Does 1 Timothy 4:10 teach universal salvation?                                       by Jack Kettler


“For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe.” (1Timothy 4:!0)


A surface meaning of the above text seems to teach that “ God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe.” If so, this would mean Paul is teaching salvific universalism.


How can this be, since in other passages from Holy Scripture one reads:


“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:14-15)


For example, consider the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:


“Mt 7:13-29. Conclusion and Effect of the Sermon on the Mount.”


“We have here the application of the whole preceding discourse.”


“Conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 7:13-27). “The righteousness of the kingdom,” so amply described, both in principle and in detail, would be seen to involve self-sacrifice at every step. Multitudes would never face this. But it must be faced, else the consequences will be fatal. This would divide all within the sound of these truths into two classes: the many, who will follow the path of ease and self-indulgence — end where it might; and the few, who, bent on eternal safety above everything else, take the way that leads to it—at whatever cost. This gives occasion to the two opening verses of this application.”


“13. Enter ye in at the strait gate—as if hardly wide enough to admit one at all. This expresses the difficulty of the first right step in religion, involving, as it does, a triumph over all our natural inclinations. Hence the still stronger expression in Luke (Lu 13:24), “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.”


“for wide is the gate—easily entered.

and broad is the way—easily trodden.

that leadeth to destruction, and—thus lured ‘many there be which go in thereat.’” (1)


According to the above commentary entry on Matthew, universal salvation is refuted. So, how should 1 Timothy 4:10 be understood?


Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers sheds important light upon the text:


“(10) For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach.—And for this end—to obtain this glorious promise, this highest blessedness here, that endless life with God hereafter, to win this glorious promise—we Christian missionaries and teachers care for no toil, however painful—shrink from no shame, however agonising.”


“Because we trust in the living God. — More accurately translated, because we have our hope in the living God. And this is why we toil and endure shame. We know that the promise made will be fulfilled, because the God on whom—as on a sure foundation—our hopes rest, is a living God. “Living,” in strong contrast to those dumb and lifeless idols shrined in the well-known Ephesian temples.”


“Who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.—These words, like the assertion of 1Timothy 2:4, have been often pressed into the service of that school of kindly, but mistaken, interpreters, who ignore, or explain away, the plain doctrine of Holy Scripture which tells us there are those whose destruction from the presence of the Lord shall be everlasting, whose portion shall be the “second death” (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 21:8). These interpreters prefer to substitute in place of this terrible, but repeated declaration, their own perilous theories of universalism. Here the gracious words seem to affix a seal to the statement immediately preceding, which speaks of “the hope in the living God” as the source of all the labour and brave patience of the Lord’s true servants. The living God is also a loving God, the Saviour of all, if they would receive Him, and, undoubtedly, the Redeemer of those who accept His love and are faithful to His holy cause.” (Emphasis mine)                   


“It must be borne in mind that there were many Hebrews still in every Christian congregation, many in every church, who still clung with passionate zeal to the old loved Hebrew thought, that Messiah’s work of salvation was limited to the chosen race. This and similar sayings were specially meant to set aside for ever these narrow and selfish conceptions of the Redeemer’s will; were intended to show these exclusive children of Israel that Christ’s work would stretch over a greater and a grander platform than ever Israel could fill; were designed to tell out to all the churches how indeed “it was a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel.” Still, with all these guarded considerations, which serve to warn us from entertaining any hopes of a universal redemption, such a saying as this seems to point to the blessed Atonement mystery as performing a work whose consequences reach far beyond the limits of human thought, or even of sober speculation.” (2)


Ellicott’s comments on this passage do not allow for universal salvation, and 1 Timothy 4:10 is not in contradiction with passages like Matthew 7:13.     


Why 1 Timothy 4:10 does not teach universal salvation:


The phrase “Savior of all people” has led some to suggest the idea of universal salvation, the belief that all humans will ultimately be saved by God. However, this interpretation is not universally accepted within Christian theology.


The key phrase here is “who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” This can be understood as follows:


1.      Saviour of all men: This statement affirms the universal aspect of God's salvation. God desires the salvation of all people (2 Peter 3:9), and His saving work through Christ is available to everyone.


2.      Specially of those that believe: Here, Paul emphasizes that while God offers salvation to all, it is particularly experienced and appropriated by those who have faith in Jesus Christ. Believers receive the full benefits of salvation, including forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and eternal life.


Many theologians argue that the phrase “Savior of all men” should be understood in the context of God's universal offer of salvation to humanity through Jesus Christ. In this view, while salvation is offered to all, it is received through personal faith and acceptance of Christ's sacrifice.


Furthermore, the latter part of the verse emphasizes that salvation is especially for those who believe. This aligns with other passages in the Bible that highlight the importance of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (e.g., John 3:16, Acts 4:12).


In summary:


While 1 Timothy 4:10 may be interpreted differently by different individuals or theological traditions, it does not explicitly teach universal salvation. Rather, it underscores the universal offer of salvation through Christ with an emphasis on personal faith as the means of receiving that salvation.


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)




1.      Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977), p. 911.

2.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, 1 Timothy, Vol. 8, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 198.



Mr. Kettler, a respected author and theologian, has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife, Marea, are active members of the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler's extensive work includes 18 books defending the Reformed Faith, which are available for order online at Amazon.