1Timothy 2.1-7 - One Mediator
May 16, 2010 Series: 1 Timothy
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Timothy 2:1–2:7
Sermon by Mark Hakso
I Timothy 2:1-7
May 16, 2010
For the last couple of weeks we have been hearing from the first chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy about his charge to Timothy to stand strong and defend the truth of the gospel of salvation against those who would pervert it by teaching different doctrines. We have heard and learned about how ever since the beginning of the church there have been those whose purpose it seems is to introduce false doctrine into the church simply to lead people away from Christ to themselves. The time that we live in is no different. Many of our nation’s mainline denominations have been led astray by different doctrines and false teachings so that gospel truth that leads to salvation has been so watered down that it is all but missing in some and totaling missing in others. New denominations and churches have sprung up as well that while using the name of Christ, they have little or nothing to do with the gospel truth that we are sinners saved by grace alone, through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone. That is why it is of vital importance that we take heed to what Paul writes to Timothy and receive it as though he wrote this letter personally to us here atDamascus Road.
Here now are the first seven verses of the second chapter which we will be taking a closer look at this morning.
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 Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle ( I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Paul gives Timothy practical instructions on how he is to defend the truth. First, he says that we are to be a praying people. And he specifically teaches that our prayers are to be evangelical in nature, that is, that our prayers should be for the benefit of other people that they may be saved. Now if you’ll notice, in verse 1 he says that our prayers should be made for all people, and in verse 4 he tells us that it’s God’s desire that all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. You may not know this but this one word has been and I suppose continues to be a source of contention among some theologians. The question is, does he literally mean all people or does he mean all types of people? The source of this debate comes back to a persons understanding of what the scriptures teach concerning the extent of Christ’s atonement. For many who believe that Christ’s atonement is limited to those whom he came to save, the answer is that Paul here means all types of people; all nations, all races, all classes, all ethnic groups and so on. For many who believe that Christ’s atonement is unlimited, the answer is that Paul means literally all people.
The fear I suppose is that some might take this to mean that Paul is teaching universalism, the belief that Christ death saves everybody irrespective of whether they believe in him or not and since God wants us to pray for all people and since God desires all people to be saved, then eventually all people will be saved. Well, I certainly don’t believe that Paul is a universalist, there is ample evidence of that elsewhere in his writings. I agree with Charles H. Spurgeon that had the Holy Spirit wanted Paul to write all types, He would have done just that. But He didn’t; He wrote all people.
I think the point here is that Paul doesn’t want us just to pray for the elect only because we have no idea who the elect are. God is the only one who does and He wants us to treat everyone we meet or don’t meet as having the same opportunity for salvation. Our job according to Paul is to pray for all people and in addition to that, preach the gospel to them. It’s the role of the Holy Spirit to convert them if it’s in His divine plan to do so.
As far as the fourth verse, where he says that it’s God desire that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, I believe he is speaking about the true desire of God. There is however, an obvious sense where God’s desire differs from his eternal purpose of salvation. The scriptures support this desire in many places. For example, in Ezekiel 33:11, God says,
Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?
God’s desire that all would be saved is in fact consistent with who he is. He is a merciful loving God whose desire has always been that we would cease our rebellious ways and turn to him in obedience and faith for the forgiveness that he so richly offers to any and all who will hear his voice. Listen to what he says in Isaiah 45:22,
“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.
Also, in 55:1, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
I absolutely love this verse! It communicates to us amazing truths about the seller and the buyer. First of all, it tells about God who is compassionate and patient, graciously inviting sinners to a relationship with him through his son Jesus Christ. There’s a good reason for God to offer heavenly wine and milk without money and without price. It’s because we don’t have any spiritual money, or gold, or silver to offer. The only currencies that we would have to offer for this living water are counterfeit coins and fools gold. And the seller of this water will not receive our payment. That is why he offers it to us for purchase without money and without price.
Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:9 that,
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
As I previously mentioned, God’s desire is not always the same as his eternal saving purposes. The bible does teach that God has chosen certain sinners from since before he laid the foundations of the earth that he would call out of unbelief to salvation. Paul writes to the Ephesians in Eph. 1: 3-6,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
The bible contains many such passages which clearly teach this doctrine of election and predestination, but my purpose is not to go into all of that now, but only to illustrate how when Paul tells us to pray for all people, we should really pray for all people, regardless of who they are. God takes no pleasure in damning the wicked. Yet, even though it does not please him, he still receives glory even from the damnation of the ungodly. This according to Paul in Rom. 9: 22-23.
