(Written by Pastor Tim Redfield)
1 Timothy 2:1-8 – I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.
8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
The Apostle Paul knew the Old Testament very well. He had been taught the Scriptures thoroughly when he was trained as a Pharisee. You can see his knowledge when you read his letters in the New Testament. He brings in many references to the people in the Old Testament and he uses much of the same imagery that the prophets used. At times he will include direct quotes of Old Testament passages. I mention this because it means that Paul would have been very familiar with Israelite history. Paul knew that the Israelites were often unthankful toward God. God had delivered the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and yet the Israelites complained about how God was taking care of them.
God had provided them with so much. He gave them Moses to lead them. He gave them the commandments. He gave them food and water through miracles. He sustained them for 40 years in the wilderness. He even gave them the Promised Land. In spite of all that, the people grumbled and complained. They complained about how Moses was leading them. They doubted that they could truly conquer the Promised Land and they doubted God’s grace. It was a pattern that continued throughout their history. Moses warned them to not forget about God when they were being blessing in the Promised Land and yet that is exactly what they did. They forgot God. They were not grateful for their blessings.
The Israelites turned away from God and followed false gods. Sometimes they followed idols such as the false god Baal and other times they followed false gods such as their own desires and pleasures. Because of this, God sent them prophets to rebuke them and he even sent armies to conquer them. The Israelites lost focus on God. In the reading from 1 Timothy 2, Paul reminds us about how we can keep our focus on God. First he reminds us to make use of prayer. He says, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
When we pray in all circumstances and when we pray for our leaders, it helps us to keep the focus on God and what he does to take care of us. It also helps us to have concern for those who are leading us. We recognize that they are not just God’s appointed rulers but they are also people who need the salvation of Christ just like us. As we pray for others we share the attitude of God. Like it says in verses 3 and 4, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
It is very easy to lose sight of the fact that we are to always imitate the attitude of God our Savior. Far too often, we do exactly what Jesus tells us not to do. It is so easy to worry. We worry about what the future holds. We worry when it seems like we don’t have enough blessings. We worry about poor health. We worry about our sinfulness. Worrying is part of our sinful nature. Satan wants us to worry about all kinds of things because he doesn’t want us to trust in God. Worrying is the enemy of faith. Worrying is not trusting in God to take care of all of our needs.
Worrying is exactly what happened to the Israelites. They did not trust in God to take care of them. Rather than praying for help, they grumbled and complained. Rather than praying for the leaders such as Moses, they wanted new leaders who would do exactly what they wanted. And usually what they wanted was contrary to God’s rule over them. When they were taken into captivity, did they pray for the leaders of those nations who had conquered them? What about at the time when Paul wrote this letter? Were the Jews praying that the Roman Empire rule them wisely? Or were they looking for a way to get rid of those Roman rulers?
Even though our circumstances are different than the Israelites in the Old Testament, we are tempted in similar ways. We need that encouragement of Paul to pray for others. We need to be reminded that the Christian attitude is like that of Jesus – we should want all to be saved. We are tempted to forget to be concerned for others. Think about what it is like when we experience great blessings. Think about how easy it is to be focused only on ourselves rather than seeking to help others who are less fortunate than we are. Think about how easy it is to forget to thank God for the great blessings that he has given us. He gives us all we need and yet how often do we pray to him to thank him.
What about the encouragement to pray for those in authority? Do we pray for our government? Do we pray that God would bless them and their decisions so that they work for the benefit of our nation? Or do we grumble and complain when the politicians don’t do exactly what we want them to do. Whether it is our government leaders or someone else in our life, it is easy to stop viewing people as souls who need a Savior when those people cause us harm or do things that we don’t like. Rather than sharing the gospel of forgiveness, we look at the faults of others and we don’t talk to them about Jesus. There are plenty of times that we sin in these ways.
That is why it is so important that we continue to pray for others. Then we will view them as souls who need eternal salvation. Then we will better recognize our own need for the gospel and we will apply that gospel to others.
As we think about our most important reason to give thanks, we go back to our Savior. We recognize that there have been times that we have not shown our thankfulness. We have been selfish. We have forgotten just how much God has done for us. We have failed to pray for others. That is why we need to apply the gospel message to ourselves before we can apply it to others. Paul reminds us of that wonderful gospel in these words, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
Think about Jesus as our mediator. This means that he is the one who offers up prayers on our behalf. For all those times that we have forgotten to pray, Jesus prays for us. He comes to the heavenly Father and asks him to take care of us. Jesus points the Father to the fact that he was the ransom for our sins. When God’s justice demands that we be punished for our sins, Jesus says that he was punished on our behalf. He paid the price that was necessary for the sins of the entire world. His blood was the price. He truly did pay for the sins of all the world. For that we are eternally grateful.
Even though he paid for the sins of the world, not everyone gets the benefit of that payment. That is the difference between an unbeliever and a believer. We who believe get all the benefits of his sacrifice on the cross. Those who do not believe have rejected what Christ did for them. Jesus has given every person a huge deposit in our bank account. For the sake of illustration, we’ll say that it is one million dollars. We can have access to that money. We didn’t earn it but we still get to spend it. We get the benefits of it.
The unbeliever doesn’t believe that the money is in the bank. The unbeliever doesn’t spend the money because he doesn’t think that it is really there. He continues going about his life trying to earn more money because he doesn’t take advantage of what has been given to him. That’s the way it is for unbelievers. Their sins have been paid for but they have no benefit from that payment because they reject it. That is why we continue to pray for them. We want them to have the same blessings that we have. We want them to have forgiveness and eternal life. More than just praying for them, we also share the message of Jesus with them.
Part of our thankfulness is that desire to share our joy with others. We are thankful for everything that our God does for us and we want others to have that same thankfulness. We continue in that wonderful Word that has been given to us. We grow closer to our Savior. We recognize the value in our forgiveness. When we see our eternal hope we are moved to pray for others. We pray at all times and in all places. Like Paul says, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing” (1 Timothy 2:8).
We pray in our worship services. Think about how many Christians are praying throughout the World. God hears the prayers of his people. Think about how wonderful it is that we gather together without anger or disputing. We focus on the blessings of God. We pray for ourselves that God would continue to bless us. We pray for our government leaders. We pray for those who have not heard the gospel so that they too may rejoice in the truth of the cross.