Paul's Understanding of the Salvation of “All Men 


The apostle Paul is recognized as the chief witness to the nature and operation of Christian salvation. In course of exposition, Paul makes several statements about salvation's inclusivity of “all men. We list these forthwith, emphasizing the word “all” as it appears:


I Tim. 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time….4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.


Tit. 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,…


Rom. 5:18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

II Cor. 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.


These verses lie at the heart of the Universalist claim that God will determinedly “save” every man out of the Lake of Fire after ages to come. Universalists hold the word “all,” on its own strength alone, to be Paul's compelling proof that salvation is unthwartably effectual without exception across all three cosmological domains to all future time. Accordingly, God's “desire” to save all men (I Tim. 2:4) is forcibly treated as an absolute determination so as to align with the deterministic emphasis assigned to the word all.


Yet thoughtful reading of these very statements shows that the scope and tense of Paul’s witness utterly contradicts the Universalistic reading of them. Let’s examine then Paul’s actual thought flow:


1.     Paul opens his exhortation to Timothy by urging that prayer be made  for all men whom God desires or “wills” to save. In so exhorting, Paul is indicating that prayer is an operative force of partnership necessary to God's purpose to bring about the salvation of  all men

The critical but entirely overlooked truth behind this exhortation is that kingdom prayer as ordered by the Lord Jesus and carried out by the apostles is ever only made by the living, for the living; and only within Christ's stated vision for the establishing of God's will which is limited to the realms only of earth and heaven (see the Lord’s Prayer and review the
subpoint under Part II, Point 7). The netherworld is completely excluded from the universal kingdom prayer mandate of the Lord, and Paul’s order of prayer is built only and entirely on that mandate. No prayer for the dead, as it would be indispensably necessary to operative partnership in saving the netherworld, is exhorted anywhere at anytime in any scripture.

So too we see here now that the objects of Paul's prayer (i.e., kings and all who are in authority) are all living. If Paul intended to tell Timothy that prayer must be made for all men because God determinedly wills to save the damned out of the Lake of Fire, he would have had to be exhorting Timothy to pray, not just for all the presently living, but also for all the already deceased and future damned. Yet he does no such thing! His prayers are only for the living. Indeed, had Paul's scope of prayer for the saving of all men embraced the damned, the record of his ministry would be absolutely saturated with prayers for the damned, past and future! They aren't.

Therefore, on the sole basis of the terrestrially limited scope of the New Testament kingdom prayer mandate governing Paul's vision, the Universalist slant on Paul’s exhortation regarding any imagined divine purpose to save all mankind out of the Lake of Fire is revealed to be a humanisticly manufactured falsity.


2.     Paul’s qualified use of the word “all” to refer selectively to “all who are in authority” demonstrates that Paul’s use of the word “all” cannot be force interpreted to have a non-exceptional meaning wherever he uses it. He specifically qualifies his first reference to “all men” (I Tim 2:1) by saying he is talking about “kings” and “all who are in authority.” That is, he is identifying all societal classes, ranks and stations of life—here specifically, the class of government officials. “All men” in Paul’s immediate idea then is “men of all walks” whom God wishes to save. 

Whether the meaning of “all” here is universal or not however is only an issue if Paul was actually saying that God is unthwartably determined to effectually save all men. But as is about to be seen, when we examine Paul's definition of salvation itself, it is not merely interpretively impossible for God to determinedly “save” all men, but it is already factually impossible.


3.     Paul’s complete thought flow (including that of the Book of Hebrews) teaches that salvation is obtained only prior to death and operates only preventatively of the judgment and “the wrath to come  (Rom. 5:9; I Cor. 1:18; 11:32;15:17-18; II Cor. 7:10; Php. 1:28; I Th. 1:10; 2:16; 5:9; II Th. 2:10; II Tim. 2:1012; {Heb. 2:2-3,14-15; 11:28,31}. Please review Part III, Point 36.). This means that salvation can only occur prior to entrance to hell and the Lake of Fire. This proves that it is factually impossible for Paul to have told Timothy that God will determinedly save all men, because men were already perished in hell when he wrote this and sentencing to the Lake of Fire is still determined to occur.

For God to have determinedly willed to save all men based on Paul's judgment-preventative definition of salvation, it would have meant that no one could have ever gone to hell, no one could be there now, and there could be no future judgment and sentencing to the Lake of Fire for anyone. “All men would have had to have been effectually saved and will have been effectually saved before descending to hell in death and before suffering God's judgment after death. Thus the Universalist assertion that Paul is speaking of God's unthwartable determination to save all men is rendered an absurdity. He already did not save men from entrance to hell, and He will not save men from entrance into the Lake of Fire. Entrance to these places is past the meaning of salvation.   

