April 18, 2021
1 Timothy 2:1-3
1 Timothy 2:1-3
Political Prayer, 3.21.14
It has been said that there are two things that you should never talk about. What are they? Religion and politics. I have no idea who first coined this statement. It’s a very popular one. Obviously you’ve heard it before. Never talk about religion or politics. Well, we’re going to shatter that suggestion this morning. This morning we will be talking about both. Specifically, we are going to talk about political prayer, the title of this morning’s sermon.
For a pastor, for a preacher, his obligation is to preach the Word of God. That’s why you pay me. That’s why I’m here. That is my main job. I’m not here to offer you what it is that I think about some issue. No. My job is to do so far as a I can communicate to you God’s word. I am at my best as a preacher when God’s Word is at its most.
Now we all know that the Bible is a book about redemption. The Bible is about the purposes of God revealed in the world. It’s about sin, redemption, judgment, salvation, death, and life. It’s about God, man, Christ, the devil, the Spirit, and the world. The Bible is first and foremost a book of redemption. The Bible is not first and foremost a treatise on what government is and how it should operate. It is not about that primarily.
But the Bible does touch upon government. The Bible does talk a lot about governments. The Bible does give us principles that we must consider when we think about what government is and how it should operate. The Bible is not first and foremost about government but it does touch on the subject.
The preacher’s proper relationship to discussing politics from the pulpit needs to fit what Scripture says. There is much that Scripture says that does not deal with government. Therefore, much of what the preacher says should not be directly related to government. Nevertheless, the preacher needs to talk some about it, for Scripture speaks somewhat about it, too. Scripture must be our guide. That is what a pastor, a preacher should do. If a preacher is always talking about politics, he’s not doing his job. If a preacher never talks about politics, he’s not doing his job. There’s a balance that must be struck.
The balance is kind of like Goldilocks. She goes into the bears house and eats their porridge. Papa’s is too hot; mama’s is too cold, but the baby bear’s is just right. Pastors with politics need to get to that just right category. Not too much. Not too little.
Regarding the topic that we will address this morning, the Bible speaks loud and clear. The Bible speaks loud and clear on our need to pray for our political leaders. The Bible speaks loud and clear on our need to pray for the government officials who lead and direct us.
If you have a copy of the Word of God, either physically or digitally, please open up to 1 Tim 2. We will cover vv. 1–2. That is 1 Tim 2:1–2. This is what the Word of God says to us this morning,
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
This is a simple passage. Paul presents us with a simple command in v. 1 and 2, and he provides us with a simple rationale for his command. I will have two points for you this morning.
Pray for Government Leaders
Here’s the first point. It’s very simple. Pray for Government leaders. This point easily, naturally, and clearly arises from the passage. Sometimes you read Scripture and scratch your head and say, “What on earth does that mean?” This is not one of those times. Nonetheless, let’s break it down, and spend some time thinking about it.
What I first want us to consider is the verb in v. 1. Paul says,
First of all, then, I urge.
Let’s hone in on the word “urge.” What’s it mean? Paul here is giving us a command. Another way we might understand this part of v. 1 is this, “First of all, then, I command you.” This is a command. Paul, as an apostle of the Lord’s Jesus Christ, speaks on behalf of God. God here is giving us a command.
Commands are different than suggestions. Commands are you have to do x, y, z. Suggestions are you might want to do x, y, or z. To pray for our political leaders is not a suggestion from the Lord God. It is a command.
Think of a what Paul says here as something akin to what a mother of a teenager might say. Mom of teenagers, let’s say that there’s something you want you teenager to do but you are not going to command them to do it. You offer them a parental suggestion. Parental suggestions are very important to follow but not absolutely necessary. To communicate this parental suggestion, you might call your child by their first name. You might say to your teenage daughter,
Ashley, I really think you think you should consider going to this college.
For suggestions, you might just use your teenager’s first name. But for commands, you’re going to use their first and their middle name. So instead of addressing your daughter as “Ashley,” you’re going to pull out the middle name too, “Ashley Mary.” And teenagers you know that when mom uses your first and your middle name to tell you something you’d better listen. Mom’s not joking.
That’s like what Paul is doing here. He’s not joking. He’s not presenting us with a suggestion. He means business. He’s saying our first and middle name here. We do not have the option to not follow what Paul is saying here. God’s Word is clear.
Types of Prayer
Well, what does Paul urge? Paul urges prayer. Looking at the passage.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made.
Paul here is commanding us to pray. As Christians, we have to pray. Dear friend, how is your prayer life? Are you praying? We have to be praying. Prayer is essential. It is required. If we’re not praying, something is wrong. There’s some sin in our heart that is keeping us from God.
