The wording of the above title is taken literally from the text in I Timothy 2:2. These words form part of an exhortation of the apostle Paul to his fellow-worker Timothy, which Timothy, in turn, is to direct to the churches for their instruction. The entire exhortation reads as follows: “I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men; For kings and for all in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” vs. 1, 2.
From this exhortation of the apostle we learn that the ultimate goal which he has in mind, and to which he aspires, is a quiet and peaceable life for the churches. To this end the apostle pens the words of the exhortation; to this end he will have Timothy exhort the churches. And because he deems a quiet and peaceable life necessary for the churches, emphatically he exhorts that prayers be made for all men, including, specifically, kings and all in authority.
Somewhat different answers are given to the question: What constitutes the quiet and peaceable life of I Timothy 2:2. Calvin, in his commentary on this passage¹, considers this quiet and peaceable life to consist in “the fruits which are yielded to us by a well regulated government.” And these fruits, according to him, are three in number. “The first is apeaceable life; for magistrates are armed with the sword, in order to keep us in peace. If they did not restrain the hardihood of wicked men, every place would be full of robberies and murders. The true way of maintaining peace, therefore, is when one obtains what is his own, and the violence of the more powerful is kept under restraint. The second fruit is the preservation of godliness, that is, when the magistrates give themselves to promote religion, to maintain the worship of God, and to take care that sacred ordinances be observed with due reverence. The third fruit is the care of public decency; for it is also the business of magistrates to prevent men from abandoning themselves to brutal filthiness or flagitious conduct, but on the contrary, to promote decency and moderation.” To Calvin, then, the quiet and peaceable life is dependent upon the social conditions existing about the church, and is to be had only when governments rightly regulate the life in the community.
R. H. Lenski, in his commentary of I Timothy 2:2,² gives a somewhat similar, yet more general, content to this quiet and peaceable life. To express his view on the matter he quotes from the liturgical General Prayer of the American Lutheran Church as fellows: “Cause thy glory to dwell in our land, mercy and truth, righteousness and peace everywhere to prevail, etc. . . . Graciously defend us from all calamities by fire and water, from war and pestilence, from scarcity and famine.” And to Lenski, an answer of God to this prayer will provide the church with the quiet and peaceable life. Dependent, therefore, again, is this life upon the conditions and circumstances in which the church finds herself in the world.
And generally similar to the above are most commentaries on this passage in I Timothy 2. And in most of these commentaries the quiet and peaceable life mentioned and sought by Paul consists in the absence of all social and civic, all economic and natural evils and disturbances’ which are prevalent in the world, and which in one degree or another affect the life of the church. It consists in the absence of all hatred and malice toward the church, of all persecutions and all oppositions to the church. And positively, this quiet and peaceable life consists in an acknowledgment of the church by all men whereby she is held in honor and esteem. Her religion is to be promoted, her doctrines maintained, her members and their possessions protected. And we could continue. But to put it in other words, for the church to lead a quiet and peaceable life in the world, all the above must first of all prevail in the community, in the nation, and in the world. Then, and only then, will the church be able to lead this quiet and peaceful life of I Timothy 2:2.
Accordingly, of course, these commentators give content to the prayers which the apostle exhorts to be made by the churches. Calvin, in harmony with this conception, would have prayers uttered by the churches for the salvation of kings and rulers, and that these may come to knowledge of the truth and thus “begin to impart to us those benefits of which they formerly deprived us.” Thus he considers that their salvation will be conducive to proper government and, consequently, to a quiet and peaceable lift for the churches. Lenski will have supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks made for all men, including kings and rulers, in order that they may be saved, but also that they, with the believers, may share in “the many blessings (of a quiet and peaceable life) secured by this prayer.” Still others, ignoring the fact that Paul will have prayers made for all (kinds, classes of) men that they may “be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth” (vs. 4), would exhort the churches to pray for a rich measure of God’s common grace to be bestowed upon kings and all in authority so that “the curse of militarism may be curbed, that war may be prevented, that civic righteousness in national and international relationships may be advanced, in order that in the peace of our land we may also have peace.”³
Much could be said about the above conceptions of the quiet and peaceable life as well as about the contents which commentators generally give to the prayers exhorted by the apostle. It is true that Paul exhorts prayers to be made for the salvation of men, including also, men among kings and rulers. But neither Scripture in general, nor the context in I Timothy 2, in particular know of such a quiet and peaceable life as depicted above. Nor do the Scriptures ever give grounds to the believer that an answer to prayers with the above contents will ever be answered. From Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed,” to Matthew 10:22, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake,” the Bible knows of no such quiet and peaceable life for the church. Moreover, from Daniel to Revelation the Scriptures always forewarn of wars and rumors of wars, of earthquakes and famines, of persecutions and troubles in the world; even speaking of a sharp increase in all these as the end of this world draws ever nearer. Let us not be deceived.
