I Timothy 2
New King James Version 1. Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,
The Resultant Version 1. I encourage therefore, that, first of all, petitions, prayers, pleadings, and thanksgiving be made in behalf of all mankind;
Paul now speaks an exhortation “therefore,” which probably means in light of the fact that there are those who are enemies of and oppose faith, as he just pointed out in the previous chapter. The word “exhortation” here is the Greek parakaleo, which speaks of coming alongside someone to help and encourage that person. In this case, he is encouraging Timothy and those he is teaching to pray. Indeed, there is little else we really can do in light of those who oppose faith in their own lives and in the lives of others.
Paul exhorts this first of all. Perhaps he wants us to realize that prayer should always be our first response to opposition. We should recognize that the battle truly is the Lord’s, and so when engaging in it our first task is to look to Him. Without His help we are little able to fight, for our opposition is strong and God alone can overcome doubt with faith.
Paul now lists four kinds of prayer that he exhorts to be prayed. First is the Greek word deesis, meaning supplications or petitions. We are no doubt very familiar with the concept of making petition to God when we pray. Indeed, for many, this is practically the only thing they do when they pray. This should not be, as it is not right that the only interaction we have with God is to ask Him for things. Surely there should be other aspects to the relationship than this! Yet petition is a good thing, and Paul exhorts us to do it, asking God for the things we need.
Next, Paul speaks of prayers. This is the Greek word proseuche, speaking of prayer addressed to God. This is something to remember about prayer: that it is foremost and simply talking to the God we love and serve. If we truly have a relationship with Him, we should be interested in just talking to Him. Many, it seems, make a religion out of prayer, speaking of the “power of prayer,” or boasting of just how many hours they pray every day. Yet I wonder how many people would respect someone who walked around gushing about the power of talking to your wife, or how much she would appreciate her husband’s conversation with her being looked at in this light. Should talking to God really be about the power to get what we want? Should it not rather be about talking to the One we love and serve? If there is “power” there, it is the power that comes from a true relationship with our Creator, not the power of the act called prayer. What we really need to do is simply talk to God. That is what Paul is exhorting here.
Next is enteuxis, which the New King James makes “intercessions,” but The Resultant Version translates it “pleadings.” When one pleads his case in court, his hope is to be heard and his viewpoint of the case adopted. When we plead with God, we are hoping that He will consider our words and act on them. Of course, this could be on behalf of another person, but we can also plead on our own behalf. Either way, Paul urges that pleadings be made.
Finally, we have the Greek eucharistia, which means thanksgiving. As we said earlier, many seem to make their prayers all about mere petition. To judge from how skewed our prayers often are towards petition, one might think us to be the poorest and most miserable of people. Yet the reality is that we have and enjoy many good things in our lives. Would it not be better, then, if we would spend more time giving thanks, rather than asking for things all the time? God always values a thankful heart, and we should remind ourselves always to be thankful.
Paul urges that these petitions, prayers, pleadings, and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men. Yet this would be a difficult thing for any of us to do, since we do not know all men. We might pray for “all the people in the world,” yet this would be of limited value, since we do not know all the people in the world, though God does. He knows every one of them, so how is our praying for people whom we only have a vague idea of yet whom He knows intimately really helpful? So a better translation of this would be that Paul is exhorting such prayers to be made for all mankind.
The reality which we can clearly see is that the world of Adam’s race is in a most pitiable state. Human beings are lost in the darkness of ignorance, cut off from God by sin, and constantly awaiting the inevitable penalty of death. Moreover, mankind is most destructive toward itself, as the violent wars of the last hundred years, along with the invention of things like nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons clearly indicate. We need God’s help if we are ever to improve from our pitiable state, yet we do not deserve such help, sinners as we are. Yet God has provided us with such help, dying for us on the cross, and then planning our ultimate redemption in His kingdom to come. But in the meantime we still need His help and aid, and so it is good for His people to pray on behalf of all mankind. That is what Paul urges us to do here.
New King James Version 2. for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
The Resultant Version 2. In behalf of rulers, and all the ones being in a superior station; that we might be leading a restful and undisturbed life in all devoutness and seriousness.
