“Pray for Those in Authority: This Is Good and Pleasing” (1 Timothy 2:1-7)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the reading today from 1 Timothy 2, St. Paul urges us to pray for kings and those who are in authority. He says this is good and is pleasing to God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. But what is the connection between the two, between praying for governmental authorities and this being pleasing to God, who wants all people to be saved? At first glance, there may not seem to be a connection. But there is.
You know, at the time Paul was writing this, the Roman Empire was the great power in the world. The Caesars–Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero–they were ruling the world, and they were ruling it with an iron fist. Caesar was no friend of Christianity. Indeed, Paul himself would be beheaded by Nero just a couple years after he writes this letter. Nero would even use Christians as human torches to light his garden. And yet Paul says to pray for men like Nero, “for kings and all who are in high positions.” And that this pleases God.
What’s the point? Well, for one thing, we pray for these civil rulers that they would not persecute the church. That would be a good thing. That would be pleasing to God. Oh, we endure persecution if we must–and persecution will happen–but we pray that it would not. It is a good thing when the government does not persecute the church, and when the government does its job and stops those who would persecute Christians.
You see, the reason God has instituted government in the world, civil authority, is to keep order in the world. As Paul writes in Romans 13, the governing official is God’s servant–whether he realizes it or not. He is God’s servant to maintain order and justice for the people God has entrusted to his care. The government official is not there to spread the gospel–that’s what the church and her ministers and her people are to do. But the government ought to ensure the conditions so that people can live peaceably and go about their business and fulfill their various vocations in life.
And that is how good government can assist in the spread of the gospel: not directly, but in guaranteeing the peace and the freedom and the safety we need, for us Christians to be about the preaching and teaching of the saving gospel of Christ. This is why Paul can say of our praying for those in authority: “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Now what is that saving truth? Paul can’t help but go on to tell us: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” There it is! This is the gospel! This is the one and only message that saves! It is the good news of Christ Jesus, the one mediator, the one go-between, who establishes peace between God and man.
You see, we were on the outs with God. Our sins had separated us from our Creator. Every one of us–you and I and all the people who have ever lived–each of us has broken God’s law and come under his righteous judgment. On our own, we all would come under condemnation and the sentence of death.
But then Christ came. God is merciful. Christ came, the very Son of God, come in the flesh, true God and true man, sent to reconcile us back to God, to remove the barrier of our sin and to atone for it. This Christ did by his death on the cross. Think of Christ hanging there on that cross, suspended between heaven and earth, dying there in your place, for your sins. He is the mediator, the man in the middle, the one who makes peace in his body on the cross. Now risen and ascended into heaven, this same God-man Savior, Jesus Christ, now ever lives to intercede on our behalf. His holy blood pleads for us before the throne of grace.
Isn’t this wonderful good news? It sure is! And God wants everyone to hear it. That’s why this radio station is here, “The Messenger of Good News.” That’s why the church and her ministers and missionaries are here, to proclaim the good news to one and all, both far and near. That’s why you are here, too, dear Christian, to testify to Christ your Savior as you have opportunity.
And so that is why we pray for kings and those who are in authority. Their job is to help us do our job. They provide peace and order in the world, so that we can carry out the mission of the church, namely, to spread the saving gospel of Christ. This is good and pleasing, so let us do just that, both the praying and the preaching.
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep you hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Let us pray, therefore, for those in authority: “Eternal Lord, ruler of all, graciously regard those who have been set in positions of authority among us that, guided by Your Spirit, they may be high in purpose, wise in counsel, firm in good resolution, and unwavering in duty, that under them we may be governed quietly and peaceably; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”