Think of a married couple who do not talk to each other. That is an unhealthy relationship. For relationships to be healthy, those parties involved in that relationship must talk to each other. Same with our relationship with God. We must talk to him. We must pray.
Paul specifies several different types of prayer in this passage. The ESV lists supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings. Each of this different terms brings out a different aspect of prayer. I take it that Paul uses all of these concepts of prayer to indicate that prayer—in every and all of its forms—must be made. A funny observation here. To teach on prayer, I’ve used the acronym ACTS. That’s a very popular one. Prayer is ACTS—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Paul uses a different one. He uses SPIT—supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings. Whatever acronym you use, you have to pray. You must pray.
Paul specifies that Christians should pray for a broad group of people and a specific group of people. At the end of v. 1, Paul includes this little prepositional phrase,
For all people
Who are we supposed to pray for? We are supposed to pray for all peoples without exclusion. There should be exclusion of persons in our prayer life. We should pray for our enemies, our friends. We should pray for Christians, for non-Christians. We should pray for people who live in SD, for people who do not live in SD. We should pray for Jews, for Gentiles. We should pray for other Anglos, for non-Anglos. Etc. Etc. Etc.
This call to pray for all types of people flows from the biblical command for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This command flows from that larger biblical context. Christians are to be the greatest type of friend to all of mankind. How are we to show this love? By praying for all peoples, without exclusion. There is no one we will not pray for. We are marked by our love for people, expressed through our prayers for them.
For Government Leaders
In v. 2, Paul narrows the focus of who Christians must pray for. Looking at the passage with me.
for kings and all who are in high positions.
Paul here references governmental leaders. In the first century, the dominate political philosophy was a monarchy. Hence, Paul’s use of the word “kings.” But this verse is not just applicable to Christians living under a monarchy. Paul generalizes it, “for kings and all who are in high positions.” Just as Christians are called to pray for all types of people with no exclusion so also Christians are called to pray for all types of government leaders without exclusion, whether they be kings or they be in other high positions.”
And I want you to notice that Paul adds no contingency to this command. Paul does not say,
Pray for kings and all who are in high positions so long as they rule righteously, or, so long as they rule fairly, or, so long as they rule in accordance with the Word of God.
No. Paul does not qualify this statement. He does not say, “Obey this under these conditions.” There is no condition attached to this statement.
When Paul wrote this, do you know who the Roman Emperor was? It was Nero. Nero was one of the most anti-Christian rulers ever. What Nero did to Christians, and to Paul himself, was horrendous. The specific details are too horrendous to share with children in the crown. Paul is telling Timothy and Timothy’s church to pray for Nero. One commentator sums the point that I am making up well. He writes this,
If prayer for political rulers could be urged when an emperor as cruel as Nero was on the throne, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which believers are exempt from this responsibility.
Dear friends, we have no excuse here.
Apply to the Forgetful
I’d like to apply this portion of the passage to two groups of Christians who I think exist within our body here at CBC. The first group is the forgetful. This is the group of Christians that forgets to pray for our political leaders. This would be me. This week as I was studying this passage I was struck by how seldom I pray for political leaders. And I would ask myself, “Why don’t I?” And I think it’s that I forget to. My life can be so clouded by what I am going through in my own life, and these matters can be so pressing, that I simply forget to pray for government leaders.
On some level this is understandable. We all have pressing personal matters that cloud our thinking. We often pray for what matters most to us. That’s how I am. Nevertheless, this is not an excuse. Forgetfulness can be a form of negligence. The Bible says what it says regardless of whether I think about it. I need to remember. I need to try to remember.
If you’re like me, you, too, need to remember to pray for our political leaders. Maybe you need to place a sticky note on your Bible to remind you. Maybe you need to designate a certain day in the week to do this. Maybe you need ask someone to help you remember to do this. I’m not sure. Whatever you do, make this a priority. The Lord tells us to do this. To honor his Word, we must stop forgetting and obey what he says.
Apply to the Indignant
So that’s the first group—the forgetful. The second group of Christians is different than the first group. The second group is the indignant. If you’re in this group, you have a deep love for this country. You a patriot through and through. You are truly thankful for this wonderful country. One of life’s greatest blessings for you has been to be a citizen of the US of A.
You’re rightfully very concerned about the trajectory of this country. You are very troubled by the terrible deeds that our politicians are allowed to do—from abortion, to LGBTQ issues, to cracking down on our rightful right to bear arms. I understand that. The Lord understands it.
