What does 1 Tim. 4:10 mean? This is not everything that it means, but it is a significant part that is often overlooked—from my 2007 Good Friday sermon notes:
1. If Jesus had not died, the world would not have been saved. Because Jesus died the world was indeed delivered. He died so that you might live. Not merely in some vague spiritual sense. But you are alive right now and not dead, because Jesus died. That's true for everybody!
Almost 2000 years of human history all because Jesus died and rose again.
John 3.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 4.42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
I Tim. 4:10, ". . . because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe."
1 John 2.2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Parallel with Genesis 8 and 9. The first thing Noah does when he gets off the ark is offer up some of all of the clean animals and clean birds. Based on THAT sacrifice, AFTER he smells the pleasing aroma, Yahweh promises that he would never again curse the ground! The grace proffered to all men is not some generalized “common grace” but God’s changed attitude founded on the covenantal sacrifice of Noah. So also with Christ's death on the cross. God delivered the world from destruction and preserves the entire cosmos because of the cross of Jesus. Common grace is not grace that is administered apart from, or along side of the cross. Common grace is the grace of God in Christ.
2. If Jesus had not died, pagan culture and life would not have been replaced. The old world would never have been changed.
Let's just say, for the sake of the argument, that the world and human history would have continued, had Jesus not died. What would it be like? This is what it means when the Bible says that by his death Jesus destroyed the work of Satan. What was destroyed was the archaic, pre-Christian way of organizing human life - Paganism.
The Ruler of the kingdoms of the world (Matt. 4) was defeated on the cross. His demons were the gods of ancient world (1 Cor. 8). The demonic activity was designed to keep humanity in a perpetual state of adolescent immaturity. So the wars and sexual perversion so prominent in ancient cultures.
Acts 26.15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness. . . I am sending you to the Gentiles, to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins
Heb. 2:14-15, "that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.Rev. 20.2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,Paul says that before Jesus' work "death reigned" (Rom. 5)
Life would have been very different. LIFE, not just our inner religious sensibilities. We take for granted a way of life with one another that we often think is just common sense. This is the "natural" way for people to live together. And we expect to be afforded common courtesies and treated with humane respect by others as if these were rooted in the natural order of things and have nothing to do with Jesus or the cross. Wrong. This is the result of Christ's death and transformation of the world. Jesus saved the world and changed human history.
Battle star Galactica - human culture that developed in another star system with an odd polytheistic religious system. One of the characters in a recent episode made a speech that simply couldn't have been made in such a culture because it presupposed the cross and the transformation of human culture that has come about in the West because of the cross.
If Jesus had not died on the cross there would have been no deliverance from the horror of cultures not founded on or informed by the Christian understanding of mercy and justice. As disappointing as things can get in Christian countries, that is nothing compared to what might have been had Jesus not died.
These are just raw notes. Download the whole sermon if you want a fuller explanation (8.6 MB mp3 file).