As well as for all mankind, Paul exhorts us that we make these petitions, prayers, pleadings, and thanksgivings for rulers. The idea of basileon in Greek is of absolute rulers who have no one above them as far as their authority over their people is concerned. While the traditional translation of “kings” is not incorrect, the modern idea of a “limited monarchy” does not fit the real meaning of this word at all. A true basileus is not limited. This word is connected to basileia, the word usually translated “kingdom,” but which in modern English means “government.” A basileus rules over a basileia, a ruler over his own government.
The second phrase speaks of all who hold a superior station, which in Greek is huperoche, from the word huperecho, meaning to rise above another or be superior. Those referred to would be high rulers, but not as high as the top rulers or basileon. We can certainly see how much our own rulers in our own troubled land need prayer! But does the command to pray for them mean we need to pray for the success of their policies, even when they are godless and corrupt? Some would suggest this is so. Yet the Lord is specific in what He asks us to pray for regarding them. We are to pray that under their rule we might be leading a quiet and peaceable life.
Paul himself and all the Jews of the time certainly knew of or had experienced what a wicked and oppressive ruler could mean. Though the apostles urged every believer to be willing to die for his faith if need be, that does not stop Paul from suggesting that a more tolerant ruler who would allow believers to live a quiet and peaceable life would be a better thing. Of course, this would only be if he allowed us to do this in all devoutness and honesty. If one has to lie about his faith and deny his Lord to live a quiet and peaceable life, this is no good thing!
A good example of this is found in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 29. There, the Lord urges all the Israelites “who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon,” Jeremiah 29:4, that they should “seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” Jeremiah 29:7.
When we live in a nation, whether it is a good or a wicked one, still we are connected with it, like it or not. Though we might disagree with many wicked things done by our nation, still if our nation falls into war, turmoil, or impoverishment, this will affect each one of us. Just as the LORD urged the Israelites to pray for the nation in which they sojourned since they were for now a part of it, so we should pray for the nation that we are a part of, that peace and freedom for those who love and worship Christ might continue. This is good, as the Lord tells us here.
It is interesting that, as well as urging petitions, prayers, and pleadings on behalf of rulers, Paul also urges thanksgiving on their behalf. When our rulers are very wicked and godless, we might find it hard to find things to want to thank God about. This does not mean we should deny reality. Yet when our rulers do make decisions which lead to a continuation of our quiet and peaceable lives, we should be quick to be thankful for that. God appreciates our thankfulness more than our complaints! Ultimately, only God’s government will be perfect, but that does not mean that we should not acknowledge with gratitude toward God when good things are accomplished by our human governments in this world. Let us then do so!
New King James Version 3. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
The Resultant Version 3. For this is ideal and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
Paul declares that it is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior to thus pray for rulers and those in a superior station. Though we may not like our particular rulers at any given time, and certainly in Paul’s day they experienced many wicked and corrupt rulers, some of whom persecuted believers in Christ, still it was always good and acceptable in God’s sight to pray that those rulers might be affected in their minds and in their policies to allow the Lord’s people to live quiet and peaceable lives. While that prayer may not always be granted, it is still a good prayer, and it would be good if that did come to pass. Of course, we must be willing to follow and serve God, whether our rulers agree to let us do so peacefully or not.
Notice that God is called our Savior here. This is the constant testimony of the Scriptures: that God is our Savior. Since the Bible also declares that the Lord Jesus Christ is our Savior, this becomes clear testimony to the fact that Jesus Christ is God. In context, the fact that God is our Savior is also important in the light of what Paul is about to say in the next verse.
New King James Version 4. who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
The Resultant Version 4. Who wills all humanity to be saved, and to come into the realization of the truth.
Now we learn that this God, our Savior, will have all humanity to be saved. It is not just all men, although of course humanity is made up of individual members of Adam’s race. Yet humanity might well be saved, even though certain specific individuals might not be saved. One example of that is when we speak of America being saved by the soldiers who were willing to give their lives for this country. Well, that particular soldier was not saved. That particular American was not saved. He died, but we say he died to save America. Well, America was saved at various times in history by the actions of its army, though those soldiers did not live to enjoy it. So we can see that there is a clear difference between humanity being saved and every single individual human being saved.
