The following blog post is an excerpt from a book I am working on for Rainer Publishing:
1 Timothy 2:3-7 – 3 This is good and pleasing in the sight of the Savior, our God, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to an experiential knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the right time. 7 For to this I was appointed as a herald and apostle – I am telling the truth, I am not lying – a teacher of the nations in faith and truth.
Paul’s plea for Timothy and the church in Ephesus to prioritize prayer was rooted in his understanding of God’s saving purposes. Prayer was to be made for “all men,” because God’s salvific desire was for all men. No longer could the Jew think that God was exclusively for them and them alone. Just as God intended the people of Israel to be a blessing to all nations, Paul understood that God intended the “Israel of God,” the church, to be a blessing to all nations. Paul understood his ministry to be bound up with God’s saving desire to see people from every “kindred, tongue, tribe, and nations” come to the knowledge of the truth. That truth, which Paul explains, is that all humanity is in need of a mediator between them and God. Sin had separated humanity from God, yet, God had not left man without a mediator. God sent Christ, who willingly gave himself as a ransom for all. God’s intention was for His redemption to be preached to the Gentile as well, which is why Paul insisted that he was not lying when he defined his apostleship in terms of his mission to the nations. Timothy was to lead the church in Ephesus to pray for the saving grace of God to be known and cherished by all people. Their prayers were to be oriented around others coming to know and experience the truth of the gospel.
Pastor, when it comes to passages like this, it would be easy to get distracted by intramural debates about the extent and purpose of God’s atoning work in Christ. While there is a time and a place for such debates, if your understanding of the atonement and God’s saving purposes restrains you from praying for all people and nations to come to a full knowledge of the truth of the gospel, then you have missed the evangelistic heart of God. Pastor, may our hearts for all people reflect God’s own heart. May our doctrinal disputes never be allowed to extinguish our wonder at the mystery of God’s saving purposes and plans for all people. May our love, compassion, and zeal for seeing all come to a saving knowledge of the truth never grow stagnate. Teach your people to love the nations like their heavenly Father has loved the nations. Explain how humanity’s only hope is found in the mediatorial work of Christ. Weep for the nations to come to the know and experience the Desire of all nations (Hag. 2:7).
Pastor, teach your people to reflect God’s heart for the world by praying for the salvation of all people.