1 Timothy 2:1-7
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1 Timothy 2:1-7 Biblical Commentary
While verses 1:1-2 identify Paul as the author and Timothy as the recipient, a number of scholars think that this letter was written later by a disciple of Paul, using notes compiled by Paul—which would have been an acceptable practice in that time and place. For the sake of simplicity, I will use the names Paul and Timothy to refer to the author and recipient—but with the understanding that the author might be someone other than Paul.
A key problem which Paul addresses in this letter is false teachers who “teach a different doctrine” (1:3) and “cause disputes” (1:4) in their desire “to be teachers of the law” (1:7). These false teachers have challenged Paul’s authority, which caused him to defend his call to apostleship (1:12-17).
In verse 1:18, Paul tells Timothy that he is committing this instruction to enable Timothy to “wage the good warfare.” Paul begins his instruction with our text, verses 1-7, which contain instructions about prayer. Verses 8-15 deal with the place of women in the church. Chapter 3 provides qualifications for bishops (episkope) and deacons (diakonos). In chapters 4-6, Paul instructs Timothy with regard to false asceticism (4:1-5) ministry (4:6-16), duties toward believers (5:1 – 6:2), false teaching (6:3-10), fighting the good fight (6:11-19), and empty chatter (6:20–21).
1 TIMOTHY 2:1-4: PRAY FOR ALL
1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men: 2 for kings and all who are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth.
“I exhort” (parakaleo) (v. 1a). The Greek word parakaleo falls considerably short of a direct order. It combines two words, para (near) and kaleo (to call), and means to call near—to invite—to beseech—to exhort. Paul is the apostle and Timothy is his trusted assistant, but Paul doesn’t lean heavily on his authority. He is asking, not telling—although his asking would have a good deal of authority by virtue of his relationship with Timothy, almost a father-son relationship—and by virtue of his apostleship.
“therefore” (v. 1b). The word “therefore” looks back to verse 1:18, where Paul tells Timothy that he is providing instruction to enable Timothy to “wage the good warfare.”
“first (protos) of all“ (v. 1c). The word protos in this context means foremost—top priority—most important—chief.
“that petitions (deesis), prayers (proseuche), intercessions (enteuxeis), and givings of thanks“(eucharistias) (v. 1d). Paul uses four words for prayers, each of which reveals a facet of prayer.
• Petitions (deesis) have to do with supplication—prayers to meet particular needs.
• Prayers (proseuche) is a more general word for prayer.
• Intercessions (enteuxeis) are prayers for others (and possibly for oneself). There is a hint of boldness in this word—the kind of boldness that would dare to interrupt God to request a favor.
• Givings of thanks (eucharistias). We use the word Eucharist to speak of our thanksgiving to God for the gift of his son, Jesus Christ, but eucharistias is less specific, meaning thankfulness, thanksgiving, or gratitude.
“be made for all men“ (panton anthropon) (v. 1e)—literally “all men” or “all people.”
This is the first of several instances in verses 1-7 where Paul uses the word “all.”
• He calls for prayers for “all who are in high places” (v. 2).
• God “desires all people to be saved” (v. 4).
• Christ “gave himself as a ransom for all” (v. 6).
When he identifies himself as having been appointed (by God) as “a teacher of the Gentiles” (v. 7), he raises our awareness that the old walls between Jews and Gentiles no longer applies in the church—that salvation is now for all.
“for kings (basileon) and all who are in high places“ (en hyperoche onton—being in authority) (v. 2a). This Greek word basileon is used in the New Testament for Pharaoh (Acts 7:10; Hebrews 11:23) and the Roman emperor (John 19:15), so we need to broaden our thinking beyond the word “kings.” Paul is calling Timothy (and us) to pray for all highly placed civil authorities. This is especially remarkable given that Nero, who instituted terrible persecution of Christians, was emperor during Paul’s ministry. If this book was written later by a disciple of Paul, the author may have experienced the reign of Titus (79–81), who while still an army officer was responsible for the sack of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.—and Domitian (81–96), who may have been responsible for the persecution of Christians in Asia Minor as reflected in the book of Revelation.