All of this is to really expose that the Universalist idea of “salvation” is not the apostolic one of judgment prevention, but of a post-perishing transmutative recreation out of annihilation. It is a re-engineered definition of salvation. This sleight-of-hand swap-out behind Universalism's meaning of “salvation” lies at the root of its heretical assertions. Like as a magician draws attention to one hand so as to hide in plain sight what he does with the other, the Universalist uber-focus on the word “all” distracts from the subtle trick wherein, without noticing, they have re-crafted salvation to apply to a post-perishing event outside all apostolic definition. Once the trick is revealed, argument over the meaning of all is rendered a moot nonsensity.

Beyond the contradicting of Universalism posed by Paul's own definition of salvation, his use of verb tenses will also contradict the Universalist belief in a one-dimensional unthwartably effectual salvation. We continue our study...   


4.     Paul’s remaining references to the salvation of all men illumine a distinction between two differing dimensions of salvation—one universally (terrestrially) provisional but subject to loss, the other limited but permanently effectual. We are speaking specifically of the following passages:


I Tim. 1:6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all,….4:10 …, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers….Tit. 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,…Rom. 5:18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men....II Cor. 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.


It is unnecessary to insist here that Paul’s meaning of “all” has exceptions as it does in I Tim. 2:1. Here we agree with Universalists. The “all without exception” meaning is intended throughout. We know this because Rom. 5:18 and II Cor. 5:14 make equal comparison of all who have sinned /died with all to whom resulted justification of life for whom Christ died. The universe of men who have sinned on the one side is the same as the universe of those to whom resulted Christ's saving justification. There are no exceptions to the first set, and so there can be none to the second set.


Thus, yes, Jesus really is the Savior of all menwithout exception. The grace of God has appeared and is bringing salvation to all men without exception. And Christ’s one righteous act of death did result in saving justification to all men—without exception. He really did die for all men—without exception.


But does this mean that God will in the future determinedly effectually rescue all men out of the netherworld? That is the Universalist deduction from these statements.

But for the same reason we cited in point 3 above, the conclusion that Paul is teaching a future effectual salvation out of the Lake of Fire is false. Universalism again depends on sleight-of-hand focus on the meaning of all to distract from the actual language Paul uses to describe salvation.  In point 3, we saw that, by Paul's definition, salvation is a pre-judgment event only. Now here, Paul's verb tenses describing salvation preclude the possibility he envisions a one-dimensional unthwartably effectual universal salvation now, much less to come.

How so?

Understand firstly, Universalists require salvation to be only unthwartably effectual and not at all provisional as to be subject to never-realized effectuality or possible irretrievable loss once obtained. (A thwartable provisional salvation, even if universally applied, kills the certainty of universal reconciliation.) Universalists therefore must then force feed the idea of salvation's unthwartable effectuality through the tube of the all-inclusiveness described here by Paul, which they then project forward to apply after the Lake of Fire.   


The problem however is that, if effectual salvation is the only dimension of salvation, if there is no separately discernible provisional dimension of salvation that can fail of permanent effectuality, then effectual salvation can be the only kind of salvation in view at any time in Paul's mind. Now then, Paul's statements here all speak to salvation as either a past completed or presently active accomplishment. Please see again the tense in these verses: Jesus is the Savior of all men. The grace of God is bringing salvation to all men. Christ’s one righteous act of death resulted in justification to all men.

So what does this mean? Under the effectual-only Universalist concept of salvation, these past completed and present tense descriptions of salvation's accomplishment inescapably tell us that all men therefore have both already been effectually justified (saved) and at the same time are being brought to effectually saving faith. In short, all men since Christ's death are already permanently and finally saved. And all men without exception are being effectually saved on the planet now. That is the only conclusion possible.

When the Universalist implications read into Paul's words are pursued to their end, the absurdity of the effectual-only salvation concept becomes immediately apparent. Firstly, the tenses are in conflict. Men cannot have already been effectually justified (saved) by Christ's death and yet be being brought to effectual salvation now by God's grace. Either all men were already effectually saved by Christ's death (as Rom. 5:18 says) or they are in process of becoming effectually saved by God's grace (as Titus 2:11 says). But they can’t be both.

