The Knowledge of the Truth

Sermon preached on 1 Timothy 2:1-7 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 10/02/2016 in Novato, CA.

Sermon manuscript

Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Timothy 2:1-7

The Knowledge of the Truth

This is our third week in this evangelistically-centered passage. It’s a passage that’s been calling us to pray for the salvation of the lost. And yet it is in this passage that we are again reminded of the importance of doctrine. When it comes to people being saved, doctrine is important! It says in verse 4 that for people to be saved they need to come to a knowledge of truth. Well, truth is essentially just a more palatable word for doctrine. That doctrine is then spelled out in verses 5 and 6. And so I want us to look at that doctrine right now. Three main points of doctrine here. First doctrine, there is one God. That’s the doctrine of monotheism. Second doctrine, there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. That deals with the doctrines of Christology and soteriology. Third doctrine, Jesus Christ gave himself as a ransom for sinners. That’s the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. These three doctrines are at the heart of Christianity. If we want people to be saved, we need to teach them these doctrines and pray that they would believe them. This was important for Paul to emphasize back then for the ministry at Ephesus. And it’s important for us to emphasize today for the ministry here in Novato.

So I want to walk through each of these doctrines today. Let’s begin with that first one, that there is one God, verse 5. This immediately reminds me of what is known as the Hebrew Shema, which is that passage of Scripture in Deuteronomy 6:4. That’s the one that says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” That verse has been used as a great confession of monotheism down through the years. Monotheism basically is a fancy word for this truth: there is one, and only one, God. The opposite would be polytheism, which would affirm multiple gods. I hope it is abundantly clear that the Bible does not support the notion of polytheism. According to the Bible there are not many Gods, but one God.

Related to this notion is that this one, and only one God, is a specific God. The Bible is full of references to other peoples that have claimed a different god as their god. What is very clear in the Bible is that these other gods are considered different than the one God of the Bible. And that means then that if those other so-called gods are not the same as the one and only God of the Bible, then that means those other gods are not true gods. They are false gods. In the Old Testament, this was clear in how God especially revealed himself under the name Yahweh. English Bibles usually just translate this as LORD, but they use all capitals in the text to tell you that the Hebrew is using the name Yahweh. And so the Old Testament was very clear: Baal is not Yahweh. Baal is a false god. Asherah is not Yahweh. Asherah is a false god. Moloch is not Yahweh. Moloch is a false god. Dagon is not Yahweh. Dagon is a false god. I love how we saw that in 1 Samuel 5, how the Dagon idol of the Philistines kept falling over before the Ark of the Covenant which was Yahweh’s footstool. And so this passage reminds us that there is one God and he is a specific God. He’s the God who made all things and sustains all things. He’s the God who rescued Noah and his family from the flood. He’s the God who entered into covenant with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. He’s the one who reaffirmed his promise of salvation through Moses and David and the prophets of Israel. He’s the one who sent his only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, into this world to atone for our sins. There is one God and his identity is important.

In the context of this passage, this doctrine is especially important. It is part of Paul’s point why the gospel needs to go out to the nations. Yes, in Deuteronomy 6:4, the Bible had already emphasized monotheism. But here the monotheism is the backdrop for why we should be praying for the salvation of the nations. It’s because there is only one God. The nations back then should not have been worshipping Zeus, or Artemis, or any other false pagan god. They need to be worshipping the one true God of the Bible. The fact that there is only one God means that this doctrine needs to go out to the nations. There is not one God for Jews, and other gods for Gentiles. Rather, there is one God, and only one plan of salvation for all men.

In the same way today, we continue to affirm the one true God of the Bible. And we continue to affirm it to the nations who would like to speak against this truth. To those who would like to say that all names and identifies for a monotheistic deity are talking about the same one God, we have to deny that. Allah is not the God of the Bible. Krishna is not the God of the Bible. The God we worship is the God as he has revealed himself, in the Word. To worship some god by a different name and of a different nature and character is not to worship god but demons, per 1 Corinthians 10:20. Similarly, those today who would like to continue to affirm various polytheistic notions, we have to deny that too. It is just not true. The so-called spirit gods of Native American religions are not true gods. The polytheistic eastern religions are not worshipping according to truth. Dead ancestors are not to be worshipped. And certainly deceased Christians are not to be venerated. I could go on, but the point is that despite its unpopularity amidst the religious pluralism that exists in our culture today, the Christian faith must not be changed to suit men’s desires. What the Bible teaches is what we must believe. And the Bible gives us the doctrine of monotheism.

