Sermon from Sunday, September 18, 2022
Speaker: Rev. Michael Cloud
Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:1-7
Our scripture reading this morning comes from the book of First Timothy Chapter two, verses 1 to 7.
says First off, then I urge supplications, prayers, intercessions and Thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions so that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God, our Savior who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and humankind. Jesus Christ, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all. this was attested at the right time. For this, I was appointed a herald and an apostle. I’m telling the truth. I am not lying. A teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
This is the Word of God for the people of God.
So, for those of you who do not know me as well as some of the others I spent, oh, gosh, I got all messed, up five years as a missionary to the Khmer people in Cambodia. So, from about 2011 to 2016. Right. And that is where my wife is from. You may not have met her yet. She and my children, they go to the 9:00 service with my mother. But if you see some Asian looking kids running around, they’re probably mine. So, when I was working in Cambodia, I worked at a Christian school that was founded by an American woman named Susan. As with all international schools over there, we had an American leader and a Cambodian leader. And our school was kind of interesting, kind of unique, because Susan had, she would split her time between Cambodia and the U.S. and that left the Cambodian leader, Sopaic, with a lot of power and authority to run the school as he saw fit. And before we would dig off into this too far and I give you the wrong impression. Sopaic, He’s a good man. He ran a wonderful school. It’s a wonderful school. If we went back there, this is probably where we would send our kids to go to school. It’s probably where my wife and I would end up working. But Sopaic is not a Christian, and he is first and foremost a businessman. This means that not only does he not share the same values, Christian values, that my wife and I and Susan hold, He primarily sees the school as a business. So, throughout my years teaching, there was more than one occasion where I felt an injustice had occurred based on Christian principles and ethics. All right. Nothing illegal or anything like that. But if we’re a Christian school based on Christian values and there are some things we should not be doing in certain ways, we should be behaving. I mean, that’s what sets us apart as a Christian school rather than a regular school. Right. And so, I would get twisted about some things and I’d want to quit in some moral outrage. But I was always able to go off, pray, recenter myself on why God had me at that school in particular, and in Cambodia in general. As Doug would say, I was always able to put my God shoes back on. But there was this one time where I absolutely lost it. I ended up yelling at him in the middle of a meeting about how he was running the school and all the ways it was wrong, demanding that he not do it this way. I told him all the ways the decisions he had made were unacceptable and how inadequate it would be to go along with it as a Christian in a Christian school. Probably the maddest I’ve ever been in my entire life. And I can get pretty mad. I mean, it just works out. I asked Doug if I was able to admit that to you. He said I could, but this is probably just the best one, right? Or the worst one, depending on how you see it. As I left that meeting, I just I couldn’t shake it. I was overcome just with white hot indignation. I wanted to tear the whole building down, destroy everything, and leave in a fit of rage. I didn’t want to calm down. I didn’t want to center and find a god. I didn’t want a Bible verse or levelheaded pastoral guidance. I wanted justice and vindication.
Church What is the end of verse to say? Why is Paul urging Timothy to pray for the leaders? so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life and all godliness and dignity. And we’re talking about leaders who are unbelievers here. We’re not talking about leaders of the church. When Paul writes this. First Peter 2:12 reminds us to live such good lives among the unbelievers that they see your good works and glorify God. And as I sat there with only the threat of a Cambodian prison as my deterrent, God began to speak to me. Shame on you. You were wrong. I said, But, God, I’m on the side of biblical morality and justice. I’m on the side of Christian ethics and sound principles. And God’s response was very interesting. Deafening silence. See the problem with the church in Ephesus that Timothy is sent to oversee is that it had become an established church. It had gone through the pains of a new church start up. It had done the headaches of setting up council meetings and PPR committees. It had somewhat successfully stood firm against idolatries and the attacks from the outside culture, and it was becoming a church that had been there a while. See, after a church gets all settled and established, the attacks stopped coming so heavy from the outside and they start coming so heavy from the inside. People within the church began to rise up and teach people things about the Bible that they hadn’t taken the time to fully understand. And as a result, they began to slowly split the church apart piece by piece and house by house. desiring to be teachers of the law without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they are making assertions, Chapter one. Verse seven. They were teaching from an understanding outside the divine training that is known by faith. So, Timothy was sent into the Ephesians Church to remind the Church of the Gospel and to stand firm on the Salvation this offer through Jesus Christ. And then rather than give Timothy a treatise by which He might win the theological debate and prove who is right and wrong and their use of Scripture, Paul tells Timothy to have everybody look