“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 NIV).
In considering this passage, we now come to what we might describe as a contrast of the wills. For instance, the Biblical book of 2 Peter tells us that the Lord is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Yet Romans 9:18 also says, “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (see also Romans 9:14-23).
We can make sense of these passages if we consider them as they relate to everyday human experience. For example, one person might express his or her will to stay in bed at the beginning of the work week. However, he or she may also possess a contrasting will that involves earning a paycheck in order to buy food, pay bills, and purchase the things that he or she enjoys. In this instance, the will to earn a living usually exceeds the will to stay in bed on Monday morning.
In a small way, this serves to illustrate the apparent dichotomy between these passages. On one hand, God wants all human beings to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Thus, there are those who serve as objects of His mercy. On the other hand, we can say that God also wills to display His justice, holiness, and righteousness. Thus, those who reject Him are objects of His wrath.
The New Testament book of Romans illustrates each of these concepts…
“In the same way, even though God has the right to show His anger and His power, He is very patient with those on whom His anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of His glory shine even brighter on those to whom He shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory” (Romans 9:22-23 NLT).
Finally, we should note the element of human volition involved in this contrast of the wills. We can turn to the gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry as an illustration. For instance, Jesus made an important statement followed by an equally important question: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Yet as Jesus also said to the religious leaders of His day, “…you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:40).