1) 1 Timothy 2:1: Prayer as God's Directive for Our Lives
2) 1 Timothy 2:1-4: How Shall We Pray
3) 1 Timothy 2:2-4: Living the Message--Reflecting God's Good News
4) 1 Timothy 2:5-6: One Mediator Between God and Man
5) 1 Timothy 2:5-6: Ransomed for Blessing
6) 1 Timothy 2:9-15: Women of Faith
1 Timothy 2:1: Prayer as God’s Directive for Our Lives
Turn to 1 Timothy 2:1: “Therefore I exhort first of all that requests, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.” In chapter 2, Paul begins to give instruction to the church, not just Timothy, and his first instruction is that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone. Three of these words are synonyms. Let me paraphrase this verse to make it very clear what he is saying. “Pray for everyone, interceding with requests and thanksgiving.” The word “pray” simply means “to communicate with God, to express your heart to God.” “Interceding” is a word that means “to come alongside of or fall in line with someone else.” It means that you step in their place and you walk with them. You have involvement in their life. It implies compassion, involvement, and connection. And then he says “requests” or “entreaties” which means “look at what they need.” What is needed? What is missing? What is requested? What is burning in their heart? What do they want to have changed in their life? And then it says “giving of thanks.” Most of us do not have a problem thinking of things to ask God for, but when it is done and we are finished, oftentimes we forget to thank God for what He has done.
So, how do you intercede? How can you pray for someone else? Very simply, pray simply! Can you get any more simple than, “Lord, please help Sam. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.” Pray simply. Many times we make it complex or we try to fill our prayers with spiritual and religious clichés. Look at the prayers of Jesus. They are direct and extremely simple. He says what He means. He wanted children to understand what He was talking about. Pray simply!
Then pray personally. Pray for the person and the situation he or she is in, not just general prayers that could apply to anyone. If you are able, move alongside that person and touch him or her. Make it personal. Some of you may feel you are being intrusive, “Well, I am uncomfortable invading their space.” There is something that goes on with touch, with friendship. That is why we shake hands. It is a personal greeting. Touching someone you are praying for gives a stronger, more personal connection.
Praying personally also means pray personally with God. So many times we pray about God and about what God needs to do, about what we want God to do. We do not pray to God. I think it starts when we are kids. Remember the dinner prayer? “God is great, God is good. Now we thank Him for this food.” Is there anywhere in that prayer you are actually talking to God? You are talking about God. Now, if you say “Lord, you are great. Lord, you are good. Lord, I thank you for this food.” That is taking to God. You do not talk to someone in the third person. It is disrespectful. You talk to others in the second person--“you.” I remember learning to pray when I was a little boy in my grandmother’s house. She taught me, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” With this prayer, I have not talked to God at all. I have said something. I said something religious, but it was not a personal communication with God. “Lord, I am going to sleep now. If I do not wake up, Lord, take my soul and keep me with you.” That is a “you” prayer. That prayer is talking to God not about God!
If you are praying trite, memorized prayers, stop! Start talking to God. He wants to hear from your heart. Simply, personally, and humbly come before Him. Nothing is as distasteful to someone else as religious arrogance, as spiritual pride. “Well, let me pray for you because I have the ‘in’ with God. I am better than you.” No! you are a sinner like them. You just found the way and you have a connection that you want to share with them because you want them to have that connection, too. God is against the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5-7).
And then, finally, pray honorably. Look down at verse two. It says “to live godly, holy lives.” And verse 8 says, “lifting up holy hands without anger and disputing.” Your lifestyle should show your testimony long before your words are ever spoken. People do not want a foul-mouthed scoundrel praying for them. They have the impression that is not going to work. And they are right. So, how do you pray? Paul tells the Ephesians to pray simply, personally, humbly, and honorably.
Who do you pray for? It is very simple. Everyone! No type of person or personality is to be excluded. Verses 1a-4: “…for all men, for kings and all who are in authority….all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” It talks about Gentiles. It talks about kings and authorities. It talks about everyone. And specifically it says, pray for unbelievers. How many think that Nero was a Christian? Now, you may not be a history scholar, but I think you know that Nero is the one who persecuted and killed Christians. He was the one who set fire to Rome and then blamed the Christians. Paul is asking the people of Ephesus to pray for Nero, the one who is killing Christians. Pray for unbelievers. Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, Jesus, Paul, Peter all prayed for unbelievers. Their desire is that they come to a “knowledge of the truth.” Look at verses three through six. “This is good and it pleases God our Savior who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one mediator and one God, one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all men, to be testified in due time.” Pray for everyone, especially unbelievers!
Who do you regularly pray for? Who is on your prayer list? If your prayer list is like most Christians, you do not even have a prayer list. You just pray for whatever comes to mind. Mostly it is about yourself when you come up with a problem. You do not have a prayer list. But if you were to make a prayer list, you would probably start off with, “Ok, my wife, my kids, my parents because they are getting older now.” And you go down this list of everyone that is around you and then you would stop far before you get to those who are outside the sphere of the body of Christ. You would pray for your pastor and your church. Would you pray for that worker, that foul-mouthed worker, that secretary in your office who is going through a divorce and is making a play for one of your salesman buddies, or even has made a play for you, would you pray for her? That is what Paul says to do. Pray for unbelievers.
You cannot get any more pointed than Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44. “Pray for those who oppose you. Pray for those who persecute you.” Who persecute you? “Pastor, I can see praying for people who are lost in sin, people who are doing wrong things. But when they are doing wrongs things against me, I do not want to pray for them. I want to do something else. I will not get mad, I will just ask God to get even.” Paul says, “Pray for them!” Jesus says, “Pray for them!”
Why should you intercede? Why do we want to intercede? What is the payback? Why should I do it? First of all, very simply, because God says so. As a believer, that should be all the reason you need to be obedient to what God calls you to do. God says it and that settles it. But it does go beyond that. We are to pray for others because it expresses love. “Love one another,” Jesus said. When you are praying for them, it is expressing the love of God for them. If it does not change their life, realize that it is possible to reject God’s involvement in one’s life. We are to pray that God would draw them to Himself, if they resist “the burning coals will be on their own head” (it is their responsibility and shame)--Romans 12:20.
You also pray because it makes you Christlike. You are called to be conformed to the image of Christ. If you are going to be more like Jesus, listen to Jesus. “Pray for your enemies.” What did Jesus pray for? Everyone, including the guy who nailed Him to the cross; including those who condemned Him; including all the Jews that bore false witness against Him. It makes you Christlike. How can you measure if you are growing in Christlikeness? Part of the measure is, “Are you praying as Christ prayed?”
You also pray because it grows your faith. As you reach out and pray for someone, you are watching for God’s special work in his or her life. And it grows your faith as you see God doing things in the lives of people you have prayed for. It also grows life because Jesus said, “Give and it shall be given unto you.” If you pray for wisdom, if you pray for grace, if you pray for patience for someone else, I have news for you. God is going to give it to you too. “Give and it shall be given unto you.” You think God wants your friend you are praying for to have patience and you not to have it, you not to grow it? God wants you to grow it too and you suddenly become much more spiritually aware of your own need to grow in patience, of your own need to grow in wisdom, when you look for it in the lives of those you have prayed for.
It grows you in faithfulness. God wants them and God wants you to have the fruit of the Spirit and that is often what you pray for the other person--to have peace, joy, love, kindness, goodness, self-control, to do the right things at the right time. And God wants you to have more of those things, so your life will become more fruitful, as well.
And finally, you pray because it gives you the opportunity to be part of a miracle, to see something happen that is beyond the natural world, to be part of what God can do. It gives you a chance to see God do something amazing. If you do not pray, I tell you, you are not going to see something amazing. You are going to miss it or it is not going to happen or you are going to have no investment in it. But when you pray, it brings God into the equation and something miraculous can happen. If you pray for someone that has a need, they do not just have a need, they have a miracle that is waiting to happen. Their life, the change in their life that God wants to bring is a miracle waiting to happen and you get, you are privileged to be a part of it, if you pray for them. God may use natural means to answer the prayer, which is what He does most of the time, but without your prayers even these things would not have happened. God will often arrange events in remarkable ways to minister to someone—that is awesome to think about!
What do you pray for them? Can God do something for them? Did God do anything for you before you became a Christian? Was God involved in your life, wanting to bring you to Him? He longs for, He desires for all men to be saved. He is calling out to them. He is reaching out to them and He wants to reach out through you because I do not know the person you work with, but you do. The person you work with will not respect me because I am a preacher. I am supposed to say those things. But you, you are just a ‘regular’ person. And if God is real to you, then they have hope that maybe He can be real to them. But they do not know He is real to you unless you pray for them. They will meet God through your prayers. That is why you pray “in the name of Jesus.” “In the name of Jesus,” not in my name or your name. Not in my power or your power, but by the power of Jesus. You ask the Holy Spirit to make these things happen in their lives.
What do you pray for? You pray for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and concerns that are within the bounds of God’s will. They may have concerns that are outside of God’s will and we are not to pray that they prosper in bad or hurtful ways. Or it may be a legitimate concern but the fulfillment of the prayer is not within God’s will for that person. Look at Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14, and 14:11. Notice what God tells Jeremiah. I will use 14:10-11 as my example. “Thus says the Lord to this people: ‘Thus they have loved to wander; they have not restrained their feet.’ Therefore the Lord does not accept them; He will remember their iniquities now, and punish their sins. Then the Lord said to me, ‘do not pray for this people, for their good.’” Like Jeremiah learned in these incidents sometimes our prayers will not alter the course of events. This does not mean He did not hear us but that His will is already being done and to pray contrary to it is to pray against His will. What about a situation where someone’s grandmother is dying and it just may be her time as we will all have our time. What is God’s desire for that grandmother? What is God’s desire for that person whose grandmother is dying? God’s desire is that they have hope, that they have peace, that they have faith, that they have trust. Do not look at prayer as your opportunity to order the present world as you think it should be and then get upset when things do not work out you way. But if you see a true need pray for it and if the way is clear God will do a work in that person’s life. If the way is not clear and God behaves as if He is telling you what He told Jeremiah then leave it with God.
