“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV).
1 Timothy 2:3-4 presents us with a challenging question: “If God wants everyone to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, then why do ‘unsaved’ human beings exist?” At first glance, this seems like a question with serious implications. For instance, this seems to imply that God must not be the all-powerful Being He claims to be if He desires something that He cannot (or does not) obtain.
Scholars and commentators have addressed this question by focusing upon the word “all” as it appears here in 1 Timothy 2:4…
“Here is a particular place where the word all has to be clearly understood. It does not mean ‘all without exception.’ It means ‘all without distinction,’ without bias toward anybody. All kinds of people might be saved. There are no human barriers to men and women coming to God. It does not matter what the color of your skin is, what your social class, your background, may be, your national origin or the state of your heart, how bad you have been, etc. Paul stresses that there are no distinctions. God desires all kinds of people to be saved.” (1)
“On a human level, we can certainly say that God desires all men to be saved. There is no one in such high authority that they don’t need salvation in Jesus. However, from a divine perspective, we understand there is a sense in which we can not say that God desires all men to be saved – otherwise, either all men would automatically be saved, or God would not have left an element of human response in the gospel. God’s desire for all men to be saved is conditioned by His desire to have a genuine response from human beings. He won’t fulfill His desire to save all men at the expense of making men robots that worship Him from simply being programmed to do so.” (2)
“The Good News has a universal scope; it is not directed only to people of one race, one sex, or one national background. God loves the whole world and sent his Son to save sinners. No one is outside God’s mercy or beyond the reach of his offer of salvation.” (3)
So while some may wish to exclude others from joining God’s family through faith in Christ, this passage corrects that view by informing us that God desires “…all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (ESV).
(1) Excerpted with permission from The First Thing — Prayer © 1981 by Ray Stedman Ministries. All rights reserved. Visit www.RayStedman.org for the complete library of Ray Stedman material. Please direct any questions to webmaster@RayStedman.org https://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/timothy/the-first-thing–prayer
(2) Guzik, Dave, 1 Timothy 2 – Instructions For Public Worship, (3-4) The goal of prayer for all men: That they would be saved, https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-timothy-2/
(3) Life Application Study Bible NKJV [1 Timothy 2:4] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.