Monday, August 16, 2010

One Way

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

5 εἷς γὰρ θεός, εἷς καὶ μεσίτης θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων, ἄνθρωπος Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς, 6  ὁ δοὺς ἑαυτὸν ἀντίλυτρον ὑπὲρ πάντων, τὸ μαρτύριον καιροῖς ἰδίοις.

There is an ecumencial spirit afoot in our time that believes in many paths to God.  The goal of life is simply to live in a Christ-like way.  If we do that, these folks say, then we will be at one with the Divine.  That's all that really matters.

This passage tells us otherwise.  As we learned way back in John 14:6, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light.  It is only through His sacrifice that man may be reconciled to God.  This passage speaks to the reality of what theologians call penal substitutionary atonement.  Christ paid our penalty for sin.  We deserved the death that He died on the cross.  He did this that we may live.

We do need to be careful with this verse though.  We see that He gave Himself as a ransom ὑπὲρ πάντων, which means literally, "in behalf of all."  The caution must be exercised with the definition of "all."  If we take this to mean every person who has ever and will ever live then we move toward universalism.  If we rip this out as a proof-text we can see that.  But if we read this within the canon of Scripture (and even just the surrounding verses) we see that Paul is saying something quite radical to his audience.  Christ died not just to save Jews, but also to save Gentiles.

In other words, when Paul writes "all" here, he refers to the fact that Christ's death secured the salvation of Gentile believers as well as Jewish believers.  He is not teaching universalism here, but rather explaining to the Jews that the love of God goes beyond the descendants of Abraham.  As a Gentile I rejoice in this fact.

Let this be a lesson to read every passage in its context, both immediate and far.  To do otherwise is quite dangerous lest we fall into universalism and lose all zeal for evangelism.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Absolutely right about this. Universalism is impossible, as long as there is free will. Some Orthodox Church fathers, Isaac of Syria, for example, push the limits. See:

But the Word is quite clear, as you have shown. The Word cannot be looked at, as some do, as through the wrong end of a telescope. Only those who live in the Word can hope to probe its meaning with certainty.

Jason said...

I would agree with you, depending on how you define "free will." I would maintain that Scripture teaches us that man is born dead in his sin. In other words, our free will is bent toward sinning. We do not always choose to sin in our unregenerate state, but we are sinners by nature and by choice until God saves us.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

I agree, brother.