I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.
Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
- 1 Timothy 2:1-15
Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments
1 Timothy 2:1: “You wonder if it is a blessing or a curse to have a mind that never rests. But you would rather be a cynic than a hypocrite, so you continue to pray with one eye open and wonder:
” about starving children
“ about the power of prayer
“ about Christians in cancer wards …
“Tough questions. Throw-in-the-towel questions. Questions the disciples must have asked in the storm.
“All they could see were black skies as they bounced in the battered boat …
“[Then] a figure came to them walking on the water. It wasn’t what they expected. … They almost missed seeing the answer to their prayers.
“And unless we look and listen closely, we risk making the same mistake. God’s lights in our dark nights are as numerous as the stars, if only we’ll look for them.”
- Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm
1 Timothy 2:3-4 “If the Lord leads a man to a knowledge of his truth, he perceives that though they are red like crimson, they will be as white as snow. That precious doctrine of substitution comes in – that Christ stood in the place of the sinner. Now I perceive that he does not want my goodness but my badness. He does not need my righteousness but my unrighteousness, for he came to save the ungodly and to redeem his people from their sins. I say, when the heart comes to a knowledge of this truth of God, then it is saved from despair, and this is no small part of the salvation of Jesus Christ.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
On 1 Timothy 2:4: “The Gr. word for ‘desires’ [‘wants,’ in the NIV] is not that which normally expresses God’s will of decree (His eternal purpose), but God’s will of desire. There is a distinction between God’s desire and His eternal saving purpose, which must transcend His desires. God does not want men to sin. He hates sin with all His being (Pss. 5:4; 45:7); thus, He hates its consequences – eternal wickedness in hell. God does not want people to remain wicked forever in eternal remorse and hatred of Himself. Yet, God, for His own glory, and to manifest that glory in wrath, chose to endure ‘vessels … prepared for destruction’ for the supreme fulfillment of His will (Rom. 9:22). In His eternal purpose, He chose only the elect out of the world (John 17:6) and passed over the rest, leaving them to the consequences of their sin, unbelief, and rejection of Christ (cf. Rom. 1:18-32). Ultimately, God’s choices are determined by His sovereign, eternal purpose, not Hs desires. See 2 Pet. 3:9.”
And to continue, regarding v. 6 regarding ransom for all people: “This should be taken in two sense: 1) there are temporal benefits of the atonement that accrue to all men universally (see 1 Tim. 4:10), and 2) Christ’s death was sufficient to cover the sins of all people. Yet the substitutionary aspect of His death is applied to the elect alone (see 2 Cor. 5:14-21). Christ’s death is therefore unlimited in its sufficiency, but limited in its application. Because Christ’s expiation of sin is indivisible, inexhaustible, and sufficient to cover the guilt of all the sins that will ever be committed, God can clearly offer it to all. Yet only the elect will respond and be saved, according to His eternal purpose (cf. John 17:12).”
And regarding lifting up holy hands: “Paul is not emphasizing a specific posture necessary for prayer, but a prerequisite for effective prayer (cf. Ps. 66:18). Though this posture is described in the OT (1 Kin. 8:22; Pss. 28:2; 63:4; 134:2), so are many others. The Gr. word for ‘holy’ means ‘unpolluted’ or ‘unstained by evil.’ ‘Hands’ symbolize the activities of life; thus ‘holy hands’ represent a holy life. This basis of effective prayer is a righteous life (James 5:16).”
- John MacArthur, One Faithful Life
These are fifteen verses of power. We are to pray for all people, then leaders specifically. Paul then declares that Jesus was a ransom for all people and that he, Paul, was given the task by God to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, so that it might truly be for all people. Then he concludes with some words about worship. The instructions may seem dated – thus many ignore them, but if we understand the culture at the time and the meaning behind the instructions, it should boil down to his final three attributes of proper worship: faith, love and holiness with propriety. In qualifying ‘holiness,’ Paul is saying that we should not be puffed up and self-righteous, something that Paul was probably guilty of as a highly schooled Pharisee.
In praying for others, we must pray for all people. Why then give our leaders an extra helping of prayer? Paul answers that in that we should pray especially for those who have an effect on our ability to “live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Paul mentions kings and all those in authority. Do not stop with all elected officials, but go on to the company that you work for and everyone who stands as a manager or supervisor over you. For union workers and contract employees, you may have two totally different sets of bosses. I once worked for a matrixed company and since I had three management positions at the same time: training, quality, and safety. I had three separate bosses for each: potentially nine total – but two were the same person, one for each at the corporate level in Europe, one for each at the regional administrative office in the USA, and only two locally, since the company president was ultimately charged with the responsibility for all quality and safety.
The short response is that there are a lot of people that can do something or make some kind of decision that affects your peace, quiet, and the ability to live a holy life. “Holy” in that we try to live more like Jesus who is indeed Holy.
But when I get to the part about Jesus dying for all and the arguments, and distinctions, made by MacArthur, I think of a dear friend that now has those questions answered, having passed away in the Spring due to a rapidly spreading form of cancer. He had asked me about what I thought regarding who Jesus died for. I quoted Jesus who said to His disciples at the Last Supper when Jesus said that He came to serve and give His life for many (Matthew 20:28). I argued that Jesus died for the elect. This got my friend upset. He had done the research and returned at our next meeting with an entire page of references throughout the Bible that said that God loves us all and desires that we all are saved. I think 1 Timothy 2 was near the top if not the first reference. He had done his homework. He was firm in his belief. And oddly, he loved doing John MacArthur Bible studies. And here, MacArthur differentiates between God’s moral will and God’s sovereign will (using the terms as with Garry Friesen with J. Robin Maxson, Decision Making & the Will of God). As Screwtape would say, “God loves the little bipeds that He created.” Yet, God is holy and cannot coexist with sin. And God will only save those who believe and trust in Him.
What struck me in MacArthur’s comments is that God did it for His glory. It seemed to be fitting words for something that I have tried to express in the past. God created us. We rejected God’s program and fell, corporately, due to the fall of Adam and Eve. God gives Grace to those who freely choose to reject what this world has to offer and turn to God to honor Him and Praise Him for who He is – the Reason why we are here on this planet and the sovereign ruler of the universe. In trusting in Jesus as our Savior, we are glorifying the Heavenly Father for sending Jesus to be our ‘substitution’ (as expressed by both Spurgeon and MacArthur above). God is glorified by our praise, as we recognize Him as the author and creator of the universe.
And as for the MacArthur comment about ‘holy hands,’ our late Sunday school teacher used to have everyone hold hands for prayer before and after the class. One Sunday, he has sick with a cold. My wife suggested that we raise our hands, citing one of the OT references that MacArthur alluded to. That became the norm at the end of every class, holding hands in unity at the beginning. As the first reports of COVID-19 reached the US, we went to raising “holy hands” before and after Sunday school until we suspended the classes due to the government lockdown. Yet MacArthur explains that raising “holy hands” in prayer equates to raising our prayers to God by means of the righteousness that God bestows upon us and the process of sanctification as we become more like Jesus each day.
And as for proper adornment when attending church, my wife always says to dress your best, and “best” can vary from one family to the next. After all, “we are going to see the King.” But just as MacArthur explains about the ‘holy hands’ meaning ‘a righteous life.’ May I offer a C. S. Lewis quote:
“…that is very like the problem of all of us: to dress our souls not for the electric lights of the present world but for the daylight of the next. The good dress is the one that will face that light. For that light will last longer.”
- C. S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night and Other Essays
Some Serendipitous Reflections
“What attitudes for worship mentioned here are yours to cultivate?
“When church and society treat people unequally, how do you feel or act?”
- Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
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