A Universalist Looks at the New Testament – I Timothy 2:1-6
During this series of Looking at the New Testament from a universalist’s perspective, I’ve found some verses that universalists do need to explain why they don’t mean what they at first glance seem to mean. (Usually that’s because of a poor translation.) But this is a verse that non-universalists have to explain away in order to hold their theory of eternal torment for nonbelievers.
The passage is I Timothy 2:1-6:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.
There are two important “all”s in this passage.
First, it says that God our Savior wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Could that possibly be clearer?
Now, the devotional that our church is using actually says that doesn’t mean that God wills all people to finally be saved. And the reason given is that if God wanted everyone to be saved then everyone would be saved! They cite Romans 9:19, which says that no one can resist God’s will.
So they’re basically saying God doesn’t want everyone to be saved (despite what this passage says) because if that were true, universalism would be true!
So they’re making my point for me, that if this verse means what it seems to mean – that God wants everyone to be saved – then universalism is true.
It seems like your choices one of these three:
1) Universalism is true.
2) God doesn’t really want all people to be saved.
3) God wants all people to be saved, but the power of those people to rebel is greater than God’s power to win them over. So regretfully, not all will be saved.
I think the interpretation that fits Scripture best is that God indeed wants all people to be saved and He indeed loves the world and everyone in it. And what God wills, God can bring about, even though it may take until the end of the ages for some to come to Him. But one day God will be all in all.
And that’s not the only “all” in this passage. Another is that Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all people.”
If Jesus gave Himself to save all people, but all people are not saved – then was His sacrifice ineffective?
This is the main reason Thomas Allin gives for believing universalism, and the reason he titled his book Christ Triumphant. You can read my review to get a taste of that reasoning – but do we really think God set out to save the world and then failed?
Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all people, so if all people are not ransomed, then surely Jesus was defeated in each case of a person who was not saved.
But back to the beginning. Do you believe in your heart that God truly wants all people everywhere to be saved? Isn’t that a bigger, a more powerful and more loving God than the one you hear about who (however regretfully) sends people to suffer eternally because they didn’t accept His offer and believe the right formula while they were still on earth?
God loves you and He loves me and He loves our loved ones more than we do ourselves. And He also loves those people I didn’t really want or expect to see in heaven. All of them, even, maybe especially, those who seem truly lost now.
And truly this brings glory to God our Savior.