Dr. Jay Harvey
October 30, 2023
“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
1 Timothy 2:3-4
One of the distinctives of the PCA is that we are Obedient to the Great Commission. This text is one of the great missionary texts of the Bible, not so much for what it commands but for what it prevents. The PCA is also True to the Reformed Faith. Critics of the Reformed faith say that our embrace of the doctrine of election logically leads to a neglect of evangelism and a dismissive attitude toward the lost. 1st Timothy 2:3-4 keeps this criticism from becoming true in our lives.
Here Paul calls us to meditate upon God’s heart for the lost. Do we have the heart of our Father in Heaven, who “desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”? As Reformed Christians, we embrace predestination and election. Being true to the Reformed Faith means following the example of John Calvin, who refused to let logic take over in the face of God’s clear revelation. What do we do when with the tension we feel between wideness of God’s mercy on the one hand, and his sovereign electing grace on the other? With Calvin, we enter into worship rather than speculation. We gladly cede the mystery and marvel at the God who is. In this case, we are called to marvel at the heart of God for the lost. And, we are called to let his own heart shape our hearts.
God uses corporate and private prayer to shape our hearts. When Paul says “this is good,” he is referring to his instruction that the church offer “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings…for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions.” It is by divine design that there is a great diversity of image bearers in this world. And, God has chosen to meet the physical needs of his people largely through the contributions of unbelieving image bearers. Their provision is imperfect to be sure, but it is the gift of God nonetheless and their agency is to be acknowledged with gratitude. Our prayers should reflect God’s divine design in, and gracious purposes through, “all kinds of people.”
Note that Paul is compelled to emphasize that this thanksgiving extends to “kings and all who are in high positions.” As far as we know, when Paul was writing these words there were no kings who were Christians yet, and most powerful people were hostile to Christ and his church. So, Paul reminds the church then, and us today, that this posture of thanksgiving and intercession extends also to those who oppose us.
How is your heart toward the lost? Are you feeling a bit cold, or perhaps even embattled and embittered? That is perfectly natural. It takes a supernatural grace to care sincerely about the welfare of others, especially those who oppose us. Let’s not try to conjure it up. Let’s pray as Paul instructs us and see what happens.
Who can you thank God for today? How can you pray for them?
Dr. Jay Harvey is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology and Executive Director of Reformed Theological Seminary in New York City. He and his wife Melody live with their children in Manhattan, where he also serves part time on the staff of Exilic Church (PCA).