Some argue that Calvinism and 1 Timothy 2 are contradictory because 1 Timothy 2 says that God “desires all people to be saved” and that Jesus was a “ransom for all.” They say that this would contradict the Calvinist doctrines of unconditional election and limited atonement. However, there is a reasonable interpretation of 1 Timothy 2 that does not at all contradict the doctrines of Calvinism.
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.1 Timothy 2:1-6
The context of 1 Timothy 2 helps us understand what the word “all” means in verses 4 and 6. In the phrases, “desires all people to be saved” and “ransom for all,” the word “all” does not refer to ”every individual person”, but rather to ”classes”, or ”groups”, of people.
In verses 1-2, Paul clarifies how he is using the word “all.” He writes, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions.” Here, “all people” does not refer to every individual person, but rather to particular classes, or groups, of people, for example, “kings and all who are in high positions.”
The meaning of words such as “all” and “world” is not as simple as Arminians sometimes assert. More often than not, the Bible uses the words “all” and “world” to refer to groups of people, rather than to every single individual person. To read more, see Calvinism and the Meaning of “All” and “World.”