For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior: Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. —1 TIMOTHY 2:3-5.
When we despise those whom God would have honored, it is as much as if we should despise Him: so it is, if we make no account of the salvation of those whom God calleth to Himself. For it seemeth thereby that we would stay Him from showing His mercy to poor sinners, who are in the way to ruin. The reason why St. Paul useth this argument, that God will have all the world to be saved, is that we may, as much as lieth in us, also seek the salvation of those who seem to be banished from the kingdom of God; especially while they are unbelievers.
We must always observe what the condition of the world was in the days of St. Paul. It was something new and strange to have the gospel published to the world in those days: for it appeared that God had chosen the stock of Abraham, and that the rest of the world would be deprived of all hope of salvation. And indeed we see how Holy Writ setteth forth the adoption of this people: but St. Paul commandeth us to pray for all the world; and not without cause, for he addeth the reason, which is here mentioned: to wit, because God will have all men to be saved. As if he should say, my friends, it is reasonable that we should observe what the will of God is, and at what He aimeth; that every one of us may employ himself to serve Him aright.
Therefore, seeing it is the will of God that all men should be partakers of that salvation which He hath sent in the person of His only begotten Son, we must endeavor to draw poor, silly, ignorant creatures to us, that we may all come together to this inheritance of the kingdom of heaven, which hath been promised us. But we must observe that St. Paul speaketh not of every particular man, but of all sorts of men, and of all people. Therefore, when he saith that God will have all men to be saved, we must not think that he speaketh of them individually, but his meaning is this: that whereas in times past He chose a certain people to Himself, He meaneth now to show mercy to all the world: yea, even to them that seemed to be shut out from the hope of salvation.
He saith in another place, the heathens were without God, and void of all promise; because they were not as yet brought to the fellowship of the Jews. This was a special privilege that God had given to the descendants of Abraham. Therefore St. Paul’s meaning is not that God will save every man, but that the promises which were given to but one people are now extended to all the world: for as he saith in this same epistle, the wall was broken down at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God had separated the Jews from all other nations; but when Jesus Christ appeared for the salvation of the world, then was this difference, which existed between them and the Gentiles, taken away.
Therefore, God will now embrace us all: and this is the entrance into our salvation. For if that had always continued, which God ordained but for a season, then should we be all accursed; and the gospel would not have been preached to us: we should have had no sign or token of the love and goodness of God. But now we have become His children; we are no more strangers to the promises, as were our fathers: for Jesus Christ came to be a Savior to all in general; He offered the grace of God the Father, that all might receive it.
As St. Paul speaketh of all nations, so he likewise speaketh of all conditions; as if he should say, God will save kings and magistrates, as well as others: we must not restrain His fatherly goodness to ourselves alone, nor to any certain number of people. And why so? For He showeth that He will be favorable to all: thus we have St. Paul’s meaning. To confirm this matter, he addeth it is God’s will that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. We must mark well why St. Paul useth this argument; for we cannot know the will of God, unless it be made known to us; unless we have some sign or token whereby we may perceive it. It is too high a matter for us to know what God’s counsel is; but as far as He showeth it to us by effect, so far we comprehend it.