This week my wife and daughter were introduced to a new puppy while they were at my In-laws. A friend of the family had just bought him and they wanted to show him off, so they brought him over.
My wife said that the puppy loved Katelyn. They didn’t know if it was just because Katelyn was smaller or what, but the puppy wouldn’t give anyone else much attention. It would follow Katelyn around everywhere she went. If Katelyn ran somewhere, it ran after her. There were others around. No doubt they were ready to lavish the dog with attention as we are big dog lovers. But the dog wouldn’t be distracted. It stuck with our daughter.
There was something about my daughter with which the dog had become infatuated. As a result, nothing (or nobody) else mattered.
That is but a small example of what happens to all God’s creatures, including us. As creatures of habit we are prone to sectarianism. After we join a certain circle and find acceptance there, we begin to ignore or neglect what is outside of that little sphere. What is familiar and dearly beloved becomes our normal range of concern. Even though there are lots of different people all around us, we don’t concern ourselves with them.
And while this is not necessarily a bad thing, we must never allow such sectarianism appear within our church. There is a danger that we can become exclusive. Though nothing is written, we can make certain rules or set a certain culture. As a result our church can become like an elite club. The members of a church can become so introverted that they build a wall between themselves and rest of the world.
Our passage urges us to guard against sectarianism. It urges us to reflect the cosmic scope of Christianity in three very practical ways. It tells us to expand the range of our prayers, see the extent of our Lord’s salvation, broaden the reach of our ministry.
In order to reflect the cosmic Scope of Christianity, verses one and two tell us that…
I. We must expand the range of our prayers
This is what Paul urges us to do in verses 1, 2. He says, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."
I would bet, if we were to examine each of our prayer lists, we would find them to be very exclusive. I would assume that they would be limited to family members and those within the church.
That we are praying for such items is a wonderful thing. And that we are regularly interceding for our dear loved ones shows that we are following the biblical mandate to do so. It is good that we call upon the Lord for our needs and offer our burdens to him in times of secret prayer. But our prayers should not be limited to these areas.
The Lord calls us to expand the range of our prayers. He wants us to pray for all kinds of people. That’s what he means in this verse. He does not mean that we should pray for every person in the world. That is impossible, and it would be an absurd thing to require of us.
No, that he means we should pray for all kinds of people is evident from verse 2. He clarifies what he means by specifying a certain kind of people, namely kings and those in high positions.
Obviously here he indicates that we should be in prayer for our national and civil leaders. And this is a matter of great importance. Our leaders make decisions every day that affect our lives. Their policies affect the freedoms we enjoy as citizens and especially as Christians. Therefore, it is important that we intercede on their behalf, asking that they may be filled with wisdom and grace.
Now we do not have to do this every time we bow our heads in supplication. Maybe it will be once during the day, or perhaps you select a specific day of the week to pray for leaders. You might set aside every Monday, or rather include them in your Sunday afternoon prayers. The occasion doesn’t matter. What is important is that we devote some time in prayer for those whom God has placed in authority over us.
But keep in mind that we can be exclusive even here. By that I mean that we can pray for leaders, but only the ones we like.
It is a great thing to hear so many people lifting up our president in prayer. Ever since he came to office the Christian community has been diligent to pray that he be protected and guided by God’s wisdom. But I’m not so sure that the oval office has always been so privileged. We have been earnest for President Bush, but did we demonstrate the same sort of diligence for former president, President Clinton?
We were disgusted with his immorality. We did not like his womanizing. Some of us might not have liked his policies either. But did these things make us pray for him, or keep us from it?
When God calls us to pray for all people, he means all kinds of people, even those we don’t like.
If you think about it, those authority figures we are most frustrated with are the ones who need the most prayer. Those who might not be as favorable to Christianity are the ones who are most liable to make our lives miserable. And we are commanded to pray for them. Why? The passage says, “That we may live a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Our prayers are God’s instruments of peace. They are the tuning forks that God uses to bring harmony where conflict exists.
Christianity is an inclusive religion. That is why we must expand the range of our prayers. But since its scope is so wide, we must also see the extend of God’s salvation…
II. See the extent of our God’s salvation
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,  who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
If we are going to pray for all kinds of people, we need the right perspective. And verses 3-6 give us the perspective we need. These verses say that God desires to save all kinds of people. Now note how I said that, “God wants to save all kinds of people.”
Some people like to use this verse against Calvinism. They think that this verse proves that the doctrine of predestination isn’t real. Their argument goes like this: “God wants to save all people, but, as we readily see, not everyone is saved. So God doesn’t effect salvation, he just provides it.” They argue then like this, “Jesus died for all, but anyone who is saved has to make himself believe.” Just like a waiter with a plate of h’ordeurves. Rather than God giving you the h’orderve, He provides the h’ordeurves. And, in your own strength, you have to reach up and grab it.
But such a belief doesn’t understand that we can’t reach up and grab God’s salvation. It doesn’t understand that we are dead in our sins, and have no ability whatsoever to make ourselves saved.
What we need to do is look at this verse in its context. Remember that we just said of verse 1 that we are to pray for “all kinds of people.” We noted that one kind of people we are to pray for are those of rank, our authorities. The same idea is used here. Jesus did not die for every individual, he died for all kinds of people. God does not want every person that ever lived to be saved from hell, he desires to save some people, that is all kinds of people.
Let me say it like this: God, out of his mere good pleasure, decreed to save people of every race, rank, and region. In heaven we will find that Jesus died and brought salvation to a great host of people. This people will be as diverse as there are people on this earth. Revelation 5:9 illustrates this. It says of Jesus, “You were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” In other words, there is going to be representatives from across the globe in heaven.