Are there things in your life that God does not want in your life? Are there things that God wants for you that you are saying “no” to? Notice the Jeremiah 14 passage again. Look at verse 12. “When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them.” God did not answer these people’s prayers for a different reason He did not answer Jeremiah’s. Is there anything in your life that is hindering your prayers? What you are doing is expressing their heart to God on their behalf. He wants to be their Father and so you are expressing what they want, in spiritual terms. Express their heart to God. What is God’s desire for them? First Timothy 2:3b-4 tells us: “…God our Savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” As Paul tells the Ephesians in order to get them back on track in their spiritual lives, pray for them often, not just when you cannot get out of it!
1 Timothy 2:1-4: How Shall We Pray?
It was a relatively quiet summer evening on July 4 when George took out his daily diary to write down the events of the day and this is his only log for that day. It says, “Nothing much happened today.” Boy, was he wrong. The city was London. George’s last name was “the third.” He was King George III and the year was 1776. That day something occurred that changed world history. Our nation was born and we gained the opportunity to become a player in God’s work in this world, to become a major player in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, standing for and standing with God in this world.
So often we take our liberties for granted but the old phrase “freedom does not come free” is absolutely accurate. It seems that nothing good and lasting happens without a struggle, and in many cases the shedding of blood. We live in a fallen world. The very words of the Declaration of Independence recognize this struggle. Our Constitution recognizes this struggle.
I ask you, are you a Christian-American or are you an American Christian? It sounds the same, but each emphasizes something different. Whether you use the term “Christian” or “American” as the adjective makes all the difference. The word that comes first is the adjective and tells what kind of whatever the noun is. If I say, “He is a boy, big and strong and tall,” the noun tells us the who or what but the three adjectives tell us what kind—a big, strong, tall boy. Are you an American Christian or a Christian American? Which is the foundation, the core, the most important thing that you are? Which describes and adds to your character and which is that which defines your character? Are you Christian or are you American? Yes, we are both, but what is most important to you? It may sound like a moot question or not that significant, but I want you to consider that so many claim to be good Christians and claim to be good Americans but do not live like either one. Reflect on your life. What do you see? Your answer will also say a lot about what kind of Christian, or what kind of American you are.
Read 1 Timothy 2:1-2. “Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” Prayers are designed to reflect your relationship with God. Do you know what prayer does? Prayer unleashes the power of God in the lives of those you are praying for. There is a whole lot in this world you cannot do anything about. But we have a God that can do something. Prayer is the easiest step of love for another person that you can take. Prayer is the easiest thing you can do to love another person. You can lay in bed with your eyes closed, in air-conditioned comfort and pray for someone else. It does not even cost you a penny. How hard is that? You can stop at a stoplight, close your eyes and pray for somebody. That is pretty easy. And it is a profound expression of love because you are calling upon the God of creation to be involved in that person’s life. Prayer unleashes the power of God in that life.
One fundamental purpose of prayer is to change the pray-er not just the person who is prayed for. The pray-er rubs his or her heart against God’s heart and begins to see things from God’s perspective. God intends to imprint His priorities, His plans, and His purposes on your heart. Scripture says that we are created in the image of God. One result of this is that we have the capacity to reason and think. What we do with this capacity depends upon what we reason and think about. We are created in the image of God, but called to be conformed to the image of Christ--created in the image of God to be conformed to the image of Christ. Or we can say it like this: We were created in the image of God so that we can be conformed to the image of Christ. Think about this statement! God created Adam and Eve in His image so that He could conform them to be like Christ. Adam and Eve were not complete when they were first created. Based on their created nature, God planned on molding them to be like Christ as He walked and talked with them on a daily basis (Genesis 3:8). God wanted to have a personal influence on their lives not just a creative one. God has this goal for our lives today. The Father wants us to become more and more like Jesus Christ in the way we think and act. That is what it means to be conformed to the image of Christ. It is to have a heart that sees things from God’s perspective. If a man says, “Yeah, I love my wife. I see her two or three times a year. I listen to her at least five or six minutes every time we are together.” What kind of marriage is that? What kind of relationship is that? What kind of “one-flesh” is that? What kind of oneness is there in that? But as we spend time with God and let His heart rub off on us, we change.
In your own life, what do you reflect? When others think about you, what is the reflection? What is reflected from your life? And what do your prayers reflect when you talk to God? I know a lot of people’s prayers reflect upon their personal wants and desires. “Lord, help me get that raise.” “Lord, change my husband, please, Lord.” Rather than “Lord, conform me to the image of Christ. Lord, change me.” To often people use prayer as an attempt to get at other people. “Lord, I don’t like him/her, so go get him/her for me.” There are so many things that are going downhill in this country. It feels good to talk about how bad abortion is and the immorality and destructiveness of pornography and all the other things that plague our nation. We get excited and pound the pulpit and walk around and yell. We are glad that it is them out there that are so bad and we are fine. It feels good to talk against them, to find a place for our anger to rest. It is much safer to talk about “those guys” than it is to focus on “us.” Yes, things do need to change in this country. But you must realize that God is not done with you and me, either. There is much that needs to be changed in us!
Paul tells Timothy in this passage what our prayers should reflect. He says, “I urge you then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.” God wants your life and your prayers to reflect His priority. Do you know what God cares more about? He cares more about the people in your life than the cars you drive or the house you live in. He is more impressed with the qualities, the character, of people than what they do for a living. Do your priorities reflect God’s priority? Look at what it says: “I urge that prayers, requests, supplications and thanksgiving be made for. . .” Who? It says it right there. Who is it? “Everyone.” Pray for everyone. This statement is not just a generalism. What He is saying here is for your sphere of concern to embrace those beyond your immediate circle of friends and family. But how do you pray for people you do not know? It is really hard to pray for people you do not know. Get to know them! Get to know something about them so that you can pray for them with knowledge. You may not know their name. You may not know their face. You may not be their friend. You may never see them. But you can get to know them and the troubles they have to endure.
We need to cancel church some Sunday and go down to Orlando to Wycliffe Missionary Headquarters. They have some wonderful displays that show the people around this world that are waiting to find out about Jesus, who have no one to tell them about God and Jesus Christ’s life and death for them. They are waiting for God’s ways to be done in their daily lives so that they can be free from superstition, corrupt politics, and disease, to name just a few. Knowing God has both eternal and temporal benefits. Knowing God through Jesus Christ brings eternal life. Knowing God through Jesus Christ also brings a better social environment. As Paul says in verse 2, “a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” They have this great display and so many different ways of people saying, “Hi, you tell me about Jesus?” I went and saw it four years ago and I cannot forget it. I saw pictures of people in Africa or the Middle East or in one of those little island communities saying, “Will you come tell me about Jesus. I would like to know.” Brothers and sisters, expand, enlarge your vision for people!
There is someone at your office this week going through some troubled stuff and they may deserve it. What they are going through may be related to the way they are living. They have caused the trouble by their own behavior. They have done a lot of wrong things. They have messed up some relationships and now they are paying the price for it. Do you see them? Will your eyes see them? Enlarge your vision to see their pain. And care! What about those who are trying to do the right thing but are still in painful situations? Do you see them? Do you care? There are a bunch of our sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, fathers and mothers that are in Iraq fighting for our freedom. Pray for them. And if you are able, do something kind for them. Your prayers for them will mean more to them now than any other time in their lives. Let them know about it. Pray for them. Make a difference.
It says, “pray for everyone.” Enlarge your vision to embrace the whole world. The people who are suffering half way around the world are not too far for your prayers to reach. Get to know something about them so that you can pray for them with knowledge. They need the good news that Jesus loves them and has a plan for their future. God is not just interested in America, folks. He is interested in people of all cultures and races. He wants them to know Him and His ways that it will be well with them! America is largely abandoning that which has set us apart from the rest of the world and made us great, made it possible for God to bless us so greatly. Well, those same things, if practiced, can bless other nations, as well.
Verse two says, pray “especially for kings and rulers and those in authority that we might lead godly, tranquil lives.” Are you surprised Paul instructs Timothy to pray for the kings and those in authority? At the time Paul said this, do you know who Paul is talking about? Paul, most likely, when he writes 1 Timothy is under house arrest in Rome waiting to be tried before Nero, who is eventually going to find him guilty and execute him. Nonetheless Paul says, “Pray for them with supplications, intercession, and thanksgiving.” Before Nero there was Caligula. Before him was another and another and another and all of them were bad, evil. We might say, “I am not going to pray for them. I do not want God to help them.” God does not say, “I am going to help them be bad.” But He does say that He will influence their hearts despite their evil intentions. We have so many biblical stories, a good 100 pages in your Old Testament, that are all about how God moved in the hearts and lives of pagan kings to preserve His people. King Nebuchadnezzar, King Darius, King Xerxes, King Cyrus, Persian, Iraqian kings, the Ayatollahs, if you will, of that time. God used them in the lives of Daniel, Nehemiah, and Ezra. Pray with God’s purpose for government in mind that we might live tranquil and godly lives!
Pray especially for government leaders because even a bad king is better than anarchy. You may not like what he is doing, you may not like the rules they have, but anarchy, where it is every man for himself and there is no law, there is no government, is a very scary thing. Hell’s chief characteristic is the absence of God and all the good that comes from having His presence near. Anarchy is the worst of governmental choices because the absence of the rule of law allows the worst in human beings, the least common denominator, to become the norm. There will be no time for the actualization of the positives of your humanity when you live in constant fear of someone else taking what you have and killing you in the process. Where there is no authority or governmental rule there is chaos. But God’s desire is for peacefulness and holiness to characterize daily life. And that will be hard to live out if other people are shooting at you, stealing your stuff, and enslaving your children. Paul dares to say, “I thank God for the Roman government even though it has killed my friends and thrown Christians to the lions. Because of the peace that Roman rule has supplied the gospel is spreading like wildfire all over the world.” So he thanks God for the Roman government because of the peace they have brought to the world and because of the road systems they have built that allowed the gospel to spread throughout the known world. Do you pray for our government? There are so many issues to consider when ruling a nation. Being president or a high-ranking governmental official is not an easy job. I like simple things. I believe we should all simplify our lives. We have become so busy that we seldom have time left over to contemplate God or the beauties of nature. However, our government, our nation, our economy, world peace, foreign aide are not simple issues. Those involved in making decisions in these areas need our prayers. Just pray for them. God will help them.
