Remember the first time you visited a shopping mall? It comes with a sense of uncertainty because you don’t know what door to use, where any of the stores are, or where you can find a bathroom. The same is true on a magnified scale every time a Christian gets going into the culture. We face uncertain cultural circumstances.
It is why Paul follows up his plea for urgency about the gospel in chapter one of 1 Timothy with a call to prayer in chapter two. In 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Paul lays out two big ideas for how the church is to move forward in its gospel ministry.
1. Pray for the most advantageous conditions for gospel proclamation.
Prayer is a priority for all Christians. In verses 1-4, Paul asks believers to pray for all people in all kinds of ways. We are to ask God to see our needs, meet our needs, and accept our thankfulness for His work among us. But we are to then seek two specific outcomes.
A) Pray for the most advantageous cultural conditions.
In the call to pray for kings and those with political power, it comes with zero caveats. We are to pray for them whether they are moral, immoral, or amoral. Religious or irreligious. But it is not to pray that they have a nice day, the political party agenda is completed, or the tax codes are adjusted. The church prays for politicians so that we may have a tranquil and quiet culture. We are praying that God will influence them in such a way that the church can operate freely.
B) Pray for the most mature spiritual character.
It is never enough to just pray for external circumstances to be free of obstacles. We are to seek to live out godly and dignified lives. As a believer, your life should carry such spiritual weight that even if you are accused of evil, no one will believe it (1 Peter 2:12). Our internal lives should be prepared to carry the gospel through our public culture.
The reason for such a call to prayer is laid out in verses 3-4. The mission of God is inclusive of everyone. He wants everyone to be saved so we are to pray and live in such a way that it is our priority as well. As Philip Towner wrote, “Prayer for all is grounded in God’s will to save all.” We are to pray for the best environment in which to participate in God’s great mission.
2. You are sharing the most radical news.
We need to be constantly reminded that our message does not match any cultural context. The world is broken and in continual rebellion against God’s kingdom. We pray for everyone because of what we are going to deliver into their lives.
A) The Good News of Jesus Christ is the exclusive news of Jesus Christ.
The news that Paul and Timothy were delivering conflicted deeply with Nero’s demigod status as the Roman emperor. If you wanted salvation, you trusted in him and the pantheon of gods that he allowed. Jesus was not on the list. It is not different today in modern America. The exclusivity of Christ for salvation opposes our rugged individualism. Our culture says that you can make it on your own and you can accomplish anything. But the Bible is clear in this issue. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. Jesus said so in Mark 10:45. Paul repeated the idea in Galatians 1:4; 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; and Titus 2:14. God desires to save everyone with such passion that He came on the mission to accomplish it Himself.
Thus, we should be urgent in prayer and life about it. But as Carl F.H. Henry once said, “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” Our work is to deliver the radical news of the gospel to people who radically need it in the midst of a culture that is radically set against it. So what do we do about it.
B) Your conversion is your commission.
You must get active. In verse seven, Paul described himself in three ways. First, as a herald; a person sent by a superior power to make a public announcement. Second, as an apostle; one sent with authority to lead. Third, as a teacher; one who explains the mysterious and helps people apply it to their lives. It is a good pattern for us to follow. We must declare the gospel publicly, powerfully, and understandably.
Every person who has been saved has the responsibility to share what changed you. Alan Hirsch says, “There is no such thing as an unsent Christian.” The moment you were saved, you were sent on mission.
It leaves us with no alternatives but to see the gospel as the only solution for life. The sharing of the gospel is our only path for church growth. As we stare into a culture, we can do so with hope. It may be set against God, but Nero has always been against Jesus. It did not dissuade Jesus, the apostles, or the early church. For now, as always, let us more forward through prayer for those in authority and live out the gospel’s power personally.