Global Prayer for the Local Church

We now live in a culture that is hostile to anyone claiming to know absolute truth. You can live however you please, and you can believe whatever you want—"Obey your thirst," the commercial tells23 us—just don't impose your beliefs on others. That's the unpardonable sin of our day. This sentiment is especially true when it comes to religious beliefs, which can make it highly uncomfortable for Christians sharing the gospel. After all, our message is, well, pretty much absolute: "There is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it" (Acts 4:12).

The second theological motivation behind our prayer is this: We pray because God deserves the honor of all people. Paul began verse 5 by saying, "For there is one God." This seems like such a simple statement, but it is full of significance. There is not one god for one group of people, and then another god for a different group of people, so that all kinds of people can worship all kinds of gods. No, one God deserves the praise of all people. John Stott helpfully reminds us that monotheism drives missions (Stott, Message, 67). He points to passages like Isaiah 45:21-22:

There is no other God but Me,

a righteous God and Savior;

there is no one except Me.

Turn to Me and be saved,

all the ends of the earth.

For I am God,

and there is no other.

Ultimately, we live and work and go on life-saving missions all over our city and around the world because we know there is one God and He deserves the praise, honor, and adoration of all people.

It follows that if God deserves the honor of all people, then worship is the fuel of world praying. We gather with other believers to declare there is one God. Our God is greater, stronger, and higher than any other. We sing that (Chris Tomlin, "Our God"), we believe that, and we pray like that. This is the heart of the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy" (Matt 6:9). However, worship is more than just the fuel of world praying.

Worship is the goal of world praying. We are praying night and day, week after week, for all kinds of people in the world to come to a saving knowledge of God so they might bow down and worship Him. That's what we're after in our praying—worldwide worship. We look forward to the day when all people will worship God's name. Do you see the theological motivation here? We long for God to get the glory He is due.

Finally, there's a third theological motivation behind our prayers: We pray because Christ died for the rescue of all people. We read in30 verse 5 that there is not only one God but also "one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human, who gave Himself—a ransom for all" (vv. 5-6). This word "ransom" literally refers to the price that would be paid for the rescue, or release, of a prisoner. This is the gospel in a nutshell. God, the One who is completely holy in all His ways and completely just in all His judgments, stands over against us sinners, who are completely deserving of all His judgments. Therefore, we desperately need a mediator to pay our ransom. Enter Jesus.

Jesus is unique in who He is. He is the perfect mediator because He is uniquely able to identify with both parties. No one else is qualified to represent both God and mankind. He is fully able to identify with God because He is divine, fully God (Col 2:9). Yet, at the same time, He is fully able to identify with humanity since He is "Himself human" (emphasis added). Jesus was, and is, fully human, like us in every way "yet without sin" (Heb 4:15). He is uniquely qualified to stand in the middle in order to bring together both God and man.

Not only is He unique in who He is, but Jesus is also unique in what He did. He gave Himself as a ransom by dying for us, though He did not deserve death. Jesus had no sin (1 John 3:5). He died even though mankind alone owed the price. We are sinners, and we are the ones who deserve to die. But the reality is that we couldn't pay the price that needed to be paid, the infinite wrath of a holy God. God alone could pay this price (Anselm, "Why God Became Man," 176). And how did He do that? In Christ! In Christ, God took the full payment of sin upon Himself, and in the process He rescued us from sin and death. The payment was paid and the rescue was made.

Finally, we see that Jesus is unique in what He does. Jesus is not just our mediator in the past through what He did on the cross, as glorious as that reality is. He lives as our mediator right now at the Father's right hand. That's right: today, at this moment, Jesus is interceding for us, standing before God on our behalf. He is the constant, continual means by which we approach the throne of God in worship. Oh, to know that Christ, even now, is our mediator!

Finally, we see that Jesus is unique in that He leads us on mission. In the Great Commission, Jesus promises to be with us always, even "to the end of the age" (Matt 28:20). He enables and empowers all that we do. Apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). The Son of God leads His church by His Word and through His Spirit.31

The Obvious Implication

1 Timothy 2:7

There is an obvious implication to our prayers and the theological motivations behind them. The implication for Paul is spelled out in verse 7: "For this I was appointed a herald, an apostle (I am telling the truth; I am not lying), and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth." Even though Paul was talking specifically here about his own unique role as an apostle, what he said applies, in large part, to every follower of Christ. As we pray to God for all people, we preach the gospel to all people. We know that God desires the salvation of all people (v. 4), that He is worthy of their praise (v. 5), and that Christ has died for their rescue (v. 6), so we should begin to share this gospel with everyone. Consider two different ways in which this plays out in our lives.

First, we herald the cross of Christ. Paul referred to himself as "a herald" of the gospel message in verse 7. That word "herald" is not one that we use much today. It was used in ancient times to refer to someone who would make an important announcement, such as an announcer at an athletic event or a political messenger in a royal court. This is a picture of what we do as followers of Christ—we herald the gospel.

You, brother or sister in Christ, are a herald this week. Announce to people who are dying in their sin that there is a Savior. Tell them they don't have to fear death. Tell them Christ the King has conquered death. Tell them about eternal life in Him, that they might be saved from eternal death. This leads us to the second implication.

We teach the commands of Christ. After people trust in the cross of Christ, we teach them the commands of Christ. This too is part of the Great Commission, for Jesus told us to teach everything that He has commanded (Matt 28:20). We make known the truth of God's Word. This is what the church is to be about.

The Coming Conclusion

God's Word leaves no doubt as to the outcome of our mission. Because of God's purposes and the work of Christ on our behalf, we pray with confidence and we preach with boldness. Revelation 5:8-10 gives us a glimpse of where our mission is heading, and it has everything to do with what we've just seen in 1 Timothy 2. Revelation 5:8 says of Christ, "When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders32 fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Commentators vary on what exactly the prayers of the saints are here, but most believe they include the prayers of the saints in heaven (see Rev 6:9-11) as well as the prayers of saints on earth who are longing for God's kingdom to come. As those prayers are lifted before the Lord, we read of a new song:

John's vision has everything to do with what our lives are to be about and what the church is to be about. We can pray with confidence for all people to come to a saving knowledge of Christ, and we can preach to them with boldness, all the while knowing that our mission will prevail and our mediator will be praised. One day individuals from every tribe and language and people and nation will be ransomed. This is what Revelation 5:9 tells us, and it's what God desires according to 1 Timothy 2:4. Therefore, we can be confident in this mission.

Jesus Christ is worthy of the praise of all people. When we take the gospel to our neighbors and to the ends of the earth, we do it for the glory of our King. Make no mistake about it: He will be praised!

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