This is the conclusion in a series of three post.
So Does God Really Desire for All to Be Saved?
As we have seen, it is biblically correct to say that God desires the salvation of all. It is biblical to speak of many of God’s desires, such as his desire for us to obey his commandments, cast out idols, etc. God wills and desires that I would be a faithful and loving husband, a committed disciple, and compassionate towards others. However, this is certainly not always the case.
We have also seen that there are certain things which God wills that necessarily and always come to pass.
If we bring these two concepts together, we begin to see how we can have a biblically faithful answer to the original question “Does God desire the salvation of all people?” What we begin to see is that God does, in a general sense, desire for the salvation of all people. It is good for him to do so, and it is therefore consistent with his character and goodness.
However, we also see that God in his providence, sovereignty and mercy brings about the actual salvation of specific individuals through his decretive will. God speaks life, and dead men come out of the grave (John 11:43).
It may be helpful for us to circle back to the original text of 1 Timothy Chapter 2, as well as Isaiah 45:22. Let us consider these verses:
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. – 1 Timothy 2:3-6
Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other. – Isaiah 45:22
Notice how in both of these passages there is movement from God’s desire that all be saved to the exclusiveness of his salvation. In both these passages there is an overarching inclusiveness in God’s heart for all people, but also an overwhelming sense of his exclusiveness in that there is no other apart from God. He desires all to be saved and provides a ransom for all peoples in a sense that there is no other way of salvation (Frame, Systematic Theology 352). The gospel will always be the most inclusive yet also the most exclusive message the world will ever know.
In the first post, I showed scriptural evidence for God’s desire for all people to be saved, for God’s omnipotence, and his sovereign election of sinners who will come to repentance. The most prolific and popular answer to these three facts is that God’s election depends on the foreknowledge of man’s free will. In the first post we saw how this conclusion of the facts is necessarily unbiblical and leaves us with all kinds of contradictions and problems.
In the second post, we saw how properly understanding God’s will leads us away from the previous unbiblical and contradictory answers and leads us towards a biblically sound answer that takes no liberties with the text.
Finally in this last post we conclude that God’s desired will for all people to be saved and his sovereign election of sinners based on his own choosing is in glorious harmony.
It is necessary for us to view this intersection of God’s sovereignty and his desires as a glorification of his character and nature. All God does is for his glory and that we might share in it, and in this understanding of his desired will and sovereign will we see how God is most glorified in us. Yes he desires all to be saved because it is good for him to do so. He is all-good and worthy of praise and glory. However, it is only through his mercy and grace that some come to faith by the working of his divine and decretive will through the work of His Spirit. Rather than debating with each other why God would desire all but only save some, we should instead be praising and giving thanks to him for his mercy and grace towards sinners through Jesus.
It is my hope and prayer that this answer to the question “Does God desire all to be saved?” is biblically faithful and God-honoring. All of my claims and answers in this text were not and should not be made based on metaphysical or philosophical assumptions, but rather simply on the text of God’s Word and what they teach. As John Piper says, there is no room in the Bible for human beings to have the ultimate power of self-determination.
I also acknowledge that the information in these posts probably raises as many questions as it answers, such as “Does God will evil?” and “What does it mean to say God can do anything?” Perhaps those will be addressed in future posts.
May God be glorified and worshiped for his grace and mercy towards us!