< FAQ With Pastor Paul - Election #5
Fri. May. 17, 2013 09:15 Age: 4 yrs

Category: Pastor's Q&A
By: Paul Carter

FAQ With Pastor Paul - Election #6

Question: Doesn’t the Bible say that God wills for all people to be saved?


The Bible does seem to say something like that in 1 Timothy 2:4:

1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4. ESV)

The key word there, translated by the ESV as “desires” is the Greek word thel’-o which has a wide range of potential meanings. It can mean “determines”, “delights in”, “wants”, “prefers”, “means for”, “would rather” or perhaps best as in ESV “desires”.  If it means “God determines that all people will be saved” then we have a real problem because clearly all people are not saved and this means that God’s determining purposes can be thwarted. The Bible is certainly clear in affirming that NOT all people are saved, in fact the question more likely to be asked by anyone who has read the Bible is the one asked of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke:

“Lord, will only a few be saved?” (Luke 13:23. NRSV)

Therefore, it seems very unlikely that the correct meaning of thel’-o in 1 Timothy 2:4 is “determines”. It seems far more probable that it means “desires” or “delights in”. God desires for all people to be saved and delights in it when any do. That truth can easily be verified by referencing other places in Holy Scripture. For example the Bible says:

32For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”  (Ezekiel 18:32. ESV)

Perhaps it would be helpful to think of “the will of God” in two separate ways. There is the preceptive will of God which refers to that which God reveals to us in his Word as his will for our lives. God says for example: “Do not commit murder”. In this precept or command God makes it clear that his will is for human life to be cherished. And yet people reject this will every day. People murder, abort children and do many things which clearly do not reflect a proper cherishing of human life. Obviously the preceptive will of God can be and is often resisted. The decretive will of God refers to his Sovereign ordination and cannot be resisted. What God decrees ALWAYS come to pass. As the Scripture says:

I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’  (Isaiah 46:9-10. ESV)

Therefore, what the Bible means in passages such as 1 Timothy 2:4 is simply that the salvation of sinners is delightful and altogether agreeable to the character of God. Indeed, there is great rejoicing in heaven over even one sinner who repents.


Pastor Paul


comments powered by Disqus