A recurring theme in 1 and 2 Timothy is how these false teachers and their heresies affected women. We see this theme come up in at least three ways.
First, some women disdained marriage and refused to remarry (1 Tim 5:14–15). This disdain for remarriage likely stemmed from false teachers’ heresy of forbidding marriage (1 Tim 4:1–3). The church needed to be reminded that God created marriage as good and as something for which to be thankful (1 Tim 4:4–5).
Second, other women were weak in their faith and were led astray by sinful passions. Their downfall took place in part by the sinful encouragement of false teachers who took advantage of them (2 Tim 3:1–7). These false teachers and women should have been like Timothy who followed Paul’s teaching and example of godliness (2 Tim 3:10–12).
Third, some women were attempting to teach and exercise authority over men, something Paul forbade (1 Tim 2:11–14), but the heresy behind these actions is not as clear as what we have seen described above. It is possible that this heresy was similar to what Paul dealt with in 1 Corinthians 15. It seems the Corinthians thought that the resurrection was complete since it was only spiritual in nature and would not include a physical resurrection in the future (1 Cor 15:12). If this was the case, they would have seen marriage and gender roles as insignificant, perhaps because they exaggerated the fact that people will not be married or given in marriage after the resurrection (Matt 22:30).
Ephesus knew this same type of heresy. The false teachers Hymenaeus and Philetus taught the resurrection had already taken place (2 Tim 2:18). This heresy may have been present earlier before Paul wrote 1 Timothy. If so, we may be able to see why gender roles would have been dismissed and why women would have felt the right to teach and exercise authority over the church. If they thought the resurrection was complete in every way, they may have also assumed that how men and women were relate to each other had changed as well.
Whatever their reasoning may have been, Paul answered this dilemma in two ways from Genesis 1–3. First, God created man and then woman (Gen 2:18–25). This order implied that Adam was the head of the home and that Eve was created to be his helpmeet. This male headship was to be reflected in authority structure of the church as well (1 Tim 2:13). Second, when Eve exercised headship over Adam, sin was the result (Gen 3:1–7), an illustration of what could take place when men and women do not follow the roles that God has given them (1 Tim 2:14).
Heresy creeps into the church in many ways. The false teachers in Ephesus especially took advantage of women. Let us all be on our guard to watch our lives and doctrine for the sake of our own salvation and others (1 Tim 4:16).
Many miss the salvation emphasis in Paul’s command and see 1 Tim 2:1–2 as a general command to pray for our civil leaders. While we should certainly pray for these men and women, the grammar and context indicate that we pray for them with respect to their role as it concerns God’s desire for the salvation of all.
As to grammar, “for kings . . .” continues immediately after “all people” (2:1–2). Since all people include kings and authorities, we can conclude that Paul is giving a parenthetical comment and focusing on a subset of people. In context, we pray for kings and authorities along the lines of how we pray for all people – we should pray for their salvation.
As their role affects society at large, however, Paul does indicate how we can specifically pray for these leaders so that all people might be saved.
First, pray that the leaders would lead in such a way that our lives could be lived in peace and quiet.
The peace and quiet does not refer to the decibel level of our personal households but for peace and tranquility within society as a whole. A peaceful society allows for the spread of the gospel. A hostile society leads to persecution and keep us from proclaiming God’s Word as much as we would otherwise desire.
Second, pray that we would live in this peaceful society in such a way that our lives are marked by godliness and dignity.
Godliness is part and parcel with the gospel, so much so that Paul refers to the gospel as “the mystery of godliness” (3:16). The presence of godliness in our lives assures us of our eternal life now and promises eternal life is to come (4:7–8), is based upon the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ (6:3), is a means of eternal reward (6:7), and is something we must pursue (6:11). It is a tangible expression of the gospel in our lives.
“Dignity” carries some overlap with godliness. Pastors must manage their house “with all dignity” (1 Tim 3:4). Paul uses “dignified” (a word related to “dignity”) as a headword to summarize the requirements of deacons and their wives in 1 Timothy 3:8 and 3:11. It is a broad term indicating “a manner or mode of behavior that indicates one is above what is ordinary and therefore worthy of special respect.”*
Putting these requests together, pray we would continue to live in a society where we can freely interact with unbelievers, and as we interact with them, pray that we would live godly lives so as not to give any reason to reject the gospel. Godliness extends to actually giving the gospel as well.
* BDAG, s.v., “σεμνότης”
How should we pray for unbelievers?
We have already seen that the context surrounding 1 Timothy 2:1–2 implies that this passage’s command to pray is a command to pray for the salvation of all people.
