(1 Tim. 4:16) How could Timothy ensure salvation for people?

CLAIM: Only God can ensure salvation—not men (Jn. 6:37-40; 10:27-30; 1 Cor. 1:8; Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:1; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; Eph. 1:13-14). However, this passage states that Timothy could “ensure salvation” for himself and the people in his church.

RESPONSE: This doesn’t refer to Timothy (or any other church leader) ensuring someone’s salvation. Such a concept is utterly foreign to the NT. Indeed, elsewhere Paul writes, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18). God himself is the one who protects the believer.

Rather, the term “salvation” (sōzō) has multiple uses in the Bible (c.f. Phil. 2:12-13). Here, Paul is not referring to justification. He is no doubt referring to sanctification. The context refers to spiritual growth—not spiritual birth (vv. 6-15). In other words, Paul is saying, “If you do these things, you and your church will grow spiritually.”