Paul has given Timothy a charge: Deal with those false teachers. He discussed how he was among the worst of sinners, but that Christ saved him, and so Timothy should deal with false teachers and their followers carefully in the hope they will repent, and then in a personal note, he exhorted Timothy to press on in the endeavor. Now, Paul is talking about orderly worship, and he will mention prayer, the roles of men and women, then in chapter 3 he will discuss the kinds of people who should be in positions of leadership in the church. It is easy to miss the fact that this is all the same discussion; that Paul hasn’t really introduced a new context at any point in the first three chapters. I say that because all of this, all three chapters are about Timothy’s charge to deal with the false teachers and the chaos they have caused in the Macedonian churches. We can see this in the language Paul uses in 2:1:”I urge, then, first of all…” Notice the word “then”: this is a continuation of what Paul was already talking about; Timothy’s mission. “First of all” is not going to be the beginning of a list, rather it is the top priority, and that top priority is prayer in the worship assembly.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people“ is the entire first verse. In order for Timothy to complete his task, the people will need to pray in their worship. Notice that these prayers are for “all people” and not just for some, nor are there any to be excluded, including the false teachers and those they have confused. How continues by mentioning the governmental authorities, so that God’s people may live in peace and not be under constant persecution.
In verses 3-4, Paul says that such prayer is good and pleasing to God because He wants all people to be saved through Christ, and so it is evident that these prayers for “everyone” are to be centered on the Gospel. Now at this juncture, I must ask how often we hear prayers like this in our worship assemblies today? I am accustomed to hearing prayer for health and healing, jobs, personal problems and that sort of thing, and I am accustomed to hearing prayers for justice in remote parts of the world, but I can’t remember when I last heard prayers for the Gospel to spread and for the Kingdom to grow… unless I said it myself. How about you?
If your experience is similar to mine, what does that say about our priorities?
In the last three verses, Paul reminds Timothy that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation for the Gentiles, and that it was for this reason that Paul was called to bring them the good news, and by extension it is also Timothy’s main priority to adopt, and to pass on to the people he is ministering to.