I Timothy 2:1-7
Every year at Christmas, we ask our children to make a wish list. Of course, they know that our resources aren’t unlimited, so they don’t put everything they want on the list. If you made a list of things which you desire, what would be on that list? If I told you that the resources are all there for you to get whatever is on your list, what would you put on that list? I don’t mean only material things, I mean whatever you wish for. I suspect that some things on that list would be there today, but a month or so later, you would have decided that these things aren’t that important, and they wouldn’t be on the list. Other things are there today, they will be there next month and if I would ask a few years from now, they would still be there. What are the things that are the most important to you, desires that are always there?
If God were to make a list of wishes and desires, what would be on His list? What would be on the top of his list? The answer to this question is found in I Timothy 2:1-7. As we look at this passage, let us think about what God desires, but let us also think about how our desires compare with God’s desires. Do we want what God wants?
The statement about what God desires is at the center of the passage which we are looking at today. In verse 4 we read that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
If God is God, why does he not get what he wants? How do we fit this statement about God’s desires with the understanding that not everyone will be saved? Revelation 20:15 says, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” We know that some will not be saved. When we add to that the understanding that those who come to God are those whom God draws to himself, we have an even greater mystery. God wants all men to be saved. God draws those who come to himself, but not everyone will come to Him. How do we explain that?
Well, honestly, I do not think we can entirely understand this. There is an element of mystery involved here, as there often is when we are dealing with God. However, there are certain things that we know. We know that God desires all to be saved because it says so in this text. We know that God draws people to himself because it says so in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him...” We know that God calls people to himself because it says so in Romans 8:30, “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” We also know that we need to make a response to the offer of God. God allows us to decide if we will accept the salvation He offers. John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” We know that there will be some who refuse that invitation and who will be lost because of it. In John 3:36 we read, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
These are the things we know, but how to put them together is something we don’t know. That is the mystery of God’s desire.
We should not, however, allow the mystery of God’s desire to throw us off from the wonder of God’s desire. How thrilling to know what the creator of the universe considers the most important thing.
What gives God the greatest thrill? The text indicates that it is that people be saved. God looks down from heaven with sorrow in His heart when he sees that people are sinning and getting mired in the consequences of their sin and when he sees that they are headed for eternal destruction. God does not want that. He does not want people to suffer from their slavery to sin. He does not want people to die eternally. He desires that people be freed from all of that.
Furthermore, we read that he desires that people “come to a knowledge of the truth.” From the earthly perspective, there appear to be many ways of looking at truth. But from God’s perspective, there is only one truth. God is the Lord of all. Sin destroys and God has provided a way of salvation. Life is found in Him alone. That is the one truth and the only truth which makes it possible for people to find life and happiness and peace and eternity. God wants people to know that truth. He wants them to know the truth of an intimate relationship with Him.
That this is God’s desire is illustrated in the Bible through the stories Jesus told. He told the story of a woman who had a hundred coins and lost one and went searching for that one coin until she found it. So also, God searches for those who are lost because he desires that they be saved. Jesus told the story of the lost sheep and how the owner of the sheep was so concerned about that one lost sheep that he left the 99 that were not lost and went out and found it. So also the Father’s greatest concern is for those who have wandered away from the one who created them and He goes out to seek them. Jesus also told the story of the son who wandered away from his family home and how the father waited, longing for the return of the prodigal son. In a similar way, the Father waits with deep desire in His heart for the return of His lost children. In these stories, there is a summing statement which reveals the heart of the Father. Luke 15:10 says, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
This is the wonder of God’s desire. God wants you to be saved. If you are, then this is a cause for rejoicing. If you are not, God wants you! God wants the animist in an un-reached people group in the 10-40 window to come to the knowledge of the truth. God wants the Muslim terrorist to be saved. God wants the Hell’s Angel’s drug pusher to come to a knowledge of the truth. God desires your neighbour and your co-worker to be saved.
