Especially hard to avoid

There is an interesting word in the New Testament that gets used to indicate a part of the whole which is preferred above the rest. It is the word especially.

Let’s look at how it gets used and test our understanding with some questions.

Acts 9:41
“He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive.”

True or False:
Based on this statement Peter seemed to feel it was of greater value that the widows witness the healing of Tabitha.

This is indicated by the word especially. Tabitha had been a great benefactor to them and they were greived above the rest and wept greatly at her death. This indicates that the widows were a preferred subgroup of the accepted whole.

Acts 25:26
“But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write.”

True or False:
Festus wanted Pauls case to be examined by a large group of Roman officials, but none of their opinions stood above the rest.

Clearly King Agrippas opinion was preminent above that of the entire body of officials and we understand that by the use of the word especially.

True or False.
King Agrippas opinion is the only voice Festus was interested in hearing.

Festus stated that the entirety of the group was being consulted.

I Cor 14:11
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.”

True or false:
The gift of prophecy is the only gift beleivers should desire.

There are gifts of the spirit plural.
Among them is prophesy. No gifts are excluded simply because prophecy is preferred.
To suggest that is to ignore the simple logic of the statement.

2 Corinthians 2:12
“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.”

True or false:
Paul seemed to regard sincerity and integrity among beleivers of even greater emphasis than among worldly people.

The word especially seems to indicate that Paul has placed setting a good example for the church of utmost priority.

True or false:
Because Paul was only concerned about what beleivers thought of him, he lived in a careless and disingenuous way among unbeleivers.

Paul lived sincerely and with integrity in his relations with worldly people. Especially does not exclude one set, instead it prefers one set above another set. Both are included, one is preferred more. One is special.

Gal 6:10
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

True or false
The family of beleivers are the only people that are to be afforded Christian goodness.

Through the use of the word especially, we find that goodness is determined for all people and reserved exclusively for none, yet there is a subset that are considered the priority. That is the family of faith.

I Tim 5:8
“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

True or false
Beleivers are called to treat all relatives equally.

Members of ones own houshold take precedent over more distant relatives.

True or False
Family that is not of ones own house are on thier own and should expect nothing from us.

Especially does not exclude distant relatives from our concern. It merely sets them in a preferred place in order of priority.

Now at this point it should clear that there is a very consistant logic within the use of the concept of especially in the bible and especially by Paul.

One cannot surmise from a statement which utilizes the term
especially any sense of exclusion. Exclusion is in fact excluded by the operation of the term.

If a man says “I like ice cream, especially strawberry” there is no data with which to surmise an exclusion of any form of ice cream from his taste.

The Greek word in all these passages is malista. Strongs defines it as: especially, chiefly, most of all, above all.

There is a commonality between the statements of the bible regarding the word especially. It is very hard to find that word without the distinct word or concept of “all” residing near it.

All and especially seem to be partners in identifying a preferred subgroup within an accepted whole.

That is very important to keep in mind as we look at one last statement. Please read and let the rules of logic established thus far continue to govern your interpretation.

I Tim 4:10
“That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

Up until now we have had no reason to question the inspiration or intention of any passage quoted here.

So let’s once again perform our test.

True or False:
God intends to save only those who believe?

If that were so he would have said only those who believe, not especially.

We assume that we have read the very Words of God in thier plain and unambiguous meaning. It seems to state in a simple and clear way without qualification that Gods salvation will effect all people. There is no reason to think of this passage any differently other than one. The mind which has been conditioned to think otherwise over the course of years will immediately begin carving out exceptions for why this passage must not be read with the same logic as all the others. Yet it is has an irreducability and inescapability to its meaning. One simply cannot avoid that the salvation is effective to all and that none of the all are excluded.

Yet there is a subset of the all that is preferred, namely those who have believed. This idea of a preferred subset of the accepted whole shows up in an ancient concept of worship appropriated by the New Testament authors. This is the notion of the firstfruits.

Consider the following.

James 1:18
”He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

Firstfruits was a holy offering that was taken from a batch of dough and given to the preists by the worshipper.

Romans 11:16
”If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.”

The whole batch is all of creation. The church is the firstfruits. There is no sense of exclusion here, but in fact order and supremacy. The church and beleivers are the part Jesus the high preist has taken for himself, but the whole of creation will also be accepted and enjoyed, after it is baked in the oven.

This is why we can rejoice at this statement

“God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

But this demands an explanation regarding judgement. If God saves all does that mean there is no judgement? Never.

There will be a judgement, for it is stated over and over in scripture. Yet it is one thing to be saved from judgement and it is another to be saved with judgement. Consider the following.

“hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”

The destruction of the flesh needs to happen so his spirit can be saved at some future preordained day. The flesh is where sin and rebellion is seated. To destroy the flesh is to destroy the place where sin hides and nests and festers.

Judgement is a destruction of this nest and all the uncleaness dwelling in it, but the bird lives on.

When Jesus died what was destroyed? His flesh. It is flesh that carries the sinful curse.

Where does the soul come from? Do we get our soul consciousness from our mother and father, or is it something breathed by God into the body mom and dad create?

“Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Notice the formation of the body and the breathing of consciousness are two seperate acts. When humans are conceived, parents create the body but only God creates the consciousness.

I don’t want to wander too far from our topic for this post but at the same time I want to help you understand the scriptural provision for considering a judgement that actually serves to prepare the judged for a new chapter of existence with God. There is much more that could be said on that. But what I wanted to do here is to fully explore the concept of all and especially in their persistent and common use in the New Testament. In fact there is no exception in all of the bible to this logical use of especially.

Because of that precedent of reinforcement, there should be no objection to reading the universalist implications of I Timothy 4:10. In order to re-engineer that meaning away from universalism, one is forced to also modify it in every passage mentioned here and others that were not mentioned.

I Tim 4:10
“That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

Understand that if some one is never saved, then God is not to them any kind of Savior. If there are two burning buildings and the fire department can only go into building A, then that fire department could never have been considered any kind of help or salvation to those in building B.

To be a Savior one has to perform the salvation. The salvation must be accomplished not merely intended. If God is the Savior of all people but some are not saved…then he is not the Savior of all people. If God is the creator of all things, but there are things God did not create then He is not the creator of all things.

If the traditional doctrine of hopeless eternal punishment for the unbeleivers is true then Paul should not have written 1 Timothy 4:10 the way he did. Instead it shou;d have been written this way:

I Tim 4:10
“That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of only those who believe.” 

Do you see how the actual biblical form throws wide open the doors of hope for all? Only and especially are virtually incompatible terms. All and especially are in logical harmony. In the same way all and only are just as much oil and water.

I Tim 4:10
“That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, but only of those who believe.”

Arminians may wish it read this way, but it does not. So what we are left to do then if we refuse to accept the plain reading is to ask why Paul wrote such a reckless and easily misused statement if in fact his doctrine was that a first fruit goes to heaven and the rest of the human creation all burns in hell forever. Would Paul choose wording that could be so easily be read the wrong way?

I think the evidence shows that Paul wrote it exactly the way he did for the reasons spelled out here. God is and will finally be the actual worker of ultimate salvation for all people.

When this is taken into consideration with the incompatibility of eternal torture with divine love, as well as considered alongside God’s infinite wisdom and power and mercy, we must conclude eternal conscious torment is a badly formed doctrine deeply rooted from the dark ages of theological and philosophical reasoning.


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