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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:A Trustworthy Saying
Text:1 Timothy 4:9-16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:09/10/2017
Added:2017-10-24
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
“A Trustworthy Saying”
1 Timothy 4:9-16
 
Do you have some favorite sayings? Are there certain expressions that you use frequently? Most of us do have those frequent expressions, and so did the apostle Paul. Five times in his pastoral letters he used the phrase, This is a trustworthy saying…
 
As we read that phrase in verse 9, those with a good memory will note that this is the third time in the first four chapters that the apostle has used this phrase. In 1 Timothy 1:15 he wrote: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.  He used the phrase again in 1 Timothy 3:1 when he wrote: Here is a trustworthy saying: if anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
 
Both uses of that phrase, a trustworthy saying are easy-to-understand. There is nothing more trustworthy than the truth that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. We have looked at that verse when we have had the Lord's Supper together. We take great joy in knowing that the purpose of our Savior's birth was to save his people from their sins, – to save you and me, and all those who truly believe on him with saving faith. That is, after all, the reason why the angel told Joseph to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
 
The second use of that phrase, a trustworthy saying, is also easy-to-understand. 1 Timothy 3:1 describes how it is a noble task for anyone to desire to be an overseer. An overseer in Scripture refers to elders and pastors, the men who serve as under shepherds in caring for the church of Jesus Christ. I am so thankful for the elders of our church; I'm thankful that I do not labor alone but that others have also set their heart in serving in the church as elders and as deacons.
 
But while it is easy to understand those first two “trustworthy sayings” this third one has led to a great deal of debate and some confusion. The Apostle writes in verse 9 and 10: This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.
 
This verse has led to many different interpretations, quite a few which have obvious difficulties. For instance, from this verse some believe that everyone will be saved. They point to 1 Timothy 4:10 and say, “Universal salvation is clearly taught in the Bible. 1 Timothy 4:10 says that the Lord ‘is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe,’ so certainly no one will be condemned but everyone will be saved.”
 
When we compare Scripture with Scripture it is abundantly clear that the apostle is not teaching a universal salvation in this verse, or in any other verse. Quite the opposite, he teaches the same truth as Jesus, namely that there is a broad road which leads to destruction and many are on it. But there is also a narrow path that leads to life; the only ones who find that pathway to life are those who by God’s grace have saving faith in Christ. And they are few in number compared to the great multitude on the broad road of destruction.
 
Another common view of this verse is that it is teaching that the Lord died for all people but he only saves those who believe in him. Those who follow the teaching of a theologian named Jacob Arminius (1560-1609) – known as Arminians – hold that view, and it is the most popular view in churches across our land.
   
At first glance it may seem as though they are correct. It may seem as though this verse takes the wind out of the sails of every Calvinist. Quite the contrary, it does not contradict the biblical doctrines of election and predestination, for it is teaching that God is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe in the sense of God’s common grace being extended to all while his saving grace is extended to the elect.
 
Common Grace
 
Part of God’s common grace is seen in the way that he showers blessings upon people in general. In that way he “saves” both believers and unbelievers. An example is found in Matthew 5:45 where Jesus says, “…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
 
Where would the unbeliever be without God's common grace? The warning given to Adam, regarding not only spiritual death but also physical death for disobedience, would be immediately felt by all if it were not for what we call “common grace.”  But instead, unbelievers receive many blessings from the Lord, even though they do not acknowledge that every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:23).
 
As an example of God being the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe consider the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. All were saved from Egyptian tyranny, but only those who had put (their) hope in the living God (v. 10) were granted salvation.
 
We read about that in our responsive reading from Psalm 95, and the author of Hebrews expands on that truth in Hebrews 3:7-19. The author of Hebrews describes the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, and then he asks, Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
 
It is in that sense that the Lord is the Savior of all men: he delivers all men from various trials throughout their lives, just as he delivered Israel out of slavery in Egypt. However, because unbelievers reject Jesus Christ and do not thank God for his deliverance and provision, their judgment will be more severe.
 
By contrast, God’s saving grace is given just to the elect who are described in verse 10 as especially those who believe. That statement in verse 10 is consistent with the rest of Scripture. Consider Acts 13:48.  After Paul and Barnabas told the Gentiles how salvation was coming to all the ends of the earth – to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews – we read: And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
 
Whenever we take the Lord’s Supper we also hear the truth of God’s electing love. We hear those words of Jesus from Matthew 26:28, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” It is not poured out for all, but for those whom God chose before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (Ephesians 1:4).
 
