Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sermon: 1 Timothy 2:1-7 Praying for the #G8

Even though it hasn't started yet, it will soon be over. The roadworks are finished, the police are in place, the lough has been closed, and now we're just waiting for the leaders themselves. The action begins tomorrow, and by Tuesday tea time they'll be off again and life will get back to normal. We'll wonder what all the fuss was for.

For twenty four hours, the leaders of the world's eight richest nations (as well as the president of the EU and a few others) will be on our doorstep. What can we do? You might decide to steer clear of enniskillen over the next few days, wary of the potential for trouble. Perhaps you will join the protestors. In our reading this evening, we find the thing that God wants us to do - at all times, but how much more when we are hosting these powerful people in our county.

But as we begin, I wonder if you remember the catchphrase of the Three Musketeers? All for one and one for all. As we look at 1 Timothy 2, we'll see lots of alls and lots of ones.

The first all comes in verse one. 'First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions...' Paul commands Timothy and the church in Ephesus under his care to pray. But rather than just saying pray, he gives all types of prayer for all types of people. The call is to pray for all people, but then he goes to the specific, to pray for kings and all who are in high positions.

The G8 leaders certainly qualify as those in high positions, and we'll be praying for them later. But why is it we're told to pray for them? Why should we pray for those in authority? It is so 'that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.' When Paul was writing, he wasn't living under a democratically elected government. Neither did he have a Queen who was a Christian. Rather, Caesar was out to get Christians, Paul himself would die by execution. Yet still, he prays for the emperor, and calls us to pray, so that we may live in peace.

As if that wasn't reason enough to pray, Paul gives us another two - it is good, a good thing to do, but also, it is pleasing in God's sight. And it's here that we find our next all. God 'desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.' So often we set the scope of salvation too narrow - only us and people like us. In the first century, there was the same issue. The Jews thought that they alone were the inheritors of God's salvation, but the Gentiles were included. All sorts of people are included, God's desire is for all to be saved (even though not all will be saved).

For Paul, being saved and coming to a knowledge of the truth is the same thing - like two sides of the one coin. And what is the truth? What is the testimony that has been given to him? 'for there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.'

There may be many different people, many different supposed religions, but Paul reminds us of the truth that there is one God. Not many gods, not lots of idols, as was believed in Paul's day; but one God, who made heaven and earth. Now how can we relate to this one God? If he is high and exalted, the head over all, more powerful than the G8 leaders, then how could we approach him? We need a go between, a mediator, someone to represent us before him, to act in our place.

God has provided the mediator - the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all. There is one God, one mediator, who gave himself for all. This means that any other religious system is false. They either describe a false god (an idol) or else give a false way to approach this one God. You see, if God has provided the way to approach him, in the mediator, to try and go your own way is to believe a lie. To say no, thank you, I'll do it my way, is to reject this God and reject his salvation.

Just think of someone who is adrift at sea. They're in danger, and the lifeboat comes along, but they refuse to get in. There's no other means of rescue, the lifeboat is their only hope. Is it wise to refuse their help? Is it tolerant to let them go their own way?

Jesus is the saviour for all who will turn to him, his blood is sufficient, the ransom has been paid. It's for this reason that Paul is appointed to be a preacher and apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles - or as you could say, all nations.

This is the truth that has been revealed, the truth that God wants everyone to hear and accept, and so be saved.

We offer all sorts of prayer for all people (especially rulers) so that God's desire for all to be saved through Jesus, the one mediator for all, might be taught to all nations. It's a great reason to pray, as we fall in line with God's desires and pray for the things he wants.

This sermon was preached in the Brooke Memorial Hall on Sunday 16th June 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment