GOD’S DESIRE

Are God’s desires something that can go unfulfilled? Is God’s plan for mankind dependent upon man’s willingness to line up with that plan? Is it really possible that our freedom of choice could actually frustrate God’s desire? What do you think?

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To say that a desire is just a wish that something might happen cannot be appled to God and His purposes for mankind.

I was raised as a Catholic from the time I was born.

I was baptized as a baby, had my first communion when I was six and became an altar boy when I was seven.

I attended Catholic school for my entire 12 years of pre-college education.

During my senior year, I became more spiritually aware than I had ever been up to that point.

I attended Wednesday night Novena on a regular basis.

Novenas were a time of special prayers and petitions made to the Lord through the mediation of Mary, also known as the Blessed Virgin.

I served at Mass almost every school day for Father Licari who could do the whole Mass in less than 15 minutes.

In spite of my best efforts at devotion, nothing took. Nothing stuck.

When I joined the Navy the summer of my graduation, I was essentially done with religion.

But then one Wednesday night in downtown Norfolk, VA I allowed one of the street evangelists to talk to me.

He gave me a card and said if I ever wanted to talk I should call him.

I did eventually call him and he invited me out to his house to talk.

He showed me the passage from 1 Tim. 2:5

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
1Ti 2:5

I was not at a place where the Bible meant anything to me at the time, but those words began a work in me that eventually brought me into the things of God.

As a Catholic, I knew that Mary was the mediator of all graces, because I carried a picture holy card in my pocket that said so.

But this thought from Timothy worked its magic in my mind.

I began to realize that the pope was not a mediator, the priest was not a mediator, the nuns were not a mediator, Mary was not a mediator, the saints were not mediators.

No one stood between me and the Lord.

I did not have to ask any one of those to pray for me, because I could go straight to God on my own behalf.

This is true for each and everyone of us.

There is only one mediator between God and you, and that is Jesus.

That also means that no one’s prayers are any better than yours including mine.

I get requests all the time to pray for folks, and I don’t mind doing so.

Often, though, those requests are preceded by “since you are a pastor, would you pray for me?”

My being a pastor has nothing to do with our coming to the Lord.

Under the Old Covenant, the Israelites were met with a mediator called the priests or the High Priest.

Jesus changed all that.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are,
yet without sin.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace,
that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Heb 4:14-16

That last verse is written to us all.

We can with confidence draw near to the throne of grace when we have a need.

This verse in Timothy about the mediation of Jesus is linked to a very important concept which is presented in our Scripture Lesson this morning.

Jesus as mediator is linked to the truth that we are all supposed to come to know.

(God), who desires all people to be saved
and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1Ti 2:4

This is one of those verses which causes people to argue over God’s plan for man.

Before I get to that, though, let’s first realize that this is one of those parallelisms here that I have been pointing out to you as they occur.

This verse is not saying that there are two different things that God desires.

Coming to the knowledge of the truth is Paul simply explaining what he meant by “saved” in this passage.

We see this truth in the Lord’s prayer as recorded in John 17.

And this is eternal life,
that they know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
John 17:3

Eternal life—that which we know is a result of being saved—is to know the true God and Jesus.

We are to know the truth, which is what Jesus said would make us free.

and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

Back to the verse in Timothy—we read that God desires all people to come to the knowledge of the truth, or to be saved.

The controversy swirls around the English word “desires.”

Some emphasize the fact that it is only God’s desire, not His will, that all be saved.

Of course, we can make that argument from what we see around us in that it does not appear that some folks ever make that decision for Christ.

This is not the place to go into that right now, but for the sake of argument, let’s consider another aspect.

To say that God only desires something, but He might not have His desires met because man has to make a decision first, puts God’s desires and power beneath man.

Man is elevated to the position of power based solely on his freedom of choice.

However, let’s remember what I have often told you about translation being an interpretation.

This is a plain example of how that can affect our understanding.

