How to change the world
- Our mission and God’s?
Since we’re rewarding knowledge - here’s another chance. What is our mission statement here at St Mark’s? A = to present everyone mature in Christ.
Do you think that it is presumptuous to include everyone as our mission? Perhaps too extreme? Shouldn’t we just focus on the people who are here?
In coming up with that mission statement 5 years ago, we had to work out what we thought God’s mission was. After all no point setting a mission which isn’t what God wants. So what do you think God’s mission is in the world? That’s what 1 Tim 2:1-7 help us understand – God’s mission in the world. And Paul shows Timothy how the church is part of it. We see how St Mark’s in 2006 is to be part of it. And the question for us is – are we on board? Does God’s agenda set our agenda?
So let’s pray for God to help us understand his word, and then live it out. PRAY
- Our role in God’s mission?
Last week as we began our series in this letter, we saw one of the key verses was 1:15 – Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Part of the proof was Paul himself.
But is it just up to God? Or do we have any part to play in helping people be saved?
Look with me at 2:1 – READ. Having set the framework in chapter 1, Paul is now setting out in the next few chapters what the church in Ephesus is to be like. And right up front, of prime importance, is this command that the church in Ephesus prays for all people.
Now that may seem a strange thing – after all we in 2006 think that we should pray for all people, even though we may not do it very often.
But in Ephesus some false teachers had come among God’s people. They were probably a group called Judaisers, who were teaching that people needed to become Jews. And because of that they were teaching ideas about who would be saved and how, that were very different to Paul’s teachings.
So as we saw last week in chapter 1, these false teachers were suggesting that salvation was somehow by keeping the law. We saw last week Paul’s correction of that, how the law doesn’t save people, but rather points out sin, and that salvation and forgiveness are only through Jesus.
Now, it also appears they were teaching that God was only into saving the Jews. After all they were God’s people. And so if you wanted to be saved you must become Jewish. And so they only prayed for people who were Jews, and excluded from their prayers the Gentiles.
And so it is in 2:1 that Paul says no – Christians are to pray for all people. Even – v2 – for kings and people in authority.
Why are Christians to do that? Not so that authorities can get away with dodgy bribes; not even so that we may have an easy life, but because God wants all people to be saved. The focus of these verses is not so much on prayer but on salvation. The church should be praying for the salvation of all people. It’s a good question for us – are we, as a church, prayerfully concerned for the salvation of all people?
Paul gives 4 reasons why we should. Let’s look at them.
- The proof of God’s mission?
a) It is good and pleases God (v3)
Firstly we can say that the spread of the gospel in our country and others is impacted by the way we live, and the things we pray for. Why? Governments are ordained by God to provide a peaceful and orderly society, and so we are to pray for them that this would happen, to provide the best possible conditions for spreading the gospel. Our conduct is not to bring Christianity into disrepute, so the gospel can be more easily spread. As other people see how Christians behave it either commends the gospel, or can turn them away from Jesus. We want to make sure that in all we do we are commending the gospel.
Of course governments are not the only authorities over us – what others can you think of? Parents, employers, teachers, ministers, husbands, police, and so on. We are to live under their authority in peaceful and quiet lives, commending Jesus by the way we live, so we can get on with being godly and holy. And we are to pray for them! Pray for their salvation. In this country and others. The best thing for the spread of the gospel is that those in authority are followers of Jesus. So in all we do and pray we want to see as many people as possible become Christians and grow in their knowledge of the truth. Praying for the salvation of all people, even those in authority over us, pleases God, who is the Saviour. Why does such prayer please God? It shows we know the truth about God, that he is a saving God. What he wants, secondly, is for all people to be saved.
b) God wants all people to be saved (v4)
If God wasn’t interested in the salvation of people it would be no point praying for it would there. But God is a saving God. He is still a saving God.
The trouble with living in Australia is we don’t see evidence of huge numbers of people coming to Christ. We think God has stopped working, that he has forgotten his mission ands started doing something else. No!
Let me give you some examples of God’s mission in our world.
a) According to the latest CMS magazine, in Nepal 50 years ago there was no church. The first Church group was formed in 1959 with 29 Christians. All attempts at preaching the gospel or baptizing converts were severely punished. Now Operation World estimate there are 3000 or more congregations, with perhaps 400,000 believers.
b) In Myanmar where Bron was, Operation World estimate there are almost 4m Christians, out of a population of perhaps 47m people. And this growth is despite 40 years of repressive military rule.
c) At Men’s Convention David Cook told us about the church in Mongolia, where his daughter has gone as a missionary. In 1989 there may have been only 4 Christians. By 2000 it is estimated there were 4-5000 worshipping on any Sunday in over 60 churches.
d) In Ethiopia where the Wades are, in 1960 Protestants numbered less than 200,000; by 2000 they had grown to almost 12m; again despite severe persecutions.
4 examples – but there are many more all over the world. God does want all people to be saved. God does show his mercy to all people, regardless of race, colour, status, sex, riches, or anything else. It is not saying all people will be saved, but that God has provided a way of salvation for all people, because he does love all people. No one is beyond God’s reach, or God’s heart.
God loves all people without distinction – the horrible error of the false teachers was to say that God was only interested in some people not all people. We must never say that.
