Gill Index