William Hendriksen (1900-1982) on 1 Timothy 2:1-7

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in 1 Timothy 2:4-6

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The final word, thanksgivings (that is, completing the circle, so that the blessings that come from God return to him again in the form of expressed gratitude) is clear enough. Nevertheless, it must be borne in mind that not only supplications, prayers, and intercessions but also thanksgivings must be made in behalf of all men, including kings, etc.

Indeed, such invocations must be made “in behalf of” or “for” (see N.T.C. on John 10: 11, for the meaning of the preposition) all men. Several expositors feel certain that this means every member of the whole human race; every man, woman, and chi ld, without any exception whatever. And it must be readily admitted that taken by itself the expression all men is capable of this interpretation. Nevertheless, every calm and unbiased interpreter also admits that in certain contexts this simply cannot be the meaning.

Does Titus 2: really teach that the saving grace o( God has appeared to every member of the human race without any exception? Of course not! It matters little whether one interprets “the appearance of the saving grace” as referring to the bestowal of salvation itself, or to the fact that the gospel of saving grace has been preached to every person on earth. In either case it is impossible to make “all men” mean “every individual on the globe without exception.”

Again, does Rom. 5: 18 really teach that “every member of the human race” is “justified“?

Does I Cor. 15:22 really intend to tell us that “every member of the human race” is “made alive in Christ“?

But if that be true, then it follows that Christ did not only die for every member of the human race, but that he also actually saved every one without any exception whatever. Most conservatives would hesitate to go that far.

Moreover, if, wherever it occurs, the expression “all men” or its equivalent has this absolutely universalistic connotation, then would not the fol lowing be true:

(a) Every member of the human race regarded John the Baptist as a prophet (Mark 11:32).

(b) Every member of the human race wondered whether John was, perhaps, the Christ (Luke 3: 15).

(c) Every member of the human race marveled about the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:20).

(d) Every member of the human race was searching for Jesus (Mark 1:37).

(e) It was reported to the Baptist that all members of the human race were flocking to Jesus (John 3:26).

And so one could easily continue. Even today, how often do we not use the expression “all men” or “everybody” without referring to every member of the human race? When we say, “If everybody is ready, the meeting can begin,” we do not refer to everybody on earth! Thus also in the present passage (I Tim. 2: I), it is the context that must decide. In this case the context is clear. Paul definitely mentions groups or classes of men: kings (verse 2). those in high position (verse 2), the Gentiles (verse 7). He is thinking of rulers and (by implication) subjects, of Gentiles and (again by implication) Jews. and he is urging Timothy to see to it that in public worship not a single group be omitted. In other words, the expression “all men” as here used means “all men without distinction of race, nationality, or social position,” not “all men individually, one by one.”

Besides, how would it even be possible, except in a very vague and global manner (the very opposite of Paul’s constant emphasis!), to remember in prayer every person on earth?

2. In explanation of the expression “in behalf of all men” the apostle continues: in behalf of kings and all who are in high position. How necessary, this admonition! Even today! The apostle is probably thinking, first of all, of sovereign rulers of states, as they succeed one another in the course of history; and of all other functionaries subject to them. He must have had in mind the then reigning emperor Nero, and further: the proconsuls (Acts 19:38). Asiarchs (Acts 19:3 1), the town-clerk (a rather influential position, Acts 19: 35), etc.

However, had the emperor been Augustus or Tiberias or Caligula or Claudius, had he been Vespasian or Titus or Domitian; had those who ruled under them been kings properly so called, as for instance Herod the Great, tetrarchs such as Herod Antipas, ethnarchs such as Archelaus-even emperors, tetrarchs, and ethnarchs were sometimes called kings (John 19: 15; Matt. 14:9; Matt. 2:22)–; had they been procurators such as Pontius Pilate, or had they been invested with any other political office, the charge, “Pray for them,” would have been exactly the same. It is a commandment which holds for every age and for every region . President Eisenhower, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Juliana, etc., etc., the Holy Spirit via Paul bids us to remember them all before the throne of grace. The present precept is as general as is the closely related one found in Rom. 13: 1.

