What has gone on before...
Paul has urged Timothy to remain at Ephesus as pastor, warning him to expect opposition from some in the church who use the Law of God unlawfully, swerving away from love, searing their consciences and controlling others. The first priority, according to Paul, was to pray: in supplication, with discipline, as intercession, and with thanksgiving.
"This 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 2:3-4 (ESV)
"This" refers to a peaceful, quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
"This" is salvation.
Being saved means knowing the truth about ourselves and God. This knowledge brings peace, freedom from conflict and fear. It allows quiet meditation and contemplation without fear of rejection or punishment. Salvation creates the desire to adore goodness. Salvation restores human dignity, worthy of respect and admiration. Salvation defeats death, restoring eternal life with our Creator.
SAVED: sozo (to deliver or protect); from sos ("safe")
People in need of deliverance or protection are people facing a threat, people who are in danger of being harmed, people who have lost their way.
The first chapter of Paul's letter to Timothy described sin that is common to all people, sin that we all express in big or small ways.
Heresy, lack of love, impure hearts, seared consciences, insincere faith, worthlessness, ignorance, lawlessness, disobedience, ungodliness, unholiness, profanity, assault and murder, sexual immorality, homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, blasphemy, persecution and insolent opposition...all of this, and more, condemns humans as sinful creatures.
Sin makes shipwreck of our lives on earth, destroying joy and peace, ruining relationships and stealing wealth and property.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Does all sin necessarily bring trouble and pain? What about "Nice people finish last?" What about "comfortable sin"? What about "unavoidable sin"? Solomon complained bitterly about wealthy, happy sinners who ended their life without regret.
Sin reaches beyond our natural life, condemning us to a spiritual death, eternity apart from God and His goodness.
"You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)
"There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil." Romans 2:9 (ESV)
"Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin." Mark 3:29 (ESV)
Sin - disobedience and dishonor, adoring creatures rather than the Creator - ruins our heart for God. We become His enemy.
Yet God loves us still.
"God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." Romans 5:8-11 (ESV)
"God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." John 3:16-17 (ESV)
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Can you determine whether your conversion to Christianity was based upon a desire for a happy, trouble-free, sinless life here on earth, or a desire for the joy and perfection of heaven?
Who will be saved?
God desires all people to be saved.
ALL: pas (all, any every, the whole)
Does "all" mean all?
The news of the birth of a king in Bethlehem troubled Herod, "and all Jerusalem with him". (Matthew 2:3)
All, except the wise men who had first brought the news. All, except the infants in Jerusalem who were too young to understand. All, except those born deaf, and those who didn't get out much. All, except the Romans, who didn't care what Jews believed or feared.
"All", (pas) appears to have implied limits or conditions.
There is another word that means "all":
ALL: holos ("whole" or "all", complete)
"Holos" means one thing, one complete, whole thing. That one thing may be made of many different parts, but many of the parts may be hidden, or uncounted. An exact accounting of each part is not required in order to speak of the whole thing.
"He [Jesus] went throughout all ("holos") Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom." Matthew 4:23 (ESV)
It would not be necessary for Jesus to enter every house, and every room in every house, before saying that He had been throughout "all" Galilee. "Holos" allows the definition of "all" to mean "all the main parts" of Galilee, excluding each and every house, hut or closet.
"Pas", on the other hand, emphasizes specific parts that belong to one thing. Often, that one thing is implied or unspoken, and it frequently involves some limit or condition. Matthew 4:23 continues, using "pas" for "every":
"...healing every ("pas") disease and every ("pas") affliction among the people." Matthew 4:23 (ESV)
Perhaps not every disease or affliction was presented to Jesus, yet every disease or affliction that was presented, was healed. It's reasonable to expect some people ignored Jesus, not believing in His power to heal...their disease would not be included in "every". It's reasonable to expect that there would be minor disease or affliction that would be ignored by someone suffering from something major: the blind man with an arthritic knee would be overjoyed by regaining sight, forgetting the pain in his knee.
The unspoken limit or condition in this instance is "every disease and affliction that was brought to Jesus for healing".
This verse uses both forms of "all". The first, "holos" requires us to consider the one thing, "Galilee", without consideration of every specific town or region withing Galilee. The second, "pas", requires us to consider a wide variety of parts, "disease and affliction", with the unspoken condition of "those brought to Jesus for healing".
We have the same situation in English. "I washed the whole car, all of it!" This places the emphasis upon the one thing: the car, the visible, major portion of the car. No one would expect me to have washed the spark plugs, the carburetor, the exhaust pipe. This would be our usage of "holos".
On the other hand, we may say "I washed all the dishes last night!" This places the emphasis upon many parts, but it would not necessarily include the dishes already clean and stacked in the cabinet. It would not include the dishes of my next-door neighbor. There is an implied condition that limits "all" to an understood location or condition. This is our usage of "pas".
"Pas" refers to things that are part of an implied or unspecific whole, with a limit or condition to which parts should be considered.
"Holos" refers to one thing, made up of implied or unspecific parts. The parts are not important, only the whole.
"He can't see the forest for the trees".
"Forest" would be "holos", and "trees" would be "pas".
One more example:
"This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole ("holos") world as a testimony to all ("pas") nations." Matthew 24:14 (ESV)
Matthew first speaks of the world as a thing, made up of unspecified, unaccounted parts. He wants us to picture the world as one huge rock covered with land, water and people, without consideration of each and every river, town, or house.
Then, he draws attention to the parts that make up the world, but there is a condition or limit to the parts. Matthew is speaking only of the parts that are considered "nations", and he is not speaking of each and every person who may make up the nations.
Back to our beginning verse: God "desires all ("pas") people to be saved." (1 Timothy 2:1)
Paul is speaking of the parts that make up an unspecified whole. By using "pas", Paul is implying that there is a limit or condition to "all people".
What is the condition?
The distinction between to words for "all" may be interesting, and it may provide some support for the doctrines of predestination and election. Far more convincing, or perplexing, are portions of Scripture that more clearly describe the limits or conditions of salvation.
"I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." Exodus 33:19 (ESV)
"Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass?" 2 Kings 19:25 (ESV)
"But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does." Job 23:13 (ESV)
"The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble." Proverbs 16:4 (ESV)
"I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps." Psalms 135:5-6 (ESV)
"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." John 6:37 (ESV)
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." John 6:44 (ESV)
"You did not choose me, but I chose you." John 15:16 (ESV)
"I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours." John 17:9 (ESV)
God is sovereign.
He is all-powerful. He is perfectly wise and good. His desires cannot be frustrated. All that He desires comes to pass.
God desires that all people be saved, all that he has chosen.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is this a hard saying for you? What is the other side of the argument? Why do you suppose it is that God allows such a paradox, that He created the world, and He loves the world, but He determines some people will never be saved?