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October 4, 2009

“There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men…” 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NIV)

Gospel ministry is ministry in which we share Christ’s passion for the world. The Gospel did not come to us so that it could end with us. Christ trusted it to us so that we could bring it to others. A gospel-centered church is a missional church with a passion to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to all people.

That is why here at The Orchard we are committed to glorify God by multiplying… believers through the Gospel in the greater Chicago area and around the world.

I’ve been working on the antithesis to our mission statement this week. The opposite of what we are committed to would go something like this: to satisfy each individual by maintaining… self-centered, performance-exalting, status quo-preserving agnostics, without the Gospel in the zip code 60004.

That is not our mission. We want to glorify God by multiplying believers through the Gospel in the greater Chicago area and around the world! That’s the theme of 1 Timothy 2. It is the passion of a gospel-centered church.

Don’t miss the forest for the trees

There are easily four or five sermons in this chapter, but the danger is that we miss seeing the forest because of the trees. So I want us to see what holds this chapter together:

a. A ministry of prayer for all people

“I urge first of all then that prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone” (v1).

b. A ministry of the Word to all people

“For this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle …and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles” (v7).

We have the ministry of the Word and prayer. Why do we do these things? What are we preaching and why are we praying?

c. The atoning death of Christ for all people

“There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all men” (v6).

Then you have what seems like a strange jump. Paul speaks about men arguing and disputing (v8). But notice that it is in relation to the prayer ministry of the local church: “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger and disputing” (v8).

Then he speaks about women being silent (v11-12). But notice that this is in relation to the teaching ministry of the local church. “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (v12).

A coherent theme that runs through this chapter: It is about the global impact of the church’s ministry of the Word and prayer. We are called to a ministry of gospel praying and gospel proclaiming to all people. This mission flows from the atoning death of Jesus. It is our sacred trust and it must not be hindered by arguing or disputing.

A Church Praying For All People

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.” 1 Timothy 2:1 (NIV)

Paul is speaking about the place of prayer in public worship. When the congregation gathers we are to bring requests, prayers and intercession with thanksgiving.

We are committed to the place of intercessory prayer in public worship. I have to tell you this is increasingly out of fashion. But God has given this ministry to the church. If Christians do not pray for the world who will?

A gospel-centered church is not about us, it is about the Gospel. “God our Savior wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (v3-4). When we gather, our worship must reflect God’s heart for the world.

When Paul says that we are to pray for “everyone” (v1), this clearly does not mean that we are to pray for each of the 6.8 billion people in the world. That would be impossible. When Paul says that we are to pray for “all,” he means “all kinds of people” not “every single person.”

 “The public prayers of the church should have a global perspective… They should include the great issues of the day and the vast nations of the world. Intercession should be made for renewal, revival and reformation in the church. Prayer should be offered for missionaries, evangelists, and church planters. The sufferings of the persecuted church and the desperation of unsaved humanity should be brought weekly before the throne of grace.”[[i]]

Where churches give up on intercessory prayer in public worship, it is usually for one of two reasons: One is that the pastors give up. The other is that the people don’t care. We don’t want to go there.

Our campus pastors are committed to leading us in intercessory prayer. I want to call on you to engage in it. Effective public prayer involves your faith, your compassion, your heart reflecting the heart of God for the world.

Pray for kings and all those in authority (v1)

This is striking. All the rulers in Paul’s time were pagans, yet Paul says that Christians should pray for these pagan rulers, and that we should do it with thanksgiving! Imagine praying for Nero with thanksgiving!

For us, this means that we are to pray for our president, our senators, and our representatives. We are to pray for those who hold public office, whether we voted for them or not, and that we are to do this with thanksgiving.

Notice what we are to pray for those in government: “That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2). Our objective is not that politicians will change society. It is that we should live in peace so that the Gospel will change society.

The Bible does not encourage us to put high hopes in human government. We do not pray that the government will lead us into godliness. Only the Gospel can do that, and the Gospel is not trusted to the government, it is trusted to the church. God’s purpose for government is that there should be stability and peace.

I thank God for all those who are called to serve in public life. We need more Christians in politics. This is high calling for our most able people. But it is not the calling of the church.

The church is not a campaigning organization for social or political change. Our calling is gospel ministry that changes human lives not by the imposition of human laws, but by the regeneration of human hearts.

Politicians write laws that restrain evil. Thank God for that. But that’s all the law can do—restrain evil. Christ pours out grace, faith, and love. Our hope is in Christ changing human hearts through the gospel.

