Re: All People
Passage: 1 Timothy 2:1–2:6
Re: All People
I Timothy 2:1-6
April 27th, 2008
Way of Grace Church
I. Whose in the Diner?
What if your prayer life...was a diner? That's right a diner. You know, booths, burgers, etc.
If we went with that analogy, we could say that last week, we talked a lot about what would be on the menu, the kinds of things that we should prayer for above all things when it comes to one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
But who exactly would be in the diner that is your prayer life? What kind of people would we be served? Would everyone be welcome, would all be invited in, or would there be a sign in the window limiting the service to a select few, or maybe a bouncer out front who determined a customer's suitability?
This morning, I want to talk about that very question. And to do that, we need to go the word of the One to whom we pray. Turn with me to I Timothy 2:1-6. (page 991)
This morning, we are finishing up our series on prayer called "In Jesus' Name. Amen." Over the course of this month we have been asking, "What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus?" So many of us end our prayers with those words, but how often do we truly pray in light of those words?
I think God has been showing us the depth of this truth. I know I have personally been humbled in light of the privilege of prayer that the Cross of Christ makes possible. Ultimately, I hope God uses these messages in two ways: 1) that all of us would pray more in light of the incredible privilege we have of coming to God forgiven and coming to Him as Father, and 2) that the way we pray would be changed, that we would pray more biblically, or as the Bible puts it, we would pray according to His will, according first to what God wants, not simply what we want..
So in the hope of this, let's go to our passage this morning.
II. The Passage: "I Urge that...Prayers...Be Made for All People" (2:1-6)
Listen as I read the words of the Apostle Paul, written to his co-laborer Timothy:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications [or we could say ‘requests'], prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the manï»¿ Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
As we see here Paul is writing to Timothy, his younger co-laborer in the work of Jesus. Paul has sent this letter to the church at Ephesus, the church where Timothy is serving as an interim overseer of sorts. As Paul put in 1:3, "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies."
But this letter also includes instructions for how Timothy is to instruct the church. As Paul writes in 3:14-" I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household..."
And what we see here in 2:1 is the beginning of Paul's listing of some of these instructions for the church. And notice where he begins. "First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made..." So very clearly Paul is encouraging Timothy that he must remind the church that they should be a praying community.
But the instruction here is more specific, isn't it? Paul is urging prayer for "all people" (as we see at the end of verse 1). Last week, we talked specifically about praying for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ in light of how Paul prayed for the Christians in Colossae. But now our prayer focus has been expanded.
How should followers of Christ conduct themselves in the household, the family of God. And he begins by calling them to renewed prayer, prayer for "all people".
A. Prayer as an Expression of Our Heart for All People (2:1, 2)
But what does it mean to pray for all people? Who are the "all people" Paul has in mind here?
Well maybe he means every single person. But how can we pray for every single person? Should we attempt to use the global white pages in order to get a list of names? How could the church in Ephesus literally pray for every single person, except in an extremely broad blanket kind of prayer?
Well, maybe it simply means that we should pray generally for all kinds of people. That we should offer up requests for people from different places, or people from different social classes, including kings and leaders as we see here.
Well, I think this is closer to the truth, but what I think Paul is really emphasizing here when he talks about praying and giving thanks for "all people" is praying without prejudice.
You see, the first chapter provides some clues about these false teachers whom Timothy was trying to correct. It seems their false teachings flowed from a misapplication of the Law of Moses. They were trying to use the law to establish and define their own righteousness. And in doing this, they were most likely drawing lines about who was ‘in' and who was ‘out'.
And if that was the case, they were probably teaching the people to limit their prayers only to those who were considered righteous.
And it is this idea that Paul is trying to challenge here. He wants Timothy to urge the people to pray without prejudice.
They should pray for their unbelieving neighbor. They should prayer for the merchant in the market who handles meat sacrificed to idols. They should pray for the traveler on the road who knows nothing of God's commandments. They should pray for the relative who has wronged them. And no matter how oppressive or how pagan the Emperor was, or their civic leaders were, they should pray for such rulers.
