A Commentary by John Stott
1 Timothy. 2:3-4. b). God’s desire concerns all people (continued).
The universality of the gospel invitation rests on a double foundation, namely the two truths that there is only one God and only one mediator. Paul states these facts about God and Christ with such an economy of words that some have wondered if he is quoting from an early creedal statement. If so, he still endorses it with his own apostolic authority.
He begins: *For there is one God* (5a). The fundamental contrast in verses 4 and 5 is between the *all men* God wants to be saved and the *one God* who desires that they should be. The reason he wants *all* to be saved is that he is the *one* God and there is no other.
Supposing there were not one God, but many, and that the truth about God were not monotheism but polytheism. Supposing there were, as the Greeks believed, a pantheon of many gods, or even, as popular Hinduism holds, millions of deities. Then presumably these many gods would either share out the human race between them, by some amicable comity arrangement, or engage in a fierce, competitive struggle with each other for the allegiance of human beings, as was represented in the grotesque mythologies of ancient Greece and Rome. But if there were many gods, no single deity would presume to claim a monopoly of the world’s worship – or not until he had defeated his rivals in some unseemly celestial battle!
Over against such ludicrous speculations Scripture insists on the unity of God. In the Old Testament the recited Shema began with the declaration, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one’ (Dt.6:4). It was the basis of his demand for his people’s wholehearted and exclusive love (Dt.6:5). This fundamental truth found further expression in Isaiah: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God’ (Is.45:5 cf. 44:6ff.; 45:14, 18ff.; 46:9). Hence the so-called ‘jealousy’ of God. Jealousy is the resentment of rivals. Whether it is good or evil depends on whether the rivals have any legitimacy. God’s rivals have not, because they are false gods, indeed ‘no-gods’. It is in the context of idolatry that he says, ‘I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…’ (Ex.20:5). He is intolerant of rivals; he refuses to share with any other the worship which is due to him alone. ‘I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols’ (Is.42:8; cf. 48:11). Hence too his invitation to the nations to believe in him: ‘Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other’ (Is.45:22). So it is already plain in the Old Testament that it is the uniqueness of Yahweh as the only God which justifies his ‘jealousy’ and so his universal mission, calling on every knee to bow to him and every tongue to swear by his name (Is.45:23).
Precisely the same reasoning is found in the New Testament. Indeed Paul keeps repeating it. ‘There is but one God, the Father,’ he writes, who is the creator and heir of all things (1 Cor.8:6). Again, ‘there is…one God and Father of all’ (Eph.4:6). And here in 1 Timothy, *there is one God* (2:5; cf.1:17; 6:15). Further, it is because ‘there is only one God’ that he is not the God of the Jews only but the God of the Gentiles too (Rom.3:29-30). Thus both Old and New Testaments affirm first that God is one and then that this monotheism is the fundamental basis of world mission. Our *exclusive* faith (*there is one God*, and no other) leads necessarily to our *inclusive* mission (the one God *wants all men to be saved*).
Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 2:5-6. c). Christ’s death concerns all people.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 Timothy. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.