On the First Epistle to Timothy

Chapter 2:5-7.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 337 - June 1884


Chapter 2:5-7

This gives occasion to a broad and weighty statement of divine truth.

"For there is one God, one mediator also of God and men, a man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, the testimony in its own times, to which I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I speak truth, I lie not), a teacher of Gentiles in faith and truth" (ver. 5-7).

The unity of God is the foundation truth of the Old Testament; as it was the central testimony for which the Jewish people were responsible, in a world everywhere else given over to idolatry. We must add that Jehovah, the God of Israel, was that one Jehovah, His proper name in relationship with His people on earth. "Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he; before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am Jehovah; and beside me there is no Saviour" (Isa. xliii).

But during the Jewish economy God, though known to be one, was not known as He is. " He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel." He dwelt in the thick darkness, even where He surrounded Himself with a people for a possession, and a veil shrouded what display there was of the divine presence; so that the high priest approached but once a year, with clouds of incense and not without blood lest he die. It was only Jesus that made Rim truly known, as we see (where it might least have been expected) by that act of incomparable grace in which He was fulfilling all righteousness when baptized of John in the Jordan. There, as the Holy Spirit descended en Him, the Father from heaven proclaimed Him to be His beloved Son. The Trinity stood revealed. It is in the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that God, the one God, is really known. Without Jesus this was impossible; when He takes the first step, the Trinity in unity shines out,—love and light, wherein is no darkness at all. How infinite is our debt to the Word made flesh, who deigned to tabernacle with us, Only-begotten Son who declared God and revealed the Father.

Thus, as we need, we have an adequate image of the invisible God; and this Jesus is "mediator of God and men," though mediation of course goes farther than representation. For there are two parts in it, His manhood and His ransom, both of special moment if God is to be known and if man, sinful man, is to be suitably blessed in the knowledge of God.

The mediator is a man, that God may be known of men. The Absolute is divided from the relative (and we, indeed creatures universally, are necessarily relative) by a gulf impassable 'to us. But if man cannot himself rise to God, and those of mankind who are by grace righteous would most of all repudiate and abhor so presumptuous a thought, God can and does in infinite love come down to man, to man in his guilt and misery with an endless judgment before him.

This however does not meet all that is wanted, though it blessedly manifests the love of God in the gift of His own Son that we through faith might have life, eternal life, in Him. Yet even this free gift, immense as it is, does not suffice, for we were lost sinners; and so we need to be brought to God, freed from our sins, and cleansed for His presence in light. He therefore sent His Son as propitiation for our sins. Herein indeed is love, not that we loved Him (though we ought to have so done), but that He loved us, and proved it in this way, divine and infinite, of His only-begotten Son sent to suffer unspeakably for our sins on the cross, that we might through the faith of Him be without spot or stain before God (where otherwise we could not be), and might know it even now on earth by the Holy Ghost gives to us. So here it is said that He "gave Himself a ransom for all."

Hence, as God is one, it is important to remark the unity of the Mediator. Here the Catholic system, and not Rome only, though Rome most, has sinned against the truth. For the oneness of the Mediator is as sure, vital, and characteristic a testimony of Christianity as the oneness of God was of the law. It is not only that Christ Jesus is Mediator, but there is this "one" only. The introduction of angels is a base invention that savours of Judaism. And who required it at their hands to set the departed saints, or the virgin. Mary, in the least share of that glory which is Christ's alone? Head of the body, as also of all things, can admit of no fellowship. He only of divine persons is Mediator; and though He is so as man, to claim partnership for any other of mankind (living or dead makes no real difference as to this), is not short of treason against Him. Not only is it not true that any other in heaven or earth shares in mediation, but the assertion of it for the highest of creatures is a lie of Satan, as subversive of christianity as polytheism was the direct and insulting denial of the one true God.

