07 April, 2016

I Timothy 4:10—“… who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe”

For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe (I Tim. 4:10).

God’s being “the Saviour of all men” is said to mean that He is “gracious” to all men, or that He preserves all men out of a love for all men. The “undeservingness” of this general preservation, on the part of God towards sinners, is also said to be “grace”—the popular assumption being, of course, that “grace” means “getting what you don’t deserve.”

As a sidenote, it must be pointed out that grace cannot mean “getting what you don’t deserve” for the simple fact that “grace” was upon Jesus Christ (Luke 2:40), and He certainly wasn’t “undeserving.” Grace simply means “favour” or “beauty.”


Prof. Herman C. Hanko

[Source: Common Grace Considered (2019 edition), pp. 341-342]

Concerning I Timothy 4:10, if one takes this passage in the context in which it is written, the meaning is not all that hard to ascertain. Paul says that it is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation that Timothy exercise himself unto godliness, for physical exercise is of little profit, while godliness “has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (v. 8). That is a great incentive to practice godliness! Such a great incentive is this for the apostle (and he wants his own life to be an example to Timothy) that he is willing both “to labour and suffer reproach” at the hands of the enemies of the gospel for the sake of the exercise of godliness. The reproach of the wicked does not mean very much and has little significance for him because he trusts in God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially the elect.
To set aside, for a moment, the true meaning of the passage, it is worth our while to note that should this be used in support of a “universal desire of God to save all men,” the text proves more than supporters of the well-meant gospel would themselves want.
After all, the text does not say that God “desires to save” all men, but that Christ actually is the Saviour of all men. That is more than the most dedicated Arminian wants to say.
There is another meaning to the Greek word Σωτρ (Sōtēr—rendered “Savior” in the KJV) that is the meaning here. That meaning is “Preserver.” Christ preserves all men, especially the elect. Paul calls attention to this fact as the reason why he is not troubled by reproach for the godliness in which he exercises himself. The reason, apparently, is that God has His own purpose in preserving every man.
Whether he be elect or reprobate, he is created by God to serve God’s sovereign purpose in history. By His providence, God preserves righteous and wicked alike. The wicked, too, exist by the word of God, the same word that sustains the entire creation (For this use of the word, see Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament [Harper & Brothers, 1889], p. 612.  Thayer, in fact, claims that “preserver” is its original meaning. Cf. also Hermann Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek [Edinburgh: T & T. Clark, 1895], p. 534).
Part of that purpose God has in preserving wicked men is that they persecute the righteous. Persecution also comes through wicked men by the will of God; and persecution is the means God uses to sanctify his people. Peter reminds us that persecution is a fiery trial in which the faith of God’s people is tried as gold is tried in the fire, that it might be to the praise and glory of God (I Pet. 1:7).
It may very well be that Paul, in this general statement, has a broader purpose in mind that God has for the reprobate; but he particularly calls attention to the preservation of the reprobate, for it stands in direct relation to God’s purpose in preserving the elect. God’s purpose is “especially” revealed in them in their salvation; but the reprobate are also preserved “especially” for the elect.
Surely, there is no universal love and grace of God in the text.



Ronald Hanko and Ronald Cammenga

[Source: Saved By Grace: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism (Grandville, MI: RFPA, 2002), pp. 110-112]

I Timothy 4:10 [is taken by many today] to teach that God, in addition to being the Savior of His people, is also in some sense the Savior of all men ...

As far as I Timothy 4:10 is concerned, it cannot mean that God is the Savior of all men in the usual sense of the word, because otherwise the passage would contradict the rest of the Scriptures and teach universalism, the teaching that no one will be damned. Notice that the verse does not just say that God sent His Son for all, but that He is the Savior of all. The explanation we prefer, though Calvin gives an alternative, has to do with the use of the word “specially.” The word “all” seems to indicate that “all men” is a larger and less exclusive group than “those that believe.” In fact, they are the same group. The idea of the verse is therefore this: “The Saviour of all men, that is, of those that believe.”

Three other verses in the New Testament use the same word translated “specially” and “chiefly” in that way. In Acts 25:26, “you” and “king Agrippa” are the same person, so that the verse can be read, “before you, that is, before thee, O king Agrippa.” In I Timothy 5:8 “his own” and “those of his own house” are also the same group, and the word “specially” again has the idea of “that is.” Thus, everyone is commanded to care for “his own, that is, for those of his own house.” Finally in II Peter 2:9-10 the “unjust” and “them that walk after the flesh” are the same group of people, and the word translated “chiefly” again has the idea of “that is.” God reserves “the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished, that is, them that walk after the flesh.”

Insofar as the word has any other meaning, it indicates that the group referred to in each case has a special name, a name that reinforces what each passage says about them. In Acts 25:26, “you” is “king Agrippa.” In I Timothy 5:8 “his own” are “those of his own house,” reinforcing the command to care for them. And in II Peter 2:9-10, the “unjust” are “those that walk after the “flesh,” emphasizing the reason that they are reserved unto judgment.

So in I Timothy 4:10, “all men” are especially “those that believe,” and the text is explaining by the second name why God is their Savior. Thus, the verse, instead of suggesting that God in some sense is Savior of all men without exception, actually shows that “all men” is the equivalent of “those that believe,” a limited number of persons.



Robert L. Reymond (1932-2013)

[Source: A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), pp. 693; emphasis added]

Then later, when he describes the living God as the ‘Savior of all men, that is believers’ (I Tim. 4:10), [Malista, malista, can bear the sense of further definition (‘that is’), according to J. C. Skeat, “‘Especially the Parchments’: A Note on 2 Timothy IV.13,” Journal of Theological Studies 30 (1979): 173-77] he doubtless presumes again that he will be understood, against the earlier contextual background, to mean that God is the Savior of believers, who are found among all categories of men.



Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)

[Source: Ready to Give an Answer: A Catechism of Reformed Distinctives (Grand Rapids, MI: RFPA, 1997), pp. 74-75]

a. Saviour in the text means Preserver, as the Synod of 1924 evidently understood the word and the Dutch translation renders it. In that case, the text does not speak of grace at all, but merely of God’s providential preservation of all men, the wicked as well as the righteous, the reprobate as well as the elect. The text then means: God is a Preserver of all men, for He gives to all men their existence and life and all things necessary for the sustenance of their being; but especially of believers, for them and them only He preserves in His grace, leading them to eternal life.


b. Saviour has the usual meaning of Deliver from sin and death. In that case the text means: God is a Saviour of all men—more specifically speaking, of believers from among all men.

But whichever interpretation is preferred, the text does not support the theory of a common grace God toward and upon the godly and the ungodly, the elect and the reprobate.



More to come! (DV)

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