Let us turn now to this second doctrine in this passage, that there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. I mentioned this touches on both Christology and soteriology. Christology is the study of the person and work of Jesus. Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation. And so here it speaks of Christology in that we are reminded of what makes Jesus such a good mediator. Jesus can be a mediator between God and man because he is both God and man. There is no one else like this. In the Old Testament, we saw mediators like Moses. Moses did a decent job as mediator, but I think it was kind of like him having to wear two hats. Yes, sometimes he represented the people in coming before God and interceding on their behalf. Other times he represented God to the people when God gave him words to speak to the people. But Jesus comes to us and comes to the father always as the God-man. He simultaneously represents both sides at the same time. He can know and represent God’s interests, while at the same time understanding our weaknesses and pleading our behalf.

In thinking of having this kind of mediator, I remember the words of Job in Job 9:32-33. Thinking of God, Job said, “For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.” Job recognized the creator/creature distinction. Job realized that there was no mediator or arbiter who could stand between him and God. The oneness of God at first would seem to be a challenge for us creatures. Who could stand between him and God but another creature? And yet Jesus Christ is both creature and creator. In terms of his divinity, he has always existed and was not created. But in terms of his human nature, that was created when the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary and she became pregnant with Jesus. This is a glorious mystery, but one we are happy to affirm because the Bible has revealed it to us.

And yet, now that we have a mediator, that alone wouldn’t solve the problem that Job mentioned. Just because we have a God-man mediator, doesn’t mean that the mediator would be able to mediate or arbitrate a solution that would be good for us. That’s because we are sinners. Humanity is guilty before the all-holy God. Each of us deserves God’s wrath and curse. We all deserve to go to hell. And so the fact that we have a suitable mediator alone, doesn’t address that problem. But that is where we are thankful that this mediator did even more for us. I speak now of his going to the cross. I speak of how he atoned for our sins. That will be our third point in a moment. But it is what allows him to mediate for us in a way that results in a good outcome for us.

But for now I want to make sure we don’t miss the soteriological point that’s here under this second doctrine of Christ being our mediator. It’s driven home in the word “one” in verse 5. There is one mediator. Just like there is only one God, there is only one mediator. If mankind is going to be saved from God’s wrath, it is going to be through Jesus. It is going to be only through Jesus. That’s part of our soteriology, part of our doctrine of salvation. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Again, I hope you see how this fits into the context of this larger passage. It’s this evangelistic passage that talks about how salvation is not just for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. It’s saying that the mediator that the Jews need between God and them is Jesus. But it’s also saying that the mediator that the Gentiles need between God and them is Jesus. That’s because there is one, and only one, mediator between God and man. It’s Jesus. He’s the only way of salvation. By saying there is only one mediator, it means there is an exclusivity here that the Bible is saying is the truth.

In a recent international political speech it was said that “we must reject any forms of fundamentalism.” These words reflect the sentiments of many people in the world today. However, I must respectfully disagree with such words. Yes, there are plenty of forms of fundamentalism I think we should disagree with. I think we should not affirm any form of fundamentalism that believes in things that are not true. I can’t agree with Islamic fundamentalism, or Hindu fundamentalism, or Buddhist fundamentalism. But I must agree with the fundamentals of the Christian faith because they are true. We have some of those fundamentals of the faith right here in this passage. There is only one God, the God of the Bible. And there is only one way of salvation, and that is through the one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ.

Let me clarify. I’m not saying we should hate people who don’t agree with us. Actually, I think we should show them love. I’m not saying we should discriminate in society against people with different beliefs and values than us, even if we would not receive them as members into the church. Again, I think we need to, in great kindness, reach out to such people, not try to disregard them or cut them out of society. You see, Christian fundamentalism is not what the media would want to paint it. Yes, there are some under that label that do show hate to certain people and do performs acts of violence and social discrimination against unbelievers. That’s sad and wrong, and it is often the people that the media shows when they use the label of Christian fundamentalism. But the term actually refers to the Christians who hold to the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith as revealed in the Bible. And make no mistake, even though we don’t use hate and intolerance in sharing these fundamentals truths of Scripture, there are still many under the name of religious pluralism that will hate us and be intolerant of our views. It is because they reject the Bible’s truth claims that do have an exclusivity about it. They will not accept that the God as revealed in the Bible is the only true God. They will not accept that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved. But we must hold to these and declare them to the world because they are true.

