1 Timothy 2:1-7
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
I. UNIVERSALITY IN OUR APPEARING BEFORE GOD ON BEHALF OF OTHERS.
1. Broad teaching. "I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men." This is the first duty which pressed upon the apostle's mind, as claiming attention. If a priest is one who acts for others, then there is here required of us priestly service, which is only in accordance with our being called, in 1 Peter 2:5, a holy priesthood. Our priestly service is here regarded as twofold.
(1) Prayer for all. For the sake of emphasis and fullness three words are used to denote prayer, which a Greek would be better able to distinguish than we can do now. The first word seems to mark the state of need out of which petitions take their rise. The second word seems to mark our approaching God with our petitions. The third word seems to mark the urgent way in which we are to approach God with our petitions. An intercessory character is given to all three by the accompanying words. It is right that we should turn our wants into petitions for ourselves, that we should approach God with these petitions, and that we should press them with all urgency. But there is a range of want beyond ourselves which we are here directed to cover by intercession. We are to turn the wants of others into intercessions for them; with our intercessory petitions we are to go to the throne of grace, and we are to press them there with all the urgency of which we are capable. We are not to be so selfish as to think only of ourselves in our prayers. The Spirit, even in the way of blessing us, would direct us away from ourselves to what others need. But for whom are we to intercede? This is the point to which the teaching of the apostle specially refers. It is certainly our duty to intercede for our family and friends. "He that provideth not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." And, if we do not take the wants of our own before God, we are not acting the natural part, which is to be expected of us as Christians. But there is also a family selfishness, from which, if we would have the larger blessing, we must be freed in our prayers. "O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations." We are not to be prevented from interceding for others by reason of their ill desert. God has shown us Abraham, that prince of the elder covenant, using his privilege on behalf of undeserving Lot, and also on behalf of ungodly Sodom. He has also shown us his afflicted patriarch under direction to pray for the uncharitable Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad. They were to offer sacrifice; but God said, "My servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept." "We are to pursue the sinner with love; we are to weave around the impenitent a network of prayer from which he may find it hard to extricate himself." We are not to allow obscurity or distance to separate us from souls. St. Vincent de Paul conveys some of his prayers (as by a definite grant) "to the most forgotten soul in purgatory." Surely we are entitled to convey our prayers to the most forgotten soul in this world. Roman Catholic writers are to be commended for the stress they lay on the ties which unite us to the great human society in which God has placed us. It is net their truth, for it is simply the spirit of our being here enjoined to offer up prayer for all men. We are to think of ourselves as belonging to a great world of need, belonging to it more than we do to ourselves; and we belong to it in this way, that we are bound to pray for it with all earnestness that the ends of Christ may be advanced in it; thus, we believe, making our influence felt in circle after circle to its utmost bound.
(2) Thanksgiving for all. It is the frequent teaching of the apostle that thanksgiving is to accompany the presentation of petitions. We are not to be so much taken up with our wants as to forget our mercies. While, then, we are to be quick to see the wants of others, we are also to be quick to see their mercies. And while we turn their wants into intercessions, we are to turn their mercies into thanksgivings. But for whom are we to thank God? We are especially to give thanks for those who are bound up with us in the family unity, if they are free from calamity, and more so if they are the subjects of saving grace. There may be those in our homes who cannot thank God for themselves, and we are to do this for them. But we are to give our thanksgivings a wider sweep, We are to give thanks for our neighbor, even when he may bear us a grudge, even when his interests may seem to conflict with ours. We are to get beyond all that would narrow our souls, and lay hold upon this, that God sees fit to bless him; and why should we begrudge the Giver his due of praise? We are to thank God for those who are sensible of their mercies, and are not remiss themselves in thanking God. We do not need to be afraid of God receiving too much gratitude for mercies bestowed. If there are those who are ungrateful for mercies and do not give God the glory, it is meet that we, who have a right understanding of things and are jealous of God's glory, should see that he is not robbed of his sacrifice of praise. Our thanksgiving is to extend far beyond our knowledge. We are to seize the spirit of universality which the apostle here inculcates. "Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men." A requirement for both parts of this priestly work is, that we take pains to acquaint ourselves with the men that dwell on the earth, and with what is taking place among them. A second requirement is that we open our hearts to their needs and mercies. By intelligence and large-heartedness, our work shall answer its end, viz. the calling down of blessing on men.
2. Special teaching. "For kings and all that are in high place; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity." We are to understand the highest and the subordinate representatives of authority in the state. Our duty branches out in the same way as before.
(1) Prayer for kings and magistrates. We are to pray for them especially in their official capacity, that they may be enabled faithfully to discharge the duties of their office, and to glorify God therein.
(2) Thanksgiving for kings and magistrates. In this land we can give unfeigned thanks to God that we enjoy so largely the blessings of good government. The public recognition of kings and magistrates would be conducive to their leading a tranquil and quiet life. The first word points to the state not using its power against them. The second word points to their not provoking a collision with the state. By the course enjoined, a right impression would go abroad regarding them, that they were not decriers of dignities, secret plotters against the existing form of government. It was good advice which was given to the Jews of the Captivity: "Seek the peace of the city, whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and Tray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace." So the good advice of the apostle here saved the Christians (in the midst of the Roman empire) from many a false step. They could follow the quiet course in all godliness and gravity. The first word points to the habit of the Christian's mind, which is that he has a regard to the will of God in all things. The second word points to his having a regard to the propriety of things, which is "the appropriate setting of higher graces and virtues." Not mere policy, but the God-regarding habit, and the sense of propriety, kept the Christians in the quiet course.
