A Great Go-Between
A sermon based on 1 Timothy 2:1-7
Sunday, September 22, 2013 – Pentecost 18C
"How can a loving God damn someone to hell?" Some wonder, "Is God really all that loving? Does God want some to be saved and others to be damned?" Of course, we know the answer. God tell us in his word, in our text for this morning, that he wants all people to be saved. What's more, we know that he wants us to be instrumental in their salvation, sharing the message of God's grace with others that they may come to know it and be saved.
So Paul encouraged his vicar, Timothy, and through his letter to him, he encourages us to do whatever we can in order to make it happen. He encourages us first to pray for it—pray for all people, pray that godly leaders would provide a climate conducive to the spread of the Gospel. They need a go-between to pray for them. But we don't always have that same sense of urgency that Paul had, that God has. And in our sinful selfishness, we need a go-between. We need a mediator to intercede for us. And we have a great go-between in Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for us. Now we eagerly act as go-betweens for others, praying for them and sharing God's grace with them. Listen to Paul's encouragement recorded for us in 1 Timothy 2:1-7…
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. 7 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.
I. Jesus Mediates for Us
Listen to the words Paul uses to describe prayer. First he says "requests," that is telling God our needs. Then simply "prayers," that is, worship and praise. "Intercession" involves requests on the behalf of others. And of course, "thanksgiving" is showing appreciation for what he has already done. But who should these prayers be made for? For only ourselves, our friends and our families? No. Paul says they ought to be made for "everyone."
So how is your prayer life? Is it sometimes selfish? Do you sometimes get into the bad habit of praying only for yourselves? Paul here urges us to get rid of that habit. "Pray for everyone," he says. Pray for your friends and family, for your enemies, for complete strangers, for the lost. Pray especially, Paul says, for those in authority: for kings, or, for us, presidents, senators, congressmen, governors and mayors, troopers and police officers, pastors, parents, and teachers.
But why focus on this group in particular? Paul says, "that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." When our leaders and those in authority rule wisely, we can live peaceful and quiet lives. But Paul doesn't seek such a peace that we have a better economy and more toys, or so we can hole up in our homes enjoying our comfort, but that we have better opportunities to share the Gospel: "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
Without that peace it is so hard. A few years ago two Canadians in Baghdad were killed because of their Christian faith. Seven Christians in Nigeria were kidnapped by Muslim fanatics and later murdered. A Pakistani court sentenced a mentally handicapped Christian to a life in prison, ruling that the 26-year-old man was guilty of blasphemy against the Quran. In Pakistan, a Protestant pastor was kidnapped, drugged, severely beaten and dumped along the road 600 miles away. A bomb destroyed a Christian church in Bangladesh and churches in Indonesia were forced to close their doors because they were meeting illegally. And that was all within the span of one week. Over the last decade, thousands of church leaders have been arrested in China. More than 400 churches have been destroyed in Vietnam. In North Korea Christians are starved to death in prison camps.
And in the US, Satan doesn't even need persecution. He just keeps us happily entertained while we carelessly let our neighbors, coworkers, and friends slowly die and drift into hell. Let's face it. It's not just our prayers that are selfish; it's us. And because of our selfishness, feasting on the Gospel while being content to let others starve, we deserve the very same hell. And we can't deny it. And we can't change it. We need help. We need a mediator to go between us and God's wrath.
Thank God we have one! "God our Savior… 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."
This week I did a quick White Pages search online and found that there are 2 other Rob Guenthers in Alaska alone. One Rob Guenther, lives with Virginia Guenther and Randall Guenther up in Anchorage. I have his phone number and address. In North Carolina there are eight Rob Guenthers. There's a Rob Guenther in Calvary, Alberta, in Killdeer, ND, in Janesville,WI, in Alden, MN, in Eden, NY, in San Antonio, TX, in Granite City, IL, and about 10 pages full of Rob Guenthers in the United States. And of course, one of those is Rob Guenther in Kenai, AK.
My point? Well, if God had written in 1 Timothy 2 that Christ Jesus gave himself as a ransom for Rob Guenther, I would wonder if he didn't mean some other Rob Guenther. But what God wrote leaves no room for doubt. God wants all people to be saved! Christ Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all people! Am I a person? Of course I am! God means me! Are you a person? Then God means you.
You know, we've spent a lot of money here on doors for the school. We've had to. We need doors that re fire rated. That is, should a fire ever break out, they won't burn. They'll keep us safe. Jesus is such a great go-between. He stepped in between God's wrath and us as the perfect mediator and rescued us from the hell we deserve. He paid the penalty that we incurred so that when God's wrath burns, we're kept safe.
And in thanks to our Mediator, Jesus, who's been such a great go-between for us, we are eager to do all that we can, to use all the resources available to us, to help bring others to safety too…
II. We Mediate for Others
This truth is meant for all people. God wants all people to be saved. But they can't be saved without faith in Jesus as their mediator, their substitute, their ransom. And they can't have faith in Jesus unless someone tells them who he is and what he's done…
So first of all, we pray. We certainly offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the freedoms that we have in our country. We pray that he would continue to give us such peace. But we also pray prayers of intercession. Pray that all rulers may come to a knowledge of the truth themselves. Pray that they might hear the gospel and put their trust in Christ as their Savior. Pray that even pagan rulers would govern wisely and grant peace to their subjects. Pray that in that time of peace someone might share the gospel with their subjects, that all might have a true and lasting peace—not an earthly peace between nations, but a heavenly peace between man and God, "who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
But don't stop at prayer. Monica, the mother of church father St. Augustine, had a heathen husband who was violent and vicious toward her. She bore her burden with great patience hoping that in the end she might win her husband over to Christ by her example. Monica prayed to God to change her husband's heart again and again. And for such patience and fervent prayer she is to be commended. But what Monica failed to do, was share the Gospel with her husband. It was said of her that she often talked to God about her husband, but she never talked to her husband about God.
Does this mean her prayer was ineffective? Not at all! Think of this way… When we pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," we pray confident that God will provide for all of our needs. But we don't quit our jobs saying, "God will give me my daily bread; I don't need to work anymore." That would be stupid to get rid of the means through which God gives us daily bread. In the same way, when we pray that God bring others to faith in Jesus, we don't stop there, but do all that we can to share the Gospel, so that God might answer our prayer through us.
God wrote through Paul in Romans 10:14, " How, then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" Of course the answer to these rhetorical questions is, "They can't! So tell them!"
And Paul was appointed to do just that. He said, "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." Paul was a herald, that is, one who preaches God's message. Paul was an apostle, that is, one who is sent by God. And Paul was a teacher, explaining the mysteries of God.
And just as Paul was appointed to be a herald, an apostle, and a teacher, so was Timothy. And so are we. Jesus gave all his disciples the command to, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." (Mark 16:15) He told us, "Go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and by teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19,20) He told us he would be with us always, to the very end of the age, making us sure that these commands still apply to us too. The task of Paul and Timothy is our great privilege too. It is our greatest joy.
Yes, God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. In love for all people he gave us Christ, our mediator, our great go-between, who has redeemed us by his death on the cross. By grace, the Holy Spirit brought us to the knowledge of that truth. Now, out of thanksgiving to him, we want whatever God wants! We want all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of truth. So, we eagerly mimic God. We become great go-betweens ourselves. We pray for everyone, we pray for our leaders, we pray for peace, and we gladly use all our disposal to share with them God's grace. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.