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SCRIPTURE REFERENCES » 1 Timothy 2:1-7

Morning Sermon: 1 Timothy 2:1-7: I Urge That Prayers Be Made For All People

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 67 

“TO THE CHOIRMASTER: WITH STRINGED INSTRUMENTS. A PSALM. A SONG. May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!” (Psalm 67, ESV)

Sermon Text: 1 Timothy 2:1-7

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 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 Timothy 2:1–7, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

Here at the beginning of chapter two, we have a shift in focus. In chapter one Paul commanded Timothy to do certain things as a minister of the word. But here in chapter two, Paul commands Timothy to see to it that the church does certain things. The church — the church in Ephesus where Timothy ministered, and every local church in every place and time — is to engage in certain activities. And what is the very first activity that Paul urges? He urges the church to pray. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…”, the apostle says. 

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The Church Is To Pray For All Kinds Of People

The church is to devote itself to prayer. And when we pray, we are to pray for all kinds of people. 

First of all, I urge…

In verse  1 we read the words, “first of all”. “First of all” can either mean first in a sequence or first in importance. Paul likely had both ideas in mind when he wrote the words, “first of all”. This was the first thing that he commanded the church to do because it is also of first importance. What is the church to do? What activities is she to engage in? First of all, the church must pray! 

Sadly, prayer is often of least importance to the individual Christian and to the church. Prayer is often the last thing that we do. It is often treated as a last resort. When everything else has failed, then we will pray. But prayer ought to be of first importance to us. It should be where we start, not where we end up when all else fails. This should be true of us personally. And this should also be true of us corporately. And that is why Paul urges prayer within the congregation. “First of all, then, I urge” that prayers be offered up, he says. To “urge” is to ask for something earnestly or to plead for something. Here Paul pleads with Timothy, with the church of Ephesus through him, and even with us, to be devoted to prayer. 

This should not surprise us. One of the characteristics of the people of God in every age is that they commune in prayer and intercede on behalf of the world. And concerning the New Covenant people of God, which is what we are, the prophet Isaiah said, “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:6–7, ESV.). If prayers were to be offered up in the temple under the Old Covenant, how much more in the New Covenant temple of God now that the blood of the Christ has been shed to make atonement for sins and to reconcile men to God? The church is the church of the living God. She is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The church is a house of prayer for all people. It is no wonder, then, that this is the first thing the apostle urged. He urged that prayers be offered up to God within the church, for this is the church’s design.  

Supplications, Prayers, Intercessions, And Thanksgivings

Specifically, Paul urged “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made…” These terms all refer to prayer, but they each highlight a different aspect or kind of prayer. 

To supplicate is to make requests for the specific needs of others. To pray is to bring others before God to seek their blessing. To intercede is to appeal to God boldly on behalf of others. And with thanksgivings, we express gratitude to God for others and for the work that God is doing in them, through them, and for them. I suppose that Paul could have simply said, first of all, then, I urge you to pray… But by pilling up these terms he reminds us of the variety of ways that we can and should pray for others. We are to supplicate, praying for the specific needs of others. We are to pray for others generally, seeking the Lord’s blessing on their behalf. We are to intercede, appealing to God boldly on behalf of others. And we are also to bring our requests to God in the form of thanksgiving. The church is a house of prayer. The members are to devote themselves to private prayer. And when we assemble, we are to address God in prayer.  

Brothers and sisters, is prayer of first importance to you? Is it of first importance to us? Paul here urges us to pray. 

All Kinds Of People

And then he more specifically urges that these prayers be offered up “for all people.” What does Paul mean when he urges that prayers “be made for all people.” Clearly he means that prayers are to be offered up to God by the church for all kinds of people. 

Now, some might object to this by saying, the word “kind” is nowhere to be found in this passage. Or, “all” must mean “all” without exception or qualification! But is that true? Must “all” always mean “all” without exception or qualification? If I say to you “all” are invited to my house for lunch today it is clear that I do not mean all without exception. The whole world would not be invited, but only you. The context naturally clarifies what is meant by “all”. And such is the case with this passage. When Paul commands that prayers be offered up on behalf of “all people”, he means all types of people.  

First of all, it would be absurd for Paul to urge that prayers be offered up by the church in Ephesus for every individual person alive on planet earth without exception. They wouldn’t be able to do it if they tried. Not even close.

