4. Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
4. Qui omnes homines vult salvos fieri, et ad agnitionem veritatis venire.
1. I exhort therefore. These exercises of godliness maintain and even strengthen us in the sincere worship and fear of God, and cherish the good conscience of which he had spoken. Not inappropriately does he make use of the word therefore, to denote an inference; for those exhortations depend on the preceding commandment.
That, above all, prayers be made. First, he speaks of public prayers, which he enjoins to be offered, not only for believers, but for all mankind. Some might reason thus with themselves: “Why should we be anxious about the salvation of unbelievers, with whom we have no connection? Is it not enough, if we, who are brethren, pray mutually for our brethren, and recommend to God the whole of his Church? for we have nothing to do with strangers.” This perverse view Paul meets, and enjoins the Ephesians to include in their prayers all men, and not to limit them to the body of the Church.
What is the difference between three out of the four kinds which Paul enumerates, I own that I do not thoroughly understand. The view given by Augustine, who twists Paul’s words so as to denote ceremonial observances customary at that time, is quite childish. A simpler exposition is given by those who think that “requests” are when we ask to be delivered from what is evil; “prayers,” when we desire to obtain something profitable; and “supplications,” when we deplore before God injuries which we have endured. Yet for my own part, I do not draw the difference so ingeniously; or, at least, I prefer another way of distinguishing them.
Proseucai< is the Greek word for every kind of prayer; and deh>seiv denotes those forms of petitions in which something definite is asked. In this way the two words agree with each other, as genus and species. jEnteu>xeiv is the word commonly used by Paul to signify those prayers which we offer for one another. The word used for it in the Latin Translation is “intercessiones,” intercessions. Yet Plato, in his second dialogue, styled Alcibiades, uses it in a different sense, to moan a definite petition offered by a person for himself; and in the very inscription of the book, and in many passages, he shows plainly, as I have said, that proseuch< is a general term. fa29
But not to dwell longer than is proper on a matter that is not essential, Paul, in my own opinion, simply enjoins that, whenever public prayers are offered, petitions and supplications should be made for all men, even for those who at present are not at all related to us. And yet this heaping up of words is not superfluous; but Paul appears to me purposely to join together three terms for the same purpose, in order to recommend more warmly, and urge more strongly, earnest and constant prayer. We know now sluggish we are in this religious duty; and therefore we need not wonder if, for the purpose of arousing us to it, the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of Paul, employs various excitements.
And thanksgivings. As to this term, there is no obscurity security; for, as he bids us make supplication to God for the salvation of unbelievers, so also to give thanks on account of their prosperity and success. That wonderful goodness which he shews every day, when
is worthy of being praised; and our love of our neighbor ought also to extend to those who are unworthy of it.
2. For kings. He expressly mentions kings and other magistrates because, more than all others, they might be hated by Christians. All the magistrates who existed at that time were so many sworn enemies of Christ; and therefore this thought might occur to them, that they ought not to pray for those who devoted all their power and all their wealth to fight against the kingdom of Christ, the extension of which is above all things desirable. The apostle meets this difficulty, and expressly enjoins Christians to pray for them also. And, indeed, the depravity of men is not a reason why God’s ordinance should not be loved. Accordingly, seeing that God appointed magistrates and princes for the preservation of mankind, however much they fall short of the divine appointment, still we must not on that account cease to love what belongs to God, and to desire that it may remain in force. That is the reason why believers, in whatever country they live, must not only obey the laws and the government of magistrates, but likewise in their prayers supplicate God for their salvation. Jeremiah said to the Israelites,
“Pray for the peace of Babylon, for in their peace ye shall have peace.” (<242907>Jeremiah 29:7.)
The universal doctrine is this, that we should desire the continuance and peaceful condition of those governments which have been appointed by God.