Finally, that leads to our last point. It says, “For kings and those in authority that we may live peaceful, quiet lives” and then goes on in verses 3-4, “This is good and pleases God our Savior who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” God’s purpose for your life is to be a godly witness to the reality of Him in this world, that He might make a difference in the lives of those around you. Christians, you need to have two prayers in mind all the time. 1) “Lord, let your light shine in darkness. God, you have hope and there is a dark world out there that needs your light.” 2) “Help my light to shine in the darkness that is around me. Lord, keep me from being a beacon of darkness and bringing darkness or tainted light to situations. Let me reflect your truth and your light and your goodness."
We need to be very careful about the way we approach other people, about the standards we have that we impose on them. Christians are known so much for standing against abortion, which I stand against, of standing against homosexuality, which I stand against, of standing against pornography and immorality, which I stand against, but sometimes we, as Christians, are known to do this with such voracity that it is alienating and destructive rather than curative. How many of you remember mercurochrome? Wasn’t that great stuff? “Come here son, we will rub some mercurochrome on and it will be all better, it will not get infected.” Yeah, it will burn off, plus it had mercury in it. Not good! The cure may have been worst than the remedy. Are you willing to kill the germs without killing the person? We are not called to be soft on any of those things I mentioned above but we are not to kill the person with the disease.
We tend to think that many of the problems we are facing as a nation are brand new to us. Do you know there were as many abortions in the middle of the 1800s per capita in the white population as there are today? No way, you might say!? One out of five pregnancies in the middle 1800s ended in abortion. Well, how could they do them with the tools and the medical science they had? That is why so many of them died. In New York City in the middle 1800s there was one prostitute for every 60 men. That is a horrendous ratio and a bad influence on marriage. But what is even scarier is the age of consent for sex and for using people for prostitution was 10 years old. Thirty percent of women who got married in 1850 were already pregnant. We think pre-marital sex is a modern American problem. It has been an American problem for decades, for centuries. And so we think somehow if we can get our government to pass some laws it is going to go away. It never has and it never will because you cannot legislate morality. Yes, it helps to pass laws that recognize right over wrong, good over evil, and moral over immoral so that the negative effects won’t run rampant on our society, but ultimately it has to be a change that comes from the inside. And that is what Jesus came to do. Let your prayers reflect who God is and what He cares about.
1 Timothy 2:2-4: Living the Message—Reflecting God’s Good News
Write down the first names of three people. Three people that you have personal contact with at least once a week that you are not sure of or do not think is a believer. They may be at work. They may be your next-door neighbor. They may be at home. They may be your family. They may be on your sport’s team. They may be on your kid’s sports team. They may be your kid’s teacher or a friend of your kid’s, a friend of your kid’s kids. And if you cannot think of anybody, then you have a big problem. You need to get a life because we are put here to have an impact on unbelievers in this community and around this world.
Now let me ask you a question. What, if anything, are those three people learning about God from your life? Every day you cast an image of who you are, of what is important to you, of what you care about. Are they getting that message at all from you? We reflect those things which are biggest in our life, those things which are closest to our hearts and overshadow our lives. Is God being reflected in your image to those around you? How are we to reflect God’s good news in this world?
Turn to the second chapter of 1 Timothy. Evaluate your life in light of this passage. What are you reflecting to those in your workplace, in your home, in your school, in your everyday life? What do they know about God because of your life, if anything? Verse 1 says, “I urge you then, first of all, that all requests and prayers and intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone.” We are to be a praying people because we have access to God through Jesus Christ. God has made that available to us. And we are specifically, according to the following verses, to pray for unbelievers and for the governmental authorities (“for kings and all those in authority”). And what attitude is to characterize our prayers? Verse 2: “…for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.”
What are these verses telling us about reflecting God’s good news? First of all, it is telling us the “how.” We reflect God’s good news by living a peaceful and quiet life. In fact, New American Standard and New King James say “quiet and peaceful.” They reverse the translation of those two words from the New International translation because they are essentially synonyms. He is telling them, and us, that God wants them to be tranquil and serene, not aggressively stirring up trouble or being harmful to others. That does not mean we are not to react to evil or that which would destroy our communities but it does mean we are to want to live peaceful and quiet lives free from the turmoil that anxiousness, fear, and all manner of sinful behavior will bring to our lives.
Heaven is going to be a peaceful place. Heaven is where God’s way holds sway. Life on this earth is not heaven. Life is more often characterized by strife, aggression, and greed than internal peace and quietness. But God’s desired-will for this earth and especially His children is still peace and quietness. Since He allows a certain measure of freedom to those who choose to go their own way, He knows that there will always be strife and turmoil on this present earth. But He wants His people to experience the kind of internal peace that comes from trusting Him and that results in social peace as far as the matter lies in their hands. As least that is what Christians are to work toward. Their families and churches are to be characterized by peace and cooperation; even through the rest of the world is contentious and anything but peaceful.
In verse 8 Paul says, “That is angry and disputing.” That kind of life does not reflect a peaceful attitude. It only reflects the problem. It shows the problem. Is your life a stormy sea of discontent? Do you see problems all over the place? Your glass is not half empty or half full; it is just stirred up all the time. But you think, “Well, there is so much injustice in the world. We should make a difference in those areas. We should promote something different. Are we not supposed to take a stand for morality and for justice?” Listen! Yes, for your own life and those specifically around you. But catch this now. You are not responsible for the morality of the world. Morality is not your message. That is not what we are called to communicate. We are not called to tell people to “shape up and change.” “You guys better buck up and stop doing those wrong things.” We are called to bring good news and live peaceful lives. The morality around us points to the need for good news. It paves the way for a Savior who is the good news. Your message is to say, “Look at God, taste, and see how good He is. See what He has provided for us.” It is not to be a finger shaker, but openhandedly offering the love, the truth of God to a victimized world.
Your message is one of hope and one that brings peace with God. They can take the Ten Commandments out of the courts, but rest assured, they could never absolve it from hearts. Complaining does not change anything. But prayer changes everything. Can you do that? Can you catch yourself next time you start complaining and say, “Lord, ok, you are in charge. Lord, help those people who can make a difference in that area.” Pray for those that are in charge and that make those choices. Quit your job as God’s patron complainer, as if God is relying upon you to be told what is going on and what is wrong in the world. God already has someone like that. God has a voice constantly echoing in His ear pointing out everything that is wrong in this world. Do you know who that is? The evil one, Satan, is right there saying, “Did you see what he did last night? Do you see where she is going? Do you see what he is thinking?” Every moment the evil one is being a complainer and critic to God. And God says, “I know, and I am taking care of him and I am taking care of her.” God and Satan have different motives for what they do.
Do you understand that God wants to make a difference in the lives of unbelievers? So, live for that change. He has given us each day to make a difference in the lives around us. Are you living to make a change or are you living to make a dollar? Living to make a change in the lives around you, to be a difference-maker, to see things happen that glorify God in a sin-ravaged world. That is our message. We are to share with peace and quietness, tranquility with a sense of calm and serenity. We know God is in control and that He can have His way in a whirlwind (Nahum 1:3). We do not like what is going on out there, but we have a God that is seeing us through and will continue to see us through if we rely upon Him.
If you are all stirred up with anger and frustration and if that is all the unbelieving world sees, that is not a good witness. That is not very attractive. They need to see God. God has plenty to be mad about but what did He do? He sent Jesus! He sent grace and hope. God knows that sin cannot be ripped from the human heart by force. It is too deeply entrenched. It must be ‘graced away’! The Christian life is to exhibit this grace while also clinging to and promoting godly behavior. You are called to reflect Jesus. It says, “…be conformed to the image of Christ.” You are not Christ, but you are to bear His image, His characteristics. And these verses tell us how to do that--by living peaceful, god-fearing lives. People can understand who God is because of what you do. Are they actually seeing some of God’s grace shining through your life?
I want to stress two aspects of godliness that are given to us in this verse. The first is God’s care. You are called to reflect God’s personal passion for people, God’s loving interest, God’s strong desire to reach out to and care for broken people. He sent His own Son to die on a cross because He loves people so much, including the three names at the top of your list. God loves them and wants them to know about the Jesus who died for them. He wants to bring them into a right relationship with Him. And He is relying upon you to share that information. You know God could have done this thing differently. He could have said, “Ok, when a person reaches the age of 19 and six months, they are whisked away into heaven and they get to stand before me and decide what they want to be like and who they want to accept. And then they come back and die and that is it.” He could have taken them away, but instead He chose to come here and live a life and walk in this world like we do and reflect the Father. And He calls us to do exactly the same thing. That is God’s plan and there are people in your world, in your daily lives that God wants to reach through your life. Are you reflecting God?
When people look at you is all they see a nice person? Or someone that is just a little better than them or at least thinks they are better than them? Do they see someone who is angry, frustrated, and mad at the world? What image are you casting? What are you reflecting? We are to reflect, number one, God’s care, God’s love, who took the time to come and connect with you. Think about the way that you talk. What do you say to people in your conversation? In your conversation with people, are you really interested in their life or are you actually just waiting to tell them what is going on with you? Think about it next time you are talking to someone and you start saying, “When are they going to shut up? I have something I want to say, that I want to tell them.” Is it all about you?
To care is to be patient and kind. It wants to know about the life of the other. It reaches into the life and waits for opportunities to help. There are two tones relationships can have. You can try to impact them or you can try to impress them. And most often we are trying to impress people. We want them to know about how good we are and how successful we are and what is going right and how good it is to be a Christian, etc. I am going to tell them about all my/our victories. That makes people feel like, “Oh, I wish I could be like that!” But they know there is something not totally real with that.
