Title: Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing
Text: 1 Timothy 2.1-7
CIT (Aim): Praying for others and living a quiet, peaceful life with all godliness and holiness are the fertile grounds for fulfilling the Great Commission.
CIS: I want to encourage our congregation to speak up and tell people about Jesus and the hope we have in him.
Context: The Corporate Body – we’re not talking about individual responsibility.
Introduction: Lisa and I sat in a worship service once, many years ago, and heard a preacher tell the story about a Lighthouse. It was a great story. The jest of the story went like this:
There once was a lighthouse on a tiny island just off the coast. It was a wonderful little lighthouse that saved many a ship as it sailed toward the shore. The people in the town loved the lighthouse and were very proud of that lighthouse. But with the rise of technology, the lighthouse no longer served its function. So, the people moved the lighthouse from the island into town. There, they cleaned it up, fixed it up and created a schedule so visitors could come and hear wonderful stories of how the lighthouse once saved people from doom. There were pamphlets and books, videos and calendars with pictures of the lighthouse. The sad moral of the story was that the lighthouse no longer saved lives. It no longer served the purpose for which it had been created. The Lighthouse was now no longer a lighthouse, but a museum.
The point the pastor was making was that many churches have become museums. The open their doors and are no longer places of worship, but rather give tours to tourists, who come and take pictures of the magnificent stained-glass windows and painted ceilings.
I think that the pastor was on to something. He was challenging his church to consider not just the day they were in, but to consider where they were going.
So, let me ask you this morning: what will the church in Tarpley look like in 25 years? Will she be a museum, where folks come and take tours and learn about the glory days of when Pastor Dick Sisk led the church?
We’re studying 1st Timothy. Today we’re starting chapter 2. We’ve just finished the introduction, which is basically all of Chapter One. Paul is writing to Timothy and he charges Timothy to say something: to confront false teachers and their false teaching/doctrine. Now, in Chapter two, Paul turns to some basic practices in the church to be observed with order and oversight.
To help us construct our passage clearly, Paul uses a word here, that guides us through the points he’s trying to make. That guide, that word is all. You’re familiar with the Gk word which means all, too: παν. And you see it translated into English as all or every.
- Panacea: a remedy for all ills or difficulties
- Pan-America: including all of America, North, and South
- Panchromatic: sensitives to the light of all colors
- Pandemonium: the home of all demons in Milton’s Paradise Lost; A wild uproar
We locate this word in six locations:
- First of all, in v 1;
- In every way, v 1;
- Pray for all people v2;
- All who are in high positions, v 2;
- God desires for all people v4
- Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all people, v6
I think from this, we find Paul’s Structure: v2, all people; v4, all people; v6, all people
- Our Priority: The Call to Prayer and Piety that pleases God (1-3):
- Prayer for Leadership: The way we battle false doctrine (1)
- Public Perception and (2)
- God’s Pleasure (3)
- Our Purpose: The Foundation for this call to Public Prayer and Piety (4-7)
- God’s Passion in seeing the lost saved (4)
- God’s Plan in sending his Son as a ransom for all (5-6)
- God’s Purpose in sending us (7)
Let’s look at this first section:
I. Our Priority in the Church (1-3)
exp.: Why do I say priority? Look what he says in 2.1: rd v 1a; first of all; this means one of two things: the first, as in order and maybe even in importance. You either start with prayer or nothing is more important than prayer. If you ask me which one it is, I’d say, both!
Can I repeat that: It is the first thing you should do and there is probably nothing more important in your winning people to Christ than our prayers for them. Which brings me to another very important bit of information. Context: The context here is public prayers (as opposed to private). You will see in v 8 that Paul is referring to the public worship setting. As the church gathers, the first order of business, AND, there is nothing more important than this order of business – is to pray publicly for all people.
We don’t always do that do we? I’m sure there are many reasons, but here’s one: We’ve moved our worship from public settings to these buildings. That wasn’t the early church’s MO (modus operandi). In the very beginning, they met in the Temple. As we make our way through those first few decades of the church’s existence, we see them gather in homes and in public places. They would gather in public places and other people (outsiders) saw them. That still happens to some degree (that is: lost people observing the church in worship). It is my assumption that not everyone who comes to church on Sunday morning is saved.
But the early church didn’t construct magnificent edifices of costly construction like we do. That comes along sometime later. The early church met in public places. Crazy, huh? That’s a foreign concept for us today. But I wonder if the church would fare better if she met in homes and in public places.
ill.: As I think about this, I’m reminded of something: Did you know that the American Church has more in debt each year to banks and financial institutions than what she gives to missions each year?
That’s right: the American Church is Hundreds of Millions of dollars in debt for the Buildings and Worship Centers and Gymnasiums and Swimming pools and Bowling alleys and parking garages….
I’m rambling, but it goes to show you that prayer isn’t our top priority – and according to what Paul is saying – it should be.
No, the early church met in homes and in public places.
Back to our text: Paul says, First of all! Paul has been going off on these false teachers and their false doctrine and then he comes to structure and order in the church. And what comes first? 1First of all, then, I urge that and Paul gives us 4 words for prayer in the church. They’re really all synonyms for prayer.
This is “requests, specific requests, general requests, and even gratitude.” It’s all still just prayer. It’s talking to God. It is interceding on behalf of needs – and the context here is publicly praying for people.
Some would argue that this passage is in direct conflict with what Jesus taught in Mt 6.6: 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. But the context there was attitude. These folks would be neglecting the previous verse, which reads: 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. If your purpose is being seen – then, yes, check the motives of your prayers!