Paul adds, “and all who are in high places” (literally “all who are in authority”). This would include city and state officials, but wouldn’t be limited to civil authorities. It would include military officers and NCO’s—corporate officials, bankers, and brokers—owners and managers of businesses—teachers and school administrators. If you have a job, it would include your supervisor—and his/her supervisor. It would include church officials—deacons and elders, down to the local level.
Paul doesn’t specify the contents of our prayers for these officials. Should we pray that they become Christians? Of course! Should we pray that they be given wisdom? Certainly! Should we pray that they act wisely and justly? Surely! In his Apology, Tertullian referenced this verse when saying that he prayed for emperors and the empire, for courageous armies, for a faithful senate and virtuous people, and for peace.
“All who are in authority” would include officials of foreign nations—even enemy nations. Jesus told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who mistreat and persecute us, so “that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).
This counsel has its roots in the prophet Jeremiah who, speaking for Yahweh, said, “Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to Yahweh for it; for in its peace you shall have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7).
“that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life“ (v. 2b). While Paul doesn’t specify the content of prayers for authorities, he does specify the purpose, which is that Christians “may lead a tranquil and quiet life.” This suggests that we should pray that authorities would rule wisely and create peaceful conditions, tolerant of Christian truth (see v. 4; see also 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
“in all godliness (eusebeia) and reverence“ (semnotes) (v. 2c). The Greek word eusebeia means devotion, piety, or reverence—outwardly directed—visible to the ordinary observer. However, it is not just for show. It is piety that wells up from the center of one’s being.
“reverence.” The Greek word semnotes means decency, dignity, or seriousness. Today we might say that such a person is “centered” or “grounded.” He/she wouldn’t feel a need to impress other people, but his/her integrity would nevertheless inspire respect.
The person who possesses these two characteristics bear a powerful witness to God. People “see (their) good works, and glorify (their) Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
“For this is good (kalos) and acceptable (apodektos) in the sight of God our Savior“ (v. 3). The Greek word kalos means good, virtuous, honorable, or profitable. In this context, it suggests something that is morally good—the right and proper thing.
The Greek word apodektos is a combination of apo (in this context meaning “completely” or “in full”) and dektos (acceptable, having divine approval). In this verse, then, the word apodektos means something that is highly acceptable or pleasing to “God our Savior”.
“who desires all people to be saved“ (v. 4a). “God our Savior” (v. 3) “desires all people to be saved” (v. 4; see also Isaiah 45:22; 49:6; 55:1; Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11; John 3:16; Romans 10:13; 1 Timothy 4:10; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2).
But while God desires all people to be saved, God allows people to choose or to reject God and salvation. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will tell me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity'” (Matthew 7:21-23; see also Psalm 119:155; Matthew 19:24-26; Mark 16:16; John 3:18, 36; Acts 4:12; 13:40-41; 2 Thessalonians 2:10; Revelation 21:8).
While salvation in the Bible sometimes amounts to being saved from one’s enemies, in the New Testament it usually has an eschatological character—i.e., having to do with end of time events—God’s judgment—heaven and hell.
The idea of salvation is especially important in Paul’s letters:
• The “Good News of Christ…is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
• Paul says that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
• “But the righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).
• “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) which means that we are subject to an eternal penalty for our sins.
• However, we have been “justified freely by (God’s) grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God set forth to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:24-25a).
We call this idea substitutionary atonement—being brought back into God’s good graces by means of an atoning sacrifice. This has its roots in the Old Testament, where Jewish Law required Israelites to sacrifice animals to gain atonement—forgiveness of sins. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice, not just for an individual, but for the sins of all the world (Matthew 20:28; John 1:29, 36; Romans 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 5:2).
“and come to full knowledge of the truth“ (v. 4b). One of Paul’s primary concerns in this letter to Timothy is countering false teachers—people who were teaching “a different doctrine” (1:3)—promoting “myths and endless genealogies” (1:4)—people who have “missed the mark (and) have turned aside to vain talking, desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say, nor about what they strongly affirm” (1:6-7). The antidote for these people’s lies is a healthy dose of truth.
