Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"Pray" Sermon: I Timothy 2:1-7

[I Timothy 2:1-7]
November 15, 2015 Second Reformed Church
            I would like each of us to think of the politician we most dislike.  Think of all the reasons we dislike that politician.  Think of all the reasons we wish he or she had never been elected or never will be elected.  And now, I put the question to each of us:  do you and I pray for that politician?
            Paul, writing to a young minister named Timothy, tells us that God says it is of utmost importance that we pray for all peoples and, when we pray for all peoples it is pleasing in God’s sight.
            Paul was writing to his young co-worker, Timothy, who was ministering at the church in Ephesus.  Ephesus was a Greek coastal city on the western coast of Asia – what we would now call Turkey.
            Paul warned Timothy in the section preceding this morning’s reading that there are people who will come into the church who will push themselves into positions of leadership and then seek to mislead the church – and when these people are found out, they will renounce the faith and leave.  Paul gives sad examples of real persons that Timothy knew who had come into the Church and seemed to be great and gifted leaders in the Church, but were wolves in sheep’s clothing – they proved themselves to be false teachers, even renouncing Christianity and leaving the Church.
            There are modern examples:  some of us are familiar with the name, Brian McLaren.  He was considered one of the foremost leaders in the emergent or emerging movement in Christianity in recent years – some Christian bookstores continue to carry his books, even though he has renounced Christ and left the ministry.
            So, Paul lays out for Timothy what the work of Christ is that all Christians must believe pn and what the qualifications are for being in church leadership.
            Certain people are gifted to be in church leadership, some people are not – that is not to say one person is better than another – remember, we just talked about how we are given different gifts suited for use in the church and for the carrying out of the work of a specific church.  The problem is when people who are not gifted for leadership – for ministry – try to force themselves into those positions – sadly, there are many, many of them in our seminaries – even non-Christians who want to hold positions in the church.  As Paul explains, we need to know what Christians believe and the qualifications of the church leadership, not to put people down, but to make sure the Church is being built up.
            Because of the confusion and depression and division these leaders were causing in renouncing Christ and leaving the church, Paul told Timothy to hold fast to the faith and to fight the good fight.
            “Therefore,” “then,” “for this reason” – since there are people pushing their way into church leadership who have no business being there, since there are people in church leadership who are renouncing Christ and walking away from the church, Paul tells Timothy:
            First, it is a matter of utmost importance that we pray for all people, especially our leaders.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Paul urges Timothy – and us – to be in prayer to God for all people, and especially our leaders – in four types of prayer:
Supplications – we are to be in prayer to God for all people and especially our leaders that they would meet the needs that they promised and are enabled to meet.
For example, we are to pray that our President will keep all the promises that he swore to – to the best of his ability, that his word would be true in all negotiations and speeches that he makes, that he would be an example of honesty and respectfulness to all the people in his care.
Prayer – we are to be in prayer to God for all people and especially our leaders that they would do what is pleasing to God and good for others in specific instances and situations.
For example, we are to pray that our President would prayerfully consider the murders that were just committed by terrorists in Paris and take the best and most God-pleasing action in response to this situation on behalf of the American people in love for the people of France.
Intercessions – we are to be in prayer to God for all people and especially our leaders that they would do what is pleasing to God and good for others with regards to specific people.
Again, we are to pray that our President would lead us in a right response towards the families and friends of those just murdered in Paris by terrorists.
Thanksgivings – we are to be in prayer to God for all people and especially our leaders, thanking God for them and all that they do that is pleasing to God and good for we the people.
No matter what party we claim, no matter what our overall feeling about the performance of any given president, we are to look to the good that God has done with and through our President and give thanks to God for him and what he has done.
There is a time to be critical and even rebuke others – including our leaders – but Paul was urging Timothy here to pray for the leadership – and all people – because there was great distress in the Church over people who claimed to be gifted by God to be leaders in the Church and then they renounced Christ, leaving the people in confusion.  We need to support all people – and especially our leaders – in prayer that God would help them keep their promises, lead well in each situation and with regards to each person, and we are to give God the thanks He deserves for the good that we receive from all people – and especially our leaders.
Paul gives Timothy – and us – two reasons why we should be in prayer for all people and especially our leaders:
First, we will live a peaceful and quiet life if we do so.
If we are in prayer for all people and especially our leaders, we won’t be fretting about them and what they might do or have done, because we will have raised up our concerns to God and asked Him to intercede and grant His grace to them.  If, after that, we are still disturbed, might it not be because we do not trust God?  And that is another issue, right?
Second, we will be dignified and godly in every way if we do so.
