In the former article we took notice of the implication of the concept “all men” here in the writings of Paul. We might ascertain that the term “all men” is by no means the same as “every man,” every man without exception, nor is it equivalent of “every man who in the dispensation of God comes under the preaching of the gospel.”
It is quite evident, we saw, that the term “all men” refers to all kinds of men, to every kind of men in the station and place in life; it makes no difference whether they be male or female, lord or servant, rich or poor, Greek or Jew. The entire middle-wall of the partition has been removed by the blood of Jesus Christ shed upon the Cross of Calvary. This is clear from the text as well as from a kindred passage from Paul’s pen in Titus 2:1-11.
Here in this passage under consideration we may be quite certain that Paul has all kinds of men in mind, the entire human race in the organic sense of the term, since Paul explicitly mentions “kings and all who are in authority.” This definitely points to men in every station of life.
Such is, briefly, the matter which we may deem to be established in the former article.
At this point in our discussion the point should be raised as to why Paul so explicitly singles out “kings and all who are in authority” and even urges Timothy to instruct the congregation concerning such prayers for all men.
In the first place, Paul insists on this since such is in conformity with the very genius of the end of the commandment, namely, love out of pure hearts, and a good conscience, and unfeigned faith. Compare chapter 1:5. It is imperative for the church in the world that they do not suffer shipwreck as to the faith. Shall the church be a light on a candlestick giving light to all who are in the house, then she shall surely have to walk in the love of God, in a faith which is energized by love. Only such a faith can guarantee a walk in a good conscience, that is, such: a walk in which we judge ourselves in the light of God’s law to be in conformity with his will, and acceptable to him. For good works are those which proceed from true faith, are performed in accordance with his law, and are unto the glory of his great grace and mercy! Such is the key-string in the golden harp of God in the hearts of His people in the midst of an evil world.
Such is the spiritual-psychological connection between this section in chapter 2:1-7 and the foregoing chapter.
To walk in good works in an evil world is a very, veryprayerful work; it is consecrated endeavor, and it is the sweet-smelling incense upon the altar of God. Unless it is that it is a stench in the holy nostrils of God. This explains the solemn, “I beseech you first of all that prayers, intercessions, thanksgiving be made for all men.” Moreover, it certainly also explains the deep motive of urging prayers for “kings and for all who are in authority.” The motive is that the church may walk in a good conscience toward the ordinance of God’s authority and overall rule in all the world.
That this over-all motive is indeed present here in this passage is evident from the very nature of prayer.
It should be borne in mind that prayer is not simply a “means” to obtain what we desire from the Lord; it is far more than that. Prayer is incense to God. According to the Heidelberg Catechism prayer is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires from us. The other part of thankfulness is the keeping of God’s commandments out of faith and unto the glory of God’s grace.
It is not for naught that Paul enumerates, and that, too, in climactic effect, that the petitions, prayers and intercession be with thanksgiving. Now certainly thanksgiving is more than a feeling, mere sentiment. It is a basic attitude toward God, and a worship with very real and exact spiritual content and motivation. For thanksgiving is first of all a matter of strictest justice. It is just that God be acknowledged and thanked. And it is certainly just that God be acknowledged and thanked as He who rules over all, the God of the ages, the incorruptible and immortal God. Does God not have dominion over the very hearts of kings. “He turneth it whithersoever he wills.” Prov. 21:1. It is not so that a man deviseth his, way, but Jehovah directeth his steps. A divine sentence is in the lips of the kings; his mouth shall not transgress in judgment.” Prov. 16:9, 10. Or do we not read: “It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness, for the throne is established by righteousness. Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and they love him that speaketh right.”
In view of all this is it not just to thankfully acknowledge that kings stand by God’s appointment and ordinance, and that their very heart is in His hands? However, it also is very truthful to thankfully acknowledge that the Lord is God, even over the kings!
Such we do fundamentally in prayer. We pray to the one true God who has revealed Himself to us in His Word, and we humble ourselves before His majesty in the deep consciousness of our needs, and we trust that God will hear us for Christ’s sake.
