1 TIMOTHY 2: 1, 2
Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
Question: What does 1 Timothy 2: 1, 2 mean, with its exhortation to pray for civil authorities? Does this not imply political support for policies we find sinful and immoral?
Answer: 1 Timothy 2: 1, 2: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
As Christians, in this world, but not of it, we are subject to the “powers that be” (1 Corinthians 7: 31) (Romans 13: 1). We are obliged to live honestly, as good citizens, and to appreciate whatever blessings of liberty and prosperity we receive as citizens.
The Lord’s Prayer
In our Lord’s model prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13), Jesus omits any mention of the authorities of His day. In fact, in none of Jesus’ recorded prayers did He pray for Caesar, Pilate, or Herod. Jesus’ specific mission was to seek out His sheep, the meek of the earth, who were generally of the lowly or peasant class, an activity for which He was condemned by the elite. Isaiah’s prophecy says of Him (Isaiah 61: 1) (Luke 4: 18): “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek.” Throughout history God has been calling out and developing His people amidst the secular affairs going on around them. This work has been largely invisible and is reflected in the Lord’s Prayer. Setting earth’s affairs right will come later when Christ, with His glorified saints, will reign as earth’s King (Matt. 25: 31, 32). For most of earth’s history, God has permitted secular rulers to govern affairs, occasionally subjugating His own people – natural and spiritual Israel, to their authority. God’s kingdom is not of this world but is yet to come (John 18: 36). The enormous task of world conversion will take place during the Millennial Age, when God, through Christ, sets up His Kingdom for the blessing of all, rulers and the ruled.
The Christian to be Subject
Though the Lord’s people are at heart subject to Christ as their Master, as inhabitants of this world they are to put themselves in subjection to the “powers that be” (Romans 13: 1), and to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12: 17). However, this does not imply that we pray for the unregenerate to be continued in power. The simple prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” expresses the Christian hope. With no malice or rebellious thought toward the governing authorities, the Christian nonetheless looks for “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3: 13). The present order of affairs is in the Scriptures referred to as “this present evil world” (Galatians 1: 4). As such, it is an outgrowth of the rule of Satan, the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4: 3, 4). This is not to say that all heads of state, presidents, or monarchs are Satan’s tools. But this world does not and cannot operate according to God’s rules. No matter how benign, secular governments are not in the business of promoting God’s agenda. However, if we are privileged to live in an open and free society, we should be thankful for our government. In the United States and other democracies, good and fair governance is more the rule than the exception, notwithstanding citizen complaints about their competence. The institutions and organizations which add benefit and stability to our daily lives – law enforcement, fire and medical services, charitable organizations, etc. – are essential parts of a society which reflect its underlying good will to its citizens.
A Quiet and Peaceable Life
The Christian’s life has been a difficult one for much of history. Paul wrote to Timothy that all living a godly life in an ungodly world would be persecuted (2 Timothy 3: 12). Therefore, it was in the interests of Church fellowship and growth that they be left unmolested. To the extent that the powers of the day could provide stability and maintain law and order, to that extent they were to be supported by prayer (Romans 13: 1-7). Paul encourages God’s guidance and direction over rulers to the extent that they are receptive to godly influence and righteousness, that the welfare of His people may be promoted. Christ died for all, high and low, those in power, and those who are not (John 3: 16). It is our obligation as Christians – and citizens of God’s coming Kingdom – to preach this message. We should pray that, God willing, we will be blessed with the right conditions in which to preach the Word and practice our Christian faith. In proportion as we are in harmony with the Lord, we must be in harmony with all the features of His gracious Plan, and this means a love for mankind in general, and a desire to “do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6: 10). As followers of Christ, we cannot be warmongers, revolutionaries, or anarchists. World salvation will not be brought about by politics or civil disobedience. However, we are to be a witness for righteousness and try to exert a helpful influence on those around us. Those in government have normal human worries and concerns as everyone else, and at some time in their lives may be amenable to the message that we carry. God will move aside this present world when He is ready. Until then, we have our work to do. Although we do not know how or when God will bring in the earthly phase of His Kingdom, it is still true that the “most High ruleth in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4: 24, 25).