Have you ever considered the connection between corporate prayer and the mission of God? While many of our churches include corporate prayer in our gatherings, we can miss the overarching purpose of it and how it relates to the overarching purpose of God. How does corporate prayer relate to God’s mission to save a people for himself? Paul sketches this out in his first letter to Timothy as he seeks to establish and maintain godly conduct in God’s household.

This post is an excerpt from Osvaldo Padilla’s recent commentary on The Pastoral Epistles in the Tyndale Commentary Series. Visit this page to learn more about the Tyndale Commentaries on the Old and New Testaments.

Corporate Prayer and the Mission of the Church

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 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. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-7


In 3:14–15 Paul tells Timothy that he is hoping to come to him soon. If there is a delay, however, he is writing this letter to instruct Timothy on how to behave in the household of God. Although these words apply to the entirety of the letter, they do so in an even more specific way to 2:1–3:13. For in this section Paul gives orders to the church as the household of God. Thus, in 2:1–7 Paul gives instructions concerning corporate prayer as a community. In 2:8–15 Paul gives instructions concerning the behavior of men and women in community. And in 3:1–13 Paul gives instructions for those who take care of God’s community. As seen in the comments that follow, the church’s mission to outsiders holds these instructions together, a mission that has a Christological basis.

Components of Corporate Prayer – Verse 1

“I urge” (parakalō) presents the instructions that follow as a continuation of apostolic orders. The verb is common in paraenetic letters. In this context, “first” (prōtos) can refer to the first injunction in a series, without implying priority of importance; or it can refer to something that deserves priority. Both senses were present in 1:15–16. It is probable that in 2:1 the word refers to the first in a series of acts of worship carried out by the community. For although the command to pray appears in other letters of Paul (e.g., Rom. 12:12; 15:30; 1 Cor. 14:13–16; 1 Thess. 4:17), there is never the sense that this was the most important act of worship in church meetings. We must also keep in mind the occasional nature of Paul’s letters when seeking to glean church order for the present.

Paul lists the different types of corporate prayers made by the community (supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanskgivings). Marshall helpfully notes: ‘The four terms which describe prayer characterise it in its totality’ (emphasis added). In vv. 1–2 Paul highlights intercession.

Paul uses two terms here that will continually appear in verses 1–7: pas (‘all, every, everyone’) and anthrōpos (‘person, human, man’). A combination of the two, or each term in isolation, appears in verses 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6. Prayers are for every person, for God desires every person to be saved through Jesus Christ the human person (‘man’). As we indicated under Context, this universal, missional point of view provides the framework for understanding 2:1–7; indeed, for understanding the entire section that runs through 3:16.

Subjects and Purpose of Corporate Prayer – Verse 2

Included in ‘everyone’ are those in positions of rule. Basileus (‘king’) was used of regional rulers and client kings in the east (e.g., the ruling members of the Herodian dynasty), as well as the Roman emperor. There existed a long tradition in Judaism where the priests, while certainly not sacrificing to the foreign king, would offer sacrifices on his behalf and commit to pray for the king. Jesus authorized this tradition for his disciples (Matt. 22:15–22; Mark 12:13–17; Luke 20:26) and followed in the early church (Rom. 13:1–7; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13–17). Paul continues it in the present command. The phrase “and all who are in high positions” (en hyperochē) refers to those who worked with but under kings, such as officials and representatives.

Paul now provides the purpose for these different types of corporate prayers: “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” The words quiet and peaceable life are emphasized both by their position in the clause and the use of alliteration (ēremon kai ēsychion). They convey the sense of a life free of tumult, allowing the person to go about his or her business without the fear of civic violence or uproars, which was a constant possibility in the cities of the eastern regions of the Roman empire. This does not mean that Christians should aspire to lead a life of reclusion. As the context demonstrates, the goal is to enjoy lives free of civic turmoil with a view to the proclamation of the gospel. It should also be noted that peaceful existence is what God wishes for his creation.

Pleasing to God Our Savior – Verse 3

The demonstrative pronoun “this” harks back to the community’s prayer for all people and includes verses 1–2. The phrase “is acceptable” (apodekton) probably reflects OT sacrificial language, where worthy sacrifices were deemed pleasing and acceptable before the Lord. But ‘in the NT community of God prayer in the church replaces sacrifices’ (Marshall). The designation of God as Saviour links back to 1:1 and continues a theological theme that is constitutive of God in the Pastoral Epistles.

The Foundation of Corporate Prayer: God’s Salvific Mission – Verse 4

The relative pronoun “who” may have a causal sense here (Marshall). The logic may be arrived at by asking a question: why is prayer for everyone pleasing to God? Because he is the kind of God who wants everyone to be saved. The ABA’B’ pattern of this verse suggests that to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth are related in the manner of hendiadys. That is, the second phrase further defines the first. Thus, to be saved means to come to the knowledge of the truth.

A number of comments are necessary to elucidate this phrase. First, the phrase highlights the initial aspect of salvation, or ‘conversion’ (Marshall). Several texts confirm this (1 Tim. 4:3; 2 Tim. 2:25; 3:7; Titus 1:1).

Second, we should note that the truth in the Pastoral Epistles is often used by Paul to refer to the gospel that has been received and passed down by the apostles (e.g., 1 Tim. 2:7; 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:18; cf. also Gal. 2:5, 14; 5:7; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5, 6). The reason truth is chosen is probably polemical: in contrast to the heterodoxy (1:3) of the opponents, the apostolic gospel is true in that it conforms to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the prophets and apostles. That is, he uses truth in order to throw into relief the error or falsity of corrupt teachers. In this respect truth has an intellectual nuance, suggesting that the false teachers are mentally broken, which is demonstrated in their rejection of the gospel.