The fact is that humanity has often been in great danger of being destroyed as a race from existence. For example, when Adam ate the forbidden fruit and earned himself the penalty of death, there was a real danger that he and his wife would die right there without children, and so the human race would have come to an end before it had even started. Yet God graciously did not bring about their deaths immediately, but gave them hundreds of years to procreate in order to fill the earth with their offspring.
Another time was after the flood, when the lifespans of people started decreasing drastically. They went from living over nine hundred years to living shorter and shorter lifespans, and at one point the lifespan was decreasing at a rate of something like two hundred years every generation. If this had continued, it is clear that a generation would have come that would have died off before they were even able to reproduce, and at that point the race of Adam would have been doomed and would have come to an end. Yet God was gracious, and the rapid deterioration of the race was slowed to a stop, with the average lifespan fixed at about seventy years. That is how it has been for millennia now, and we have been able to continue from that time to this.
Even today, there are threats to the survival of Adam’s race. We are all aware of the nuclear threat. Though Hollywood and popular myth have exaggerated the threat, it is still true that much of humanity could be wiped out if all the nuclear weapons we possess were set off at once. Then, there is the threat of biological warfare, and the fear that a “super-bug” might get released that could destroy all humanity. These threats cause worry and anxiety to some, but we who believe God’s Word can find reassurance. God is the Savior of all humanity, and He will not allow us in our foolishness and sinfulness to destroy ourselves. Since He is our Savior, we can know that we will be saved. This is the happy truth of knowing that God is our Savior.
Yet God desires more for us than just continuation. God wants all humanity to come to the realization of the truth. Since Adam and Eve first chose to go Satan’s way rather than God’s way, there has been much ignorance and deception on earth. Yet God does not desire this situation to continue indefinitely. Someday, he will see to it that humanity will come to a realization of the truth. This will take place when God’s kingdom comes to earth at last. Psalm 22:27 describes this momentous event.
27. All the ends of the world
Shall remember and turn to the LORD,
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before You.
When this takes place, the words of David in Psalm 25:8 will be true.
8. Good and upright is the LORD;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
May the day come soon when God will teach all people, and humanity will finally realize the truth!
New King James Version 5. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
The Resultant Version 5. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,
Having stated that God wants all men to come to the realization of the truth, Paul now states a great truth that God would wish all mankind to realize in our day. First of all is the truth that there is one God. This is a truth that is denied by those who are what is called “polytheists,” who believe that there are many gods. Yet we should not lose sight of the fact that this is likewise denied by those who believe in no God and call themselves “atheists,” or those who believe that humanity should be their own gods, and who are called “humanists.” All such views are wrong. There is one God, and every true believer in Jesus Christ should know and acknowledge this fact.
Yet there is another great fact here that goes along with this one, and that we should not fail to consider. That is that there is also one Mediator between God and humanity, the Man Christ Jesus. What is a Mediator? The Greek word is mesites, and means one who intervenes between two others. The Mediator stands between and acts as the go-between. We are told that there is only one Mediator between us and God. This is a great truth, and one we should be careful to take the time to consider.
If there is only one Mediator, then it cannot be true that there are other mediators. Yet how long has this been true? I believe that this was basically a new pronouncement when Paul made it, and it would have been a most radical one at the time. The reason is that there had always been other mediators as long as Israel had existed as a nation. Abraham, the very first patriarch of the nation of Israel, acted as a mediator between God and King Abimelech, as we read in Genesis 20:17.
17. So Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children;
When Israel first became a nation, Moses mediated between the people and God. Moses set up his brother Aaron and his sons as the priests, and they also stood between the common people of Israel and God. In fact, the priesthood basically was an institutionalized group of mediators. When the priests failed to do their job, however, God started to call prophets who would speak to the people on God’s behalf, telling them, “Thus says the LORD.” These prophets, every one of them, were mediators between God and men. Israel’s governmental leaders as well, such as the judges and the kings whom God appointed, were set up as mediators between God and the people.
