God wants everyone saved – 1 Timothy 1:18-2:7

The simple thought that God wants everyone saved really ought to shape our lives as Christians much more than it does.

1 Timothy was written to Timothy, a young pastor in Ephesus. It’s largely a corrective letter. Stuff was happening that shouldn’t have been and Timothy needs to put it right.

In particular, there was some false teaching going on – teaching that seemed to be a diversion away from the main thrust of what Christian teaching should be: Salvation in Jesus Christ.

So in these verses we find instruction to help Timothy get the church back on track. In doing that, you’ll discover that maybe there are things you need to get back on track with as well.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

Fight for truth (1:18-20)

In 1 Timothy 1:1-11 we saw Paul reminding Timothy that he’d been left with instruction to stop people in Ephesus teaching “other-teaching”.

  • The goal of the instruction, he said, is love.
  • Love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
  • It seemed that the false teachers had been mis-handling the law (of God) in some way, but Paul said that the law is good if used correctly – because it points you to Jesus, and your need of him.

The law makes it clear that you’re a sinner before God. But in 1 Timothy 1:12-17 Paul said you can’t be too much of a sinner for there to be no hope – and Paul himself is the example! And the hope is simple and profound: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Put all that together and you can see why Paul is writing. The false teachers aren’t teaching the very thing God sent his Son into the world for. Timothy: Here are your instructions!

So this letter reminds Timothy of what he has to do and backs up his actions in the church with Paul’s own apostolic authority. But Paul’s no fool. First, he knows, he has to encourage Timothy himself.

Read 1 Timothy 1:18. First, there’s the reminder to him that he was called to this! We’re all called to something by the Lord. And in particular, the Lord himself appoints and calls people to lead his churches. That’s a significant truth. It’s helpful not least because ministry is a spiritual battlefield – and he is to fight the good fight.

You might not feel up to what the Lord has called you to. But who is? Not me. Not Timothy. The Lord gives grace (divine assistance).

Fight the good fight

How can Timothy keep going? Read 1 Timothy 1:19. He must fight the good fight with faith and a clear conscience. Faith in Christ, of course. Trusting that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Forgiving you when you sin. Saving others from their sins when you witness. Knowing that Christ is alive and working today.

If you feel like giving up, or that you’re drying up, what? You never fight alone; faith in Christ isn’t a past event – it’s a present state of being, always. And a clear conscience comes from doing what is right. And to do that, knowing what right even is.

So read 1 Timothy 1:5.

So these things are bound together: Instruction in God’s word, working outwards in love – with a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a sincere (non-hypocritical) faith.

But some reject that. Read 1 Timothy 1:19-20. Some people deliberately go against conscience – you know something is wrong, but you choose it anyway. Two specific examples are named. The fact that they were dealt with by Paul suggests they may well have been church leaders.

Anyone can sin against conscience: You, me, anyone. In the end, it’s catastrophic for faith. It’s a shipwreck.

Instruction always needed

You will never not need instruction. You will always need to hear instruction in God’s truth, the Bible.

  • He has given you his word in your own language. I encourage you to read at least some of it daily.
  • He has given you this church; me, us, together.
  • Church isn’t a chore; it’s a gift. Instruction from God’s word is a gift that leads to Christ, leads to love. (2 services!)

Paul handed the two men “over to Satan” – he threw them out of the church. If they want to behave like unbelievers they shall be treated as unbelievers. 

Yet “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. So the aim even for them is “so they might learn…” Restoration! So, next, Paul starts to lay down some corrective truths.

Pray for Peace (2:1-7)

Read 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

Quite often English translations leave out connecting words (Greek has loads of them!). Verse 1 begins with “Therefore” (οὖν) and it’s a clear marker that we’re entering firmly into the corrective teaching.

Timothy has had his mission (v1-17) and motivation (v18-20), and now comes the meat! Why does Paul start with praying for leaders though? What is that “first of all”?

The reason is that you’re to pray for a society in which you’re free to share the Good News of Jesus.

  • Paul may well be thinking of something that happened at Ephesus (where Timothy is): In Acts 19:23-34, there was a riot in Ephesus in opposition to Paul.
    • It wasn’t even safe for Paul to go near the crowd. 
    • They just shouted “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for 2 hours straight. It was chaos.
    • In particular, it was no gospel opportunity!
  • Does that seem a bit remote? There are modern examples
  • Shouldn’t we pray for the rulers of North Korea, or Afghanistan?
  • Maybe our own country, given the constant drift of national morality away from what God has declared “good”.
  • We might pray for an end to the pandemic – globally – with a gospel intent.

