One of the clearest expressions of the universal grace of God comes from the book if 1 Timothy.
"This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men (pantas anthropous) to be saved (sothenai)and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all (panton) men—the testimony given in its proper time" (1 Timothy 2:3-6)
The controversy is over what the term "all men" means in this passage. Many interpreters see this as a statement that God wants every single person to be saved, and that Christ was given as a ransom for every single person.
The Calvinistic interpreters however, have interpreted this to mean simply "all kinds of men". The Calvinistic interpretation has some supporting from the previous verse which states, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." This shows that he is referring to all kinds of men including regular citizens as well as those in authority.
While this interpretation is understandable, it would seem to necessitate that prayers should only be made for the elect. The "everyone" whom we should pray for, is linked to the "all men" whom God desires to be saved. Thus if the "all men" are only the elect among differing kinds of men, then the "everyone" for whom we must pray are only the elect among all kinds of men.
The meaning of this passage seems to be that because Christ died for every man, including those in authority, we should pray for every man, including those in authority.
There is much more evidence to support this view when one observes the rest of the epistle to Timothy. How does Timothy use the term "all" (pas) through out his epistle? There is another passage very similar in the book of Timothy which should be taken into careful consideration.
"This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. " (I Timothy 4:9-10)
Paul, once again, uses the concept of salvation (the word used is soter)with the concept of "all men" (panton anthropon).
Clearly in 4:10, the "all men" are distinct from those who are believers. Believers are merely one section of the group "all men". This has often troubled interpreters because it has sounded universalistic. Does this verse mean that every individual will be saved? Well, to explain what Paul means by Christ being the savior of all men we must go to a point within the same writing where the same idea is being discussed. This brings us back to chapter 2:4-6. Here we see that Christ is the savior of "all men" in that he 1. desires them to be saved, and 2. gives Himself as a ransom for them.
To be a consistent exegete, it must be admitted that "all men" in I Timothy 2:4-6 cannot simply refer to "all kinds of men". Unless there is sufficient reason to think otherwise, we must assume that Paul uses the same word in the same way when it appears in a short epistle within the same context (the context being salvation, both instances using words with a sozo root).