“Savior of All People”: 1 Tim 4:10 in Context -- By: Steven M. Baugh

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 54:2 (Fall 1992)
Article: “Savior of All People”: 1 Tim 4:10 in Context
Author: Steven M. Baugh


“Savior of All People”: 1 Tim 4:10 in Context

Steven M. Baugh

The defenders of universal atonement regard 1 Tim 4:10 as a key proof text for their position. For instance, Millard Erickson writes:

We find that some of the verses which teach a universal atonement simply cannot be ignored. Among the most impressive is 1 Timothy 4:10, which affirms that the living God “is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” Apparently the Savior has done something for all persons, though it is less in degree than what he has done for those who believe.1

Erickson describes his position as “the most moderate form of Calvinism” (probably Amyraldianism), but Arminian theologians likewise utilize 1 Tim 4:10 to support their doctrine of a universal atonement.2

There are various ways that we can exegete Paul’s statement as relating to eternal salvation and still maintain that the atonement is confined particularly to God’s elect. However, I will show that this passage does not, in fact, relate to the atonement directly, or even to eternal salvation, but to God’s gracious benefactions to all of humanity, i.e., his common grace. This is not a new understanding of 1 Tim 4:10 among Calvinists, but I will try to advance the discussion through introduction, as background, of some epigraphical material from Ephesus that is not usually considered by the participants in the debate over the interpretation of this passage. I do not think that 1 Tim 4:10 is actually a problem text for Calvinists.

I. Savior as One Who Saves Eternally

Assuming that the word σωτήρ, “Savior,” in 1 Tim 4:10 relates to eternal salvation, we could still raise some objections to the Arminian/Amyraldian interpretation. The most obvious objection is that, strictly speaking, the atonement is not mentioned by Paul in this verse or its context. One must make several theological connections to move

from God being a Savior to Christ providing an the atonement for all people. I do not wish to pursue this line of argument, but I simply point out that the connection between God being a Savior and Christ’s universal atonement is not as direct as proponents of universal atonement, such as Erickson, often assume.

Even if ...

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