A SAVIOR: WHAT WE ALWAYS NEED MOST
Acts 13:23, 38-39
1. This past week I’ve been doing what a lot of people in our country have been doing: thinking about what happened ten years ago this morning.
a. I remember it like it was yesterday.
i. We were sitting at our kitchen table. I was enjoying the last of my cup of coffee before heading to the office, and we had the “Today” show on to catch the chatter of the morning.
ii. But the chatter was interrupted when they cut away for a report on an apparent plane crash involving one of the World Trade Center towers.
iii. While the long range shot showed the smoke billowing from it, we caught a glimpse of a speeding jet smashing into the other tower! What a sickening feeling it was!
iv. We knew Andy was in his first hour media class at Hillcrest. We called him and had them to turn on the TV, and we checked on our other kids.
v. Everyone knew that so many lives would be impacted forever, and that the whole world would be different.
b. Here’s what I’ve been wondering: right now, is the future any more certain than it was that morning?
2. You can tell what my conclusion is by the title of this message: in a world where there is evil, what we all need most now in is what we all needed most then – a Savior.
a. I don’t take much comfort from our people volunteering on 9/11, or from politicians standing in silence at the site, or even from knowing the mastermind of the evil deed has been killed.
b. What I want to know is: what is to rescue man from even imagining doing such things, and what is to deliver us from anyone who does?
c. What I’m interested in is the announcement made in the first recorded speech of the beloved apostle Paul – what Acts 13:23, 28-29 says.
1. The farther you go, the more precious the thought
a. Since Paul begins with this focus on a Savior, it is striking that almost half the times the term appears are in his last letters.
i. Ten out of the twenty-three times the word “savior” is used in the New Testament are in the Pastoral Epistles – I and II Timothy and Titus.
ii. The thought of the Lord’s saving work is in many other places, of course, and his role as the one who saves is always a treasured truth, but why does the term “Savior” become especially meaningful to Paul as he writes these letters?
b. Obviously, it has something to do with the timing, the situation in his life as he was writing.
i. It is fascinating to try to piece together the circumstances out of which 1 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Timothy grew (and that appears to be the order in which they were written).
ii. Many scholars have observed that it does not seem possible to fit these people, at these places, tending to these tasks, into the storyline we have in the book of Acts (which ends about A.D. 62).
iii. It is thought, therefore, that the events referred to in these epistles occur after Acts – that Paul was released after the situation described in Acts 28, carried on with further work in behalf of the gospel for some time, leaving Timothy at Ephesus and Titus on Crete, and that he was then arrested again (perhaps in the region of Nicopolis, Tit. 3:12), and imprisoned at Rome until he was finally executed.
iv. It may have happened as a result of the terrible persecution initiated by the mad Nero. Fire decimated Rome in the summer of A.D. 64, and to divert attention from himself, he blamed Christians. His infamous and savage treatment of the Lord’s people began.
c. If we can imagine the beloved apostle’s writing these letters in the midst these events, the things on his mind that made the Savior’s presence precious to him will stand out to us.
ii. These things are written when he is confronting his own mortality. He feels that he is “already being poured out” and that “the time of [his] departure has come” (2 Tim. 4:6). The possibility, even nearness, of death is very real to him. Things that are real, lasting gain are especially on his mind right now (1 Tim. 6:6-7).
iii. This is a time when he is conscious of his own failures and faults – the kinds of things over which a person may be ashamed, embarrassed, and filled with regret. The memory of his actions as “the foremost of sinners ...a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” is with him (1 Tim. 1:15, 13).
iv. He is writing when he is full of concern over an uncertain future and the dangers he already sees. There is still so much that needs to be done! But the fact that there are things he has no control over is obvious to him: he is “suffering, bound with chains as a criminal” (2 Tim. 2:9). It is a world where people are “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Tit. 1:12). And worse, the faith is threatened by impostors who are devoting themselves to myths, wandering into vain discussions, engendering controversies and quarrels (1 Tim. 6:3-5). What will happen to the cause in which he has invested his life?
v. This is a time when it is clear to him that he cannot count on people, either to stand with him or to rescue him. Some have let him down – all in Asia turned away from him (2 Tim. 1:15); Demas deserted him (4:10); Alexander the coppersmith did him great harm (4:14); no one came to stand by him (4:16). Others are busy with their own important tasks (4:12) and some have their own problems (4:20). Either way, Paul is lonely for those dearest to him, for someone not ashamed to stand with him all the way to the end (2 Tim. 4:9, 21).
vi. These letters are being written when “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” is being considered. The phrase appears five times (1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 1:10; 4:1, 8: Tit. 2:13), and “that Day” is mentioned three times (2 Tim. 1:12, 18; 4:8). The ultimate reality to Paul at this point is the fact that the Lord will be the righteous judge of the living and the dead (2 Tim. 4:1, 8).
2. Only the Savior will do
a. I say this partly because of what needs saving.
i. What is at stake is the rescuing or delivering of a person’s whole being, his very self – salvation in all the circumstances Paul was facing.
ii. Proclaiming a Savior means that there is forgiveness of sins through him and freedom from everything from which no one could be freed by the law of Moses, or by anyone or anything else (Acts 13:38-39).
iii. What we’re talking about is saving a personality from ruin, a relationship from alienation, a life from perishing, a body from corruption, and a soul from eternal lostness.
b. I say only the Savior will do also because of what a savior is. The kind of work he will have to be able to do is clear from the statements of Paul in these letters.
i. A Savior rescues a person from the condemnation of past sins (1 Tim. 1:15). He extends mercy (v. 16), gives himself to redeem from lawlessness, an purifies the person to be his own (Tit. 2:14).
ii. A Savior stands with his own in the present, strengthening him, and furthering his purposes, and rescuing him from the lion’s mouth (2 Tim. 4:17). He identifies with a person as a human being and serves as the one mediator between man and God (1 Tim. 2:3-6).
iii. A Savior deals with the future by delivering that one who belongs to him from every evil deed and finally bringing him safely into his heavenly kingdom, crowning him with righteousness (2 Tim. 4:18, 8). It turns out that the Savior is the Judge!
1. Our times are like Paul’s, and so are our needs. It is the perpetual human condition. The Bible teaches that times are always like these.
a. The days are evil (Eph. 5:16), and life is brief and uncertain (James 4:14).
b. The flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41).
c. The generation is crooked and twisted (Acts 2:40; Phil. 2:15).
d. The heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:9, 10).
e. The judgment is coming (Acts 17:31; 2 Cor. 5:10). That is reality. You need a savior. We all do.
2. The thought of the presence of “our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10) must be as precious to us it was to Paul.
a. If there is a Savior, he does not interrupt people who are doing just fine – happy and in harmony and full of hope – until he disturbs them and makes them responsible to him.
b. He comes to a world that is full of destructive behavior and frustrating endeavor and alienated relationships and declining bodies – a world that is already lost and dying – and he offers it hope!
c. John 3:17-18, 36
3. Consider the opportunity that is before us. Think of what we are rejecting if we ignore him. The word is to be heard. He is to be believed in and obeyed. The faith is to be kept. The blessed hope is to be waited for. Let us be found so doing!