Now you may be asking yourself right now, how can this be? How can God on the one hand desire that all people would believe and come to the knowledge of the truth, and on the other hand only save those who he has predestined to believe? . You may not have any problem with this or this may be one of those divine mysteries that we may never settle in our own minds as to why this is, but the scriptures teach it, so we should apprehend it as such. But perhaps a very human example may make it easier to understand. Suppose one day you wake up on Monday morning and you just don’t feel like going to work. Your desire is to stay at home and drink some more coffee, read the newspaper, read some blogs, and then take a nap instead. However, this plan doesn’t fit with a higher purpose in your life which is to get into your car, join the thousands of others commuters out there and get to work and be productive.
So we are instructed to pray for all people especially for kings, and those in high positions. Too often we are guilty of only praying for our own needs and the needs of those around us, our family and friends. When was the last time that you prayed for President Obama and the rest of our government? And I’m not talking about a prayer that he would be voted out of office in 2012. I’m talking here about praying for his salvation, that he would lead a godly life. And that same prayer should be for the rest of our government as well. I must admit, I have failed miserably at this, and as I prepared this sermon this week, I came under conviction. I prayed to the Lord, “Lord forgive me for failing to pray regularly for our President, those in the Senate, the House, the Supreme Court, our Governor, and legislature. Prompt me Lord by your Holy Spirit to regularly pray for these in leadership of our land. And not just that they would lead well by making good decisions about taxes, spending, war, etc., but that their hearts would be transformed by the gospel, and that they would spend the rest of their time in office pursuing God’s glory instead of their own.”
Imagine what it would be like if all the Christians inAmericaregularly prayed for the leaders of our government in this way. Instead of just trying to accomplish change in the old fashioned way of getting rid of one set of bums by voting in a new set of bums, imagine what might happen if the president and some of the other leaders began to lead by the power and might of the Holy Spirit. Imagine the type of change we might see inWashingtonD.C.then.
It’s easy to become such a partisan and get so caught up in the politics of our land that we may purposely withhold our prayers for our president. But think about it. As bad as you may think that our current president is or our last president was, they are saints compared to the king at the time that Paul wrote this letter. Nero was king. And he was a particularly evil king who was especially known for being a persecutor of Christians. He is said to have executed his own mother and stepbrother. And he’s certainly not the only evil king that history shows was tough on Christians. Ultimately, according toRom.13: 1-2 governments are instituted by God,
1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
The effect of praying in this manner is so that “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Not that the goal of our lives should necessarily be to have peace at any cost, but if those who rule at the highest levels of government are transformed by the gospel, then the effect will be to bring peace into our lives. Then we are freer to bring the gospel to more and more people.
Let’s take a look at a biblical example of where we see evidence of this happening. When Stephen, the first of seven deacons chosen by the apostles to help serve the early church, was being stoned to death for his bold proclamation of the gospel, he cried out to God this prayer: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” Act 7:60. One of those who was involved with the stoning of Stephen was Saul of Tarsus, who was a notable early persecutor of Christians. The Lord answered Stephens’s prayer and on a later excursion toDamascusto round up yet more Christians to arrest and kill, Saul was knocked off his horse by none other than Jesus himself. This personal visit by Jesus resulted in his conversion to Christianity and he who had been the early Christians worst nightmare became their brother and fellow sufferer for Christ.
Best of all, praying in this way is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.
We are told to make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings. Four words which speak to prayer, but with slightly different meanings. Let’s take a quick look at the distinctions between these words.
- Supplications are requests that arise from a sense of need. When we know what is lacking, we plead with God to supply it. As we look around us at the masses of lost humanity, we should be driven to our knees in prayer. Listen to what the 17th century English puritan Richard Baxter wrote: “Oh if you have the hearts of Christians or of men in you, let them yearn toward your poor ignorant, ungodly neighbors. Alas, there is but a step betwixt them and death and hell; many hundred diseases are waiting ready to seize on them, and if they die unregenerate, they are lost forever. Have you hearts of rock, that cannot pity men in such a case as this? If you believe not the Word of God, and the danger of sinners, why are you Christians yourselves? If you do believe it, why do you not bestir yourself to the helping of others? Do you not care who is damned, so you be saved? If so, you have sufficient cause to pity yourselves, for it is a frame of spirit utterly inconsistent with grace. . . . Dost thou live close by them, or meet them in the streets, or labour with them, or travel with them, or sit and talk with them, and say nothing to them of their souls or life to come? If their houses were on fire, thou wouldst run and help them; and wilt thou not help them when their souls are almost at the fire of hell?
- Prayers is a general word for prayer. This is the prayer for the lost that we pray ultimately to God as part of our act of worship to him. We know that God is glorified each time a sinner comes to Him for salvation. Everything we do should be for the express purpose of increasing God’s glory. Paul writes to the Corinthians, 15For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 2Cor. 4:15.
