The grace of God has appeared: This is the verb, epiphaino as an aorist
passive indicative. The aorist tense communicates a point of time arrival
in history and refers to the universal salvation provision that was accomplished
by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. This salvation provision is called
GRACE, because it is something that God does for man without any merit
or contribution from man. Man does not and cannot earn or deserve the loving
expression of God the Father that did not spare his only son, but delivered
him up for us all (Rom. 8:32).
At verse 3:4, it is the kindness and love of God that
APPEARED in that SAME point of time, and is thus the basis for Him saving
us - not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but
according to His mercy. And that is why Paul writes at Ephesians 2:8-9,
that by GRACE we have been saved through faith, and THAT (salvation) is
not of ourselves but is the gift of God - not of works.
Now the issue is argued - whether this grace that appeared
is RESTRICTED to only SOME, or is a universal provision to all mankind.
The adjective that occurs next is soterios, which is an
ACTIVE adjective and it means saving, delivering and thus BRINGING salvation
or deliverance. So grace BRINGS salvation, but to whom does grace bring
salvation - some or all? The prepositional phrase, "to all men,"
is the dative case of the adjective pas, which means ALL, plus the noun
it modifies - anthropos (plural) to give us the translation, all men.
The Calvinist has to water this down and desert the literal
INTENT of the statement, and claims that it refers to all TYPES or categories
of men. But I am unable to see and certainly cannot accept such a rationalization
of this very clear statement. Thus, the literal, natural, grammatical and
COMMON SENSE understanding is that God's grace appeared in a particular
point of time, and in that appearance (manifested by the sacrificial death
of Christ on the cross) PROVIDED salvation to all men.
But although such a LITERAL understanding is the most
natural, it is necessary to find contextual support for it, JUST as it
is necessary to find any contextual support for alternate suggestions,
such as what Calvinistic theology offers. Calvinism however, comes up
short and quite deficient of any contextual support and can only perpetuate
the same convoluted watering down of the word ALL, instead of letting it
stand on its own merits. Accordingly, I appeal to 1 Timothy 2:6, which
says of our Lord Jesus, that he "gave Himself as a ransom FOR ALL,"
which was BECAUSE God "desires ALL MEN to be saved," as stated
at verse 4.
In view of this, it was quite appropriate for Paul to
proclaim to the people of Athens, "Therefore, having overlooked the
times of ignorance (Old Testament period), God is now declaring to men,
that ALL everywhere SHOULD REPENT, because He has fixed a day when He will
judge the world." (Acts 17:30-31). But again, is this all, as in ALL
CATEGORIES of men, or should we let the all stand on its own merits and
refer to a universal invitation in view of a universal judgment?
Furthermore, if God's grace has provided salvation for
all men, then He stands as the Savior of all men. Is He the savior of only
the ones chosen - the elect? Or is He also the savior of those who are
not elect? If salvation is provided ONLY for the elect, then He is the
savior of only the elect. However, Paul informs us that "the living
God is the Savior of ALL men, ESPECIALLY of believers," (1 Timothy
4:10). This tells us that He is the POTENTIAL savior of all men, but only
the ACTUAL savior of those who believe. If there was no valid potential
for ALL men to be saved, then Paul could not have used this language under
the inspiration of the Spirit.
For more details see topic: Unlimited
The rest of the verse in this context refers to what the
gospel teaches to those who become believers. The gospel (the GOOD NEWS)
of God's provision of NEW LIFE involves both the ACQUISITION of eternal
life, and the LIVING of eternal life here on earth. The grace of God appeared
- and accomplishes TWO things. (1) it brings salvation to all men, and
(2) it THEN instructs any out from among those "all" men, who
believe, HOW TO LIVE in this present age.