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Albert Barnes Note on 1 Timothy 2:4

Verse 4. Who will have all men to be saved.

That is, it is in accordance with his nature, his feelings, his desires. The word will cannot be taken here in the absolute sense, denoting a decree like that by which he willed the creation of the world, for then it would certainly be done. But the word is often used to denote a desire, wish, or what is in accordance with the nature of any one. Thus it may be said of God that he “wills” that his creatures may be happy—because it is in accordance with his nature, and because he has made abundant provision for their happiness—though it is not true that he wills it in the sense that he exerts his absolute power to make them happy. God wills that sickness should be relieved, and sorrow mitigated, and that the oppressed should go free, because it is agreeable to his nature; though it is not true that he wills it in the sense that he exerts his absolute power to produce it. A parent wills the welfare of his child. It is in accordance with his nature, his feelings, his desires; and he makes every needful arrangement for it. If the child is not virtuous and happy, it is his own fault. So God wills that all men should be saved. It would be in accordance with his benevolent nature. He has made ample provision for it. He uses all proper means to secure their salvation. He uses no positive means to prevent it, and if they are not saved it will be their own fault. For places in the New Testament where the word here translated “will” (yelw) means to desire or wish, Lu 8:20; 23:8; Joh 16:19; Ga 4:20; Mr 7:24; 1 Co 7:7; 11:3; 14:5; Mt 15:28.

This passage cannot mean, as many have supposed, that God wills that all kinds of men should be saved, or that some sinners of every rank and class may be saved, because

(1.) the natural and obvious interpretation of the language is opposed to such a sense. The language expresses the desire that “all men” should be saved, and we should not depart from the obvious sense of a passage unless necessity requires it.

(2.) Prayer and thanksgiving 1 Ti 2:1 are directed to be offered, not for some of all ranks and conditions, but for all mankind. No exception is made, and no direction is given that we should exclude any of the race from the expressions of our sympathy, and from an interest in our supplications. The reason given here for that prayer is, that God desires that all men should be saved. But how could this be a reason for praying for all, if it means that God desired only the salvation of some of all ranks?

(3.) In 1 Ti 2:5,6, the apostle gives reasons showing that God wished the salvation of all men, and those reasons are such as to prove that the language here is to be taken in the most unlimited sense. Those reasons are,
(a) that there is one God over all, and one Mediator between God and men—showing that God is the Father of all, and has the same interest in all; and
(b) that Christ gave himself a ransom for all—showing that God desired their salvation.

This verse proves:

(1.) that salvation is provided for all —for if God wished all men to be saved, he would undoubtedly make provision for their salvation; and if he had not made such provision, it could not be said that he desired their salvation, since no one can doubt that he has power to provide for the salvation of all;

(2.) that salvation should be offered to all men—for if God desires it, it is right for his ministers to announce that desire, and if he desires it, it is not proper for them to announce anything contrary to this;

(3.) that men are to blame if they are not saved. If God did not wish their salvation, and if he had made no provision for it, they could not be to blame if they rejected the gospel. If God wishes it, and has made provision for it, and they are not saved, the sin must be their own—and it is a great sin, for there is no greater crime which a man can commit than to destroy his own soul, and to make himself the eternal enemy of his Maker.

And to come unto the knowledge of the truth. The truth which God has revealed: the “truth as it is in Jesus.”

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/29/2013 at 12:37 PM

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