We turn now to our final doctrine for today. It’s the doctrine that Jesus Christ gave himself as a ransom for sinners. We call this the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. I wanted to begin by alerting you to the fact that some people have had some defective understandings of Christ’s atonement. The correct view is that it was a substitutionary atonement. In other words, that he died in the place of his people, in order to pay for the legal penalty of their sins, so we could be forgiven and saved. That’s substitutionary atonement. I will mention now four other views that are defective.

A first defective view is called the “ransom to Satan” theory, thinking that a ransom is being paid to Satan for our freedom. However, the Bible is very clear that God is the offended party and restitution needs to be made to God, not to Satan. It’s God’s judgment that ultimately must be satisfied in the atonement, not some supposed claim of Satan which he doesn’t really have! A second defective view of the atonement is known as the “moral influence theory”. This theory says that the cross was simply showing how much God loves us, that he would give up his Son for us, with the intention to essentially woo us to turn back to God. Though there is an element of truth in this, it misses the point that justice still had to be served for God to even receive us back. A third defective view of the atonement is known as the “example theory”. In this view, Jesus’s sacrifice is simply an example of faith and obedience to God for us to emulate. Though Jesus is an example to follow, to reduce the cross to this is to completely miss the main purpose of Christ’s atonement for sin. A fourth defective view of the atonement is known as the “governmental theory”. This view rightly acknowledges that our sin has violated God’s justice, but it doesn’t see Christ actually satisfying justice for us. Instead, the view says that Jesus’ death is just a public display of what we all deserve. And so this view fails to explain on what legal basis God can actually forgive the sinner.

Against these and other defective views we have this doctrine of substitutionary atonement, that Jesus actually paid the price for sin in our place. There are a number of passages that make this case to us. But let’s use the language of this passage. It describes Jesus’s work on the cross as a ransom. Now this word is not being used as we tend to use it today, that you pay a kidnapper for them to free the person they kidnapped. That modern usage is different than this ancient usage, but it does have some similarity. What the word meant back then is that you paid an amount to buy someone out of slavery. In other words, the word “ransom” is closely related to the word “redemption” in the Bible. When we hear that word redemption in the Bible, it means you are redeeming someone out of slavery. You would redeem someone out of slavery when you pay the ransom, the fee, to set them free. And so when you hear the word ransom, you should also think of the word redemption, and vice versa.

So according to verse 6, look at what the ransom, or the fee, was. It was Christ himself. Christ on the cross gave up his life to redeem us. Hebrews 9:12 says he redeemed us by his blood. Well, what did Jesus redeem us from? Romans 6 said we were slaves to sin. Similarly, Galatians 3:13 said we needed to be redeemed from the curse of the law, which of course is the curse due to us because of our sin. Titus 2:14 describes us as being redeemed from our wickedness. These verses keep telling us that it is our sin that was the problem. Sin had enslaved us in various ways. We needed to be redeemed from that. And so the ransom was paid to deal with the problem of sin. That’s why there are several verses in the New Testament that talk about our redemption and immediately then talk about how our sins have been forgiven. Our redemption and the forgiveness of sins are closely related. Colossians 3:14 says that in Christ we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Ephesians 1:7, says that in Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

So, hopefully you see the repeated point here. Jesus redeemed us from our slavery to sin by paying the ransom for our freedom. That ransom was his shed blood, to give up his life for us on the cross. He had to die so that we’d be forgiven of our sins. That’s because that’s what our sin deserved. Sin deserves death and damnation. That’s what Jesus gave in our place. He was out substitute. That’s what the atonement has accomplished. Because of this, for all whom this atonement is applied, they are forgiven of their sins. They are saved from God’s wrath to come!

And so here again, we have this important doctrine that we need to communicate to the lost. Just like the lost need to know that there is only one God and only mediator, they also need to know there is only one way to be made right with this God. That is to deal with the problem of sin. But praise be to God that there is a way that God has provided. It’s in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. This is at the heart of the gospel. If you don’t understand the atonement properly, you can’t trust and rest in the gospel properly. These doctrines today are foundational for someone to know and believe the gospel. They are foundational for someone to be saved. We affirm them again today. We continue to trust in them, by the grace of God.

In closing then, brothers and sisters, I point us to the end of verse 6. It says that these gospel truths were given “to be testified to in due time.” That is what Paul and Timothy were doing back then. They were testifying to these gospel truths. So not only do we reaffirm these truths today, but we again bear witness to them. We do that as we gather right now. But let us also do it as we go out into the world again this week. Pass on what you have come to know. Pray for the lost. Christ is their only hope… and ours! Amen.

Copyright © 2016 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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