Whoever coined the phrase "can't see the forest for the trees" could easily have had in mind the local congregation's view of its task in the worldwide church's mission enterprise. "Local" work is certainly important and in need of prayer. Yet sometimes we lose sight of the fact that this work is a part of a larger task that has been set before the worldwide church to accomplish in unison. Today's church is perhaps already fragmented beyond the point of achieving such unity. But wherever cooperation is possible, the original plan to reach all nations calls for the parts to recognize the whole.
When Paul turns to the matter of instructing the church, the subject he first broaches is that of prayer. The instruction, which runs through verse 7, has two parts. First is the command to pray, which is itself twofold. The church is to pray for all people and for kings and those who are in authority. Each aspect of this prayer is directly related to the church's evangelistic mission. Then comes the rationale behind the command: the salvation of all people everywhere is God's will. The subsequent creedlike material demonstrates the universal scope of God's will to save, reflecting on God's nature and Christ's sacrifice. A final personal reference submits the apostle's call to the Gentiles as proof of God's expansive redemptive plan and the church's need to be involved in it.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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