Friday, December 18, 2009

1 Timothy 2:1-4

This entire chapter is devoted to instructions on prayer (v1-7) and worship (v8-15) in response to false teachings on these crucial elements of the faith. The latter half of this chapter emphasizes the divisive spirit of the false teachers.

V1-4 – 1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Paul, with the word “then,” ties chapter 1 to chapter 2. He has urged Timothy to continue in faithfulness to Christ without being overly concerned with the appearance of outward success. How might Timothy best accomplish that task? Paul says with four different words that it comes through prayer. Praying for “everyone” (v1), or “all men,” is meant to show the inclusiveness of the gospel, in the response to the exclusivist false teachers; but it is often misinterpreted. Paul clarifies what he means in v2, basically including all kinds of people. So praying for everyone means praying for all kinds of people, including those in authority and even kings.

Praying for Nero at this time was probably not something that came easily to persecuted Christians, but doing so was intended to ease their trials (“that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”) Because Nero, and others in authority were persecuting the church, or trying them by teaching divisive and false doctrine, living peaceful and quiet, godly and holy (or dignified) lives, did not come easy; but maybe through prayer God would alleviate some of that tension, for godly living is good (v3; Jeremiah 29:7). The false teachers in Ephesus were unwilling to include certain people groups – namely kings and those in authority – in their prayers, thinking them too unspiritual and therefore unworthy of intercessory prayer. On the contrary says Paul, these prayers, including intercession, requests, and thanksgivings, please God our Savior (v3).

In v4, Paul says that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” We can acknowledge that Paul’s statement refers to God’s general benevolence in taking no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11). God wants – He commands – all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). But at the same time, all people everywhere are not saved. So many question God’s will here. This is an illustration of His revealed will; in terms of what would be nice for each individual human and beneficial for humankind, salvation through faith in Christ (“a knowledge of the truth,” referring to an intimate, personal and complete knowledge of God) and repentance. God wants this, but His decretive will is that all kinds of people – from every tongue, tribe, and nation – would be saved. God, therefore, has not elected all people to salvation, but all kinds of people; the elect don’t come only from the poor class, or from Israel – they come from everywhere. God has a special love for His elect, as He brings them (us) to Himself. And another part of His decretive will is that some people would experience just judgment, while others receive mercy (Romans 9:1-24). This is all due to nothing on the part of the individual, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; but we are saved by His grace according to His good and perfect purpose. Allow Calvin to conclude:

“We see the childish folly of those who represent this passage to be opposed to predestination. ‘If God’ say they, ‘wishes all men indiscriminately to be saved, it is false that some are predestined by His eternal purpose to salvation, and others to perdition.’ They might have had some ground for saying this, if Paul were speaking here about individual men; although even then we should not have wanted the means of replying to their argument; for, although the will of God ought not to be judged from His secret decrees, when He reveals them to us by outward signs, yet it does not therefore follow that He has not determined with Himself what He intends to do as to every individual man. But I say nothing on that subject, because it has nothing to do with this passage; for the Apostle simply means, that there is no people and no rank in the world that is excluded from salvation; because God wishes that the gospel should be proclaimed to all without exception. Now the preaching of the gospel gives life; and hence he justly concludes that God invites all equally to partake salvation. But the present discourse relates to classes of men, and not to individual persons; for his sole object is, to include in this number princes and foreign nations. That God wishes the doctrine of salvation to be enjoyed by them as well as others, is evident from other passages of a similar nature.”

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