The other side of communication is drawing them out and that is where impact comes in. Rather than making an impression on people, trying to impress people, try to impact them. You impact them by drawing them out and pouring into their life what they need. Of finding out what is going on in their life and their hurts, what is happening to them, what they need. How can you fill a gap? What does God want to do in their life? It is revolving around them, not around you. That is God’s care.
You are called to reflect God’s care and then secondly, His grace. Receiving grace basically means getting more than you deserve. Giving grace basically means giving more than is deserved. Are you a fair person? Or are you a gracious person? A fair person gives the other what he or she deserves. And there are places in life where fairness is appropriate—a fair wage, a fair price for your home, a fair job done on your home or car by someone you hired, etc. How do you feel when someone cheats you and fails to give you what you contracted for? So fairness has its place. A gracious person gives someone more than he or she deserves. A wise person discerns when to be fair and when to be gracious. The Christian is called to be willing and to have the capacity to be gracious when God leads. Graciousness especially applies to interpersonal relationships. Aren’t you glad that God has been gracious to you in all the promises He has made? That He has given you His mercy, His forgiveness, His Holy Spirit, His blessing, His help amid desperate situations, the fruit of the Spirit to guide and purify your life? Graciousness is getting more benefits or blessings than you deserve. When you come into a relationship with someone else, do you keep score? Or do you look for opportunities to give?
Are you not glad God did not keep score but He looked for opportunities to give and when the time was right, He sent His Son. His greatest gift! When the time was right, He had a grandmother, mother, father, Sunday school teacher or someone else lead you to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, based on His redemptive work on Calvary’s cross.
I have news for you; you are not God. You are also not holy. I know you. But He is and you are called to reflect His holiness. And you reflect His holiness by looking at two things. 1) His standards--you care about the things He says and you do the things that He says. “God said it and that settles it. I am going to do it. God said ‘don’t’ so I won’t. I choose not to because I trust what God says. God says do it, so I will.” 2) His forgiveness--this is probably the biggest thing that Christians miss. Living God’s forgiveness means both receiving it and giving it. When you say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong,” you are again holding up God’s standards. “I fell down there and I am sorry.” You are demonstrating God’s forgiveness because they need to know, as you know, that God is merciful. And you need to model for them how simple it is to ask God’s forgiveness, to simply say that you want it, and then move away from what you did--repent. “I am sorry Father. I have sinned. I am sorry. I was wrong. I want to live by your standards, please help me.” And that speaks volumes for communicating God’s holiness. Do not miss those golden opportunities because if you do, they will shut you off. “Yeah, he just tries to be a goody-goody. He tries to do the right thing, but I know what he is really like.” But if you can reflect God’s forgiveness for what you have done you have spoken volumes about how important God’s is to your life. And when you forgive a wrong done to you, you are showing that God’s grace resides within you. You show what God’s forgiveness is like. Some people may have never experienced real forgiveness in their life. If they see it in you, then God’s redeeming forgiveness is more likely to be real to them.
Now finally, why do you reflect these things? “All these things are hard and I do not want to have to do that.” God tells us in verse four. Firstly, “It is good.” And what it means specifically is “it is good for you.” It blesses your life. Living in godliness and holiness blesses your life. It brings the promises of God to you. It brings the blessing, the fruitfulness of God to you. It brings more opportunities to minister to you. It is good for your family. It is good for your heart. It is good for your wife or your husband, for your children, for your boss, and these are all good for you. It blesses you!
Secondly, it pleases God. It makes God smile. Do you know you can make God smile? “This is good, and pleases God our Savior… .” Remember going to Little League games? The frustration with Little League games is the best players probably hit the ball one out of three times at bat. And when that child, your son or your grandson or your granddaughter hits that ball, what do you do? There is this big grin, this big smile because you are so proud that they had a small victory. You have seen them fall down so many times, missing the ball, but then he or she hits it and you are glad. God smiles because He cares about us. Our small and big victories mean something to Him. The same your child’s small and big victories mean something to you. God our Savior wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of Him and by reflecting God you are demonstrating God’s love, God’s salvation, God’s forgiveness, and giving them something that can change their life.
You see, the bottom line to this whole message is that you are the message. We want people to read the Bible. We want them to come to church and listen to the preacher, but in reality they are often too lazy or uncommitted. And they listen to a preacher, but they fall asleep or understand little of what he said. But they are watching you. We do not want to be the message because we are not always doing it exactly right, often we are downright wrong, but God has imprinted it upon our hearts and we are to live it out for all to see. And people are deciding by your behavior and attitude if God is real in your life. What are those three names thinking about God when they meet you? From your behavior last week, your last contact with them, did they learn anything good about God?
You are called to be the messenger and that message of God should be imprinted upon your life so much that when they see you, they recognize there is something different about your life. And then they begin to learn about the truth that the Holy Spirit actually lives in the person who lives next door to them or sits at the desk next to them. That the God of creation is involved in your life and He can be involved and wants to be involved in their life, as well.
1 Timothy 2:5-6: One Mediator between God and Man
People say all roads lead to heaven, but are they right? Are there some ways that do not go anywhere? Do you have any friends that say those things to you? They say, "Well, you know, how do you know what God is like? Don't all religions give a description about what God might really be like? How do you know that you have a corner on the truth? What makes you right and everybody else wrong?" How do you answer that? When you hear those kind of sayings and those kind of questions, I want you to think to yourself, "Here is someone that is looking for an answer and I want to be able to give it to him. I want to be able to share something with him that will lead them in the right direction.” There is a central truth in Christianity that sets it apart from all other faiths. First Timothy 2:5-6 makes a unique claim for the significance of Jesus Christ in the overall plan of God. This passage plainly and clearly makes the work of Christ indispensable in God’s plan of forgiveness and redemption. This passage also implies that all other attempts to get to God are inadequate and doomed to fail.
First Timothy 2:5-6 is one of the most hotly debated verses in the Bible. People are not just verbalizing their opposition to it by what they say but the principle that it presents is defied by people by the way they live. And we do not talk a lot about it because it puts us in a position of being exclusionary. We do not like that word. That word is very negative. To be exclusionary means that because you think you are better than everybody else, you want nothing to do with them. You are leaving everybody else out but your own small group of people who believe everything the way you do. That is how cults thrive. They are exclusionary. They grow by setting themselves against ‘the outside world’. We do not want to viewed the same way as them. We do not want to leave anybody out. But Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one (no one, anywhere, anytime) comes to the Father except by me." That is an undeniably exclusionary statement. Now you have to decide, did He mean what He said? Did He mean what He said for your friend? And is there a way you can present that truth to him that he will hear and understand?
Turn to 1 Timothy 2:5. "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ." That sounds exclusionary to me. When the Bible says it, is it a lie? When Jesus said it, was he a liar or was He crazy? Did people misunderstand Jesus when He said these things? I mean, how do we know, because the disciples wrote down what Jesus said years after that, didn’t they? Do you recognize that Jesus was crucified because of those kinds of statements, because He made Himself equal to God. He claimed to be someone special, not just a normal man or prophet. He claimed to be the Son of God, uniquely having the qualities of God and man together. He claimed to come from God to help and redeem us. Because of this the religious leaders of His day did not like His rejection of what they stood for and His rise in popularity. They crucified Him for His divine self-claims. They heard and understood what He was saying about Himself. This 1 Timothy passage is one of the most exclusionary passages in all of Scripture. It straightforwardingly says that all other ways to God are false and doomed to fail and that only Jesus Christ can unite man and God. Period!
So, how can you respond to your friends? I want to tell you, first of all, odds are pretty good that if they say something like, "Well, I kind of believe that all roads lead to heaven and there are a lot of truths out there and everyone has a little bit of something to add to it" and you turn around and whip out your Bible and say, "Well, the Bible says. . .", you have probably lost them. They will get this glazed-over look and they will stand there respectfully for a little while. "Well, I think I have to get back to work now. I think I have to do this" or they hit their beeper on their phone like it is ringing. They do not accept the Bible as any kind of truth because this whole book is exclusionary to them. So, for this type of person, I want to look at this passage from another perspective. How can you approach your friend who does not take Scripture as a viable guide for life and thinking? You are going to have to appeal to his logic and to his heart. And do it with respect and love, sharing the truth in a way that wins him rather than back him against the wall and force a decision from him (or her).
First of all, I think it is important to clear something up. People often talk about the Christian religion being exclusionary. But it is not that the Christian ‘religion’ or Christianity is exclusionary, but truth itself is exclusionary. How many of you are where you are right now? How many of you are someplace else? You see, truth is exclusionary of its opposite. I have a blue shirt on. If I ask you, “Do I have a blue shirt on?” you have to answer either “yes” or “no.” If you answered “yes” you would be correct, your answer is consistent with reality. If you said “no” you would be incorrect, your answer would be inconsistent with reality. If you want to answer correctly, you are not free to say “red” when it is really blue. It cannot be both. Conversely, I am a father. I am a pastor. I am a goofball sometimes. Those are not necessarily mutually exclusive unless being a pastor and a goofball should not happen. I know being a husband and a goofball is ‘ok’. But being a man and a woman is mutually exclusive. You are one or the other. You are here or you are somewhere else. Truth is exclusive! Christianity does not claim exclusivity for itself to merely set itself apart from all other religions, it claims to be founded on truths which are themselves exclusionary.
