1 Timothy 2:1-7
In the first chapter of First Timothy, Paul is concerned about sound doctrine. He describes for Timothy, and for us, the damaging results when faith in revealed truth is replaced by speculation -- and when dissension is substituted for love. What should Timothy do in such a situation? He cannot remain silent in the face of heresy; he cannot compromise with it, but he is to stay at his post and fight the good fight of faith.
If chapter one is concerned primarily with sound doctrine, chapter two is concerned with worship, both public and private, and with instructions for both males and females. In your study of these verses, notice the emphasis on "all men," in 1 Tim. 2:1-7.
Pray "for all men," (1,2). God desires "all men" to be saved (3,4). Jesus gave Himself a ransom "for all," (5,6). And, Paul was called and appointed an apostle, to preach the gospel to all men (7). There is a clear emphasis here having to do with "all men," and I believe we need to let the text speak to us about what this means. Let's consider these four points:
Prayer for all men. "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." In the New King James -- there are four things here: supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks. Supplications are simply requests, where we ask for something to be supplied. Prayers would be the generic word for our communication with the Father, through Jesus our Mediator. Intercessions are specific; we enter into the Father's presence for another -- we ask God to heal others, to help others, or to comfort and care for some specific individual. The giving of thanks is a phrase that explains itself -- this is the kind of praying where we express our gratitude to God for blessings received. So we have here this cluster of words and phrases, and they have to do with our communication with God.
But notice: "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men." We all understand, as Christians, we are privileged to approach the Father regarding our own needs and concerns; and we all know, we not only can but must pray for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. But this says, "for all men."
This immediately rebukes the narrow parochialism we may be tempted to adopt, in our thinking and praying. We pray for and about ourselves and our families. We mention others, with whom we enjoy fellowship. But we may neglect this; we may fail to offer supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings for all men! Are we doing this?
There's more. Paul gives direction that prayers be made "for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." At the time Paul wrote this, There was not a Christian ruler anywhere in the world! When Paul told Timothy this the reigning emperor was a Roman dictator, a man whose vanity, cruelty and hostility toward believers is widely known and documented!
Eventually, there was systematic persecution of Christians, promoted by Nero and others like him. In fact we can say this: It was extremely difficult for the Lord's people to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence, with men like Nero leading the government! Paul said, pray "for kings and all who are in authority."
Let's think about this: when you pray for kings and rulers, what will you ask? Do you ask God to make them rich and powerful, and grant them a successful political career? Do you ask God to help these evil men carry out their personal agenda or political platform? I don't think so!
You ask God to providentially deal with these men according to His will, in order that we might "lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence," and that may involve God taking men out of power! I would suspect that there are Christians in third world nations today, living under such systematic persecution and injustice, that they pray for the removal of their current leaders.
So, when we comply with 1 Timothy 2:2, we are not asking God to help a man carry out his agenda; we are asking God to do what He sees fit to do -- with rulers -- so that we "may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." We should pray for "all men," even kings and rulers who may be evil, and our prayer for the rulers is not about their career or agenda. The object is that we "may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." Next ...
God desires "all men" to be saved. "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Once again, I want to take this opportunity to caution us. We are concerned about our own spiritual welfare, and that concern is legitimate. We love our families, and want all our loved ones to serve the Lord. I trust -- we are concerned about one another. But we should be reminded that God "desires all men to be saved." God loves the whole world, desires all people to be saved, and that truth should influence our thinking, our praying and our evangelism!
Back then there were very narrow, nationalistic Jews who believed themselves to be God's privileged favorites (some apparently forgot God's original promise to bless all earth's families through Abraham's seed!) Back then there were Gnostics, who adopted a very narrow concept of fellowship with the elite.
Today, there may be similar attitudes. Racism, nationalism, parochialism, partyism -- together with all the pride and prejudice these narrow attitudes can generate. We need to be on guard against these attitudes; they can plunge us, as a people, into ruin and destruction. God wants us to imitate Christ, not the Pharisees!