Consequently, we see that this saying of the apostle is truly a trustworthy saying. Far from teaching a universal salvation, or teaching that God is not sovereign in salvation, as Arminians teach,  this verse is in complete harmony with the rest of Scripture.  God delivers humanity from more calamities than people will ever realize. In that sense he is the Savior of all men. But his true saving grace, salvation and the gift of everlasting life, are only given to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
The Necessity of a Good Example
 
The next paragraph (in the NIV) impresses upon us the importance of living in such a way that we set a good example.  I'm sure that you children have heard from your parents over and over, “You need to set a good example for others.” Some children – usually those who are the oldest ones in the family – think they hear that too often, “Ýou have to be a good example for your younger brothers and sisters!”
   
But being a good example is important no matter what age you are and no matter what you do in life, whether you are a pastor like Timothy or a member of the church, whether in Ephesus so long ago or in a local congregation today.  For all of us, living our lives as a good example of what it means to be a Christian, is crucial.
 
For Timothy it was especially important because he was young. Although he had gone on a missionary trip with Paul he was still a novice as a pastor.  And so in verse 12 the apostle Paul tells him not to let anyone look down on him because of his age.  And he goes on to tell him, written between the lines, that he will win the respect of others, even though he was young, by setting an example in five specific areas: in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity. And each one of those areas is applicable for you and for me.
 
By our speech others recognize whether we are truly Christians or whether we only go to church. There are some professing Christians whose language during the week is a far cry from their language on Sunday. Consistency is a mark of true Christianity, and the way we speak Monday through Saturday needs to be consistent with the way we speak on Sunday.
 
Paul tells Timothy to set an example, not only in speech, but also in life. That covers everything, doesn't it? He is saying, “Your whole life has to be an example of what it means to follow Christ.”  And the apostle could make that statement because he tried, with all that was within him, to follow Christ himself, and by following Christ to set an example for others in every aspect of his life. We read that in several passages including 1 Corinthians 11:1 where Paul writes: Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
 
A third area to set an example for others is in love. There is no greater virtue than love. The Bible tells us repeatedly that we are to love others as we have been loved by God. God's love to us is unconditional. God's love to us is consistent; his love is self-sacrificing, and his love includes tough love, for God disciplines those whom he loves for their own good. If we have truly experienced the love of God in our lives, then, by necessity, his love must flow from our lives into the lives of those around us.
 
A fourth area to set an example in is in our faith. To set an example in our faith means that we trust the Lord even – or especially – when we face conflict and trouble in our lives. The Bible has many examples of those who seem to have true saving faith, until the troubles of life or the allurements of the world, draw them away.
 
When Jesus told the parable of the sower and the seed, he clearly taught that many who profess to believe do not have faith in their heart, because when the going gets tough they show that they have no root; their lives reveal that they are not firmly established on the solid rock of Christ.
 
We see that truth so frequently. We have perhaps all known those whose faith seems to wither away when trouble or temptation comes. And we have all known those whose faith through the fiery trials of life sets a wonderful example for all the rest of us. And Paul is telling us here that we are to live out our faith in such a way that we set a good example for others.
 
The fifth area in which Timothy was to set an example, and we are as well, is in purity. Ephesus, where Timothy served as a pastor, was an exceptionally immoral city. It was the home to the Temple of Diana, also known as Artemis. Worship within that temple involved prostitutes, both male and female. Timothy lived in an extremely immoral climate. He and the members of the church at Ephesus certainly needed this warning to set an example and purity.
 
But that message was not only crucial for Timothy in his day; it is equally crucial – and perhaps more crucial – today. Timothy had no Internet. There was no such thing as Internet porn. Timothy had no subscription to cable TV with all the impurity that is found on it.
 
No matter what era of time you live in, it is crucial to set an example in purity. It is a crucial example to set because there will always be the temptation to be impure;  that temptation will always be put before you by the world, the devil and the inclination of your own sinful nature.
 
The Link of Life and Doctrine
 
And that it is why it is so important that our doctrine and our conduct are in harmony. Paul has been weaving that concept between the lines of this entire letter and it comes out very clearly in verse 16 where he tells us, Watch your life and doctrine closely.
 
Unfortunately there so often seems to be two sets of professing Christians. There are those who have correct doctrine but very little fruit. They may know the truth of the catechism and the confessions, they may be able to summarize the great truths of Scripture succinctly, but their lives seem dead. Their day-to-day living doesn't correspond with their doctrine. Worse yet, there are some professing Christians whose conduct absolutely and completely contradicts their doctrine.
 
On the other end of the scale are those professing Christians who would do anything for anyone. They take seriously Jesus’ words about going the second mile, they would give the shirt of their back to help someone else; they seem to live by the Golden Rule, treating others as they themselves would like to be treated. But often they do not have sound doctrine. The motive of going the second mile and doing good deeds for others is often a motive of self-righteousness. Instead of being grounded in gratitude for what Christ alone has done in bringing salvation to his people, there is often a self-righteous effort which is aimed at earning one's own salvation.
 
