(1Ti 2:1) First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
(1Ti 2:2) for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
(1Ti 2:3) This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
(1Ti 2:4) who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
(1Ti 2:5) For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
(1Ti 2:6) who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
In the past I had “learned” how to explain this passage to people, because, it seems to say that Paul taught Timothy to pray for everyone (all people) and seems to say that God wants (wills/desires) everyone to be saved and seems to say that Christ Jesus died to ransom all people (save all people). But, I was taught that these things can’t be true because we know not everyone is going to be saved. We know some are going to hell and others to heaven. So I was taught to explain that what Paul REALLY means is that we are to pray for “all types” of people (James White, The Potter’s Freedom, misdirects his hearers by saying that Paul isn’t talking about holding 24/7 prayer meetings every week at church because that is just impractical. Therefore Paul doesn’t mean pray for all people but all types of people). Then Paul gives one type of people to pray for (kings and rulers) Then, I was taught, explain that God wanted all to be saved but man fell by sinning in the Garden and continues in rebellion (or His desire/wish is that all would be saved but many don’t want God and He won’t violate their free will or God desires that all the elect be saved and will save all the elect). And concerning Jesus, explain that He died for all but not all want Him, or that His sacrifice is capable of saving all, but many people choose the world rather than Jesus or that Jesus is the Savior of all the elect. These explanations were taught to me about what Paul REALLY meant by what he wrote.
One set of explanations says God wants/wishes all to be saved but won’t violate a person’s free will choice to choose God or not (Arminian view) and the other says that God will save all His elect and that is who Jesus died for only (Calvinist). I have held both these views in the past. Let’s think about these verses by just letting Paul speak to US, not our traditions speaking through Paul.
If we drop our presuppositions about what Paul REALLY meant, what are we left with? First, we are told that we are to pray for all people. If Paul in fact did mean ALL people, did he say we have to do that 24/7? IF we, and those around us in the family of God, interceded for ALL people, is that a bad thing? Does Paul expect that this will be all we will ever do? Are there any people you can think of that we shouldn’t pray for? I take Paul at his word and believe he meant that we should pray for all people, and the obvious thing is, as we are able to pray.
Then Paul tells us specifically a group to pray for and why we should pray for them. He lists kings and those in high positions. We know from Romans that we are to submit to authorities. From Jesus we know that we should bless those who curse us (persecute us, our enemies, etc. which during the 1st century, among others, would be the rulers who persecuted these new Christians). But, why pray for them? Paul doesn’t leave us wondering or leave us to figure it out for ourselves. He says we should pray for them so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
When we pray for all people do we pray for all of them for that specific purpose? No. Paul says pray for these ones because by so doing, those who rule over us may allow us to live peacefully and quietly. Pretty simple, it seems, so far. I haven’t had to add anything that isn’t in the text (what Paul REALLY means, catch my drift?)
Then Paul says if we do this, pray for all people and for kings and rulers, it is good and God is pleased. Paul then describes God and Jesus to Timothy. He says God desires (wills) that all be saved and come to knowledge of the truth. In every translation I have seen, none of them include the words “all types” or “all the elect.” Those ideas have to be imported into the text, and I would add, imported from tradition or theological bent rather than Scripture. Why, because elsewhere Paul talks about God reconciling all to himself (Col 1) and God becoming all in all (1 Cor 15) and God giving mercy to all in Rom 11:32 and all being justified in Rom 5:18. Is it then a stretch to believe that God wills that all be saved?
Finally Paul says that Jesus is the one and only mediator between God and mankind and that He gave himself a ransom for all. Again, Paul does not stipulate all “types” of people or all the “elect.” Paul does not say that Jesus is a ransom for all who choose to believe. Paul says Jesus is a ransom for all. I urge you to read the preceding texts I listed in the last paragraph.
What do you think about this? Let me know by adding a comment. Finally, which would you rather follow after? 1) a God who is wringing His hands hoping man, in his free will, will choose Him, or 2) a God who saves only those He has chosen and all the other ones, whom He made in His image, will perish in eternal fire, or 3) a God whose will, always comes to pass, who saves all of those created in His image, some through a purifying fire of judgment, others avoiding it, and One who is powerful to transform even the most hardened heart to one who willingly gives worship to the only true God? Which God is the Good News of great joy which will be to all the people?