2 Timothy 1
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my dear son:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
It seems a little strange, does it not, that Paul starts with a long description in of his authority in this letter to his protégé [v 1]. Timothy, whom he describes as his “dear son”, who he prays for day and night and who was in tears when last they parted, was probably the last person he had to convince of his authority, but Paul is in prison awaiting execution [4:6-8, 16-18] and that would be the cause of great shame in the ancient world. Imagine being the protégé of a jailbird! Hence Paul’s words in verse 8 – “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.” Furthermore, it’s not the situation you’d expect Jesus’ emissary to be in. Is Paul really in the care of the Son of God? So Paul affirms his calling in no uncertain terms, and affirms that to be in Christ is to have life, no matter what his physical circumstances might be, and his faith rests on the promise of Jesus. It’s a comfort to us in difficult times. When we’re tempted to wonder why our loving God is allowing us to suffer it’s good to remember Paul in prison clinging to the promises of God. Christian faith is only ever a dependence on the promises of God, not our own presuppositions, and those promises are not hindered by circumstances.
Neither does Imprisonment stop Paul from soaring outside the prison bars in his prayers, nor from looking forward to life with Christ. And he is thankful!
Paul is also keen to remind Timothy that their faith is not a novelty. They serve God as his ancestors did. Christ is the promised Messiah, so it is not Judaism that is in direct line to Abraham and Moses and the Patriarchs, it is the followers of Jesus. The Christian faith stretches back to Adam and Eve and forward to the Day of Judgement. The Old Testament prophets are our prophets. The Patriarchs are our ancestors. The writings and histories are our writings.
We mustn’t overlook Lois and Eunice either, who had succeeded in raising Timothy in the faith, and that is no small feat. It reminds us of the place of immediate family in raising up the next generation. We must not leave it up to the church or the children’s or Youth pastor to give the major input into our children’s lives. 76% of Christians were converted in their youth and far and away the most important influence in the faith were their parents [NCLS 2011].
Continue to pray for your children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews. Think about how to input into their lives. For Anglicans in Australia, we are losing 76% of our young people from the faith at two key points: when they leave school and when they leave home [NCLS 91, Mission under the Microscope] We need to be preparing our young people for these key transitions.
Father I pray for the young people in my family and my church. Keep them close to you. Amen
2 Timothy 1
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. [2 Timothy chapter 1 verse 6 & 7]
All good things come from God, including our gifts, talents, and blessings. However, we have a responsibility to “fan them into flame”. We are to use them for the glory of God. We are to enhance them with wisdom and training where necessary. If you’ve been given the gift of music, or Bible teaching, or helping, you still need to learn and practice the gift.
What was the gift Timothy was given? We hear of it back in 1 Timothy 4:13-15. “13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” It does seem, in the context, that the gift is that of reading, preaching and teaching the Bible. Con Campbell puts it well, “…what he (Paul) is really saying is ‘preach up a storm’!, ‘develop your preaching’. ‘preach and then preach some more’. He is to fulfil his responsibilities as the key preacher and teacher in the church in Ephesus with full vigour.” [Con Campbell, “Not Ashamed: 2 Timothy” pg. 13] So getting back to 2 Timothy, Paul is encouraging Timothy to preach boldly and without fear, not timidly. The gospel is not “good news” to a whole lot of people because it confronts and accuses before it comforts and gives life. Timothy is to do all he can to maintain his passion for the gospel and his boldness in proclaiming it.
If that is true for Timothy, it is also true for us. Let’s ask God to embolden those who teach us and to make us bold to speak the truth of the gospel, after all, that is why the Spirit has been given to us. He gives us power, the ability to get things done. He gives us love, because speaking the gospel is to be motivated by love. He gives us self-discipline, the ability to do what is good and right and not what our passions or human weaknesses demand.
Do you have this boldness and confidence in the Good New? Does your love for others drive you to speak up for Jesus? If not, why not? It is the part of the Holy Spirit’s job to give you those qualities. Could it be that you are hindering the Holy Spirit from producing those things in you? Could it be that your fear of rejection, getting it wrong, losing friends, making a scene is getting in the way? The Spirit also produces in us gentleness and love. Being bold does not mean being crass or rude or combative.
Lord God, who gives us his Spirit to empower and strengthen us, make us bold and loving and self-disciplined in your service. Amen
2 Timothy 1
8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
Suffering for the gospel is not something too many of us are prepared for. We are happy to pay lip service to the concept but it’s often a different matter once the suffering starts. Our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan are facing that right now. Paul knew what it was to suffer for the gospel – just read his litany of sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. Yet he boasts of the things that show his weakness, in fact he says he delights in them because when he is weak then he is strong [2 Cor 12:10]. Delighting in sufferings! That is a very different way of viewing life, and it seems that Paul is thinking more generally about suffering rather than confining himself to suffering for the faith, talking about weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties. All of life’s difficulties can be seen in this light, including illness, grief, loss, financial problems and relationship issues. If we are willing, we can learn to depend on Christ and glorify him in ways we never could while life was going well (see the life of Job and how delighted God was in his faith despite his sufferings).
