Going to God through Jesus

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1 Timothy 2:1-7

INTRODUCTION: Please take your Bibles and open with me to the book of 1 Timothy. Our message series is called “Doing Church Together,” and one of the things we are doing as a church together on Sunday mornings is studying through the book of 1 Timothy. In chapter one we talked about doing God’s work by faith and praising God for his amazing grace. Today we begin chapter 2, and we will look at verse 1-7 where Paul talks about a concept that is absolutely central to the Christian faith – going to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 2:1-7 – 1 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. (NIV)

You can only go to God through Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches this truth in many places and in many different ways. It is central to the Bible’s message and central to the teachings of Jesus. And yet it is also a teaching that many people find offensive. They accuse Christians of being exclusive or intolerant of other religions. They charge Christians with being unloving and unkind. They ask Christians uncomfortable questions like, “Do you really believe that someone who does not believe in Jesus Christ will go to hell?”

People don’t seem to mind Christians believing in Jesus. What they object to is Christians believing that Jesus is the only way of going to God. And yet it is either true or it is not. Let’s say there was only one flight into a small town in northern Alaska. And let’s say someone you know wanted to fly to that town. Would you be intolerant if you told them there was only one flight available to their destination? If they insisted on getting on a different airplane that was actually taking them someplace else, would you be unloving or unkind to point out their error? Of course not. And it is the same way with Jesus Christ.

He is the only way you may go to God. Or as Paul calls him in these verses, he is the mediator. This has important implications for prayer, for salvation and for Christian witness. And those are the three areas that Paul explores with Timothy in today’s verses.

I. Prayer must be a priority (verses 1-4)

First of all, Paul addresses the subject of prayer. We are talking about going to God through Jesus, and prayer is one of the main ways that we go to God. Paul says that prayer must be a priority for the church of Jesus Christ. Look at verse 1 with me: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.” (1 Timothy 2:1)

Those words “first of all” can mean either the first as in a list or the first in importance. It is the same word Paul used back in 1:15 where he described himself as the chief of sinners, the first or foremost when it came to sinners before God. Paul doesn’t really launch into a list here, and so it is more likely that he means prayer is of first importance in church life. He begins by saying “I urge,” a word which means to summon or call to one’s side. Paul has made prayer a priority in his own life, and now he calls Timothy, and the church at Ephesus, and all Christians everywhere to join him in this essential priority in life, the great priority of prayer.

    A. We are called to pray for all men.

There are times in Paul’s letters when he asks for prayers for himself and for his companions, but here he says that prayers should be made for everyone. We are called to pray for all men. So what exactly does that mean? Does it mean that you should pray for everyone in the whole world? Well, yes and no. You obviously can’t pray for every single person in the whole world by name, and Paul is probably not recommending that you just pray, “Dear God, bless everyone in the world today” and be done with it. And yet at the same time your prayers should not be limited just to people that you know either. You have probably seen the slogan, “Think globally, act locally.” When it comes to prayer, you should pray both locally and globally. You should pray for specific needs and people that you know, but you should also pray for whole cities, whole countries, and yes even the whole world.

There is another way to look at this too. When Paul uses this phrase, “all men,” he often means by it, “all kinds of men,” meaning both men and women, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, all kinds of people regardless of their race, status or gender. This fits the context well, because Paul will go on to say how Jesus is the Savior for all kinds of people in the world, not just for Jews but for Gentiles as well. Jesus is the only Savior for all of mankind.

Paul uses four different words for prayer here – requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving. The first three words mean almost the same thing and all carry the idea of asking. The word for requests is the general word for asking for something from a superior. In ancient Greek documents, this word was often used of requests made of the king. The word for prayers is the most general word for prayer, asking anything from God. The word for intercession comes from a verb meaning to intercede, to obtain or hit the mark, and has to do with persevering prayer that obtains results. And then Paul also includes thanksgiving as a natural part of prayer. Just reading through Paul’s letters confirms that thanksgiving to God was an important part of Paul’s own prayer life. All four of these words in the Greek are in the plural. This is a reminder that we should pray continually for all people with all sorts of requests. Prayer must be a priority.

Is prayer a priority in your life? Are you a praying person? Do you pray often, regularly, continually? Do you get together with other Christians to pray? Have you ever attended a prayer meeting – either Sunday morning prayer, or Wednesday morning prayer, or praying with a home group or Bible study? Is prayer a priority for our church? Are we a praying people? I heard it said earlier this week that the church was born in a prayer meeting and it will die anywhere else. Prayer must be a priority in our lives.

