1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9

How does the idea that Christ died for the elect  line up with 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 ?

First we have to recognize that the connotation of a word is determined by the context. There are times when the phrases “all” or “everyone” or “whole world” do not automatically mean “every individual in the entire world.”

We see one example in Luke 2:1-3

 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earthThis was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

Obviously “all the inhabited earth” did not mean “every inhabitant of the world.” Caesar’s decree did not apply to people who were not of the Roman empire, so it could not have means everyone in the world. The context for both “all the inhabited earth” and “everyone” was limited to those of the Roman empire.

A second example is when the Pharisees were speaking about everyone following Christ in John 12:19

19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.”

The world did not go after Him – only those who followed Christ did, there were plenty left (in the local area and in the entire world) who did not – including the Pharisee who spoke and the one who heard it.

A third example is seen in Mark 1:32

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.

 We know not all the sick and demon-possessed of the world were brought to Jesus. So “all” doesn’t always mean “all”.

Another example is Matthew 8:16

16 When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill .

“All” were not healed – only all of those who were brought to Christ. The context limits the meaning of the word.

A fifth example would ‘everyone’ in  Mark 1:35-37

35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. 36 Simon and his companions searched for Him; 37 they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”

Obviously not everyone in the world was looking for Jesus – only a lot of people in the crowd of people who had been with Jesus the day before.

Now, having shown that the scope of the word “all” is limited by the context, we need to look and see what the context of  2 Peter 3:9.

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

We can see Peter was speaking of God being long suffering toward us, believers.  Since the context is believers, the “all” refers to all believers, not all people.  We see that God is long suffering toward us – toward believers. He is not willing that any who would come to believe should perish, but all who would come to believe should come to repentance.

What about the context of 1 Timothy 2:3-4? We only have to look back a few sentences before this passage to see what Paul was speaking about.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 tells us that christ came into the world to save sinners, and that Christ’s perfect patience is an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Just like Peter was speaking about believers in 2 Peter 3:9, so too was Paul was speaking about believers . The context limits the scope of “all” to “those who would believe in Him for eternal life. ”

So yeah, Christ died for believers.


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