Secondly, it is not uncommon for Paul (or others) to use the word “all” to mean “all kinds” or to refer to all of a particular group. For example, in Romans 12:18 Paul says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18, ESV). It is abundantly clear that when Paul uses the word “all” here he does not mean, be at peace with every person on the planet, but rather, be at peace with those that you come into contact with. And so no, “all” does not always mean “all without exception.” In fact, “all” often has reference to a particular group, class, or kind of people, and it is the context that makes the limitations clear. 

Thirdly, you will notice that the next verse does clarify what Paul means. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…” Verse 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” (1 Timothy 2:2, ESV). 

For Kings And Those In High Positions

The church is not to limit its prayers to a certain kind or class of person but is to pray for all kinds of people, and that includes “kings and all who are in high positions.” The church is not to discriminate in its prayer life on the basis of ethnicity, class, age, gender, or any other thing that might divide us. The church is to pray indiscriminately for all kinds of people.

This might seem obvious to you. But human history shows that this is not obvious to all. In our sin, we discriminate against those not like us. In sin, we forget that we have humanity in common, which means that we share the image of God in common. The world is divided by so many things — ethnicity, gender, age, and class among them. But the Christian must not discriminate. For the Christian knows that all of these bear the image of God. And the Christian also knows that Christ died, not for a particular kind of person, but for all kinds of people. He died to redeem people from every tongue, tribe, and nation. He died for males and for females, for young and old, for rich and poor, for the strong and the weak. If God has not discriminated along these lines, then neither should we. Our “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings” are to be made “for all people”, even “for kings and all who are in high positions.”

Now, why did Paul feel it necessary to specifically exhort the church in Ephesus to pray for this kind or class of person — “for kings and all who are in high positions.” Well, we should not forget that the early church was often persecuted by this kind or class of person. We should remember that most of the converts in the early church were not a part of this class. Paul’s words to the Corinthians make this clear: “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26–29, ESV). It is not at all hard to imagine why Paul would need to say this to the Ephesians. To put it into my own words its as if Paul said, “don’t discriminate in your prayers, brothers and sisters. Pray for all kinds of people, for Christ came to redeem all kinds of people. And yes, this even includes “kings and all who are in high positions.”

Though the church in this country has not experienced persecution from the governmental powers in the way that the early church did, there does still exist a division in this country between the political class and those who are citizens. And it is possible that Christians fall into the same trap. It is possible that we begin to view the political class, or members of a particular party within the political class as pure evil and irredeemable, and thus discriminate against them in our prayer life. This cannot be, brothers and sisters. We must pray for all kinds of people, for presidents, governors, and “all who are in high positions.” We must pray that they come to salvation and that the Lord would use them for good given the positions they hold within society. 

When Paul wrote to the Ephesians he urged them to pray for all kinds of people and he specifically identified those with political power. Clearly, the Ephesians were falling short in this regard. Perhaps this was because of persecution. It may also have had something to do with the false teaching that was present within the church. Perhaps the false teaching lead to discrimination against certain kinds of people, but we can only speculate about this.    

Earlier I said that it might seem obvious to you that prayers are to be offered up for all kinds of people.  And perhaps it is obvious to you. But perhaps it is not so obvious. It is possible that you yourself have begun to discriminate in your prayer life. It is possible that, though you would never say it, you have begun to view a particular kind of person as being beyond the limits, irredeemable, and thus not worthy of prayer. In our context, the discrimination is typically racial, or socio economic. Brothers and sisters, it cannot be. We must offer up prayers for all kinds of people as we seek their good, and ultimately their salvation in Christ Jesus. 

There is one truth that is essential if we are to maintain this unbiased disposition towards all. And it is the truth that men and women are made in the image of God. There are no exceptions. You will never meet a human being who is not an image-bearer. All humans share this in common. We have the same Creator. We are made in his image. We have the same blood running through our veins. We have equal dignity and worth, therefore. This is what unites us. And this unity is profound. 

But within the unity that is humanity, there is also diversity. The human race is diverse. And the diversity is beautiful. It is not to be denied but appreciated. The human race is made up of many individuals, each with their own personality. Some are male and some are female. Some are rich and some are poor. Some are powerful, others are weak. Each person has their own unique history. Each one differs in appearance and ability. The diversity is not to be despised but celebrated. When we consider the unity of humanity and the simultaneous diversity of humanity we are to see something beautiful, for this unity in diversity images God who is eternally one and three.