Mediators did not stop with the ancient nation of Israel. When Christ returned to His Father in heaven, His disciples were sent out by Him as His apostles. As apostles, they acted as mediators between God and the people to whom he sent them. Every time they worked a miracle, every time they spoke an inspired word, every time they made a prophecy, and every time they led the people in the way God had for them, they were acting as mediators between God and the people He sent them to. In fact, Paul himself had been among these mediators, and he had mediated between God and the people to whom he went. Paul talks about this, calling himself and his fellow apostles “ambassadors for Christ” in II Corinthians 5:20.
20. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.
If Paul and his company were ambassadors for Christ, pleading with the people on Christ’s behalf, then they were mediators between God and the people. So Paul himself had been a mediator, and Timothy had been beside him and watched him act as a mediator. Yet now Paul tells Timothy that this will no longer be the case. Now, Paul tells Timothy that there will no longer be other mediators between God and man, but the only Mediator will be Christ Jesus. Surely this was a major change.
Moreover, this clearly shows us the dispensational place of the book of I Timothy. In the Acts period, it would have been completely untrue for Paul to claim that there is only one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Not only were there other mediators, but Paul himself was one of them. Yet now in the dispensation of grace, when God was falling silent and when all his chosen representatives were losing their positions and would have to be satisfied with being “mere believers” just like everyone else, in this context Paul can rightfully and truly tell Timothy that there is now going to be only One Mediator between God and men. This was the truth that was going to prevail in the new dispensation. This was a truth that was entirely at odds with the Acts dispensation. Clearly, then, I Timothy was written during our dispensation, and under the conditions that prevail today. This is so clear that anyone who thinks the book of I Timothy was written to the Acts dispensation must be a bit unclear on the whole concept of the two different dispensations. No such statement as this could ever have been written during Acts!
Therefore today there are no mediators between God and men other than Christ. Yet if this be true, then all who claim such a position, either for themselves or for someone or something else, must be incorrect. Moreover, this is not just a minor error, for giving anyone but Christ a mediatorial place today is giving that person or thing the place that belongs to Christ alone. That makes that thing anti-Christ, or a thing that is being promoted in place of Christ as a substitute. We should avoid ever doing any such thing!
We deny all who claim to hold the position of mediator between God and the people. Many in our day are called “priests” by various sects of the Christian religion, and yet priesthood by its very nature is a mediatorial position. I Timothy 2:5 being true, none of these men can truly be priests in the sight of God. Others think that their pastor or minister or other religious leader is appointed by God to a position over them. Not only do they deny the selection process by which such individuals are given these positions (which selection is clearly performed by men, not God), but they also by making this claim for their leaders deny the truth of one Mediator, giving a privilege that really belongs to Christ alone to their chosen leaders. Others might not give a mediatorial place to their local leaders, but they do to their church denominational organization, thinking that the denomination to which they hold allegiance has a place before God, and that He will take note that they belonged to this or that denomination, and that this will help in making them acceptable in His sight. This gives denominations a place of mediation, a place which rightfully belongs to Christ alone. Others might not look at their pastors or churches themselves, but they do look to the ceremonies that their churches perform. They believe that the water ceremony their church carries out brings them closer to God, or even that it procures for them salvation. They believe that the bread and wine (or juice) ceremony they perform makes them more acceptable in His sight. This makes these things mediators between them and God, and gives to ceremonies a place that truly belongs to Christ alone.
Ultimately, the one who believes God’s Word should discount all such claims. There is no priest, pastor, or minister; there is no church or denomination; and there is no ceremony or ritual that holds any position between God and the believer in His sight. To think that there is such a thing is to deny the truth that is proclaimed here for today. If we are to come to God, we must come through Jesus Christ. No pastor, no priest, no church, and no ritual can aid us in any way. Only He can stand between us and God and bring us near to Him. Let us believe this truth, let us hold it precious, and let us come to God the only way possible: through the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ!