Does God Desire All to Be Saved?

Posted: October 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

PiperBookJohn Piper is my favorite preacher and Bible teacher. That comes as no surprise to those who know me. I have devoured Piper books, sermons, and interviews over the years and have been deeply impacted by what God has taught me through him. One of the most significant impacts on my life from the ministry of Pastor John is his explanation of divine sovereignty and human responsibility in regard to salvation. I am forever grateful that he has helped me to see that Calvinism is deeply biblical and completely compatible with human choice (rightly understood, of course).

The  texts that seem to be problem text for Calvinistic theology are dealt with time and again by Pastor John in both his seminars and his books. He does not shy away from texts that seem to present problems for the Calvinist. Instead, since he desires to let the Bible drive his theology, he meets every text head on and digs to see what they mean. And if a text ever rendered Calvinism untenable, I have no doubts that Pastor John would abandon his Calvinism in favor of whatever position the Bible required. I hope that I would do the same.

One text that seems to be incompatible with Calvinism is 1 Timothy 2:4. This text clearly says that God “desires all to be saved.” That these words are present within the Bible means we must deal with them. It is what these words mean that we must determine. Texts must be interpreted contextually and in a way that does not contradict other passages. For instance, James says that we are not saved by faith alone (James 2:24). Yet, Paul says we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-10); that our justification is by faith alone (Rom 5:1); etc. So, at first glance we see that James could be contradicting Pauline theology. Yet, because we hold to the presupposition that the Bible will never contradict itself because it is the Word of God, and thus is not contradictory, then we must look for other plausible explanations.

This is how we have to approach 1 Timothy 2:24. In my opinion, there is an overwhelming amount of textual support for Calvinistic understanding of the doctrine of election (read Ephesians 1!). And yet, there are passages like 1 Timothy 2:24 that make me stop and think. How do we understand these two ideas?

Pastor John has written this book to help us wrestle. Part of the book will talk about the two-wills of God. I first encountered this idea in the appendix of The Pleasures of GodUnderstanding the two wills of God has been tremendously helpful in terms of thinking through these issues. No doubt, the book will be heavily exegetical as Piper seeks to build his conclusions on solid exegesis.

This are hard issues. But the wrestling is worth it. I pray that many will read works like his and continue to dig into the Word of God and let what God has said drive the theological positions that you hold.

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