A Commentary by John Stott
1 Timothy. 2:7. d). The church’s proclamation must concern all people.
Paul’s statement at the end of verse 6 is so compressed as to be enigmatic: *the testimony given in its proper time*. Some commentators think that it is the death of Christ which, at the proper time, when it took place, is itself the divine witness of God’s loving desire to save sinners. But since Paul goes on at once in verse 7 to the contemporary proclamation of the gospel, it seems more probable that this is the testimony to which he is referring. The birth and death of Jesus took place in the first century; now *in its proper time* testimony to him has to be borne. *And for this purpose [sc. of witness] I was appointed a herald and an apostle – I am telling the truth, I am not lying – and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles* (7).
How are we to understand the three nouns ‘herald’, ‘apostle’ and ‘teacher’? Paul was all three, but nobody is all three today. As we noted when considering the first verse of this letter, the designation ‘apostle’, when used of the ‘apostles of Christ’ in distinction to the ‘apostles of the churches’, alluded primarily to the Twelve, to whom Paul and James were later added. They were eye-witnesses of the historic Jesus, especially of his resurrection, were promised the special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and were given authority to teach in Christ’s name. In addition, Paul was appointed the ‘apostle to the Gentiles’. His strong ejaculation that he was telling the truth and not lying (cf. Rom.9:1; 2 Cor.11:31; Gal.1:20) was probably necessary because the false teachers were challenging his apostolic authority.
Although there are no ‘apostles’ of Christ today, who are comparable in inspiration and authority to the writers of the New Testament, there are certainly ‘heralds’ and ‘teachers’. How shall we describe their responsibilities? It was the task of the apostles to formulate, defend and commend the gospel. It is the task of the heralds to proclaim it, and of teachers to give systematic instruction in its doctrines and ethics.
What, then, do we proclaim and teach? Jesus Christ, the God-man, the ransom and the mediator, and all that is implied by those truths. To whom do they minister? *To the Gentiles*, all people of all nations. How do they do so? ‘In faith and truth’ (NRSV). The NIV and REB take these words as indicating the substance of the Christian message and so translate ‘the true faith’. In the context it seems more likely that ‘faith’ and ‘truth’ describe the characteristics rather than the content of the teaching. That is, heralds preach and teachers instruct with conviction and sincerity. Or possibly ‘truth’ may be the objective truth of the gospel. while ‘faith’ is the subjective state of the teacher. There is an urgent need for such heralds and teachers today. It is not enough that the Son of God was born, died and was raised, or that he is the uniquely qualified God-man, ransom and mediator; this great good news must be made known, both heralded and taught, throughout the world.
In summary, the first half of this chapter begins and ends with a reference to the church’s world-wide responsibility. The local church has a global mission. According to verse 1 the church is to pray for all people; according to verse 7 it is to proclaim the gospel to all people, all nations. But how can the church be expected to include the whole world in the embrace of its intercession and its witness? Is not this perspective arrogant, presumptuous, even imperialistic? No! Chrysostom at the end of the fourth century gave us the reason: ‘Imitate God!’ he cried. That is, the universal concern of the church arises from the universal concern of God. It is because there is one God and one mediator that all people must be included in the church’s prayers and proclamation. It is the unity of God and the uniqueness of Christ which demand the universality of the gospel. God’s desire and Christ’s death concern all people; therefore the church’s duty concerns all people too, reaching out to them both in earnest prayer and in urgent witness.
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.