Spiritual Exhortation

At this point in time, I am working my way through the book of I Timothy. It is to be part of my newest book. I thought I would share some of my work with you for two reasons; in hopes that it would be a blessing to you, and also to whet your appetite for my future work.

Spiritual Exhortation

I Timothy 2:1-7 “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.”

There is an obvious transition that was taking place in Paul’s letter to his young comrade, Timotheus. Having dealt with the spiritual warfare and conflict which had arisen by the presence and preaching of the false teachers, Paul turned his attention to the public perception and practices of the local assembly. Timothy had been left at Ephesus to assume a leadership role, one in which he would direct and coordinate the art of public worship. Speaking of the challenge before this young minister, Charles Erdman said, “It demands tact and wisdom and discipline, and it taxes all the powers of the mind and the heart.”

I’m afraid that there is a tendency to minimize the truth that Paul placed before us.  At this point it is necessary to know the role of the church in society. There is a great difference in being separated in our practices and being segregated from our purpose. It is imperative that the body of Christ be separated in its practices; “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Peter 2:9). Paul reminding the believers at Corinth that they were the “temple of the living God”, he said, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Corinthians 6:17-18). Yet, there must be contact if the church is to effectively serve its purpose in the world, “Ye are the salt of the earth . . . Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). Salt must maintain its touch and light must remain in its place if either is to serve its ultimate purpose. Praying to the Father in behalf of his disciples, Jesus said, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:15-16). While the church is in the world, it is not of the world. It is to be separated from the practices of the world and yet continue to maintain its purpose. It is from this perspective that Paul delivers this spiritual exhortation. Paul’s spiritual exhortation consists of four areas of exhortation. I will list them for you, but I am only going to magnify the first point in Paul’s exhortation!

The Prayer of the Saints – vs.1-2

The Peace of Society – vs.2-3

The Pleasure of the Sovereign – vs.4-6

The Place of the Servant – vs.7

The Prayer of the Saints – vs.1-2

In order to grasp the objective of Paul’s spiritual exhortation, it is necessary to remember the purpose for leaving Timothy at Ephesus; the local assembly was in spiritual disarray! While the trouble could be traced back to one specific area, the corrupting affects were multiple. The leaven of error had been folded into the bread of life by the false teachers resulting in a distorted message which lead to dysfunctional members, which yielded a defective mission in the world. There was no savor to the salt and no radiance to the light!

It is imperative that we understand; when the church’s message is polluted, the church’s mission is paralyzed; “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The problem had been discovered; now what was the process for recovery; “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.” It was time for the church to pray! Robert Gromacki said, “The phrase ‘first of all’ introduces the first subject of many to be discussed.” However, Donald Guthrie claims that it denotes the primacy of importance. Some have gone so far as to say that prayer is the most important element in the church’s practice of public worship. The point that Paul is making is that prayer in the local church is not optional; it is the obligation of the church to pray! I like the words of an old writer; “We are never really prepared to talk to men about God until we have first talked to God about men.”

In respect to the act of prayer, Paul mentions four aspects of prayer. I believe Paul’s purpose for enumerating the different areas of prayer is not to isolate the individual aspects as much as it is to encourage the use of the whole spectrum of prayer. Paul begins with “supplications.” Supplication is generated by the intense awareness of a deep need which causes the supplicant to appeal to the compassion of God in a plea for pity and mercy. The word stresses the idea of intensity to the point of begging! One writer points out that this intensity can be seen in the leper in “Luke 5:12”, the demoniac in “Luke 8:28, and the father of the demon possessed child in “Luke 9:38.” The second aspect is “prayers.” While the act of supplication can relate to making requests to God and man, prayers are only addressed to God alone! This is the most common term used for prayer in the New Testament and it implies worship, adoration, and reverence. It is all-inclusive in nature and suggests any kind of approach to God in which we bear before Him the things upon our heart. Thirdly, Paul will speak of “intercessions.” It appears that of all the different aspects of prayer, this one emphasizes closeness to God in which the believer boldly draws near unto to the Sovereign. One writer said, “It speaks of personal and confiding intercourse with God on the part of one qualified to approach Him.” In intercession, the believer gets close to God before making his request. It is this communion and fellowship with God that confidence is obtained. The term only appears twice in the New Testament and both in this epistle (2:1, 4:5). Robert Gromacki says that the term is based on a verb which means to fall in with a person, to draw close to him so as to enter into familiar speech and communion with him. One writer went so far as to say that intercessions are interventions, almost approaching the idea of interferences, into matters of God on behalf of others. Intercession is not only the privilege of the believer; it is the common practice of members of the Godhead. Both the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven and the Holy Ghost within the believer make intercessions for the child of God (see Romans 8:26-27&34, Hebrews 7:25). Finally, Paul will make reference to the “giving of thanks.” Here we have the spirit of prayer in which the child of God is grateful for the blessings already received as well as those yet to be received. It compliments all aspects of all true prayer. The spirit of thanksgiving prevents the individual from becoming cold and selfish in prayer. Paul points out that one of the marks of apostasy in the last days is an unthankful spirit; “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy” (II Timothy 3:1-2). When speaking of thanksgiving, Bishop Trench said, “Thanksgiving is the one aspect of prayer which will continue in heaven where it will be larger, deeper, and fuller than here.”

Having dealt with the specifics of prayer, Paul turns his attention to the subjects of prayer; “be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority.” While it may appear to be an over simplification, I believe that defining the phrase, “all men” will clarify the point Paul was making. The word “men” means, man faced or a human being. The word “all” means, all, any, every, the whole. When combined, Paul is saying, “Any and all human beings are to be prayed for!” This would mean that race, social status, gender, or any other areas of distinction are to have absolutely no bearing on the matter; if they are a human being, they are to be the subject of the church’s prayers! Conscious of human nature; Paul expands his admonition to include “kings” and “all that are in authority.” It appears that at the time in which Paul was writing, there were no kings or individuals in authority that believed in Jesus Christ; such men as Pontius Pilate, King Agrippa, and Herod. In fact, most everyone that Paul would include in this group would be considered tyrants and persecutors of Christ, His people, and the message of the gospel. Those that man would exclude, God would include!  It is important to remember the words of Paul when writing to the believers at Rome; “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). God has ordained the institution of civil government and it is He that sets men up and brings them down. With respect to the terms “kings” and “all that are in authority”, most view “kings” as representative of national leaders and “in authority” as lesser government officials. We are to not only be submissive, but supportive of this God given institution.

In reference to subjects of prayer, Paul gives a clear admonition as to the persistence of this practice; “be made.” This is in the present tense which means that the practice of praying for “all men” was to be habitual. It was to be a repeated practice at all of the church’s public services. Prayer must to be a priority in our worship services. It has been said, “The measure of one’s religion is reflected in the scope of his praying.” If the church is to be effective, the practice of prayer must be a priority!