Monday, March 07, 2011

Our Priestly Role: Praying for all men

This message is part of a sermon series. For the rest of the sermon series go to  A Royal Priesthood

A royal priesthood

1 Timothy 2:1-7;  1 Peter 2:9-10 
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 Saviour, 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.


But 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 marvellous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

In our earlier series, Christ our Great and Perfect High Priest,  based on Hebrews 7:25-28, we had looked at the High Priestly office of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ. We saw His merits and qualities that qualify Him to this High office. We saw that He is more than able to perform the mediatorial office in that He lives forever to make intercession for those who come to Him. He is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens; He does not need to offer sacrifices daily for His own sins but had once offered Himself, a sacrifice that is whole and acceptable to God. Because of all these and more “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him” 

We now wish to consider the priestly office of the believer. Christ is making intercession for us so that we can “stand against the wiles of the devil”; so that we can “let our lights so shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who are in heaven”; so that having reconciled us unto Himself, we can be agents of reconciliation; so that having comforted us in all our troubles and sorrows, we can with the same comfort, comfort them who are suffering; so that having called us out of darkness into His marvellous light, we can “be witnesses unto Him both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth”. In short, He is our Great High Priest in Heaven, so that we on earth can be the priest of the otherwise lost world.

Paul in this Epistle to Timothy outlined among other very pressing issues, the responsibility of the Christian in the family of God to the people outside this family. In the passage we read which shall form the basis of our discussion, he discusses the responsibility of praying. Spectacular enough, the scope of prayer here is not limited to the Church and its members. In these verses we have an earnest exhortation and a very marvellous declaration; and the two are most intimately linked together. We read in the first verse; 

"I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men"

The Revised Standard Version reverses the order and thus gives a better translation. It reads: "I exhort therefore, that prayers, supplications, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men." Four things are brought into focus here. Let us do a little study of these four words.


Prayer


The word "prayer" suggests any kind of approach to God as we draw near to Him, to present those things that are on our hearts. Defining prayer, the New Bible Dictionary says: "In the Bible, prayer is worship that includes all the attitudes of the human spirit in its approach to God. The Christian worships God when he adores, confesses, praises and supplicates Him in prayer. The highest activity of which the human spirit is capable may also be thought as a communion with God, so long as due emphasis is laid upon divine initiative. A man prays because God has already touched his spirit. The Biblical doctrine of prayer emphasizes the character of God, the necessity of a man’s being in saving or covenant relation with God, and his entering fully into all the privileges and obligations of that relation with God". The prayer that must be answered – is the personal recognition and acceptance of the divine will.



Supplication


The word “supplication” goes somewhat deeper, and has to do with matters about which we are greatly exercised and which cause intense concern.


Intercession


The word “intercession” suggests prayers on behalf of others. Our blessed Lord “ever lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25) And now while here on earth it is our privilege to intercede on behalf of the nations generally; of unsaved people that they might be brought to know the Lord; on behalf of fellow saints; on behalf of Israel, and on behalf of rulers that they might be guided aright.


Thanksgiving


With prayers, supplications, and intercessions we always should link thanksgiving. In Philippians 4:6 Apostle Paul says: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” When we come to God in prayer, to supplicate for needed blessings or to intercede on behalf of others, we should not be ungrateful as we think of His dealings with us in the past. You will remember that in Second Timothy 3:3, un-thankfulness is connected with un-holiness. Thankfulness and gratitude to God, and holiness of heart and life are linked intimately together.


Let us return to the scope of our exhortation – our intercession in the last part of verse one and in verse two. We are to pray for all men. We can do that only in a general way. We do not know what the will of God is as to the lives of all men; but we learn from the following declaration that it is God’s desire that all men should be saved. We shall discuss this declaration in details during our subsequent discussions. But now suffice it to say that we can pray in fellowship with God that the Holy Spirit may bring men under conviction of sin, to confess their lost condition, and to see their need of Christ. We are not to confine our prayer to just a few of our own little circle, but our hearts are to go out to all men.

Sometimes, we think that our own problems are so big and we are so preoccupied with our own problems that we think very little of other people. Even when we do, we say they can go to hell or let them take care of their own needs. How often do we as a nation, for instance, pray for Ghana, Chad, and Iran, Soviet Union or even Christians and non-Christians in other lands? We are to pray in a special sense for those who have been given responsibility as rulers, in all nations.

If we remember that at the time Paul was writing this Epistle, the ruler in Rome was Nero – the man who set the nation ablaze himself but accused Christians of setting the nation on fire; the man who declared Christianity “religio illicita” – illegal religion; the man who made the preaching of the Gospel a criminal offence punishable by death, the law under which Paul was later to be executed; we will then realize the true scope and responsibility of our exhortation. It is God Himself who divided us into nations; and it is God who puts one man up and another down (Psalm 75:6-7). It is He who gives authority to different men, and they are responsible – those who are placed in positions of leadership – to act in accordance with the Lord’s will. They do not always do it; in fact; very infrequently perhaps are they concerned about doing the will of God. But, as Christians, we may help them in this by prayer.

Let us turn to Romans 13:1-3: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not terrors to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same” And trying to still define the scope of our prayers for the rulers, Peter in First Peter 2:17-18 says: “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.” 

“Pray for those in authority” – should this include those evil kings; those decidedly against Christian faith? What should be the content of such prayers – that God should strike them dead so that His word may have free access to the people? Is it not enough to pray for them in our Church meetings – should I continue to pray for those who by their utterances, attitudes and laws are my enemies even in my private prayers? God helping us, in our next talk next week, we shall seek to answer these questions as we continue to consider the priestly office of the Christian. “Pray for all men and especially for those in authority”. 

May the Lord help us.

This message is part of a sermon series. For the rest of the sermon series go to  A Royal Priesthood

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