This is Part 3 of a 4-part series looking at issues of freedom and authority from 1 Timothy 2:1–7 (read part 1 and part 2). This passage teaches about God and humanity, and so it teaches us to live as humans among humans and human authorities.
We’ve already seen from 1 Timothy 2:1–2 that God rules over all humans. However, there is a deeper reason to live as humans among humans and to pray for humans. God wills for all humans to be saved. See verses 3–4:
This is good, and it is pleasing in the
sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the
knowledge of the truth.
(1 Timothy 2:3–4)
God sees our prayers and submission to the authorities (verses 1–2) as inherently good, fitting, and beautiful. Why? Because God is saviour. He is my saviour and your saviour—which is a wonderful and beautiful thing! But he is not just our saviour. God’s will for salvation is far bigger than you and me and our circles and our plans. God wills the salvation of “all people”: all humans.
Just to be clear, Paul isn’t saying here that every individual human being will be rescued from God’s wrath. Paul hasn’t suddenly become a universalist. That’s not his point. He’s making a point about the wide human scope of salvation. The point is that God’s salvation isn’t just something that is relevant for you and me. God’s salvation is relevant for all humanity, beyond you and me. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And that’s relevant to everyone. Every human being who trusts in Jesus will be saved. This means all humans need to hear that gospel, to come to a knowledge of the truth that is in Jesus.
There is a real danger for us in lockdown, when our physical horizons are narrowed down, to have our gospel vision narrowed to ourselves and our group. In fact, this is how conspiracy theories thrive. Conspiracy theories play on our feelings of isolation and fear. They play up our own sense of importance: we have secret knowledge, the rest of humanity are lying, we know the truth! In fact, the false teachers in Paul’s day were into this kind of special knowledge (see 1 Timothy 1:4–6; 6:20). But that’s not what the gospel is like. The gospel is not a conspiracy theory for the insiders, it’s a truth for everyone. God wants all people to come to a knowledge of this truth.
This helps us to put our longing for freedom in perspective, too. “Freedom” is not an ultimate ideal, to be pursued at all costs. God’s will is that all humans will be saved, not that all humans will live in a utopia of political and social freedom. Of course, political and social freedom is a good thing, and it is something to strive for. However, as we saw in part 2, freedom is not an end in itself. Freedom has a greater purpose: to enable us to live for God and to love our neighbour. Furthermore, pursuing freedom enables us and others to have opportunities to speak the truth about Jesus, which is how people are saved (more of that next time). So freedom serves God’s bigger purposes—but it is not the ultimate thing for us to pursue.
So I encourage you to keep longing and praying beyond our own horizons right now. Let’s keep our prayers big! Pray for individuals and nations. Pray for God’s mercy, for people to be safe and for people to saved. Pray for the gospel to go out, and for all people to come to a knowledge of the truth. Praying this way is good for us. It helps us to avoid being inward-looking, and to avoid being carried away by conspiracy theories, and to avoid making “freedom” our ultimate goal. But it’s not just good for us. It’s good and pleasing to God. This is God’s desire for the world.