1 Timothy 2:1-7
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 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. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity, (vv. 1-7)
In these verses we have an earnest exhortation and a very marvelous declaration, and the two are most intimately linked together. The exhortation has to do with our responsibility in respect to prayer. We read in the first verse, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.” One of the first great responsibilities resting upon the people of God is supplication and prayer.
Four things are brought before us here. The word prayer suggests any kind of approach to God as we draw near to Him to present those things that are on our hearts. The word supplication goes somewhat deeper, and has to do with matters about which we are greatly exercised and which cause intense concern. The word intercession suggests prayer on behalf of others. Our blessed Lord “ever liveth to make intercession for [us]” (Heb. 7:25). And now while we are here on earth it is our privilege to intercede on behalf of fellow saints, on behalf of Israel, on behalf of the nations generally, on behalf of unsaved people that they might be brought to know the Lord, and on behalf of rulers that they might be guided aright.
With prayers, supplications, and intercessions we always should link thanksgiving. In Philippians 4:6 the apostle says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” When we come to God in prayer to supplicate for needed blessings or to intercede on behalf of others, we should not be ungrateful as we think of His dealings with us in the past. You will remember that in 2 Timothy 3:2 unthankfulness is connected with unholiness. Thankfulness and gratitude to God, and holiness of heart and life are linked intimately together.
Notice the scope of intercession in the last part of the first verse and in verse 2. We are to pray for all men. We can do that only in a general way. We do not know what the will of God is as to the lives of all men, but we learn from the following declaration that it is God’s desire that all men should be saved. So we can pray in fellowship with God that the Holy Spirit may bring men under conviction of sin, to confess their lost condition, and to see their need of Christ. We are not to confine our prayer to just a few of our own little circle, but our hearts are to go out to all men. We are to pray in a special sense for those who have been given responsibility as rulers, in all nations. God Himself it is who has divided us into nations, and it is God who puts one man up and another down. It is He who gives authority to different men, and they are responsible—those who are placed in positions of leadership—to act in accordance with the Lord’s will. They do not always do it. In fact, very infrequently perhaps are they concerned about doing the will of God. But, as Christians, we may help them in this by prayer.
We are to pray “for kings, and for all that are in authority.” When we come together in a public service, we usually pray for those who are in authority. But are we as much concerned about remembering them before God when we kneel alone in His presence? I am quite sure of this: if we prayed more for those at the head of the country and in other positions of responsibility, we would feel less ready to criticize them. We would be more disposed to recognize the heavy burdens resting upon them and to understand how easy it is to make mistakes in times of crises. Our rulers need divine wisdom that they might govern well in subjection to Him who is earth’s rightful King. As we pray earnestly for them, we are furthering our own best interests. Because as the affairs of nations are ordered according to the will of God, His people find living conditions more comfortable and more enjoyable. So we are told to pray “for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
Christians are to be examples to others of subjection to the government. When difficulties arise and differences come up that divide people and set one group against another, we should be characterized by quiet, restful confidence in God as we refer these things to Him in prayer. God told Israel, when they were scattered among the nations of the earth, to pray for the peace of the different lands in which they dwelt. This is a responsibility that rests upon us as believers today.
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” The apostle uses this beautiful term—”God our Saviour”—a number of times in this epistle. How precious it is to think of God in that connection! In our unsaved state we knew Him as God the Judge, but now since we have come to know Him as revealed in Christ, He has become God our Savior.
We get a very definite reason why we should pray for all men: God our Savior wills, that is, He desires to have, “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” I hope we believe that. I find that some of my brethren do not seem to believe it. They speak as though there are some men whom God has brought into existence for whom there is no possibility of salvation because they are not among the elect. I find no such teaching as this in Scripture. We read in that wonderful passage—the miniature Bible, as Luther calls it—“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Thank God, we can go to men everywhere and tell them,
There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed.
No matter how far they have drifted from God, no matter what their sins may be, they do not have to peer into the book of the divine decrees in order to find out whether or not they are of the chosen or the elect. If they come in all their sin and guilt, confessing their iniquities and trusting in Christ, then they may have the assurance from His Word that they are saved. It has been well said that the “Whosoever wills are the elect, and whosoever wonts are the non-elect.” All who will may come. Jesus said to those who refused His testimony, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40). It is the desire of God that all men should be saved. He says, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11). This expresses His attitude toward all men everywhere. But their salvation depends upon their coming to the knowledge of the truth—that is, believing the gospel.
Yes, God desires that all men should be saved, and He has made provision whereby all may be saved if they will: “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.” This is the gospel. It is our responsibility to carry it to the world. There is one God. All other objects that men worship as gods are only idols. They are powerless to save. There is “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” He it was who came down from heaven and took humanity into union with His Deity in order to make God known to men, and to give Himself a ransom for all. Now He has gone back to God on behalf of men. He ever lives to intercede for us. Scripture does not know of any other mediator. The blessed Virgin Mary is never referred to in the Bible in this capacity. Nor do we read of saints or angels as mediators. Our Lord Jesus alone stands between us and God, even as His work on the cross is the only ground of our salvation.
He who desires to know God, to be assured of sins forgiven is directed to Jesus by the Holy Spirit, speaking through this Word. “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). And, thank God, no other is needed. That name is all-sufficient. He came to earth to give His life a ransom for us. He tells us Himself that, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Some might think the word many there indicates that His redemption is not available for all, but the Holy Spirit negates that thought by what we read here in verse 6: “Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” While it is true that only those who believe on Him will be actually redeemed, yet He gave Himself an available ransom for all. If ever you are lost eternally, it will not be because God was not ready to save you. If you are shut away from the Home of the Blessed for the ages to come, it will not be because there was not a welcome for you if you had come by way of Calvary’s cross. There is no other way, no other salvation than through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that work avails for you if you will come and put your trust in Him who accomplished it.
This is the message that Paul carried through the world, “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.” Who ordained Paul? Some would say that Ananias ordained him, but who ordained Ananias? From the record he does not seem to have had any special human ordination. But who ordained Paul? The Lord tells us, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee” (Acts 26:16). So Paul’s ordination came when the blessed Lord Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus turnpike, and Paul could have said in the words of the beautiful seventeenth-century poem, which has been rendered into English by Frances Bevan:
Christ the Son of God hath sent me
Through the midnight lands:
Mine the mighty ordination
Of the pierced hands.
The Lord ordained Paul as preacher and apostle to go to the Gentiles with the gospel of a full redemption whereby all men might be saved. This was the special mission committed to him. And while he never forgot his Jewish brethren as he went from place to place—he usually sought them out first—his great work was to make the gospel known to the Gentile world. And what a world it was! It was a world literally rotten in its vileness and corruption. A world given to the worst kind of paganism and idolatry. A world in which men were enslaved by the Devil and powerless to deliver themselves. It was into such a world as this that the apostle Paul proclaimed the One “who gave himself a ransom for all.” And when men believed the message they were saved. They were transformed, and they who had been led by Satan captives of his will became captives in the chains of love, delighting to serve the One who had died to redeem them.