In view of this rather basic and directive consideration concerning the very nature of prayer it is not so difficult to understand that Paul impressed upon the minds of the Ephesian believers the urgency and the need of the completeness of such prayers. Hence, the terms:supplications, prayers, intercessions. Each of these terms indicates an aspect of prayer as the chief part of thankfulness. Supplications refers to prayer from the viewpoint of the great need of the heart. Here the Christian bows very, very lowly before God, before the divine majesty of God. Applied to “all men and to kings” this means that it is a heartfelt need to remember them and commit them to God. Prayersrefer to the askings, to requests directed to God Himself. Intercessions refer to remembering particularly others in our prayers. Each element must be present in a full-orbed prayer life.
So much for the nature and the elements in prayer as here enjoined by Paul.
The reader has by this time possibly asked: why must such prayers be made for all men, and particularly for kings and all who are in authority? To this we answer that the deepest motive is the well-being of the church. It is imperative that the church “live a quiet and peaceful life, in all godliness and sobriety.” Such well-being is for her, and that, too, for the entire church in all the world. Such wellbeing depends in large measure upon the decisions of kings and all who are in authority.
It may not be superfluous to remind ourselves that the Scriptures were written to the church in the world, as she is the church under the Cross. The fundamental presupposition is every where in Scripture that there is a suffering for righteousness’ sake. Certainly it is given unto the church to suffer for the sake of Christ. Now this too must be done because of love from a pure heart, a good conscience and faith unfeigned. Peter warns the church that it is not beautiful before God to suffer because of our faults. And certainly shall we not do such we must love the brotherhood, fear God and honor’ the king. I Peter 2:17.
Possibly a close reading of the text here in I Timothy 2:1-6shows that what Paul has in mind in praying for kings is the well-being of all the “brotherhood” in the world. They must live a quiet and peaceful life. One cannot pray for the one without the other. Furthermore, let it not be overlooked that:
1. Paul is speaking of a quiet “life” here not in the sense of life everlasting, but rather the life of this present world, the “bios” life, of marriage and giving in marriage, family life, life of the community and nation, as this particularly affects the life of the church in the world. They must live a life, if possible, without persecution.
2. They must live a life in quietness and peace. None need seek the rack, the prison and the death-cell. It is not non-Christian to live a quiet life in the land.
3. However, it must all be done with sobriety, that is, with Christian dignity. And such dignity is first of all a walking before God’s face. Only he who acknowledges God has true dignity before men. Think of a Daniel in the court of the Persian king.
That is the purpose of these enjoined prayers.
It ought to be observed, by all means, that Paul does not say that we should pray for the salvation of all men, in the sense, that every king’s salvation is the end in mind in this prayer. Such is not stated in the text nor is such a legitimate conclusion from what we read in the verses 4 through 6. No class of men in God’s church ought to be excluded from our prayers. God has taken them all in His plan unto, salvation. He has redeemed His people out of every tongue and people and nation. And kings and all in authority too fall in this class. Think of Cornelius, the centurion in the Italian Band. Did not Paul preach so that Christ was made known to all the men of the Roman Praetorium? Well may we, therefore, pray also for kings in their position that they do righteousness toward the Church and if it be God’s will, bow humbly before God’s throne.
Before we end this installment on this section permit us to remark that it is quite true that Paul is here writing in view of the Ephesian church. Had not Paul written a most wonderful letter to this Church, called the “Letter To The Ephesians”? In this letter the chief thought is that there is one church, one Lord, one faith, one hope, one baptism, one God who is above all, in all and through all. The unity of the body of Christ; many members yet one body.
Such is the church in all the world, composed of believers out of every walk of life.
If such be the case then too the scope of our prayers must be for the entire church of God in the world, as Christ gathers, defends and preserves her. We must not pray simply for our little family circle, nor for our own congregation. I once heard one remark: our preacher does not pray for the denominational needs; it is simply, “me, my congregation and I.”
It seems that Paul is counteracting some such evil tendency in this Ephesian church. They must fully understand and live from the faith that there is one God and Savior! It must be fully understood that there is one Mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus. It is to the service of this great Savior God that Paul is called and separated as a teacher and preacher—a teacher to the Gentiles.