Today’s reading: 1 Tim 2
Today we read Chapter 2 of Paul’s first letter to Timothy which contains the famous “one mediator” passage. It’s an absolutely great chapter the best parts of which are often missed because the perennial focus on “one mediator” tends to distract from the rest of the chapter. Here is the main part of the verse:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 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.
First, notice how the verse starts, Paul calls for, “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people”. In other words, Paul is calling all Christians to MEDIATE between each other and God. Therefore, we immediately know that the “one mediator” passage cannot mean that Jesus is the one AND ONLY mediator. For that to be so Paul would be telling his readers to do something that is in direct conflict with what he will write only two sentences later. This just is not a sound reading of the text.
Therefore, what does Paul mean? Notice what he says right after about praying for one another, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior…”. Notice how Paul frames it. Instead of using the names he normally uses, (Jesus, Jesus Christ, the Lord, etc) Paul frames it as, “God our savior”. The use of “God our savior” is slightly ambiguous in that it could be read as referring either to either God the Father or as referring to Jesus. Then in the next sentence, he defines Jesus as the one mediator. By using the phrase, “God our savior”, Paul is making the point that Jesus, who is God and man, is the one UNIQUE mediator. This point is confirmed in the second half of the sentence which emphasizes that it was Jesus alone who was able to make the acceptable sacrifice at the proper time.
One thing that is important to understand is how and why Christ is both the ONE mediator yet we can still mediate for each other. This goes back to Paul’s (and our) proper understanding of the Body of Christ. Through baptism, we are radically joined to Christ. Remember Jesus says to Paul on the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute ME.” He says to his disciples, “what you do to the least of these you do to ME.” Paul writes that the Church is the bride of Christ and that the two become one flesh. Thus, as radical extensions of Jesus into this world, our prayers for each other are sanctified by our relationship with the Lord. Therefore our prayers, when offered in union with Jesus, make it the same as if Jesus himself was praying for us.
There is something else that is particularly interesting in this passage. It says, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Thus, God desires ALL TO BE SAVED. It follows that God did not create anyone with the desire that they go to hell (not be saved). Therefore this passage unequivocally confirms that hell is our choice – we have free will. God certainly creates every person with the knowledge of what choices they will ultimately end up making but he somehow accounts for free will in making that calculation. How this is done (or even possible) is a mystery we cannot fully understand on this side of the veil but we can see here that God did not create anyone with the intention (i.e. desire) that they go to hell.
The second half of the chapter contains some startling insights. I quote it below with the extraneous material cut out so it is easier to follow:
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, … 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 …
15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self- control.
So Paul is talking about how woman should behave in services. First, it is important to note that this is a cultural accommodation that Paul is making, not all of it applies to all times and places. However, the moral truths do apply to all times and places. Notice what Paul says women should adorn themselves with …. Good Works! Paul does not have this radical separation between faith, worship and good works that are professed today. In fact, he says women would be saved through childbearing – which presumably is the greatest good work for the average woman. Notice further that Paul says this is the case IF they continue in Faith and Holiness. Again, this shows that salvation can be lost (presumably if one does not continue in faith and holiness) and again corroborates free will.
Tomorrow: 1 Tim 3