Published: 6 June 2022

Did Jesus Die For Everyone?

Did Jesus Die For Everyone

Who can be saved? Did Jesus die for everyone? These are the questions Paul is dealing with at the beginning of 1 Timothy 2. Paul summarized the problems in Ephesus in the first chapter. He now transitions to the correction of these problems. First among them was to correct the notion about which people were eligible for salvation.

At first glance, it seems that vv. 1-7 are about praying. If we aren’t observant, we might think that Paul is simply encouraging people to pray. This is actually not the case. Paul’s concern is that someone was teaching the Ephesians that the gospel is not for everyone. 

God desires for all people to be saved

Four times in vv. 1-7 Paul indicates that Christians are to pray for all people (vv. 1, 2, 4, 6). Paul’s emphasis in this regard suggests that the opponents were teaching that salvation was not for all people. Paul’s command to pray for all is countering the claims of his opponents. They may have reasoned that if there is someone who God would not save, why pray for them? 

“It would appear that Paul’s opponents are teaching an exclusive gospel that offers salvation only to a select few, and this exclusivism is made clear by their practice of praying for only certain people. This would be expected from an overemphasis on the law (cf 1:7).”[1]Mounce, William D. Word Biblical Commentary, Pastoral Epistles, Vol 46, Nelson, 2000, 321.

As a result, Paul’s instructions are not encouragements to pray, but who to pray for. Therefore, Christians must pray for Gentiles, including kings and those in power, because God will save all of these people if they will turn to Him. 

Galatian heresy?

We don’t know the exact nature of the heresy being taught in Ephesus concerning this question of eligibility for salvation. We know that Paul’s opponents in Ephesus were fond of teaching things about the law; things which they didn’t have an understanding of (1 Tim 1:7). It’s possible they were teaching something akin to the Galatian heresy.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians concerned the uselessness of law keeping as it pertained to salvation. An influential minority among the very earliest believers in Jesus taught that unless a Gentile believer was circumcised and kept the law of Moses he could not be saved (Act 15:1-5). What we typically fail to realize is that what this minority was actually demanding was for Gentile disciples to convert to Judaism.

Jerusalem council

Soon after Gentiles started becoming followers of Jesus, the apostles and elders of the church met in Jerusalem to settle this matter. In Acts 15 we can read about the outcome of this debate. Through the guidance of the Scriptures, the influence of the Holy Spirit, and by observing what God was doing amongst the Gentiles, they reached a conclusion. Namely, the Gentiles do not have to convert to Judaism in order to be saved. Their verdict was that God was the savior of Gentiles as well as Jews. The Jews were not the exclusive recipients of God’s loving kindness. 

The very foundation of the gospel is that it is now, and always has been, for all people

Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians to address the unbiblical and anti-gospel teaching that keeping the Old Testament law was required to be saved. This Judaizing influence was a big problem in the early church. Is this the problem Paul is addressing in Ephesus? We can’t say for sure, but it sounds like it was similar at the very least. 

One mediator between God and men

That fact that there is only one mediator for all men (1 Tim 2:5) and that the Mediator gave Himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim 2:6) is additional evidence that all are eligible for salvation. Because there is only one Mediator, there is no one else the Gentiles can look to for salvation other than Christ.

Additionally, Jesus gave Himself for all because God “desires all people to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4). Contrary to what the Ephesians were learning from Paul’s opponents, God does not reject any penitent person who comes to Him in faith. A person’s ethnicity does not matter to God. The very reason the Jewish people existed was so that, through them, God might be a blessing to all the nations (Gen 12:1-3). 

Likewise, contrary to a modern teaching, God does not select some individuals for salvation while rejecting others. God has made a way for all people to be saved. His invitation is to all people. However, God leaves the choice of whether to accept His offer up to us. Paul’s words could not be more clear. God wishes for all to be saved. Jesus died as a ransom for all. Did Jesus die for everyone? Paul says that He did!

“I am telling the truth, I am not lying”

Evidently, Paul’s claim that he was an apostle to the Gentiles was scandalous to some. Therefore, he doubled down on his affirmation by asserting the truth of his mission. His God given mission was to the Gentiles. 

This is in spite of what the false teachers in Ephesus claimed. If an Ephesian believed some people couldn’t be saved (Gentiles?) they would have had a hard time believing Paul’s God given assignment was to preach to the Gentiles. Anyone who believed that some people were beyond the grace of God were certainly in error.

The essence of the Gospel

The very foundation of the gospel is that it is now, and always has been, for all people. In Genesis 12, God did not promise that He would only save Abraham’s descendants. Any teaching which says only some people can be saved is not the gospel at all (Gal 1:6-9). God’s goal from the beginning was to bless all the nations. God accomplished this through Abraham’s most important descendant, Jesus of Nazareth. Did Jesus die for everyone? He most certainly did!

References

References
1 Mounce, William D. Word Biblical Commentary, Pastoral Epistles, Vol 46, Nelson, 2000, 321.