And this is exactly the point God wants us to see. To keep from becoming sectarian we must see that God’s plan of salvation reaches beyond the little borders we erect. If we are going to pray for all people we must understand that God’s salvation extends that far.
When I was at the Twin Lakes conference this past week the Lord helped me to realize this. The camp cite we were on was immense. There was a pool, multiple dorms and cabins, basketball courts, eating facilities, a lodge, high ropes courses, challenge courses. I knew that the camp was big, but I was only familiar with the main lodge and my cabin. And these two were right beside each other. My view of the campus was quite limited. It was only when I was taken on a tour of the camp that I came to realize how big the camp really was. For about an hour 8 of us road through the woods on various trails to see the sights. At points our guide would stop and point out and say over there is where we have horse riding. I would look where he was pointing only to see a vast sea of grass stretching out before me. At the end of our tour we had only viewed a small fractin of the 460 acres the church owned. I was blown away at the how immense that place really was.
This is the type of view God wants us to have of his vast salvation. He wants us to look beyond our little circle of familiarity and see that He is saving a vast multitude. He wants us to marvel at his limitless mercy. He wants us to view the extent of his salvation and see just a small glimpse of how gracious he really is.
And He does that so that we will move out beyond our little neighborhood. God does not want us to be a Christian ghetto. God doesn’t look at the outside of a person like we do. We look at someone and think, “Hey, that person is weird. They dress weird, they act weird.” And what we do we do, we put them on the untouchable list.
But God shows us that he touches the untouchable. God’s salvation is not dependent on one’s age, one’s dress, one’s economic status, or personal quirks. God gives salvation to whoever he wants, and he chooses different people, even weird people, (he saved you didn’t he?).
Because Christianity is cosmic, God wants you to expand the range of your prayers, He wants you to see the extent of his salvation. Most of all, God wants you to broaden the sphere of your ministry.
III. Broaden the sphere of our ministry
Look at verse 7. It says, "For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle ( I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth."
Paul didn’t choose to be an apostle. He didn’t even want to be an apostle. As a matter of fact he wanted to kill the apostles. But one day as he was going off to Damascus, Jesus appeared to him. He said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Paul responded, “Who are you lord?” “Jesus said, I am Jesus who you are persecuting.” Jesus then went on to say that He was drafting Paul into His service and making Paul the head of foreign relations. Jesus made Paul His Ambassador to the Gentiles. (See Acts 9:13-17, 22:17-21, 26:12-18 for a further description)
Now think about who Paul was. He was a Jew, and a really good one at that. In Philipians 2 he calls himself a Hebrew of Hebrews. He was trained in the best Jewish seminary. He grew up in Jerusalem, which is like the Paris of Jewish culture. Now you have to wonder if God really knew what he was doing. I can just see Paul saying, “You’re sending me to who? Ah, Jesus, I don’t think you understand the ethnic and geographical demographics going on here. You see, we Jews don’t associate with Gentiles. We don’t have that much in common, and we really don’t like each other that much.”
But God knew exactly what He was doing when he appointed Paul to this position. God was saying to Paul, “Hey, Paul. This Christianity thing, it’s not just for Jews. I created all types of people, and I want to save all kinds of people. And to get you used to what it is going to be like in heaven, I’m going to send you to people you’re not used to.”
The gospel is cross-cultural. The problem is: we aren’t. God created an array of people, as diverse as the colors on a rainbow. But we tend to keep the gospel in our little ghetto.
One of my friends in seminary made a very good point a few years back. He said, our problem is we think that the gospel is only for upper middle class suburban white males. In other words, we think the gospel is only for us.
But there are no Jim Crow laws attached to the gospel. It’s not for whites only. It’s for black people and for Asian people; for children and for the elderly; it’s for the inner city as well as for Billy Joe-Bob in the hills of West Virginia.
Our ministry must reflect that. We can’t be playing duck-duck-goose with the gospel. You know how that game is played don’t you. You go around the circle patting each kid on the head saying duck-duck-duck. And while your going around the circle your thinking about who are you going to goose. You only get one chance to be the goose-er and you don’t want to waste it on just anybody. So you try to pick just the right person.
And that’s how we can be with the gospel. We can go around, “No not you, no, no, no, not you.” And we disguise it with nice little rationalizations like “You’re too sinful.” Or “You wouldn’t fit in at our church.” Or maybe we say, “Someone with that many tattoos just wouldn’t get what the gospel is all about.” So rather than giving the gospel out indiscriminately, or administering compassion to someone in need, we withhold it until just the right person comes along.”
But God calls us to broaden the sphere of our ministry. He calls us to reach out to the different kinds of people he sets all around us. He could be a punk rocker or she might be someone we try to avoid. But if they are in our lives, God calls us to be ready to minister to them, no matter how different they are. Christianity is cosmic, and our ministry must reflect it.
If you have ever gone to Disney World in Orlando Florida you’ve been able to sample a bit of the world. There a section of Disney World that exposes you to all the different foods from a lot of different places. And as you sample those different cultures you get the idea that the world is a lot more wide-ranging than you’re used to. And if you think about it, it’s not a small world after all! It’s vast and diverse.
That’s the sort of religion Christianity is. God created a big world and he filled it with all kinds of people. And as the people of God, we should reflect that in our lives. God calls us to see that his salvation extends across this globe and reaches an array of people. With this view of the breadth of God’s salvation we should be ready to expand the range of our prayers, praying for people beyond our normal circles. And knowing that God is bringing a vast multitude to himself, we should be ready to minister to all sorts of people, even people who are radically different than us.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.