1 Timothy 2
by Pastor David Groendyk
You could summarize this letter written by Paul to Timothy as basic instructions for the church. One of the topics Paul touches on repeatedly is watching out for false teachers. Just a quick scan of the book and section headers shows us that subject in (at least) chapters 1, 4, and 6. Interspersed between these sections on false teachers are other instructions for what a godly church should look like. The main issue in our chapter today is that of corporate prayer, but a number of other issues arise out of this short meditation on the prayer life of the church.
The number one lesson for the church is to engage in evangelistic prayer. Pray for all kinds of people—men and women, kings and neighbors, family members and strangers—that they would come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved by God. This is good and pleasing to God, because God himself loves to save people (v. 4) and because God has provided only one way to save people, namely, the mediator Jesus Christ giving himself as a ransom (v. 5). Why is evangelistic prayer such an important marker of a healthy church? If we’re not regularly praying to God for the salvation of lost souls, it betrays one or two (or more) major errors in our faith. One, we’re not really putting our trust in God himself to do the saving; although we say our God is sovereign, oftentimes we put all the burden on our own selves to do the work of changing hearts. Two, and perhaps more seriously, if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t really care about whether or not those lost souls are saved; prayer for unbelievers is the ground zero for spreading the gospel, and if we can’t be bothered even to pray for them, then it’s likely we’re also not speaking to them. Now, certainly we can’t be expected to pray for every single unbeliever in the world, either as individuals or as a church, but all of us know people who deny Jesus Christ and have the opportunity and responsibility to pray for them. Are you regularly praying for the salvation of unbelievers? How does praying for unbelievers aid us in actually witnessing to them?
But how does Paul make the leap to talking about the roles of men and women? The connecting logic seems to be that Paul envisions men to be the leaders in the church, and implicit in verses 11–12 is the context that the Christian community is gathered together for a time of teaching and learning (and corporate prayer); in other words, he’s talking about a worship service. Men would be the ones praying corporately in worship because men were expected to be the spiritual leaders of the church (see 1 Tim. 3:1–13). In fact, Paul expressly forbids women here to exercise authority over men in the church. This is a very hard saying, to be sure, especially in our current cultural atmosphere. But the reasoning behind this command is not that women are any lesser than men in ability or value or dignity; rather, this is simply the way God created humanity (v. 13). Men are given the role and responsibility of leading. And when the fall happened in Genesis 3, when Eve went ahead and decided to eat the fruit Satan gave her while Adam sat by passively and watched, it represented a terrible inversion of that created order (v. 14). But this discussion of godliness and order in the life of the church leads Paul to highlight some of the other temptations specific to men and women. Men are often tempted to anger and quarreling; women are often tempted to immodesty and usurping authority. Both men and women are prone to certain sinful passions within themselves that desire something they shouldn’t, and both men and women are called to godliness—specifically urging holiness in prayer for men and good works for women. Brothers and sisters, how do you find yourself prone to these specific sins? Now read 1 Peter 3:7—what does this verse say about the connection between holiness and prayer?
Of course, none of us will ever totally defeat our sin in this life. Since the very first humans walked this earth, we’ve needed a savior, and that’s exactly what Paul points to in verse 15. Though sin has been present for almost all of the history of the universe, so has hope. Everyone, from the time of Adam and Eve onward, must look to the seed of the woman who conquers the seed of the serpent that God promises in Genesis 3:15. Indeed, we all are saved from our transgressions through the childbearing of women that led to the birth of Jesus Christ. And if we have found so great a salvation, how can we not spread that news to all people?