Praying for leaders “so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives” doesn’t mean we’re to be invisible, keeping out of trouble. The purpose is that your life be “marked by godliness and dignity” – a settled witness, respected by all, heard by all.

First of all

And notice that Paul put this first!

  • “Petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings” (CSB) – all kinds of prayers, all the time, for everyone.
  • Prayer for our own nation. Pray for international situations and missions.
  • Put Tuesday’s prayer meeting in your diary first and schedule other things around it. 
  • Read v1 again and explain to your own conscience why you wouldn’t join with us and pray. No excuse. And I’m just like Timothy – passing on the teaching of God’s own word.

The reason it’s so important is spelled out for you next – and you really, really need to get this.

Read 1 Timothy 2:3-4.

You’re to pray for leaders so that you can live in godliness and dignity, so you can speak into a peaceable culture and be heard. And the message is, of course, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Because God is our Saviour. And he wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth (the truth that they are sinners who need to come to faith in Christ).

You might say, “If God wants everyone to be saved why doesn’t he just save everyone?”

  • We can express his will in two ways:
  • His desire: He wants you not to sin, but you do anyway.
  • His declarations: He has his plans, and nothing can prevent him accomplishing them.

He has given a saviour to the world and the world will either accept him or reject him – but God wants everyone to accept this saviour and be saved. He delights in the death of no-one.

A gospel-hearted outlook

We’re called to pray with that outward, gospel-hearted outlook. Why? Because of a simple truth: Read 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

We can get all closed in and moan about the state of the world. But what good would that do? The world needs Jesus. He is the only hope for everyone – which is why we’re to pray for everyone.

  • One God; one mediator. No other way. No other sacrifice. Nor any other high priest, only the Son of God himself who came into the world to save sinners.
  • He came for you, he wants you to be saved, he’s made it clear he’s your only hope to be saved, and he calls you.
  • You have no other hope; no other saviour; no other heaven.
  • He could even save an awful person like Paul. He can save you. The Lord Jesus calls you to turn to him.

That’s why God sent Paul – to go and tell this truth so that you can hear it today: Read 1 Timothy 2:7. This is God’s own message. So read 1:15 and 2:4. Shouldn’t that shape your life?

Put first things first

I said that Timothy would need to put the church back on the right track. You may well have found that you need realigning too. Here are four take-aways to work through.

Be clear about the truth.

God has revealed so much to you about himself in the Bible, and in doing so he has revealed much about you.

  • At Ephesus, in Timothy’s church, they were going down rabbit-holes and sidetracks.
  • But you’re to know what God declares right and wrong; you’re to marvel at Christ as he’s displayed in the Bible.
  • You’re to marvel at God as he’s revealed in Christ.
  • So I encourage you to read your Bible. All of it. Read it quick; read it slow. Morning or evening – whatever works.
  • And take every opportunity to hear his word preached – this instruction was at the heart of what Timothy was to do.
  • But it’s no good preaching to an empty room; your brothers and sisters in China, North Korea would be amazed at how casual some of us are about gathering with God’s people to worship him and hear him speak.

Be honest about sin.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. God wants all people everywhere to be saved.

  • You need to know you’re a sinner to be saved from it.
  • And you don’t grow less aware of sin as time goes by – if you’re moving closer to the light of Christ.
  • Don’t compromise with sin; don’t shipwreck your faith by ignoring your conscience. Keep going to Jesus.

Be careful about godliness.

Remember that the goal of instruction is love, which comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a sincere faith.

  • We don’t stop sinning this side of glory. Which means you can’t stop repenting, and turning to Jesus.
  • Keep walking in the light; keep choosing to love.
  • It’s good to do good; it’s right to do right.
  • Fight the good fight; against falsehood, against injustice.
  • But you never fight alone or under your own strength.
  • Remember our motto text; confident of Christ, approach the throne of grace for divine assistance when you need it. And in spiritual matters, you need it all the time.

Be diligent and outward-focussed in prayer

Of all the things Paul could have put as “first of all” to Timothy, he put prayer.

  • Pray in all sorts of ways for everyone.
  • In particular, pray for a peaceable society – specifically so that you have opportunity to live out your faith and make Christ known.
  • Pray often. Join with God’s people to pray.

The world needs Jesus; it’s God’s desire that everyone be saved.

  • Be clear about the truth – it will motivate you in worship and witness.
  • Be honest about sin – don’t discredit Christ by your bad witness.
  • And be careful about godliness – holiness is your destiny.
  • Be diligent and outward-focussed in prayer – because that reflects God’s own heart and mission in today’s world.