The Coronation Chair | Westminster Abbey

England’s kings and queens coronation throne. Westminster Abbey.


The following is about more, much more than earthly kings and recent coronations.

The administrator of A Crooked Path


“For Kings and All Those in Authority”


By Mark G. Johnson, Editor

Reprinted from The Banner of Truth Magazine

Issue #717 — June 2023



In the United Kingdom, we have just witnessed the coronation of Charles III as our new monarch. In one sense, he is the titular head of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; but, in another sense—as was proved by his late mother Queen Elizabeth II—his position is one of significant influence both nationally and across the world. He will be watched closely, not just by those who are his subjects here in the British Isles, but also by the nations of the Commonwealth and, indeed, the global community at large. His position comes with privilege; but, correspondingly, with responsibility—not least in the moral and cultural climate of the times in which we live. The weight of this responsibility is intensified by virtue of his also being supreme governor of the Church of England, with the wider ramifications this carries throughout the global Anglican community and the challenges it is facing.

In light of this, there has never been a time when Paul’s injunction to Timothy, ‘I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority’ (1 Tim. 2:1, 2) has felt more urgent. These are familiar words, but like so many familiar words in the Bible, they are perhaps not as well understood as they ought to be. Their original context was more than a little unusual and so their significance and application are nuanced accordingly.

Paul’s exhortation is surprising in a number of ways. The first relates to the Apostle’s reason for writing: namely, to help his young pastor-protégé to order the life and worship of the church he was pastoring—probably in Ephesus. If the church had significant internal needs that Timothy needed to resolve, why does Paul tell him to get the church to pray for the imperial government?

The second oddity is the fact that the imperial regime itself was becoming increasingly antiChristian. Having originally adopted a position that was benignly favourable towards this newly-emerging ‘sect’—even to the point of affording its official protection from Jewish opposition on occasions—now, with the emperor Nero in power, it was beginning to show a darker side towards the Christian faith. That being so, how could Paul reasonably expect the kind of positive outcomes he lists by way of answers to these prayers the church was to offer?

The answers to both of these questions are almost certainly linked to another somewhat unusual detail the Apostle interjects in the verses leading up to them. In the first chapter, having identified the major issues and false teachings that were troubling Timothy’s church and then spoken of his own experience of salvation, he bursts into spontaneous doxology. He cries out, ‘Now to the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen’ (1 Tim. 1:17). What makes this slightly odd to our ears is its designation of Christ as ‘King’. Except for the references to Jesus as King in the Gospels and in Revelation, this verse and its echo towards the end of the letter (1 Tim. 6:15) is the only place where Jesus is referred to as such in the New Testament epistles.

It may help to make sense of this detail if we see how it ties into another shift that takes place between the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament: namely the transition from their focus on the coming of God’s Kingdom to the expansion of the church. Although the kingdom and the church are not coextensive, they most certainly coexist in intricate connection. And, if this connection is indeed what is shaping Paul’s thought at this point—especially as it leads into his instruction on how the church ought to pray—it is highly likely he has Christ’s own instruction on prayer in mind. In particular, the pivotal and powerful request: ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matt. 6:10).

So, as he reminds Timothy of the universal kingship of Christ—especially against the backdrop of what so often felt like the almost universal imperial rule of the Caesar—he urged him and his people to re-echo the petition of the High King of heaven and earth himself. He was impressing on minister and congregation alike the fact that prayer is always kingdom business.

To realize this all-important fact would enable Timothy and his people to pray for a government that increasingly felt as though it was the church’s enemy, in the knowledge that there was a higher power overriding what it was and all it tried to do. More than that, this higher power has always proved itself able to bring favourable outcomes to such requests even when the outcomes initially seem unfavourable on the surface. (Witness Paul’s response to his own imprisonment and the opportunities it opened for the gospel [Phil. 1:12-18].) Paul was not suggesting that prayer for governing bodies will always lead to their legislating in favour of the church; rather, that regardless of how they choose to legislate, their laws will always ultimately be for the church’s good under the oversight of her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:15-23).

This is something the church in Western ‘Christianized’ countries needs to learn. The prayers once offered by Christians in Russia for Stalin, in Romania for Ceauşescu and in China for Chairman Mao did not lead to pro-Christian laws being passed—quite the opposite—but they did lead to church growth in those countries that has not been paralleled in any Western country then or since.

The church throughout the world must continue to pray for those who are its leaders; but this does not mean it ought to think God should only answer by establishing pro-Christian governments. Should he choose to do so, that would surely be a wonderful blessing, providing enormous social and economic fringe benefits to all the citizens of those countries. But our gospel eschatology must always remind us that Christ’s kingdom is never of this world; it is always from above and for the world to come. And this is the only reason it will always transcend and outlive even the best of its earthly alternatives.

Let us pray, therefore, for King Charles III, that under God he might be an instrument for good not only within Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and throughout the Commonwealth of nations associated with the British crown, but also throughout the world and among all people.