One Ransom for All: The Beautiful Scandal of God’s Universal Particularity (1 Timothy 2:5–7)

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One Ransom for All: The Beautiful Scandal of God’s Universal Particularity (1 Timothy 2:5–7)

On Sunday we focused on the death and resurrection of Christ. While Psalm Sunday directs us to Christ’s triumphal entrance to Jerusalem, we focused on Paul’s message of the cross in 1 Timothy 2:5–7. As 1 Timothy 2–3 spend time on Christ’s death and resurrection, we considered how his one death ransomed people from every nation.

Indeed, speaking into the divided context of Ephesus where the Law was separating Jews and Gentiles and urging Gentiles to become like Jews, Paul speaks of the all-sufficiency of Christ’s death once and for all. In this context, we see why this is good news for us and for all time.

You can listen to the sermon online. And you can response questions and further resources below. Continue reading

The One for All: 7 Reasons Why 1 Timothy 2 Teaches Definite Atonement (and 3 Reasons Why It Matters)

andrew-seaman-746845-unsplash.jpg 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
— 1 Timothy 2:1–7 —

Universal Atonement is the theological doctrine that says Christ’s death on the cross was offered for every single person without exception. This view of the cross stands against a “limited” view of the atonement, better termed Definite Atonement. Advocates of Universal Atonement typically make their case from various proof texts in the Bible and from theological commitments like God’s universal love and the universal offer of the gospel.

Combining textual proof with theological commitment, few passages in the Bible appear to support Universal Atonement more than 1 Timothy 2:4–6 and 1 Timothy 4:10. The former speaks of God’s will that all people be saved and Jesus ransom for all; the latter of God being savior of all people. From a first reading, these verses seem like a slam dunk for Universal Atonement. What else could Paul mean, but that Christ died for all people without exception?

In context, however, there are multiple reasons—textual, covenantal, and theological—which argue against such a reading. Such a statement may evoke disinterest, even disgust. Few are the cultural winds that blow in the direction of particularity today. Rather, our modern world loves to speak of universal equality and tolerance without distinction. Theologically, few doctrines have been left unscathed from the effects of individualism and modernity’s penchant for ubiquitous choice.

Yet, as is often the case in the Bible, God’s ways are not man’s ways. And what we find in Paul’s letter to Timothy is a very clear account of salvation that establishes Christ’s death as the one way of salvation for all people. All people, however, is not an individualistic word in Paul’s letter; it is a word that speaks of all kinds of people—especially, the categories of Jew and Gentile.

Echoing his earlier words to the Ephesians (2:11–220, Paul is proclaiming a message of the cross that is good for all kinds of people (1 Timothy 2:7). And as we will see his words do not support a universal atonement for individuals; they speak of a definite atonement for God’s people, whatever their country of origin. That said, we need to see from the text, how Paul speaks of one ransom for all people and how God is the Savior of all, especially those who believe.

Today, we will look at 1 Timothy 2. Some day soon, we will consider 1 Timothy 4. In truth, these chapters should not be read separately. They inform one another and reveal a unified vision of salvation. Yet, for sake of time, with open Bibles, we will address one and then the other. Continue reading

The Nature and Necessity of the Cross: Why Christ Had to Die for Sin (With a Little Help from Anselm)

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For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all,
which is the testimony given at the proper time.
— 1 Timothy 2:5–6 —

Yesterday (Psalm Sunday) marked the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem en route to a cross. There on that Roman instrument of death, he revealed God’s justice and mercy, disarmed the devil, and ransomed his people from their sin—to name but a few of the ways Scripture speaks of Christ’s death.

In the days of crucifixion, Jesus was one of thousands who were hung on a tree. Physically speaking, his death was not remarkable, aside from the fact that his death came much quicker than most who died by crucifixion. Spiritually speaking, however, his death was unlike any other. No one else—before or since or ever—died in the place of others and rose from the grave, conferring on his people resurrection life won through his obedience unto death.

Today, there dozens of ways Christians speak of the cross—e.g., a redemption, victory, sacrifice, penal substitution, etc.—but critically two issues stand at the center of the cross. First, for whom was the cross chiefly designed? Did Jesus die to give man a moral example? Did he die to defeat the devil? Or did he die to propitiate the wrath of God? In truth, we must affirm all three realities, but only when the design of the cross is chiefly Godward do the other aspects of the cross hold together.

Second, was Christ’s death the only way of salvation or might God have forgiven man in another way? This was the question answered in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36–46). For Jesus, the cross was the cup prepared for him to drink, and on the cross this cup—the cup of God’s wrath—he would drink to its dregs (Psalm 75:8). Truly then there was no other way. Continue reading

A Beautiful Household (pt. 1): Men Who Pray, Women Who Work, and The God Who Saves (1 Timothy 2:8–10)

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A Beautiful Household (Part 1): Men Who Pray, Women Who Work, and The God Who Saves

Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” On Sunday we had a good chance to apply that passage, as we saw how 1 Timothy 2:9–15 is profitable for all God’s people.

