If you instruct the brothers of these things, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which you have followed. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables. Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise has some value, but godliness has value in all things, having the promise of the life which is now, and of that which is to come. This saying is faithful and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we have set our trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things.(1 Timothy 4:6-16, emphasis added)
Let no man despise your youth; but be an example to those who believe, in word, in your way of life, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity. Until I come, pay attention to reading, to exhortation, and to teaching. Don’t neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the elders. Be diligent in these things. Give yourself wholly to them, that your progress may be revealed to all. Pay attention to yourself, and to your teaching. Continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
It is ironic that these verses open with “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths.” Paul continues to teach and to encourage Timothy. He’s a young man leading a congregation and evangelizing his community. His heart is in the right place. Paul admonishes him to hold fast to the message he is giving. There are others, older men, potentially influencing Timothy perhaps causing him confusion. Paul tells him to maintain his bodily exercise for it is good, but being Godly is profoundly superior. Paul exhorts Timothy to accept as truth, “…the living God, Who is the Savior of al men….”
William MacDonald writes in the Believers Bible Commentary regarding these verses, in particular verse 10. 1 Christians have an outlook on life different than those who do not believe in Christ. It is our passion to reach out to unbelievers and tell them the Truth of God’s Holy Word. Dr. MacDonald writes, “The Christian sees beyond the passing things of the world and sets his hope on the living God.” Christians are not ever disappointed in their belief. Dr. MacDonald tells us the reason for our hope is “that He is the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of the those who believe.” We comprehend God’s grace and mercy. We know Christ reigns now.
These verses should not be construed to mean that “only” those who believe are saved, but “especially” those who believe. We should not exclude a whole class of people, unbelievers. In fact, we should take pains to demonstrate their inclusion. God instructs us to love even those who hate us. That would mean to love even the most heinous unbeliever, would it not? Our Lord commands us to love all. It is counter-intuitive to command us to love when He does not, yet that is the contention of many. These scriptures do not declare God is rejecting anyone. God is the Savior of all people. This is Impartial Grace.
Dr. MacDonald died in 2007. He was a prolific Christian writer and honored God by not accepting remuneration for the written works he produced. He was President of Emmaus College which is affiliated with The Plymouth Brethren Church. I am confident Dr. MacDonald’s heart is owned by God. Dr. MacDonald is also an advocate of the doctrine of eternal conscious torment. He applies his predisposition favoring the doctrine to this writing. According to Dr. MacDonald God has made Himself known to the people of the world from the beginning of time and God provides for all. God by His grace made provision for mankind, all mankind, to believe and to be saved. But, only a few take advantage of God’s grace. Dr. MacDonald concludes Jesus “…who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe…” is only inclusive of those who believe. Some, perhaps most, are excluded from His mercy and saving grace. Dr. MacDonald diminishes Christ’s death in this commentary. He writes, “We might say that He is the potential Savior of all men and the actual Savior of those who believe.” According to this explanation Christ’s death is “potential” salvation, but still sufficient only for “…those who believe.”
Dr. MacDonald was surely a loving, kind and generous man while living. He is described as a man truly loving God. He asks, “What does the Bible say about our destiny?” Scripture teaches, “It is appointed to men to die once and after this judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). No man will be able to cheat death. Dr. MacDonald says, “Death is not the end. There is a hereafter.” That hereafter for believers is heaven. “After death there is judgment and an eternity of endless suffering for those who are not ready to meet God. The Bible says and whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Dr. MacDonald teaches this condition is a fact that cannot be denied or altered.
Kevin Engle is a kind of archivist for The Plymouth Brethren of which Dr. MacDonald is associated. I am not certain Mr. Engle speaks for that denomination. His father, Kenneth, and Dr. MacDonald were contemporaries and close friends. Mr. Engle posts a sermon message by D. L. Moody entitled “Hell.” 2 Dr. MacDonald’s theology is in line with Dr. Moody’s. Dr. Moody writes about eternal conscious torment. He believes “the worm that dieth not is our memory.” In this life we are forgetful and perhaps we have an ability to bury painful memories. Dr. Moody says, “The time is coming when we shall remember and cannot forget.” He teaches, “God makes us keep our own record.” God causes us to review our record. Dr. Moody suggests Cain remembers his sin against Abel, that Judas will eternally remember kissing Christ Jesus, that the sinners before the flood will remember rejecting salvation in the Ark.
Dr. Moody writes, “There are many men and women now who think that all souls will at last be saved in spite of all their sins.” This is the common understanding of the advocates of universal reconciliation. Dr. Moody believes these advocates are good people in “error.” Dr. Moody does not believe God would sweep any unsaved man into heaven. Noah had to work for his salvation, but the sinners who drowned did not. Does that seem fair? Is it conceivable that God crushed evil men in Sodom leaving behind a few to despair? Dr. Moody’s doctrine concludes so. Dr. Moody’s theology is eternal conscious torment like Dr. MacDonald’s. The unrepentant will be cast into another place. “There will be no tender, loving Jesus coming and offering you salvation there – no loving wife or mother to pray for you there.” There is no hope in that place. There is only eternal conscious torment. Dr. Moody writes that God will say, “Cut them down; the day of mercy is ended…. There will be no preaching of the Gospel there….There will be no revivals in hell.”
1 William MacDonald. “Believer’s Bible Commentary.” (Commentary on 1 Timothy 4). Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995. pp. 2092-2094.