How to stand with Timothy (part 2)
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Timothy 1:1-2
How do we stand with Timothy as inheritors of the apostolic doctrine? Yesterday, we noted that the church must have complete confidence in Scripture as the word of God. But second, the church must have complete confidence in Jesus Christ as the Way to God. It must believe that God speaks through Christ and blesses through Christ, so that there is “no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” God speaks through Christ: Paul is an apostle – and thus commissioned to speak for God – “by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” He does so in two ways: he has spoken in the life and work of Christ. Christ is the Word of God (Jn 1:1-18), he has revealed the Father to men. He was full of grace and truth. But not only that, God speaks through Christ in his apostles; actually, in all the authors of the Bible: Peter speaks of “the Spirit of Christ” in the prophets of the OT (1 Pet. 1:10-11).
Thus, you are not listening to God if you are not listening to him through his Son. That is not to say that God doesn’t speak in other ways – in nature, for example. But the only way God speaks savingly to men is through his Son. “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son hath not life.” (1 Jn 5:11-12). You cannot know whether or how God will save unless he tells you; and he has done that in his Son.
What he has spoken is that salvation comes through Christ. God speaks through Christ and he blesses through Christ. In fact, there is no other avenue through which the blessing of God comes. Paul says that “grace, mercy, and peace” comes “from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Everything good that comes from God is in these three words. Paul had written similarly in Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” These three words describe in different ways the totality of our salvation from sin and instatement into the favor and love of God.
“Grace” is Paul’s “one-word summary of God’s saving act in Christ, stressing that salvation comes as a free gift to undeserving sinners” (Mounce). “Mercy” is the word that translated in the LXX the word for the steadfast love of God to Israel, bound by his covenant to them. It carries the idea of covenant faithfulness, and could also be translated by the word for “righteousness.” This is because it is right for God to keep his covenantal commitments to his people. Therefore, “mercy” is not just an emotional response on the part of God to unfortunate people; it is God’s saving response of steadfast love to those who belong to him. Behind the word for “peace” is the Hebrew word “shalom.” John Murray describes the Biblical idea behind the word: It “is not the composure and tranquility of our mind and hearts; it is the status of peace flowing from the reconciliation . . . and reflects primarily upon God’s alienation from us and our instatement in his favor." “Believers do not just feel peace; they actually are at peace with God” (Mounce).
The blessing is not a mere wish for these things to happen. They are a celebration of their reality, a reminder to Timothy and to every future believer who reads this letter that these things belong to them, and can belong to anyone who gives their life to Christ. Unlike the favors given us by men, God’s grace is always followed by glory. Unlike the fleeting peace the world knows, God’s peace reaches into eternity, and no one can take it away. Therefore, it is fitting that Paul describes Christ as “our hope.”
These two realities need to be what defines us as a Church if we are to be like the NT church. The glory of the Christ who saves and blesses and gives us hope must be the blazing center of our message and the authority of God’s word the gravity that brings our wandering lives into their proper orbit. And let these realities be reflected by us in this world in such a way that others too will be attracted to Christ in his Word.