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"Moorings, Magistrates, and the Mediator"

Jan.26, 2014 1Tim.1:18-2:8


It started out as a cheery enough Christmas card. It was from dear friends in Missouri we'd known a long time, since our children grew up as neighbouring homeschoolers back in Northern Ontario in the 90's. Their oldest had been best friends with our Emily, now in her 30s. We'd made the trek down to Missouri for some of their children's weddings, and their children had trekked up to Canada for some of ours.

But towards the end, the Christmas card contained some unexpected elements. The mother of 6 (whose youngest is still elementary age) wrote, "Life is in transition for us. [husband] and I are dealing with hard decisions. We are currently "separated" - he's living in [a nearby city]. I will probably begin working, maybe sell our place - who knows...but the Lord is my GUIDE."

This was a complete shock to us. Heartbreaking, a total surprise - so sad. They had such a beautiful family, a wonderful home in the country complete with a pond and room for horses, and (it seemed) a great marriage that had grown over 3 decades... All that, now up in the air. We don't know the details. But somewhere, somehow, sin has entered in and wrecked a relationship. And not just the couple themselves, but many others will be affected - the 6 kids, the spouses, the grandchildren - everybody will be feeling the effects. Sin has MASSIVE fallout.

The spiritual life is a HIGH-STAKES CONTEST. In 1Tim 1:18 the apostle Paul urges his young protege to "fight the good fight": the words here refer to an expedition, campaign, military service; to lead soldiers to war or to battle (spoken of a commander). Paul has placed Timothy in a position of some authority over the elders at the church in Ephesus, so it's a bit like a general urging a colonel to lead a good campaign. There's a war on out there! Complete with casualties for those who aren't careful.

Paul adds in v19, "holding on to faith and a good conscience." Robertson comments "as if in defensive armour". Faith plays a role in the spiritual armour described in Eph 6:16, "...take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." A 'good conscience' could act like a signal flare on the field of battle, warning one to take heed of an enemy advance.

There have already been some casualties before Paul wrote to Timothy. V19 he notes, "Some have rejected these [faith & conscience] and so have shipwrecked their faith.Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme."

Hymenaeus, whose name is connected to the Greek god of marriage, is mentioned again in 2Tim 2:17 as saying the resurrection had already taken place, and turning away to "godless chatter". He caved in to doctrinal doubt, "truth decay". Alexander is likely the one mentioned in 2Tim 4:14, a metalworker or coppersmith who "did [Paul] a great deal of harm" and "strongly opposed [Paul's] message". These may even have been elders/pastors in the church, but their teaching went off track; they rejected faith and conscience. V19 Paul says they "shipwrecked their faith" - the word picture is of a sea vessel being broken to bits on a rocky shore. Consequently Paul had to invoke a severe discipline of apostolic authority, excluding them from the church. The term 'handing over to Satan' is like that applied to the man who was sleeping with his father's wife in 1Cor 5(5). Not condemning, but correcting and chastening, in hope of repentance and remedial action.

Sin is serious business! The stakes are high - there's a campaign on as lethal as any military strike. Are you prepared and equipped to "fight the good fight"?


One of Satan's strategies is to take down the big names among us, as if to poke holes in the possibility of anyone succeeding at godliness. Leaders in civil life and in the church come in for particular scrutiny, and mocking when they mess up. This week another video of Toronto mayor Rob Ford surfaced in which he rambled on at a fast food place with Jamaican expletives. Later, he described the fact he'd elapsed into drinking again as a "minor setback". A city councillor interpreted things differently: "What I see is an addicted man who is in massive denial and is doing everything he can to hold onto power."

More serious claims this week were directed at another leader, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. A Syrian military police photographer who defected has supplied thousands of photographs evidencing systematic torture and killing of about 11,000 detainees. There are emaciated and mutilated corpses, some with no eyes, others showing signs of strangulation or electrocution. One is reminded of Nazi death camps.

Would you pray for Rob Ford? Would you pray for Bashar al-Assad? Is there any possible good that praying for them might accomplish?

Read what Paul urges in 1Timothy 2:1-2, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority..." Wouldn't that include our mayors, and leaders of countries? Who happened to be the Roman emperor when Paul was writing this, about 60 A.D.? Robertson comments, "And this included Nero who had already set fire to Rome and laid it on the Christians whom he was also persecuting." Life Application Commentary gives more detail: "Paul's command to pray for kings was remarkable considering that Nero, a notoriously cruel ruler, was the current emperor (A.D.54-68).When Paul wrote this letter, persecution was a growing threat to believers.Later, when Nero needed a scapegoat for the great fire that destroyed much of Rome in A.D.64, he blamed the Roman Christians so as to take the focus off himself.That triggered severe persecution throughout the Roman Empire.Not only were Christians denied certain privileges in society; some were even publicly butchered, burned, or fed to lions."

