As I read through these few verses, trying to read it as I first read it back in 1991 when I was first saved, I want to ask myself (and you, the reader), what is Paul really saying? In verse 1, Paul says (I’ll use the ESV since many reading here will use similar versions), “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, (verse 2) for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Now, at the beginning Paul says that we must intercede for ALL people. So this begs the question, does Paul really mean ALL people? My answer is, I believe he does. Why? Because in verse 2 he begins listing off some of those “ALL” people; kings and all those in high positions. I have previously explained this passage of scriptures to mean that Paul is speaking to Timothy, a believer, and this letter was sent to believers, and therefore, is meant for believers. Therefore, the context being believers, he must be meaning those “believing” kings, and those “believers” in high positions. Orthat through prayer we hold out hope that God may save some of them, however unlikely that may be. Formerly having a reformed theology, this is more of an obedience issue toward God than it is a desire that ALL will be saved. Also, since Paul talks about some walking away from the faith in 4:1, 5:24, and 6:10, that must mean that not all our prayers will be fruitful for these pagans. My underlying beliefs were such that not everyone will be saved and once you die, you have no opportunity for salvation. These are all assumptions that I now believe are not rooted in scripture, but rooted in church tradition stemming largely from at least as early as around AD 500.
I now challenge you the reader, is this REALLY a valid explanation of what Paul wrote? Honestly, does that position hold any water whatsoever? I think not, and here’s why. Paul means ALL people, believers and unbelievers alike because he specifically lists those who are known to be pagans; kings and those in high positions. Christians during Paul’s day were starting to suffer some persecution, especially Jews from their own families and friends (put out of the family typically, for converting to Christ). These early believers, by and large, did not hold high positions in government. I think if this statement by Paul is narrowed to mean possibly high positions in the local (synagogue/church) assembly, we would certainly be missing the target in a huge way!
We are to intercede, through these four things Paul lists, so that we may lead a quiet life, a godly life, a dignified life. Why? Apparently to not draw attention to ourselves and stir up messes in the name of Christ which will, or may, cause wrath and persecution to come on us (believers). Wrath and persecution threaten our godliness, our dignity in the Lord, our peace and quiet that comes from Him who said, “Give to Caesar what is his and to God what is His.” Paul also taught the Roman believers in Romans 13:1-7 about why we should submit to the authorities, the civil authorities, placed in high positions over us believers.
Paul adds force to his plea when he states in verse 3, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior. Doing these four things please God. Doing them for ALL pleases God. And then a most startling thing is said, one which most of the church turns away from today, because it is so horrifying, so devastating, so heretical, that no one should ever believe it, and some have even been excommunicated from the “church” for this belief after they died (read about Origen and the second council at Constantinople in AD 553 where he wa anathematized for this belief). Paul says, in verse 4, about this Savior God that it is He, “who desires ALL people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” WOW! All people are to be saved? Is this true? Could it be true? God’s desire either 1) comes to fruition one day or 2) is thwarted by man’s free will or some other force (Satan maybe?).
So, either God is the Savior of all mankind, thereby having His desires to be fulfilled, or there is some condition that Paul fails to mention here to Timothy. Do you see any conditions? I don’t! I just see a statement and a truth that has brought me more peace and quiet than any other. I see a truth here that looks godly and is dignified, not making God out to be a monster like we humans can be and which God could not even think about (the horrors man conceives and performs, see Jeremiah 7:31 where God says He cannot even conceive of burning children in fire, therefore how could He conceive of a hell of eternal conscious torment). Do you believe that God is ALL powerful, meaning He can do whatever He pleases to satisfy His desires or does “ALL” powerful mean “somewhat powerful?” If God is ALL powerful (and I believe He is!), can you not see and believe that the God who created ALL things and said they were good, including mankind (which He called very good!), will also restore fallen mankind (through one man’s sin came death for all, etc Romans 5), conquering death which includes the second death, and reconcile mankind to Himself one day (! Cor 15:22-28)?
Also, do you notice that the “ALL” in verse 4 is attached (the same) to the “ALL” in verses 1-2? Paul then, in verses 5-6, says there is one God and one Mediator, not many gods and many mediators. This negates all other world religions with their many gods and other mediators, other than Christ Jesus. And who is this Christ Jesus? He is the one, the only one, who gave Himself a ransom for ALL! So very basically, with what I conclude is a child-like faith, we see that God desires ALL to be saved and makes that happen through Christ Jesus who becomes the ransom for ALL. If God desires it, and makes a way for it to come to pass, will it not also happen because He is behind it? If you come to this conclusion, or even allow that it might be possible, and then look at other salvation passages in the New Testament, I believe you may start understanding more about the victorious good news of Christ.
I will talk more about this passage and others like it in forthcoming articles. Leave your questions and comments. Let us study together. Let us learn together. Let us be the one true church together, not bound by buildings and walls, and monologue preaching! Let us reason together and have unity in the Spirit in the bond of peace, rather than separation over pet denominational church doctrines. See you in the comments section!