1 Timothy 2
This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. – 1 Timothy 2:3-5 NLT
This chapter is chock-full of verses around which men have built entire doctrines or teachings regarding the church. And in many cases, they have ignored the context while focusing on a single concept or idea. But we have to remember that Paul is giving Timothy, his young disciple, some instructions regarding his ministry among the people in Ephesus. The focus of this entire chapter would appear to be on the Gospel and the environment in which it thrives and spreads best. There are things that can hurt or hinder the spread of the Gospel. There are activities or circumstances that can cause the message of the Good News to be difficult to understand. There are also things that believers can do that can end up discrediting their role as messengers of the Gospel. The real emphasis of Paul in this chapter is the salvation of others. That is the main subject of Paul's message to Timothy. Everything else he deals with become the context in which the salvation of others functions best.
He begins with an admonition to pray. Prayer is not some magic formula or secret weapon given to believers, but is intimate communication with God. It is a privilege given to every child of God to be able to speak to their Heavenly Father. As the church, we are the people of God and, as such, we should always have a God-ward focus in our thinking. Paul tells Timothy to pray for all people. But pray what? "Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them" (1 Timothy 2:1 NLT). In the Greek, Paul actually lists four different aspects of prayer: requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving. Each word was carefully chosen and designed to illustrate the rich depth that should mark our communication with God. "Requests" is the Greek word deeseis and it carries a sense of determination and earnestness because we are convinced of the need. As believers, we know what all men need, whether we know them or not. They need Jesus. The word "prayers" is the Greek word proseuchas and it is a more general description that covers prayers of all kinds. It's focus is on God, not the one for whom we are praying. We are to lift up all men before God, placing them in His hands and under His care, trusting that He knows what they need. "Intercession" (enteuxeis) would seem to cover those specific requests we make on behalf of others before God. When we become aware of a specific need or circumstance, we take it to God and share it with Him. Finally, "thanksgiving" (eucharistias) conveys the idea that our prayers are to be filled with thanksgiving to God. But in this context, we are to express thanks to God for those for whom we are praying – and that includes all men, not just some. Again, the focus is on God. To be able to thank God for someone whom we would normally feel unthankful, is to express trust in the sovereignty of God, knowing that He is in charge and has a purpose for that person's presence in our life. Prayer is not meant to be formulaic or ritualistic. It is to be marked by a variety and intensity of style and content, with the focus always on God.
Paul goes on to instruct Timothy that the prayers of God's people are to include kings and all those in authority. These people are sometimes the most difficult individuals for whom to pray. But Paul's emphasis is on God using these people to help create an atmosphere in which believers might "live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity" and the Gospel might prosper and spread. Why? Because God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. His desire is that all men hear the Good News that "there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone" (1 Timothy 2:5-6 NLT). So pray!
But there are certain things that can hinder our prayers and destroy our witness as believers. Paul mentions anger and controversy. Jesus Himself warned us that "if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God" (Matthew 5:23-24 NLT). Disunity can derail our prayer lives. But so can our actions. And our behavior among those for whom we are praying can have a powerful impact on whether they eventually experience the salvation for which we are praying. Paul addresses an issue that was a problem in his day and that continues to be a problem in the church today. Immodesty of dress among Christian women. He writes, "I want women to be modest in their appearance" (1 Timothy 2:9 NLT). This wasn't just Paul's personal preference, but his instructions as an apostle of and spokesman for God. The women in the church at Ephesus were sending mixed messages. On the one hand, they were to be spreading the Gospel. But some of them were so interested in how they looked and focused on drawing attention to themselves, that they were actually doing more harm than good. Good looks had replaced good behavior as the point of emphasis in their lives. They had become focused on the externals, rather than the internal – their hearts.
The next issue Paul addresses with Timothy remains a hot-button topic even today. It had to do with the role of women in the assembly of the church, and it had to do with order and headship. But if we keep it within the context, it had to do with the spread of the Gospel. Anything we do that hinders or hurts the Gospel message is to be avoided at all costs. In this case, the new-found freedom women had discovered in Christ was not to become some form of license, creating disorder within the local body of Christ. There was to be order and decorum. There was a God-given structure to the body of Christ, with Christ himself serving as the head. God had given to men the responsibility to serve in a place of authority and responsibility, both within the local church and the home. It had nothing to do with value or worth, but of divine order and human responsibility. The real issue here seems to be regarding a woman taking on inappropriate authority not given to her by God. Ultimately, Paul's concern is the spread of the Gospel. Again, disunity and anger seem to be tied to what Paul is saying. If those outside the church look inside and see a lack of unity and the presence of disharmony, their interest in the Gospel will be negatively impacted. God had provided an order and authority structure to the body of Christ. In God's grand scheme, men were to lead the church. They were responsible to God for teaching the Scriptures. This in no way implies that women are incapable or unqualified to teach Scripture. It has to do with authority and responsibility, not capability. God had placed men in the role or teachers and leaders within the local church. When this order was ignored or violated, it caused disunity and discord. Paul seems to be saying that order within the church and the spread of the Gospel should take precedence over the need to look good or be seen as influential. It was important that men be able to "pray with holy hands lifted up" – free from controversy and anger. Our goal should be the Gospel. Whether male or female, our greatest concern should be that others come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Our need to be noticed, in charge, seen as attractive, powerful, influential, and even as spiritual – have to take a backseat to God's non-negotiable command to make disciples. That should be the focus of our prayers and the emphasis of our lives.
Father, the Gospel is everything to You. It is the whole reason You sent Your Son to die on behalf of sinful men. But it is so easy for us to make it about everything but the Gospel. First and foremost, we tend to make it all about us. We focus on our own needs and our own agendas, and forget that we are here to make disciples, not a name for ourselves. May our lives be increasingly more about the Good News and not about us. May we grow more and more concerned about the lost all around us, and not what everyone else thinks about us. Amen.