Let us see how that works out. What if someone says to you, "Well, don't all roads lead to heaven? I mean, I have heard that all roads lead to heaven." Ask him, "Well, how do I get to your house? To get to some specific place, does it make any sense you can go any direction you want to go? Do you find that truth fitting any reality that you know? It only does not matter which way you go, when you have no place you are going." In Alice in Wonderland, Alice asked the cat, "Well, which way do I go?" The cat said, "Well, where do you want to be?" She said, "Well, I don't care." "Well then it does not matter which way you go.” It only does not matter which way you go when you do not have any direction, when you are not trying to get someplace. Now there are a number of roads you can take to get to the general area of my house, but you can only take one road to get TO my house. To get to my house, you have to go down Lake Terrace Drive. It is the only way you are going to get there. To get to a specific place, you have to go in a specific direction on a specific road. That fits all reality that you know. Now, a question to ask them is to look at the different religions and look at where they go. What is there destination? Where do each of them end up? If you look at the Buddhist idea, becoming one with the universal spirit, or the Hindu idea of being reincarnated until you cease to exist or the Muslim concept of having seven virgins in heaven, which I do not think Katie would like, and I do not think most women like the idea of that, or the Christian idea of living a perfect, good life at ease in the presence of God, those are all extremely different directions and extremely different destinations. The different religions have different destinations and also different directions on how to get there.
In every religion, except for Christianity, the way you get there is through morality and ethics, by doing the right thing. They will summarize it in a number of different ways. The Jews had the commandments. The Buddhists have their right thinkings. The Hindus have their "thou shalls." Only Christianity treats it differently. Only Christianity says it is not about our efforts to get to God, but it is God reaching out to us that matters. Other religions will paint a picture of what you have to do, have this list of do's and don'ts and if you do certain things, then you will eventually get there, wherever ‘there’ is in that particular religion. Christianity is the only religion that says it is not a matter of doing right, it is a matter of accepting what God has done for you.
How do we get there? What is the process? In Christianity, morality is not the method. The method in Christianity is the Mediator. Accepting the loving grace of God offered in Jesus Christ. It is not based upon being good but upon God's graciousness. Jesus did not come to just make bad people good. Jesus came, primarily, to make dead people alive, to liven their spirits toward God. Every other religion is trying to get us to God by doing the right thing, whatever that may be. Only Christianity is based upon what God has done for us.
If you listen closely to many people, the bottom line of why so many people like the many-roads concept is that if it does not really matter very much which one you pick, then it really does not matter very much if you pick one at all. You will be friendly to all of them. It is like being at the horse race and not betting on any of the horses, but smiling and shaking hands with all the owners so maybe they will invite you to the winner's circle when the race is over. But you can ask them, "If many roads lead to heaven, which one have you chosen? Because if it were true that many roads lead to heaven, that in no way implies that you don't have to take one to get there." But they like to think, "Well, I can just sit back and watch and I am better than some of those people who are going to get there. I am more do-gooder than they are, and so I am probably ‘ok’, too.” You see, the attraction of many roads means their road will also get there. And that allows them to be their own rule-maker, to be their own controller, to be their own boss, to be their own, what is the word? God. They do not have to do what anybody else wants. They get to make the choices and set the standards. By the way, their standard for heaven is almost always just a little bit lower than they are. “I want to get in, but I do not want anybody that is worse than me getting in. If that happened, heaven would not be a very good place."
There is a second century Buddhist fable adapted by John Godfrey Saxe. You may be familiar with it.
The Blind Man and the Elephant
Adapted from John Godfrey Saxe, 1816-1887
Based upon a 2nd century Buddhist fable
It was six men of India to learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant--Though all of them were blind.
The First approached the Elephant, And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side, "an Elephant is like a wall!"
The Second, feeling the tusk, Cried, "Ho! what have we here?
So very round & smooth & sharp, an elephant is like a spear!"
The Third approached the animal, And happening to take
The squirmy trunk in his hand "Ooh, an Elephant is like a snake!"
The Fourth reached out an eager hand, And felt about the knee.
"What most a wondrous beast the elephant is like a tree!"
The Fifth who chanced to touch the ear, Said: "E'en a blind man
Can tell you an Elephant is like a fan!"
The Sixth no sooner had begun. About the beast to grope.
Than, seizing on the tail "No! the Elephant is like a rope!"
And so these men of India disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion--partly in the right--but all in the wrong!
This is the first time I ever heard this story where someone actually pointed that last part out. Do you catch one of the key points? This is a fable that has been taught for years and used for years by comparative religion professors who want to show you that all religions have a grasp of the truth. They just do not give the whole thing. Each one is valid in its own way. Each one gives a different perspective on the truth. But do you recognize that every one of them is wrong? Every one of those blind men has a mistaken perception of an elephant. Every one of them is incredibly wrong!
Let us look a little further. It goes on to say:
Experts debate in ignorance over exactly what they mean,
They argue about an Elephant not one of them has seen!
Many times when you read commentaries by people who are supposed to be experts either in the Bible but also many times on religion, in general, it is really apparent they do not have a clue.
And I made up a few of my own:
A Seventh came but stood upon a hill of fire ants with his bare feet
"Yow! this Elephant is a poisonous beast."
How may people do you know that have determined who God is based upon something that has happened in their life that God had nothing to do with? Someone they loved died or something bad has happened to them and they blame God for it.
An Eighth approached as it began to rain on them all
"Can't you feel it, this Elephant is a waterfall."
Take one small aspect of God and say that is His whole character.
The Ninth was too afraid to approach even the least
But loudly declared "I feel this elephant is a ferocious beast."
Can you understand how one blind man is afraid to go and touch, afraid to go and see? But no one else knows that he has not gone. And he makes up whatever he feels in his heart. He says whatever he thinks with no empirical evidence, whatsoever. Does that ring true? Do you know people like that who have made up in their own mind, who have made God up in their own image?
But there is one more and do not miss this one.
A Tenth man approached but he had his sight
"Ok, now listen, for I can see exactly what is right."
If there was a tenth man who sees the elephant, can you see how the story is altogether different? How it changes everything because someone can put all those pieces together and clarify how the pieces fit together. Where the elephant is like a spear, where the elephant is like a tree, like a wall and all the other characteristics. The one did not touch the elephant at all. Jesus makes His position extremely clear. He says, "I am that tenth man. For if you have seen me, you have seen the Father." Christianity is the only religion in which God has come to man to show us what He is like rather than waiting for man to guess and make something up on his own. There is only one God. There is only one God and Jesus is the one who has shown us what He is like!
Our American religion centers around being good, being a good guy. Doing the right thing. Doing more good than bad. Following the Golden Rule. Sure I have tried to be a good person and I have done a few wrong things, but you know, I think the good things I have done have outweighed those bad things. That is the American way. That is the good-guy theology. That is the American folk religion. In Christianity, Jesus says that is totally bogus. Society loves fairness. We think and we live by the idea that good people should be rewarded and bad people should be punished. And in a social structure that has its place to maintain order. Fear of punishment is often the only thing that will prevent some people from doing wrong or harming others. Good gets a reward, bad gets punished. We are taught that from the time we are three years old. We get spankings and discipline or we get candy. But does that same thinking apply to heaven?
The whole problem with the fallacy of doing more good than bad is that God grades on the curve. "I think the things I have done good outweigh the things I have done bad." How do you know? Is it pure quantity? Does bringing your wife flowers make up for being unfaithful to her? Well, that is a good and that is a bad so that is one and one, right? Ladies, is it equal? Husbands, is it equal? No! not even close. Then what does it take to cross out the adultery? Where is the equity scale of what matches up for what? In all the religions I have ever studied and everything I have ever seen and everything I have ever read, I have never found one that has a system that says what equals what. Now, there are punishments for doing the wrong thing, but there is never an equity system that says, “Ok, if you have lied to somebody, then you have to help two old ladies across the street.” There is not a balance system anywhere.
We do not want one because we like to just get away with it. There is no accounting system and so people are making that up in their heads. The sensitivity of their conscience will be used for this self-judgment. If you do not think something is wrong, you will not use it against yourself. A damaged conscience can allow many wrongs obvious to others. Self-judgment, therefore, is not an accurate guide for entrance into heaven. Is it your actual deeds that matter or what your conscience allows that matters? God does not grade on a curve. And if He did, we would think, “Well, I want to be more like Mother Theresa than Hitler, or somewhere in-between. I am closer to Mother Theresa's side. I am probably ‘ok’.” Do you know Mother Theresa said she is not good enough either? God's standard is 100 percent. Anything short of that identifies you as a sinner, a willful doer of wrong (James 2:10). And quite frankly, no one stops at just one (Romans 3:19-20). That is why it takes God's grace and God's forgiveness. And your personal acceptance in adoption of that standard. You see, when you accept Christ as your personal Savior, when you invite God into your life you are saying, "Lord, I trust you, I adhere to your standard and say this is right and this is the way I want to live my life. I am going to mess up a lot, but thank you for your grace. This is what I want to be."
We think of heaven as a reward for good people. Heaven is not a reward (reward implies merit); it is a new society. Heaven will be a safe place for everyone. And I think you know and I know that there is a change that is going to have to go on inside of you and me for heaven to be a perfect place. There is enough sin in all of us to ruin heaven. A change must take place, a transformation. That is what God has promised. We will be transformed. By grace, we will be conformed to the image of Christ. We will be like Him when we see Him (1 John 3:2, 1 Corinthians 13:12). There will be something better in us. But He will not force it upon us. Heaven is not a reward, it is a place God has prepared for all those who love and want to be with Him. We cannot storm the gates of heaven in our own righteousness. Many will try, but they will fail! Like forgiveness and grace, heaven is a gift from the Father for all those who receive the Son!
Well, if being good enough is not good enough, what is left? I leave you with a story you probably all know. In Luke 23 Jesus is on a cross. And there are two guys hanging on each side of Him and they have totally different reactions to what is happening. One cries out in anger and frustration, "Save yourself and save us if you are really God. Prove it to me." And the other says, "Lord, I deserve what I am getting. Remember me when you come into your kingdom." I can only imagine the shock that was on the face of the angels of heaven when Jesus walked into paradise with the first of many converts--a lying, thieving scoundrel who deserved crucifixion by his peers but who repented and accepted what Jesus had to offer. Good is not good enough. It is only God's grace. That is the message your friends need to know. Because they know they cannot be good enough and so they are not going to bother trying.
But to know God wants to have a relationship with them is altogether different. See, that is the truth that this "good enough" thing totally misses. All the other religions focus on how you act towards you. Of getting along with each other and Christianity has a lot to say about that too. But what comes before that? It is not "love thy neighbor." It says, "love thy God with all thine heart and mind and soul." Heaven is a place not just where we are with each other, which we are, it is primarily the place where we are with God and that is why that is the relationship that needs to get established and healed. He wants to be with you and He wants to be with your friend. He will not force Himself on you or your friend but at least help him or her to understand that it is not a matter of being good enough but whether they will accept God’s offer of a relationship that will last forever. Many say that is what they want, but when it comes right down to it they really don’t. What they want is a place where they get to do and have what they want, free from all bonds of restraint. They want to own heaven. “I made it here and I have every right to be here. Look at me! Listen to me!” Heaven is not a reward for good behavior, it is a place God has created for all those who love Him and want to be with Him. And for those people He will transform them to be a citizen of heaven that will accept all the wonderfulness of heaven without becoming greedy or self-indulgent and without causing harm to anyone else. Christians are those who have given God permission to remake them to be like Jesus Christ, the prototypical citizen of heaven!
1 Timothy 2:5-6: Ransomed for Blessing
Recently, I got to go scuba diving in West Palm and had a great experience. God's creation is absolutely amazing. It was like swimming in a giant aquarium. But on that trip, I learned a few other things not so pleasant. What I learned gives a picture of what it is like to live in this world. When we started off on our trip, it was a beautiful day, calm, the sky was blue, there were clouds in the sky and then as we went down for a dive we saw a storm coming and we said, "We will be fine. There is no trouble." Well, during the time we were down the storm got closer and closer and got worse and worse. And it started to rain just about the time I was coming up. I came up about 15 minutes before everyone else. I am a novice diver and these other guys were more experienced. Water is not my favorite place to be. Because my air ran out so fast, I went up and got back into the boat about the same time it started to rain. And in the 15 minutes that intervened before the others surfaced, it came down so hard and the wind blew so strong we could not even see the diving buoy. We did not know where those guys were coming up. Finally, we saw them about 100 yards off the stern. We saw very small heads in a black sea popping up and down.
We started the boat and turned around to go pick them up and the engine stalled. We started it up again, and it stalled again. We started it up a third time, and it stalled a third time. We started it up just enough to keep turning the boat around to face them before the wind turned us back around. We could not get back to them. About 15 minutes passed with the wind blowing us farther and farther away where we can hardly see them over the waves. And finally, I am going to say by a miracle, the boat starts and keeps running. We finally got back to them, but we could not get close enough for them to swim to the boat because every time we would stop, the wind would blow us farther and farther away from them. Finally, we got close enough to throw them a lifeline that they could grab and get pulled in. I said it was a miracle that boat started because it did not start again. We had to get towed in an hour later. If we had not gotten back to them, they would have drifted far away. Sooner or later, they would have been picked up by the Coast Guard or something else, but who knows what would have happened?
Things can quickly get out of hand. Life can be hazardous to your health whether you are scuba diving or living as a Christian. As a Christian or as a non-Christian, life can be hazardous to your health. We think we have it all together. I thought I was safe because I had all this good gear on. The other guys thought they were safe and they had all the gear on and things were going according to plan, but unexpected things happened. They used their gear properly. They put up their rescue devices and they used their horns but in howling wind we could barely hear it whistle. Sometimes we can do all the right things but still experience unexpected difficulties.
We are going to look at that same kind of scenario but apply it to life. When life seems normal, quiet, and peaceful then suddenly without warning, or maybe you had some warning but you went ahead anyway, your life begins to cave in on you. Things getting out of control and you need rescue. You need help because the way it is going is not good for you or for those around you. You need a lifeline just so you can get to a safe place.
Turn to 1 Timothy 2:5-6. "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." The word "ransom" paints the picture of being lost, of being in jeopardy, of having little hope unless something from the outside comes in and intervenes in you life. It is a rich theological term and in the Greek its meaning is expanded because it is preceded and followed by a preposition. A ransom is a price paid to free someone from captivity or punishment. And what is emphasized in this verse is that Christ paid that price in our place, on our behalf, with a passion and love beyond normal. Paul wants the reader to catch the personal nature of it.
Life can be hazardous to your health. We live in a hazardous environment and we need God's help to get through it. I want you to recognize that God is not the bad guy. God is not the terrorist or the hijacker holding us hostage. Satan and sin are the ones that are holding us hostage. God is the righteous one that we have walked away from, that we have rebelled against. A lot of people say, "Well, why doesn’t God just forgive us? You know, if my wife says something bad to me, I just let it go. If someone does not give me enough change, I do not want to make a big deal out of it, I just let it go. Why doesn’t God just let it go? God is gracious, why does He have to hold things so strictly?" Let me ask you, What kind of heaven do you want to live in? Do you want to live in a heaven that is just a little bit better than earth? You do not have to worry about someone stealing from you unless it is for a very ‘important’ reason? You do not have to worry about someone lying to you unless it is, well, really ‘important’? Or do you want to live in an eternity in which everyone is right on, you can trust what is said and done without doubt? You can trust people. You have good relationships. You have clear communications. You can express your heart clearly and openly. You see, if God says, "That was wrong. That was really hurtful and mean, but never mind," He is saying that does not matter. But this does matter and it is something that has to be changed. If you do not want it to be changed, if you do not want to change, guess what? God says, "You cannot be in eternity with me because you will mess it up. You will hurt the ones I love and I will not allow that to happen.”
God says, "It needs to be a perfect place. And you cannot do it. But if you say you want it and you are willing to be changed in that way, I, myself, will pay the price for that. I will ransom you. I will pay the price with my own Son." Ransomed! The illustration I have heard and probably you have too, but we are going to take it a little bit further, is the illustration of a judge sitting in his courtroom. He is a good, fair, righteous judge. He does the right things. He is wise. And on one particular day a single mom is taken to court because she stole some baby formula. The storeowner is fed up with all the stealing from his store and is insisting on prosecution. The judge asks her, "Are you guilty?" And she says, "Yeah.” And so the judge says, "Then you have to be punished. The fine is $100." There is no way she can afford it because she could not afford the $2.99 for baby formula so she knows she is going to jail. What is going to happen to her child? Her whole life is crashing around her. The child will probably be taken away and put in foster care. She is going to have to fight the court system to get it back. But then the judge stands up and takes off his robe. He steps down from the bench and goes over to the bailiff and takes his wallet out of his pocket and takes five twenty dollar bills out and gives them to the bailiff. He paid her fine. He paid her punishment. He has ransomed her from the penalty for her sin. That is the picture that is often given to illustrate “ransom.”
I think that biblical ransom goes beyond the above picture. It entails more than just paying the penalty price for someone in order to set him/her free. Suppose the young mother has had a rough life and denied that she did it. "I should not be here. It is not fair! Nobody has taken care of me. My husband has abandoned me. My parents kicked me out. I do not deserve this. I am not guilty by extenuating circumstances." How would you feel about her? How do you think the judge would feel about her? Would there be a different reaction? But because she is humble and truthful, the judge is compassionate and forgiving. But this judge, because he truly cares about her, takes her home that afternoon and introduces her to his wife and says, "You can have my daughter's old room. You can live here. We will provide food for your baby. We will provide a sitter for your child so that you can go back to school or get training for a job so that you can be on your own. I will send your child to school so your child can learn right ways to live and I will set some guidelines for you to live by so that your life will take on some order that will be helpful for you and your child." This judge goes far beyond just paying her penalty but provides for her present and her future. This is the picture of God's ransom of you and me. God does not just save us from hell, a godless eternity, but prepares us for heaven, where God’s righteous and peaceful ways reign.
There is far more to being a Christian than having a ticket to heaven and being a nice guy. God wants to walk with you through each and every day to make a difference in your life, to help you see people through His eyes, to help them, to care for them, to live with Him and walk with Him through life not simply, "Here is a $100, here is your salvation, now get out of my life, see you later, do not show up here again until you die." God wants to experience life with you.
We live in a hazardous environment. Basically, there are three things that conspire together to hurt our lives. Actually, it is one thing with three different manifestations—rebellion. We must battle against the rebellion of Satan, the rebellion of sin, and the rebellion of self. We need to be ransomed from Satan, who is out to destroy our lives. We need to be ransomed from sin, which are activities that destroy our lives and relationships. And we need to be ransomed from ourselves, from attitudes and feelings that negatively control our behaviors. The "I can't help it, that is just the way I am," excuse for bad behavior denies the power of God to change and work in hearts and lives. That is saying, “God can make the stars, sea, and sky, but He cannot do anything in my heart and life.”
This world is called Satan's world, Satan's dominion. He has affect and influence throughout the world. We complain about it all the time. Yes, but thank God, because of God's Holy Spirit, there is a Restrainer on evil that keeps it from getting as bad as it could be. In John 10:10, Jesus makes a statement that we can hold onto. "For I have come to give you life and give you life in abundance." We are to let it overflow so that we allow it to bless our lives and those around us. But you remember what Jesus said right before this verse? "But the thief, Satan, comes to kill, steal and destroy." He is out to kill, steal, and destroy your relationships, your home, and basically everything that can tie you to God. Satan is out to bring you down. And I do not know about you, but I do not want to go one-on-one with Satan. Satan’s influence shows up in my life when I get proud. Satan influence shows up when I want my own way. Remember Satan's great sin? “I will be like God.” All too often, we do the same thing. "I want to be my own boss. I know what God wants, what God says, but I want to do this my way. The other way is just too hard.”
When Jesus appeared to Paul to redeem his life, to turn his life totally around, in Acts 26 it says, “I am going to send you to preach the gospel message to all the nations, to kings….I will rescue you from the power of Satan." Satan attacked Paul numerous times but God was able to increase Paul’s ministry despite what Satan did. We have been ransomed from him. Look around the world at the Christians who are persecuted and killed because of their faith. God has the last word in the Christian’s life and destiny, not Satan. What Satan means for evil, God turns it into good for the Christian, both now and hereafter. "For greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world."