So, now the question is, how does 1 Timothy 2:1–2 tell us how to go about praying for the salvation of all people?
First, let’s remind ourselves of Paul’s command: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Tim 2:1 - ESV).
Various terms for prayer indicate indicate how we can specifically pray for the salvation of others: supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings.
This passage and others show us that these terms can overlap and emphasize prayer in general.
Paul couples “prayers and supplications” elsewhere in other general passages on prayer (1 Tim 5:5; Eph 6:18). “Prayer” and “thanksgiving” are found in Col 4:2–3. Paul gives prayer as the remedy for anxiety in Phil 4:6 and mentions that we should give “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” to God, which uses three of the same terms as our passage in 1 Timothy 2:1. The larger point in 1 Timothy 2:1 is simply this: however you pray for unbelievers, pray.
However, we can see how to better pray for the lost by the differences between the terms as well.
Next week we’ll finish this series off by looking at 1 Timothy 2:2.
How should we pray for unbelievers? 1 Timothy 2:1–2 helps answer this question, but we have to first figure out why 1 Timothy 2:1–2 can even answer this question.
1 Timothy 2:1–2 (ESV)
(1) First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, (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.
Taken at surface level, 1 Timothy 2:1–2 is typically understood to give a general command to pray for all people and civil leaders. The surrounding context, however, shows us to see that Paul had in mind a prayer for the salvation of all. How do we figure this out?
Notice what Paul says before 1 Timothy 2:1–2.
Paul had just charged Timothy to command the false teachers to stop promoting false doctrine (1:3–7). They did not promote “the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1:4), which we can understand to be the content of the gospel and God’s program for the present age (cf. 1:15).
Paul then clarified how to use the law “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1:11). Filling in the details of the gospel “with which [he] had been entrusted” (1:11), Paul brought its key premise to the fore: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1:15). Paul closes this section by reiterating to Timothy that he was to fulfill his charge along these lines (1:18–20).
Coming to the command to pray, 2:1 transitions to a series of topics pertinent to the church (“first of all”) but also does so with the previous context in mind (notice the “then” or “therefore” that refers to 1:1–20). In other words, with the gospel in mind, Paul gives the command to pray. It is not just a generic prayer for all people, but in context, a prayer for their salvation.
Notice what Paul says after 1 Timothy 2:1–2.
Paul gives three in 2:3–7 as to why the church in Ephesus was to pray for all people, and these reasons all involve salvation in some way, implying salvation is the aim of the prayer in 2:1–2. They were to pray for all people because (1) it would please God to do so because He desires the salvation of all (2:3–4), (2) Jesus died for the salvation of all (2:6; cf. 1:15), and (3) Paul’s mission was to give the gospel so that all could be saved, which is the mission of the church today (2:7; cf. Matt 28:18–20).
The surrounding context of 1 Timothy 2:1–2 implies that 2:1–2 commands us to pray for the salvation of unbelievers. Over the next couple of weeks I will look more closely at 2:1–2 in order to show us how exactly we can better pray for their salvation.
I am presently preaching through 1 Timothy on Sunday mornings at my church. My study has helped me to see the priority of the gospel in preaching and prayer. A brief look at 1 Timothy 1–2 draws out these emphases.
1 Timothy 1
In response to false teaching that de-emphasized the gospel (1:3–7), Paul brought the Ephesians’ attention back to the gospel time and again. The first words out of Paul’s pen spoke of the Father as our Savior and the Son as our Hope (1:1). Paul taught there was a certain way to use the Mosaic Law for to complement the gospel (1:11; cf. 1:3–11). In recounting God’s mercy to him, Paul emphasized Christ’s death for sinners (1 Tim 1:15), not just for himself, but for the sake of the Ephesians who had not been receiving this emphasis from the false teachers.
After this, Paul addressed a number of matters in the church for the sake of upholding the truth, which included the truth of the gospel (cf. 3:14–16).
1 Timothy 2
Paul commanded the Ephesians to pray (2:1–2), and in context, the content of the prayer seems to be more in focus than the command (cf. 2:3–7). This content involves the gospel, which is the gospel for all people. Paul desired prayers for all people to be saved because God desired their salvation (2:3–4), Christ died for their salvation (2:5–6), and Paul’s mission was to give the gospel for unbelievers to believe (2:7), which is the mission of the church at large (cf. Matt 28:18–20).
1 Timothy 1–2 shows the need to keep the gospel at the center of one’s preaching and to pray that the lost would believe the gospel. Paul ties the gospel to other areas of Christian living as well, and I will survey these areas from 1 Timothy 2–6 over the next couple of weeks.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.