The Greek word that is translated “desires” is used 210x in the NT.

The word “desire” or “desirous” is used to translate that word only 16 times out of those 210.

It is translated as “will” 177 times.

Even with that information, though, we are still left with the possibility of God’s will not being met, according to our thinking of man’s choice being superior to God’s choice.

Let’s remember, however, that is simply our natural reasoning entering into the argument and not any specific passage or thought of scripture.

All the arguments about man’s free will or his freedom of choice in my experience are based on human logic and not on any passage from the Bible.

With that consideration, let us consider what Paul has to say as he further elucidates God’s plan for man in our passage.

who gave himself as a ransom for all,
which is the testimony given at the proper time.
1Ti 2:6

Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for all.

The “all” is not identified here.

It could be all Jews. It could be all who accept Him. It could be all anything.

However, since it is in the passage and sentence with which we are working, it would seem most appropriate to make it the same “all” as the one just prior to this—which is all men.

And in that passage, the word “men” is there in the original.

Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for all mankind.

Basically, we all understand what a ransom is.

a sum of money or other payment demanded
or paid for the release of a prisoner.

In our movies, there is always the double-cross that is played out as someone pays the ransom for their kidnapped loved one.

But that is not the case here. There is no double-cross.

The ransom Jesus paid was to release the prisoners—all of them.

Now, for those people who are still stuck on their human logic, there is still the argument that, “Yeah, but they have to want to be free. They have to leave the prison.”

Although there is no scripture to support that concept, I cannot argue with such stubbornness.

To say that Jesus’ death only made salvation possible presents the ridiculous scenario that maybe His death was completely ineffectual, if no one were to choose His salvation offer.

We can see the answer to this in another section of Paul’s writing to Timothy.

For to this end we toil and strive,
because we have our hope set on the living God,
who is the Savior of all people,
especially of those who believe.
1Ti 4:10

Jesus is the savior of all.

Those who believe get to enjoy that salvation as a result of their belief.

Yes. Not everyone believes today.

And many of them won’t believe tomorrow, or maybe anytime soon.

But we cannot say they will never believe, because we just do not know that for certain.

Paul ends this section of his writing to Timothy with a statement that we should consider.

After saying that Jesus was given as a ransom for all, Paul writes

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.
1Ti 2:7

He claims that he was appointed to preach this truth to the Gentiles.

He makes this thought very clear in his letter to the Corinthians.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
2Co 5:18

He then goes on to explain what the ministry of reconciliation consists of.

that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,
not counting their trespasses against them,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
2Co 5:19

Through Christ, God reconciled the world to Himself.

That reconciliation means that there is no more enmity between God and man; no more fear of retribution for having screwed up in this life.

In fact, there is the plain statement that God does not count our trespasses against us.

So, yes, God does indeed have a desire that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth that is in Jesus.

But, that desire is not just wishful thinking.

It is the result of His plan that He purposed from the beginning, before the foundation of the world.

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world,
Eph 1:4a

You were known, loved and chosen before the foundation of the world.

There are others also for whom this is true, whether they recognize it or not.

So what?

What are we to do with this?

We are to recognize that contrary to popular opinion and the doctrine we have all grown up with—

God is not mad at you.

He is not mad at you are anyone else.

The other concept was preached and proclaimed and lived out by Christians for centuries.

It is now time for that to change.

You have been given the ministry of reconciliation, which is to share the truth with people that God is not mad at them, because the sin debt has been cancelled in Christ Jesus.

This means that we need to let go of judgment of others for the way they live.

They live that way because they do not know they have been reconciled to God.

You have been called to relate the truth of God’s love to them.

Go out and love someone this week.

Author: Dale Hill

Dale Hill began teaching from the Bible and ministering to God's people more than 50 years ago. From the beginning his focus was on Peter's question, "How should we then live?" (2 Peter 3:11) Now, the richness of a life devoted to serving God and His people is being made available in print form so that many more believers will be able to benefit from Dale's ministry.

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