Paul has spent the whole of the first chapter rebutting the false doctrine and contrasting it with glorious gospel. The gospel produces sound doctrine and a sound lifestyle. And now he’s showing how the gospel should infuse into the life of the church. What does that look like? We are a family that prays together! Last week as we went through the first two verses of 1 Tim 2, Saju reminded us about the importance of prayer. Prayer is meant to be the first response and not the last response when we confronted with trouble times and our own sin struggles. We learnt how:
a) The peace of God guards our hearts and minds in Christ when we pray
b) God gives us wisdom to deal with circumstances, people and sin when we pray
c) God performs miracles when we pray
d) God brings healing and deliverance when we pray.
Prayer is so essential. One other definition of prayer I thought really helped me understand and grasp the privilege we have is “Prayer is a powerful vehicle by which God accomplishes His purposes in & through our lives”. God is Sovereign and will do as He has decreed but isn’t it a great privilege to join him and participate in God’s purposes through prayer. Being adopted into God’s family, now we have the unique privilege of making requests to God and see Him answer them in His perfect way and timing. It’s personally been a good reminder for me to focus on prayer in all things.
Coming to this week’s passage, we’re going to know what to pray for and whom to pray for. We’ve learnt a great deal on what prayer is and how important it is for the Christian life. Now the next level is whom do you pray for and what do you pray for them?\
3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 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. (1 Tim 2:3-7)
1. Gospel root in prayer
3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
This week’s passage starts of with v3. When I read this verse, the first question that we should ask is “what is good and pleasing in the sight of God?” I really want to know. I want to know what’s beautiful and acceptable in the presence of God. For that we need to see the previous two verses.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
Supplications are requests made to God, prayers are earnest prayers we make for ourselves and others, intercession is coming together with other believers to make a request for God (like a conference) and thanksgiving is grateful language used for God. What he has described here is all sorts of prayers to made for whom? All people! You mean each and every type of person? Yes and yes.
He goes on to specify for whom?
for kings and all who are in high positions (v2)
Pray for the leaders, people who are in commanding positions in your life, authorities. It made me ask, who was the King at that point of time? Probably that will help in understanding this passage.
Nero was the Emperor of Rome at the time. People considered him to be a compulsive and corrupt ruler. He murdered his way to the throne. During his lifetime he executed his mother and also probably poisoned his step brother. In AD 64, most of Rome was destroyed by the Great Fire of Rome. Historians write that many Romans believed that Nero himself started the fire, in order to clear the land for his planned palatial complex.
How was he toward Christians? Very brutal. He was rumoured to have had captured Christians dipped in oil and set on fire in his garden at night as a source of light.
Now think over what the church was urged to do? Pray for Nero! And what kind of prayer was supposed to be made for kings and other authorities?
V4: who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
The prayer for Nero and other such rulers was that they may be saved and come to the knowledge of truth. What? Shouldn’t the prayer be for the protection of believers from Nero? Shouldn’t the prayers instead ask God to bring down His wrath on Nero for oppressing and brutally killing Christians?
Instead the call is that all kinds of prayers be made for Nero and the like so that they may be saved from the wrath of God that comes upon all who rebel against Him. Prayers need to be made so that they come to a full discernment of the truth about God! Doesn’t this change everything we think about whom to pray for and how to pray for them?
Why would God want us to pray this? Why does God delight in this and find pleasure in prayers made for “people like them”?
I think there are two reasons:
i) The gospel is exalted when we pray for their salvation
5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
Every time we pray for the salvation of the authorities in our lives, we re-affirm in the power of the gospel to save anybody! There is a certain conviction with which you will pray if you understood that Christ is the only one who can restore your broken relationship with God. There is “one God” not multiple gods. This list of multiple “gods” also include money, people, family, entertainment, comfort, jobs, relationships, your religious life…anything that demands more of your affection and the preoccupation of your mind is a “god”. And the Bible clearly says…there is only One God and one mediator. There is only absolutely one person who can intervene between you and God and restore that friendship – the man Christ Jesus! The Son of God (fully God), who fully became man to identify with you and then die for you to be reconciled to God. V6 says that “who gave himself as a ransom for all”. It was a willing handover of himself over to be crucified. Why did he do that? Rom 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death”. He willingly gave himself on the cross to pay for your sins and your rebellion toward God! He died because you and I had made up these little “gods” for ourselves. We worshiped them every single day. Our thoughts would always come back to these “gods”. Our affections were turned on every time we indulged in these idols. And the heap of judgment reserved for betrayal and dishonoring of God was taken upon by the Son of God…the only person who could perfectly pay the price. The word “ransom” is used there for a reason. Ransom is something that is given in exchange for the price of freedom. Christ died so that you could be free! Set free from your slavery to sin! Slavery to these non-gods. Family, if there’s any of you who finds themselves struggling with sin, thinking there is no hope…let me remind you that Christ did not die for nothing. He died to set you completely free from the bondage to sin. So that you could worship no one or nothing else but the One true God Himself! And so when you pray for these authorities in your life…could be your parents, your boss, the PM ruling the land or anyone else, anyone who is unlike you, anyone who is cruel and harsh toward you, anyone who has done a lot of harm to you….when you pray for these individuals so that they get saved, you also with certainty affirm that Christ is powerful to save them too! And it is a true fact!
