Summary: Year C. Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost September 23, 2001 Title: “We give up hope on no one.” 1Timothy 2: 1-7
Year C. Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost September 23, 2001
Title: “We give up hope on no one.” 1Timothy 2: 1-7
Paul always taught sound doctrine that guides individuals, right conduct, the “is,” what is from God’s side, forms the basis for the “ought,” what ought to be from the human side. In the text before us he spells out what right conduct looks like when the doctrine of “God wills the salvation of all” is applied to prayer, to rulers, and to conduct at worship. One’s conduct must flow from the truth, morals from doctrine.
In verse one, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone.” This may mean first in a sequence or first in importance. Since what is first in a sequence is also usually first in importance, this phrase should be taken to mean both.
“Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings.” The first three words are various terms for prayers of petition. The nuances of meaning should not be pressed here. The point is that prayer is paramount. In the settled atmosphere of a Church at relative peace with the civil authorities, missionary effort and zeal take the form of praying for those not yet saved. Of course, the good example of Christians has its effect on non-believers, but prayer is essential to keep the proper perspective. The author reminds his audience not to neglect thanksgiving for petitions granted. Both types of prayer should be present in any formal session with God.
“Be made for everyone.” “All” or “everyone” appears frequently in this passage, perhaps to counteract the error that salvation is for but a few elite.
In verse two, “for kings and all who are in high positions,” in Rome the emperor was called only “Emperor” or “Lord” but not “King.” In the provinces, however, “king” was a common term for him and even for lesser authorities. The British still use this type of language. The Pastoral Epistles take a passive position on civil authorities and government. They do not counsel interfering with or trying to influence public policy by means of organized pressure. They know Christians are sojourners. All they ask of civil authority is for the Church to live in peace and function freely. Yet, Christians are to pray for the king’s and lesser authorities’ personal salvation. Whatever public good order civil authorities can maintain contribute to the benefit of the spread and practice of a now rather settled-down Christian religion.
“So that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” In effect, Christians are counseled to ignore public policy as such and concentrate on living a life consistent with Christian principles, a life likely to attract others to the faith. “Quiet” translates the Greek eremos, from which we get “hermit.” The word here does not stress “solitary” but “untroubled from without.” If the Romans can produce external peace, the Christians should take advantage of it to experience internal peace. If external peace, and Roman roads, allows the ministry of the word to be spread, internal peace allows the word to be deeply embedded. “Tranquil” translates the Greek hesuchios, “quiet” and bolsters the meaning of eremos.
In all devotion and dignity: “Devotion” translates the Greek eusebeia, a term well known in secular Greek and frequently used in the Pastoral Epistles. It expresses all that is implied and applied from fear and respect and awe of the Lord or any other god. It can be translated as “religion” or “godliness.” The author is saying that the goal of the Christian is to live a godly life and that is made at least externally possible by civil government that establishes and ensures good order. “Dignity” translates the Greek semnotes, “high standards and practices of morality.”
In verse three, “This is right and is acceptable in , the sight of God our Savior,” Paul himself never referred to God as savior, only Christ. Now the two are so merged in the Christian mind that they are interchangeable.
In verse four, “who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Some folks, later called “Gnostics,” believed that only a special few, initiated into the mysterious knowledge of truth, were candidates for salvation. The masses were not clean enough, intelligent enough or educated enough to be saved. The author is making clear where true Christianity stands.
“Knowledge of the truth,” the kind of knowledge or truth necessary for salvation is within the grasp of all, not reserved for a select few, for it is personal knowledge and truth rather than merely intellectual. This knowledge results in conversion to Christ, not aversion to the masses.
In verse five, “For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human. The author uses these two facts to say, in effect, that his point is self-evident. The one God is God of all; the one mediator is mediator for all, no exceptions, not even pagan rulers. This sounds and looks like an early credal formula that the author is quoting. It has been called the Christian equivalent of the Jewish Shema: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.”