Friday, July 15, 2016

1 Timothy 2: 1- 7 : “Public Worship and Public Prayer”

Paul had left Timothy  in Ephesus  to sort out  matters threatening the existence of the  church  (1:3-11).  Being  a young pastor in challenging circumstances is not for the fainthearted.   Young pastors (Timothy) need older pastors (Paul)   who can  guide them  by experience  and by  godly wisdom, older men who  can  say to younger men in  their distress,  “…well,  I have  seen this  kind of problem before, and it’s not going to destroy the church,  because I know that the  mercy, grace and peace (1:2)  of the Lord Jesus Christ  will keep the church”. And so we find Paul writing this letter  to help his younger colleague  with respect to   shepherding  the church  through  its   various challenges.

As we progress through  this letter, we find  today Paul’s counsel to Timothy concerning    the importance of  public prayer in worship.  Today,  we are reminded from the Scriptures that  prayer, and especially public prayer  is no side issue  in the church. It ought to be  a core activity in the life of the Christian church. Whatever we fail to    do as a  church, we cannot fail  in  being faithful in prayer, and particularly in public prayer. 

Vv.1-2  Paul says: “FIRST OF ALL then (or therefore), I urge that supplications (requests), prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and a quiet life , godly and dignified in every way.”  

(i) “First of all…” here means, as a matter of first priority, indicating that  prayer is no  arbitrary matter.

(ii) The little word  “then” (or ‘therefore’) connects  Paul’s  thoughts with  the preceding context in 1:18–20 and gives us a reason why  prayer  is significant.  There  Paul  exhorted  Timothy to "wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience"[1].  He reminds Timothy that by  rejecting faith and a good conscience, one  may  run the risk  of making  shipwreck of  one’s faith. This had been  the sad  case  of men  like   Hymenaeus and Alexander[2] (1:20)[3].  We had seen  earlier  that the church at Ephesus  was  being undermined  by people who were teaching  a different doctrine  (1:3), and  Paul  exhorted Timothy that  he needed  to bring the church back to the  true gospel. 

Clearly, the church  is at war, and very often the war comes right into the church, bringing with it inevitable casualties (see 1:6,20). Pastors themselves  are always at risk  in such  situations, for  they too can  become casualties if they do not hold tightly on to the gospel of  the Lord Jesus with faith and a good conscience.  The  church needs faithful  and  conscientious  soldiers  who are not ashamed of the gospel of  Jesus. The church  was empowered by the Lord Jesus after His ascension and at Pentecost   to   spearhead  the advance of the gospel in a fallen world.  She is  the  agent  by which  the gates of hell are pushed back,  and therefore she is   Satan’s sworn enemy.   It is against this background  that  Paul reminds  Timothy   concerning the importance of  prayer. Paul’s actual letter to the Ephesians   in  6: 18-20 reveals that prayer is a significant tool  in this spiritual war.  The church  gains ground in the world when she prays. Conversely, she loses ground when she doesn’t  pray!

(iii) I urge[4]  (Gr. parakaleō ; to exhort , beseech)…  indicating again  that  this is a priority.  Paul urges  Timothy that   he  must lead the church  in prayer  for  all kinds of  people. Think about  that for a few moments. This  congregation of Jewish and Gentile Christians  is found  in an hostile environment.  Nero is the emperor, and  the  Roman authorities who  crucified Jesus  are not friendly to Christians. In addition,  the  Jewish community  in Rome  is  antagonistic to  Christians.   Paul is saying to these Christians,  “put your requests, or supplications forward to God for all kinds of people;  pray for  all kinds of people; intercede for all kinds of people, and where applicable  give thanks  for  all kinds of  people,  even  for the government under which you  live.”  This is a remarkable  exhortation,  given  the fact that Christians  lived under precarious circumstances  in the Roman world.

(iv) “… that we may lead a peaceful and a quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” One of the goals of prayer  is  seen here :  By prayer we ask God  to enter into the hearts and minds  of all kinds of people in our society, especially  kings and all those who are in high positions,  who potentially have so much power  to disrupt our lives  by causing us not to live  in peace and in quiet and with dignity. Part of our  public prayer is therefore to pray for our country, our politicians and our churches so that  we may life in peace and quiet and with dignity. This is the essential foundation for the spread of the gospel. Christians desire an ordered society for the sake of all its citizens, but especially because then we can fulfill our God-given responsibilities without hindrance.