But as you know, throughout the history of the world sinful man has not considered the unity and diversity within humanity to be beautiful. Instead, many have warred against the image of the Triune God in humanity by either trying to obliterate what distinguishes, us or by doing violence to what unifies us. 

This problem will never go away (not until Christ returns to make all things). It will simply manifest itself in different ways. Sinful humans will always war against the diversity in humanity. Today, many wish to deny the difference between males and females, for example. And perhaps this movement is in response to fact that others have done violence to the unity of men and women. Both are image bearers and stand before as equals, but men have often oppressed women, and women do sometimes oppress men. Neither those who deny the differences nor those who do violence to the unity are right. Both fail to appreciate the beauty of the image of the Triune God in humanity. And the same may be said of matters of race or ethnicity. Some wish to obliterate the differences (which is sad — something beautiful is lost when we do), and others do violence to the unity (and this is tragically unjust when men of power oppress men of weakness on the basis of the color of their skin, forgetting that all have the same Creator and bear his image). As I have said, this problem will not go away until Christ returns. The problem may increase and decrease. And it will certainly manifest itself in different ways. But fallen humanity will always war against God, his design in creation, and his image in humanity.

But there is one place where we should expect this perennial problem to melt away, and that is within Christ’s church. The church is the present and earthly manifestation of the kingdom of God, and the inbreaking of the age to come into this present evil age. In the church, the diversity that exists within humanity must never be denied. The diversity must be celebrated in Christ. How marvelous and beautiful it is to consider humanity as individual persons, each with unique personalities, histories, experiences, and gifts. How beautiful it is to consider the differences between male and female, and the distinguishing characteristics of the cultures and customs of the people of this earth. You have heard the expression that variety is the spice of life, haven’t you? Well, it applies here, doesn’t it? The diversity that exists within humanity is to be appreciated and enjoyed. But never is it to lead to division, devaluation, or the oppression of others. For we share the image of God in common with the rest of humanity. And more than this, those in Christ share Christ in common. The image has been renewed in us through faith in him. Indeed, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, ESV).

This discussion concerning the diversity and unity that exists within the human race may have felt like a giant tangent to you. But I hope you can see how it pertains. If we are to pray for all kinds of people, as the apostle commands, then we must appreciate the diversity in humanity while never losing sight of our fundamental unity.  

That We Might Lead A Quiet And Peaceful Life

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, [yes, even] for kings and all who are in high positions…” And then Paul adds, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

One of the reasons that we are to pray for those with civil authority is so that we might live a peaceful and quiet life. We are to remember the civil authorities have been appointed by God for the preservation of peace through the promotion of justice. The civil authorities exist to punish the wrongdoer, and particularly those who do violence to others. When we pray for those who have civil authority we are to pray, not only for their salvation, therefore, but also that they would do the job that God has given them to do in the civil realm, leading to a peaceful and quiet life for those who live in their jurisdiction. The government’s job is to protect its citizens from harm. They are to protect their citizens from the harm of foreign powers. And they are also to protect their citizens from the harm of other citizens by upholding justice. The Christians in Ephesus lived under the threat of persecution from these governing authorities. And so this gave them all the more reason to pray for them. 

They were to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions that [they] may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” And this is how Christians are always to live within the world. They are to live godly lives. This means that they are to live lives of holiness before God and man. They are to live a pious life of obedience. They are to be dignified, living in a way that is fitting for a child of God. 

Perhaps you have noticed how tempting it is to respond to government overreach and oppression by ranting and raving against those with authority. It is tempting to speak evil against those who abuse their power. But this is not the way of Christ. The Christian is to behave in a godly and dignified way even in the face of persecution. And so where is the Christian to go with his frustrations and fears? First, he is to go to prayer. He is to pray for presidents, senators, and governors. And having prayed, he is to “live a godly and dignified” life as he entrusts himself to God who is sovereign overall. 

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” 

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God Desires That All Kinds Of People Be Saved

After this Paul says, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

“This is good”, Paul says. 

What is good? you ask.

Well, it is good that prayers be offered up for all kinds of people. 

And why is this “good”? 

It is good because it corresponds to God’s desire for all kinds of people to be saved. 

By the way, a thing can only be called “good” when it corresponds to God and to his will. Things are good and beautiful and lovely only when they correspond to God and fulfill his design for the thing, whatever it may be. 