So we are to pray for peace and stability that will facilitate the advance of the Gospel. Philip Ryken says:

“Christians who do not pray for their political leaders tend to disturb the peace. They are cynical about their political opponents and rejoice when they fall into disgrace. Since cynicism about the government is so prevalent in the evangelical church today, we may well conclude that Christians are not always diligent in prayer for people in authority.” [[ii]]

He quotes the words of John Chrysostom “No one can feel hatred towards those for whom he prays.”

If we pray for our leaders in the nation, or in the church, it will affect the way we speak or write about them. You can disagree with the people for whom you pray, but you will not be cynical or unkind about them. You will pray for God’s blessing on them. You will rejoice in any success that God gives to them. This kind of praying is good and pleases our God and Savior.

The Gospel Preached to All People

“And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle–I am telling the truth, I am not lying–and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.” 1 Timothy 2:7 (NIV)

Paul was “appointed a herald and an apostle… to the Gentiles.” When I see the word “gentiles” in the Bible, I find it helpful to say “all nations.” That’s what “gentiles” means—all the nations of the world outside of Israel.

It’s hard for us to grasp how astonishing this was in the early church. God made a covenant with Israel, so to many people the God of the Bible was the God of Israel. When Paul says “I was appointed an apostle to the Gentiles” he has to add “I am telling the truth, I am not lying.”

Today, there are millions of people who would say that Christianity is the religion, not of the Jews, but of “the West.” Gospel churches take their stand with Paul. We say “The good news is for all nations.” Our calling is to herald the true faith to all nations. We are telling the truth, we are not lying.

Paul’s missionary strategy

“I was appointed a herald and an apostle… and a teacher of the true faith…” 1 Timothy 2:7 (NIV)

Paul was a.) a herald—wherever he went, he proclaimed the Gospel; b.) an apostle—a pioneer sent to plant churches where they did not exist; and c.) a teacher of the true faith. He established the church by teaching truth and refuting error.

A church praying for all people, and the Gospel preached to all people—does this sound familiar? The Apostles established these priorities early on:  “We… will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4). They got it right.

The Gospel advances through the ministry of the Word and prayer. And the advance of the Gospel is in the DNA of a gospel-centered church.

Christ Died For All People

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved 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 men–the testimony given in its proper time.” 1 Timothy 2:3-6 (NIV)

This is a marvelous statement of God’s redeeming purpose in Jesus Christ. And there is an important discussion about what Paul means when he says that “God wants all men to be saved” and that “Christ gave himself as a ransom for all men.” Does “all” mean: Every single person? Or does “all” mean: All kinds of people?

People come to different conclusions on this, but I’m convinced that “all” means: All kinds of people. And I believe that for three reasons:

a. That’s what “all” means in verse 1

God does not expect us to pray for every single person in the world, but to pray for all kinds of people in the world.

b. The Bible never suggests every single person will be saved

On the Last Day, some will enter everlasting life while others go to their everlasting destruction (Matthew 25:46)

c. The word “ransom” in v6 means the payment of a price

If Christ paid for the sins of “every single person,” hell would be filled with people whose sins had already been paid for.

That’s why I believe that when Paul says “all” he means “all kinds of people” and not “every single person.” That leads to this wonderful application: God wants “all kinds of people” to be saved. Christ gave his life to ransom all kinds of people. There will be people like you in heaven, so why not you?

There will be people with the highest degrees, the greatest minds, and there will be people who never learned to read or write. There will be people who earned millions of dollars, and people who lived all their lives in abject poverty. There will be people from stable families, and people from dysfunctional families.

There will be people with your personality type in heaven—so why not you? There will be people from your race, people who speak your language, so why not you? There will be people who were once caught in every kind of vice known to mankind, but have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, so why not you?

“There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). That means that Christ is the mediator for you. God wants people like you to be saved. Christ gave His life as a ransom for people like you.

Why not come to Christ and trust Him as your Redeemer today? If you come to Christ, He will never turn you away.

The church is called to a ministry of the Word and prayer—on a global scale—because Christ died for all. What could stop this from happening? What could hinder the church from praying for all and preaching to all because Christ died for all?

How Are We to Advance This Gospel Ministry?

Advancing gospel ministry through prayer

“I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.” 1 Timothy 2:8 (NIV)

The ministry of prayer is a privilege given to men and to women. But Paul is calling men to take the lead here. Women have often excelled in this ministry. Paul says to the men “Don’t be passive here. I want you to lead in prayer. Here is what God is calling you to do:”

a. Lift up holy hands (v8)

The emphasis is on “holy” hands. The prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective (James 5:16). That doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect before you pray. It means you can’t pray effectively as long as you are holding onto a sin or to a grudge you will not give up.