ii) God is glorified because we reflect the heart and attitude of God
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (v4)
God intends that all people get saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. People sometimes say “Go to hell!” when they are really frustrated with someone and given up on that person. But guess what? God never says that.
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (Ez 18:23)
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” (Ez 18:32)
That’s the heart of God! No matter how wicked, cruel and rebellious we are, God doesn’t delight in destroying us. He wants us to turn and repent. Does this mean that all people in the world will be saved? No, the Bible says that God has chosen people for Himself. He has elected and pre-destined people to love, worship and reflect Him. You might say “Isn’t God unjust then? Isn’t He partial?” Let me ask you, can you ever be partial to your enemy? The bible says we are “enemies of God” (Rom 5:10). None of us deserve to be saved. All of us deserve to be condemned, so who are we to say that God is being unfair?
Here’s how Wayne Grudem puts it “If God decided to save only 5 human beings out of the entire human race, it would have been a great demonstration of mercy and grace. If he had decided to save only 100 out of the entire human race, it would have been an amazing demonstration of mercy and love. But God in fact has chosen to do much more than that. He has decided to redeem out of a sinful mankind a great multitude, whom no man can number, “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation”. (Rev 5:9) This is incalculable mercy and grace, far beyond our comprehension.”
But we don’t get to decide who are the elect and who are not. That is God’s secret will that He hasn’t revealed to us. His revealed will is that “we pray for the salvation of those who are in authority”. And this is convicting to me because I would pray for the salvation for my family or friends but would hardly pray for those that oppose me. Recently I’ve been having a tough time with a client. The last thing I would want to do is pray for his salvation. I think he’s caused a lot of problems, why should I intercede for him? In my mind, I probably think he doesn’t deserve it. But that reveals the sin in my heart. In my pride and bitterness, I’m unable to see my unworthiness. What good did I ever do to deserve God? Nothing. Family, if we were to just lay bare our thought life before others, we would be totally ashamed and guilty as someone you consider to be the worst. That’s who we are. We are saturated with sin. But Christ showed us grace…abundant grace! When we pray for the salvation of those unlike us and probably who oppress us, we humbly acknowledge how God in His grace has saved us from our worthless state and anticipate that transformation in the lives of our authorities as well.
So that’s key in prayer! The gospel root in prayer. The best prayer you can pray for those in authority is not just that they govern the country well and prosper so that we will also prosper. We earnestly pray that they may come to the knowledge of truth. We make all kinds of prayers so that they repent and embrace Jesus as Lord. The best prayer you can make for PM Modi is not that he ends us being a fantastic leader or that he allows us to live in peace but that he comes to know Jesus. The best prayer I can make for my client is that he comes to the knowledge of truth.
2. Glorious fruit of prayer
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. (v7)
In those days, tensions between Jews and Gentiles were quite bad. Jews had traditions where they wouldn’t even eat with Gentiles. Socially unacceptable! And here, Paul is appointed as a preacher and apostle to them. The point here is that Gentiles were at polar ends with respect to Jews. So unlike them, so different and yet Paul goes to them with the gospel.
Prayer drives us to action. Over a period of time as you pray for these authorities, God will create a burden for you to reach out to them. I don’t think this list is only restricted to the PM and other rulers of the state. I think it applies to authorities in your life that you don’t want to hang out with because they harm you or are against you. Preaching the gospel to them is probably the last thing on your mind. But again, prayer is a vehicle that God uses to accomplish His purposes in and through your life. So eventually if you are intensely praying for that authority, God will also open opportunities to connect with them and present this wonderful gospel. That’s where the gospel way of life is radically different from what we learn from culture or our hearts of selfishness and comfort. Selfishness and comfort will always tell us to be safe, avoid hard situations and different people. But the gospel tells us to pray and go to those who are unlike us, people who oppose us and probably harm us. And that’s when the gospel is put on display. People will want to know why we do this. Why do we love, pray and reach out to those who persecute us? We’ll get to tell them why as we share our story and His story (the gospel).
Would you pray? Would you reach out? Who is God challenging you to pray for today? Personally for you who is it hardest to pray for?