around and have the Holy Spirit convict them in their conscience about what is happening among them. This un-spirit filled teaching of Scripture had led to improper conduct within the Church but had also tainted their witness to those outside the church. See. first Timothy is an interesting letter because in it, Paul is far more concerned about the church’s witness to the unbelieving world than he is the workings of the church. You might say, well, wait a minute, Pastor. I’ve read first Timothy and a large majority of about what’s to come in the letter is about church conduct and structure. Yes, you’re right. But it is so that the church might be of one mind and of one accord to reach the surrounding nation with the gospel. not that everybody agrees on every little thing, but that we agree on the main thing, and that is that Christ came to save the world and that local churches, our missional outpost by which we reach the world with the saving grace of the Gospel. Don’t forget that the Church is here to be a shining light on a hill, so all may see it and glorify God. These false teachers, they brought in a spirit of disruption and dissension. And so, Paul reminds the church that being ambassadors for Christ calls for quiet and peaceable lives, living in all godliness and dignity, because this is right and acceptable in the sight of God, our Savior. Not that we never stand up and get loud when we need to fight injustice, but that the church stands as one body and one voice, and we proclaim to the world that the message that the Prince of Peace gave us from beyond the grave; that Christ died so that none shall perish, but that all may have everlasting life, that salvation is offered to absolutely everyone, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. That the very reason it is called mercy is because you don’t deserve to be treated this way.
Make no mistake about it, Church: God is well within His rights and authority as a sovereign creator and eternal judge to condemn and destroy every last evildoer on the face of this earth and to not relent until everything that opposes love and justice, and peace is blotted out. And that includes you. And it includes me. But in God’s mercy, he makes a former blasphemer of the church and a killer of Christians, one of its greatest missionaries. Why? So that in me, Paul says Christ, Jesus might display the utmost patience and make me an example to those who had come to believe in him for eternal life. And by God’s grace, by God’s redemptive grace, through Jesus Christ, we find ourselves as counted, as righteous, and our sins counted against us no longer.
This is the good news. That Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. That God does not wait for you to get it together before you can be saved. God is offering you salvation now, right here today. God is not interested in performance reviews or resumes of service. God wants each and every person in creation to know that they are loved and that they will be renewed and the image of Christ, restored to God’s presence and that they are conquerors over sin and death Today. and because this is the reality of heaven, then all of our prayers, our supplications, our intercessions and our Thanksgivings must be made for everyone. that includes but is not limited to the kings and all those who are in high positions which in a world where Christianity is just getting off the ground, these leaders are most certainly not Christian. They also have no desire to be. They not only have no desire to be Christian, they have no reason to be. Because if one of them walked into the church at Ephesus to see what all this Jesus stuff is about, they would leave convinced that this God doesn’t offer anything better than anyone else. Because what’s going on around in the church is not a spirit of Christ, but a spirit of misunderstanding and malice.
In his commentary on the Epistle. William Mountz notes how the Ephesians Church had developed this habit of not praying for all the people. That is, they had fallen into the trap of only praying for those who aligned with their particular theology. And this created a church who didn’t care anything about you if you didn’t think like they did. If you’re a way of thinking of God didn’t line up with their way of thinking about God. Then there wasn’t any room for you in their church or in their prayers. And this not only leads to strife within the church, it damages the reputation of the church in the world. So let me just clarify. So, there’s no misunderstanding. In no way should the unbelieving world dictate what the church believes or how the church functions. But woe to us churches who have lost the right to be heard among the people. Woe to us churches who have lost What sets us apart from being just another humanitarian organization in the community. So as Paul penned his first letter to Timothy, he reminds Timothy that the church is there to reach everyone, believers and nonbelievers, with the saving grace of the Gospel. Four times in six verses, Paul is going to drive at home. Supplications, prayers, intercessions. Thanksgivings are to be made for everyone. God desires everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. Jesus is the mediator between God and humankind. Christ died and gave Himself as a ransom for all. And it is for this reason. Paul says that I was appointed as a herald and an apostle. It is for this reason, like all the stuff I just said, that I am a teacher of the Gentiles, in faith and in truth. And so let us not miss the weight and the power of the passage set before us this morning. Paul is not teaching the church how to pray. Paul is teaching the church how to live in the world. If the church doors are not open wide enough to welcome in everyone who Christ died to save, then our doctrine is not deep enough in the Gospel. Put first the kingdom of God and all other things will fall into place. They most certainly will not fall into place when the Kingdom of God is second in the life of the Church.
