The Salvation of All
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men…. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
“The Lord… is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
After Paul had urged that supplications, prayers, and intercessions should be made for all men, he reminds us that we may do so in confident assurance that it is good and acceptable to God, because He wills that all men should be saved. The knowledge and faith of God’s will for all is to be the motive and the measure of our prayer for all. What God in heaven wills and works for His children on earth we are to will and work for too. As we enter into His will for all, we shall know what we are to do to fulfill that will. And as we pray and labor for all, the faith in His will for all will inspire us with confidence and love.
Perhaps the question arises: If God wills the salvation of all, how is it that it is not accomplished? What about the doctrine of election, as Scripture teaches? And what of the Omnipotence of God, His almighty power, which is surely equal to the Love that wills the salvation of all? As to election, let us remember that there are mysteries in God and in Scripture which are beyond our reach. If there are apparently conflicting truths which we cannot reconcile, we acknowledge that Scripture was not written, like a book of science, to satisfy the intellect, but as the revelation of the hidden wisdom of God, to test and strengthen faith and submission, to waken love and childlike teachableness. If we cannot understand why His power does not work what His will has purposed—why what He says He wants to do has not been done—we must accept the fact that God’s ways are higher than our minds can comprehend. Because He endowed mankind with a free will, by which He willingly limited Himself, all that God does or does not do is decided by conditions far beyond our human understanding, requiring Divine wisdom to grasp and to order. God’s will is as much beyond our comprehension as God’s being. It is our wisdom and safety and happiness to accept every revealed truth with the simplicity and the faith of little children, and yield ourselves to it to prove its living power within our hearts. Let us not fear to yield ourselves fully to this blessed word: God wills that all men should be saved.
God is love. His will is love. As He makes His sun to shine on the good and the evil, so His love rests upon all. However little we can understand why His love is so longsuffering and patient, why He does not immediately extinguish all evil, we believe and know the love that God has to us—a love whose measure in heaven is the gift of His Son, and on earth every child of man. His love is but His will in action—the Divine energy doing its very utmost, in accordance with the Divine law by which His relation to His creature is regulated, to make men partakers of its blessedness. His will is but His love in its infinite patience and tenderness delighting to win and bless every heart into which it can gain access. If we only knew God and His love, how we would look upon every person we see as one upon whom that love rests and for whom it longs. We would begin to wonder at the mystery of grace that has taken the Church, the body of Christ, as a partner in the great work of making that love known, and made itself dependent upon her faithfulness. And we should see that all living to do God’s will must lead up to this as its central glory: our doing the will that wills that all should be saved.
God wills that all men should be saved. This truth is a supernatural mystery, which can only be understood by a spiritual mind taught by the Holy Spirit. It is so Divine and beyond our comprehension, the difficulties that surround it are so many and so real, it requires so much time and sacrifice of the humble, loving heart to master its teaching, that to very many people the words carry but little meaning. To the believer, who in very deed seeks to know and do all God’s will, they give a new meaning to life. He begins to see that this call to love and to save his fellow men is not something incidental or additional that, along with other things, goes up to make his life, and to which he can devote as much of time and thought as he sees fit. He learns that just as this loving, saving will of God is the secret source of all His will, and rules it all, so this loving, saving will is to be the chief thing he lives for too. I have been redeemed and organically united to and made a member of the saving Christ, who came to do this will of the Father. I have been chosen and set apart and fitted for this as the primary purpose of my being in the world. I begin to see faintly that the prayer, “Thy will be done,” (Matthew 6:10) means above everything that I give myself for this loving, saving will of God to possess, to inspire, to use, and if need be, to consume me. And I feel the need of spelling out the words of the sentence till my heart can call them its own: God, my God, who lives in me—wills, with His whole heart, in that will which He has revealed to His people that they may carry it into effect—that all men, here around me, and to the ends of the earth—should be saved, receiving everlasting life.
Paul wrote these words in connection with a call to prayer for all men. Our faith in the truth of God’s loving, saving will must be put into practice. It must stir us to prayer. And prayer will most certainly stir us to work. We must not only seek to believe and feel the truth of these words, but must act. This will of God must be done. Let us look upon those around us as the objects of God’s love, whom His saving will is seeking to reach. Let us, as we yield ourselves to this will, go and speak to those around us of God’s love in Christ. It is possible that we are not succeeding in doing God’s will in our personal life because we neglect the chief thing. As we pray to be possessed and filled with the knowledge of this will of God, let us, in our Sunday-school class, in our Gospel work, in our efforts for young or old, for poor or rich, seek to have hearts filled with this love, tongues that speak of Jesus and His salvation, and a will that finds its strength in God’s own will—that all men should be saved. So will our life, and our love, and our work, and our will in some measure be like that of Jesus Christ—a doing of the Father’s will, that none of these little ones should perish.