1 Tim. 4:10 and universalism

  • "For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers" (NASB).
  • "(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe" (NIV).
  • "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe" (KJV).

Much is made out of 1 Tim. 4:10 by the Universalist to claim that Jesus will redeem all people whether or not they accept or reject Christ as Savior here on earth.  Eventually, they say, all people will repent (either here or in the afterlife) and come to a saving relationship with God.  1 Tim. 4:10 is used as proof.  Unfortunately, the verse does not prove what the Universalists hope it does.  Can God be called the Savior of all men and yet not redeem all?  Yes.

All people are, by nature, born under wrath (Eph. 2:3) and should go to hell.  Why?  Because God is holy and we are sinners.  Yet, we have hope in Christ.  The Christian is saved by faith (Eph. 2:8) and will join the Lord in heaven.  But, the unbeliever is under judgment.  John 3:18 says, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (KJV).  Why does God not simply destroy them as is His right?  Because of the Christians!  Because God is being patient with the unbeliever, allowing them to enjoy the blessings of life in this world without the rightful condemnation of God falling upon them.  This is what the Bible states:

"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory" (Rom. 9:22-23, NASB).

As you can see, God is patient with the unregenerate.  They receive a delayed judgment because of God's love for the believer.  In this sense, Jesus is the Savior of the world because He holds back His judging hand from all who rightly and immediately deserve it.  Judgment is delayed.  This is a blessing received from God upon the unbeliever.  In fact, God often blesses the unbeliever because of the presence of a believer.

"And it came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house, and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field," (Gen. 39:5, NASB).

Consider also Matt. 13:24-30 and the parable of the wheat and the tares.  In it, Jesus compares the world to a field.  He later interprets it by stating that "the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one," (Matt. 13:38).  But in Matt. 13:29-30 Jesus states that the tares are not dealt with right away because the wheat is there among them.  "But he *said, ‘No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest," (NASB).

So, can it be said that the tares were saved from judgment?  Yes...temporarily.  The unbeliever enjoys a delayed judgment.  But with the Christian, Jesus is especially their Savior and judgment is permanently removed from them.

All are made saveable by Jesus' sacrifice

Another way in which Jesus is the savior of all men is that He has made all people saveable.  Without Jesus' sacrifice, none could ever be saved.  Since Jesus, who is the Word made flesh (John 1:1,14), atoned for sin, all people are now redeemable.  He is the Savior of all, but especially of believers.  That is, all are now redeemable due to the sacrifice of Christ, but redemption is specifically applied to those who trust in Christ.

Is God the Savior?

"For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers," (1 Tim. 4:10, NASB).

1 Tim. 4:10 is referring to God in particular and not necessarily Jesus in particular.  Does the title "God" include Jesus?  Of course, since Jesus is God in flesh (Col. 2:9), the Savior.  God, who is a Trinity, is called Savior in Psalm 106:21; Isaiah 43:3; Luke 1:47; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; Titus 1:3-4; and Titus 2:10.  It is obvious that the term refers to God in the generic sense of being the Savior of all men since He brings salvation to all though it is not accepted by all.  This is why it says that God (not Jesus) is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.  How is it especially to believers?  Simple.  It is especially and specifically realized only by those who are believers.

Furthermore, only Jesus is the mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5), and He mediates only between the saved and God.  He does not mediate His atoning work for the unredeemed.  His being Savior is generic for all but specific for the saved.

Therefore, this verse does not necessitate that all will be redeemed.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.