Unfortunately, Paul’s words about men and women have often been misunderstood, misused, and even denied. Some have used this passage as a proof text to keep women quiet in church. Others have rejected Paul’s words because it smacks of male patriarchy. All in all, this passage IS a difficult one. Yet, we can make sense of it by paying attention to the context of 1 Timothy.

In the flow of Paul’s letter, these verses play an important role of showing how gospel-centered men and women worship God together. In this way, 1 Timothy 2 is not meant to give a place for men to exclude women from learning, speaking, or filling key roles in the church.  It is meant to affirm the goodness of men and women and the complementary ways they serve God together.

On you can listen to this sermon online. You can also read a couple important blogposts about these verses. And below you can find a few response questions with additional resources. Continue reading

Say What, Paul? Six *More* Things That 1 Timothy 2:8–15 Does Not Mean

stain glass 2Yesterday, I listed six things that 1 Timothy 2:8–15 does not mean. Today, I list six more. That post and this one complement Sunday’s message on 1 Timothy 2:8–10 and anticipate the coming message on 1 Timothy 2:11–15.

While any of these posts/sermons can be read or heard on their own, they are intended to be considered together. For if we are to understand what Paul means in these verses, it will take a fair bit of work in the text of Scripture and the history surrounding the church in Ephesus. For that background, I recommend the book Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15.

For now, here are the next six things that 1 Timothy 2:8–15 does not mean. Yesterday, the list focused on 1 Timothy 2:8–10. Today, it focuses on the next four verses (vv. 11–15). If you know the passage, you know these are the more difficult ones ;-) Continue reading

Say What, Paul? Six Things 1 Timothy 2:8–15 Does Not Mean

glass8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

[This is the first of two posts on 1 Timothy 2:8–15. These posts are meant to complement the two sermons I am preaching on this passage at our church.]

A lot has been said, could be said, and needs to be said about 1 Timothy 2:8–15, but many of things said have either been misleading or just plain wrong. This is true for feminists who deny the apostolic witness of Paul, evangelical feminists (egalitarians) who affirm his apostleship but restrict his words to Ephesus, and traditional Christians who have demeaned women by so vociferously proving the point that women cannot teach men in the church, they have effectively denied the vital place of women—and women teaching, see Titus 2:3–5—in the church.

In scholarship, the most thorough explanation of this passage has been the book Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15, edited by Thomas Schreiner and Andreas Köstenberger. If you are studying this passage, this is a must-read. I have found much help in it and highly recommend it.

What follows cannot replace a thorough multi-discipline study of the passage. What I do want to do is outline a number of ways we must not read this passage. Without claiming to have a full grasp of everything in 1 Timothy 2:8–15, therefore, here are six things the passage does not mean or imply. Tomorrow, I’ll add another six. Continue reading

Hollywood and the Holy Word: Substance, Supplication, and the President-Elect

What if Barack Obama were white?  Would he have been elected by such a large margin?  I’m uncertain.  It’s interesting that this election was decided as much, if not more, by the color of Obama’s skin than the content of his character.  From the polling data broadcast tonight, it seems many voted for Barack Obama for the sole reason that it is time to elect an African-American president. I don’t disagree. I rejoice in that our country has a black president. But if that is only qualifier for office, it mutes the political, ideological, moral, and even theological issues at stake.

(Interestingly, if people voted only on the superficiality of skin color, it is the converse of MLK Jr’s famous speech, which advocated human appraisal based on the content of our character and not the color of our skin.  With that said, let me say Obama’s election is a milestone inconceivable 100 years ago and unforeseen even within recent decades.  Thus, today’s election stands as a victory for civil rights. For that we give God praise).

Nevertheless, in opposition to those who laud Obama with Messianic ascriptions, I am concerned about the substance of his character and what he stands for in his personal morality and in his political agenda(s).  He is smooth talker, an ear tickler, and a heart warmer, but is he a man of righteous character, integrity, and political justice?  Time will tell.  Every tree bears fruit.

But time has already begun to tell, and much observable fruit has already fallen.  So that in electing Obama as the 44th president, the American people have willfully elected the most pro-abortion, pro-homosexual (and thus anti-family) president in the history of the United States.  Barack’s unwillingness to defend the unborn and his positive affirmation of homosexuality do not just invite the Lord’s wrath they extend it (cf. Rom. 1).  The judgment of God has already been at work in our nation, as more than 40 million children’s lives have been snuffed out since 1973; likewise, the increase in homosexuality is a demarcation of a people that has lost its moral compass and has embraced a pernicious kind of lifestyle.  Abortion and sodomy do not only solicit solicit, they are in themselves part of God’s judgment.  Consequently, unless Obama’s stance on these issues changes radically, I fear that his rule will only further a culture of death and sacrifice decency and life on the altar of autonomous liberty and freedom of expression.  This is not true freedom (cf. John 8:31-32; Gal. 5:1).

His culpability is not isolated, however.  Since the American people hold in our collective grip the sword of government to defend the innocent and to promote justice, we as a nation will give an account to God for our disregard of His standards of justice and law, written on the hearts of men (cf. Rom 2:14-15).  Therefore, America as a whole, is responsible for the election of public officials who use the God-ordained sword of he state to shed the blood of those they are responsible to protect (cf. Rom. 13:1ff).  Sadly, based on previous statements and voting records, our president-elect will move ahead to deny life to the unborn and will promote legislation to obscure God’s design for marriage–hence implicitly distorting the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 5:32).