Imagine your fellow church members, Christians you know and love, being treated by Nero the way the Syrian regime has apparently treated its citizens. Would you be inclined to pray for the emperor? Can I really entrust to God supervision of those making life difficult for me, and those I love? That takes a big view of God. Paul's urging "first of all" - as of first importance - silences the temptation to criticize, carp, and gossip about the failings of those who have higher profile than ourselves. Instead, the focus becomes bringing them before the Lord, and cleaning up my own act.

Pray for others. Prayer makes things happen (Chrysostom). Dr.Randolph C.Byrd, a cardiologist, created a stir in medical circles when he had volunteers pray daily for one group of patients in the coronary care unit at San Francisco General Medical Centre. A second group of heart-disease patients served as a control group. Although neither the patients nor their doctors knew whom was being prayed for, those in the prayed-for group were five times less likely to require antibiotics and were less likely to need ventilators to help them breathe. Byrd concluded: "The evidence strongly suggests faith in God truly is linked to a long, healthy life."


This passage helps us develop an improved view of God, contrary to the imagined and imperfect deities cultures have come up with in the past. 2:1 presents a God who HEARS: Paul writes (NLT), "I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them." NIV lists these as "requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving". Interceding for others is precisely what Romans 8:34 says Jesus is doing now for us: "Christ Jesus...is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Illumina's Concise Commentary provides more detail on Paul's terms:"requests"--specific petition or supplication; "pray"--a general word for prayer emphasizing worship and reverence; "plead"--a technical term for approaching a king, suggesting intercession on behalf of others; and "give thanks"--an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude that should always accompany prayer.

God is a living God who HEARS, who wants to be told your heart's cries, however incoherent or stumbling. A young man was called on to pray during a revival meeting. It was his first time to pray, so he was rather nervous. As he prayed, he stammered these words: "And Lord, we fail you so often.Please forgive us for our falling shorts."

Next, we infer from this passage that God is a God who can be PLEASED - not some passive monolith, or the unmoved 'first principle' postulated by the ancient philosophers, nor like the arbitrary and often jealous or cantankerous gods and goddesses of the Greek or Roman pantheon. 2:3 "This (praying for higher-ups and living peaceful lives) is good, and PLEASES God our Saviour..."

Like some people, do you feel God's "out to get ya", that He's got some personal vendetta against you, He's determined to make you miserable? That's not the God we see in the face of Jesus. That's not the God who cares about people enough to heal them and do miracles to help them the way the Bible presents. God can be PLEASED by you, when you come to Him in faith - He'll reward that: Heb 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

Paul heralds a God who YEARNS for us to know Him. 2:4 God our Saviour "wants all men [people - generic term] to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." Do you hear that? That's God's desire - if only ALL people would respond with faith and be saved! Peter writes to the church, "The Lord...is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2Pe 3:9) Too bad our bent, fallen, selfish, arrogant, conceited bull-headedness gets in the way. God is not some hyper-Calvinist megalomaniac who sadistically gets jollies out of watching the misery of those He's decreed to be damned. In mercy He saves some, but He "so loved the world", Christ gave Himself as a ransom for ALL people (v6). But, sadly, some don't "get it". Yet God's 'yearning' or desire is there.

The Deists following the enlightenment viewed God as a sort of divine cosmic watchmaker who established wonderful laws governing the universe, wound it up, and then walked away, leaving it to run its course. That's not a Biblical view of God. For Paul, God is a God who INTERVENES in our predicament, a God who gets involved, rolling up His sleeves to solve our muddle. 2:5 "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus..." Here the term "mediator" is literally "a middle man": Jesus negotiated the reconciliation of the world to God, dealing with the sin that was blocking us from the Almighty: Heb 9:15 "For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-- now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." Your God INTERVENES on your behalf. We come to God through His Son, and ONLY through Jesus (Jn 14:6; Ac 4:12).

And, rounding out this portrait of 'a God like no other' - God is a God who GIVES HIMSELF in our place as our ransom. 2:6 Christ Jesus "gave Himself as a ransom for all men - the testimony given in its proper time." A ransom is a substitute payment made to redeem a slave, in some cases to buy the slave's freedom (if not for another owner). Jesus loved you so much He gave Himself as that "kidnapper's ransom" so you could be reconnected with your Heavenly Father. As He said of Himself in Mark 10:45, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."


There's a high-stakes contest going on, with severe consequences for those who reject faith and suffer shipwreck. God's big enough to ask us to pray for those in high positions, with power over us, who may even be making our life difficult. Prayer acknowledges He's in charge, and calls us to intercede for those unkind to us. He's a God like no other - a God who hears, can be pleased, who yearns for us to know Him, who intervenes in our predicament, and who gives Himself in our place.