In fact, as we read on, we find that God wants this so much that He has provided the way for it to happen. The text tells us, “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…”
Sometimes when there is a labour dispute and they are unable to come to an agreement, they appoint a mediator to bring the two sides together. A mediator indicates that something is so wrong that help is needed to solve the problem.
The mention of a mediator, in this text, reveals that there is something that comes between us and God. That hindrance is our sin - our rejection of God. Romans 8:7 says, “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”
J.I. Packer says, “Reconciliation of the warring parties is needed, but this can occur only if God’s wrath is somehow absorbed and quenched and man’s anti-God heart, which motivates his anti-God life, is somehow changed.”That is the problem. We are sinners, hostile to God. God is holy. Such a problem requires a mediator.
What is a mediator? J.I. Packer says, “A mediator is a go-between who brings together parties who are not in communication and who may be alienated, estranged, and at war with each other. The mediator must have links with both sides in order to identify with and maintain the interests of both and represent each to the other on a basis of good will.”
In order to overcome this impasse, God provided a mediator. Jesus is fully God. John 1:1 says, “…the Word was God.” Being God, he could fully represent God’s holy and righteous concerns and bring them to bear in the negotiations. Jesus was also fully human. He was born of a woman, lived on this earth as a man and so could fully represent the human problems of temptation and sin. Jesus speaks for God and speaks for us.
As mediator, Jesus did not negotiate a situation in which each party would have to lose something in order to win something. God provided Jesus who was the one and only perfect mediator and was also the ransom through whom the concerns of God were satisfied and the needs of people were met so that it was a perfect win/win situation.
How was it accomplished? The text tells us that Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all men.”
The Greek word for ransom helps us understand what a ransom is. The Greek word is “antilutron.” The basic root of the word is “luw” which means to loose. It is a word which would have been used to describe what you do when you set a butterfly free, when you let the cattle out of the barn or when you open the tap and the water can flow freely. When you make the word a compound by adding “tron” to it, it comes to mean “release by payment.” When you play Monopoly, and you land in jail, if you do not have a “get out of jail free” card, you have to pay $50 to get out of jail. That is the idea which would be described by “lutron.” Adding “anti” to get the word we have here, adds the idea of “in place of.” So then we have the idea of a third party making payment for someone to achieve release. One time Carla was parked in front of the Health Sciences Center at 3:30 and when she got out of the hospital at about 3:40, her vehicle was gone. She discovered that there were about 4 people in the same boat and they agreed to take a taxi together to go to the impound yard and retrieve their vehicles. One of them paid for the taxi cab, and when Carla went to pay him her portion, he refused payment. She was thankful for that gift. Now if he would have also paid for the parking ticket and the price of towing, he would have been a perfect illustration of the word ransom - paying the price for her so that her vehicle could be released.
Jesus is a perfect example of the meaning of this word because that is exactly what He did do. He took our place to pay the price so that we could be set free. Mark 10:45 says, “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.”
Do you know what God wants more than anything? If you are in stuck, God wants to set you free. Jesus has already made it possible, he has paid to get you unstuck. All you need to do is receive God’s gift. I would like to invite you to accept it today.
Since this is God’s desire and since God has provided the way, what is God’s plan for making it happen?
As we see in the urgent appeal which Paul makes in verses 1,2 part of the plan is that we should pray, God has included us in His plan. In the appeal, he uses three different words to make the invitation that we should pray. Requests emphasizes the idea of need. Prayers the idea of asking for what is needed and intercession the idea of a conversation with God, but, we should probably not press the differences in these words because they are all somewhat similar. Together they simply emphasize, by their thrice repetition the urgent need for prayer. Thanksgiving adds another dimension, which is the dimension of recognizing God’s goodness.
Prayer is urged “for everyone.” The connection of prayer with God’s desire for the salvation of all men raises the call for us to pray for those who are lost. How do we pray for the lost? We pray that they will meet people who can share the good news with them. We pray that we will have hearts for the lost, that we will be sensitive to the Spirit and opened to the opportunities he gives us. We pray for workers to go out into the harvest fields.
