Sunday, September 22, 2019
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.
A college professor was on a ferry going across a bay. The professor was harassing the man driving the boat, because of his ungrammatical language. When he learned the man had never attended school, the professor said: What? Half of your life has been wasted! Shortly afterwards, the ferryman asked, Professor, did you ever learn to swim? No, I didn’t, the man said, well, in that case it seems all your whole life has been wasted because we’re sinking. A life is a terrible thing to waste, isn’t it?
Here’s a question for each of us today: Could we come to the end of our lives and assume that we have wasted any and every opportunity to make our lives count? Could we assume that our lives have been largely wasted, that there was really no point to them at all? Is there a way we can know that our lives really do matter?
I don’t believe that anyone would’ve charged the Apostle Paul with having wasted his life. He was charged with many things. He was beaten and thrown into prison because of numerous confrontations with political and religious authorities, but never could he have been charged with wasting his life. Indeed, few people have ever done more to spread the Gospel than Paul.
It was Paul who took the Gospel to the Gentiles. It was Paul who gave us the most beautiful description of love ever written in I Corinthians 13. It was Paul who gave us the definitive statement on life after death in I Corinthians 15. Paul was certainly one of the most influential men who ever lived. Ironically, he would receive even more credit for his contributions if he hadn’t been so convincing to others and us, that he was just an instrument of the risen Christ.
The secret to his purposeful and powerful life is contained in these words from I Timothy 2:5-7. 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. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Let’s consider for a moment that first clause; For there is one God. We seem to take that statement for granted. The writers of the Bible couldn’t. They knew what a struggle it had been for their fathers to declare the unity of God. Their neighbors worshiped many gods.
It was these stubborn Jews who surrounded by those who didn’t know God and still maintained that there was only one God, Yahweh, and that there could be no other gods before Him. They declared the unity of God. Yahweh is the God of all creation. Indeed, He is the creator of all that lives and moves and has its being (Acts 17:28).
The children of Israel declared His unity and His universality, but even more importantly, they declared His unique intimacy with the world He had created. Yahweh was not a distant god who had created a world and then forgotten about it. He was involved in the life of His people in a very personal way.
God’s job is to love us. Why? Because in 1 John 4:8 we’re told that “God is love.” That’s His very nature. He’s intimately involved with His world and in the lives of each of His children.
Paul writes there is one God. Then he adds, and there is but one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave Himself a ransom for all. Our Muslim friends say that there’s but one God. Our Jewish friends say that there is but one God. Most thinking people in the world today declare that there is but one God, but it’s certainly a unique claim that Christians add to that phrase, that there is but one mediator between God and human beings, the man Jesus.
Again, this wasn’t a trivial claim. Most of the early Christians had been Jews. The God they worshiped was a God of power, majesty and strength. To look upon God was to die. To even touch the things of God with unclean hands was to risk awful retaliation. The Jewish God wasn’t just the “man upstairs.” He was a God whose glory couldn’t even be properly pondered by mere mortals. And yet, John writes in the prologue to his Gospel, in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father. John’s hands must have trembled as he wrote those words: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
The early disciples believed with all their hearts that there was only one mediator between God and humanity. There was one way, one truth, one life, one shepherd, one door and that was Jesus.
They heard Him teach, they saw Him heal people’s hurts, they witnessed His death on Calvary and they met Him in His eternal glory on the road to Emmaus, in the Upper Room and on the mountain where He ascended to the Father. And throughout the New Testament they tried to summarize the impact of His life on theirs. They called him Prophet, High Priest, Servant of God, Lamb of God, Son of David, Son of man, Holy One of God, Son of God, Savior, Messiah, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
There is the great divide between Christianity and the world religions. Not that they don’t have truth, not that they lack noble sentiments, gracious teaching, or gifted leaders. But in them, the Word became word, a set of teachings, a morality, a religious framework. Only within Christianity does the Word become flesh. And it’s that Word becoming flesh that offers human beings’ access to the Father.
The entire human race are patients in a hospital ward. We are sick and dying. Ministering to us, however, is a physician, the most magnificent physician of all. However, if you look closely, the physician Himself is wounded. He bends over us with “bleeding hands.” Only He can heal us, only He can save. That physician, of course, is Christ.
There is one God, there is one mediator. Paul also writes; for this I was appointed a preacher and apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
What does all this have to do with Paul’s sense of power and purpose? Paul’s life was grounded in his knowledge of God and his experience of Christ. That knowledge and that experience had two effects on Paul’s life. We may call the first effect the focal effect and the second, the funnel effect.
When we speak of the focal effect, we’re speaking of the power of being focused on a single, world-changing task. We know that great accomplishments in this world are made by people who are totally dedicated to a single cause. Paul’s great cause was to glorify God, whether he was making tents or writing letters to young churches, or preaching on street corners, the object was the same. He did all things to the glory of God. And, that’s your task as well, just as it is mine. To do everything we do, whether it be in an office, on a construction site, in a classroom, at home or wherever, to do everything we do to the glory of God.
How can we make a difference in the world? We do it by asking ourselves the question: Is this something I can do to God’s glory? If it is, we ought to give ourselves to it totally. That’s one secret of a super, successful life, to have a focal point for our lives that we can believe in without reservation and to give all we have to it. That is the focal effect.
The second effect is the funnel effect. Paul saw himself as a funnel through which God’s purpose and power could flow. Someone did a study of the lives of great people and they discovered that invariably these monumental achievers didn’t consider the path of greatness as leading from them but rather as leading through them. The source was somewhere other than themselves.
Have you ever completed a task and looked at it and thought to yourself, Wow, I couldn’t have done that! It’s simply too grand! It’s a wonderful feeling. Have you felt that behind your work was an unseen hand? Paul believed that about his life. He was but a channel through which God’s power flowed.
Paul saw himself as the frame, and Christ the painting. It was the power of the risen Christ working through him that was the source of his great accomplishments. Paul wrote on another occasion; I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). Is that a truth too great for our little hearts? It is if we will surrender our lives, to the source of power available to us, that can flow through us, and help us to accomplish more than we ever dreamed possible.
The power that helped Paul accomplish things very few people ever accomplish, did not come from him so much as it came through him from another source. That power was the power of the Holy Spirit. He was the funnel for that power.
Paul could never be accused of wasting his life. He made his life count. How? By surrendering his life to Christ and allowing Christ to live through him.
The great scholar Augustine once said that there were three things he would like to have seen: 1. Jesus in the flesh; 2. Imperial Rome in its splendor; 3. Paul preaching.
It’s no wonder. Paul preached as he did everything else; to the glory of God. Paul believed that divine energy flowed through him. That’s what a renewed faith in God and in Christ can do for us, it can give us new power, new purpose for the living of our lives, to the extent that all may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven.
All of this by the power of the Risen and Glorified Christ Amen.