Truth is important. Jesus said, “The truth will make you free” (John 8:32). The opposite is also true. Living according to untrue principles can rob people of their freedom.
Therefore, we in the church need to be sure that we are teaching the truth. The truth that we are tasked to teach is that which Christ taught us to observe. To learn what Christ taught, we need to look first to scripture, especially the New Testament, and not to pop psychology or politically correct thought. We should even carefully evaluate pronouncements by denominational authorities, because they are sometimes swayed by political considerations or the popular culture. The reformers said that the answer to this problem was “sola scriptura”—scripture only:
• Practiced rightly, this means that all other authorities are subordinate to scripture—must be measured by their adherence to scriptural teachings.
• Practiced rightly, this means that our teaching will often be unpopular—out of synch with the popular culture—because Christ calls us to speak the truth, but popular culture often bases its beliefs on attractive fictions.
1 TIMOTHY 2:5-7. CHRIST GAVE HIMSELF AS A RANSOM FOR ALL
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own times; 7 to which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth in Christ, not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
“For there is one God“ (v. 5a). This is a fundamental belief of Judaism, and distinguished Jews from their neighbors, who tended to worship many gods.
This belief is codified in the Shema (pronounced Shi-MAH), “Hear, O Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one,” which is derived from Deuteronomy 6:4. God commanded:
“You shall teach them diligently to your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
and when you walk by the way,
and when you lie down,
and when you rise up.
You shall bind them for a sign on your hand,
and they shall be for symbols between your eyes.
You shall write them on the door posts of your house,
and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:7-9).
In accord with these requirements, Jews recited these words twice a day. They wore them in phylacteries (small leather boxes) on their hands and foreheads. They posted them in mezuzahs (ceramic or metal containers) on their doorposts and gates. The phylacteries and mezuzahs also contained the texts from Exodus 13:1-16 and Deuteronomy 11:13-21).
“and one mediator (mesites) between God and men, the man Christ Jesus“ (v. 5b). The Greek word mesites (mediator) is derived from the word mesos (middle). A mediator is a person who stands in the middle—an intermediary or go-between who mediates between two parties to achieve some sort of desired result.
The idea here is that people have alienated themselves from God by their sin, and need a mediator to help reestablish a harmonious relationship with God. No person existed who could serve in this role, because all people are sinners (Romans 3:23)—and no sinful person could enter into God’s holy presence.
God used angels, prophets, and others to communicate with people, but they were not qualified to act as mediator—to restore harmony between a holy God and an unholy people.
As an interim solution, God took the initiative to establish a covenant relationship with the people of Israel—promising Abram that God would bless Abram, would make of him a great nation, and would make him to be a blessing to all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3). Over time, God renewed this covenant with Moses (Exodus 24) and Joshua (Joshua 24) and Jehoiada (2 Kings 11) and Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:10 and Josiah (2 Kings 23:3) and David (2 Samuel 7:12-17).
However, these covenants were all preliminary to the new covenant established by the mediator, Jesus. Where Jewish law had required the ongoing sacrifice of animals—the blood of those animals atoning for the sins of the people—the new covenant established by Jesus was dependent on the blood that he shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28; see also Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25). The book of Hebrews, written with Jewish people in mind, says three times that Jesus is “the mediator of a better covenant” (Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24).
“who gave himself as a ransom (antilutron) for all“ (v. 6a). This Greek word antilutron is a combination of anti (in the place of) and lutron (to ransom or redeem).
A ransom was the price paid to redeem (to set free) a slave or prisoner of war. Jewish law also provided, under certain circumstances, for a man to pay a ransom to save his own life (Exodus 21:28-32). However, a murderer or adulterer could not save his life by paying a ransom (Numbers 35:31; Proverbs 32-35), because murder and adultery were considered too serious and too willful.
Jesus said that he had come “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).
Now Paul is saying that Christ Jesus “gave himself (on the cross) as a ransom for all.” Christ paid the price to release people from the penalty for their sins by taking their place—by absorbing their guilt and dying in their place.
