We received this email from a reader:
I am confused by verses that seem to say that everyone will be saved.
“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22
“the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers.” 1 Timothy 4:10
“at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” Philippians 2:10
Other references are Romans 5:19, John 1:29, 1 John 2:2, Titus 2:11
It’s understandable that these verses are a bit confusing. Let’s look at each of the verses and address what they reveal about Jesus and about salvation.
1 Tim 4:10
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.
Jesus is the “Saviour of all” because He died to pay the penalty for all the sins of all people. But that verse ends with “especially of those who believe.” “Especially” is because those who believe have come to Him in faith and have trusted in His death to pay for their sins. Thereby, they have received His forgiveness of their sins. So He is “the Saviour of all” because He paid for all sins, but only the Saviour who has forgiven sins, of those who believe.
1 Cor 15:22
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
We know that man (Adam) was created in the image of God, but all who are born are born in the image of Adam (Gen 5:3). When Adam sinned, he was no longer fully in the image of God. He was then a sinner. And that is the image we are born in — that of fallen people, sinners. Therefore, “as in Adam all die.”
The key to understanding this verse is the words “in Christ.” When one has trusted in Jesus and been forgiven of sins, a person is made alive (1 Cor 15:22), sealed by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30, 1 Cor 3:16), and is being conformed to the image of Jesus (Rom 8:29). This is salvation only for believers, those who have come to Christ in faith, not “all” people, but all people who are “in Christ.”
The same understanding needs to be applied to these verses:
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
By Adam’s disobedience, everyone is now born a sinner, in the image of Adam, fallen and sinful. His sin is imputed to all people. But by Jesus’ obedience to the will of the Father, He went to the cross and paid for all sins of all people–past, present, and future. However, only those who come to Him in faith are forgiven and made righteous by receiving His righteousness.
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
Jesus took away the sins of the world by paying for them. But again, one must come to Jesus in faith (belief and trust) to receive forgiveness of their personal sins and be saved.
1 John 2:2
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
“The propitiation for our sins” is the payment of the penalty of sin and here we are told it was “for the sins of the whole world.” True! Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world. That means that all people have the opportunity to be saved, but it does not mean that all people will be saved. The sins of all people have been paid for, but forgiveness of sins is only received when one comes to Jesus in faith.
Now let’s look at the verse in the letter Paul wrote to Titus:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Of course, this verse is about Jesus. He is the grace of God who brought salvation. And He has appeared to all men — physically, beginning with His incarnation at the beginning of the first century AD, continuing through His public ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and ending when He ascended to Heaven . During the time in which we live, Jesus now “appears” to people through the words of Scripture and through the testimony of those who belong to Him, i.e. those who are “in Christ.”
We hope a closer look at these verses clears up any confusion.
2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
This verse tells of God’s great love and mercy. It is God’s desire that all be saved. But again, we know that only those who come to Jesus in faith will be saved:
Rom 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
There is a human responsibility in salvation. It is not a work. Rather it is a response to Jesus’ offer to forgive, save, and restore sinners.
Blessings to you as you continue to study God’s Word.
Thank you so much for your prompt and thoughtful response to my questions. I went to two pastors at my church with these questions and they were masters at evading them.
Your reply to 1 Tim 4:10 left me still with a question. It sounds like it’s saying Jesus is the Savior of ALL people, even those who have not believed because Paul follows by saying, “especially those who have believed.” Everyone will ultimately believe and confess that “Jesus is Lord.” (Philippians 2:10-11) That’s how we are saved. (Romans 10:9) Jesus paid enough to ransom everyone. He paid a very high price for a small percentage of people who believe in this life. “Few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14
“Especially,” makes it sound like, even though all will eventually be saved because Jesus bought or redeemed all of us on the cross, those who see the light in this life, get the extra (i.e. special) blessing of experiencing Him in this life. It carries the same idea of a teacher telling her class that everyone passes the final exam, especially those who made a passing grade.
On the other hand, Paul may have been saying, “Jesus is the only Savior,” when he wrote, “Jesus is the Savior of ALL.”
We wish it were the case that ALL will be saved, but sadly Scripture does not teach that.
True, Jesus IS the Saviour of ALL people (1 Tim 4:10) because He paid the penalty for the sin of all people.
And yes, someday, ALL will confess that He is Lord (Phil 2:10-11).
One must believe and confess (Ro 10:9) faith in Jesus during one’s lifetime because at death their salvation is determined (Heb 9:27) and it will be too late. if one dies in their sin, it is too late for salvation.
John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that you shall die in your sins: for if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).
Regarding the other verses mentioned:
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The bowing of every knee and the confessing of every tongue will take place at the final judgment, which is called the Great White Throne Judgement (Rev 20:11 ff). The dead (those in hell and those alive at the time who have not trusted in Jesus) will be judged for their works and found wanting. “This is the second death” (Rev 20:14).
To Summarize: Jesus paid for the world’s sin on the cross, but His death did not buy or redeem every person. A volitional human response to God’s amazing gift of grace is required.
Remember, Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mat 11:28) That’s eternal rest for the soul (vs 29). That’s salvation. But one must come unto Jesus to receive it. There’s an old hymn that speaks of this so beautifully.
“Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” by J. Hart (1759)
1 Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
full of pity, love, and power.
2 Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
true belief and true repentance,
ev’ry grace that brings you nigh.
3 Let not conscience make you linger,
nor of fitness fondly dream;
all the fitness he requireth
is to feel your need of him.
4 Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
lost and ruined by the fall;
if you tarry till you’re better,
you will never come at all.
5 I will rise and go to Jesus!
He will save me from my sin.
By the riches of his merit,
there is joy and life in him.
The Justness of our God
Remember God is a just Judge, so there must be consequences for unforgiven sins. And that consequence is death–the penalty of sins.
This is why it is so important for us to share the gospel of saving grace with everyone. It’s important to tell everyone that Jesus paid it all (the penalty for all sins) and that each person’s individual sins can be forgiven when they come to Jesus. This is the message of saving grace in Christ. Tell ALL people about Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection, and the saving grace He offers. It will help non-believers to come to faith and it will strengthen believers to be equipped and encouraged to share their faith.
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