So how do we know God loves all people? We see what God has done in Jesus.
c) Mediator’s ransom for all (vv5-6)
So look with me at vv5-6 which tell us about this person Jesus - READ. There is only one God. The Greeks and Romans had elaborate systems of gods and deities, do you have to please just one, or all of them, are there different gods for different groups of people? Paul says there is only one God – and so all people are created by him and accountable to him and called to be in a right relationship with him. So all people are rightful objects of prayer.
There is only one God. And there is only one Mediator between God and man. Because of our sin, we can’t have a relationship with God without a mediator. But who can this be? A mediator must be a representative for both parties – Jesus Christ is suitable for he is acceptable to God, having been anointed by God and sent from God, and yet is truly human as well, and so can represent humanity. But Jesus is the only one – there is no other, not Mohammed, not Mary, not Buddha, not saints, not me. The mediator brings people to god and God to people. Only Jesus can do this.
And he does it by dying. He knows the human condition and the problems of sin, he knows the demands of the law, he knows the purity of God, and he knows what is needed to bring the two parties together. A price must be paid – a price for sin. And in his death he pays that price.
Look at v6 again. Paul here is not arguing for the truth of election, but is telling us why the church should be prayerfully concerned for the salvation of all people, not just for some. Jesus died for all people. His life given is a ransom for all people, because God wants all people to be saved.
Do we pray for the salvation of Muslims? Why not – Jesus died for them. Do we pray for the salvation of Aboriginals? Why not – Jesus died for them. Do we pray for the salvation of people we don’t like? Why not – Jesus died for them.
Christ died as a ransom for all. Jesus himself used that idea in Mk 10:45 – for the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for all.
Now Byron’s question last Sunday was a good one – not everyone will be saved. Sure, not everyone accepts the gospel, nor will everyone accept it, but that should not stop us praying for them. Christ’s death is sufficient for the sins of the whole world.
ILLN – it’s a bit like this: picture all the people in the world in a gigantic jail cell. They are there forever. Some people realize they are in jail. Some don’t – life seems pretty good in this cell, especially if you’re white, rich, well-educated, and living in the western part of the cell.
And then imagine someone comes along and opens the door of the jail. He’s paid the price to ransom every person there. A huge price. But now the door is open. Some people rush out. Some people don’t. Some people have to be convinced into leaving. Some won’t leave despite all the arguments and pleading you can muster.
Jesus has opened the door of the jail. All people can come out. The way back to God is now open to all people. Salvation is for all people. Christ’s ransom has infinite value, but to benefit from it we must do take hold of it. Some people just won’t leave the jail, and so Christ’s ransom has no benefit for them.
Friends, Jesus’ ransom is sufficient for all people, because God desires the salvation of all. But think about it from the negative – if people are not offered Jesus, well, there is no other God to turn to for salvation, there is no other mediator they can use, there is no other ransom which is enough, there is no salvation. It’s why we have a guest service next week – so your friends can hear about Jesus and be saved.
God sent Jesus to die for the salvation of all people. And so our final proof - that’s what Paul has been appointed by God to tell people.
d) Paul’s commission to the Gentiles (v7)
God appointed Paul to spread this testimony to the nations. He is God’s appointed apostle to the Gentiles, because God wants even Gentiles to be saved. Paul tells Timothy this is true, so Timothy can refute the false teachers, and call on the church to pray for all people. Paul’s call is part of the proof that God’s offer is now to all people.
- My mission and God’s?
What is God on about? Nothing less than the salvation of the world. Sounds a little like Mission Impossible 4 – but we’ve seen the proof tonight. And the church is to be part of it. The most important thing Timothy can do in the church at Ephesus is to help them see that God desires the salvation of all people, and to work for that through prayer.
We recognise that as a church here at St Mark’s – and have made it our mission statement. But what about you and I personally? What is your mission statement? What are you on about in your life? Lift your sights to what God is doing.
We never preach, I hope, that God only loves white, educated, rich people. We never preach that Jesus only died for middle-class Aussies. But do we show such beliefs? What do outsiders see when they look at St Mark’s? Do they see a church trying to reach all people with the gospel? A church which includes all people? A church which is praying for all people, believing that prayer changes the world? A test of a healthy church is seen in its prayers – what are we praying for? Am I praying for people I wouldn’t otherwise? The world is on God’s heart, is it on ours? If our prayers are godly prayers they will reflect God’s concerns. And if our concerns are God’s concerns it will show in the whole of our life. And the whole of our church life. We can tell if what we are doing is pleasing to God – will it help people to become Christians, and once they are Christians, to grow in their knowledge of the truth?
How do we start – by praying for the salvation of all everyone. 1 Tim 2:1-7 tells us that Christians are to pray for all people, including all those in authority, to a God who desires all people to be saved by Jesus’ self-giving on behalf of all people. And we as a congregation, and individually, have a vital role to play in that mission.
How do we do that? Pray. Not just ho-hum prayers, not just liturgy for the sake of it, but real, believing, loving prayers – prayers that come from a heart which really is concerned for the salvation of all. A heart which has set aside any thought of differences between men and women. Informed prayers.
Join CMS or another missionary organization which is focused on the whole world. Get a book like Operation World – ask Sue to get one from Koorong for you – and pray each day for a different country around the world. Make a prayer list – Dave and Amanda’s group – pray for 2-3 people who you now and really want to see saved. Pray for those in authority in every land, so that the gospel can go forth. We can have confidence in prayer because Jesus is the one mediator.
It is God’s work. He will do it. Will we join him by praying? Let’s pray!