As I reflect on the events of today, I am more convinced than ever that the American people are deceived by what they see and by what is put before their eyes (cf. 2 cor. 4:4).  The polls today reflected what I would call the “Hollywood Effect.”  Because Barack Obama looked presidential, the American people type-cast him for the role.  In this, the voters acted less like a responsible republic and more like a studio casting agency.  Obama’s speech, his demeanor, his poise, and his looks won him the part.  Compared to the track-record of John McCain, Barack’s political history lacks substance, but his crowd-pleasing performances captured his critics glances and overcame his diminutive experience.  In a world of special effects, scripted speeches, cyberspace, flash photography, and sound bites, our next President is a Hollywood star.

So, substance? Doubtful. Time will tell.  But, screenplay?  Absolutely.  The audience at home has voted.

While I am concerned with the next President of the United States, I will pray for him.  1 Timothy 2:1-4 tells me that God wants me to pray for rulers, that they might come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.  I have been convicted by this.  My own lack of prayer for political legislation and political leaders has become increasingly evident as election day arrived.  I have, myself, too often lacked substance in my life–looking spiritual but failing to lift holy hands and prayer.  Yet, in response to recent events, that must change.  I do not want to be a Hollywood Christian, one who could be typecast for the part; I want to be a genuine believer shaped by the Holy Word.

As we close this day and begin a new season in the life of our country, may Christians redouble their prayers for the new president.  May we pray for his salvation and that God would change his mind about abortion, marriage, and other issues of justice.  May we cry to the Lord for mercy, because Americans as a nation are the ones who turns the sword on its own children, who glories in the shame of same-sex unions, and rejoices in both as autonomous freedoms and cultural rites of passage.  May we, the people of God, cry to God for mercy so long as these Christ-rejecting evils persist, and may we pray that our next President not add to the horror but wield the sword well.

Sola Deo Gloria, ds

Palin, Posts, and Prayer

I don’t write much about politics, and for good reason. I am a political novice and a legislative skeptic, but since my google reader has been overflowing with recent ‘Palin’ posts,  I feel compelled to offer the obligatory political post.  So instead of talking better than I know about politics, I will simply link to a handful of reflective Christians who have offered insightful and sometimes irascible comments.

The importance of this issue to gender complementarity, women’s roles, and the local church is where I am most concerned, and it is interesting that concurrent minds have diverged over this issue.  Voddie Baucham and Doug Wilson see this as a deadly plague for the family.  Albert Mohler sees this as a unique opportunity to differentiate the church from the government office.  Denny Burk follows the President’s lead. David Kotter, and the folks at CBMW, seem to want to use this opportunity to clarify the biblical nuances of gender complimentarity. And Tim Challies offers a cumulative survery of these and other considerations.

All of this discussion is healthy and good. Yet, I wonder in the richness of the conversation how much, if any, prayer has been lifted for this VP candidate and her family. Personally, I have been convicted about my lack of intercession. As I wrestle to understand the impact this governmental decision has on gender roles and the local church, in addition to its effect on Sarah Palin’s own family, I have not prayed for her as a godly, complementarian man ought. Ironically, as gender issues arise in the wake of these events, one thing is clear from the passage that has caused so much debate–i.e. 1 Timothy 2–that godly men are to raise holy hands to the Lord in prayer. They are not to quarrel in anger, but rather are to labor in prayer for the good of the their family, their church, the gospel, and their country. Discussion is good but prayer is better. May we as we read, write, question, and speak about these recent events, lift holy hands to heaven and pray for Sarah Palin and for our government, so that the gospel of Jesus Christ might have free reign in our families, our churches, and our country.

Here is a list of recent posts:

Reforming Marriage author, Doug Wilson has four thought-provoking posts: Kind of Spooky When You Think About It , Palin Comparison , An Epistemological Pileup, John Slays His Thousands.

Voddie Baucham separates Pro-Life and Pro-Family and makes some provocative, but polarizing, comments about Sarah Palin’s VP selection in his post, “Did McCain Make a Pro-Family Pick?”

Offering a more balanced commentary, Dr. Al Mohler blogs on his website, and on the Washington Post’s eclectic “On Faith” website

Denny Burk follows Dr. Mohler’s lead and presents a balanced response to the issues his post: Southern Baptist Hypocrisy?

Also navigating the challenging terrain of complementarity, CBMW Director, David Kotter offers a two-part series, “Does Sarah Palin Present a Dilemma for Complementarians?” Part 1. Part 2. From speaking with him the other day, it sounds like more reflections on the biblical and cultural issues are forthcoming. Stay tuned.

Finally Tim Challies summarizes a long list comments in the blogosphere with his lengthy rundown.  You can read it all here.

May we who love the wisdom of gender complementarity pray for Sarah Palin, for our country, and for our churches as we continue to think biblically on this matter!