And Paul is here saying that prayers offered up for all people are good because they correspond with God’s will. He “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

You will notice that God is here called “God our Savior”. We are accustomed to calling Jesus Christ our Savior. Rarely do we refer to God as our Savior, but he certainly is! God has saved us through his Son. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV).

A Contradiction With The Doctrine Of Predestination?

There are some who claim that this passage contradicts the doctrine of election or predestination. The doctrine of predestination teaches that it is God’s will to save some. If you believe the Bible, then you must believe the doctrine of predestination. It is not some obscure doctrine. No, it is clearly taught in many passages, one of them being Ephesians 1:3-6. There Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3–6, ESV). So there are many passages which teach that God has determined to save some, but this passage says that “God our Savior… desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Is God conflicted within himself? Did he, on the one hand, determine to save some and send the Son to atone for their sins, and on the other hand, wish that all would be saved? No! It is absurd to speak of God in this way. God cannot be conflicted within himself, and neither can contradictions be found in his word. 

The solution is simple. This passage is simply teaching that God’s will is for all kinds of people to be saved. The context makes this abundantly clear. The reasoning of the apostle is very tight. Prayers are to be offered up on behalf of all kinds of people, even for kings and those in high positions. This is good and pleasing to God our Savior because his will is that all kinds of people be saved. And as we will see, if they are to be saved, they must be saved through faith in Jesus the Christ, for he is the only mediator between God and man. 

As I have said, the reasoning of the apostle is very tight. There is to be no discrimination in our prayer life. We are to pray for all people. Why? Because “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” God did not set his love on the Jews only, nor on the pour only, nor on the weak only — no, he set his love on all kinds of people. And Christ came to redeem all kinds of people. Christ commissioned the church to make disciples of all nations. The Spirit of God was poured out on all flesh. And in the new heavens and earth, there will be people from every tongue, tribe, and nation standing before the throne of grace.  

Stated differently, God’s will for the church is that she prays. And the prayer life of the church is to correspond to God’s redemptive purpose. We are to pray for all people, for God’s will is to save all people. And this he will certainly do (for God’s will cannot be frustrated), through Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man.   

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Though There Are Many Kinds Of People, There Is Only One Mediator, Christ The Lord!

And that brings us to the final point. Though there are many kinds of people in the world, there is only one mediator between God and man, Christ the Lord. 

Verse 5:“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 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 Timothy 2:5–7, ESV).

Do not forget that in the ancient world — the world in which Paul lived —  the predominant belief was that there were many gods. Each nation had its gods. The Romans had theirs. But the Christian claim is that there is only one God. He is the Creator of all things seen and unseen. He is the God, not only of the Jews, but also the Romans. Indeed, he is the God of all nations, even if they do not recognize him as such. All other so-called gods are not god’s at all, but are the idols of men. 

All humanity shares this in common, therefore. They come from one God, and they are made in his image. And they also share the same problem. All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. They are alienated from him and are under his wrath, therefore. But God is gracious. He has provided a Savior. And notice, he has not provided many saviors — one for this tribe or nation, and another for that tribe or nation. He has provided one Savior for all the fallen children of Adam. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

A mediator is a go-between. A mediator is a middle man whose job it is to reconcile (or bring together) parties who are at odds. In this case it is God who is at odds with all humanity. And the mediator is the man Jesus Christ. He was brought into the world through but there is only one mediator. The only way to be reconciled (or made right) with God is through faith in him.  

Notice that Paul says Christ “gave himself as a ransom for all”. Again, if “all” means all without exception then we have a contradiction in the scriptures, for elsewhere the scriptures teach that Christ laid down his life for the church and not for the world, for the sheep and not goats. And when Christ instituted the supper, “he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:27–28, ESV). Christ shed his blood for “many” but not all. Why then does Paul say that Christ “gave himself as a ransom for all.” The message is clear. There is only one God. And there is only one mediator between God and man, Christ the Lord. And Christ gave himself up at just the right time, and this he did, not for the Jews only, but for all nations. He died for all the peoples of the earth so that he might redeem, not only the children of Abraham, but the children of Adam too. 

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Conclusion

In the new heavens and earth there will be a new humanity washed in the blood of the lamp. This new humanity will be perfectly unified in Christ, but it will be diverse — a true reflection of our great God who is one and three.

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: 1 Timothy 2:1-7: I Urge That Prayers Be Made For All People


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