Least of all, however, do such conceptions of a quiet and peaceable life find any basis in the text of I Timothy 2. Fact is, that the text is averse to any such interpretations. This is evident, first of all, from the word “lead” in the text, which in Scripture has only an active meaning. In the original it reads literally: lead through. The quiet and peaceable life then is not simply a life lived or passed under quiet and peaceable conditions and circumstances, but is one quietly and peaceably conducted by the church. Hence it is evident that Paul is not characterizing the conditions and circumstances which envelope the church as she lives in the world, hut, rather, is indicating the manner in which the churches are to conduct themselves in the world, namely, quietly and peaceably. Moreover, that the text is averse to the above interpretations is evident in that Paul speaks of leading a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. And, certain it is, that although quiet and peace should reign in the world about the church, such could never be characterized as godly. For, godliness is characteristic of a walk or life which is rooted in the fear of the Lord. Godliness cannot characterize conditions and circumstances even though such be peaceful and quiet. It is only to be applied to a concrete walk, and here is applied to the life led or conducted by the church and the believers. And so too, the word honesty, which is better translated as honorable. Both are descriptive of the conduct of the church. For while godliness describes the life of the church as rooted in the fear of the Lord, as being in harmony with the will of God, and according to His commandments and precepts, the word honorable speaks of that life as above reproach, so conducted that it incites and merits respect and honor. Together, they depict a life that breathes of the fear of the Lord and is altogether above reproach.
From all this it is evident that the quiet and peaceable life of Paul does not refer to conditions and circumstances which may surround the church of Christ. And, from this too, it is evident that the quiet and peaceable life of I Timothy 2:2 is in no way dependent on what may exist in the world. Conditions and circumstances have nothing to do with this life at all. And this is evident from all of Scripture. For we are to love our enemies, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us. Matt. 5:44. Servants are to be subject to their masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. I Peter 2:18. And thus we could go on. Even though the world in which we live be at war; though there be famine or pestilence; though kings and rulers and men persecute the church and seek her destruction; still the church is to conduct her life in the fear of the Lord and in a highly honorable way. And in this way she will also lead a quiet and peaceable life.
For, first of all, a quiet life is a life which harmonizes fully with the accepted, and authorized, as well as lawful standards of conduct and walk, in the community, nation and above all the Church. It in no way incites disobedience, riot or unrest, but conforms in all respects to godliness and honesty. And, secondly, in the way of walking in godliness and honesty, the church will maintain a peaceable, or better said, a restful walk. For a restful walk and life is one content to care for its own, and does not meddle in the affairs of others. In our text then, a peaceable life is a life conducted by believers and the church in which, refraining from meddling in affairs not their own, they give diligence to, and are content in, their own calling and station as ordained of God. Thus in quiet and restfulness, and in all godliness and honesty Paul would have the church live in the world.
And unto this end Paul exhorts that prayers be made by the churches for men of all stations in life, also for kings and rulers. For this is according to the will of God who “will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” It is not for the church to make distinctions, to eliminate some from their prayers. This is detrimental to a peaceable and quiet life. It will only serve to a disregard of authority. But for this same reason Paul exhorts to “Put them in mind to be subject to all powers, to obey magistrates . . .” Titus 3:1. “But let none of you suffer as’ a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busy body in other men’s matters.” I Peter 4:15. And again he exhorts “aged men,” “aged women,” “young women” and “young men” and “servants.” Titus 2. And so too, he admonishes with a view to the adornment of women, their being subject to husbands, elders and deacons, and widows. I Tim. 2, 3, 4.
All these things, and more, he writes to the churches with a view to instructing them as to the way in which they may lead a quiet and peaceable life in the world. The apostle would have the believers “be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” Phil. 2:15.
¹ Pastoral Epistles, pp. 51 , 52.
² Interpretation of Timothy, p. 540.
³ Rev. Zwier in Dc Wachter, May 6, 1941 (translation mine).