However, you’re angry. Very angry. You’re indignant. When you speak of politicians, it’s by means of ridicule, malice, and maybe even hatred. You’d rather curse the politicians than pray for them. Dear friends, I want us to see this passage and see that that type of mentality—a lack of desire to want to pray for our politicians—is not in conformity with this passage. For some of you, you need to do some repenting in this area. You’d rather curse the politicians than pray for them. That is not honor to this passage, to the God of this passage. That is sin. We must repent.
To Live a Godly Life
Lead a Life that Honors God
So that’s the command that God gives us here. We must pray for our political leaders. This is a command. This is not a suggestion. If we do not follow what God says, we are in sin and we must repent. Paul has more to say. Paul gives us a purpose statement in v. 2. Let’s look at the text again. Paul writes, v. 2,
for kings and all who are in high positions that
The “that” here indicates the purpose of Paul’s command to pray for our political leaders. We are to pray for our political leaders for the purpose that, the passage continues,
we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way
Let’s break this down. First the peaceful and quiet life part, then the godly and dignified part.
Peaceful and Quiet
What does Paul mean when he says, “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life?” I take it that what Paul is saying is that Christians who pray, who keep to themselves and don’t cause the State any trouble, the State takes no notice of them. Christians who pray are under the radar. Christians keep the matters of the government between them and God. Rather than striving for insurrection and mutiny, Christians quietly pray. Therefore, they are left alone by the State. Christians go on with their lives and are unnoticed by the State. That’s what I think Paul is saying here.
The act of prayer might be contrasted with the act of rioting. In rioting, citizens of a State cause tremendous headache for the government. For those who riot, they do not live a peaceful and quiet life. Think of the recent riot upon Capital Hill. Those insurrectionists have been pursued by the FBI and are being prosecuted.
Paul is saying Christians should not riot. Christians should not be involved in the acts of insurrection. That is not the Christian way. The Christian way is prayer. As Christians seek to take their needs and desires to God in private and quiet, the government leaves Christians alone. Now there are exceptions to this. But the basic point still stands. Christians don’t riot. They pray. This way of acting by praying leads to a quiet and peaceful life. Not like the life of an insurrectionist, who is hunted and pursued by the government.
Godly and Dignified
Now the godly and dignified part. Paul writes,
we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way
Godly and dignified. What I take Paul to be saying is that the peaceful and quiet life is the godly and dignified life. To not riot but to pray is godly and dignified. It is ungodly and undignified to not pray but to riot and cause a ruckus. To follow Christ is to strive for a peaceful and quiet life by means of prayer. This is the godly and dignified way of living.
This Pleases God
Ending our exposition of this passage with v. 3. Verse 3 reads,
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.
Bringing the exposition to a close, this way of life—prayer for our politicians, peacefulness, quietness, godliness, and dignity—honors God, pleases our God. This is the type of life we want to live—a life that brings honor and pleasure to God.
Let us end with a few points of application from the purpose statement.
First, generally, rioting and insurrections are not Christian options. Our method for change is prayer, not swords or guns. With this point, we get into all manner of debate and difficulty with how much must Christians submit to the government. I will not wade into this issue. There may be times when rioting and insurrection are legitimate. But for the most part they are not. If they were not applicable during the Roman Empire, I have doubts whether they would ever be applicable.
Second, don’t always strive to “make a difference.” Some Christians have an obsession with “making a difference” in the world. By making a difference, I mean becoming famous or something. Notice where the emphasis of this passage is. It’s not on being famous or well-known. It’s on living a life of obscurity where people do not take notice of you. It’s a peaceful and quiet life, not one where you are popular and well-known. Seek obscurity. Be OK with it. Don’t think that the world needs to know who you are. That actually might not be a good thing.
Third, this is my last point of application, and this concerns the Christian’s use of social media. I do not believe it is honoring to God when Christians constantly make posts on Facebook that denigrate and deride political leaders. We might get a lot of likes, but that’s not living a peaceful and quiet life. Some Christians feel that it is their duty to let everyone know why Biden is a bad president. Reading the passage, “a peaceful and quiet life.” Where’s the emphasis on the passage? It’s not on Facebook likes. It’s on obscurity. Some of us might need to stop trying to “make a difference” and simply pray. I think if we prayed as much as we made political posts the church might be in a healthier place. What the church needs is a lot more prayer warriors and a lot less keyboard warriors.
The calling of Christianity is superior to our calling as citizens. While we might have the right under our constitution to mock, ridicule, and malign our politicians, we do not have that right under our divine constitution, Holy Scripture. The cross is greater than the flag. The Bible is greater than the constitution. Loving our enemies is greater than hating them. Praying for our politicians is superior to cursing them.
As always, dear friends, if you ever have any questions about the sermon, please feel free to come and visit with me. I would love to have the opportunity to discuss these matters with you.
2 Cor 13:14.