Bible - General Questions

'Christian Universalism'?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
In what sense is God "the Savior of all men" (1 Timothy 4:10)? Will all mankind eventually receive eternal life from His hand? If not, what does this passage actually mean?

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part one of a series

In what sense is God "the Savior of all men" (1 Timothy 4:10)? Will all mankind eventually receive eternal life from His hand? If not, what does this passage actually mean?

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 4:10)

Liberals' Theology of Universalism

Since as long ago as the late 1700s, many theological liberals have abused this verse, divorcing it from its context to teach a doctrine of universalism -- that a God of love would never condemn anyone to Hell, and therefore all roads must lead eventually to God, and all human beings will be saved. Thus they deny God the Son's own words to Nicodemus:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:16-21)

They also deny the words of John the Baptist which soon follow in the third chapter of John's Gospel:

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides [endures] on him. (John 3:36)

A New Mutation of an Old Heresy

In the 21st century, the historical theological liberals are not alone. A new but growing group that calls itself the "Concordant Scripture" movement has seized on this verse as well. The existence of this group illustrates the fact that one heresy often leads to another. Most leaders of this movement began as Hyper-dispensationalists, and subsequently mingled 19th-century universalist teachings into their horrific theology.1

As Peter warned, men such as these twist Scripture to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). This group teaches that 1 Timothy 4:10 supersedes the plain teaching of Hebrews 9:27 and other passages that there is no second chance after death, that "it is appointed for men once to die, but after this the judgment."

The "Concordant Scripture" movement, like some universalists before it, calls its doctrine "universal reconciliation." This relatively new group teaches that all those who do not receive Christ during this lifetime will do so eventually. They claim that men are sent to Hell only as a temporary "remedial punishment" through which God will eventually compel all to repent. They teach that eternal punishment in Hell for those who do not received Christ is a "myth" and that those who believe it are "nuts."2 Some who hold to this incredible false teaching even predict the redemption of Satan and the fallen angels!

This is but the latest mutation of Roman Catholicism's false doctrine of purgatory, which first appeared as a part of Catholic tradition in the twelfth century. However, elements of this false doctrine date back at least to the time of Origen of Alexandria, a heretic of the third century, who said that "he who comes to be saved, comes to be saved through a fire."3

We can easily dismiss these falsehoods on the clear authority of Scripture. They are the inventions of men who drag God's holiness in the gutter and deny the plain teachings of His Word. Nor should we be surprised at new manifestations of old heresies, because, as Paul warned Timothy,

the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Does God Contradict Himself?

Yet we must face the question: What is the truth of 1 Timothy 4:10? Has God the Holy Spirit contradicted Himself in the pages of Scripture? Is there a paradox in the Word of God? Does God say in one place that the way is narrow, and few find it (Matthew 7:13-14) and in another place say that all men will be saved?

Certainly not. God, unlike sinful man, is not double-minded. He does not declare one thing in one part of His Word, and then contradict it elsewhere. James 1:17 tells us that in Him there is no "variableness" (KJV) or "variation" (NKJV). The Greek word used is the source of the English word "parallax" -- a difference in an object when seen from two different points. There are no such differences with God.

The message of salvation through Christ alone, apart from works, in this life alone, is as Paul declares, "not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes [i.e., declared in the prophets], and in Him Amen [i.e., fulfilled in Christ], to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee" (2 Corinthians 1:19-22).

What Is The Truth?

In what the sense, then, is God "is the Savior of all men"? The answer, as we shall see in our next article, is to be found in the language and context of the passage, by applying sound principles of Biblical interpretation.

Next: A Position Reserved to God Alone


  1. Leading spokesmen of this movement include Tony Nungesser, Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr., Dan Sheridan, Timothy Truitt, and Martin Zender.

  2. So says Martin Zender here:, as viewed in 12/8/2013.

  3. Origen, Homilies on Exodus, 6:4,, as viewed on 12/8/2013.


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