[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim. 2:4 (KJV)
I was recently asked: “If a person invites Jesus into their life are they saved for eternity—even if they don’t live in a manner that is pleasing to God?” This is a familiar question that has been asked by both believers and nonbelievers. What lies behind their inquiries is genuine concerned for the eternal destiny of their friends and family. My response to this question is framed by the nature of God—His goodness and His greatness and the infallibility of His Word. God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
“Knowledge” (epignōsis) denotes “an exact knowledge that perfectly unites the subject with the object” versus an abstract understanding. The use of knowledge in this passage goes beyond a superficial understanding but reflects a thorough and complete knowledge. Vine’s Expository Dictionary describes knowledge as that which involves “participation by the knower in the object known” thus powerfully influencing him. This is the kind of knowledge God desires that His children have of Him (Eph. 1:17).
In this text, “truth” (aletheia) refers to the truth taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ; subjectively it refers to integrity of character. Such character is only possible by the transformative power of the Gospel and through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth (John 16:8-13).
“To come to” or attain the knowledge of the truth is God’s desire for all unbelievers. The knowledge of truth—things pertaining to God—becomes the vehicle of understanding whereby unredeemed man can realized his spiritual depravity and acknowledge His need for a Living Savior. Armed with the knowledge of the truth, the unbeliever can see truth. Lies once hidden from his view are now fully exposed. The new believer is then able to participate in an intimate relationship with God and appropriate the spiritual blessings promised to him (Eph. 1:3. This includes their eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9).
With regard to the opening question, some theologians explain the believer’s continuation in sin as proof “they were never saved in the first place.” This explanation is neither for me to accept nor reject. That is a matter to be addressed between that believer and Jesus on the Day when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Next week we’ll continue discussion of the knowledge of the truth as it relates to believers and its impact on their life and eternal security.