If we are in prayer for all people and especially our leaders, we won’t engage in the petty mud-slinging that is so common in public debate.  Rather, we will sincerely pray to God for others, as the people of God who believe that God is Sovereign over all people, including our leaders.
One question before we move on:  when Paul says to pray for all people, does he mean every single person?
In this context, we must answer “no.” 
Certainly we are to pray for all humans – that each would hear the Gospel and repent and believe, but we cannot pray for all seven billion or so people who currently inhabit this planet with the specificity and as meaningfully as Paul commends in this text.  So, let us read “all people” – in this text – as “all types of people” – friends, family, our leaders, etc.  Even that is a lot of people to pray for in this way.
Second, Paul tells Timothy – and us – that praying for all people and especially our leaders in this way is good and pleasing in the sight of God.
“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Praying for all types of people in this meaningful and specific way is good and pleasing in the sight of God – and as people who desire to do what is good and pleasing in the sight of God, it is right that we do so.
Now, again, we need to understand who Paul is talking about when he writes that “God our Savior…desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”
If we say that it means that God desires to save every single person that ever lives, then we must say that God has failed to achieve what He set out to do.
Some may counter, “God desires that everyone be saved, but He leaves it up to us to make the decision.”  There are numerous problems with saying that, one of which being – again – that God would have failed to achieve what He set out to do.
Another problem, just as we considered the text in its context – is that “all people” must mean the same thing in this sentence as it did in the previous sentence – and there we said it could not possibly mean every single person, but all types of people.
The idea that Paul meant “all types of people” rather than “every single person” is supported by his making the distinction between Jews and Gentiles at the end of this text – where he argues that the Gospel of Salvation is not just for the Jews, but for all types people – including Gentiles.
Paul is saying that this type of praying is good and pleasing in the sight of God because God wants all types of people to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth – Jews, Gentiles, commoners, leaders, slaves, freemen, men, and women – all types of people.  A major issue at the time Paul was writing was that of believing that the Gospel was also for the non-Jews – the Gentiles – so Paul’s emphasis makes the most sense, overall, as all types of people.
As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: 
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of the one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:12-13, ESV).
And to the Romans:
“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.  Or is God the God of the Jews only?  Is he not the God of the Gentiles also?  Yes, of the Gentiles also, since God is one – who will justify the circumcised and the uncircumcised through faith” (Romans 3:28-30, ESV).
As Paul explains here:
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
God is the God of salvation for every type of person – Jew and Gentile – and every other category of people – including our leaders and we who follow them – because there is only One God – and there is only one Mediator between God and Man – there is only One Person Who can stand between God, and be both our Attorney and our Payment – Jesus Christ – the Incarnate Son of God Who is the ransom for every type of person who believes.
There is not a different Savior or way of salvation for Jews and Gentiles, for Kings and servants, for men and women – no, all types of people are presented with one Gospel, One Savior, One Way to be right with God.  And Jesus ransoms all those the Father gives Him from the Father for the Father.  The Justice of God is fulfilled in Jesus’ life and death, and the Mercy of God is given in Jesus giving His salvation to us through the Holy Spirit.
And because there were false teachers confusing the Church – saying that Paul was not appointed a preacher and an apostle by the risen Christ, he takes an oath:
“For this I was appointed preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”
Paul swears that he was appointed by the risen Christ to be the apostle to the Gentiles – to present to humanity that there is One Way to be right with God through the One Savior and Mediator, Jesus Christ, and it doesn’t matter what your gender is or what position you hold in the world or where you come from – Jesus is the One Savior for all who will believe.  No type of person is excluded from the call to belief and repentance, and persons from every type of person have and will come to faith in Jesus Alone for salvation.
So let us pray – let us pray for men and women, for black and white and brown and yellow and red from every nationality, for poor and rich, for homeless and those with homes, for Democrats and Republicans, for leaders and followers, for owners and employees – for every type of person.
And let us pray that God would send and uphold fit, Christian leaders in the church and give us all the wisdom to see those who are and those who are not.
And let us pray for our leaders – for those that God has given to lead and protect us, in the church and in the world, that they would keep the vows they made in taking office, that they would follow God’s leading in dealing with individual situations and specific individuals themselves, and let us give thanks for everything about our leaders and all they have done that has been good and pleasing in the sight of God and for our good.
Let us believe that God answers prayer and will do all those things we ask which are according to His Will.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, forgive us for not praying for the leaders You have given us.  Remind us that You are Sovereign and no one holds authority except for those You place in authority.  Help us to pray that those You have chosen will be faithful to their call and have wisdom to do what is right in each situation and each person they are called to deal with, and may each one seek Your pleasure as they serve as leaders.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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