Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemonby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the first chapter of 1 Timothy Paul lays a good foundation to speak of the church life in a positive way. In 2:1 he goes on to say, “I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men.” If we would have a proper church life, we must first have a prayer life. The leading ones, those who minister the Word in the church, should take the lead to have such a prayer life. A prayer ministry is the prerequisite for the administration and shepherding of a local church. Thus, Paul exhorts Timothy that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men. This is the first word concerning the positive aspect of the church life Paul gives after speaking of God’s economy and after charging Timothy to war the good warfare for God’s economy. Timothy had to take the lead to have a prayer life.
A prerequisite for having a proper church life in the Lord’s recovery today is to have a prayer life. A proper church is a praying church. A church that is without prayer is pitiful. Prayerlessness is a sin. All in the Lord’s recovery must be prayerful and stand against the sin of prayerlessness. The elders in the churches must take up Paul’s charge to “first of all” pray.
Of the fourteen Epistles written by Paul, ten were written to churches and four to individuals. Romans was written to all the believers in Rome, and Hebrews was written not to individuals, but to believing Hebrews addressed corporately. Ephesians, Philippians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians were all written to churches. However, the four Epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon were written to individuals. Some may think that these Epistles are not related to us because they were written to individuals. However, we should be today’s Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. In particular, each individual saint needs to be a Timothy.
If we would be a Timothy, we must take the lead not to argue, gossip, or criticize, but to pray. Whenever we hear some news, good or bad, concerning a particular church, we should pray. Do not discuss the situation, do not gossip about it, and do not criticize. Just pray! Likewise, if you hear something about a saint or about an elder, pray for that one. The first requirement to have a proper church life is to pray. Oh, we all need to practice this! If we exercise ourselves to have a prayer life, the church will be living and uplifted. If some would be today’s Timothys to take the lead to pray, the others will follow. This can be illustrated by the way a flock of sheep follows the few who take the lead. If you, as a Timothy, take the lead to pray, the congregation in your locality will follow.
Instead of talking so much and even instead of working so much, we should pray more. Should you hear that a saint is weak or backsliding, do not talk about that person, and do not criticize him. Moreover, do not immediately go to visit him. Instead, pray for him. Whether or not you should visit him depends on the Lord’s leading. After you pray about the matter, if the Lord leads you to visit that one, simply follow the Lord and visit him. But do not do anything presumptuously. If the Lord does not lead you to visit a backsliding saint, you should not visit him on your own. It is possible that even in visiting the saints we may be presumptuous. Yes, visiting a backsliding saint is a presumptuous sin if it is done in ourselves apart from prayer and the Lord’s leading. But if through our prayer the Lord definitely leads us to visit a certain one, that visitation will be effective.
We should also pray whenever we hear of problems among the saints. We should not presume that we are experienced and qualified to solve problems. Such an attitude is not only presumptuous; it is also blasphemous, for it is to consider ourselves as God. If we learn about a problem between brothers, we should bring this matter to the Lord in our prayer.
The first thing the elders should do in caring for the church is pray. Do not make decisions without praying. Do not either criticize someone or praise him without first praying for him. Before doing anything, we need to pray. Furthermore, our prayers should not be light or superficial; they must be thorough. Only after we have prayed for a matter thoroughly should we make a decision concerning it, not by ourselves independently, but in oneness with the Lord and according to His leading. If the elders practice in this way the church life in our locality will be uplifted and proper.
Brother Nee often told us that in reading the Bible we need to touch the spirit of the writer. The Bible in black and white letters can be likened to a human body, and the writer’s spirit can be likened to the life, or to the spirit, in the body. Within the “body” of the Bible, there is the writer’s spirit. If we touch Paul’s spirit in 2:1-7, we shall sense his burden that those who take the lead in the church life must have a prayer life. In these verses Paul seems to be telling Timothy, “I have shown you a clear picture of God’s economy and how it is versus different teachings. I have also pointed out to you that, in His mercy, the Lord has made me a pattern of His economy. I have also charged you solemnly to war the good warfare on behalf of God’s economy. Now deep in my spirit is the burden to exhort you to pray. I exhort that petitions, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men. Do not think that teaching comes before prayer. No, prayer must be first, and teaching, second.”
In 2:1 Paul mentions petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings. Prayer is general, with the essence of worship and fellowship. Petitions are special and are for particular needs. The Greek word rendered “intercessions” means approach to God in a personal and confiding manner, that is, intervening, interfering, before God in others’ affairs for their benefit. In addition, we must offer thanksgiving. Often when we hear good news about certain churches, elders, or saints, we praise them instead of giving thanks to God for them. If the situation in a certain church is good, it is because of God, not because of the church. Likewise, if a particular elder or saint is doing well, it also is because of God’s grace. Therefore, instead of praising a church or a person, we should give thanks to God.
In mentioning petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings, Paul’s spirit was very burdened concerning the importance of prayer. He wanted his dear spiritual children to pray. Again and again I would emphasize the fact that we can have a proper church life only if we have a prayer life. I can testify that I have never prayed more than I have during the past several years. I can also testify that I have seen definite answers to my prayers. Recently, my activity was limited for a time so that I could rest and care for my health. When I heard about certain needs, I prayed for them. Perhaps the Lord limited me that He might impress me with the fact that prayer is more important than work. May we all learn the lesson that the way to have a good church life is to pray. This is crucial. If our talking is turned into praying, the church in our locality will be transformed.
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