Further, if all men were already effectually justified to life because of Christ’s death (as Rom. 5:18 would have to be understood), then no further ministry was, is or could be necessary to precipitate anything further about salvation in anyone! Salvation does not have to be made personally effectual by anyone's own confession of faith.
Everything is already a done deal. Gospel preaching is an unnecessary exercise. All ministry is superfluous.  Paul could never have had a burden to preach the gospel if he was saying that all men had been universally effectually justified by Christ's death already. And so Universalists should stop preaching the gospel.  

Consider yet further. If Christ's death already yielded the effectual justification to life in all men, then anyone who had been in hell up to that time would have had to have been let out (Jesus would have had to have delivered all men out of both compartments of Sheol), and no man living or born since Christ's death could have gone to hell or be in hell now. And no one could or will be sentenced to the Lake of Fire (making moot the very idea that men would have to yet be saved from the Lake of Fire!).

What then brethren?” Given the absurdities created by applying an effectual-only salvation to these statements, it becomes obvious that the salvation Paul says has already resulted to all men universally and yet is coming to them can only be Christ’s
provisional saving justification to life
a blanket platforming salvation that does not of itself guarantee completed effectual entrance into eternal lifea comprehensive potentialized salvation that still requires gospel ministry to make it effectual by a faith encounteran unconditional generalized atonement that once made effectual by faith can even then still be forfeited (see Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26ff)—and hence a salvation in principle outside all human engagement that, though terrestrially universal, can in no way promise an effectual ages-ending universal reconciliation with the damned.

And that is the bottom line: If these terrestrially universal descriptions of past completed and present salvation can only refer to a provisional salvation to make sense, then there is no magical way to convert them to refer to a guaranteed  universally effectual terrestrial salvation of the future, much less a
salvation of the netherworld damned of all the ages! The repetitive ear-stopping Universalist appeal to the words all men in Paul's statements does nothing to establish and prove such a conversion. As before, their blind appeal to the word all is only a clever distraction away from the inescapable two-dimensional salvation reality underlying Paul's testimony—a reality that interdicts any possibility of universal reconciliation at its source.   

Lastly, and so as to leave us with no doubt at all, Paul himself settles the issue of the two dimensions of salvation he is addressing, distinguishing between the general provisional terrestrially
universal salvation bought for everyone versus the effectual salvation received only on an exceptional individual basis.  He does this in his letter from II Cor. 5:14-15 and what follows. See closely:


II Cor. 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf… 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.


See the exception qualifiers (in red) that separate out the selectively effectual salvation upon the individual believer! The phrases “they who live” and “if anyone….he” are completely separated out and contrasted with the “all” for whom Christ universally died. If Christ’s death for the “all” was effectual and not just provisional, the phrases in red could have no meaning and would not have been written. There would be no “they who live” identified separately from the “all.” There would be no “if anyone” separately identified from the “all.” In fact, there could be no conditional “if”!  Instead, Paul would have said,


15 and He died for all, so that all  might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf… 17 Therefore everyone is in Christ, all men have become new creatures; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.


Out of this we finally see how conditional effectual salvation within the larger unconditional “universal” (earthwide) provisional salvation defines Paul’s idea of reconciliation itself:


18 Now all these things are from God, who [provisionally] reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of [effectualizing] reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ [provisionally] reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the [effectualizing] word of reconciliation.  


From his own lips now, Paul has just told us he does not believe in one-dimensional effectual universal reconciliation on earth, never mind with the netherworld to come. He only believes in “universal” (i.e., earthwide) provisional reconciliation, made uniquely effectual on an individual basis with the living by their faith through the means of gospel ministry. The Universalist case for an eventual futuristic effectual universal salvation based on these statements thus completely fails.


5.     The difference between provisional and effectual salvation in these passages is “especially” highlighted in I Tim. 4:10 where Paul distinguishes that Jesus is “the Savior of all men, especially of believers…”  The only way that Jesus can be “especially” a Savior to “some” beyond the rest of the “all” is if there is an effectual difference, meaning and application of salvation to the believers not obtained by the rest.


Think about it. If Jesus is indeed the equally effectual savior of all men, than there is nothing particularly “especial” that the believers have received that the rest have not. The distinction is meaningless. It does not really matter if one is a believer or not! All are effectually saved.