However, this saving effect is limited to those who respond in faith. A sick person who refuses medical care will not enjoy the healing benefits such care could bring. Likewise, a person who wants nothing to do with Christ won’t experience the benefits of the grace that Christ offers.
“the testimony” (marturion) (v. 6b). A person called as a witness in a court case would give their marturion—their witness—their testimony. That is the meaning of marturion in this verse—witness or testimony. Christ has come to bear testimony to God’s desire that “all people (might) be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth” (v. 4).
“in its own times“ (kairos) (v. 6c). This is a literal translation of the Greek.
There are two Greek words for time—chronos and kairos:
• Chronos has to do with chronological time—clock time—the time by which we keep daily appointments.
• Kairos has to do with special time—special moments in time—the forks in the road that make all the difference—moments with the potential to determine destinies. Paul uses kairos here, signaling that he is speaking of a significant moment in time.
In his epistle to the Galatians, Paul talks of God sending his son in “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4). My old theology prof talked of this as the opportune time—the right time—a time when the stage was especially well-set to accomplish the work that the Son had come to accomplish:
• While it would overstate things to say that it was a peaceful time, it was the time of the Pax Romana—the Roman Peace—a time when Rome’s domination was so complete that there were no major wars.
• It was a time when Jesus could fulfill God’s plane by being born in a stable and dying on a cross.
• It was a time when people could travel from place to place readily, spreading the Gospel as they went. For instance, when the church was born at Pentecost in Jerusalem, “there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under the sky” (Acts 2:5). The disciples baptized three thousand people that day, people who soon returned to their homes to take the word of Jesus to their families and friends.
But “the fullness of time” can also refer to the time of transition from one age to another. The Jews of Paul’s day divided time into two ages (Matthew 12:32; Ephesians 1:21)—the present age under Satan’s rule and the age to come under God’s rule. Jesus Christ “gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4).
“to which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (and) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth“ (v. 7a, c). Paul has been appointed to three roles in the church—appointed by Christ Jesus, unlike his opponents, the false teachers of 1:3-11. The three roles to which Paul has been appointed are:
• Preacher (kerux—from kerusso). The word kerusso means “herald”—a person who proclaims a message in behalf of another, such as the spokesperson for a king. A herald would shout the message in a public place to disseminate it as broadly and clearly as possible. The early church adapted this word to speak of preaching, which is broadcasting the Good News authorized by the King of kings.
• Apostle (apostolos) means “one who is sent.” Jesus was sent by the Father (Mark 9:37), and he chose the apostles to be sent out to continue his work. The story of Paul’s conversion from persecutor of the church to Christian discipleship is told in Acts 9, including Christ’s words to a reluctant Ananias, “Go your way, for (Saul/Paul) is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Luke first calls Paul an apostle in Acts 14:14.
• Teacher of Gentiles. The first Christians were Jewish, and they initially required Christian converts to adopt Jewish practices such as circumcision. Peter was especially strict in that regard. However, shortly after the conversion of Paul, Peter saw a vision of Christ requiring Peter to eat animals that were unclean by the standards of Jewish food laws. Then the Spirit let him know that he should welcome three men whom the Spirit had sent, including “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous man and one who fears God”—but a Gentile (Acts 10:22). Peter understood the message to be that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35). In other words, Peter came to understand that Gentiles were acceptable to God in the same way that Jews were acceptable. Peter reported that to the church at Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-18)—a major breakthrough in the life of the early church. Peter, who had been the leading apostle from the beginning, appears again in Acts 12. Then beginning with Acts 13, Peter, the leading advocate of observing Jewish practices, essentially disappears, and Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, becomes the leading apostle. Peter is mentioned only once more in the book of Acts, when he tells the Jerusalem Council (the highest church authority) that it is time to accept Gentiles in the church without subjecting them to Jewish practices (Acts 15).
“I am telling the truth in Christ, not lying“ (v. 7b). This is in contrast to Paul’s opponents, the false teachers of 1:3-11, who were not telling the truth. Paul makes this kind of statement in several situations where people have challenged his authority (Romans 9:1; 2 Corinthians 11:31; 12:6; Galatians 1:20).
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
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