And the purpose is hinted in the words which follow: that we may lead a tranquil and calm life in all godliness and gravity. The rare adjectives tranquil and calm (the former occurring only here; the latter only here and in I Peter 3:4) differ but slightly in meaning. The first seems to refer to a life which is free from outward disturbance; the second, to a life which is free from inner perturbation. Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to be ambitious about “living calmly” (see N.T.C. on I Thess. 4:1l).

Of course, this merely “hints” at the real purpose of praying for the rulers. Paul certainly does not mean to encourage a life of ease. His aims are never selfish. Rather, the idea is this: freedom from disturbances, such as wars and persecutions, will facilitate the spread of the gospel of salvation in Christ to the glory of God. One must read the present passage in the light of the immediately following context (verses 3 and 4), of other passages from the Pastorals (1 Tim. I: IS; 4: 16). and of passages from Paul’s other epistles (1 Cor. 9 :22; 10:31).

Included in the purpose of Paul’s prayer is also this, that believers, leading a life of tranquility and calm, may do nothing to create unnecessary disturbance, and may conduct themselves “in all godliness and gravity,” that is, “in all piety and respectability or dignity,” striving to be blameless in their conduct or attitude both toward God and toward men. See also pp. 10, lion these two words. For the first see on I Tim. 3: 16; for the second, I Tim. 3:4, 8, 11.

3, 4. How such prayers are viewed by God is now stated: This is excellent (or beautiful, admirable) and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the acknowledgment of the truth.

To the eye of God such praying is excellent or admirable. To his heart it is acceptable, most welcome. This stands to reason, for his name is God, our Savior” (see on I Tim. I: 1). Though men may at times feel inclined to skip prayer for kings and those who are in authority, especially when the co-operation from the side of princes is not what It should be, in God’s sight the matter looks differently. He does not see things as we see them (I Sam. 16:7). In more ways than one, conditions of tranquility and calm promote the spread of the gospel of salvation. And it is he “who desires all men to be saved.” The expression “all men” here in verse 4 must have the same meaning as in verse 1; see the discussion there. In a sense, salvation is universal, that is, it is not limited to any one group. Churches must not begin to think that prayers must be made for subjects, not for rulers; for Jews, not for Gentiles. No, it is the intention of God our Savior that “all men without distinction of rank, race, or nationality” be saved.45 What this “being saved” implies has been shown in connection with 1 Tim. 1: 15.

Now in the process of being saved (taken as a whole) men are not passive. On the contrary, they become active. It is God’s will that they come to the acknowledgment of the truth, that is, of the way of salvation which is revealed in the Word. Such acknowledgment is more than intellectual knowledge (gnosis). It is joyful recognition (epignosis), deep, spiritual discernment. See its use in Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:9; 2:2; 3:10. Thus we can also understand the expression “repentance unto the acknowledgment of the truth” (II Tim. 2:25). It is possible for a person to learn a good many things in a merely intellectual fashion, and yet never really come to a recognition or appropriation of the truth (II Tim. 3:7). There is a “knowing” which is different from a “knowing fully” (see the related verb in I Cor. 13:12). The purpose of prayer for all men, without distinction of rank, race, and nationality, is that they may be saved, and may come to ” full knowledge,” a knowledge in which hot only the mind but also the heart partakes. The purpose of such praying corresponds with God’s own sovereign desire.

5. The position, “God desires all men–men from every rank and station, tribe and nation–to be saved” is true, For (there is but) one God, and (there is but) one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

There is not one God for this nation, one for another; one God for slaves and one for free men; one God for rulers, one for subjects. Paul is his own best interpreter: “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit” (I Cor. 12: 13). Again, “or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also: if it be true (and It certainly is true) that God is one . . . ” (Rom. 3:29). That the apostle is actually thinking of the distinction “ruler . . . subject” follows from the immediately preceding context (I Tim. 2:2a). That he has in mind the distinction “Jew . . . Gentile” is apparent from the immediately following context (1 Tim. 2:7b).46The words, “There is but” are easily supplied. The very context requires them. On “abbreviated expression” see N.T.C. on John 5:31.