Jesus has paid the price for our ransom and He has given us the invitation to step out of Satan's world into God's kingdom. Our action, if you want to escape from Satan's grasp, is to step out of Satan's world into God's kingdom. What do I mean? Recognize who you are. God says, "I have adopted you as my son, as my daughter. Yes, you are in a foreign environment, but you are mine." The same way you may go to France, you may go to Nigeria, but you are American. It has not changed who you are. It will have impact on you. And the culture there can change who you are if you let it but God is telling us to live up to who you are as His son or His daughter. You step out of Satan's world into His kingdom even though you live in it. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” This is the common word that we know as "salvation." Stepping out of Satan's world into God's kingdom.
The second thing that works to harm us is “sin.” Sin is behavior that is contrary to God’s will and ways. When we engage in sin behavior it is not only rebellion against God but it is bad for our lives. The book of Romans tells us that there is “no condemnation to those who are found in Christ Jesus because they have been set free from sin and death.” David himself said, "Direct my steps by your word. Let no sin rule over me." What is going on in your heart? What is buried in your heart? You all look good on the outside. I look good on the outside. But on the inside there is junk, there is stuff that is hazardous to our health. Satan puts seeds of destruction in the world that will destroy us if we let them take root in our lives. The Old Testament prophet Hosea looked at the nation of Israel and phrased it like this: "Your sin is bound up and your iniquity is stored away. But as a woman in childbirth you will reap what you sow." The meaning is related to the way people saved their money. They did not have Florida Choice or Bank of America. They took those things that were precious to them, bound them up in a cloth and buried them where no one would find them. They hoped! Remember the story of the pearl of great price that was buried? That is what it is referring to--taking all those things and burying them, binding them together and storing them away. But then what does it say? "Like a woman in childbirth, those things will burst forth." Hosea’s point is that sin is going to come out with the same kind of pain just as surely as when that child is born.
Scripture says elsewhere, "Be sure your sins will find you out." Unless, and here is the key point, you confess it before God. Do not store it up. Do not hide it away. Confess it and let it go. Who wants to hide the trash and then see it come to the surface? God is essentially saying, "Bring it to me and let us start fresh. Stop collecting it and start flushing it until it does not have a place in your life anymore. Whether that be lust, jealousy, or that old-fashioned Bible word, "covetousness." "Thy shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife or thy neighbor's mule or thy neighbor's house." Covet. It means "wanting it for yourself so much that it eats at your heart until you get it." We are destroying our hearts and our souls and our families by chasing after the things our neighbors have. Covetousness consumes your time and focus and eventually your heart. It is materialistic and thereby destroys concern for spiritual matters.
The third thing that works to destroy you is you. It is the most insidious of the three. I say most insidious because you can never get away from it. It is that inner you that tends toward rebellion against God, that is self-centered and selfish. Galatians says, "You brothers are called to be free but do not use your freedom to indulge in the sinful nature. Rather serve one another." Freedom from self means not being controlled by what you want and what you feel, but letting your mind and your actions being controlled by what God wants and what God says. Conforming yourself to what is called “the image of Christ.” It is seeking after, chasing after His holiness and values. It does not mean you cannot have a car or a boat or a dune buggy or scuba tanks. But you do not live your life for those things. Seek God's things first. God calls us to look past our own interests and invest our lives in others and things that are important to Him.
You do not go scuba diving without the proper equipment. Without it, you will not survive. God knows that in your life you need special equipment to survive spiritually and morally in this corrupting world. Turn to Ephesians chapter 6. Ephesians 6:10-19a says: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God [put on the whole equipment] so you can stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world [because it is his world], and against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms. Therefore put on the whole armor of God so when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand. And having withstood everything, you are still standing when things are at the end. So stand [for the fourth time he says that] firm, take your stand against those things that want to hold you hostage with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, with your feet fitted with a readiness that comes with the gospel of peace. In addition to this, take up the shield of faith with which you are able to extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one. Take on the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God and pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests [keep your connections strong with God]. With this in mind, be alert always, keep on praying for all the saints because we are not in this alone." Your sin will influence my life. My sin will influence your life. We are not alone in this. The things we do affect others, good and bad. It is all too easy, and natural, to let the negatives of this world mold us in their image. The things given to us in Ephesians 6:10-19 are given to us for two reasons. The first reason is so that we can have a better relationship with God. The second reason is so that our lives will be spiritually and morally protected. There is much in this world that is not good for our soul. God wants to protect us from them.
How do you live free from sin’s influence, both our own and the sin of those around us? Ephesians 6 describes the breastplate of righteousness. A breastplate covers and protects your heart and your lungs, those vital organs that keep you alive. Probably the best analogy we have today is spam blockers. How many have computers that have a spam blocker on it? If you do not have a spam blocker on your computer it is pop-up, pop-up, bam, bam, bam. They are invading all the time. Do you not love that commercial where the spam blocker is getting knocked in the face all the time with closing doors? Do you not wish you had that kind of thing in your personal life? Sin-blockers! You have to control and allow God to control what you think about, what comes into your mind, and your attitudes, because it will all come out in your behavior. We have to say these kind of things to ourselves—“No, that is a thought that is going to destroy my life.” “No, that is a thought that is going to ruin my day.” “No, that is a thought that will harm someone else.” Do not feed evil by nurturing it in your heart!
Fight the negative thoughts in your life. Fight your negative, self-destructive feelings. Fight! Paul uses the picture of body armor to describe what is needed in the Christian life. The need for body armor implies struggle and war—a fight.
I want you to reflect on what is holding you hostage. What are you going to do about it? You get to make some changes because you are in charge of the equipment God has given you. And the equipment He has given you will not fail you if you use it and you trust Him. Do not let Satan, do not let sin, do not let your own feelings and thoughts hold you hostage. Christ died that we can be set free from sin’s stranglehold. He ransomed us not just to set us free from the penalty of sin but to set us free from its bondage, as well. He redeemed us so that He could bless us, both now and forever!
1 Timothy 2:9-15: Women of Faith
God has designed us differently. Are you letting God mold and shape you by His guidelines or are there other influences just as strong or sometimes stronger in your life pushing you to be something different than God designed? God has given us a wonderful plan. He wants our lives to be full and rich in living color with beautiful harmony, but sometimes life in this world squeezes that color and harmony out of us. Sometimes the person singing harmony feels like they are second rate. Why do they not get the attention? Back-up singers have a tough job. But when you hear a musician without the backup, it is flat. It is colorless. God has designed us for that kind of harmony.
Are you willing to bring the fullness of color to those areas of your life God is concerned with? Are you willing to be shaped by God? Turn to 1 Timothy chapter two. We are going to look at one of the most controversial passages in Scripture, particularly in our day and age. It would be nice just to skip over it, but we believe that God’s Word has been given to us for instruction. And even though it says things we find a little hard to take, that we do not quite understand or that we do not like, that in some way affirms that it is God’s Word, not my word or your word, and that we are looking at God’s design for shaping our hearts and lives. If we did not have to make changes, we would be perfect and would not need God. If we innately knew it all, we would not need to study. But God says there are changes that need to be made and it is a continual balancing act in our hearts and lives to make sure we stay in balance with God and with one another.
Starting in verse nine. “I also want women to dress modestly with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes. But with good deeds and appropriateness as are appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and in full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man. She must be silent. For Adam was first formed, then Eve and Adam was not the one deceived. It was the woman who was deceived became a sinner. But woman shall be saved through childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.” This is one of the most controversial passages in our day and age because some take it as evidence that Paul is a woman hater, a chauvinist. Some people try to defend Paul and say, “Well, you know, he really did not mean it exactly as it sounds.” What does he mean?
People have looked at this passage and they have interpreted it a number of ways. Are the things he is saying universal mandates? “Here is the law, this is what thou must do.” There are universal mandates in Scripture. “Thou shalt love thy God with all thy mind, all thine heart, and all thine soul. And love thy neighbor as thyself.” Those are universal mandates that are for everybody, everywhere. And they will extend all the way into eternity. Is that what he is talking about? Is he talking about not having braided hair or gold jewelry, ever? Are women who put braids in their hair sinning? Are women who wear a gold necklace of earrings sinning? Are these universal mandates? Or can braids and necklaces be worn with dignity and grace? Some people have taken what Paul said to the Ephesians as universal mandates. Others have not. Others take a look at it and say, “Well, you know, all those things going on in that day are much different than now, so this is just a cultural correction that Paul is giving this church and the Corinthian church, as well. In particular, you will see the people in Ephesus and Corinth have some specific problems. Both had similar situations regarding women who brought some of their pre-conversion, pagan behaviors and attitudes into the church. And Paul was addressing these excesses.” If this view is true, can we say that since we do not live in Ephesus or Corinth we do not have anything to learn in this passage?
If we believe that some of the commands or admonitions in Scripture are culturally specific, which some obviously are (compare Leviticus with Acts 10:9-16, 11:1-18), then how do we discern God’s message in these passages. If we look at Scripture as timeless truth, we believe that each passage has a message for us although each command might not be specifically relevant for us. God gives us timeless truths throughout His Word sometimes with specific cultural applications. Often we have to make those applications ourselves. Scripture does not address every possible cultural situation that can possibly arise. You could never carry such a book around with you. You probably could not get such a book to fit inside an eighteen-wheeler. God does not give us a stone table and say, “Here, do this or that, about every specific area of our life.” That would be legalism. Living by laws rather than grace. Love and harmony would be missing. God does give us timeless truths in His Word, and sometimes with cultural applications. God’s Word is never spoken in a vacuum, as if it existed only ‘out there’. He has spoken to people. He wants to change lives. He wants to affect lives. And so He speaks to culture, then and now, through His values and principles. As cultures change, those applications may change but the truth remains the same.
