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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Pray for all people to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Text:1 Timothy 2:1-4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's gathering work
 
Preached:2016-08-16
Added:2016-06-20
Updated:2016-06-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

Bible translation: NKJV

Psalm 47:1,3

Hymn 6:1,2

Psalm 2:1,2,3,4

Hymn 63:3

Hymn 19:3,4

Read:  1 Timothy 2; Belgic Confession Art. 36

Text: 1 Timothy 2:1-4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“A quiet and peaceable life.”

“Pray for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”

It sounds good, doesn’t it?  Pray that you be left alone so that you can enjoy some peace and quiet!

It sounds good:  after all, who does not want these things? 

But what exactly that we are praying for here?  What are we to pray for when we bring the Prime Minister of our country, the Premier of our State, the Mayor of our city and the governments that they lead before God in prayer?  What is the desired outcome of such prayers?

There is a danger in our day that we are praying for kings and those in authority over us for the wrong reasons, in the wrong manner and for the wrong outcome.  We know that the world is coming to an end.  We know that in the last days there will be times of great unrest, times of war and rumours of wars, times of disobedience and rebellion.  But like Hezekiah, the king of Judah who when he was told that in time to come the Babylonians would attack Jerusalem and carry the people away in captivity, like Hezekiah who said in Isaiah 39:8 “At least there will be peace and security in my days”, so we might pray with the thought that as long as the government leaves us alone and there is peace and quiet for us, then all is well.

In other words, we might be tempted to pray these things for my comfort, for my peace, and for my prosperity. 

But that is not what 1 Timothy 2 is teaching us!  To the contrary, 1 Timothy 2 exhorts us to pray for all people, including kings and those in authority over us, not for our own sakes but for the sake of the gospel, that God’s kingdom might come, and that all men might come to a knowledge of the truth and so be saved.

I preach to you the Word of God from 1 Timothy 2:1-4 under the following theme:

Pray for all people to come to a knowledge of the truth.

  1. The command to pray.
  2. The reason to pray.

1. The command to pray.

Before He ascended into heaven the Lord Jesus Christ gave this instruction to the apostles and to the church:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:18)

And,

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  (Mark 16:15.)

And,

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8)

Indeed you find this same command in Mathew, Mark, Luke, John and the Acts of the Apostles.  You can not miss it:  the Lord commands that we be busy with the preaching of the gospel and that this preaching go out indiscriminately, to all people everywhere, and that we keep on doing this until our Lord Jesus returns.

It is so clear, so emphatic, that you might wonder how the church can lose sight of this call to the work of mission.  You might wonder how we can lose our sense of vision, our sense of urgency for the gospel to be preached to all creatures, how we can lose our concern for the lost.

Sadly it did not seem to take long for this to start happening in the church of Ephesus where Timothy was called to preach the gospel.  And the reason for this is that they had exchanged the gospel for something else, for that which really was not the gospel at all.  They had turned aside, 1 Timothy 1 tells us, to idle talk.  Rather than being edified, built up in the good news of salvation that is ours in Christ, some had made a shipwreck of the faith, teaching and listening to stories and endless genealogies, making up all sorts of rules and laws that was not God’s Word at all.  And with these genealogies and law making it appears as though they made the gospel as something that is exclusive, that was for them and others like them but was not really for anyone else.  And so they spent their time tracing their bloodlines back to the genealogies mentioned in the Bible, they got excited about all sorts of made up stories and fables about these things, chasing after that rather than drinking in the pure milk of God’s Word.  And the consequence of all of this is that they lost their missionary vision, they lost any real concern for those who were outside of their little circle.  I think it is in this context that we can best understand Paul’s insistence in his letter to Timothy that God is the Saviour of all men and why we are to be concerned about and to pray for all men.

To teach, to think or to act as though the gospel is only for some men, that is, for some kinds of people and not for others goes right against who the Lord Jesus Christ is and what He had come to do.  It also goes against the charge that had been given to Paul when the Lord Jesus Christ made him one of His apostles.  In Acts 9:15 the Lord Jesus said concerning Paul,

“. . . he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before gentiles, kings and the children of Israel.”

Paul was to be concerned about the salvation of everyone and was to see to it that all would hear the gospel and come to a knowledge of the truth.  And so Paul emphasised and defended his God-given task to preach to all men in 1 Timothy 2:7,

“. . . for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle – I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying – a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

And Paul wanted Timothy, as well as the church at Ephesus – and so also us – not just to be concerned about ourselves and our own inner circle but be concerned and to pray for all men, for all people.  It has to do with your vision, it has to do with how you see not just yourself but the world, and it has to do with what God tells us about the world and what He is doing in it.

