“God Wants All to Be Saved”
(1 Timothy 2:1-8 – Pentecost 18 – October 13, 2019)
1 Timothy 2:1-8 – Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle – I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying – a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
Dear Redeemed in Christ Jesus,
The apostle Peter, speaking to all believers in Christ in 1 Peter 2:9 says: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” In the Bible, God teaches us that He has set us apart in this world for a special role as His priesthood of all believers. This is not to say that every believer is called to serve in the public ministry – to preach God’s Word publicly as pastors, teachers, and missionaries. But as His priesthood of believers, God has called us all to represent Him in the world as those who proclaim His praises as our Savior.
Let us think first of what the priesthood in the Old Testament did, before Christ came.
- They went as mediators between God and the people, to offer required sacrifices in behalf of sinners, foreshadowing Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on the cross for the sins of all people.
- They interceded in behalf of the people, praying for God’s forgiveness and blessing, based on His promise in the coming Messiah.
- They proclaimed God’s forgiveness and salvation to sinners in the name of the coming Savior.
Now that Christ has come, the Old Testament priesthood is abolished. For as our text says: “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.”
- As our High Priest, Christ is our one Mediator with God. He sacrificed Himself on the cross once for all the sins of the world. So no more sacrifices are needed (Hebrews 7:27; 10:10).
- As our High Priest, Jesus now intercedes in our behalf at the right hand of His Father, pleading our forgiveness based on His perfect life and sacrifice, assuring His Father’s blessing to us.
- And as our High Priest, Jesus proclaims God’s forgiveness and salvation for all people, as He sends His Gospel to the ends of the earth through His Church.
Therefore as believers, what does it mean that we are God’s “royal priesthood”?
- We live before God as those who have been brought into His Kingdom by faith in Christ, baptized and washed of all sin, and made holy by the blood of His Son.
- We come before God’s throne confidently, knowing that He hears us for Jesus’ sake as we bring our “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks” for all people.
- We go into the world, confidently proclaiming God’s forgiveness and salvation for all people in the name of Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.
Therefore as God’s royal priesthood, as those whom He has called to represent Him in the world and proclaim His praises in the saving name of Jesus Christ, let us consider as our theme: “God Wants All to Be Saved.” Let us 1) Pray for it, and let us 2) Proclaim it.
1) Pray for it
First, as God’s royal priesthood, we are encouraged to pray in behalf of all people. Paul writes: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.” For whom do you usually pray? Maybe the prayers that come most easily are supplications for ourselves, as we think of everything we want and need. Maybe the harder part is remembering to give thanks to God for His daily gifts of family and friends, money and goods, food and clothes; and especially to give thanks for our Savior and eternal life.
But our text reminds us to think outside the box of our own lives, to make intercessions, to pray for everyone. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to pray for each other’s needs: “Give us this day our daily bread; Forgive us our trespasses; Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” This is why in our Prayer of the Church we make intercessions – asking for God’s blessing on parents and children and godly homes; God’s comfort and relief for the sick and dying; and God’s strength for who suffer for the sake of Christ’s holy name.
At times, our prayers are to include the most unlikely people in our lives, people we may not even find agreeable. Our text says we are to pray “for kings and all who are in authority.” We may not always agree with government representatives. Yet as Romans 13:1 reminds us: “There is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”
God, in His sovereign purpose, may allow leaders we disagree with; but this does not change our need to pray for them. In fact, at the time the apostle Paul penned this Scripture, the wicked Roman emperor Nero was persecuting and killing Christians. Today, there are places where Christians must live under wicked laws – laws that outlaw or penalize Christian teachings; laws that promote sinful practices like abortion and euthanasia, or attempt to redefine marriage.
Yet as Christians gather in worship, as in Paul’s day, we are to pray for all who are in government authority. Why? Paul says: “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” These words express a life lived honorably toward God and men.
What a blessing it is when rulers provide for law, order, and peace that enables Christians freely to go about their godly duties toward God and man. What a blessing it is when Christians can freely worship and proclaim God’s Word. On the other hand, how often has the Gospel been hindered by evil governments?