Paul starts off chapter two by saying, first of all, then – And that word then is a very important, small word, very important. It lets us know that Paul is not starting with prayer as the first and foremost thing that the church ought to concern itself with. The then is like saying because of right. So, chapter one, it’s not just an introduction and a greeting. In Chapter one, Paul, establish that Christ says even the worst of sinners, that no one is beyond the scope of redemption. First, Paul establishes the gospel, and then he confirms how the gospel has been confirmed in Timothy. And now that the Gospel is established as the foundation of this new life in Christ, that nothing else is able to save us from death except the one who beat death in the grave. And that means that no one else or no thing else is worthy of all of our worship and all of our praise and adoration. Now, we might be able to see clearly the things that are hindering us from being the church to the full effect of God’s glory. When we do things as the church, or rather when I say, when the things that we do as a church aren’t done for all those who Christ came to save, then they cannot be done at all. For God will not have only part of the kingdom built on Earth as it is in Heaven. No, God is a jealous God who demands that because Christ paid the price for all that absolutely everyone be offered the opportunity to collect on this offer. Now we can get down to business. Now we can rightly understand the function of our prayers and the actions of us as a church. If we believe that Christ died for all, if we believe that salvation comes from God and is offered to even the worst of us, is that evident by the way we live our lives, as we call ourselves, followers of Christ? Is it evident by the way, we run our church?
So, as I said, in the deafening silence of God telling me that my behavior was unworthy of association of the name of Christ, a conviction began to wage war in my inner being, alongside my anger. I had two options. I could let it go, and I could admit that we’re just in a different world. Right? Sopaic wasn’t doing anything immoral, necessarily, but we just have a different foundation for our values. What will be, will be. The other option was to swallow my pride and offer peace. I would go to this unbeliever who was in a position of power and admit my sins against him. It didn’t matter who was right or wrong, nor on the basis that by which that might be determined. He was the leader of the school.
I crossed the line. I overstepped. I knew I needed to choose option two. So, I asked God to calm my rage and steady my resolve towards reconciliation. I went and apologized. and I found out later that after this he went to Susan, just absolutely dumbfounded. He didn’t understand why I would do something like that. Why would I openly and freely admit when I had been wrong, when nobody was making me like what type of crazy values system is this? And Susan used that as an opportunity to once again share the gospel with somebody who sits outside the church and who has yet to see a reason to come in. Now, maybe he never comes in. I don’t know that decision is going to be between him and God one day. But he will never even think about coming in if there isn’t anything radically different about the way Christians live their life in this world. And I tell you this story not because I did anything right for every story where I did it right, I’ve got 15 where I got it wrong. Church, I tell you this story because sometimes we have to let go of ourselves and we have to grab hold of God. If we’re ever going to see this thing through to the end, we’re going to have to trust God more than we trust ourselves, so that in our witness, the world may come to trust in God’s Holy Church. The world desperately needs the divine mercy and saving grace offered by Jesus Christ. The world desperately needs to know that Christ offer of salvation is for them, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. And we will only be able to accomplish this task if we work together and we don’t have to stress about who among us is Christian and who isn’t right. Preach and live the gospel so intimately in your life that all anyone sees or hears in this town and all they know about in this town is Jesus Christ. Because for better or worse, you and I are the ones living a life, teaching the world what it looks like to live a life covered by the Gospel. For better or worse, our churches are teaching the community what it looks like to live under the Fellowship of Reconciliation that God’s love produces.
So let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance. The race that is marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith.
Father, God, we love you. We thank you ever so much for Your grace, your mercy, and your patience with us; that your spirit has not left this place. But it is waiting for us to once again grab hold of your goodness and shine it like a light from this place. Burn within our hearts and our minds now the glory and the passion, the conviction that you have given us and give us the boldness to carry this message to the ends of the Earth. Amen.