Prayer, a Pleasing Aroma to God
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Primary Truth Taught
Prayer for all people is a vital part of church’s ministry to the world and is very pleasing to God.
Chapter 1 has taught us very specifically what the Gospel is and how the Gospel is manifested in the lives of believers. Truth produces a pure heart, good conscience, and a sincere faith. Out to these we display the love that God desires. False teaching produces sinful, selfish people who are lovers of themselves rather than others. Once the Apostle has instructed Timothy on the importance of the true Gospel in the life of the church, the very next thing he focuses on is the urgency of prayer in the life of the church.
There are a number of times, in this section, the word all is used. It’s used so many times that the Apostle is showing us something by repeating this word. What does he mean by all? Some will, no doubt conclude that all means all…well it does and it doesn’t
I have often times heard people quote 1 Timothy 2:4 to dismiss, out of hand, the biblical teaching on Sovereign grace or Divine election. In quoting the verse they have told me that God has no interest in electing certain people to salvation but that His desire is for every person to be saved. Yet, we must remember that the word “all” always has a context. It can sometimes mean all people everywhere – many times it does – but it sometimes means “all” in the sense of “all kinds” or “all classes, types” of people or at other times it refers to all within a certain type or class.. For instance, we do the same thing in our English language when a schoolteacher in a classroom may ask the question, “are we ALL here?” or “is EVERYONE here?” She is not asking if everyone on planet earth is in the classroom, but because of the context in which the question is framed (the school teacher’s classroom) we understand she is referring to all within a certain class or type – in this case, all the students signed up for the class. I believe 1 Tim 2:4 is speaking of all in this sense of “all types.”
Human Need Met
How is your prayer life? I believe this text shows us one area where we probably all need to improve. What this text does for us is not just say pray more and leave it at that but it shows us that prayer is very important to God and vital to us as believers. My prayer for us today is that through this text we’ll see collectively just how big prayer is and that knowledge will be the motivation to pray more.
1 Timothy 2:1–7 (ESV)
2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
How does the world view us? How does the truth affect how we live in this world? This church found itself as the small minority in a pagan, ungodly world. This should resonate with us here in America.
Do you pray for our president? It is difficult to pray for those who are making it more difficult to live a Christian life in the world.
Here, it is important to see what Paul is talking about. He goes through a list of various types of prayers so we understand that the goal of the church in prayer is to offer up all kinds of prayers for all kinds of people.
Supplications– an appeal to someone in authority. In this case the appeal is to God for real and vital needs. Here is where we often highlight physical needs and often stop there. We are to call out to God to meet these needs.
Prayers- Here Paul has in mind the corporate prayers made by the church. This generic prayers really is meant to be overarching and take in all kinds.
Intercessions- Where we pray on someone’s behalf, literally, we mediate in prayer between them and God. It is a pleading in the interest of others.
Thanksgivings- Thanking God for who He is and what He has done. This is an expressed gratitude for all God has given us and being satisfied with who He is.
The key here is that the church must be praying all kinds of prayers for all kinds of people. This is made even clearer later in the text.
Then he lists some that you may not think at first would be on Paul’s prayer list…
The first thing we need to figure out here is what Paul means by all people. Very simply put, the context must guide our interpretation. So far, the context shows us that the Apostle has been speaking in terms of groups of people or classes of people. In fact, it would be impossible for our church to pray for every human on earth…we don’t know everyone. Here, clearly he desires the church to pray for each and every class without exception. Notice what he writes next…
2 for kings and all who are in high positions,
The false teachers, in trying to make a name for themselves, were making things difficult for the believers in Ephesus. They were, in fact, disturbers of the peace. So, what the Apostle tells Timothy is that if there are any issues between the Church and the state, they shouldn’t be caused by the church. So, we pray for kings and presidents and all in authority. We pray for their leadership and for the salvation. We pray that they seek God in their desire to lead. Most importantly we pray that the Gospel would have success in this world.
Here, the church is not praying that it find itself compatible with the world or that she fly under the radar in order to be at peace with the world. We pray for all kinds of people even for kings and all in high positions that the Gospel would have a great impact on them.
For us, in America, we pray for our president. Paul is not writing for us to pray necessarily for his health but the he would follow and submit to the Greater Authority, Jesus Christ.
All we need to do is to read Paul’s letters to realize he is not desiring a restful and quiet life but tranquil in the sense of not having any disturbances that would hinder the ministry of the church to and in this world. We pray for God’s will when it comes to political leaders and we pray that whatever they do would give great opportunities for Gospel ministry.