Therefore we are not to wait until we like government to pray for it. As God’s royal priesthood, “all who are in authority” need our prayers. James 5:16 says: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” For Jesus’ sake, God hears and answers the best way. This is why the Church has historically prayed as we do in our Prayer of the Church:
Prosper what is good among us and bring to naught every evil counsel and purpose. Protect and bless Your servants, the President of the United States, the Governor of this state, our judges and magistrates and all in authority. Fit them for their high calling by the gift of Your Spirit of wisdom and fear, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, p. 48).
Again, in a traditional Collect for the Church we pray to God:
…that Your Word, as becomes it, may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve You and in the confession of Your name abide unto the end (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, p. 86).
God wants all to be saved; so we pray that His saving Word may go unbound to all. Our prayer is also for those who would hear the Gospel. Again in this regard, our prayers and intercessions “for all” at times include the most unlikely people – even our enemies. This is what Jesus did. Even on the cross, He prayed for all who hurt Him: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). This included us, for it was our sins that caused Him to be nailed to the cross. When we were still enemies of God by our sin, in love Christ died for us.
Again, we are not to wait until we like certain people to pray for them. But as God’s royal priesthood, they also need our effective, fervent prayers. As Paul writes concerning our prayers: “this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This is why in our Prayer of the Church, we include the following supplication and intercession:
Send forth laborers into Your harvest and open the door of faith unto all unbelievers and unto the people of Israel. In mercy remember the enemies of Your Church and grant to them repentance unto life (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, p. 48).
So we pray as Jesus taught, that His Kingdom may come to all, that His Gospel may proceed freely to the ends of the earth, and that His Church may carry on her work without hindrance.
At the end of our text Paul adds one more note: “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” Don’t we all have to admit that at times our prayers have been hindered by wrath against others, or by doubt that our prayers would do any good? Certainly, we have failed to pray as we ought for our leaders, and for those who need to hear the Gospel. We have been too selfish in our prayers. We stand in need of forgiveness for these sins. Who are we to come before God’s throne and lift up “holy hands” in prayer?
Yet our text tells us why we can come before God in such confidence. He has saved us from our sins. In Jesus, we have been cleansed of all sin and presented holy in God’s sight. Therefore as God’s holy priesthood of believers, we come before Him and pray confidently in Jesus’ name.
2) Proclaim it
As God’s representatives in the world, let us remember that He wants all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth in Christ. Let us pray for it, and let us also proclaim it.
The saving truth that we proclaim to all people is the same truth we take to heart as sinners. As Paul writes: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” Romans 5 teaches that with the one man, Adam, all mankind fell into sin. We all were included. Due to our sin, death and damnation came to us all. But in His mercy, God provided salvation in Christ for all mankind, for all of us.
As the “one Mediator between God and men,” Jesus bridged the gap between the holy God and every sinner. In order to do so, it was necessary that He be “the Man Christ Jesus.” Only as a man could He truly represent fallen mankind before God. Only as a man could He take our place under the punishment for sin, suffering and dying our death. But He had to be more than just a man to redeem a world of sinners for eternal life (Psalm 49:7-9). The only sufficient price that could pay for our sins and present us holy before God was the blood of His own Son: “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). With the ransom God’s Son paid for us all by His blood and life, we have a perfect cleansing from sin. We have been bought back to God for eternal life. God declares us righteous for Christ’s sake.
Our text leads us to see the full significance of the words “for all.” Jesus did not just give His life as a ransom for a chosen few, as some falsely teach. The “all” includes everyone who has lived or will live. It includes everyone we know: our spouse, children, extended, family, friends, and neighbors. It includes anyone we meet, work with, and play with. Christ is their Ransom, too. He sacrificed His life, not only for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
Paul says this saving act of God in Christ is “to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle.” Jesus appointed Paul and the other apostles and gave His Scripture through them, because He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” He also sends each of us as believers, with opportunities to proclaim His praises in our daily callings. We can be confident in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ’s salvation won for all.
Certainly there is a sense of urgency in our Gospel mission, as God’s priesthood of believers. For we know that “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). As representatives of Christ in this world, we pray that His Gospel may proceed unhindered to the ends of the earth, and that many more may come to saving faith. “God Wants All to Be Saved.” Let us pray for it, and let us proclaim it.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.