And most solemn and affecting it is to see that, as the Jew (called to bear witness of the one God) broke down in the foulest adoption of heathen idolatry, so Christendom has betrayed its trust at least as signally in the especial point of fidelity to its transcendent treasure and peculiar glory. For the Greek church is in this respect only less faulty than the Romish; and what are Nestorians, Copts, Abyssiniais, &c.? The Protestant bodies are doubtless less gross in their standards of doctrine; but the present state of Anglicanism shows how even its services admit of an enormous infusion of objects before their votaries which detract from the glory of the Lord Jesus.

There is however another end an opposite way in which professing christians may be false to the mediation of Christ, not by adding others which practically divide His work and share His honour, but by supplanting and in effect denying it altogether. It is not open Arians or Unitarians alone who are thus guilty, but rationalists of all sorts, whether in the national bodies or in the dissenting systems. The incarnation, if owned in terms, is really robbed of all its glory and blessedness; for if Christ Jesus were but "a man," why or how could He be mediator of God and men? Superiority in degree is no adequate basis. It is His divine nature which makes His becoming man so precious; as it is the union of both in His person, which gives character to His love, and efficacy to His sacrifice, and value to His ransom. Here the faithlessness, not of the party of tradition, but of the school of human reason and philosophy, its antipodes in Christendom, is as painfully conspicuous. God is only an idea and therefore unknown; as He who alone can make Him known or fit man to serve and enjoy and magnify Him, the one Mediator, Jesus, is ignored in His divine glory, His manhood being cried up perhaps, but only, if so, to set aside His deity.

Thoroughly in keeping with the large character of the Epistle, it is said that He "gave Himself a ransom for all." It is not special counsels, which cannot fail of accomplishment, as in Ephesians v., where Christ, it is said, loved the church, or assembly, and gave Himself up for it; and so the apostle goes en to say, as he does not here, that He might sanctify it, purifying it by the washing of water by the word, that He might present the church to Himself glorious, having no spot or wrinkle, or any of such things, but that it might be holy and blameless. Here the same apostle treats of the answer in the Mediator's work to God's nature and willingness to save, in face of man's will who, as His enemy, expects no good from God, and believes not the fullest proof of grace in Christ's death, nor would be persuaded when He who died in love rose in righteousness from the dead to seal the truth with that unquestionable stamp of divine power. It is "a ransom for all," whoever may bow and reap the blessing, which those do who, renouncing their own proud will for God's mercy, repent and believe the gospel.

"Its own times" came for "the testimony" when man's wickedness was all out in its hatred, not merely of God's law, but of God's Son. As long as it was but failure in duty or violation of commands, divine patience lengthened out the day of probation, whatever the enormous provocation from time to time, as we see in the inspired history of the Jew. But the cross was hatred of divine love and perfect goodness, God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not reckoning to them their offences; but Him even thus, yea perhaps because it was thus, they would not have Him at any price, hating Him without a cause, hating Him most of all for a love beyond all.

Thus was man, not Gentile only but Jew if possible yet more, proved to be lost; and en this ground the gospel goes forth to all, "the testimony in its own times." It is salvation for the lost as all are, for him that believes; God's righteousness (for man universally had been shown to have none),—God's righteousness unto all (such is the aspect of divine grace) and upon all that believe (such is the effect where there is faith in Jesus). Therein God is just and justifies the believer.

Here it is "the testimony," and accordingly the direction or scope "unto all," rather than the blessed result where it is received in faith. And therefore to "the testimony" it is consistently added "to which I was appointed preacher (or herald), and apostle," giving the first place to that which was not highest but most akin for proclaiming it, though not leaving out but bringing in for its support the apostleship. For indeed the apostle was not ashamed of the gospel, but emphasises clearly his own full and high relation to it ("I speak truth, I lie not"), and closes all up with the title of (not a prophet to Israel as in probationary times but), "a teacher of Gentiles in faith and truth." For now sovereign grace was not only the spring but the display in Christ Jesus the Lord. Where sin abounded, grace over-abounded; that, even as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.