But what's that boil down to for how we're to live our life here and now? Serving such a great and good God, how should our lives be different day by day? How should that affect our goals in life, what we're living for? Put another way, what's "the Good Life" as God defines it?

Two brothers, Rich and Mike, are complete opposites. Mike is a successful businessman. Rich, on the other hand, takes seasonal jobs at dude ranches, parks, and resorts. Mike is always concerned for Rich's welfare and tries to entice him with the "good life." He sends Rich photos labeled with messages like "My new house" or "Here I am with my new car." But one day the campaign ended when Mike received a poster from his brother showing a breathtaking view of Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. On the back was a message from Rich: "My back yard." (!)

The good life as God sees it is about more than houses and new cars. Paul says in 2:3, "This is GOOD" - referring back to what he's just been talking about. What's that?

The "good life" as Paul sees it, in the light of this passage, includes PRAYER. 2:1 "that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone." 2:8 "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing." Don't forget that in the Middle East "to pray" is often equivalent to "worship". How's your prayer life, your worship life? Is it both public and private?

Offer God your head as well as your heart - church doesn't mean you check your brains at the door. 2:4 God wants people to "come to a knowledge of the truth" - the term Paul uses suggests "full knowledge". 1:19 "holding onto faith"; 2:7 Paul's "a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles." The Good News is propositional, it has content, it has depth to be studied and learned and cross-referenced and marvelled at intellectually, for God has gifted humans with intelligence by which to appreciate Him as well. Are you reading your Bible? Are you joining in a study group of some kind to stretch your understanding of God's truth in discussion with other believers? Check out "Campus Alpha" or Terry Feix with the Wingham group or Women at the Well. Bible study adds real richness to your life - not just in head knowledge, but hearing the Holy Spirit apply that content in your daily living.

Head-heart-hands (can you tell I'm a former 4-Her?!)...2:8 Paul says "I want men everywhere to life up holy HANDS in prayer..." Are you loving God with your body by holy behaviour? So much in society would trip us up right here. Can you keep your limbs and your tongue under control, letting Jesus be Lord in what you do and say? 2:2 enjoins prayer "that we may live...in all godliness and holiness." The term 'godliness' is associated with reverence, respect, and piety towards God. The term translated "holiness" in NRSV is "dignity"; the lexicon adds, "the characteristic of a thing or person which entitles to reverence and respect, dignity, majesty, sanctity; honour, purity." Does our media viewing tend in that direction? We want to be the kind of people that when our names are mentioned, "godly" and "holy" are words that come to people's minds. Life Application Commentary notes, "Godliness means true reverence and religious devotion that leads to exemplary conduct.Dignity means serious purpose, moral earnestness.These descriptive words do not imply private spiritual living.Rather, they convey a public faith..."

Last, look closely at 2:2 - "that we may live" WHAT KIND of lives? "Peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." The first word here has more to do with our outward relationships - peaceful, tranquil; in contrast with 2:8 "without anger or disputing" - NRSV 'argument'. Having settled it in your heart that God's in control and you're NOT helps us resist getting entangled in power struggles, contests, trying to show or impress. You're part of HIS authority structure now - so we can pray for those in authority over us, and be content and 'at peace' blessed with eternal significance and value as His son or daughter, a "King's Kid".

"Peaceful and QUIET lives..." This second term has more to do with our internal state - quiet, "gentled" (if we were talking about horses), not needing the public spotlight (one thinks of young Mr.Bieber climbing on the roof of the SUV to wave to his fans right after being released from custody for a DUI and street-racing). Peter talks of the "inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." (1Pet 3:4) The prophet Isaiah relates that the Lord declares, "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." (Isa 66:2)

There was a scientist (back a couple of centuries) who thought religion was nonsense. He went through a series of professional setbacks, and began having financial problems, as well as health problems. He made a pilgrimage to a shrine - primarily just to get away from home. At the shrine he said to himself, "If I were not an agnostic, I might experiment with this superstition." After convincing himself that he was going through the motions out of idle curiosity, he began the ritual. Halfway through, he thought, "If this were not folly, what would I pray for? Health? Money?" He continued the ritual, then suddenly, his heart was broken and he cried, "O God, I beg you. Enlighten my mind so I may invent something great to further human knowledge!" Amazed, the scientist stood in the silence. So, this was his desire of desires. Knowing it at last, Galileo began experiments which led to the invention of the telescope. [note: Galileo was the first to use a telescope for the purpose of astronomy in 1609; generally Hans Lipperhey is credited with the first patent]

In submitting our desires to Him who created us, we discover "the Good Life" for which He designed us - finding our completeness and goal in Him, bought for us by the grace of His Son Jesus.Let's pray.