Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Save both yourself and your hearers"

Today's sermon touches on 1 Tim 4:11-6, where Paul exhorts Timothy to preach so that he might save both himself and his hearers. The question proposed in the sermon is how he can save anyone when we know that only God, only Christ Himself, can save us? The answer proffered is that we save by preaching the very Gospel that saves, that in a sense we do not save, but we provide the message that saves.

The challenge with this interpretation however is that the verse specifically says that we do in fact save, not merely that we are a conduit for salvation. God is certainly the one who works in us to save, but somehow Timothy is the direct agent to "save both yourself and your hearers." So how then do we as mere humans actually perform salvation? I think that the key is to ask ourselves, from what are we saved? In many cases the Scripture points to salvation from hell and sin, a very spiritual salvation that only God can enact in us. If I shared the Gospel to someone who then chose to follow Christ, I would never say that I saved him, but that Christ saved him.

We know however that there are many other things from which we can be saved. In this passage, Paul appears to refer less to eternal salvation and more to the practicalities of daily life and ministry. He speaks of the challenges of service and of preaching to guide people through the daily struggles of life. He may therefore be referring to the very power and responsibility we have to save people not only from walking into gross sin, but also from all the senseless trials, conflict, and even simple stupidity that we have all committed. Through the experiences that Timothy has suffered and the maturity that he has gained despite his youthfulness, he can share with them the strategies that he has gained and the Scriptures that he has learned to help save them from falling into the mistakes that he has committed himself or as a leader has seen others make.

By helping to "save both yourself and your hearers," we can also exemplify on a daily basis God's eternal salvation of us. By saving people from all sorts of practical, visible troubles that we might otherwise find ourselves in, we can more readily see and more deeply appreciate the internal and eternal salvation that only God has provided us in Christ.
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