A sermon based on 1 Timothy 2:1-7
Sunday, September 1
"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 in his Kingdom.
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: to pray for it, to work for it, to strive to bring others into God's Kingdom in thanks to him for bring us into it. Listen now 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. Brought into the Kingdom
Listen to the words Paul uses to describe prayer. First he says "requests," telling God our needs, then simply "prayers," worship and praise. "Intercession" involves requests on the behalf of others. And of course, "thanksgiving" is showing appreciation for what he has already done.
And who should these prayers be made for? "For everyone." But Paul specifically highlights, "kings and all those in authority."
Obviously there's a lot of talk these days about our president, about our senators, about the presidential candidates with elections coming up. But how much prayer is offered up for President Obama. How often do you pray for him?
Or with the upcoming elections, when you do pray that God would guide the elections (and you know he will because Romans 13 tells us that "There is no authority except that which God has established. [And] the authorities that exist have been established by God."), do you pray that your favorite candidate would win so you're taxed less or get more comforts for your life?
That's not why God wants us to pray for "kings and all those in authority"? He says, "that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." But Paul doesn't seek such a peace so that we have a better economy and more toys, or so we can hole up in our homes and enjoy our comforts, but so 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."
Do you pray that God would position the leaders of our nation so that your own prosperity may increase? Or so that more people might hear the Gospel? Do you really mean it when you pray that phrase of the Lord's prayer, "Your kingdom come"? Or do you really mean, "My kingdom come?"
I think we can easily answer that question by looking at the way we all spend our time. How much do you spend in hobbies? And how much do you spend looking for ways to spread the Gospel? How much do you spend in leisure or entertainment? And how much do you spend reading and studying the Word so you're better prepared to witness?
Let's face it. Satan has little difficulty keeping us happily entertained while we carelessly let our neighbors, coworkers, and friends slowly die and drift into hell. It's not just our prayers that are selfish; it's us. And because of our selfishness, enjoying the benefits of being in God's Kingdom while being content to leave others outside, we deserve kicked out. For being happy to let others wander into hell as long as we have what we want, we deserve that 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."
You know, a lot of churches have a lightning rod on the top of their steeple. That way, should lightning strike, it would hit the metal rod and run through a metal cable to the ground and not destroy the steeple and burn the church. What a fitting picture when that lightning rod is affixed to the cross on the top of the steeple because that's what Jesus has done for us.
Jesus is our mediator, Paul wrote. That is, he is our go-between. Jesus stepped in between God's wrath and us and when God's wrath struck like lighting, it all hit Jesus and went around us. He endured God's punishment instead of us. He endured hell for our sake. And he paid the penalty that we incurred so that when God's wrath strikes, we're kept safe.
And we know it applies to us because it applies to "all men."
A quick search on WhitePages.com reveals that there are 2 other Rob Guenthers in Alaska alone. 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 other 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! God wants me in his Kingdom! And he's brought me into it! Are you a person? Then God means you. God wants you in his Kingdom. And he's brought you into it.
Now in thanks to our Mediator, Jesus, for saving us, for bringing us to a knowledge of the truth, for ruling in our hearts, and for bringing us safely into God's Kingdom, we are eager to help bring others to safety too, not just praying, "Your kingdom come," but doing all that we can, using all of the resources available to us, to make it happen…
II. Bring Others into the Kingdom
This truth is meant for all people. God wants all people to be saved. But they can't be saved without "a knowledge of the truth" of Jesus as their mediator, their go-between and lightning rod. And they can't have that "knowledge of the truth" unless someone tells them who Jesus is and what he's done…
So first of all, we pray. We certainly offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the religious freedom that we have in our country. That's good and right. We pray that he would continue to give us such peace.
But we also pray prayers of intercession. Pray that all rulers—presidents, senators, representatives, governors, mayors, and whatever other government positions there might be—that they may come to a knowledge of the truth themselves. Pray that they might hear the gospel and that the Spirit would help them put their trust in Christ as their Savior.
Pray that even pagan rulers would govern wisely and grant peace to their subjects so that in that time of peace someone might share the gospel with them and give them a true and lasting peace—not an earthly peace between nations that can so easily be lost, but a heavenly peace between man and God, "who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth"—a peace that will last for eternity!
But, friends, 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 that 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 "Your kingdom come," 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, h-e-r-a-l-d, not this guy, Harold, H-a-r-o-l-d. A herald is one who proclaims a message. Paul was appointed to proclaim the message of God's grace to others. 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 to, "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. And it is our greatest joy.
So think of people in your life who need to come to a knowledge of the truth, who need to hear what God has done for them. And pray for them. Pray that God would open the eyes of their hearts and bring them into his kingdom. But don't stop there. Don't just talk to God about them. Also talk to them about God.
Think of ways you could bring up your faith in your conversations. Maybe answer the question, "How are you today?" with "God has blessed me so much!" instead of just, "Good." Think of ways you can invite your friends and co-workers to hear more about their Savior. Use the blessings God's given you not just for your enjoyment, but for that more noble mission of sharing the truth of God's grace. Open your home to them, or your boat, or your cabin. Share a meal with them and pray out loud before the meal. Take a copy of meditations to them and continue to give your generous offerings so we can afford to buy more copies. And as you do these things, you won't just be praying, "Your kingdom come," you'll be working to have God answer your prayer through you.
Yes, God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. He wants his Kingdom to come and he wants everyone in it! So in love for all people he gave us Christ, our mediator, our great go-between, who rescued us from hell by his death on the cross. Who gives us the proof by his resurrection. And by grace, the Holy Spirit has 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 do all we can to help bring them into God's Kingdom. 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.