Thursday, September 22, 2022

2022.09.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Timothy 2:1–3

Read 1 Timothy 2:1–3

Questions from the Scripture text: What four types of prayer does the apostle urge in 1 Timothy 2:1? For which men? And for which ones, more specifically, in 1 Timothy 2:2? For the sake of whose life? And what four aspects of our life? What is the great virtue of such a four-fold life (1 Timothy 2:3)?  

Having driven home the importance of Timothy’s reformational work in Ephesus, what is the first part of that work that the apostle urges? 1 Timothy 2:1–3 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that corporate prayer is the first part of participation in the work of God in our and others’ lives.

Prayer first. This brief portion begins with a “therefore,” reminding us that the apostle has just been talking about preserving Timothy’s faith, and the other believers’ faith, from shipwreck. Now, he moves on to specific directions for what Timothy is to do, as he looks to Christ to bring reformation by His Spirit. 

And that first, specific direction is prayer. Before restoration of proper teaching or overseeing (1 Timothy 2:11–3:13), before reformation of doctrine (1 Timothy 3:14–4:16), before reformation of the dynamics of church life (1 Timothy 5:1–6:2) and personal life (1 Timothy 6:3–19), the apostle first addresses prayer (1 Timothy 2:1–10).

If we know our Bibles, this is not very surprising. All battling by the armor of God (cf. Ephesians 6:10–17) is pursued and maintained by prayer (cf. Ephesians 6:18). As the apostles ordained deacons in order to maintain their own ministry, the first part of that ministry was prayer (cf. Acts 6:4), even before the ministry of the Word.

Four types of prayer. Scripture gives us instructive examples of many different types of prayer. What a great variety there is, just in the Psalter! Here, the apostle commands four types, and the list is almost certainly representative rather than exhaustive: “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks” (1 Timothy 2:1). “Supplications” refers to requests or petitions for things that are needed. “Prayer,” just as it sounds, translates a more general word for talking to God. The word translated “intercessions” appears only here and in 1 Timothy 4:5; both it and its verb form are usually used of praying with regard to (sometimes in behalf of, sometimes against) another. “Thanksgivings” is the common word for expressions of gratitude—recognizing and appreciating to God that He has been gracious. 

Taken together, the four words give us a 3-D portrait of coming to God in faith and hope, humbly recognizing that only He can give what He says that we need, while acknowledging and adoring Him for the fact that He gives it. When the rest of our life, or of church life, is bathed in prayer of this sort, we begin to experience it as it truly is: an interaction with our gracious God.

Prayer for all men. Realizing the good that prayer is, we are not surprised that we are to do it for all, and especially for the household of faith (cf. Galatians 6:2–10). The word for “men” in 1 Timothy 2:1 is the generic one, meaning for all humans. It draws a contrast with the word in 1 Timothy 2:8, which is male-specific, but it is joined to the words “men” and “Man” in 1 Timothy 2:3-4. God is God, and men are men, and men’s only hope is for God to be gracious to us.

This is especially true of those who least acknowledge it: kings and all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:2a). Their “high position” (a better translation than “authority”) has put them in a position not of less need but more. Even within the church, the apostle is going to recognize the increased spiritual neediness of those who are “rich in this present age” (cf. 1 Timothy 6:17), something our Lord taught His disciples in Matthew 19:23. If we love all of our neighbors, then we ought especially to pray for kings and those in high position, for they are spiritually imperiled by their earthly blessings.

Prayer that aims at four things. But there is another reason to pray especially for them: in God’s ordinary providence the just and wise exercise of administration of earthly authority is a means by which God facilitates our own right and wise living. So, when we pray especially for those who are in authority, it is a manner of praying that is “especially for the household of faith.” This mirrors God’s own work in all providence, doing all things for the good of His church, and especially in how He has ordained to use authority to do so—especially the authority of Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:19–23; Colossians 1:15–18). 

But what is that good that we hope for, from earthly authority? The opportunity to live a righteous and wise life. The apostle describes this life with four words. “Quiet” and “peaceable” translate rare (in the NT) words that complement each other. The former refers to one who is not disruptive toward others by his conduct; the latter to one who is not inwardly disturbed by what others do. Note that there is an implication here that if authorities behave in an ungodly manner, believers’ godliness will become disruptive to others. And, whether by our remaining weakness and sinfulness, or by a rightly grieved or indignant outward response, the worse our authorities get, the more inwardly troubled we will be.

The second pair of words about the Christian’s life are similarly related: the first indicating an inward religious devotion and weightiness, and the second indicating an outwardly religious and reverential manner. Though both of these aspects of our life are offered unto God, the first word has more of a nuance at being aimed at Him, while the second is nuanced slightly to others’ experience of us and observation of us. Taken all together, these four words form a portrait of a man whose life is one of steadfast, wholehearted love unto God and neighbor.

Prayer that participates in God’s work. Of course, it is not so much that our earthly authorities enable us to do this, or even that they facilitate our own self-enabling. As we come before God in the manner described in 1 Timothy 2:1, it already begins to produce the behavior and mindset of 1 Timothy 2:2 even without any difference being made in the authority. For, it is God Who is our Savior (1 Timothy 2:3), and in His salvation He is not only counting Christ’s goodness and acceptability for us, but also reshaping us to be like our good and acceptable Redeemer. 

God is the One Who uses the kings and authorities. God is the One Who uses our praying for them. And when He commands us to pray, He invites us into participation in His work as He sanctifies us (1 Timothy 2:3). In the next passage (1 Timothy 2:4-7), we’ll be considering how great is our privilege that He is also inviting us into participation in His work in saving all sorts of men. What a great privilege prayer has as a participation in God’s own work. What a mercy that He has been pleased to work in and by stirring us up to prayer, which He uses in us and to which He responds in others!

What is the first part of walking with God in your life? How do your daily habits reflect this? How do the reflexes of your hearts reflect this? For whom, especially, should you be praying? What sort of life should you be trying to lead? Who, especially, loves this sort of life and produces it in us?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for the privilege that You have given us of participating, by prayer, in Your work in our lives and in others’ lives. Forgive us for how often that which You command “first of all” is for us instead an afterthought or mindlessly performed. Grant that we would aim at the godliness which You desire for us: steadfast, wholehearted love unto You and our neighbor. Forgive us for how infrequently and weakly we pursue this godliness, and make us more like Christ, Who Himself has been perfectly godly in our place, and in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage” or TPH520 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” 

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