1 Timothy 2:1-7

In
recent years a rhetoric of “warfare” has dominated the evangelical church’s
commentary on social issues in the public square. Our Christian leaders tell us
we are “soldiers” in a “war” for family values, and that “battles”
are being waged in public school classrooms, courts, and media. Followers of Jesus
are urged to “stand firm” and to “fight” to oppose the hostile
forces that seek to plunge our culture into further moral chaos.

As
we look back on the legacy of this kind of rhetoric, we find mixed results. On
the one hand, we can point to modest gains in certain areas. However, other results
have been more negative. Many unchurched people now view evangelical Christians
with distrust, fearing that given the opportunity most Christians would eagerly
use government coercion to enforce behavioral and doctrinal standards. Former
“religious right” activists Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson point out the weaknesses
of this “culture war” approach in their 1999 book Blinded by Might.1
Among other things, Blinding by Might is a public apology for siphoning
off so much money from the Christian community that could have gone into evangelism,
discipleship, and compassion ministries. Although the authors of this book don’t
think Christians should retreat from the public square, they clearly question
the “culture war” mentality that fights with the weapons of politics.

What
alternative does a Christian have in the midst of a decaying culture? Are Christians
caught on the horns of a dilemma between culture wars and isolation? The apostle
Paul addresses this very issue in 1 Timothy 2:1-7. What might we learn about how
to balance our roles as concern citizens with our divine mandate to communicate
the good news of Christ?

The
Power of Prayer (vv. 1-2a)

Paul
begins by emphasizing the efficacy of prayer. Clearly Paul believes that prayer
works, that intercession unleashes God’s power in people’s lives. The focus of
our prayers here is on all public leaders. For the Christians living in Ephesus,
few if any of these leaders would be overtly Christian. Yet Paul urges followers
of Jesus to make it their business to spend time in prayer for public leaders.

Sometimes
it appears that Christians today spend far more time criticizing their political
leaders than praying for them. Yet Paul appears to retrain himself from such actions.
Even though the political leaders he encountered were far more corrupt and far
less godly than ours might be, he restrains himself from being one of their critics.
Instead he becomes their ally through prayer.

The
Lifestyle of Believers (vv. 2b-6)

No
one would disagree that Christians ought to pray for their leaders. But aren’t
we also to confront our politicians when they do wrong? Shouldn’t we hold them
accountable when they make decisions contrary to our values? Clearly Paul expects
that government leaders will make such decisions. For the earliest Christians
such decisions will be the rule rather than the exception. However, Paul’s primary
concern in 1 Timothy is that Christians live “peaceful and quiet lives”
that reflect “godliness and holiness.” Rather than antagonizing political
leaders, such a lifestyle enables Christians to live lives that are attractive,
that “adorn” the message of Christ. Paul wants us to live this way because
Christ died for all people (including political rulers) and because God desires
that all have the opportunity to come to faith in Christ.

Although
we live in a different context than first century Rome, we see here that the focus
of our efforts is not to renew our culture (which is part of an age that is passing
away) but to further the good news of Christ. Clearly for Paul the good news of
Christ meant everything. Only the good news could bring people hope and transform
their lives.

I
suppose it would be easier for us to apply Paul’s words were we to live in a culture
that had no Christian roots. For us who live in the West, it is hard to accept
that our previous culture-with it’s Christian heritage-is part of the age that
is passing away, and not part of the Kingdom of God. I suppose we are a little
like the Montreal Expos. For the last two seasons, the Expos have been a “wandering
team,” splitting their “home” games between Puerto Rico and Montreal.
In their “home” stadium, small crowds of 3,000 to 5,000 show up to root
for the Expos. In Puerto Rico, the Expos play in a stadium that’s foreign to them
after traveling thousands of miles. The Expos no longer have any “home field”
advantage.

The
same is true of the Church in the West, that we no longer have a “home field”
advantage. Like the Expos, we are wandering pilgrims on foreign soil. The good
news is this gives us the opportunity to live out the New Testament mandates in
clear and direct ways.

 

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Sermon
brief provided by: Timothy Peck,
Pastor, Life Bible Fellowship Church, Upland, CA

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1. Cal Thomas
and Ed Dobson, Blinding By Might: Can the Religious Right Save America?
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1999).

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