In the New International Version’s translation of I Timothy 2:1-7, entitled “Instructions for Worship,” the phrase “all people” appears in three verses. These two words, repeated three times, help us peer into the heart of God Himself and to get a glimpse of the scope of His attention and love. The first instance of the phrase “all people” comes in verse 1. Paul instructs Timothy to include “all people” in the worship practices of petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving. What does “all people” really mean here? It simply means that everyone is to be considered for inclusion. There are no pre-existing conditions which would disqualify anyone in our various forms of prayer in worship.
This is an important reminder to us because in approaching prayer and worship we often soley turn our attention vertically. But is this the proper and complete approach to the preparation and practice of prayer in worship? This passage is a strong reminder to think horizontally as we approach pray in worship as well. So in the diversity of our prayers we are reminded to include “all people.”
Verse 2 reminds us that the inclusion of “all people” extends to kings and all those in authority. The benefit of this is clearly stated, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Including our leaders in prayer aides us in our pursuit of living a holy life.
The second usage of “all people” is found in verses 4-5. Here Paul boldly and plainly states that God our Savior wants “all people” to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Does that really mean what is seems to mean? Is there any limiting condition to “all people” here? No there is not added qualifier to “all people” and yes, it really does mean “all people.” In the heart of God, he really does want all of his creation to be saved. He does not want any to be lost. What implication does God’s desire for radical inclusion have for our preparation for worship and our call to ministry in the world?
The third usage of “all people” in the passage is found in verse 6. In this instance Paul defines the extent of the ransom that was given through Jesus Christ, the benefit is available to “all people.” Jesus indeed died for all and whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. So the desire of God for all people to be saved results in the ransom payment Jesus gave for “all people.” God, through Jesus Christ, has acted on his desire that all would be saved. The scope of God’s love and the offer of salvation is without limititation. It extends to “all people.” No one is excluded. This is prevenient grace. It originates in, and flows out of, the heart of God and his desire that ”all people” will be saved. And God has already acted on his desire through the all sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is completed and available to “all people.” God does not force it upon us, we must choose to receive it.
So how should the people of God align ourselves and our ministries with the breadth of God’s desire for “all people?” Obviously, there are no grounds to exclude anyone for any reason. Nothing less than a response of radical hospitality will suffice. We are called to make room for the other in our prayers and in announcing the availability of God’s grace through Jesus Christ awaiting and available to all people. We pronounce the good news of God’s love and Jesus’ gift of ransom and call “all people” to receive it. This is God’s desire for “all people.”
Reflection Questions for Preaching Preparation.
Are we including “all people” in our prayers in worship or do we exclude some people based on our pre-existing conditions? God does not and we cannot either.
How are we instruments in God’s hands for calling “all people” to salvation?
How are we helping people to connect to the salvation that is offered to “all people” through the ransom of Jesus Christ?