Episode 16: To Desire or Not to Desire

7 thoughts on “Episode 16: To Desire or Not to Desire”

  1. Here is a sermon by Edwards on 1 Tim 2:5, but he briefly comments on v4 as ” the Enforcemt of this Exhortation which is taken from the Extensiveness of the mercy of G. through X it Extends to all sorts Jews & Gentiles & therefore the apostle would have them pray to G. & seek his mercy for all For this is good & acceptable in the sight.”



    1. Thanks for the Edwards quote. But yeah, if Edwards believes that Paul is talking about sorts of men, to the exclusion of all within those categories falling within the purview of God’s desire, then I would have to say that the good doctor is wrong πŸ™‚

      I like the rhetorical flourish of our good friend, Mr. Spurgeon:

      β€œIt is quite certain that when we read that God will have all men to be saved it does not mean that he wills it with the force of a decree or a divine purpose, for, if he did, then all men would be saved. He willed to make the world, and the world was made: he does not so will the salvation of all men, for we know that all men will not be saved. Terrible as the truth is, yet is it certain from holy writ that there are men who, in consequence of their sin and their rejection of the Savior, will go away into everlasting punishment, where shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. There will at the last be goats upon the left hand as well as sheep on the right, tares to be burned as well as wheat to be garnered, chaff to be blown away as well as corn to be preserved. There will be a dreadful hell as well as a glorious heaven, and there is no decree to the contrary.

      What then? Shall we try to put another meaning into the text than that which it fairly bears? I trow not. You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. “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. I know how to get rid of the force of the “alls” according to that critical method which some time ago was very current, but I do not see how it can be applied here with due regard to truth. I was reading just now the exposition of a very able doctor who explains the text so as to explain it away; he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it. I thought when I read his exposition that it would have been a very capital comment upon the text if it had read, “Who will not have all men to be saved, nor come to a knowledge of the truth.” Had such been the inspired language every remark of the learned doctor would have been exactly in keeping, but as it happens to say, “Who will have all men to be saved,” his observations are more than a little out of place. My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God. I never thought it to be any very great crime to seem to be inconsistent with myself; for who am I that I should everlastingly be consistent? But I do think it a great crime to be so inconsistent with the word of God that I should want to lop away a bough or even a twig from so much as a single tree of the forest of Scripture. God forbid that I should cut or shape, even in the least degree, any divine expression. So runs the text, and so we must read it, “God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

      Does not the text mean that it is the wish of God that men should be saved? The word “wish” gives as much force to the original as it really requires, and the passage should run thus — “whose wish it is that all men should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” As it is my wish that it should be so, as it is your wish that it might be so, so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, he is not less benevolent than we are.”




  2. The issue is not whether God desires the salvation of men or not. This is obvious from the plain language of the text.

    The question for this text is the universal referent to men; “ALL men” in relation to what? This desire of God for the salvation of all is the justification for why Paul would have Timothy instruct the church to pray for all men, especially those in authority over all men so that there will be a decrease in authoritative hindrances to the Gospel.

    Paul adds that this praying for all men is good and acceptable in God’s sight, which means that there must have been some question about the appropriateness of praying for “all men”. This makes more sense in light of the church not only praying for the church, but for the world, and for those having responsibilities of ruling in the world, most commonly pagan Gentiles.

    Paul then tells Timothy why it is appropriate in God’s sight, because He desires the salvation of all men. Now you may read this in a “hypothetical universal” context, but you cannot ignore that Paul then expresses how God has purposed His salvation to come to these “all men”. He (1) applies the Shema to both Jew and Gentile, (2) the ransom for both Jew and Gentile (now revealed in the coming of the Mediator), and (3) the Gospel ministry to both Jew and Gentile.

    Truly, Paul is not dealing here with God’s decree, predestination, election, or secret will, but these doctrines are being read into and imposed upon the text (which, by the way, Austin makes the same mistake of reading into John 3 also). Rather, Paul is strengthening the church to petition God for the salvation of all, even those who appear unlikely to receive Christ, by the universal mission and call to all the world.

    Thanks for the discussion. Men much more able and articulate than I have given us much to consider from this text. And I still believe that Reformed Orthodoxy is able to sufficiently articulate what appear to us to be 2 wills of God (Deut 29:29).


    1. Thanks for the reply, Shawn (This is Austin). Just want to reiterate that I do not think Paul is talking about predestination, election, or secret will, for if God willed or desired it in that respect, all men would then be infallibly saved… which I don’t believe is/will be the case.


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