What kind of situation did the women live in during Paul’s time? We look at the Greeks and Romans and think of them as being the Enlighteners of society. They were not Barbarians, cavemen, or stupid people. But women in the Greek and Roman teaching were seen as second-class individuals. To many they were treated like possessions and not people. I cannot say whether each individual household represented this viewpoint because there were those who taught differently, but the predominate view was that women were viewed as far less than men. The theology of Greek mythology taught that women were given to man as a curse, as a punishment. Plato, the great philosopher, taught that men needed to be courageous, brave, and good or risk being reincarnated as a woman. Women were seen as cowardly and deceptive. You have heard of Pandora’s box? Pandora, the one who brought this box of plagues and problems for mankind was given by the gods to bring punishment upon mankind for discovering fire and bringing fire from Zeus. Now that thought carried on into the Roman times. The Romans adopted the Greek mythology but just changed the names. Women were possessions. You could kill your wife if you wanted to, legally, because she was your possession. And that did not change until Constantine became a Christian in 300 A.D. The ultimate male was Mars, the warrior. The ultimate female was Venus, the lover. That was what women were good for. Women were often portrayed as prostitutes or nags.
Interestingly, Ephesus was the headquarters for the temple of Diana. Have you heard of the Seven Wonders of the World? Do you know what the ancient world considered the number one wonder of the world? We tend to think it was the pyramids or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It was the temple of Diana. Those who saw it described it as a magnificent display of craftsmanship. Set on an elevated mount, there were five story marble pillars surrounding a gold statue of Diana. The temple was filled with prostitutes. Corinth had the same type of problem. It was the capital for Aphrodite worship. And they had three temples declaring her beauty and temple prostitutes were central to that religion. That was how they worshiped. The priestesses were all women. Both cities were influenced strongly by these temple practices. Women were vying for authority, vying for position and imitating the appearances and practices of the temple prostitutes.
We do not have that kind of history. Our history was different because God sent His truth to guide and lead us away from these kinds of practices. We have the story of Adam and Eve. “Male and female” He created them. The creation of the woman was given special attention. She was taken from Adam’s side, of him. Taken from him, to be with him. It says, “to be a helpmeet.” Helpmeet? What does that mean? A helpmeet means to fill the gap that is left open. Man and woman were meant to complement one another. Man and woman need each other to function to their full potential. When man and woman were put together God said, “This is very good.” God’s Word has an elevated view of women, unlike the view the fallen world has invented. They are equals before God. She was taken from Adam’s side, not his foot (beneath Adam) or his head (over Adam). A helpmeet is someone who comes alongside and fills the gap. What a terrible place this would be without women. They bring color and social energy to our relationships. They bring life to the home and men’s lives. The Old Testament uplifted the value of women. Women were involved in public worship. They sang, they prayed. In the New Testament women prayed and prophesied, which means they encouraged and strengthened others. Women are to do those things. They are not to be relegated to the back of life, fit only to fulfill the lusts of men and do their bidding.
In the Old Testament the law was given to men and women. Adultery worked both ways. Stealing worked both ways. Murder applied to women as well as to men. God dealt with women the same as He dealt with men. God spoke to women in the same way He did to men. And then the rabbis came along. The rabbinical age is basically the 400-year period between the book of Malachi and the New Testament period. During this time God gave no new revelation. During this time, Greek and Roman culture influenced the way the Jews worshiped. Herod’s temple was built during this time. In this temple we find there is a center court for the priests and for the men, but there is also an outer court and a balcony for the women. There was also a separate outer court for the Gentiles and a balcony for the Gentile women. Women were separated from the worship of God. They were seen as not equipped to worship God on their own. It was not ‘ok’ for them to be with the rest of the people. That was not the case in the tabernacle that God set up in the wilderness. That was not the case in Solomon’s temple, either. It was a human add-on, never authorize by God.
Rabbinical tradition taught that one might as well throw away the Torah or burn it rather than let a woman have it. She would not know what to do with it, anyway. Women, imagine every morning hearing this Rabbinical prayer: “Lord, I thank you that I am not a slave, a Gentile, or a woman.” A Gentile can become a convert. But a woman? She is stuck. There is no hope for her. That is why Paul, in Galatians, says “There is no Jew or Gentile. There is no slave or free man. There is no male or female, but God looks upon them equally, loves them both equally and has given his son for them for salvation equally.” That is the way God had intended it from the very beginning.
Christ breaks the chain. Christ brings a revolution. What Jesus did was revolutionary for that society. He taught women. He cared about women. He healed women. He touched women. He noticed them. He respected them. Women could go to synagogue, but they sat in the back. They had to come in a back door and sit in the balcony behind a veil. Jesus blows all that away. Jesus looked them in the eyes and taught them. He met the scandalously immoral woman at the well and taught her, cared about her. She was the first person that He told He was the Messiah. The role of women all through Jesus’ ministry shows their relevance, their importance, and their value. Women are present at His crucifixion. Women are the first ones He shows Himself to after the resurrection. Women are valued by Jesus.
Paul is sometimes labeled a chauvinist but when you look at Paul’s relationship with women you see something different. He has excellent relationships with Priscilla, Lydia, and Phoebe, and commends Timothy’s mother and grandmother for being great women of faith. Paul was respected and loved by women of merit, women or worth, women of character, women of ability. They saw Paul’s heart and knew him for the godly man of God he was.
What are the timeless truths in this 1 Timothy passage? There are three principles that should influence our behavior today. The cultural applications might be different but the underlying biblical principals remain the same for all cultures, everywhere. The first principle is that the dress of women should be modest. This passage tells them to dress modestly with decency, propriety, and to concentrate on good deeds rather than attracting male attention by dressing elaborately and seductively. That does not mean the Bible is trying to be a fashion guide. Paul’s main concern is the character and inner being of the woman. Paul’s focus goes deep into the heart rather than stopping on the shallow surface of physical beauty. Ladies, how you dress affects your reputation. It affects what others think about you. It affects the spiritual lives of others around us. It also affects you. If you dress sensuously and seductively you become sensual and seductive. You form your character around these values. God’s Word does not teach you to do that. The world does that. God looks on the heart. Fallen men and women look on the body and forget the heart. Women do not have to hide that they are women. They can dress nicely, pleasantly, but they must do this with decency and modesty.
Ladies, when you dress to show off your physical attributes in a sensual way, where is your thinking when you do that? Your thinking is sensual and sexual, much like the ladies in Paul’s day who were trying to imitate the temple prostitutes. The church was not designed to be a beauty pageant. Ask yourself, “Does this reflect who I want to be? What does this say about me?” We all want to look nice, attractive. It is a sign of a mental illness to not care how you look. But what are you trying to attract? If you are married, you do not need another man. Dress attractive at night in the bedroom. Are you trying to attract other men? What are you trying to inspire? And if you are single, what kind of man will you attract if you dress seductively? Will he be the kind of man who cares about your best interests? I am not advocating that women wear burkas and hide the fact that they are women. That would be taking away the individuality and dignity of women. But realize, your value is not based upon your dress size or your hair color. And when you appear before God someday, what do you think He will be concerned with when He looks at your life? You know the answer to that question, don’t you? Then live you life accordingly!
The second principle is to learn the treasures of God’s Word. That means that we are to discover and apply God’s guidelines, God’s ways to our lives. This passage says, “to learn in quietness with full submission.” That does not sound so good, does it? “Learn in silence and do whatever it says.” That sounds rigid, doesn’t it? Folks, that is the only way you can learn, anything. Oh, you can understand some information, but you do not learn it by merely memorizing it. Learning involves change in behavior and if you are debating with what is being taught, you are not learning it. And if you are fighting it, then you are not applying it. It says, “to learn it.”
Let me ask the men something. Men, do you like all the commands in the Bible? We do not like controlling our thoughts but we know that if we do not, they will lead us on paths that will destroy our relationships and burden our hearts. We do not like some of the things the Bible tells us to do because they are against our natural, God-ignoring, way of doing things. You do not have to like it, but God says “do it and trust Me, you will be blessed. I have wired you. I am here for your fullness and your fulfillment, not to take something away from you, not to steal your life, not to limit you, not to hold you down, but I want you to blossom and flourish and sin will harm you and prevent this from happening.” Ladies, at first hearing you may not like what this passage says but you will be blessed if you do it.
What does full submission mean? The word submission is a concept that is not respected in our society. Submission literally means to walk in step with and if you are going to have a marriage, you are going to have to walk in step with each other. If she goes skipping off this way and he goes running off that way, you do not have a good marriage. You may be married, you may have had a wedding ceremony, but you do not have the kind of marriage God wants you to have, called you to have. God calls the man and the woman to live and walk together through life. The concept of submission involves this type of walking—together-walking. Biblical submission for the woman does not mean following the man into sin just because he said so. That is male abuse of the concept. It is together-walking with the one you promised yourself to for the rest of your life!
The third principle is to function and flourish as God has designed you. God wants your life, your home to be colorful and harmonic, to be beautiful, to literally be glorious. To flourish as God creatively designed us means that we need to add harmony and color to our lives. God designed man and woman differently to be with each other. They are to live with each other. When Adam stood before God and God asked, “What did you do?” Adam said, “The woman you gave to be with me took the fruit and ate it.” Adam was clear. He did not say, “the woman you gave to me.” She was not his slave. She was not his possession. She is the one that was designed by God to be with him. Adam’s responsibility was to teach Eve what he learned from God. Eve’s responsibility was to learn from Adam. When Eve took of the forbidden fruit she was not disobeying God, she was disobeying Adam. And by disobeying Adam she was rejecting God. That role reversal is part of the problem. Flourishing comes by acting in accordance with God’s design. Things just work better when we do them God’s way! But I want to repeat—when men require women to sin or do wrong because they are commanded to be submissive to whatever the man wants, it is an abuse of the concept of submission. Submission does not mean subjugation! When men and women behave in accordance with God’s design both are better off and both they and society flourish in peace and quietness. A harmony is created that is a beautiful thing to see and experience.