    B. We are particularly called to pray for those in authority.

So Paul first says we should pray for everyone – for all kinds of people. Next he gives an example of one kind of people we should specifically be praying for. We are particularly called to pray for those in authority. Elsewhere the Bible tells us to respect those in authority over us. Here we are told to pray for them. Look at verse 2: “ . . . for kings and all those in authority.” (1 Timothy 2:2) The word king signifies the supreme ruler in the land, while the second qualifying phrase, “all those in authority,” would include people in any position of prominence or authority in our lives.

Why should you pray for those in authority over you? Well, for one thing, they make decisions that have a huge impact on your life. The lawmakers in your country or community make decisions that will either help or hinder you. The boss at your place of work can make your job pleasant or miserable. Those are all important, but Paul has a much more important issue in mind. Paul instructs us to pray for those in authority so that we may live out our Christian lives without interference. Look at the rest of verse 2: “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:2)

Ever wanted some peace and quiet? Well, Paul isn’t talking so much about peace and quiet in that sense but rather the freedom to live out your faith without persecution and conflict. This was a privilege that Paul only rarely enjoyed himself. Time and again Paul saw his potential witness for the gospel disrupted by persecution from outside forces.

The purpose of this peace and quiet isn’t so that we may retreat into our own private lives, but rather so that we may live out our Christian testimony in the community without fear of reprisal, or as Paul puts its, so that we may live lives of godliness and holiness. The word godliness speaks of reverence and respect towards God, and the world holiness here probably speaks of good works towards men. It is not the usual word for holiness that we find in the Bible, but one that means dignity or honor, earnestly living out your faith with a sense of purpose.

This praying for those in authority is an important part of prayer that we can sometimes forget as a church. We are to pray for our president whether or not we like him as a person, whether or not we agree with his politics. We are to pray for all of our government officials and all those in authority whether or not they are godly men and women. And remember, praying for those in authority includes both making requests about them and thanking God for them.

Never take for granted that you live in a land where you have the freedom to worship God. Christians who live in countries where they can be jailed or killed for their faith know how important it is to pray for those in authority. They long to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness, but instead they live with the harsh reality of persecution on a daily basis. You can bet that they are praying for those in authority that they may live their Christian lives in peace and quiet and have the freedom to share the gospel with others without fear of persecution.

    C. Prayer paves the way for people’s salvation.

And that is exactly where Paul takes us next. Why should we pray for all men and especially for those in authority? Not only so that we can live out our own Christian lives in peace and quiet, but so that we can share our faith with others. Prayer paves the way for people’s salvation. Look at verses 3-4 where Paul says, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

The “this” in verse 3 refers to general prayer for all people and specific prayers for those in authority. Paul says this kind of praying is good, and it is pleasing to God our Savior. The word pleasing here means acceptable. These are the kind of prayers that God accepts or receives.

Notice Paul calls God, “God our Savior,” in this verse. This is a title we looked at back in 1 Timothy 1:1. God is our Savior who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. The word “wants” here means to desire or to take delight in something. The word for knowledge is a heightened form of the normal word for knowledge. God delights when someone comes to a knowledge of the truth of God’s saving work through Jesus Christ.

Some people have tried to teach universalism from this verse, saying that all men will eventually be saved. But that is not what this verse is saying, and that is certainly not what the Bible teaches as a whole. This verse should be compared rather to what we find in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel where God says, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11) God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Rather, he takes delight in the salvation of all who come to him to be saved.

There is also the thought here once again of “all kinds of men.” God wants all kinds of people to be saved – not just the Jews, but people from every tribe, nation and language on the earth. God is the Savior of all.

II. You can only go to God through Jesus (verses 5-6)

Paul emphasizes this thought of God as Savior of all in verses five and six where he says, “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.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6) This is a great verse, and one that I recommend that you memorize and store up in your heart.

    A. There is only one God.

There are three parts to Paul’s thought here. First of all, he affirms that there is only one God. This was at the heart of the Jewish faith. The most important verse in the Old Testament for the Jew was Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Do you want to come to a knowledge of the truth? Here is where it starts. There are not many gods, but one God. The God who created the world, the God who revealed himself to Abraham and the nation of Israel, the God of the Bible is the only true God. All the gods of the nations are false idols who cannot save.