And so Paul commanded Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1,

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.”

Paul is saying here:

“Timothy, I want you and the church that is at Ephesus to think and to pray beyond yourselves and those who are closest to you.  I do not want you only to pray for those who are in your inner circle but to have a love and concern for the world, for all people everywhere.  Pray for the Jew and pray for the Gentile; pray for men and pray for women; pray for the rich and pray for the poor; pray for the black and pray for the white.  In other words, Timothy, do not limit your concern but pray for all people everywhere.”

And this praying is to be of the highest priority:

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers etc. be made for all men.”

Praying, therefore, is not just another thing to do.  Nor should we see our prayers as little more than “the right way” to start and end our church services, our Bible study meetings or the like, with the rest of the service or the rest of the meeting being what we had really come together for.  No, our prayers are of great importance.  And to emphasise this further the apostle Paul writes about “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks.” 

When the Bible speaks about “supplications” it means that we are to ask things from God.  And that means that we should be specific, praying for specific people and for specific things.

1 Timothy 2:1 also mentions “prayer” more generally, reminding us that we are approaching the throne of holy God.  To pray is to call upon Him, to praise Him to thank Him and to plead to Him for all that God has commanded us to pray.

Further, we are to make intercessions, coming into God’s presence to submit our petitions, our requests concerning others to Him. 

And we are to give thanks to Him for all that He has given but especially for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ who is our Mediator, who gave himself a ransom for all, through whom all men are saved.

And so Paul speaks about supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving thanks.  And although we can distinguish between these things to a point, they all basically call for the same thing:  to fervently and earnestly call upon the Lord, praying for all people.  The importance of these different words for prayer, therefore, is that together they underline both the need and the manner in which we are to approach God’s throne.  The Holy Spirit uses these words to arouse us, to stir us up to do that which is of the greatest importance: to pray for all people.

Brothers and sisters, how is that in your life and in mine?  Consider the Lord Jesus, how He prayed again and again, sometimes even for the whole night!  Consider the Early Church after the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Day of Pentecost, how they continued steadfastly in prayer.  Consider the many prayers that are recorded in the book of Acts.  Consider the apostle Peter and how we learn in Acts 10 that he regularly set time aside to pray.  Consider the apostle Paul and how he began many of his letters saying “I thank God through Jesus Christ for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.”  Paul must have spent hours upon hours in prayer, thanking God, praising Him and calling upon Him to bless and strengthen those to whom he had preached the gospel and also to give him the opportunity to preach the good news to others.  Praying in the New Testament is not simply a hurried and poorly considered thing to do before you get on to “the real stuff”.  Praying is “the real stuff”! 

And so when the Bible exhorts us in 1 Timothy 1:1 to pray for “all men”, we don’t just pray for all people in a general fashion, but we also pray for them specifically.  And pray for them that they might come to a knowledge of the truth, that they might be saved.

And then in verse 2 the Bible goes on to specifically call us to pray “for kings and all who are in authority.”  That means, we are to pray for our civil government, pray for our leaders.  One of the reasons why Paul may have singled out kings and those in authority as being people we are to especially pray for is that the Jews did not do so.  In those days the Jews would never pray for the gentiles or for the Roman government.  But the Lord wants us to do this.  In Romans 13:1 it says,

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”

Christians are not above the law, nor are Christians to oppose the law of the land.  Rather, they are to respect the authority that the Lord has placed over them.  And Christians are to pray to God for those in government, for those He has placed over them.  Even if we did not vote for them.  Even if our leaders are not Christian.  Even if they are leading the country in the wrong way, making laws that are displeasing to God.  We will respect them and we will pray for them.  Perhaps in this context it is good to remember who Paul was thinking of when he wrote these words to Timothy.  Paul was thinking of a government that had commanded that he be flogged and imprisoned for the sake of the gospel.  Paul had the Roman empire in mind in which, particularly among the rulers, there was wickedness and debauchery, rampant homosexuality and even paedophilia.  Paul exhorted that prayers be made for the emperor, Nero, who would soon be playing his fiddle while Rome burned – and who would later blame the Christians for the atrocity and have them killed in the most terrible of ways.  And yet he said “Pray for them.”  Pray for those who govern over you so that they might repent and believe the gospel.  But more, pray for your governing leaders so that despite their wickedness God might still use them in such a way that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