Excursus – Does this verse teach universalism?

The statement that God wants everyone to be saved has a seemingly universalistic ring to it. Many scholars have thus sought to bring further precision to the meaning of the statement. On the one hand, some point to the situation at Ephesus, claiming that Paul was battling a form of salvation by special knowledge (gnosis). Paul, they suggest, is insisting that there are no boundaries to God’s salvation; it is not the possession of only a few ‘enlightened’ (see 6:20). Although possible, there is not sufficient evidence of a fully flowered gnosticism behind the Pastoral Epistles. Marshall and Towner point to Gentile inclusion as the reason why Paul speaks in such a universal manner.

On the other hand, some scholars suggest that the phrase should be translated as ‘all kinds of people’. Although this is grammatically possible, it is unlikely in light of the Bible’s clear representation of God as one who desires all his creation to be redeemed (e.g., Ezek. 18:23; John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). More than likely Paul is speaking of Gentile inclusion. It may have been the case that the Jewish opponents, although not judaizing in the way we see in Galatians, for example, have boasted of Jewish superiority on the basis of the biblical statements on the election of Israel.

The One Mediator and His Work – Verse 5–7

Verses 5–6 support verse 4 by providing further explanation. This forces us to examine the relationship between God’s desire that everyone be saved (v. 4) and the confessional statement of verses 5–6, more specifically, the relationship of the fact that God is one and that there is one mediator. More than likely, the logic is that since there is one God (e.g., Deut. 6:4) and one mediator, there is only one way of salvation for all, Jews and Gentiles alike, underpinning the call to corporately pray for all. Perhaps we can call this divine symmetry, reflecting the beauty of God.

Paul now names the one and only mediator between God and humanity: the Messiah Jesus. Paul emphasizes the humanity of Jesus as the mediator (cf. Heb. 9:15). It would of course be a mistake to think that Paul is hereby negating the divinity of Jesus. As we have seen (1:1–2) and will see again (Tit. 2:11–14), Jesus is clearly presented in the Pastorals as God. This theological affirmation should serve as a framework for our Christological and soteriological comments in these letters. It is precisely through this framework that we can make the best theological sense of 2:5. For the statement about the human Messiah Jesus may assume his divine yet enfleshed existence as God. To this divine existence he has added humanity (cf. Phil. 2:5–11). In this way he could be a mediator both from the side of God and from the side of human beings.

Who could have done this [restoration] had not the self-same Son of God become the Son of man, and had not so taken what was ours as to impart what was his to us, and to make what was his by nature ours by grace?

John Calvin

The Price of Redemption – Verses 6–7

This verse stands in remarkable parallelism to the words of Jesus in Mark 10:45: ‘For the Son of Man [ho hyios tou anthrōpou] came not to be served but to serve, and to give [didounai] his life a ransom [lutron] for many.’ Paul echoes these words of Jesus, which, along with his explanation of the bread and the wine at the last supper (Matt. 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–26; Luke 22:15–20), became the normative explanation of Jesus’ death in the early church (see, e.g., Gal. 1:4; Eph. 5:2).

The compound antilytron (‘ransom’) appears only here in the NT but is basically a synonym to the simple lytron. Cognates of this term are found elsewhere in the NT (Luke 1:68; 2:38; 24:21; Acts 7:35; 28:19; Tit. 2:14; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:18). In the LXX lytron is a ‘sum payable as ransom’, including payment given to free a slave (see Exod. 21:30; 30:12; Lev. 19:20). Jesus’ death is presented as payment, as the rescue-ransom to deliver from ‘wickedness’, as we will learn in Titus 2:14. This payment was, in keeping with the universal thrust of the text, “for all”.

The preposition hyper (‘for’), in addition to the context, explains this ransom as substitution. Jesus died in the place of others, indeed all. The testimony of this stunningly gracious act was given at the time set by God, and includes Paul’s own preaching. In a way that continues the accent on God’s grace, we are told that none other than the former blasphemer Paul was himself made a herald and an apostle … “a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth”. The thought here reflects what Paul states in other places (e.g., Rom. 1:1–5; 15:14–16; Gal. 2:7), namely, God’s gracious call on his life as an apostle to the Gentiles.


Worship and mission are linked in this text in two ways. First, worship of God, which is presented here as corporate prayer (v. 1), has a soteriological horizon. On this side of the eschaton, prior to final judgment, worship is incomplete without proclamation of the good news to all people. Second, mission is based on worship. It is only because God in the first place ‘desires everyone to be saved’ (v. 4) and has thus sent Jesus Christ to become ‘the man Christ Jesus’ in order to serve as ransom, that mission is at all possible. Otherwise, the mission of the church would be an entirely immanent affair. That is, without the transcendent reality that God in Christ has taken on flesh and taken a cross for our sins, the church could ultimately only offer a self-help message, dependent only on anthropological possibilities.

Therefore, we can say that church mission without God’s act of love in giving Jesus Christ for our sins cannot exist. And worship – again, this side of the eschaton – includes the missio Dei as its necessary outcome. In this way the reality of the church stands in imitation to the reality of God. For God, although completely blessed in the fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and therefore not in any need of creating, nevertheless, in an overflow of his love, has in the person of the Son become the man Christ Jesus to include others in the Triune fellowship. So also the church, though blessed in its contemplation of God in worship and corporate prayer, nevertheless, precisely because of that worship, proclaims the good news of Jesus Christ. Without this proclamation flowing out of worship, the church does not have an identity.

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