    B. There is only one mediator between God and men.

Well, if there is only one God, is there more than one way to that God? The answer is no. Not only is there only one God, but there is only one mediator between God and man. The word “mediator” in verse 5 is a word that means a go-between, someone who intervenes between two parties. Paul says there is one mediator between God and men, and that mediator is the man Christ Jesus.

Why is Jesus Christ the only mediator between God and man? Because Jesus Christ is the only one who is both God and man. Only God can approach God. And only as a man could God approach us without driving us away in fear. That is why Paul stresses Jesus’ humanity in verse 5: “the man Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the eternal Son of God who was with God in the beginning. He is also the Son of Man who came into our world. He is God who became a man without ever ceasing to be God. He was not half-God and half-man. He was one-hundred percent God and one-hundred percent man at the same time. He is unique. There is no other person who could serve as mediator between God and man the way Jesus Christ can.

    C. Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all men.

But there is another reason why Jesus is our mediator, and that’s what Paul says in verse 6. Jesus is our mediator not only by virtue of his humanity, but also by means of his sacrifice. Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all men.

The word ransom means a price paid for the release of a captive. We were held captive by sin. Only Jesus’ death on the cross could pay the price for our sins. Which means, Jesus not only paid the ransom price for our release. Jesus was the ransom price for our release. Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all men.

In what way did Jesus give himself as a ransom for all men? Once again, this does not mean that all men are saved. We may take this in two ways. One, that Jesus’ sacrifice of himself was of sufficient worth to save all people who have ever lived. And secondly, that Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all kinds of people, people from all the nations. Whoever will put their faith in Christ may be saved.

Paul adds at the end of verse 6: “. . . the testimony given in its proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:6) This refers first of all to God’s saving testimony in sending Jesus at just the right time to die for our sins (Gal 4:4), but then also to our own testimony about Jesus to others.

III. We must testify about Jesus to others (verse 7)

And that brings us to our third point this morning. If there is only one God, and Jesus is the only mediator between God and man, then we must testify about Jesus to others. How else will they come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved?

    A. Paul was appointed as a herald, an apostle and a teacher.

Paul understood this. Look at verse 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.” (1 Timothy 2:7) We saw in chapter one how thankful Paul was for God’s mercy in appointing him to ministry even though Paul had been a sinful man. The word “I” here in verse 7 is emphasized in the original Greek. Paul is expressing wonder all over again that God would appoint him. “And for this purpose I was appointed . . .” It is as if he can scarcely believe it.

Paul says here that he was appointed to three specific tasks. First of all, he was appointed to be a herald. The word means a messenger, one who proclaims an important message on behalf of another. The most important qualification of the messenger was that he faithfully transmit the message entrusted to him, without embellishing the message or leaving anything out. Here Paul’s job as a herald was to testify to Christ as the mediator between God and man.

Secondly, Paul was appointed to be an apostle. Here Paul strengthens his claim as an apostle by adding, “I am telling the truth, I am not lying.” Because Paul was not one of the original twelve apostles who ministered with Jesus while he was here on earth, his apostleship was sometimes questioned, and Paul sometimes had to defend his call to apostleship. That Paul felt he must add these words here shows that this letter was meant for a wider audience than just Timothy. Timothy didn’t need any reassurances from Paul concerning his apostleship. He already knew Paul was an apostle. Paul was writing this letter not just for Timothy, but for the church at large.

Paul was appointed as a herald, as an apostle, and thirdly as a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles. God is the savior of all men, both Jew and Gentile, but Paul was specifically called to teach the Gentiles about Christ. There are many false faiths in the world, but there is only one true faith. True faith means putting your faith in the one true God through the one true mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

    B. We are called to be witnesses for Christ.

Paul had a special appointment as a herald, apostle and teacher, but we are all called to be witnesses for Christ. There is only one God. There is only one mediator between God and men. We must testify about Jesus Christ to others so that they also may come to God through Jesus.

CONCLUSION: The application of today’s message is this. Never substitute anything for Jesus Christ. Nothing can replace him. No one else can bring you to God. No amount of good works will suffice; no other religion will work; no other person or thing can bridge the gap. When you go to God in prayer, go to him through Jesus. When you come to God for salvation, come to him through Jesus. When you talk to other people, tell them about Jesus. He is the mediator. He is the go-between. He is the only way that you can go to God.

© Ray Fowler

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By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

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