1 Timothy 2:3-4
An enormous degree of insight about our great God can be gleaned from these verses as regards His gracious and merciful desire. They don’t say that He desires only those whom He has predestined to be saved, although some would insist this to be the case. They, in order to harmonize in their minds their understanding of God’s eternal purposes in predestination, contend that the “all” does not mean all of mankind, but refers to “all” of the elect, or men from “all” the nations, tongues, tribes, and time periods.
Others, simply reject the idea that God, at His pleasure, would only chose some for salvation, and purposely pass over others. They acknowledge “election”, but insist that God only elects someone solely on the basis of what He sees when He looks down the corridor of time to observe how a particular person responds to the gospel. If God sees one believing, then He chooses him. They maintain, therefore, that every man has an equal opportunity, or possibility to be saved, and in this way they harmonize for themselves the “all men” in our verses.
But God’s word makes it very clear that it is God who does the choosing of some for salvation. The Apostle Paul wrote regarding election, “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” (Romans 9:16) We also read, “As many as received Him (Christ), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
Charles Spurgeon wrote concerning our verses, “‘All men,’ say they, ‘that is, some men’, as if the Holy Ghost could not have said ‘some men’ if He had meant some men. ‘All men,’ say they, ‘that is, some of all sorts of men’, as if the Lord could not have said ‘All sorts of men’ if He had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written ‘all men,’ and unquestionably He means all men… My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture”.
And so we are faced on the one hand with the great truth of God’s merciful and gracious election of some for salvation, and yet on the other hand with the truth of His sincere desire that all men be saved. We see this comprehensive love in Christ Jesus who, “when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) When the rich young ruler mistakenly attempted to justify himself to Jesus by stating that he had kept the law, we read the poignant statement that, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” (Mark 10:21) We further read that he went away from Jesus “sorrowful”, and for all we know, he never believed, and yet there was a sincere compassion in Jesus towards him.
A very dramatic expression of the love of God for fallen man occurred when Jesus came into Jerusalem and, “saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!” (Luke 19:41-42) He knew full well the severe judgment that would be poured out on the people for their rejection of the Messiah, and yet Jesus experienced a sincere pity, compassion, and love for them, desiring them to be spared.
Do we not see something of the mystery of this divine love and compassion mirrored in our human experience? What truly loving parent enjoys disciplining their child? They do it because the child willfully has disobeyed and is deserving of punishment. But their sincere and heartfelt desire is for the child to obey so that they might embrace them in love. Our loving and good Creator is perfectly just in judging all mankind, and yet genuinely desires all mankind to be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ. Therefore, all who do not respond to this gracious and sincere offer of forgiveness can only ultimately blame themselves with their stubborn willful refusals.
But none would respond if God did not intervene. As such, the mercy and grace of God is magnified in that He mercifully changes some so that they are not only enabled to come to Him in tears, humility, confession, repentance, and faith, but they are made willing. Praise be to God!
How should you respond to these truths? Should not this truth of God’s sincere love, coupled with His gracious election drive you to your knees in awe, humility, and thanksgiving that so great a mercy has been shown to you, if in fact you are a true believer? Should not you who have experienced this absolutely undeserved favor and mercy be one who exhibits the same in your dealings with fallen mankind around you?
Don’t attempt to try and fully resolve what might appear to be conflicting truths, God’s election of some, and yet His sincere free offer of the gospel to all men. Remember, “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” (Romans 11:34) We are mere creatures, and fallen at that, with puny and corrupted understandings. Instead, be like the Apostle Paul who wrote, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20)