1 TIMOTHY-SERIES NR 3
1 Timothy 2: 1 – 7
Theme: Motivation for intercession
Chapters 2-3 of the Apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy contains the very oldest and very earliest apostolic instructions for the manner whereby the church of Christ’s worship services, and also the church administration, should function.
No, it is not complete, because he gives it as it was applied to the church in Ephesus where Timothy was serving. But we believe that God the Holy Spirit was leading him in what he had to write and what he should omit. Therefore that which is written here is God’s instructions to the church throughout all the centuries. Also for us today.
The Apostle discusses three aspects: 1 > The necessity of intercession in the worship services 2 > How the roles of man and woman differ in the worship services and 3 > the qualifications elders and deacons must comply with.
Firstly then the necessity of intercession so that there may be favorable conditions for the continuation of the Gospel. Yes, requests, intercession and, thanksgiving, says the Holy Spirit through the pen of the Apostle.
All of that is centered in intercession – serious intercession – in the broadest sense of the word. Together with praise and thanksgiving. Even though it seems as if the Lord does not hear.
How undeniably important is prayer. Particularly there where the people are gathered in the worship service.
It SOUNDS as if the Apostle is giving an impossible instruction here. Because he is saying intercession must be made for EVERYONE. And that is simply impossible. ALL people? As in EVERYBODY? How on earth must that be done? Can it perhaps be that ALL in some places in the Bible does not mean ALL? Yes, as we would say: “EVERYONE was at Newlands on Saturday“. That certainly does not mean EVERYONE in the Peninsula. It is merely a general expression to say that it was a great number of people.
We often see how the NT speaks in universalistic terms (everyone), while not literally everyone (every individual) is meant. And this particular verse 2 is an example of that!
In verse 2 the apostle clearly states WHO this “everyone” is. And also in verse 4 who these “all men” are whom God wants to have saved. Because the “everyone” of verse 1 is also the “all men” of verse 4. It is the same group. Namely: not ONLY people among the Jews but also out of all the nations – particularly those who occupy positions in authority – of whatever nature at all. In Paul’s time, it was from the evil Roman Empire and the Emperor and the rulers. Because upon particularly these people rested the responsibility – given by God – to uphold peace. And that is indeed the purpose and aim of all the intercession: The church must be able to live in complete devotion to the Lord. And therefore circumstances must – as far as possible – be ACCORDING TO THAT. And the rulers and authorities play a big role in this.
But we live in a broken world where things are certainly not ideal. Exactly because of that, the church’s intercession is so essential! Intercession – which is not merely a talking-into-the-wind. The Lord gives instructions that intercession must be done and therein we read the promise that He hears!
Thus: Pray for ALL people means: Pray for those in authority – not only those who are Jews, but also those who are non-Jews.
That is concerning verses 1-2.
Verses 3-4 give furthermore the deepest grounds/purpose for the instruction in verses 1-2 that there must be intercession for “all men” – that is everyone in authority (from all nations, and not only the Jews). And what is this purpose? Answer: To be saved and brought to repentance!
The “all men” in verse 4 is still the “everyone” in verses 1-2 namely people in authority – from all nations. Yes, it is about the fact that there has to be peace and law and order – as verse 2 puts it, but the deepest reason for the intercession is that these people must come to a knowledge of the Truth of the Gospel. THAT is the real issue on the Apostle’s heart and therefore also on the heart of God.
God is the “Saviour“. It is indeed God the Father who determined the salvation of people in His Divine Plan – even before the creation – and THAT He brought into fulfillment in Christ Jesus.
God’s will is not a WISH. God does not WISH that people would come to salvation and repentance. Sometimes God’s Word is preached to sound as if God has a great desire/longing that all people – every individual – would come to faith, but He can unfortunately not get His wish because the majority of people oppose it in unbelief. Even if only ONE person opposes it, His wish is unfortunately not fulfilled.
That is an unbiblical and wrong idea.
That which is God’s will – He also brings into fulfillment. According to our text, He WANTS “all men” – that is people out of all nations who are in authority – to be saved and come to a knowledge of the Truth and therefore – because it is His will – He SHALL bring them to it – and He incorporates the church’s prayers of intercession in this saving-action.
Naturally, the living God shall not bring ALL MEN (that is: every single individual) who are in a position of authority to faith and salvation, but certainly those whom He had given before creation to His Son to be saved by Him. Listen to John 17:2 where Jesus says to the Father: ”For you granted Him authority over all people THAT He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him”. And in John 6:37 the Lord Jesus Christ says: ”All that the Father gives me WILL come to me…”. Who then comes to Christ? Those who have been given to Christ by the Father. It is those whose names are written in the Book of the Lamb before creation already (Rev 13:8; 17:8).
God wishes/desires nothing. He WILLS and He DOES that which He wills! Those whom He gave to His Son, shall come! Because God is sovereign (Psalm 115:3). Man’s inborn spiritual lifelessness and unbelief cannot handicap or thwart God’s Divine Plan.
Through the church’s prayers (intercession) God SHALL bring people in positions of authority – Jews AND from all nations – to knowledge of the truth – all who are ordained to it (Acts 13:48).
Is it not breath-taking to think that – in the execution of this enormously great task – He WANTS to use our prayers! And indeed He does! How does that not encourage one to pray!
We now move on to verse 5.
