1st Timothy 4:10

1st Timothy 4:10 (see also 1st Timothy 2:4)
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.

​Question: How is God the “Savior of all men, especially of believers”?

Answer: Because God gave His Son to “the world,” as per John 3:16 (so that all who believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life), and Jesus is the only Savior that the world has got. Calvinists think that this passage is talking about God in the sense of being a Temporal Savior, such as rain, but the chapter never mentions rain.

​Question: So in what way is the other group experiencing God’s salvation?

Answer: They aren’t. In order to see what Arminians are saying, in order to see how it makes perfect sense, take for a moment and filter this back into Jesus’ illustration at John 3:14 / Numbers 21:6-9, and here you have the “serpent on the standard” being the sole source of salvation, for all who were bitten (it is literally the savior for all who were bitten), but it’s healing properties are only released to the individual, as they look at it, as instructed. In the same sense, God gave a gift to the world, namely Jesus, who on that account, is the “Savior of all men” (1st Timothy 4:10), and the “Savior of the world.” (John 4:42; John 12:47) Neither context is talking about a temporal salvation, such as rain, and I don’t see any support for Temporal Salvation anywhere in 1st Timothy chapter’s 2 or 4. I think that Calvinists are invoking a Temporal Salvation because there is no alternative. The 4-Point Calvinists fully agree with Arminians on this point. It seems to be crystal clear to them, and so Arminians cannot be told that they have an isolated view. There are also some 5-Point Calvinists who believe that Jesus died for all men (though not in the same way), but the point is that Arminians are not on an island regarding this. 5-Point Calvinists, however, are in a pickle, not to mention John 3:16, and how it ties into this same concept of Jesus being the Savior of the world, as the only Savior that the world has got.

1st Timothy 1:15-16: “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

  • Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” reinforces the scope in which God is the Savior of all men.

  • Believe in Him for eternal life” answers the question of how it is especially of believers.

​1st Timothy 4:10 provides an interesting definition to the term, “all men.” It shows that believers are a subset of “all men,” rather than the totality of all men. The reason why this is so important is because it shatters the Calvinist interpretation of 1st Timothy 2:4 which insists that “all men” means only believers. Some Calvinists find this so troubling that they infer that “especially of believers” really means, “essentially believers.” In this way, such Calvinists can maintain that “all men” means just believers.

​2nd Timothy 4:13 is another example of especially, stating: “When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.

The parchments are not the totality of the books, but a subset of it, and neither are believers the totality of all men, but only a subset of it.

​Galatians 6:10 is another example of especially, stating: “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

For our part, it’s not that we are to be good to “essentially” believers, but “especially” believers. This shows that “all people” cannot be narrowed down to merely mean “some of all kinds,” and hence essentially, just Calvinism's elect kinds. Calvinists will have to admit that sometimes “all people” really is intended to convey the meaning of everyone, and once that is established, you must ask why 1st Timothy 2:4 shouldn’t be understood that way also.

​Romans 12:8: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

For our part, we are to be at peace with everyone. But if we use the Calvinistic method of interpretation, or really, the Calvinistic tactic of deliberate evasion, then we are really only supposed to be at peace with Calvinism’s elect, which really makes no sense in terms of Calvinism, since Calvinists admit that they do not know who Calvinism’s elect are. So, then, a Calvinistic couldn’t know who to be at peace with.

​Summary: If I was a Calvinist, I’d be concerned that 1st Timothy 4:10 provides a definition for “all men” that is inconsistent with the Calvinist teaching on the definition of “all men” at 1st Timothy 2:4, and if Calvinism is wrong at 1st Timothy 2:4, then the rest of Calvinism inevitably will be swept along with it.

4-Point Calvinist, Ron Rhodes: “There is a clear distinction here between ‘all men’ and ‘those who believe.’” (The Case for an Unlimited Atonement, emphasis mine)

Exactly!, and which is why the 5-Point Calvinist interpretation of 1st Timothy 2:4 simply doesn’t work.