But verse 16, as well as the verses leading up to it, stress how important it is to watch both our life and our doctrine. The two must go together hand in hand. And in order to help the members of the church to have both sound doctrine and a godly life, Timothy is told, by way of application, how crucial authoritative preaching and teaching of Scripture is to any congregation.
 
The Necessity of Authoritative Preaching
 
When the apostle uses the word “command” in verse 11 – Command and teach these things – he is telling Timothy to preach with authority. The preaching of the word of God is not a series of suggestions, but rather a divinely directed plan telling us how to live our lives.
 
This, too, is a message that is so important for the church today. Did you notice the stress that verse 13 puts on public worship? The apostle writes: Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching. Timothy is further told not to neglect his gift; it is speaking about his ordination with the elders laying their hands upon him when he began his service as a pastor.
 
The apostle wanted to drive home that if the church at Ephesus was to set a good example of what it means to be Christian, and if their members were to have both a godly life and sound doctrine, then there must be faithful, authoritative preaching of the word of God.
 
Unfortunately, in a growing number of churches there is no longer a public reading of Scripture, as commanded in verse 13. A verse or two, or maybe even a dozen, will be flashed up on the screen to back up the point that a pastor is making, but the faithful public reading, preaching, and teaching of Scripture is greatly neglected in many churches today.
        
And that is part of the reason why many people who attend church on Sunday don't set a godly example Monday through Saturday, and why their doctrine and life don't match. Part of the problem is that they are not under the faithful teaching and preaching of Scripture which is publicly read and systematically studied and applied.
 
The Necessity of Diligence and Perseverance
 
We also see in this passage where diligence and perseverance are paramount virtues for everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus. If we are to set a good example for others, if our life and doctrine are to go hand-in-hand, then we must be diligent in these matters, as verse 15 puts it. To be diligent in these matters means that day by day there is a constant effort to live out our faith, to harmonize our life with our doctrine and to set a godly example for others. To have such a goal takes diligence.
    
And to have such a goal takes perseverance. Verse 16 says, Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. Timothy persevered. He persevered the only way that anyone can persevere, and that is by God's grace working within him; he used the means God has given to persevere.
 
We have every reason to believe that Timothy was diligent in his study of the Scriptures. He was diligent in living those Scriptures out so that his life and doctrine matched, and by doing so he set a good example for the church in Ephesus. It is in that sense that the apostle writes that by persevering in these things Timothy would save both himself and his hearers (v. 16). God alone saves, but he uses means to an end, including the truths in this passage.
 
* * *
Do you have some favorite expressions? Are there some slogans that mark your speech? The Apostle Paul had some favorite phrases, such as his five separate uses of, “This is a trustworthy saying…” 
 
What a blessing to have full trust and confidence in the Scriptures! What a blessing to have full trust and confidence that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, that he came to establish the church that is built upon himself, the solid Rock. How thankful we can be that it is a trustworthy saying that it is good when men desire to serve in the church, whether as pastors or elders or deacons.
 
And this third trustworthy saying harmonizes with all the rest of Scripture. God is so very gracious as he extends grace – unmerited favor – to all humanity. He allows his rain to fall on the fields of the unrighteous as well is the righteous. But it is only to those who, in the words of verse 9, have put their hope in the living God who truly have salvation.
 
Is that where your hope is? Is that where your trust and faith are rooted – on the living God – on the Lord Jesus Christ? – So may it be, this day and always! Amen.
 
- bulletin outline -
 
This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance… (1 Timothy 4:9)
 
“A Trustworthy Saying”
1 Timothy 4:9-16
 
I. These verses comprise three paragraphs (in the NIV) which teach us:
     1) God is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe (10) in the sense that His common grace is extended to all (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17) but
         His saving grace is extended to the elect (Matthew 26:28; Acts 13:48; Ephesians 1:4, 11) *
 
     
 
  
      2) As believers, we must set an example for others (12)
 
 
 
 
      3) Our doctrine and our conduct must harmonize (16)
 
 
 
 
II. Application: In order to set an example and to harmonize life and doctrine, authoritative preaching and teaching of Scripture (11-14) is crucial; diligence (15)
    and perseverance (16) are paramount virtues
 
 
 
 
 
 
* An example of God saving all is the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. All were saved from Egyptian tyranny, but only those who had put (their) hope in the
   living God (10) were granted salvation (Psalm 95:11; Hebrews 3:7-19)
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 09/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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