The diner must be open to anyone and everyone who passes by, no exceptions. All people should be invited in.
B. Three Reasons to Pray for All People
So what follows here in verses 2-6 is a series of reasons Paul provides for why followers of Christ should make requests for, and intercede on behalf of, and offer thanksgiving up for "all people", specifically for unbelievers who might somehow, in some way, come into the sphere of their life; no exceptions.
1. Such Prayer is an Expression of Our Heart for All People (2:1, 2)
This first reason Paul gives is evident from verse 2 where he writes that such prayer for all people, including non-Christian rulers, should be offered up in order that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
Now some attribute this result to prayer specifically for leaders. A prayer for their leadership is a prayer for civic peace. But I think the mention of rulers is only a parenthesis here. I think this result flows from the main instruction of prayer for all people.
But how does this prayer result in peaceful, quiet lives lived in godliness and dignity?
Well throughout these books we call the Pastoral Letters (I Timothy, II Timothy, and Titus) we find a consistent theme related to our witness as followers of Christ to the outside world. Throughout these letters, Paul reminds us that our conduct can either make the Good News of Christ appealing or appalling.
And so what I think Paul is saying here is that not only does God answer our prayers that we would have peace with those around us, but prayers and thanks that are offered up for all people reveal something about our hearts. We pray for others when our hearts are concerned about others; when we see them through the eyes of love and not legalism.
And when our hearts are like this, we often find ourselves living in peace and godly dignity with whoever God has around us, especially when they know we're praying for them.
Are you concerned about the unbelievers God has around you? Are you praying for them? Do they know you're praying for them, maybe for a pressing need they have, maybe for wisdom in their job or in a difficult decision.
You'd be surprised how grateful people are when we tell them, "I'll be praying for you." Even people who don't seem to believe in prayer in the first place.
When our prayers demonstrate our heart for all people, that heart will often bring about peace with all the people God has connected to our lives in some way,
2. Such Prayer is a Reflection of God's Heart for All People (2:3, 4)
But if we continue into verses 3 and 4, we find that Paul gives us another reason for prayer without prejudice. In regard to this prayer for all people, he writes: This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Do you see what Paul is saying here? He is trying to show that limiting our prayers to people who believe like us or people that we just like, that such prayer-prejudice is inconsistent with the heart of God.
If we are followers of Jesus Christ through faith then God is our Savior. And our Savior has the doors of deliverance open wide to anyone and everyone who will come in. He desires that no one be excluded from His offer of mercy. He desires that no one be kept in the darkness, but that all will come to the knowledge of the truth.
For God so loved the world,ï»¿ that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Paul is not stating here in I Timothy 2 that everyone will come to know the truth, nor is he dealing here with questions about who is chosen or how Christ's death relates to God's choosing. No, he talking here about the fact that God is not prejudice when it comes to His mercy: He desires all people to be saved.
Therefore, how can we not pray for all people, for every person that God bring onto our radar? Whether we meet someone on the street, or at work, or read about someone in the news, or we're talking with a family member, whoever it is, God call us to pray in light of His heart.
He calls us to pray without prejudice.
3. Such Prayer is a Reaction to Jesus' Heart for All People (2:5, 6)
Finally, when we continue on to verses 5 and 6, we discover a consequence of God's impartial heart for humanity. Listen to this incredible truth that Paul declares, a reality that flows right out of God's own heart:
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the manï»¿ Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
Did you hear that? There is only way to God. There is only mediator, one go-between for human beings when it comes to God. And possibly in rejection of these false quasi-Jewish teachers, Paul is indirectly stating that this mediator is not Moses, nor do angels have some role.
This mediator is not Muhammed or the Buddha or the Virgin Mary or Joseph Smith or the Pope or Oprah.
