The Agora
Godliness with Contentment - 1 Timothy

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II. Prayers For All Men (2:1-8)

These verses deal with the great efficacy of God's grace, and its availability to all men. In view of this, Paul stresses the importance of prayer on behalf of all men.

This matter of prayer is something very real and very important. Prayer is perhaps the strangest and most marvelous of all God's provisions. It is a way whereby a man may extend his influence for good far beyond his natural powers -- without limit -- into eternal things. A man who cannot appreciate the real power of prayer, in his life and the lives of others, is a man with little of the true faith.

We are constantly told in the Scriptures of the power and importance of prayer. Might we not pray much more than we do, that others may learn the Truth and obey God in baptism? God has given us a tremendous instrument for good -- for the good of man. Are we using it to the fullest?

Let us follow Paul's example, in praying not just for ourselves in the ecclesia, but for others, that they might turn to God. This was Paul's "heart's desire and prayer to God" (Rom 10:1; 9:2,3). This is true prayer -- filled with the love for others which God desires us to show. "Pray without ceasing"; the heart-felt supplication for the pitiful, purposeless miseries of blind mankind, vainly seeking a self-made peace and an impossible happiness, tragically destroying themselves with their own 'wisdom'.

A. 2:1-8: Prayers For All Men

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.

Is that our attitude toward the world? -- true concern for them, and constant prayer that they may be helped out of the morass. There is a danger that we tend to be too self-centered and narrow in our interests and affections, ignoring other people's needs and sorrows, wrapped up in our "specially-chosen" selves and writing off the world as hopeless. This was Paul's first request -- therefore of prime importance. ("First of all" does not simply mean first in order of time, but rather foremost in order of importance.) "Exhort" carries the significance of calling attention to something not being done to the fullest.

Supplications is from a root word meaning 'to bind oneself (to another) -- that is, to make earnest, continual, untiring petition and may fittingly be addressed on occasion to men also. In relation to the particular object for which supplication is made -- that is, all men -- let us compare Paul's supplication in Rom 10:1, where the same word is used:

"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved".
The word translated prayers is the most common and therefore the most general word for prayer in the New Testament. It includes the idea of public prayer. This word gives prominence to personal devotion to God.

Intercessions actually means a conference with someone, an interview, a speaking to and with God. This word gives prominence to a personal confiding with God. We must be the intercessors for the world, as Christ is the intercessor on our behalf (Heb 7:25; Rom 8:27,34). In this sense we are now a kingdom of priests (1Pe 2:9), having been "taken from among men" (Heb 5:1). That is, we are the only contact that aliens have with the true God. We are God's representatives to them, and quite possibly, the only means (in this age) by which others may learn the Truth. Today, especially, Jesus' words ring true: "The harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few" (Mat 9:37,38). Our overriding concern must be that through us God's mercy through the gospel may be shown more widely.

It is our responsibility to work toward this goal; and it is also our responsibility to pray that this work may prosper.

Paul exhorts that the giving of thanks be for all men. And why is this? What does this mean? What is there to be thankful about, in relation to "all men"? It means we must, like the prophets of old, and above all, like Jesus himself, identify ourselves with the sorrows and burdens of mankind.

For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Our prayers to God in relation to the world should also take this form: We must pray that God will be with the leaders He has set up, so that society may maintain at least a semblance and framework of Christian law. We are told that even the King's heart is in the hand of God, so that He may turn it wherever He will (Pro 20:1; cp Ezra 6:22). This is with the purpose that the true believers may have the opportunity to lead peaceable lives, with as little interference as possible from the ruling authorities. In this era of the world's history this has been the case, for which we should be very thankful. Likewise, Jeremiah was inspired to exhort the captive Jews of his day to pray for the peace of the cities in which they sojourned, "for in the peace thereof ye shall have peace" (Jer 29:7). It is well to remember, of course, that such peace as we now enjoy is a great privilege, not to be taken for granted.

Concerning governments, this is the teaching of all the NT. Paul, in Rom 13:1-7, tells us:

"Let every soul be subject to the higher powers... ".
And in Tit 3:1,2:

"Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, and to be ready to every good work to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men".
Also see 1 Peter 2:13-15.