Not only the realm of creation but also that of redemption is united under one Head. Hence, not only is there only one God; there is also only “one Mediator of (here in the sense of between) God and men.” The present is the only passage in which Paul speaks of Ch1’ist as “Mediator.” However, in Gal. 3: 19, the apostle also uses the term, with probable reference to Moses, who as mediator transmitted God’s law to the people. In Gal. 3:20 he speaks in general about “a mediator.” It is the author of the epistle to the Hebrews who discusses at some length the position of Christ, our heavenly High-priest, as Mediator (Heb. 8:6; 9: 15; 12:24), “the Mediator of a new covenant.” By derivation the word simply indicates someone who stands “in the middle.” The purpose for which he takes this in between position must be derived, in each single case, from the context, or from parallel passages. In the present case it is not open to legitimate doubt that the apostle takes his point of departure in the fact that Christ is the One who has voluntarily taken his stand between the offended God and the offending sinner, in order to take upon himself the wrath of God which the sinner has deserved, thereby delivering the latter. This is clear because the entire context speaks of salvation (verse 4), and of Christ as a ransom (see on verse 6). A striking explanation is found in Gal. 3: 13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for (or over) us.” In that passage the Savior is pictured as standing over us, that is, between us and the curse of the law, so that the curse falls on him, and we are saved.47 However, it is clear that in the present passage (I Tim. 2:5) the concept Mediator is even slightly broader. Not only does Christ in this capacity restore sinners to the right legal relationship to God, but he also brings them to “the knowledge of the truth” (verse 1); and causes the testimony of this glorious truth to be borne to them (verse 6). Hence, he both establishes peace and reveals it to men, persuading them to accept the good news. He stands revealed as Mediator in this twofold sense.48

Note the manner in which the identity of this Mediator is revealed: “one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” To think of men in this connection means to think of man, the man Jesus Christ. Hence men and man are juxtaposed. Had salvation been intended only for one particular group–say, only for the Jews–the apostle would have written. “the Jew Christ Jesus.” Since it was intended for both Jew and Gentile, that is, for men in general, without distinction of race or nationality, he writes “the man Christ Jesus.” (By no means is this a denial of Christ’s deity. That he is the object of faith and worship is clear from I Tim. 3: 16. The word man here in I Tim. 2:5 is not contrasted with God but with Jew or Gentile.)

6. Prayer must be made in behalf of all men (verses I and 2) because:

a. salvation was intended for all, regardless of rank, station, race. or nationality (verses 3 and 4);

b. there is but one God and one Mediator for all (verse 5). not one for each group; and now:

c. there is but one ransom for all: who gave himself a ransom for all.

That is the basic element in Christ’s position as Mediator, which Paul has just mentioned. By his suffering and death Christ paid the penalty which God’s law demanded, thereby rendering satisfaction. He gave himself as “a substitute-ransom” (antilutron). See on Titus 2: 14, for a list of pertinent passages. Christ’s vicarious death. his sacrifice of himself in the place of others, is taught here as clearly as words can possibly convey it.49

By adding the preposition “for” or “in behalf of” (on which see N.T.C. on John, Vol. II, p. 110) to the preposition “in exchange for” Paul conveys the twofold idea that Christ’s substitutionary death was to the advantage of all. It merited not deliverance from wrath only, but salvation full and free (see on I Tim. 1: 15) for all men, regardless of rank, station, race, or nationality.

The second element in Christ’s position as Mediator is now indicated: the testimony (to be borne) in due season. Christ’s death as a ransom, to satisfy God’s justice, must be proclaimed. It was the intention of God that when “the appropriate seasons” or “favorable opportunities” arrived, the fact that God desires all men to be saved and to come to the acknowledgment of the truth, should be made known. Whatever is contained in verses 4-6 must be published. The “due season” (see footnote es 102 and 105) comprises the entire new dispensation. It is a “due season” or an “appropriate season” because it corresponds with God’s eternal plan with respect to it. Moreover, at its beginning the ransom was brought, and this is for all; and the Holy Spirit was poured out, again upon all flesh. (See also N.T.C. on John 7:6 and on I Thess, 5: 1.) Hence, the proper moment for the publication of the testimony (especially by those whose eyes have seen and whose ears have heard; see N.T.C. on John 1:7, 8) had arrived. Not during the old dispensation but only during the new can the mystery be fully revealed that all men, Gentiles as well as Jews, are now on an equal footing; that is, that the Gentiles have become “fellow heirs and fellow-members of the body and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6; d. Eph. 2: 11-22).