Or, as our text outlines for us who to pray for: it says all people. Now, let me ask you: is that even possible? Well, the answer would be no. You don’t know all of the 7.5 billion-plus people on this planet. So, how can you fulfill this charge? Let me offer you a little help in understanding what Paul means in a 1st Century Context of the Greek language. This word translated all can be more easily understood as all kinds. I sometimes translate it that way to help understand what is being communicated.
Ill.: I first came across this passage back in College and wondered about how it was possible: Mt 4.23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So, if you take this literally, there were no other sick people in Galilee. But if you understand the meaning of the word as ‘all kinds’ of sickness and disease – well that changes it a bit doesn’t it?
So you should understand the text as saying; Rd:
V 1: prayer for all kinds of people;
V4: God desires that all kinds of people be saved;
V6; Jesus died (gave himself a ransom) for all kinds of people;
And, Paul says, first of all, pray. And then specifies next that these prayers be made for all kinds of people… let’s label this:
- A Call to Prayer: Our priority in the church is a call to prayer; it is like the foundational way we battle false doctrine; but I think there is more here, and that is seen in this little statement: prayers be made for all people.
- For sure, there is this universal idea or theme to his statement. In Jewish religious practices, the Jew would normally pray for their neighbor. Paul’s idea is pretty radical compared to what they were used to practicing. Basically, there isn’t anyone who fits outside of these parameters. You can’t find someone you’re not supposed to pray for…
- I don’t think this means to be generic in your prayers: God bless everyone. Let there be peace on earth. But rather, pray for all people. Everyone you can think of. There is no one who you shouldn’t pray for.
rd v 2; 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.
Let’s call this:
- A Call to Piety: this is holy living as described in 4 parts: peaceful, quiet, godly, dignified. You might see this as the Public’s Perception of us. This is what they see in us. So, with this in mind, I think Paul is being more specific here in what he’s talking about in prayers: this isn’t the private devotional prayer. This is public prayer. It is Public Prayer as observed by others who are watching us in our Worship Services.
I think 2ndly, Paul tells us why we are to do this: in order that… we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. For the Jews, this was a practice that was encouraged because, in that 1st Century, the emperor was to be worshiped. The act of publicly praying for the emperor was encouraging and it caused those in high offices to back off of pressuring and persecuting the Jews and the Christians. So, first, the leadership backed off. 2nd, the leadership would be kind toward those people allowing them to lead… a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
app.: Here is Paul’s charge to them through Timothy: Pray and practice Piety. Because he continues in v 3; rd v 3; it pleases God. This is the pleasure of God in the Church: Prayer and Piety.
t.s.: Let’s continue… 2nd,
II. Our Purpose in Evangelism (4-7)
exp.: God is pleased with this kind lifestyle and then God desires; Rd 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. So, there is this call to prayer and a call to holy living, all within the sight of lost people. And what is the result – that people would get saved.
In the context of our lives today – which is totally different now than it was for those people – I’m thinking that Worship is still an evangelistic tool. We don’t worship for that purpose, but it is a result of lost people coming into the presence of the church as she worships. At least it should be! I mean, if worship is focused on us, then it won’t be. But if worship focuses on God, then it will be.
Let that sink in for a moment: The passion of God is for people to get saved. Is that overstated? I don’t think so. Peter said something very similar in 2 Peter 3.9
And then, Paul tells us how they can get saved: it’s his plan. Rd v 5; One God (holy, perfect) and us sinners; but there is a mediator who brings us together; How did he do that? rd v 6; Christ freely gave himself as a ransom.
This would be my plea to you this morning if you’ve never committed your life to Christ: God is holy and perfect. We are sinners and our sin separates us from God. I like to use a book like this to illustrate the sin that separates us. So, because we were helpless to act on our own, to remove this sin, God has sent his own son to die on the cross for our sins. He was buried in a borrowed tomb and he was raised three days later, where he ascended to be with the Father – and rules and reigns in glory.
And the Bible teaches us that if we’ll surrender our lives to him, that if we confess Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead, we’ll be saved.
Paul says, that was his mission, rd v 7; that’s God’s purpose for him. But, that is also our mission. We’ve been given the Great Commission.
Conclusion: Paul did his job, as outlined in v5-7; the church flourished. Church tradition teaches that the Apostle John moved to Ephesus sometime around the time 2 Timothy was written. We don’t know if that is true or not, but it is certainly possible. We know in his later life that he was exiled to the isle of Patmos, just off the coast from Ephesus -so that lines up. The church at Ephesus experienced its most fruitful time after this letter was written, in the early ’60s and through the ’90s when John lived there.
But, from that point on, as the church at Ephesus entered the 2nd Century, she faced a steep decline – such that, she would disappear from the annals of history by the year 200. Today, Islam rules this area. Indeed, just up the coast, in what is known today as Istanbul, their famous Muslim Mosque, used to be a church building. It is called Hagia Sophia. And today, it isn’t even a mosque. It’s a museum. Many churches throughout time have faded from history and have become Museums.
Application: What is to become of us? What will we pass on to the next generation? Will we pass a vibrant, living church? Or, will we leave them a pretty building that houses a museum? Do we understand our roles and responsibilities as a church? Are we susceptible to the plague of mediocrity and the result of living in the past, with no eye to the future? Consider this, if we reach no one for Christ from this point forward, who will be here 25 years from now?
So, what do I want you to take home with you? Take-a-ways:
- A Call to Prayer. Pray daily. Pray about our future (mission; programs; staff). Pray for people to get saved. Pray for God’s protection on your pastor; on your congregation. On you. Pray for unity.
- Evangelism is the Main Thing when it comes to perpetuity. Evangelism is our business. Yes, we come together to worship, but out there – Evangelism is our business.
- Evangelism is most effective when undergirded with prayer and a godly lifestyle.
- He who determines the ends also determines the means. That means that the same God who knows who will get saved has determined that the way they will get saved is through your obedience to share with them.