2. The reason to pray.

In 1 Timothy 2:1 the Bible simply states that prayers are to be made.  In verse 8, however, we are told who are to make these prayers in the church of God: the men, while lifting up holy hands.  In our New King James Version of the Bible, both 1 Timothy 2:1 and verse 8 speak about men.  Verse 1 says that prayers are to be made for all men, and verse 8 says that the men are to pray everywhere.  However in the Greek language in which this was first written, these are two different words.  The Greek word for men in verse 1 can rightly be translated as people but the word for men in verse 8 means men in distinction to women.  What this means, therefore, is that in the church of God men and women have different roles to play and it is the man, as the spiritual leader, who is to lead the church in prayer.  As men we need to take this seriously.  Since the Lord has determined that men should show leadership both in the home and in the church, as men we should be doing that.  Before we start pointing the finger at various women who might want to object what the Lord teaches us here, let us be the male leaders that God calls us to be and show that leadership and pray as we ought.

But verse 8 says more:

“I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

The point here is not so much that we should lift up our hands rather than have them folded with our eyes closed: actually the Bible describes various different postures for prayer.  Rather, lifting up holy hands has more to do with our piety, our holiness.  Those who pray to God, particularly those who pray to God on behalf of the congregation, must live in godliness and in holiness.  We can see this further in 1 Timothy 3, where the overseers in the church, the elders and deacons, are called above all to be blameless, holy, and reverent.  And, as Paul commanded Timothy in chapter 1:18,19, he was to “wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience.”  We must come to God in the right manner when we pray to Him.

And when we do so, then we will also see how that affects our prayers.  For then we will no longer be praying with a view to ourselves and our own comforts, but we will pray for others in a way that is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.  Because the purpose of our prayers is not for us, not even that we might live a quiet and peaceable life that we might have an indulgent and self fulfilling life.  Rather, the purpose of our prayers for all men, also for kings and for those in authority, is that gospel might be preached, that men might come to the knowledge of the truth and that they might be saved.

You see, that should be our focus.  That is how we should live and that is what we should pray for in the first place.  We do indeed pray for kings and those in authority so that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  We confess in article 36 of the Belgic Confession that it is the task of the civil government to restrain the lawlessness of men so that everything be conducted in good order.  But the government is not there in the first place for our own benefit, nor for our own comfort.  Rather, as article 36 of the Belgic Confession says,

“Their task of restraining and sustaining is not limited to the public order but includes the protection of the church and its ministry in order that the kingdom of Christ may come, the Word of the gospel may be preached everywhere, and God may be honoured and served by everyone, as He requires in His Word.”

And that is what we are praying for when we pray that we might be able to live quiet and peaceable lives.  We are praying that God might grant these things to us so that the gospel might be preached to all people in all the earth, so that they might come to a knowledge of the truth and so that they might be saved.

That’s why it says in 1 Timothy 2:3,4

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

This is the time in which the gospel is to be preached to every creature, to all people of all nations.  This is the time that the knowledge of our God and Saviour must be declared.  And it is our prayer that all things work together to that end.

That is what the apostle Paul had done when he went to Ephesus and now he was eager that Christ’s name might continue to be preached to all people not just in Ephesus but in the whole world.  Let not these false teachers in Ephesus confuse and befuddle the church with their stories and endless genealogies which only lead to idle talk, to disputes, and to the gospel no longer being preached to all people.  But rather let them – and let us – pray for all people that they might be know the truth and that they might be saved.  All men.  That is, all kinds of men.  Not just those who are “like us” or who for whatever reason we feel should hear the gospel.  Let us always remember that the gospel is the power of salvation to everyone who believes: to the thief and to the drunkard, to the idolater and the adulterer, to the homosexual and to the prostitute, to the prince and to the pauper. 

“For there is one God and there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Jesus Christ, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

And so let us pray.  Let us pray for our government.  Let us pray for our country.  Let us pray those in high positions and for those who live on the streets.  Let us pray for nations like ours and let us pray for nations not like ours at all.  Let us pray that the gospel might be preached, let us pray that it might be heard, and let us pray that it might be believed.  Let us pray that God’s Kingdom might come and that He might be honoured and served by everyone, as He requires in His Word.

Lord, may Your kingdom come with haste;

Lay Satan’s dark domain to waste.

May You so rule us by Your Word

That we acknowledge You as Lord.

Preserve Your church, make her complete

Until all worship at Your feet.

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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