7. Now it was exactly for this purpose, namely, to bear testimony to all men, that Paul had been appointed “a teacher of the Gentiles” (with all the emphasis on this last phrase). Hence, he continues: for which purpose I was appointed a herald and apostle–I am telling the truth, I am not lying–a teacher of Gentiles in (the realm of) faith and truth.

Once it is seen that the expression “all men” in verses I and 3 indicates “all men regardless of social, national, and racial distinctions” and not “one by one every member of the entire human race, past, present, and future, including Judas and the Antichrist,” the logic of the entire paragraph becomes clear. All men, in the sense explained, must be remembered in prayer and thanksgiving (verse 1), rulers as well as subjects (verse 2), because God desires that all men be saved and come to acknowledge the truth (verses 3 and 4). There is not one God for this group, another for that group: there is not one Mediator for this nation, another for that nation, but only one God for all men, and only one Mediator for all men, the man Christ Jesus (verse 5), who gave himself as a ransom not just for this one particular group or nation but for all, to which good news testimony was to be borne when the favorable opportunity arrived (verse 6). Hence, 1, Paul, was appointed to be a teacher of Gentiles, in order that not only Jews but also Gentiles–hence, all men on an equal footing–might come to accept the truth by a living faith (verse 7).

In order that God’s plan for the salvation of men from every tribe and nation (not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles) might be carried out, Paul had been divinely appointed. He was no usurper, no claimer of authority which was not his by right. He had not forced his way to the front, but had been called to office by no one less than God himself. Moreover, he was God’s chosen vessel “to bear (Christ’s) name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (not only before the children of Israel, but also–yes especially–before the Gentiles and kings). He was to be a witness to “all men.” He was sent to the Gentiles to open their eyes, that they might receive I-emission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Christ. All this is plainly stated in Acts 9: 15; 22: 15, 21; 26: 17, 18.

William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1957), 93-100. [Some minor reformatting; footnotes and values original; italics and bold original; and underlining mine.]

[Notes: 1)  Regarding this exposition of this passage: It seems clear that the “will” of God for the salvation of all men here is the revealed will. 2) That being so, one can see Hendriksen’s attempt to walk a middle ground between two opposites. The one side (allegedly) insists that “all men” here as a reference to all men who have lived, live, and shall live. The other sees it as a reference to some of all kinds of men (namely, the elect from out of all kinds of men). The former expresses the revealed will, the latter the decretive. Hendriksen wants to, wisely, walk between the two. For example, Paul clearly does not have in mind dead people, with reference to God’s revealed desire for their salvation, or with regard to those for whom we, the living, should pray. 3) All that needs to be said is that we can well supplement Hendriksen’s comment by noting that Paul clearly means to teach that we are to pray for all living men of every kind, as God, himself, desires the salvation of all men of every kind, that is, men considered in the divine mind as both potential (i.e. yet to exist) and actual, but also, and importantly, savable (as opposed to the dead awaiting judgment). 4) One final note should be made, I have actually yet to read or meet an advocate of the position that all men in 1 Timothy 2:4 must mean, all who have lived (i.e., those who are now dead, both in heaven and in hell), who live, and who shall live. More often than not, this alleged “option” is thrust upon opponents of limited expiation and sin-bearing, but yet it is a complete caricature which should be categorically rejected, as it sets up a false and shallow false-dilemma argument (aka., the either/or fallacy).]


45On the question, “Did Christ die for each individual human being, including Judas and the antichrist, actually atoning for the guilt and paying the debt of each and everyone?” see N.T.C. on John, Vol. II, p.. III , and the excellent discussion in the following works:’

L. Berkhof, Vicarious Atonement Though Chris, Grand Rapids, Mich., pp. 151-178.

L Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Salvation, Grand Rapids, 1932, pp. 150. 161.

