"We have our hope set on the Living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially those who
- I Timothy 4:10
I come to this verse today because it is one of those trump verses claimed by Arminians. By "trump verse," I mean, not anything to do with Donald Trump, but as in cards, where a trump beats any other card played in the game. This is a trump verse because Arminians believe that citing it overcomes anything in Scripture that a Calvinist can cite regarding the particularity of the atonement.
If you have followed this blog (or by clicking on the "limited atonement" tag at the bottom of this post), then you know that I hold, along with my fellow orthodox Calvinists, that Jesus died effectually for the church, the elect of all ages (see, e. g., Eph. 5:25, Rev. 13:8). I emphatically deny that there will be or can be anyone in Hell for whom Christ died (by which I do not endorse universal salvation).
In contrast, Arminians hold to a universal intent for the atonement, i. e., that Jesus died on the cross for every human being equally. However, they deny that the atonement is necessarily effectual for anyone. In other words, they hold that it was hypothetically possible that not a single person would ever have been redeemed by the death of Christ. In addition, everyone in Hell was also equally included in the intention of the atonement. How can that be understood in any way other than as an assertion that the atonement, at least in the case of some, was insufficient and failed? Or that salvation is by Jesus plus something else? That is a denial of the Reformation principle of solus christus. Such a concept is repugnant to me.
The verse above is often cited in support of the Arminian view, because Paul describes Jesus as "the Savior of all people." However, I deny that it means "of all people in the same sense." To interpret it that way is an unwarranted and unbiblical leap of logic.
I have discussed this before, though not regarding this particular verse. Jesus is not here said to save all people, but rather to be the Savior of all people. That is, Jesus is the only savior to whom men can look to save us from sin and death. In other words, Paul is asserting nothing more than Peter did in Acts 4:12: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under given among men by which we must be saved." Or as the Prophet said in Isaiah 45:22: "Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other." Jesus alone holds the office of Savior, whether one is in China, the United States, or anywhere else on the earth, or in any period of time!
When the application of the atonement is described in Scripture, it is by the verb "to save." For example, Matthew 1:21: "You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Notice that Matthew doesn't say "might save" or "will offer salvation." That's because His atonement is effectual; it actually saves everyone for whom it was made. As I said above, there is not and never can be anyone in Hell for whom Christ died. That's why we have the last portion of Paul's assertion in the verse above: "especially those who believe." Why "especially"? Because for us, and for us alone, He holds, not just the office of Savior, but is the One who saves us!
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