All over Ephesus – where Timothy was preaching – worship of numerous idols and idolatry was rife. But the truth is that there is only ONE true God. And He does not sit somewhere far away and aloof, o no, He worked the atonement for people of flesh and blood – everyone who would ever be in Christ. And this atonement He worked by providing a Mediator, and that Mediator paid a ransom – with His flesh and life!
This truth is 100% unique to the Christian Faith and is the heart of the biblical message. The entire Old Testament is CALLING for a mediator because for a lost human there is absolutely NOTHING that he/she can do to be reconciled with the Holy God. Hebrews explains to us for example how the essence of the Old Testament theology revolved around the necessity for a mediator. Think about all the sacrifices brought in the tabernacle/temple and the ministry of the priests. Oh, if only there were someone to arbitrate between us, who can lay His hand on both God and me, Job cries out in Job 9:33.
CHRIST JESUS is the phenomenal answer to the Old Testament outcry. A mediator is a go-between between two unreconciled parties. The mediator works in reconciliation. The mediator had to be able to represent both parties. Christ Jesus therefore, had to be both God AND man, because He worked reconciliation between God and man. He is truly God and truly man united in one Person. By His becoming human, His obedience to His Father, his suffering and crucifixion and resurrection, He brought peace between God the Father and everyone whom the Father gave to Him. In this way, Jesus perfectly accomplished that which was impossible.
Take note of the Apostle’s words: Jesus is STILL man! He did not relinquish His humanness after His resurrection and continued as only God – as He was from eternity BEFORE He became human. No, He retained His humanness and He is still that today. The risen Lord could for example eat fish and His people could touch Him. Paul says: He IS man.
And that is wonderful because now the believer – who is also human – can truly be reconciled with God and live in His presence after all our true Mediator and High Priest is present with the Father as MAN in our place. That is the only ground we can stand upon that we are completely accepted by God.
Next verse 6…
Even before the creation, it was the intention of God the Father that Jesus Christ himself would be the ransom that will redeem all those whom the Father gave to Him. Yes, a chosen nation. That eternal intention of God’s Divine Plan was over 1000s of years in the Old Testament era represented and proclaimed in different ways, but only became physically real 2000 years ago when Jesus died on the cross as the ransom for ALL – meaning not only the Jews but also non-Jews – all who would come to true faith in Christ.
Already in verses 1-4 we saw that Paul did not, with “all people” mean all individuals on earth, but all KINDS of people – particularly those in positions of authority (in the case of verses 1-4). It is therefore all people without discrimination, and not all people without exception.
Yes, Jesus’s death on the cross does indeed have the power to reconcile all individuals on earth with God, but it is only effective in the lives of THOSE – and only those – whom the Father gave to Jesus – those who would truly come to faith and repentance – from all nations – not only Israel – as the general idea was at that time. That is what Paul is saying in so many words in 4:10 – “Jesus is the Saviour of all men – especially of those who believe!” And in Titus 2:14 the Apostle says that Jesus gave himself for US – that is the believers – to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own.
You see therefore how important it is to read and understand verses – even words like ALL/EVERYONE.
The same applies to the word/idea RANSOM. Christ pays the ransom to His Father by becoming the ransom himself.
In antiquity, slaves were the property of their owners but could be bought by someone else for an amount of money. That money redeemed the slave to become the property of the new owner. God has in Christ redeemed His people from His own wrath/judgment/punishment from sin. Now the Christian-believer has a new owner. If you have become a child of God, you are no longer the property of sin/blame/satan. You have been ransomed with the blood/life of Christ. You belong to a new owner and Lord – the living Triune God himself. And that is anchored and guaranteed in/by His blood that was shed on the cross.
Finally, verse 7
The Apostle Paul was so absolutely gloriously convinced of his heavenly purpose. THAT is what supported him throughout the most difficult times of temptation and persecution.
And now he is almost at the end of his life, and he looks back with the assurance that God himself called and appointed him as herald/preacher and apostle (which means messenger).
As Apostle he was invested with a unique, not to be repeated authority to receive the Word of God directly and to forward it. But he was also preacher/herald/teacher.
If one thinks about where Timothy found himself, namely in Ephesus where false teachers were active – Timothy’s ministry needed to carry the strong stamp of the veracity of PAUL’S calling and ministry. That is why the Apostle added the emphasis – even though Timothy knew it – when he says: “I am telling the truth, I am not lying”. Timothy had to be doubly sure about the content of Paul’s teaching.
But, of course, it also helps us in the 21st century to have a radical assurance of the content of the Gospel message which we have learned from the Apostles. We can have the definite assurance: The Apostle Paul preached the pure God-given truth. It can and may and must be embraced without reservation.
And particularly the believers from the non-Jewish nations can know that with assurance because Paul was an Apostle specifically for the NON-JEWS – the so-called “gentiles”. Gentiles are all the non-Jewish nations on earth.
For US today these things sound without meaning or interest, but those days it was a very difficult concept to accept that God’s salvation was meant for ALL nations – not only for the Jews.
The great message that the Apostle preached was therefore continuous teaching in the truth and the faith. “Faith” in the sense of the complete package of Truth which is true and sure and upon which the faith of the child of the Lord rests.
It is wonderful to be able to rest for all time and eternity upon something true and trustworthy. A house built upon a rock, do not waver in time of storms or wind. That is the position of someone who takes the words of Paul – the Apostle – to heart.