A source document for the Arminian position is “the remonstrance” or ”five Arminian Articles” (A. D. 1610). P. Schaff, in Creeds of Christendom, New York, fifth edition 1919, Vol. III, pp. 545-549, gives the original Dutch text, a Latin, and an English translation, in parallel columns. Here we read, ” . . . Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet … no one actually enjoys the forgiveness of sins except the believer.” On the whole, in this historic document the Arminians express themselves with restraint. (For other literature on this question, presenting either side–or both sides–see the bibliographies in R. L Dabney, Systematic and Polemic Theology, Richmond, 1927, p. 579; H. Bavinck, Gereformeerd Dogmatiek, Kampen, third edition, 1918, Vol. III, pp. 519-521; and the works listed at the end of the article “Arminius and Arminianism,” in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. I, pp. 296, 297. Also The Writings of Arminius (3 vols.).

The dispute between the followers of Arminius and those of Gomarus was brought to a head at the Synod of Dort. Here the position of those who favored the limited Atonement won the day. See “The Canons of the Synod of Dort, held A. D. 1618, 1619,” in P. Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, Vol. III, PI?’ 550-597. The second head of doctrine declares that the design of the Atonement is limited to the elect, but that the promise of the gospel should be published to all nations, and that the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for everyone without exception. Among the various works in which the proceedings of the Synod of Dort are discussed I have found L H. Wagenaar, Van Strijd En Overwinning to be especially informative. In their conduct both sides seem to have gone too far at times. Extreme “Remonstrants” (they preferred this name to “Arminians”) branded the decisions of the Synod as “the devil’s triumph.” They grossly misrepresented the Calvinistic position, just as some of their followers are doing even today. And on the other hand, one finds it hard to defend the manner in which the Synod’s strictly Calvinistic president dismissed the Arminian opponents. Brusquely gesturing for them to leave, the on the whole highly respect ed Rev. Johannes Bogerman reminded them that they had begun with lies and ended with lies. Then, in a voice of thunder, he shouted, “Y 0 u arc dismissed. Get going.”

The Arminian position on this and related doctrinal points gained many adherents, especially during the eighteenth century. It is said to have leavened religious thinking in America. A strong advocate of the unrestricted atonement view is Lenski in his commentaries.

46It is not at all necessary here to regard one as subject and God as predicate, so that we should have to translate “For one is God; one also is Mediator,” etc. Dr. C. Bouma in his comment on this passage is entirely. correct when he points out that Paul’s argument is not here directed (except by implication) against polytheism, but rather against one of the practical consequences of polytheism,. namely, that each nation has its own God who is concerned especially with that nation. No, there is one God who cares for all his people gathered from all over the world. What we have here, accordingly, is simply an instance of abbreviated expression.

47See A. T . Robertson , The Minister and His Greek New Testament, New York, 1923, p. 39.

48Excellent with respect to this twofold Mediatorship are the words of L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids, Mich., fourth edition, 1949, pp. 282, 283.–It is immediately clear that the meaning “arbiter” (or “arbitrator”) in legal disputes, a sense which the word often has in the papyri, is much too superficial to suit the context here. Christ not only “talks peace” but establishes it: lays the foundation for it by his active and passive obedience; then persuades men to accept it. On the sense in the papyri see M.M., p. 399.

49From my doctoral thesis, The Meaning of the Preposition avti in the New Testament, unpublished doctoral dissertation submitted to the Graduate School of Princeton Seminary, 1948, pp. 74, 75, I quote the following:

“That the prefix anti (in antilutron) has here the substutionary sense is clear. It means in exchange for. This conclusion is based on the following considerations:

“(1) The concept substitution is in harmony with the idea that is immediately suggested by the base-word to which anti is prefixed. A lutron is a ransom; that is, it is the amount paid [or the release of a person from captivity or slavery. Cf. I Peter 1: 18 19 which shows that the blood of Christ was understood to be the price.

“(2) The term antilutron in I Tim. 2:6 seems to be based on the expression lutron anti lutron (ransom for many) in Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45. Moreover, If the independent preposition anti in these Synoptic passages has the substutionary sense, It is certainly probable that when the preposition is used in composition With the noun it has the same meaning.”

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