Summary: We are called to universal prayer because God desires that "all men" be saved. This is the purpose behind the doctrine of election. There is only one God, one Mediator, one sacrifice. The church's mission is to make a universal declaration of this truth.
The faithful saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners is worthy of all acceptation - or ‘worthy to be accepted by ALL’ - (1 Timothy 1:15).
“Therefore” - as a priority - Paul exhorts Timothy that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving” should be made for ALL men (1 Timothy 2:1). For kings and ALL that are in authority (1 Timothy 2:2), because our Saviour God (1 Timothy 2:3) wishes ALL men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Literally, “man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5) gave Himself a ransom for ALL (1 Timothy 2:6) - for which cause Paul was appointed a teacher of the nations (1 Timothy 2:7).
This is an exhortation to public prayer. Indeed, Paul continues, ‘I will therefore that men pray everywhere’ (1 Timothy 2:8).
A. THE CALL TO UNIVERSAL PRAYER (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
The words Paul uses here for prayer range in meaning from ‘entreaty’ (Luke 1:13), through ‘approach’ (Matthew 21:22; Luke 6:12), to ‘supplication’ (1 Timothy 4:5). These prayers should be made with “thanksgivings” (Greek: ‘Eucharist’). The beneficiaries of our intercessions should be “ALL” men.
Paul goes on to emphasise the need to pray for our rulers (cf. Romans 13:1). Yet Paul lived during the reign of the Emperor Nero, who was certainly no great friend to Christianity! This, however, is not without Old Testament precedent (e.g. Jeremiah 29:7; Ezra 6:10; see also Proverbs 8:15).
Part of the motivation for such prayer is “that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life” - free from the ravages of war and of civil strife - “in all godliness and…” - moral seriousness (cf. 1 Timothy 3:4). Good government contributes to the peace in which the gospel may prosper. Another motivation might be, simply, that “this is good” (1 Timothy 2:3) - and that it is acceptable to God.
B. THE UNIVERSAL DESIRE OF GOD (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
Paul names God “OUR Saviour” but goes on to state the desire of God that ALL men be saved (cf. Ezekiel 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9). This is not to deny the doctrine of election, but rather states the purpose of election (cf. Genesis 12:3; John 15:16). However, it is possible to refuse Christ’s love (Matthew 23:37); reject the counsel of God (Luke 7:30); set our wills against God’s will (John 5:40); and resist the Holy Ghost (Acts 7:51).
C. THE ONENESS OF GOD (1 Timothy 2:5-6)
The basis for this universal desire of God is His own Oneness. There is only one God, not many. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only true and living God.
Not only is there only one God, but also there is only one Mediator. Jesus is our one Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). As both God and Man, Jesus can lay His hand on both, fulfilling the heartfelt desire of Job (Job 9:33).
Jesus gave Himself as a substitute and a ransom for “ALL”: i.e. the ‘many’ who cannot be counted (cf. Mark 10:45). He is ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). This is the One-for-all once-for-all sacrifice which opens the gates of heaven to the ‘Whosoever’ (John 3:16).
The cryptic clause “the testimony in times its own” may speak of such ‘fullness of time’ as welcomed Jesus’ nativity (Galatians 4:4-5). It was when Jesus’ time had ‘fully come’ (John 7:8) that He freely offered Himself on our behalf. The phrase may also belong to what follows, concerning the proclamation of the gospel.
D. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE CHURCH’S MISSION (1 Timothy 2:7)
For this purpose Paul was appointed a preacher, an Apostle, and a “teacher of the nations.” The truth must be preached in the whole world (cf. Matthew 24:14): because there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4); only one way to get to the Father (John 14:6); and ‘none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the only way, and it is this truth that Paul sought faithfully to teach.
If you are concerned about whether you might belong to the elect or not, you are probably asking the wrong question. Own Jesus as your own, and you will discover that He already owns you. If you don’t pitch your will against God’s will, then all the benefits of the ‘Whosoever’ will belong to you (Revelation 22:17).