In the first chapter of I Timothy, Paul is concerned about sound doctrine. He describes for Timothy (and us) the damaging results when faith is replaced by speculation and when dissension is substituted for love. What could Timothy do in such a situation? He could not remain silent in the face of heresy and could not compromise with it. He was to stay at his post and fight for the faith.
If chapter one is concerned primarily with sound doctrine, chapter two is concerned with instructions of worship, both public and private. In your study of these verses, notice the emphasis on “all men,” in 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Pray “for all men,” (1,2). God desires “all men” to be saved (3,4). Jesus gave Himself a ransom “for all,” (5,6). Paul was called and appointed an apostle to preach the gospel to “all men” (7).
Prayer for all men: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” The New King James includes supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving thanks. Supplications are simply requests, asking for something to be supplied. Prayer is the generic word for our communication with the Father through Jesus our Mediator. Intercessions are specific. We enter into the Father’s presence for another, asking God to heal others, to help others, to comfort and care for some individual. Giving of thanks is a phrase that explains itself. It is the kind of praying when we express our gratitude to God for blessings received. We have this cluster of words and phrases, all referring to our communication with God.
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men.” We all understand, as Christians we are privileged to approach the Father for our own needs and concerns. We know that we can and must pray for our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and also “for all men.” This rebukes the narrow-mindedness we may be tempted to adopt in our thinking and praying. We pray for ourselves and our families. We mention others in our fellowship. However, we may neglect to offer supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings “for all men!” Are we guilty? There’s more! Paul gives direction that prayers be made “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” At that time, there was not a Christian ruler anywhere in the world! When Paul told Timothy this, the reigning emperor was a Roman dictator, a man whose vanity, cruelty and hostility toward believers was widely known and documented! There was systematic persecution of Christians promoted by Nero and others like him. It was extremely difficult for the Lord’s people to lead a quiet and peaceable life in godliness and reverence with men like Nero leading the government!
When we pray for kings and rulers, what will we ask? Do we ask God to make them rich and powerful or to grant them a successful political career? Do we ask God to help these evil men carry out their personal agenda or political platform? Never! We should ask God to providentially deal with the leaders according to His will, in order that we might “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” That may involve God taking men out of power! I would suspect that there are Christians in third world nations today, living under such systematic persecution and injustice, who pray for the removal of their current leaders. When we comply with 1 Timothy 2:2, we are not asking God to help a man carry out his agenda. We are asking God to do what He sees fit to do with rulers so that we “may lead a quiet and peaceable life in godliness and reverence.” We should pray for “all men,” even kings and rulers who may be evil. Our prayer for them is not about their careers or agendas, but that we can “lead a quiet and peaceable life in godliness and reverence.”