The church must never get so caught up in politics that we create an us-them mentality but rather seek to live in peace with those who are over us. We realize there are times when this is not possible but we try just the same.
Romans 12:14–19 (ESV)
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
So, we should understand this first section to teach that we, the church, should be offering up all kinds of prayers for all kinds of people. No one should be to great to be prayed for and no one is to lowly. We must pray for all kinds of people.
One of the best examples of this dynamic is the Book of Daniel. Remember how Daniel’s unwavering commitment to God and his humility won over King Darius? It to a while and there was suffering involved along the way but Darius new there was a man of God in his midst. Daniel didn’t do it with debates or nasty emails but by living a quiet godly life in that pagan land. I think this is exactly what Paul is telling Timothy. Live like Daniel who prayed faithfully everyday all kinds of prayers for all kinds of people…even kings and those in authority.
I believe in general the church has dropped the ball when it comes to its attitude concerning the world we live in.
3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
The real purpose for prayer is Gospel purposes. Praying should consist mainly in petitioning God for Gospel success. This is the theme of this section as Paul shows us the real purpose for prayer.
He explains how this is the case in two very unique ways.
A- Prayer for Gospel Success is Pleasing to God
This is easy to miss. By doing some Biblical Theology and study we can come to Paul’s first meaning and purpose in prayer. Prayer for the salvation of all people is pleasing to God. He uses OT sacrificial language to show us that prayer, in many ways, is much like the OT sacrifice. The language is almost identical.
Deuteronomy 6:18 (ESV)
18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers.
Leviticus 1:8–9 (ESV)
8 And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; 9 but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.
We should, then, understand that prayers of the saints which contain Gospel and salvation as their subject matter are as pleasing to God as the OT burnt offerings were. Perhaps even more pleasing.
Notice how Paul places his ministry to the Gentiles in terms of the OT sacrificial system…
Romans 15:14–17 (ESV)
14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. 15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.
The point in our text today is this…praying all kinds of prayers for the salvation of all kinds of people is a pleasing aroma to God. It is very fitting that in the OT Temple, the incense continually burning with their smoke and aroma ever ascending to God represented the prayers of God’s people.
4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
What we must realize here is that as vital as the OT sacrifice was to the worshipping Israelite, so prayers for Gospel success are to the NT worshipper.
In connection with Paul’s ministry to all people, not just the Jews flows his desire and God’s desire to see people saved…Jew and Gentile. God is not the God of only the Israelites, but through Christ, He is the God of all people, both Jew and Gentile.
The very subject matter of the praying that pleases God comes face to face with the lies of the false teachers. Here is the connection back to chapter 1…
4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Salvation can only happen by the grace of God working through biblical truth. Coming to the knowledge of biblical truth and salvation go hand in hand.
I pray we can see the dynamic here…When our prayers align with God’s desires amazing things will happen.
This should greatly build our confidence in praying for the salvation of those we know. We can pray that the truth will affect those we know who have been taken in by the lies of this world. As we pray those prayers are sweet to God.
5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Why is it so important to offer up Gospel prayers for all people? Because there is only one way for everyone to be saved. There is one person our prayers should be directed to (God our Savior) and focused on, namely, Jesus Christ our One Mediator.
In the Jewish Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4 we read…
Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV)
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
This verse was written in opposition to the many gods of the gentiles. The Shema is a denial of the many god’s of the nations.
This is why the context of this passage determines the meaning of all. In this passage all people means Jew and Gentile. So, by quoting the beginning of the Shema, and in connection with Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles, his point is to prove that the salvation of the Gentiles also comes through the One God of the Jews. So all kinds of people, both Jews and Gentiles (all kinds) are saved through the One God (God our Savior) through the One Mediator, Jesus Christ.
2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions,
Paul highlights the humanity of Jesus here due to the fact that the thrust of this section is Jesus dying on the cross… who gave himself as a ransom for all.
Here, Paul brings in a quote from Jesus, Himself found in Mark 10:45…
Mark 10:42–45 (ESV)
42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Finally, Paul ends this section by reminding everyone of his Apostolic credentials. Especially, in light of Timothy’s task, he needed the endorsement of an apostle to carry out this very difficult job.
Simple application is pray more…
I hope after learning that Christ-centered, Gospel saturated prayers are a sweet aroma and an acceptable sacrifice to God our praying will greatly increase.
We should be praying more for President Obama and other leaders of our country. Pray hard for missionaries who are going to far away lands, pray that the Gospel will not be hindered and that it would have great success.
Declaration of Grace