This counsel was certainly appropriate, for there were many Jews in the congregations to which Paul ministered and their nation bitterly hated the Romans. And the same feeling could naturally be present among Jewish Christians. But Paul's (and Christ's) command is simple and all-embracing:

"Do good unto all them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Mat 5:44).
The Jewish nation was to be overturned in a few years from the time of this writing. The times even then were difficult for all Jews in the Roman Empire and they were not going to get any better. But the Jewish Christians could not allow themselves to become partisans against the government in any way. They could not be implicated with their brethren after the flesh. The course of the true believer has always been meekness and subservience to the powers that exist, seeking at all times to live peaceably with all men.

Another point to consider is that God calls all men to repentance, including the leaders. There were examples of those in authority who were touched by Jesus and the apostles and their doctrine. Might we not pray for the opportunity of conversion of those in authority? Is anything impossible with God?

That we may lead is better translated "that we may have... ".

The two Greek words translated quiet and peaceable denote, first quiet arising from the absence of outward disturbance and, second, an absence of internal strife. A true believer must not seek trouble with outsiders (even to the point of fleeing to avoid persecution -- Mat 24:16-20); nor with his brethren, although trouble may come regardless of his efforts to avoid it. His wholesome behavior must be directed toward the keeping of peace. But even if the conditions under which he must live resemble those described by Jeremiah ("Fear on every side" -- Jer 20:10) or Paul himself ("Without were fightings, within were fears" -- 2Co 7:5), still the disciple of Christ may have peace. He may be blessed with the "peace of God that surpasses understanding (1Ti 1:2n; Phi 4:7). This reflects a mental condition not cluttered with empty anguish and frustration, but a condition of quiet peace which enables the individual to face turmoils otherwise impenetrable. However, the desire is to live a life of physical, political, ecclesial, marital, and mental quiet, that we may work unhindered in God's vineyard.

Godliness is reverence for God. This is the familiar word eusebia -- noted in the Introduction as characteristic of the Pastoral Letters.

Honesty or "gravity" (RV) or "seriousness" (Diag.) is a characteristic which exhibits a dignity arising from moral elevation.

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.

Acceptable means more than just acceptable and includes the ideas of welcome and pleasing. It is used only twice in the N.T., the other instance being 1Ti 5:4. For an explanation of God our Saviour see note on 1:1.

Who will have all men to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth.

If God is concerned with the sparrows that fall and the young ravens that cry (Mat 10:29; Luke 12:24; Job 38:41; Psa 147:9), certainly He is concerned with people.

This must be our concern too, if we are His children. It is so easy to self-righteously attend our own comfortable meetings and then spend the rest of our time on our own selfish, temporal interests and welfare. We must get out of ourselves and keep before our minds the broad world picture: God is concerned with the world, and is working with the world. We help Him toward this end by going forth to preach the gospel to all men (Mat 29:19; Mark 16:15), following the example of the apostles (Col 1:23).

God desires (Diag.) all men to be saved. God is "not willing that any should perish" (2Pe 3:9). He "has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live... " (Eze 33:11; 18:23,32).

If God "wills" the salvation of all men, why do so many perish without hope? We must view the "will of God" in two senses: His general plan and purpose, which cannot fail (His 'active' will) and, secondly, His offer of the means of salvation to individuals which depends for its success upon their choices (His 'passive' will). In this second sense, God's 'will' can be thwarted, and He plaintively sighs: "Why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Eze 33:11; 18:31).

The all men refers to all classes of men, Jews and Gentiles. All are placed on the same basis with respect to God's grace. The great light that shined forth upon Israel (Isa 9:2; 60:1,2) also shined forth upon the Gentiles (Isa 42:6; 49:6; 60:3)! All classes of men have sinned and fallen short of God's glory; all classes of men may be justified through God's grace in Christ (Rom 3:9,23,24,29).

