“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4, NKJV).
In this verse in 1 Timothy, a declaration is made about God’s heart and desire towards mankind. However, when you look at the world around us you may wonder, is it true that God desires all men to be saved? While we have proclaimed this for generations, is this still true in this generation?
Gladly you will find the answer is still yes. This is God’s desire, but knowing this is not enough. Since this statement is true it creates a responsibility in those who are believers. As we dive deeper into this verse, keep this thought in mind. Are you willing to accept the responsibility that comes with God’s desire for all men to be saved?
What Does This Verse Mean?
This verse was written by the Apostle Paul to the young pastor Timothy who was pastoring the church in Ephesus. (For reference refer to 1 Timothy 1:3). What is interesting about this statement Paul makes in 1 Timothy 2:4 – that God desires all men to be saved – is what we read in the verses that proceed it.
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4, NKJV).
As you look closely at this passage, there is something that jumps out that is hard to overlook – the connection between prayer and the promotion and advancement of the gospel. The words in this passage are clear, it is true God desires all men to be saved. What is also true is the role prayer in the church plays in spreading the gospel.
We cannot casually gloss over that praying for all men and praying for all those in authority can position us to be more effective in sharing the gospel. The reason this happens is because prayer sharpens and refocuses our hearts, leading us to live peaceable lives filled with godliness and reverence. When we live in this fashion, we create open doors and avenues for the gospel to be introduced. Is there any wonder this is good and acceptable in God’s sight?
To live like this means we make Jesus attractive and cause people to inquire about this Jesus. When we live opposite of this, it paints a picture of Jesus that is foreign to the Bible, and it drives people away. We simply cannot ignore the connection between the way the followers of Christ live and the impact the gospel has in society.
Does God Desire All People to Be Saved?
It is clear from the Scriptures that God desires all people to be saved. This is not just mentioned in 1 Timothy, but something very similar is mentioned in 2 Peter.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
I don’t think there needs to be a debate over whether it is God’s desire for all people to be saved. What can creep into people’s thoughts is, “What about truly evil people?” While on the surface this can seem like a very logical question, there is a recognition missing from it. There is an assumption that somehow God may not be interested in reaching the truly evil person. This is simply not true. Let’s not forget all of us are sinners and undeserving of God’s salvation, yet he saved us. Also, history is filled with evil people who have come to a saving relationship in Jesus Christ. One of them was the writer of the book of Timothy, the Apostle Paul himself. Here is what he said in his own words:
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
God not only can save evil people, that is why he came. Over time God has shown the ability to demonstrate what saving grace is all about. Taking those who are the worst of sinners and making them trophies of his abundant grace. This gives hope that if God can save that person, then there is hope for you, me, and everyone else. No one is beyond his reach.
Why Aren't All People Saved Then?
Another very logical question to consider if God desires all men to be saved is – why aren’t they? The answer is simple. God gives everyone the freedom to choose. Though God desires all men to be saved, he will not force all men to be saved. He gives them the offer and the opportunity, but he allows them to decide if they want to receive it or not.
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
What Does This Verse Teach about God's Character?
This verse in Timothy gives us insight into God’s heart. The entire Bible is filled with Scriptures that speak to how much God loves humanity. One of the most famous is John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
This is just one verse that aligns with 1 Timothy 2:4 and reveals God’s character. Because God desires all men to be saved, he made a way for it to happen. In other words, he didn’t just talk about it, he did something about it. God’s desire all along was to be in fellowship with man, but he recognized our sinful condition prevented that from happening. To remedy that situation, he sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin and provide a way for all men to be saved.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 1:9-10).
This all points to God’s character and is proof of the length of his love and his desire for all men to be saved.
What to Do Now
What do you do with this desire that is abundant in God’s heart? This is where your responsibility comes into play. This desire that fills God’s heart should fill yours too. If we are going to be reflections of his character, then we too should desire that all men be saved. All means all. If his love is truly shed abroad in your heart, then you won’t see people as lost causes, beyond his reach, or not worth going after. When his love permeates your heart, you will never stop reaching for those who don’t know Christ.
I am issuing a challenge that we as believers would be the type of people that are full of prayer and who lead godly, reverent lives. Let’s not do it just because it is the right thing to do, but let’s do it so we can shine a huge spotlight on just how wonderful Jesus is. When we do, we will show people the true Jesus and potentially win more people to him. As Paul said, this is good and acceptable to God our Savior who desires all men to be saved.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Ruben Earth
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.