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “That God is the Saviour of/for all people points to God having made salvation available through Jesus and only through him to everyone, but it is especially for the believers in the sense that for them the situation changes from potentiality to actuality.”

Great answer!

​Question: Why was there the need for a distinction in 1st Timothy 4:10 between “all” and “believe”?

Answer: Because God is the Savior of all men through the gift of His Son to the world, but believers “especially,” since only believers receive the benefits of that gift.

One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “The 1 Tim 4:10 reference is strengthened exponentially when contexted by Paul’s emphasis in the Pastorals on the universal extent of the atonement. Five passages in all. Our view of ‘especially’ in 1 Tim 4:10 is best defended by attaching statements like, ‘after all, it is God’s will that all come to a knowledge the truth and to be saved’ (1 Tim 2), or ‘Of course 1 Tim 4:10 means “especially,” for Jesus was a ransom for all men.’

John Calvin: “Paul argues that God’s love extends to all people. If they experience God’s kindness, think how much more this is true of the godly who place their hope in him. Is he not bound to take special care of them? Will he not pour out his overflowing love on them even more generously? In short, will he not keep them safe, through everything, to the end?” (1 & 2 Timothy & Titus: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.75, emphasis mine) 

But 1st Timothy 4:10 isn’t talking about general “kindness” but rather Christ being the Savior.

Calvinist, George Whitefield: “And so it is, but not his saving mercy. God is loving to every man: he sends his rain upon the evil and upon the good.” (A Letter from George Whitefield to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley, emphasis mine) 

1st Timothy 4:10 isn’t talking about love in terms of mere “rain” either.

Calvinist, John Piper: “We do not deny that all men are the intended beneficiaries of the cross in some sense. 1 Timothy 4:10 says that Christ is ‘the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.’ What we deny is that all men are intended as the beneficiaries of the death of Christ in the same way. All of God’s mercy toward unbelievers—from the rising sun (Matthew 5:45) to the worldwide preaching of the gospel (John 3:16)—is made possible because of the cross. This is the implication of Romans 3:25 where the cross is presented as the basis of God’s righteousness in passing over sins. Every breath that an unbeliever takes is an act of God’s mercy withholding judgment (Romans 2:4). Every time the gospel is preached to unbelievers it is the mercy of God that gives this opportunity for salvation.” (What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, emphasis mine) 

I agree with Dave Hunt’s reply:

Dave Hunt responds: “Trying to reason with those who espouse such obviously contradictory statements leaves one with a sense of complete frustration. Proclaiming the gospel to those He has predestined to damnation is an act of God’s mercy, by which He is giving ‘opportunity for salvation’ to those who can’t be saved?! And the gospel being preached to the doomed non-elect stems from God’s ‘mercy toward unbelievers’ flowing from the Cross?” (What Love is This?, p.192)

One Calvinist explains: “...God has a special relationship with the believer that He doesn’t have with the non-believer. That special relationship is sealed in predestination and election and then manifested in the effectual calling and regenerating faith that is visibly exercised. And we can clearly see this truth all throughout Scripture - from Genesis to Revelation.”

However, we do not see “this truth” at 1st Timothy 4:10 because it is 100% imported by the Calvinist. The text simply doesn’t explain the part about “especially of believers” being in terms of a by-product of “predestination and election and then manifested in the effectual calling and regenerating faith.” The Calvinist is simply taking the sum total of their proof-texts from Genesis to Revelation and importing it into the text and pronouncing their conclusion. If you instead read this verse in light of John 3:16, you might just as easily conclude that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son Jesus (i.e. God is the Savior of all men), that whosoever believes in Him, will not perish (i.e. God is the Savior especially of believers, since only believers receive the benefit of the gift of His Son.) In other words, the part about “especially of believers” might simply refer to the beneficiaries of a general atonement. Calvinists, as you can see, are forced into importing theological baggage, not to mention what the proper meaning of “all men” does to Calvinism, when compared with 1st Timothy 2:4.

I agree with Parture’s conclusions in the YouTube video. 

Here is a Blog discussion on 1st Timothy 4:10.