3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
this (v.3) — refers back to the encouragement to pray in vs.1-2
good (v.3) = intrinsically good, admirable (kalos)
acceptable (v.3) = welcome, received gladly
in the sight (v.3) = face to face, in the presence of
God our Savior (v.3) — lit. “Our Savior, God” — 1 Timothy 1:1; 4:10-11
In the Cult of the Caesar, the reigning emperor was called soter, “savior,” He was a savior in that he held mankind together under the great Roman power, providing peace and order, prosperity and protection. Over against this Cult of the Caesar, was the Cult of Christ, in which the Lord Jesus was worshiped as the Savior — God. The former ruled over the temporal affairs of his subjects and was one of their gods. The latter was Savior in the sense that He saved the believer’s soul from sin and exercised a spiritual control over his life. In the expression as it stands in the Greek text, there seems to be a polemic touch, contrasting the Savior of Christians with the pagan savior, and yet in the context recognizing the right the latter had to rule over the temporal aspects of the lives of the members of the Roman empire. Paul recognizes here the fact that human government is a divinely appointed institution, and yet draws the line between that and such a thing as the worship of the Caesar, by using the expression, “Our Savior, God. — Wuest, page 40.
will have (v.4) — The word “will” is thelo, speaking of a wish or desire that arises from one’s emotions. The desire for the salvation of lost sinners arises spontaneously from the love of God for a lost race. The literal Greek is “who willeth all men” etc. It marks a determinate purpose. Yet with this purpose, God does not fore a man to accept salvation against his will. He made man a free moral agent, and He will not violate the will of man. — Wuest, pages 40-41.
There are two Greek verbs one expressing desire, the other determination. The former is used here. God desires that all men should be saved. If He determined to save all men then all men must and will be saved. Salvation is universal but conditional. All men who accept the conditions … will be saved; those who refuse these conditions will be lost. God is willing to save all men without distinction … but not without exception; that would entail universalism. — Williams, page 953.
knowledge (v.4) = full knowledge — more than recognition (see 2 Timothy 2:25; 3:7)
Wuest’s translation — This is good and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, whose desire it is that all men be saved and come to a precise and experiential knowledge of the truth. — Wuest, page 42.
Those who read 1 Timothy 2:1-7 just as it is, and accept just what it says, can scarcely come to any other conclusion that that God desires the salvation of all and that Christ gave Himself a ransom for all, for that is just how it reads, that is just what it says. This proposition proves the more explicitly correct as we consider that the word rendered “will” in verse 4 (Greek, thelei) does not refer to God’s determinate purpose, but to His desire. The same thought is expressed negatively in 2 Peter 3:9, where we are told that God is “not willing that any should perish.” Indeed, in Ezekiel 33:11 God swears to this:
Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ — Stam, pages 55-56.