Does God Literally Desire All to Be Saved?

Greg unpacks the definition of "desire" in light of 1 Timothy 2:3-4. 


00:06 Okay, so here's a challenging question: Does God literally desire all to be

00:17 saved? Now of course, the emphasis of that question, with the word "literally," is on

00:22 the "all," but the operative word there is not "all." The operative word is "desire,"

00:27 okay? Because there are different ways that God could want something. We read in

00:33 1 Timothy, for example, that God desires all men to be saved and so this

00:41 is in Chapter 2, I believe. And so what are we to make of that

00:45 when all are not saved, for one. And also, there are other questions about election

00:53 that kind of enter into the discussion. So in some way, this is going to be, my

00:59 answer is going to be influenced by my own theology on this, but it's

01:03 principally by way of removing a kind of challenge or objection to the concept of

01:10 sovereign grace, whatever your own personal views happen to be on this. And

01:14 I mentioned that the operative word is "desire," so this is talking about the will

01:20 of God. It seems to me very clear in Scripture that God can have a will in

01:26 two different senses. One sense, David says, and in other places in the Psalms,

01:33 and other places in Scripture, that God does His will in Heaven and on Earth. Who

01:40 can stand against His will? Who can oppose His will? So there's a sense in

01:44 which we all understand that when God desires to do something, and He puts His

01:49 effort into doing it, it gets done. That's God's will. We might call that God's

01:53 sovereign will. There are other times when God uses the

02:01 word "will" in the text, or a writer does, and says, "it's God's will that," and it's

02:06 clear that it's not always done. 1 Thessalonians 4, for example, says, "And

02:11 this is God's will for your life," okay, so for those who've been looking for God's

02:14 will, here it is, or at least part of it, "even your sanctification that you

02:19 abstain from sexual immorality." Okay? No duh. A lot of people don't get this one

02:25 nowadays, but it's really clear - 1 Thess. 4. It's God's will that we don't

02:30 sin sexually. Do people sin sexually? Yes. So there is a sense in which God's will

02:37 cannot be thwarted, and there is another sense of God's will in which it can be

02:42 thwarted. The first time God says, "I want this done, and I'm going to do it." The

02:47 second time God says, "I want this done, and you're supposed to do it." Alright?

02:52 First can't be thwarted, the second can. So the question now is: How do we apply

02:58 that concept to the issue of salvation? Does God want all to be saved? And

03:05 according to 1 Timothy, the answer is "yes," in one sense. Now, He doesn't want all

03:11 to be saved sovereignly, or else everyone would be

03:14 saved. Common sense. He desires all to bend the knee and turn

03:21 to Him. That's what He wants. Now, this is not going to happen. It's obvious, okay? So

03:28 there is a sense, in a certain degree, morally, that God wants all to be saved. I

03:34 think that's the 1 Timothy sense. But then there's another sense where God, at

03:40 least according to some, exercises a sovereign will to rescue some and not

03:49 others. And those that He sovereignly decides to rescue, which are called the

03:54 elect, He does so. Now, you don't have to buy the theology, the Reformed Theology.

04:01 The point I'm making here is if you do buy the Reformed Theology, you are not

04:07 vulnerable to some kind of contradiction with regards to the question of all

04:12 people being saved, okay? Because God could want all people to be

04:17 saved in one sense but not want all people to be saved in another. And unless

04:24 we have a distinction like that – God's sovereign will and God's moral will – then

04:30 we have a contradiction in Scripture, and this is not good. No, God's will is used, the

04:37 notion of God's will is used in two different ways and one in the sovereign

04:42 sense and one in the moral sense, and I think both ways are used with regards to

04:47 the question of people's salvation.

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Greg Koukl