- Intercessions is the type of prayer that comes when we really understand the depths of misery and despair that the people around us are in. It is impossible for us to pray this way in a cold and detached way because real intercessory prayer mandates that we pray with empathy, compassion, and sympathy. The bible tells us that both Christ and the Holy Spirit intercede for us.
- Finally, thanksgivings ought to always be part of our prayers for the lost. Consider how huge it is that God extends his grace to even the most undeserving and that we, though being undeserving ourselves, get to play a part in sharing the gospel with others.
Now lets take a look at the 5th and 6th verses which says, . 5For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
Part of what Paul what fighting against in the early church was a feeling of exclusivity that was taught by some of the judaizers that Paul mentions in the first chapter. Because of their Jewish ness they believed that they had a special connection to God that others couldn’t possibly have. It’s a type of exclusivism or elitism that is still prevalent among some today. I know, for I was raised in such an exclusivist sect, and even preached it for a number of years. I was part of a small denomination whose members believe that they are the only group of Christians that actually have salvation. They believe themselves the only group wherein the Holy Spirit resides. One of their fundamental teachings is that God only forgives sins through the oral proclamation of the forgiveness of sins, done in a very formulaic way, “believe all sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and precious blood”. As is true with most heretical teachings, one error begets another and invariably there are so many points of difference between this and the historic Christian faith, that moving from this error to orthodoxy becomes humanly impossible. And that’s the place where I sat for the first thirty years of my life, believing and finally teaching aberrant doctrine, because that is what I had been taught as the true gospel. I believe absolutely that if God would have not called me out of the darkness into his marvelous light, I would still be there along with most of my family, and all of Cheryl’s family.
One of the verses God used to get my attention eleven years ago was this one. It remains a foundational verse for me. There is only one God, and He is available to all people who call upon him in repentance and faith. There exists no one people group, church or denomination anywhere here on this earth that can lay exclusive claim to Him. Furthermore, Christ is the only go-between that exists between us and God. It seems that often times that the first thing these false teachers, or wolves, attempt to do is put up some sort of human barrier, whether living or dead between man and God. For some it’s become Mary, the mother of Christ, or a host of other dead saints through whom people are encouraged to pray intercessory prayers. In my case, to receive grace from God required another believer to speak on behalf of Christ, to orally proclaim the grace of forgiveness.
Now in case you didn’t get that, let me repeat what Paul says; . 5For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all. Ransom is a rich theological term describing Christ’s substitutionary death for us. He paid the ultimate price for our freedom, by sacrificing himself on the cross. It was there that he became the very embodiment of our sin, taking on the death that we deserve, securing our freedom forever.
Now when Paul tells Timothy that Christ gave himself as a ransom for all, this does not mean that all are or will be saved. On a practical and very real level however, there are benefits of Christ’s atonement that all of humanity shares, whether they realize it or not. In the 4th chapter of this very same letter Paul states, 9The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
So it’s clear that there is real sense in which even those who don’t believe benefit from Christ’s atonement. The gospel may be preached freely to all, Christ is set forth as a Savior for all to embrace and in a meaningful way, everyone benefits also by being spared immediate destruction and judgment when Adam sinned. And we as individuals are not judged immediately for our sins, but get to enjoy a delay that is a result of Christ’s atonement. Clearly, though, as we read, Christ is Savior especially to those who believe. And of course that means when you believe in Christ and place your trust in what he did for you instead of what you can do for yourself, you have been saved from the wrath of
God, and have been given eternal life.
This refers to the great truths about God that he just mentioned. That God is our savior, Christ is the only mediator and that Christ gave himself as a ransom. Paul’s entire commission hinged on these truths. Teacher can also be translated as herald, which was the ancient worlds version of a reporter for CNN or Fox News, a person who would proclaim or speak publicly announcements in the city square. So think of Paul as being the early Israel’s Anderson Cooper or Sean Hannity except with a much more important news story to report, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As an Apostle he was a messenger, personally chosen by Christ to deliver the good news. By calling himself a teacher of the gentiles, he is distinguishing his role as reaching the great non-Jewish population of the middle eastern region and beyond.
There must have been some question concerning his authority so he adds this parenthetical statement that he is telling the truth, he is not lying. Convinced that the message he was proclaiming to Timothy and others was the gospel truth, he was not dissuaded by any of the detractors who doubted his call as preacher, apostle and teacher. Most probably these were the wolves who felt threatened by the power of Paul’s message. Let us also go forth boldly, with the authority that we too have been given as ambassadors of Christ, proclaiming the message that God is the only Savior, and that Christ is the only mediator between God and men and that Christ gave himself as a ransom for all.