May 29, 2009

The Testimony of Christ

1 Timothy 2:5–7

“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…the testimony at the proper time” (vv. 5–6).

Spiritual elitism that says one must have special insight into the genealogies of Genesis through Deuteronomy is addressed in 1 Timothy, and we have seen how Paul answers this false teaching with an appeal to the universality of the gospel. Biblical Christianity is not concerned only with a few but seeks the welfare of everyone; thus, believers must pray for all, including leaders who may hate Christ (2:1–2). This disposition reflects the kindness of God, who “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (vv. 3–4).

Today’s passage grounds these truths and practices in our Creator’s very nature. Paul says there is but one God (v. 5) — Yahweh, the covenant Lord of Israel (Isa. 45:5) — which has serious ramifications for our thinking. Since there is only one God, He is the God of all creation, and He has given but one answer to the plight of sinners. If many gods existed, spiritual elitism would be acceptable. My god’s blessing could be limited to those who share my knowledge of him. Your god could have similarly restricted access. Yet there is one God over all the world, and so there is one message of grace that must be preached to everyone.

As noted, our Father has given one answer to wickedness — “the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). That the apostle emphasizes the humanity of Christ is not a trivializing of His deity. Paul is only reminding us that the mediator who makes peace between God and men was necessarily a man. A man plunged this world into the chaos of sin and every person has added his share; therefore, a man must pay the price to redeem creation (Rom. 5:12–21). Jesus is of course more than a mere man, for He is the incarnate Word of God (John 1:1–14). Nevertheless, Jesus’ humanity is not insignificant, as our salvation is impossible without it.

This Jesus is the “ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6), and, again, as John Calvin comments, “The universal term all must always be referred to classes of men, and not to persons.” Other passages inform us that Christ atoned only for the sins of His people (John 10:14–15), but “His people” is not limited to one tribe or tongue. Jesus is the “ransom for all” in that He saves all kinds of people — Africans, Asians, Americans, rich, poor, tall, short, and so on.

Coram Deo

The atonement is essential to Christianity and is the most wonderful display of God’s grace ever offered. Meditate on the fact that if you are a believer, Christ died to pay fully for each and every one of your sins and that there is no need for penance or any other kind of “satisfaction” of His wrath. Find a good book or teaching series on the atonement and study the depths and riches of this glorious event.

For Further Study