“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:9-10).
1 Timothy 4:9 presents us with another of Paul the Apostle’s “faithful sayings.” Whether verse nine represents a fitting conclusion to the previous verse or prepares us for what follows, the effect remains unchanged: this phrase alerts us to something important.
For instance, if we look ahead to 1 Timothy 4:10 we find a statement that requires careful consideration: “…we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe” (HCSB). At first glance, this passage may seem to promote Universalism or the belief that everyone will ultimately find salvation. However, that doctrine does not align with the following Biblical verses…
“For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
“But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:5-11).
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29).
So if God is the Savior of everyone (as we’re told here in 1 Timothy 4:10) but some will be judged and condemned, then how are we to reconcile these passages? Perhaps the easiest way to understand this verse is to say that any human being who comes to God through faith in Christ will be accepted by Him for He is “…the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.”
We’ll survey a range of commentaries that will help us gain a fuller understanding of this passage next.