No, the only mediator we have is the man Christ Jesus. No matter the person, no matter what they've done, or where they're from, no matter what they believe, no matter the language they speak or the color of their skin, all of us have only one means of access to God. There is only one person who can stand in the gap for human being before God himself: Jesus.
And what does Paul tell us here about the heart of this unique mediator? He tells us that He gave himself as a ransom for all. There's that word "all" again; and that word takes us right back to verse 1.
We are called to pray for "all people" because Jesus Christ gave his life, he suffered on the Cross for "all people". His death was not an exercise in Exclusivism. He did not suffer for a select group of people who somehow measured up. No, he died that anyone and everyone might know the freedom that his ransom makes possible.
Are we praying for the unbelievers in our lives because we are emboldened by the love of Christ, because of this testimony of grace that was given at the proper time, because the Cross of Jesus Christ reminds us that there is hope of new life for all of us because of His death?
If Jesus, the Son of God, our only mediator, died so that anyone and everyone can know God's forgiveness and transformation, then how could anyone who claims to follow him limit their prayers?
III. Praying With His Heart
Are you guilty of limiting your prayers? No, you might not subscribe to some kind of teaching that specifically excludes others, but maybe, just maybe, you and I limit our prayers because we lack God's heart; because we lack the heart of Jesus
We've talking over the past few weeks about what it means to pray in the name of Jesus. And last week we came to this conclusion: When we claim to pray in Jesus' name we should be praying for what Jesus would pray for.
Or to put it another way, when we pray in Jesus' name, we should be praying with His heart.
To pray in his name means that our prayers will be the overflow of a heart that is full of Christ. And if our heart is full of Christ and His love, we will be praying for all people, for whoever God brings into our lives in whatever way.
But how should we pray for these people?
Well, I think the fact that Paul provides four different words in I Timothy 2:1 is an indication that there are many ways to pray for "all people". Now most of these words have a lot of overlap. They can be and they are used interchangeably in lots of places. But I think we can at least say here that these different words point us to the different ways we can pray for those around us.
We can pray for specific requests according to needs they express. Someone may not ask you to pray, but they may share a difficult situation with you. Let them know you will be praying for that need, and then pray.
We can also give thanks for them. I remember several years ago when our elder from Camelback Bible, Bill Eaton, when he and I were looking at school facilities to use, there was a school official was showing us around one of the local school buildings. And although he did not offer it up in a formal prayer, I remember Bill expressing thanks to God for this man's role in helping to care for and educate the children of this community.
What a powerful message that sent. Jesus recognized the daily concerns of those he came into contact with. He commended, to the glory of God, when commendation was appropriate.
But this passage this morning points us back to an even greater, one that applies to "all people", not matter their current circumstances, regardless whether or not they've done anything praiseworthy.
If we are praying in Jesus' name, in identification with him through faith, and we should, then shouldn't we be praying above all in light of what we learn here about the heart of God?
He desires they be saved. He desires that they come to a knowledge of the truth. Jesus wants to provide for them the ransom price, to free them from slavery to sin and death, from the oppression of the old life, and to reconcile them to God, forgiven and free.
Are you praying this for "all people" that God brings your way?
You see, prayer is a barometer of our desire for the salvation, the rescue of the lost. If we understand that there is power in prayer because there is power in the One who hears our prayers, and we still do not pray for "all people", we demonstrate that our heart lacks the concern that God has demonstrated so clearly.
As we talked about last week, if we don't pray like this, then when we find ourselves with "all people", our hearts will not where they should be and we will not love them in truth as we should.
It's easy to judge those who don't think like you do. It's easy to be upset with a family member who is making poor decisions. It's easy to vilify someone on the news who is promoting what is shameful. It is easy to think everything is okay with our neighbor, simply because they're smiling.
No matter the person or circumstances, God's word to us is clear this morning:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people... For there...is one mediator between God and men, the manï»¿ Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all...
Open wide the diner doors and compel them to come in.