The only way to pray is to come before God in faith and repentance in the name of Jesus Christ, who alone has clean hands and a pure heart.

He is at the right hand of the Father. He is there for you. You can pray because of Him.

b. Pray without anger (v8)

Divided churches cannot advance the Gospel. Christians in dispute with each other cannot accomplish much in mission. Husbands are to treat their wives with gentleness and respect so that nothing will hinder their prayers (1 Peter 3:7). Our Lord tells us: If you come to pray and remember something between you and your brother, go away and put it right first (Matthew 5:23).

c. Pray with faith (v8)

The word translated “without… disputing” is the word from which we get the English word “dialogue”—a conversation with two voices. It can mean argument or doubt. Pray without a second voice! In other words, pray with faith. Don’t be double-minded.

Advancing gospel ministry through the Word

Here we have both an affirmation and a prohibition:

a. An affirmation

“A woman should learn…” 1 Timothy 2:11 (NIV)

Remember, Paul was writing in a culture where education was designed exclusively for men. So, when Paul says “a woman should learn,” he is making a radically countercultural statement. Christian women became students of the Bible in the early church. It was absolutely liberating.

There’s only one way to learn… “in quietness and submission.” This is not unique to women. If you are distracted—playing with your cell phone, arguing against everything that your teacher is saying, it is very difficult to learn.

Women and men are learners together at the feet of Christ. We are to be students of God’s Word side-by-side, submitting ourselves to the Scriptures in a humble, quiet and teachable spirit.

b. The prohibition

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man…” 1 Timothy 2:12 (NIV)

Paul is clearly prohibiting something here. What is it that he does not permit? Here are three observations:

  1. Paul is talking about the church

His words about teaching do not apply to education, a school, a seminary or to pioneer evangelism.

  1. Paul is talking about the church gathered for worship

His words do not apply to small group or Sunday school class.

  1. The context is key

In chapter 2, Paul gives instructions for the public worship of the church. In chapter 3, he gives the qualifications for elders to lead the church.

Putting these two together, it seems clear that the prohibition applies to the teaching of the Word to the congregation gathered for worship, and to the authority of the elders over the spiritual life of the church.

That is how our church has understood this teaching. That is why our elders are to be selected from among the godly men. That is why the preaching of the Word in our worship services is trusted to pastors who are men. The reason Paul gives for this is not that men can do a better job. The reason is simply that this was God’s order for creation.

A call to men: Why did the Holy Spirit move Paul to write these things?

Why do men need to be called to prayer? Why has so much of world mission been carried by women? The church is called to a ministry of the Word and prayer on a global scale because Christ died for all.

One gospel for all people

One hundred years ago, there was a great missions conference held in my home city of Edinburgh, Scotland. It was a historic venture—one of the most comprehensive reviews of missions ever to take place. But like so many great ventures, not much came of it. The material is in the archives at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. It’s stored in 33 boxes that take up 15.5 linear feet of shelf space.

The following year, 1911, one of my heroes of the faith, James Denney, was invited to speak at the annual meeting of the Baptist Missionary Society. This is what he said:

“Within the last 12 months, foreign missions have been talked about more in the church than at any time that I can remember.” He described the appeals that included both the urgency and the vastness of the need. Then he asked “What has been the result?”

“As far as I can see it is neither here nor there. An immense proportion of the people in our churches care little about the matter. There is no sensible increase either of contributions or of gifted men.”

Then he came to his point:

“It is not interest in missions that we want in our churches at this moment, but interest in the Gospel. Apart from a new interest in the gospel, a revival of evangelical faith in Christ as the Redeemer, I believe we shall look in vain for a response to these missionary appeals. But there is something in the Gospel itself… which immediately creates missionary interest, because it has no proper correlative but the universe.” James Denney

The Gospel fires missions because Christ died for all. If you believe that all roads lead to God, there is no reason for world mission. People can find their own way.

But Paul says “There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men” (1 Timothy 2:5). If there is one Mediator, there must be one Gospel, and if there is one Gospel it must be for all people.

Therefore let’s renew our commitment to a ministry of the Word and prayer on a global scale. That’s the passion of a gospel-centered church.

 

© Colin S. Smith

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By Colin S. Smith. © Colin S. Smith. Website: UnlockingtheBible.org

 

[i] Philip Ryken, 1 Timothy: Reformed Expository Commentary, p. 59

[ii] Philip Ryken, ibid., p. 62



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