The Apostle Paul wrote, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.”
Notice that Paul does not say that God is the Savior exclusively of believers, but especially of believers. All mankind will be saved, but believers have something special. What does that mean? Here is an explanation written by Phil Scranton.
The Special Salvation of Believers – By Phil Scranton
“This a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For, therefore, we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe” (1 Tim. 4:9, 10).
One of the most common objections to the teaching that all will ultimately be saved is that it makes believing in Christ in the present pointless. If everyone is going to be saved, then why believe, why preach the gospel, why try to live a good life for God? These questions show that the salvation enjoyed by believers today is not understood. Many people today think their salvation is the key to an escape from hell to an eternal state of bliss. That is not what it is. Believers will be raised from death, or changed while still alive, into a condition of immortality. They will no longer be subject to death. In this immortal condition they will live during the coming ages of the kingdom, and participate in kingdom rule. That is their special salvation. And in the final times of God’s plan of the ages, the believers will be the ones who lead the unbelieving into peace with God.
Eonian life (not eternal life) is the life of the coming kingdom ages. It is a life enjoyed by believers in which they will live to see the ills of this world corrected and the world come under subjection to Jesus Christ. Paul was speaking of this time when he wrote to the Romans: “For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God…Because the creature [creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Rom 8:19, 21, 22).
Creation has a premonition of deliverance through those who, by believing now, become the sons of God. And it is in the revelation of glorified believers that the unbelieving will come to salvation.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he prayed for them to come to a realization of God, the Father of glory, by realizing three things (Eph. 1:18, 19): (1) the hope, or expectation of God’s calling; (2) the gloriously rich enjoyment of God’s allotment among the saints; and, (3) the exceeding greatness of God’s power for believers. The first of these, God’s calling of believers, is that they would be His sons (Eph. 1:3-6). The second request is to realize how glorious it will be to have God in us and among us in the coming ages as we bring all the heavens and earth under the headship of Christ and in submission to Him (Eph. 1:6-12). The third request was to grasp the greatness of God’s power for believers. This Paul refers to in verses 19 of chapter 1. Then he gives the example of God’s power operating in Christ as it will be when all the universe comes under His feet (1:20-23). Then Paul delineates how the display of God’s power in Christ will be fulfilled in believers also in 2:5-10.
The special salvation of believers today is: (1) to become sons of God; (2) to be the administrators through whom God will work in the coming ages to bring all under the headship of Christ; and, (3) to become the powerful actors through whom God will accomplish His purpose. Believers are not saved to sit and blissfully twiddle their thumbs. Believers are saved to save the universe by God working through them.
Thank you Mr. Scranton. If I may add additional testimony to his words from Rev. I. D. Williamson:
“It is often remarked by those who oppose the doctrine of universal salvation, that if God is the Savior of all men, then there is no difference between the saint and the sinner, the believer and unbeliever. Those who make this remark, seem to forget, that while God is declared to be the Savior of all men, he is also said to be ESPECIALLY the Savior of the believer. Though it is true, that God is the Savior of all, yet a little more attention would teach you, that all along, in Scripture, there is a salvation held forth as the SPECIAL PROPERTY of the believer, in which the unbeliever can have no part or lot. Though all shall be saved with an everlasting salvation, yet the believer ALONE can enjoy this special salvation.”
The Nature of Salvation, 1840