Luther’s Interpretation of I Timothy 2:4

There is a great history of Reformed interpretation of I Timothy 2:4. In this one verse the question of human will, the extent of the atonement, and the desire of God for the salvation of man comes to play. Luther, Calvin, Erasmus, and others offer sufficient hints to conclude that there was little agreement on this text. Erasmus argued that salvation had been offered and that it was up to man to respond. Calvin–following Augustine–understood that God’s desire is to save men from all classes of people (kings and such). Luther translates verse four in this manner:

God our Savior who wills that all people should be helped, and come to the knowledge of truth.

Luther did not see this text as a reference to salvation (as in soteriology), but rather to the health, or well-being of an individual. He understood this text to refer to God’s divine provision for all his creatures, “whether man or beast, and whether believer or unbeliever.”*

*Universal Salvation (I Timothy 2:4) according to the Lutheran Reformers by Lowell C. Green

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