The word knowledge in the phrase the knowledge of the truth is epignosis meaning exact knowledge. This is called an "active knowledge" in the Diaglott. This is more than just a basic theoretical understanding of the first principles, more than that which we require for baptism. It is moreover a practical knowledge, a growing always in grace and knowledge. It signifies 'increasing to perceive and recognize and discern and know precisely and correctly the (Divine) truth". There are many who are nominally "in the Truth" -- who miss the main point that our initial knowledge must work effectively to change our lives. Some do not appreciate the sanctifying, cleansing influence of the Truth received in its fullness (John 17:3,17; Eph 5:26). Paul describes this class as "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof... ever learning, but never able to come to the (exact) knowledge of the Truth (2Ti 3:5,7).

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

If there is only one God and one Creator of all men, He must certainly have a deep concern for all men. Yahweh is not a tribal deity of the Jews. Paul argues in this way in the presence of the Athenian philosophers (Act 17:26-28):

"(God) hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: For in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are His offspring".
If each nation had its own mediator, then we with the "hope of Israel" would need have no concern for other peoples. But there is only one mediator between God and men -- Christ Jesus.

There is only one mediator or intercessor for all men -- one mediator in contrast to the many mediatorial 'saints' and angels and spirits of the Catholic superstition, which was developing even in Paul's time, and to which he referred:

"a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels" (Col 2:18).
Paul foresaw the time when:

"Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed... to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils" (demons, demigods, departed spirits) (1Ti 4:1n).
Christ is the one mediator (Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). Christ confirmed the new covenant by his death as the covenant-victim:

"For where a covenant is, there must also of necessity be the death of the covenant-victim" (Heb 9:16-18).
He told his disciples at the Last Supper:

"This cup is the new testament (covenant) in my blood" (Luke 22:20).
The blood of Christ, in a figurative sense, came to represent the "new and living way" which he had opened, and which is still open to all men (Heb 10:20-22).

Christ Jesus was "himself man" (RV)- See Heb 2:14 and Rom 8:3 -- the perfect man, the representative of all men before God. The Jewishness of Jesus is one aspect of truth, but his similarities with all men, including Gentiles, far outweigh his differences.

Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

Jesus gave himself or laid down his own life, deliberately, willingly (John 10:11, 15, 18; 1Pe 2:23). Sin did not snatch him away without consent.

In the phrase a ransom for all 'ransom' is from the Greek anti-lutron where anti means 'equivalent to... ', and lutron is 'the price paid to set a person free' (as in Lev 25:48). Christ bought us out of our bondage to "Sin";

"But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (Rom 6:17,18).
In this place, Paul uses 'sin' in a personal sense, as the designation of a great ruler to whom all the world gives allegiance. This is the ruling power from which Christ has ransomed us.

Christ was a "ransom for all" (here), or "for many" (Mark 10:45). This is to say, he was a ransom for "all that believe in him" (Rom 3:21-31). He is the ransom and the mediator only for 'us' the 'saints' (Rom 8:34, 27), who have "come unto God" (Heb 7:25). But the 'ransom' price was paid for "all men"; unfortunately, most men prefer the captivity of sin.

The concept of ransom is only one view of the sacrifice of Christ. If taken alone, it tends towards the idea of substitution whereby Christ would have died in our place. But then we would not have to die ourselves, which we all too evidently do.

However, Paul is referring to a ransom from the bondage of sin which results in eternal death -- "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, who is our Lord". Adam, the man, is the federal head of all natural mankind, including Jesus -- "in Adam all die". Jesus, the Christ, is the federal head, the first born, of mankind after the spirit "in Christ will all be made alive". If Jesus is our Lord, and not human nature, and if the law of Christ overcomes the law of sin in each of us, we shall be ransomed from the wages of sin which is not simply death, the death due to all of Adam's heritage -- but death in the final sense -- and we shall receive eternal life, the gift given to those who are truly, federally in Christ. The ransom paid was 'death' to sin -- to sin's flesh -- to human nature. This is accomplished in us through the forgiveness of our sins through the sacrifice of Christ. Just as by one man's sin, we all became sinners, by one man's righteousness can we all be made righteous. Our minds, hearts and lives must revolve around Christ, His Word, and His Father. Originally we have little choice in the inclination of our natures -- we inherit the tendencies of sin and human nature's consequence. Now, as men and women, we have a choice and we have a way of escape from the finality of death, through the 'ransom' of Christ. A ransom, something of equally-appraised value, was given -- Adam lived, failed and died; Christ died, succeeded and lived -- lives. Truly we may say we have been purchased by precious blood. Truly we can appreciate more than any others the sacrifice of Christ since we know him to have been one of us, yet without sin.

