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Revivals and Magistrates (2)


Revivals and Magistrates (2)

Prof.Herman Hanko, emeritus professor of the PR Seminary

“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:1-2).

In the December 2013 issue of the Covenant Reformed News, we considered the admonition in I Timothy 2:1-2 to pray for our rulers. The text does not tell us what the content of these prayers we are called to make for our rulers ought to be, but it does tell us, more importantly, why we ought to pray for our magistrates. Two reasons are given.

The first reason is, “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (2-3). The second reason is, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (4).

Taking verse 4 first, we repudiate the notion that this text means that God earnestly desires to save every man, loves him dearly and offers him the possibility of salvation. This is so far from the truth that even Augustine in the early part of the fifth century did not believe this; nor is this the interpretation of I Timothy 2:4 given by Gottschalk, John Calvin, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Jerome Zanchius, Theodore Beza, Jacobus Kimedoncius, William Perkins, Christopher Ness, Francis Turretin, Herman Witsius, Abraham Kuyper, A. W. Pink, Robert L. Reymond, etc. (see This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Quotes on I Timothy 2:4).

What it does mean is that God saves all kinds of people, including even civil magistrates. No type of people, including rich or poor, high or low, adult or child, aged or a baby, Asian or African, popular or despised, husband or wife, farmer or slave, entrepreneur or janitor, prime minister or policeman—or any kind of person—is left unsaved. It is not surprising that, in the light of the corruption and cruelty of Rome’s Caesars, God’s people thought that civil rulers could not be saved. Paul says that we must not make distinctions that Jehovah does not make.

The Triune God saves a universal church, for it takes many different kinds of people to reveal the fullness of the riches of His grace and love.

The first reason that Paul gives is also important (2-3). It is not merely that the Almighty wills to have a wealthy and prosperous church or a church free from persecution that Paul mentions the need for God’s people to live a quiet and peaceable life. It is rather that, if the church is to perform her calling, quietness and peace are important. That calling of the church is to preach gospel: to its own members, to its covenant children, to the nations. The church finds it difficult to do this, if its office-bearers are imprisoned and tortured, if its members are forced to flee for safety, if God’s people see their families torn apart by persecution, if the male members cannot find work to support the causes of the kingdom. So it has also been in history. Although persecution is necessary for salvation, times of severe persecution force the church to hunker down to survive and her calling is, at least in part, somewhat postponed.

Christ puts men in civil office to maintain order in society, that is, to punish evil doers and praise them that do well (Rom. 13:3-4). Even though the magistrates themselves do not serve God or His Christ, they can and often do make society under their rule a peaceful and quiet place in which to live.

If I may add, parenthetically, a warning: It is a great calamity when God’s people can work and earn enough to live luxuriously and that He gives them more than enough money, and they use their riches to serve mammon, when the reason why He enriches them is not for themselves, but for the cause of His truth: the spread of the gospel, the work of missions, the care of the poor and the support of Christian schools.

I think there is some misunderstanding here on the part of God’s people. They are reluctant to pray for their magistrates because they know only magistrates who are morally bankrupt and who live very wicked lives. They do not want to pray for those who are not God’s people. In addition to that, they know from experience that it is true what Paul writes in I Corinthians 1:26-31: civil rulers are, after all, among the mighty, of whom not many are effectually called, as a general rule.

Two remarks have to be made in this connection. The text is not talking only about such magistrates who rule nations and kingdoms, but also lesser magistrates who have authority over small villages and isolated areas. God has His people among them and they too serve the Lord and rule in Christ’s name. The second reason is that magistrates, whether righteous or wicked, serve a purpose broader than they themselves realize, for they serve the church by maintaining law and order, even if they are wicked.

God can and does prosper them for the church’s sake—just as He blessed the house of Potiphar for Joseph’s sake (Gen. 39:5). God enriched Pharaoh and Egypt with an abundance of food for the sole purpose of keeping Jacob’s family (the church at that time) alive (50:20).

God does not always put such believing magistrates, as Joseph, in power; it is His will (as when Paul wrote the book of Romans) to put men in power who cause the church to be persecuted, for persecution is also necessary for the church’s salvation. Nor must we shrink from that truth, but rejoice that we are worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake (Acts 5:41). If we cannot live quiet and peaceful lives because of persecution, God can still accomplish His purpose—even through persecution. Or, the church is about to be brought into heaven, because her calling is nearly finished—as will be the case when the great persecution comes under Antichrist’s rule.

And let it be clear: persecution is near. If we listen, we can hear the rumble of the thunder of persecution on the horizon. Christ is coming and His coming is at the door. Let us heed this important admonition of Scripture. Prof. Hanko

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 14
  • Issue: 21
Hanko, Herman

Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)

Ordained: October 1955

Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965

Emeritus: 2001


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