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So this verse puzzles me:

1 Timothy 4:10, ESV: For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

What did Paul mean by saying that God is the savior of all people and especially those who believe? How does being a believer make him more of a savior than he already is?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Flimzy, curiousdannii, fredsbend, David Stratton Jan 16 '15 at 15:07

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    Scoping, dude. Scoping. What tradition do you want to hear from? This is a controversial verse. Do you want to hear the Lutheran explanation? Reformed? Methodist? ..... – Mr. Bultitude Jan 15 '15 at 17:00
  • @Mr.Bultitude Hah. I'm trying. Suggestions appreciated. I didn't think that believer/non-believer/savior were ambiguous terms amongst denominations. – LCIII Jan 15 '15 at 17:11
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    Not exactly. But the reformed tend to understand it as being that Christ's sacrifice is the basis of common grace for all men and special grace for believers. Lutherans and Methodists tend to think of it more along the lines of Christ's sacrifice making salvation available to all men, and effective for believers. It's a verse I'd like to understand better myself, but definitely a controversial one. – Mr. Bultitude Jan 15 '15 at 17:16
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    This has far too many presumptions and is too doctrinally loaded for BH as written. I'm not sure it's okay here either but I can't migrate as is. – Caleb Jan 16 '15 at 4:21
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    I guess it doesn't matter if this gets migrated, as it would be a duplicate of Those who believe are “especially” saved? anyway. – curiousdannii Jan 21 '15 at 13:50
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Just one week back I encountered the same question in my personal meditation.

I think the key is in understanding the term Saviour.

Saviour to all men: Originally all men ought to have been destroyed in Adam when he sinned. The Bible says,

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8

So the reason why this world was allowed to continue was because of the fact that the Jesus took it upon Himself to save the human race. I Peter 1:18-21 clarifies it further.

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. I Peter 1:18-21

So the fact that the world is continuing, that food is growing, that animals are living is all thanks to Christ. So God in Christ is the saviour to all men in giving them a probationary time to choose what they want.

Especially of those that believe: This refers to people who have made the choice to stand in the side of Christ, to accept Christ as the Son of God, believing on His name thereby becoming Sons and Daughters of God themselves:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: John 1:12

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I think Paul is saying that Jesus is the saviour of all people. I don't think that the word "all" needs to be qualified in any way.

There are other "all" verses which help support this. For example:

  • 1 John 2: 2 "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."

  • Rom 5:18 "Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people."

  • 1 Cor 15:28 "When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be All in all."

  • Col 1:19 "For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross."

I think that God wants all to be saved (1 Tim 2: 10) and is able to achieve it and eventually will do so.

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    I think that God wants all to be saved (1 Tim 2: 10) and is able to achieve it and eventually will do so. - Not biblically supported. – user13992 Jan 16 '15 at 20:37
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    @FMS I beg to differ. I can find plenty evidence in the Bible and a good few scholarly books that support my statement and a good few of the church fathers supported it too, like Gregory of Nicea and Origen to name a couple. – Michael Vincent Jan 19 '15 at 10:17
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It really isn't that confusing; What Paul is indicating is that God is the Savior of all people including those who came before Jesus, but he readily saves those who believe that Jesus Propitiated our sins.

Since millions of people lived and died before Jesus descended from Heaven and paid for the sins of all mankind God is also their Savior based on the sacrifice of his son. That saving grace extends to the past as well as to the future.

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Isn't God a Savior only to those who believe? What could Paul be getting at here?

This touches on a doctrine called "limited atonement" suggesting that Jesus died only for the sins of the elect. There are verses that seem not to support this view;

1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

If one considers a view of what might be called "unlimited atonment", it would not mean that everyone goes to heaven, but that the sins of everyone had been paid so that everyone has the potential to go to heaven.

God predestined some to have the grace necessary to accept what is offered to all.

Romans 8:29-30 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

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Jesus saves us from two kinds of death. All will be resurrected and overcome mortality, becoming immortal, thus triumphing over "Physical" death. But only those who believe on Christ and accept his atonement will overcome "Spiritual" death (separation from God) and be allowed to dwell with God, attaining eternal life.

And all will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel, whether in the body or in the spirit. We see in 1Peter 3:18-20:

18 For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 

19 By which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison; 

20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water

So we know that Jesus went and preached to "disobedient spirits" who had died in the time of Noah (He did this in the time between His crucifixion and His resurrection.) This means that those who died before Jesus came, who did not have the Gospel, will have an opportunity to choose salvation. Why else would he "preach" to spirits of the dead?

When Jesus said he wanted "all" to be saved (as mentioned by another answerer) He meant ALL. Not just those who heard His voice while He walked this earth, or those who heard it preached thereafter, but all souls who have ever lived. This includes those living and dying today in places where the Gospel is not yet preached.

  • I like where you're going. Can you provide some scriptural references? Also, can you show from scripture how God is described or inferred to be a Savior for even the dead, as I think you imply? – LCIII Jan 16 '15 at 13:49
  • First of all, despite the wording of your question, I believe Jesus is our Savior, not God. (Hopefully, that won't matter too much to understanding my response, but I just want to be clear on where I'm coming from.) I will look up some verses and expand my answer. – Brian Hitchcock Jan 17 '15 at 3:06

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