Sermon for September 18, 2022, Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Timothy 2:1-7 (Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

“We Pray for All Because Jesus Died and Rose for All”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

September 18, 2022

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our journey through 1 Timothy continues this week as we give our attention to these verses from our Epistle reading:

1Therefore, I urge, first of all, to make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all people, 2for kings and all those who are in high position, in order that we might lead a peaceable and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and pleasing before our Savior God 4who wants all people to be saved and to come into the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God, and there is one mediator of God and people, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave Himself, the ransom for all, the testimony in its own time. 7For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle—I am telling the truth; I am not lying—a teacher of Gentiles in faith and truth.

          We ended our time together last week with the Good News—the saying is trustworthy and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Paul focused on himself as the “chief of sinners.” He wrote to Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” This Gospel assurance we received as sinners ourselves, the Good News that forgiveness and eternal life are indeed ours because Jesus became man and lived for us, died for us, and rose again for us.

          With Jesus Christ as the foundation of the rest of his letter, Paul writes to Timothy first about prayer. “Therefore, I urge, first of all, to make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all people, for kings and all those who are in high position.” As a pastor, Timothy had oversight of the worship life of the congregation. Part of the gathering on the first day of the week, in addition to the hearing of God’s Word, the preaching, and the administering the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the gathered people of God—the Church—were to pray.

Prayer is speaking to God in words and thoughts. Prayer is commanded by God; He wants His people to pray and has promised to hear us. St. Paul, then, by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, writes to Timothy and to the Church that the people of God are to make supplications (they are to ask God for things), prayers, intercessions (they are to pray for other people), as well as thanksgivings. For whom? “On behalf of all people, for kings and those who are in high position.” In other words, we “pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus, and for all people according to their needs.” If you have ever wondered why we most often begin the Prayer of the Church with those words, this is why. God our Father tenderly invites us to pray, not just for ourselves (although we are certainly to do that), but also for all people. The Prayer of the Church offers those petitions for which the people of God pray, “hear our prayer”—hear our prayer for the Church and her pastors and workers, for the government and leaders of our nation and the countries of the world, for those with special requests, for the sick, the suffering, and the dying, for the grieving. The Prayer of the Church is all-encompassing.

Now, let’s take a deeper look into our Epistle. In the movie Shrek, Shrek tells Donkey that ogres are like onions in that they have layers. God’s Word is like that too. As we look at why God’s people pray, it seems that the short answer is, because we are urged, even commanded, by God to pray. Peel back that layer with me and let’s think about why God would ask His people to do this. Paul writes in verse 1 that the people of God are to pray “on behalf of all people.” If we put a dot on the text there, to where should we connect that dot? Look at verse 4. Our Savior God “wants all people.” All people connects to all people. We pray for all people because our Savior God wants all people to be saved and to come into the knowledge of the truth. Prayer, then, is more than simply asking for, praying for, giving thanks for. Prayer is also part of the mission of the Church that all people hear the Good News about Jesus who came into the world to save sinners. Paul says that he was appointed for this mission as a preacher and apostle. And now Paul urges and encourages Timothy, the congregation at Ephesus, and the whole Christian church to take part in that mission through prayer.

The Church prays for all people because God wants all people to be saved. That salvation came through the work of the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself—the ransom for all [people]. It is because Jesus, God the Son made flesh in His incarnation, gave Himself in His perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection so that believers in Jesus (the Church) can pray to God and expect to be heard. The Church prays with faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because Christ has won forgiveness for our sins, we now stand in Christ’s righteousness and are able to present our petitions to God. It would be presumptuous for sinners to attempt to stand before God and ask Him for anything. Therefore, we owe it to Christ that we can approach God in prayer without fear of condemnation. We trust in the merits and mediation of Jesus that our prayers touch the heart of God. He is the ransom for us all.

But what does it mean that Jesus is the ransom for all people? Ransom is a word that reminds us of the ancient marketplace, particularly the slave market. In the Roman world, anyone could be a slave—conquered peoples, debtors, people who for any number of reasons would sell themselves into the condition of servitude. The ransom was the price paid to purchase a servant or slave from indenture or slavery. Jesus came into the world to save those in the chains of slavery to sin, death, and Satan—to save sinners. Jesus is the One who came to pay the price for securing the freedom of those enslaved by these enemies. And Jesus is also the price paid, the ransom required to secure our freedom.

On the cross, Jesus suffered the punishment for the sins of all people. On the cross, Jesus shed His holy, precious blood for the sins of all people. The price of forgiveness and freedom from sin, death, and the devil is the eternally valuable blood of Jesus Christ, the priceless perfection of His obedience in life and in death, the precious treasury of His merit on the cross. For you. For all people.

          Because your sins are forgiven, you have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1). Because you have been given saving faith in the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for you, by the power of the Holy Spirit you can offer your supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings to God and be assured that you are heard because of the righteousness of Christ put upon you. And because Jesus came into the world to save all people, to be the ransom price that frees all people from sin, Satan, and death by His death and resurrection, you and the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus pray for all people according to their needs.

          And what is a person’s greatest need? Food, shelter, clothing? They are important, but is not the greatest need for forgiveness and eternal life? Is not the most needful thing rescue from sin, death, and the power of the devil? That’s the very reason the Son of God became man and lived in the world in which all people live and sin. He came to be the world’s Savior. His perfect life, death, and resurrection have indeed paid the price to set the world free from its enslavement. And so it is in the name of Jesus, with faith in Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that you and I and the whole Church pray for all people. We pray for their physical needs. We pray for their emotional and mental needs. But we especially pray that all people might come to the knowledge of the truth that Jesus Christ is their Savior God and Lord. We pray for their salvation in Jesus Christ.

          All types of prayers, especially requests for salvation, are what we as Christians ask of our Savior God. He wants all people to be saved and His given His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the Savior of the world. We pray that all people might come to know Jesus Christ as Lord through the hearing of the Word as the Holy Spirit creates faith in Christ through that powerful Word. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2 ESV). Not only do we ask the Lord to send out workers, both church workers and laypeople alike, but we also pray for those who will hear the Gospel Word through them. As then we are urged, so let us pray:

          Almighty and gracious God, You want all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Magnify the power of the Gospel in the hearts of Your faithful people that Your Church may spread the good news of salvation. Protect, encourage, and bless all Christians as they proclaim the saving cross that Christ, being lifted up, may draw all people to Himself, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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