9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
God saved us for a purpose; to live a holy life. We read the same thing in Eph 2:8-10. A holy life is a life set aside for him. I have a holy fountain pen. I use it only for writing in a specific journal I keep. I don’t use it for any other purpose. That is how we are to be set aside for God’s service. Notice too how Paul returns to grace in verse 9. God’s grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. Think about the significance of that. You were in God’s mind before the world was created. Your name was written in the book of life from eternity. It’s astounding! If that is true, and it must be because God says so, then your salvation is sure. If you have accepted Jesus as Lord and saviour it’s because God marked you out before the beginning of all things, and you proved the effectiveness of that call when you put your trust in Jesus.
That is the good news that caused Paul’s present suffering, and that suffering Is temporary [v 12]
We used to sing a chorus way back with great words,
“I do not know what lies ahead,
the way I cannot see,
but one stands near to be my guide,
He’ll show the way to me.
I know Who holds the future, And I know who holds my hand,
With God things don't just happen; Everything by Him is planned.
So as I face tomorrow, With its problems large and small,
I'll trust the God of miracles, Give to Him my all.”
My Lord and my God, help me to see all of life’s difficulties as an opportunity to glorify you. Amen
2 Timothy 1
“13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” [2 Timothy 1:13 & 14]
This is a constant them in Paul’s letters – Hold fast to the message! [Col 2:6; 2 Thess 2:11-12; 1 Tim 3:15]. There is such a temptation to change the message, to soften its hard edges, to avoid the implications or the difficulties, to make it acceptable, modern, tolerant, but it is the gospel in all its facets, that has the power of God to save people [Rom 1:16]. That doesn’t mean that we can’t communicate it in a culturally relevant, sensitive, and above all, loving way, but we must not change the message. Timothy is to guard the message not just in his own communication but from attacks from outside himself. He is to fight off false gospels, especially as the pastor of his church. He is not alone in this fight, for the Holy Spirit is within him to help him. The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, the counsellor, the strengthener, the giver of gifts and the one who works in us to change us into the likeness of Christ, he is Timothy’s helper.
The difficulty here is that those who change the gospel, and here I’m including the teachings of the Bible in terms of living out the gospel and what that means, often do so claiming they have the Spirit guiding them as well. How do you tell who is right? One of the clues is that those who change the gospel (that includes leaving bits out as well as adding to the gospel), when confronted with what the Bible actually says, will say, “Yes, but …….”, and what will follow will either be a redefining what are otherwise the clear words of Scripture or by talking about how particular scriptures no longer apply. Furthermore, they are often motivated by love and the desire to see people come to Christ, so we need to correct with gentleness and love. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and part of his work was to lead the disciples, the authority behind the New Testament writings, into all the truth [John 16:13]. This promise was not us who would believe because of the testimony of the disciples, but to the disciples, so we cannot claim this promise to prove that we have the truth. The work of the Holy Spirit is manifold but primarily to keep bringing us into union with Christ and to promote holiness is us and he does that by reminding us of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit will never lead us contrary to the Word of God. Be aware of anyone who tries to drive a wedge between the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
There are at least three applications that come from this:
- We need to keep praying for those who teach us the Bible that they will remain true to the Word.
- If we teach the Bible in any way, we have a responsibility to keep studying and growing in our knowledge of the scriptures
- We need to make sure that all who teach the Bible have a deep and growing understanding of the Bible
God of truth, you have the words of life. Help me to so love your word that it is always on my mind and in my heart. Amen
2 Timothy 1
15 You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.
16 May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 17 On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. 18 May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.
Paul was in prison with execution as the likely outcome [4:6-8]. He was not looking forward to the winter cold [4:13]. Probably even more harmful to his mental health was that everyone in the province of Asia had deserted him. Why? Part of the answer is hinted at by Paul’s focus on the shame of the gospel [2 Timothy 1:8, 1:12, 1:16, 2:15]. We looked at this way back on day 1 of this week. It is not easy to stand up and support a fellow believer who is being shamed by others, especially if the shamers are in the majority. We want to keep our heads below the parapets. Of course, some church leaders are being shamed because of their hypocrisy, leadership style of for their handling of abuse. That is not the same thing as being shamed for the gospel. Sometimes fellow-Christians are foolish or unloving in their communication of the gospel and it can make us cringe, but we need to be lovingly careful in our own comments on the situation so that we do not undermine the truth of what they say. For ourselves, it is good to remember that the way the message is communicated is as important to our hearers as the message itself – as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” The truth is the truth and people may react in all sorts of different ways, but truth needs to be spoken. Jesus is recorded as saying his words are true on 54 occasions in the gospels. He calls himself the “truth” [John 14:6].
Paul was deserted by so many, yet he remains faithful to his Lord because in him lies the truth. As Peter said the Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” [John 6:68]. If you were cut off from all Christian support and were alone in your faith, would you be able to stay strong? Are you convinced of the “truth”? Pray that it never occur but have you strengthened yourself so that you could stand alone for Christ if need be?
It seems that more and more those who stand on the truths of the Bible will be shamed in our society. Already we have to have exceptions in our laws to safeguard Christian beliefs, but these are being eroded, and don’t prevent the shaming of those who hold those beliefs – observe the attitude towards those who stand for the Biblical teachings on sexuality and marriage and the vilification and name calling they get.
This is not a call for blind belief – our faith should always be an informed faith because it is based on truth. We don’t fear that the Bible will be overturned by science or investigation if it is true. We should welcome true scientific investigation for if the Bible is true, it will only ever be confirmed.
Lord God, whose words are true, living and active, feed my soul with your truth, and by your Holy Spirit keep me in the truth. Amen