The truth is that God loves the whole world, desires all people to be saved -- and if we believe this, we will preach the gospel to everybody; we will pray for all men, and we will study to avoid the narrow, exclusive elitism and snobbery that Jesus so strongly denounced in the Pharisees. Then...
Jesus Gave Himself A Ransom "for all." "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." The apostle moves from the one God, who desires all people to be saved, to the one mediator between God and man -- who gave Himself as a ransom for all people!
God desires that all people be saved -- but there is only one way to be saved! In this age of tolerance, multi-culturalism and ecumenical attitudes, it is extremely unacceptable, unpopular, and even dangerous in some circles, to say what I just wrote: There is only one way to be saved! A view is gaining ground in our society, sometimes called pluralism. Pluralism tolerates and even applauds all the different religions. Contemporary pluralism affirms that the Jewish religion, the Hindu, the Muslim, New Age, Catholicism, Protestant Denominations, Evangelical Groups, Cults: all are valued equally; all have their own truth, and all approach God in their own tradition, and all are saved through their own doctrine. This is the religiously correct view. It isn't biblically correct!
Paul says God desires all people to be saved; but there is only one way to be saved, and that's through Jesus, who is the only mediator; the only "go-between" capable of making us fit to be God's children! Jesus has no serious competitors, and no successors. His unique qualifications as mediator are to be found in his person and work -- in who He is and what He has done.
He gave Himself as a ransom for all. Nobody else did this! In His birth -- Deity became flesh. In His life -- a man lived perfectly. In His death -- He gave Himself a ransom for all. In His resurrection and exaltation -- God accepted Him at His own right hand. There is no other! No-one else possesses or has ever possessed -- the necessary qualifications to mediate between God and sinners!
Jesus died for all men -- He died for "our sins," and John adds, "not for ours only but also for the whole world," (1 Jno. 2:2). Finally ...
Paul was called to preach to All Men; Jews, Gentiles... all men. Consider now verse 7, "for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle; I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying; a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth." Paul obeyed the gospel, and was appointed to be a herald or a preacher -- an apostle of Jesus Christ. He was an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ. He proclaimed a message he received directly from Jesus Christ; he said, in Galatians 1, "it came [to me] through the revelation of Jesus Christ."
It was Paul's task to proclaim and teach and defend the gospel message, which was about Jesus Christ, the ransom and mediator. Paul took this message not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles; all people of all nations, regardless of ethnic or racial origin. Paul's attitude was that this message, the good news, must be made known to all men.
Though Paul had been a Pharisee, his heart was changed by Christ! So, he did not surrender to the narrow, arrogant, or elitist approach. His concern and love enjoyed the same scope as God's concern and love! God loves all men, and desires that all might be saved. Paul's love enjoyed that same scope -- so he preached to all men.
What does this mean to us today? Obviously and evidently, we should pray for all men, including kings and rulers. Our desire should match God's desire -- that all people might obey the gospel and be saved. In both our prayers and desires we must maintain the conviction that Jesus gave Himself a "ransom for all," and that He is the only mediator between man and God. If we believe these things we will do all we can to take the gospel to all men!
Also, this passage challenges us to consider and perhaps re-consider our thinking, our attitude toward all men. Christians believe in the dignity and worth of human life. Because of what we know of creation and redemption, we believe in the dignity and worth of human life. Therefore, we should find it almost natural to pray for all men, that they might come to the knowledge of the truth. When we become so exclusive and smug that we devalue the human race -- refuse to pray for all men or preach the gospel to all men -- we are thinking and acting contrary to the will of our Father!
And when human beings are devalued, everything turns sour. Women are humiliated and children despised. The sick are regarded as a nuisance, and the elderly as a burden. Ethnic minorities are abused and suffer injustice. And unbelievers are left to live and die in their lost condition. Perhaps this is one reason why Peter said, in 1 Pet. 2:17, "Honor all people."
There is an urgent need for each of us to consider or re-consider our attitudes toward all men, and there is this conviction that should motivate every Christian, that God loves all men, and desires that all men be saved.
By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 4.8; August 1997