We must recognize the necessity on our part of a holy life and of an admittance and disavowal of our sins. And we must understand that God, by the death of His son, has shown His personal displeasure with sin, and the punishment due for it -- which should rightly fall without mercy upon each of us. We must see that we are saved, not by a bargain between Jesus and God, but only by God's mercy and forgiveness. All this, and more, is encompassed in the concept of Christ as a "ransom for all".

The last part of verse 6 -- to be testified in due time -- is better translated "which was announced at the proper time". Compare the phrase of Gal 4:4: "When the fullness of time was come... " Christ's sacrificial death occurred at precisely the time which God had appointed long before (see the prophecy of Dan 9:24-27).

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.

The word whereunto means "for which" (testimony): Paul was ordained in order to preach to all men, that Christ was a ransom for all of them, if they would only submit:

"God... hath commanded all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).
Ordained is the same word as "putting into" of 1Ti 1:12. There is not implied here any special service of ordination or consecration. Paul was singled out and called and equipped by God, not by men or by any elaborate or secret rites. Baptism (after belief of the truth) is the only special ceremony whereby a person may become a "minister" or servant of God.

A preacher is a 'herald' (Diag., NIV) or a 'proclaimer', one who makes a public proclamation on another's behalf. Note how Paul makes the application of two Old Testament quotations (Joel 2:32; Isa 52:7) to himself and his work:

"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach ('proclaim' -- Diag.) except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom 10:13-15).

For an explanation of apostle see 1:1.

Paul was a teacher of the Gentiles. This included the Romans, whom the Jews hated by natural inclination as 'dogs', but to whom God offered His abounding grace and love. For this purpose Paul was God's "chosen vessel" (Acts 9:15; 26:17; Gal 2:7-9).

Verity is translated as "truth" in the RV.

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

God may be lawfully worshipped in any place (John 4:21,23). But this verse refers especially to the assemblies of the saints. And the men (or 'husbands') must pray there, in contrast to the women (vv 9,12). (Perhaps Paul means that not only those on the 'platform', but also those in any place in the 'congregation' may be called upon for prayer.)

The lifting up holy hands was a common practice among the ecclesias. But let us remember that form means nothing, and "let us lift up our hearts with our hands" (Lam 3:41).

The hands mentioned here must be "holy" -- set apart for the work, cleansed from sin, hands that have not shed innocent blood; "clean hands and a pure heart" (Psa 24:4). Paul uses this phrase almost as an expression of sacrifice. We offer God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; but unless this offering is accompanied by that other sacrifice (clean hands and a pure heart -- James 4:8), our prayers cannot be pleasing to Him. The priest offered after he had first cleansed himself.

Without wrath means 'without anger, having no bitter arguments, no hard feelings' as the following quote demonstrates:

"Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment... Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there remember that thy brother hath ought against thee: Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (Mat 5:22-24).

Christ is certainly speaking for our benefit too. The gifts and sacrifices which we offer are our prayers (Psa 141:2; Hos. 14:2) and Christ is the altar to which we approach (Heb 13:10). Before we pray to God, let us see that we have clear consciences, or else our prayers will avail us nothing. Unless we forgive others, we will not be forgiven (Mat 6:15).

Doubting means 'discussion' (the Greek word has been carried into English as 'dialogue'), 'disputing', 'controversy'. The same word is translated 'imaginations' in Rom 1:21. This word means much more than just honest doubt or weak faith. It means "vain disputings" (1Ti 6:4), evil thoughts of the heart (Mat 15:19), faith-destructive speculations. Angry disputes are out of place any time among brethren, and they are especially damaging when brethren are trying to draw near to God in prayers and service. To accomplish anything, we must all pray together confidently, "nothing wavering" (James 1:6,7), in unity of mind and love for one another. We must doubt neither God; Christ's work in us; nor the sincerity of the brethren. Prayer is a time for submersion and submission of self before God. Our mind must be readied to come into His presence.

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