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Timely Talk From Burton Coffman

Burton Coffman
Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

1 Timothy 2
Verse 1, 2
I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, may be made for all men; for kings and all that are in high place; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity.
I exhort therefore …
This form of the apostolic command does not alter the force of it, which has the meaning of “I command.” Paul is not revealing here that which would please him, but that which is the will of God.
First of all …
This indicates the primary importance of the public prayers of the church, and not necessarily that public prayers should be first in the order of worship. Paul’s use of “first” throughout all of his writings generally has the meaning of “the first thing I wish to write.” However, by this initial stress of the prayers, the primary importance of them is surely indicated. “Prayer in all its forms should occupy a central place in the church’s service of worship.” F5
Supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings …
The general meaning of this is “all kinds of prayers”; and, as Lenski put it, “Here are four words for prayers.” F6 And, as Spence said:
Many attempts, some of them not very happy ones, have been made by grammarians and commentators to distinguish between these terms, each of which denotes prayer. F7
The supplications are petitions addressed to God; prayers include petitions but also thanksgivings, adorations, etc.; intercessions are usually thought of as pleas upon behalf of others; and the thanksgivings are expressions of gratitude and appreciation for blessings God has already bestowed, no prayer, in any sense, being complete without thanksgivings.
For kings and all that are in high place …
Here is only a glimpse of the Christian philosophy with regard to civil government, a teaching which Paul spelled out in detail in Rom. 13:1ff. The true Christian stands for law and order, any government being far better than none at all. Nero was at the time of Paul’s writing the emperor; and, as Dummelow put it, “The apostle’s instruction shows that the prayers of the church are to be offered for bad rulers as well as for good.” F8
All that are in high place …
This includes all who are in authority regardless of rank, taking in the administrative assistants in government as well as heads of state. The intense missionary thrust of this whole passage is inherent in the repetition of “all” throughout the passage, as well as in the missionary reference in 1 Tim. 2:7.
That we may lead a tranquil and quiet life …
Christians are not to be revolutionaries in the sense of that word today, although the influence of the gospel, properly advocated, can and does have a therapeutic effect upon the entire society. Tranquility and quietness are inherent traits of the true followers of Jesus Christ.
In all godliness and gravity …
The first noun here has reference to the discharge of religious duties; and, according to Lenski, gravity refers to “dignified and worthy conduct toward our fellow men.” F9 There is also evident in these verses the reason for offering prayers upon behalf of governmental authorities. Such rulers as kings can, by their mistakes, bring untold sorrow upon all their subjects, as well as rich blessings through righteous rule. Therefore, the church should never forget to pray for such leaders.
Nebuchadnezzar was compelled to eat grass with the beasts of the field for seven years in order to learn the lesson that “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4:25); and it is feared that many today are in need of learning the same lesson. Christian prayers are therefore a means of putting into God’s hands an instrument for overruling the affairs of human kingdoms for the benefit of God’s children.