Proper 20 • 1 Timothy 2:1–15 • September 22, 2013
By Reed Lessing
Comments on the Text: The sermon’s focus is on 1 Timothy 2:1–6, thus the comments only pertain to these verses.
Verse 1: The apostle’s repeated use of πάντων, “all,” begins here. “First of all … for all people” (1 Tm 2:1) … “on behalf of all … so that we may live in all godliness” (1 Tm 2:2) … “who desires for all people to be saved” (1 Tm 2:4) … “who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tm 2:6). Paul uses four words to categorize different types of prayers; (1) δεήσεις is a specific request, (2) προσευχὰς is an all-inclusive word for prayer, (3) ἐντεύξεις denotes a definitive petition and (4) εὐχαριστίας teaches us that prayers are to be uttered with thanksgiving.
Verses 2–4: Prayer is to be made for rulers, not to rulers. This is a subtle rebuke of emperor worship. After all, God is τοῦ σωτῆρος, “the Savior,” not Caesar.
This shows God’s consistent mercy towards all without distinction. The verse is much like Paul’s universal statements in Romans 3:27–31, 11:26–32.
Verse 5: Jesus is called a μεσίτης, “Mediator” also in Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24. As such, he bridges the gulf between a holy God and sinful, wretched people. On the cross he did what only God can do—offer a sinless life of perfection. On the cross he did what only man could do—bleed, suffer, and die.
Verse 6: The word ἀντίλυτρον, “ransom,” only appears here in the NT. Yet ἀπολυτρώσεως is synonymous and is in Romans 3:24; 8:23; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 1:14.
Homiletical Development of the Sermon: Imagine a person walking in front of the White House seeking access to the president of the United States. Better yet, imagine that person is you. You want an audience with the Commander in Chief because of some burning issues that only he can help you with.
But, let’s be honest. There are far too many barriers between you and the president. The gates are locked. The guards won’t let you in. The staff does not know your name. Far too often we don’t have the right connections with the right person at the right time to accomplish all the right things.
There are not only barriers between us and the President; all the more so massive barriers exist between us and God. Why? Paul is not the only person who is the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15). You are. And so am I. And what is the chief sin? In a word, pride. Medieval artists depict pride as a peacock walking around arrogantly strutting his stuff. Pride is portrayed by Milton in Paradise Lost with these words, “Better to reign in hell, than to serve in heaven.” Pride refuses to utter the three hardest words in the English language, “I was wrong.” Or the four hardest words, “I am not perfect.” Or the five hardest words, “I guess you are right.” Or the six hardest words, “I think I need some help.” (You get the idea.) This pride blocks our access to “the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tm 1:17).
Let’s go back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. What if the president looks out his window and sees you? What if he gives the command and his security detail escorts you right into the Oval Office? And what if the president attentively listens and makes all the changes you ask for?
With the president of the United States this is too good to be true. But with Jesus Christ, the one mediator between God and man, we have access to our heavenly Father (here reference the notes on verses 4–6). It all came to a head one morning. The Jews wanted Barabbas and the soldiers wanted to have some fun. Herod wanted a show. Pilate wanted out. Caiaphas wanted death. And the executioners? All they wanted was Jesus’s blood. Their strategy was singular; beat him within an inch of death and then stop. With his back lacerated they shoved the crossbeam on his back. When he came to the Place of the Skull there they nailed him to wood. And there he hung, giving himself as a ransom for our sins.
And because he was alive on the third day, you and I have access (here reference the notes on verse 1). We finally have the right connections with the right person at the right time to accomplish all the right things, for the glory and honor of God! So why remain outside, alone, standing on that sorry sidewalk, feeling as though you have no access to the most powerful person in the universe? Because you do!