As we pray, we need to pray for everyone. We need to broaden our perspective. We need to pray for missions and for missionaries. We need to pray for projects like Union Gospel Mission and Inner City Youth Alive and for the people who are being reached by them. But we also need to pray for our neighbours and for our co-workers. Let us pray as broadly and inclusively as we can so that God’s desires can be accomplished. Our prayers are a part of the fulfillment of what God wants.
Special mention is made of “kings and all those in authority.” How relevant to our time. Last week just before the “Love Won Out” conference was on, I saw a news item which indicated that people opposed to the conference were going to protest against it. The issue of homosexuality is a current topic and threatens to create a wall against Christians. How will we witness when people are opposed to us before they ever hear from us? One answer is that we need to pray for peace as this text says. The issue is raised by the government and they are bringing in legislation that is opposed to the righteousness of God. How will we live as Christians in such a society? How will we make Christ known in a world that seems to be more hostile? This text provides one answer when it calls us to pray for “kings and for all those in authority.” As our government continues in turmoil and as these issues continue to heat up, let us pray for them more and more so that through the peace we have, conditions will be such that the desire of God can be accomplished, the desire that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.
Charles Spurgeon writes, “What if a man convicted of high treason and condemned to die was not only pardoned but taken into the favor of his sovereign? If he were riding in the royal carriage and on the road he saw some of his fellow traitors pinioned and manacled, led forth in the midst of officers to die for the offence in which he had as deep a hand as they, wouldn't he entreat the gracious monarch to extend his clemency to his fellow rebels? Wouldn't the tears stand in his eyes as he admires the difference that his sovereign's free mercy has made? Wouldn't he be moved with emotions impossible to describe, of mingled joy and grief, pity and gratitude, wonder and compassion?
Christian's likeness is drawn here. Surely each Christian must feel ready to fall down on his knees, and cry, "Lord, why do you reveal your mercy to me and not to these others? Save them, also, Lord, for your name's sake."
But prayer is only one part of God’s plan for accomplishing His desires. In Romans 10:14,15, Paul asks, “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? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Paul continues by recognizing God’s plan for him in fulfilling God’s desire. He indicates that He has been appointed to be one who proclaims the truth that God wants all men to know. Paul makes the connection between God’s desires and his responsibilities. God wants all men to be saved and Paul will go and proclaim this message. Is this a task only for Paul? Not at all. It is a task for all of us. When Jesus left this earth, he gave all of us the job of making His name known. Not all of us will be, as Paul was “a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.” This was Paul’s role in the gospel proclamation. What is yours?
Sometimes we want to support missionaries like Paul, but I want to make this much more personal. What is your involvement in the task of proclamation? Are you supporting missionaries? That is good. But do you also have a plan for putting your life in the path of those who don’t know so that God can use you to make His desires for their salvation obvious. Are you looking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to share God’s good news with your neighbours and co-workers?
“Officer Tori Matthews of the Southern California Humane Society got an emergency call: a boy's pet iguana had been scared up a tree by a neighbour's dog. It then fell from the tree into a swimming pool, where it sank like a brick. Officer Matthews came with her net. She dived into the pool, emerging seconds later with the pet's limp body.
As the Arizona Republic (2/14/95) reported, she thought, Well, you do CPR on a person and a dog, why not an iguana? So she put her lips to the iguana's.
"Now that I look back on it," she said, "it was a pretty ugly animal to be kissing, but the last thing I wanted to do was tell this little boy that his iguana had died." The lizard responded to her efforts and is expected to make a full recovery.
Tori Matthews didn't see a water-logged reptile; she saw a little boy's beloved pet. We may never see the beauty in some people, but when we realize how much they mean to God, we'll do what we can to keep them from drowning.”
As we began, I asked you to think about a wish list. I can promise you one thing. Under one condition, you can have the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” If we want what God wants, He will give it to us. God wants all men to be saved. He has called us to pray for everyone so that His desires can be fulfilled. Are you praying? He has called us to proclaim His name so that He can have what He wants. Are you involved in proclamation? May God’s desires become our desires.