As we have been looking at “Ten Steps to Spirituality,” one particular verse merits a bit more attention from us. How are we to understand this verse which says, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”
If taken in a literal sense, if God is “the Savior of all men,” then universalism seems to be taught here. But that would contradict all the other Pauline passages which teach that some will be eternally lost.
Another possibility is that “Savior of all men” is meant in a broad sense, but that He is the Savior of believers in a more particular and special sense. Some Arminian believers suggest that the text is teaching that Christ has paid the penalty for sin for every human being, that He is the potential Savior for those who believe.
One writer suggests that the word “all” has several nuances, depending on the context and usage. How did the Apostle use the term “all” (pas in Greek)? James White says that sometimes “all” means “many,” but “many” never means “all.” “All” denotes “all types” or “all kinds.” Paul writes in I Timothy 6:10 that money is the “root of all (pas) evil.” Is that really true? Was money the motivator in the Garden of Eden? Is money always the cause of murder? Do people commit adultery because they love money so much? Most modern translations render I Timothy 6:10 as “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”
The Apostle Paul had a specific ministry to the Gentiles, so perhaps the idea here is that He is the Savior to more than the Jews. He is the Savior of all men of every ethnic and cultural background [who believe]. Revelation 7:9 speaks of there being those whom God has redeemed from “every kindred, tribe, tongue, and race” before the Throne. Some would argue that Paul’s use of the word “world” may have the same meaning in some passages, that is, not everyone without exception, but the whole world of humans without distinction.
Our verse reads: “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” Let’s think about that term “especially.” The Greek word malista has the idea of “chiefly” or “most of all.” One translation suggests that Paul is saying that Jesus is the Savior of a specific subset of “all humanity”, that is, He’s the Savior of “believers.”
So,as one writer puts it, the text is saying: “We have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all types of men (as opposed to Israelites exclusively), that is (or, particularly) those who believe.”
Christ is the Savior to all — to uncircumcised Gentiles and every type of human on the planet. His salvation is fully effective only to those who believe have faith in Christ’s finished work.
Paul also says in I Timothy 2, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” (I Timothy 2:5-8).
Thank God for His Son, the Savior of all who believe!
[Thanks to Jim McClarty and his work found at: http://www.salvationbygrace.org/uc/sub/qaprint.aspx?qa=114&local=11a for some of this material.]