But if Jesus is but the provisional Savior of all men, yet especially of believers, then it means that only believers receive something decidedly effectual that does not apply to the rest of provisionally justified mankind. And that is the true understanding according to the thought flow of every speaker in the New Testament beginning with Jesus. Only believers are effectually saved unto life out of death, which is why gospel preaching unto faith is necessary. Consequently, as only the provisional Savior of all men, these words do nothing to advance proof of effectual universal reconciliation out of damnation.


To escape this problem, the Universalist handling of the word “especially” is to say that the believers only have a “superlative” salvation compared to the unbelievers, because the Gk. word “malista” translated “especially” is only used as a superlative everywhere else it is used. That is to say, salvation by faith is only the “best” way to salvation. But this is frankly a heretical conclusion. Either faith is the only way to effectual salvation or it is the best among other ways. Can’t be both. That is the Universalist dilemma in this verse. Universalism is unwilling to believe the apostolic testimony that distinguishes a truly universal provisional salvation from a qualified delimitedly effectual salvation that insists that enduring terrestrial faith is the only way to effectual salvation—a salvation that only delivers in advance from “the wrath to come.”


6.     The numerous “enmity sustainers” throughout Paul’s Pastoral Epistles to Timothy and Titus preclude any possibility that he could have intended to teach them that universal reconciliation out of hell and the Lake of Fire was God’s determined purpose. Following is the array of enmity sustainers in the background behind Paul’s statements on the salvation of all men. In these sustainers, Paul teaches that:


·        some men will yet be considered detestable and worthless (Tit. 1:10-16);

·        some will come to destruction (I Tim. 6:9);

·        some will be rejected (II Tim. 2:12) and   

·        are never able to come to saving truth (II Tim. 3:7);

·        only believers will qualify for age-enduring life (I Tim. 1:16) and

·        final judgment awaits those who will never otherwise believe (I Tim. 5:24)


These statements summarily nullify the Universalist case built solely on Paul’s four pastoral statements regarding the salvation of all men. There are in fact more statements of sustained enmity in these epistles than of salvation’s “allness,” statements which Universalists simply ignore. The truth here however is that had Paul intended to teach a universalistic post-damnation salvation to Timothy and Titus, it would have been impossible for him to make even one statement that leaves any men in a final state of enmity with God as these statements do.    


We especially must compare I Tim. 2:4

4 “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”


with II Tim. 3:7-9

7 “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 … men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress.”


If Paul told Timothy in his first letter that God is determined to “save” all men in bringing them to the knowledge of the truth out of the netherworld, then he could not have turned around in his second letter and said that some men can never come to the knowledge of the truth or make further progress! He would have had to have been a schizophrenic to talk that way. But this is what the Universalistic case requires.


7.     Lastly, Paul’s complete testimony reveals that he, like all other New Testament writers, believes and teaches that the universal bar of adjudication (Great White Throne), not universal salvation, is the ultimate cosmological reference point wherein judgment is sure and effectual salvation is not (Ac. 17:31; 24:25; Rom. 1:1832; 2:1-6,8-9,12,16; 14:9-12; I Cor. 5:3-5;  II Cor. 5:10-11; 11:15; II Th. 1:5-12; I Tim. 5:24; II Tim. 4:18; {Heb. 2:1-3; 3:6-4:7,11-13; 6:2; 9:27-28;10:27,39; 12:23; 13:4,17}).


The Universalist case is completely founded on a rejection of this underlying thought flow governing all Paul’s letters. Again, were universal reconciliation doctrine true, were it Paul’s cosmologic reference point the way it is for today’s Universalist teachers, Paul could not have written his precisional treatises so as to leave the universal enmity continuum open upon the damned, nor written or preached to make the warning against the final judgment an issue in even one place. Rather, it would be Paul himself who would have articulated all that the Universalist teachers have tried to manufacture ever since.


Thus from the complete background of thought behind Paul's doctrinal testimony, we have now more than ably disproved the Universalist case from nearly all the core Pauline passages on which it rests. We have instead proved that Christian Universalism is an aberrant false gospel proffering a salvation of its own definition, to be rejected by every true believer in Christ.

(For thorough treatment of the Universalist case made upon Paul's declaration in I Cor. 15:24-26, 28 that at "the end" God becomes "all in all" when He has "abolished death" as the "last enemy,"   please thoroughly review the points and rebuttals in
PART 2, Points 7, 14, 16, 20-22, 25, 27, 29-30; PART 4, Point 105, subpoint 5; PART 6, Points 119, subpoint 1, and 122.)    



Proceed to APPENDIX D        



Chris Anderson
New Meadow Neck, Rhode Island

First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship




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