3. Motive. "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior." The intermediate reference is brought in to illustrate the universality of our service for others. This service in its universality is recommended, as having a high excellence in itself. Moreover, it is peculiarly pleasing to God in his character as Savior, which is to be further brought out. Even Rousseau is our teacher of universality. "The good man," he says, "plans his life with a reference to the whole, while the wicked man would gladly order all things with reference to himself. The latter makes himself the center of all things, the other orders all with reference to a common Center, even to God."
II. UNIVERSALITY OF THE PURPOSE OF SALVATION. "Who willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth." It would be making feebleness of the words to suppose the apostle's idea to be that God is willing that all men should be saved, as it is plainly dogmatic prejudice that accounts for Calvin's assertion that the apostle is thinking, not of individuals, but of classes of men. It is a great truth, of which we are not to be robbed, that of every man it can be said that God willeth that he should be saved. We are to think of his will as in a state of active volition. It was in this state when, in the depths of eternity, he formed the purpose of our salvation. It is in this state now when, in the pleadings of the exalted Christ, in the workings of the Spirit, in all the dealings of Providence, he is seeking to secure the condition of our salvation, viz. our coming to the knowledge of the truth. We are to understand not mere intellectual knowledge, But experimental knowledge-our laying hold by faith upon our Representative, and coming to know in our experience that there is salvation in him. This his active volition is directed toward all; it cannot Be said that he desires the salvation of one more than of another. He uses means, not towards one here and another there, but towards all alike coming to the knowledge of the truth, and finding ample and everlasting shelter in his love. And if it is so with God, it is made plain as it could not otherwise be, that we are not to narrow down our petitions and thanksgivings (which are expressive of active volition) to a little circle of our own, but are to widen them out even toward all men.
III. UNIVERSALITY OF THE DISPENSATION OF SALVATION.
1. Presided over by the one God. "For there is one God." The pagan idea was that there were many gods. There was a god for every nation, a god for every small community, a god for every household. The god so attached was supposed to be devoted to the interests of his devotees, in preference or even in opposition to the interests of all others. What was that but breaking up the race into factions, and under the most powerful example? We have a much nobler conception - all men under one God, and not different men under different gods. As we are all under the canopy of heaven, so we are all under the same canopy of the Divine love. "Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also."
"The great God that loveth all,
Hath made both great and small." That shuts out all clashing of administration. As all are under the same Divine government, so all are governed on the same impartial, universal principles, and governed toward the one end of their salvation.
2. In the hands of the one Mediator. "One Mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus." A mediator is one who acts between two. Christ Jesus is here said to be Mediator between God and man. God, as it were, allows the administration to go out of his hands, but it does not suffer in doing so; for it passes into the hand, not of many mediators with many administrations, but into the hands of one Mediator, by which there is preserved the grand equality and universality of the administration. Christ could mediate on the Divine side, being God himself, thus carrying into the administration the whole mind of him whom he represented. The remarkable thing which alone is noted was that, to mediate on the human side, he became man, being linked not to some men, but to all men; so that his mediation could be in the interest, not of some, but of all. It is matter for solemn thought to every man that Christ is linked to him, and linked to him with a view - according to the whole spirit of the administration - to his being saved.
IV. UNIVERSALITY OF THE RANSOM. "Who gave himself a Ransom for all." If the language had been that Christ gave himself for all, there would not have been excluded the idea of substitution. But emphasis is given to this idea by the word which is translated "ransom." It is literally "loosing-price instead of." It is implied that we were captives, hopelessly bound in the consequences of our sins. Not able to do anything for ourselves, we needed to be indebted to a substitute. The price our Substitute paid as ransom was himself, i.e. his life, which, being the life of him who was God as well as man, was more than equal to the lives of all men together. Such is the way - not to be too much literalized - in which the truth is conveyed here. The stress of the thought is to be laid on all. Time was when it was considered dangerous to say that Christ died for all. The apostle does not shrink from it, neither here nor where his language is that "Christ tasted death for every man." It adds a deep solemnity to the existence of a man that this price has been paid for him. How shall he get rid of the obligation incurred, unless by doing as the captive does for whose ransom the stipulated money has been paid? As the captive goes forth into the possession of freedom, grateful to his redeemer, so let each of us go forth into the possession of our freedom in Christ, grateful to him as having redeemed us with his blood.
V. UNIVERSALITY OF THE TESTIMONY. "The testimony to be borne in its own times." It is generally assumed that the reference is to the universal proclamation of the gospel. But there is this to be considered, that what is to be witnessed to is, that Christ Jesus gave himself a Ransom for all, i.e. all that ever lived, that live now, or shall ever live. And this does not seem to be properly witnessed to or borne out merely by the men of a distant time, or of distant times or ages, all having the knowledge of the gospel. It is better not to fix down the manner of the testimony, but to allow the verse to remain in its own universality, to have its due weight as one of many verses that bear upon the same point. There is suggested - not more than suggested - some great testimony to the universality of the ransom. We cannot tell what the testimony will be, as it is here, for good reason, not condescended on. It is not borne now, but it is to be borne - it may be after long ages - yet in its own times.
VI. PAUL'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE TESTIMONY. "Whereunto I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I speak the truth, I lie not), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth." Paul was privileged in his day - before the arrival of the times - to help forward the demonstration of the universal ransom. For this he was appointed a preacher, literally a herald, i.e. one that cried aloud in the Name of Christ and spared not. He was also appointed to the high office of apostle, with which is connected the double asseveration, "I speak the truth, I lie not." We cannot think of it being made thus strong for the sake of Timothy, but for the sake of some who were to be reached through Timothy. He was further appointed a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. In this he overstepped Jewish limits, and was entering as far as he could into the universality of the gospel. And what he called upon men everywhere to do was to believe, the object of their faith being the truth that Christ died for them and for all. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;