In chapter 1, Paul starts by condemning those who were stirring up all kinds of controversies based on false doctrine that were taking the Ephesian church away from its main mission: to spread the gospel to those around them (1:3-6).
He then ends the chapter by charging Timothy to fight the good fight for God’s kingdom, or as the ESV puts it, to “wage the good warfare.”
Part of that was dealing with the false teachers. But part of that was getting back to doing God’s work which the church had been distracted from doing by all these false teachings and controversies.
And so in chapter 2, he lays down the groundwork for where our work and battle begins. Where does it start? Paul tells us.
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1-4)
Here we see what our work is. It’s to see that all are saved and come to a knowledge of the truth of the gospel. That’s God’s will. This is not to say that all will be saved, but that it is his desire. And his desire should be ours.
But our work starts with prayer. To see the needs of those around us for Christ and intercede for them.
So many times we pray for people’s physical needs, and that’s important. But do we do so at the neglect of their greatest need, their need for salvation?
I think one reason why we don’t prioritize it is because we don’t really believe in hell. We don’t believe in its reality. And even if we believe in its reality, we don’t really believe in eternal punishment. If we did, and we realized that’s where many of our loved ones are headed, would we be so indifferent to where they are spiritually?
God certainly isn’t. And so he did something about it. Paul tells us,
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle–I am telling the truth, I am not lying–and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles. (5-7)
We were all slaves to sin and headed for eternal death. But God bought us out of slavery by sending his Son to pay for our sin on the cross. That’s the meaning of “ransom,” here. It’s the payment given to buy someone out of slavery.
The work is done. All people need to do is to receive it by faith. But before they can receive it, they need to hear about it. That’s why God sent Paul out, to announce this salvation to the world. And that’s why God sends you now.
But again, it starts with prayer. Praying that God would open the eyes and ears of those we love that they may see their need for him. Praying that God would work in our leaders in government and open their eyes and ears as well so that the path of the gospel will be that much smoother.
But there’s one last thing. Paul says that we are to give thanks for everyone. It’s easy to do that for those we love. It’s not so easy for those we don’t. Why are we to give thanks for them?
I think it’s to remind us that no matter how hateful or depraved they may be, they are still precious in God’s eyes. We need to see past their exterior and see people that Christ died for. And by giving thanks for them, we are forced to see them more as He does.
God has called us to battle. So let us march into battle…on our knees.