Therefore we  read next…

Vv. 3-4  This (prayer)  is  good and pleasing  in the sight of God our Saviour , who desires  all people to be saved  and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  Here are some further goals of prayer. Paul says  that  such prayer  which  seeks the face of God, is good. God is pleased  to hear such prayer,  and so we as a church need to hear this , understand this,  and do this, because  (this is another goal in prayer)  this sort of prayer   underlies  effective  biblical evangelism of our  community.    Therefore in prayer (and especially public prayer)  we make requests of God; we pray; we  intercede;  we give thanks  where it is appropriate  and   remember  that  the goal of our  public prayer is the salvation  of all kinds of people.  Here Paul encourages  Timothy  to lead the church in prayer  that  all kinds of people  would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.   In this prayer there is a promise  for us. If God expects us to pray, and if  such prayer is good and  pleasing to God  then we can  confidently say  that  prayer is a public means of grace.  That means that we can expect that God will  answer such prayers  because they are good and pleasing to Him. They are in accordance with God’s goals that the whole world  would hear His Word.   And  so, Paul  was saying to Timothy, “Make sure  that  among the other elements  of worship on the Lord’s day, you lead  the Ephesian church in prayer for all kinds of people, including kings and all in authority. 

In this regard , the wise words of Bishop John Charles Ryle come to mind:
“It is easy to criticise and find fault with the conduct of kings, and write furious articles against them in newspapers, or make violent speeches about them on platforms. Any fool can rip and rend a costly garment, but not every man can cut out and make one. To expect perfection in kings, prime ministers, or rulers of any kind, is senseless and unreasonable. We should exhibit more wisdom if we prayed for them more, and criticised less” [5].

And now take notice  concerning the extent of this prayer :“pray for all people…”  (2:1)… God, our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”(2:4). All people! What are we to understand here? Are we to  literally expect  all people on earth to be saved as a result of our prayer?   As desirable as we may find this thought, it is not  likely that  this was what Paul had in mind  when he wrote this.  What Paul had in mind  was based  on  an Old Testament hope, namely  that  one day “the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”[6], namely  that all the nations  would be united  in the worship of the One  True God.  It is thus not so much every person that is in mind here (although we should always work and pray as if everyone  could be saved), but the big  thought here is that  all kinds of people and from all kinds of nations  are envisaged here. Is this not what we are seeing today? Haven’t the nations everywhere become aware of the  Lord Jesus? Is this not what we are publicly praying for every Sunday night as we systematically pray for the countries of our world?

Vv.5 &6 “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.“ The reason  why we are praying for the whole world  is because of these  words. There is not  one God for the Muslim world and many gods for  the Hindu world. NO! Why should we pray for all people? Because there is only  one  true God. There is only one  true Saviour. He  alone is the one hope of all humanity, and  if   He is  the only  hope, then it follows  that if we don't pray for the world, what hope does the world have?  And if this is God’s  desire for the world  then this must move us  as Christians to pray for all kinds of people.

V.7For  this I was appointed as a preacher and an apostle ( I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the gentiles in faith and truth .”   Paul includes himself in the mission of God.  He  tells us  here  that God's  desire for the world  is what propelled  him into the ministry. The proof of the power of Paul's ministry to the Gentiles is  we  who are  gathered here in this auditorium today! You and I would not be  here today if God not appointed Paul to take this message not just to the Jew, but also to the Gentiles.

Paul is  outlining  the basis of  world missions through the church. The  primary means by which God  does this  is by    prayer, praying first,  that  the people of a nation, including their rulers would be favourably disposed, if not converted to the gospel. This makes  gospel preaching easier. It is not easy or possible  to preach the gospel in the war torn Middle East.

It is surely  God’s desire that the nations should receive the gospel. There is no other Saviour, no other Name given  by which man can be saved. This is why we are here this morning  to   make sure that God’s Word is  widely spread  in our city, country, continent  and world by prayer and the Word. This is the old  and proven apostolic method (Acts 6:4). 

Thank God,  that Paul and Timothy bore this conviction, and because of their faithfulness  in preaching the gospel to the gentiles we are here this morning to also celebrate the Lord’s Supper. 

Jesus  died for all those that would  be brokenhearted over their sin, and who would look to Him for the answer to that sin, and  who  come to Him. 

[1] See also 1:5
[2] Alexander is also mentioned in 2  Tim 4:14
[3] throughout this epistle,  Paul talks about those  who  have  wandered away  from the faith see also 1:6 ;  6:10,21
[4] Gr. parakaleo – to exhort  see also   1:3
[5] J.C. Ryle  :  The Upper Room ,  Chapter 21  “For Kings”, p.264
[6]  Num,.  14:21; Ps 57:5,11; 72:19 ; Isa 11:9 ; Hab. 2:14

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