2 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
In chapter 2 Paul repeats some things he said in chapter 1, obviously things that are really on his mind, but first he says, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” That is another way of saying, “make the grace found in Jesus your strength and your foundation. Let the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness give rest to your soul and confidence in your ministry. Jesus’ grace is already his, but he needs now to let that grace be ever present in his consciousness. It’s the same for all of us – we have been given every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus [Eph 1:3], we just need to rest in that assurance.
In v 2 Paul once again emphasises the need for Timothy to stay true to the teachings he’s been given [1:13] and to pass that on to others who would do the same. The role of the Christian is to be a disciple who makes new disciples. The role of the church leader is to do that and also to teach others who will make new teachers. You will sometimes hear people say that it’s not important what your theology is as long as you love Jesus, but we can love Jesus and still let him down in ignorance or even worse, by teaching others things that are not right about him and about how we are to live to please him [Eph 4:31]. Furthermore, it only takes a slight deviation from the truth to be magnified down the line of teachers for us to be way out of line.
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ.” Join me – Paul is not expecting Timothy to go through anything he hasn’t been through. It might be that Paul is thinking of Timothy as the leader of the church and suffering for the gospel certainly comes to those who lead, proclaim and teach the Word of God, especially to those who refuse to change the Word to make it more acceptable to the world. However, Paul widens the context in chapter 3 where he says, “12 everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,”. [2 Tim 3:12]
The illustrations focus in on focus, the soldier, the athlete and the farmer. Each must have an internal focus to carry out their roles well. The soldier is a soldier first and foremost and he can’t let other things distract him from carrying out his or her orders. The athlete must compete according to the rules, and the farmer needs to focus if he is going to have food. All three must put aside their own comfort to do what they are called to do. So, it is with the disciple of Jesus. Jesus put it aptly in Matthew 6 “Seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness.” [Matthew 6:33]
Are Paul’s expectations too high? Here is what he says in 1 Cor 6 “19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies.”
Do you really live with God as your number 1 priority?
Father give me a single -minded devotion to you for I know that is the way to peace and joy as well as suffering. Amen
8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
11 Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
12 if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
V 8 is a very brief summary of the gospel Paul proclaimed. It’s centred on Jesus risen from the dead, the victor over sin and death and vindicated by God by his resurrection [Rom 1:1-4]. He’s also the promised Messiah, descended from David, with all that means.
Why does Paul endure his suffering? “for the sake of the elect.” [v 10] God elects people to salvation, but he uses people to bring that about. Paul doesn’t see election as a reason to lay down his tools and take it easy, leaving it to God to call his people to salvation. That is a very common misconception of election. No, Paul labours with all his strength in his preaching and teaching of the gospel [Col 1:29]. God has chosen his people and it’s our role to find them and share the gospel with them.
Remembering the gospel gives Paul all the motivation he needs, even to the point of suffering.
I love Paul’s words, “But God’s word is not chained.” He’s chained, in prison, facing execution but his focus is on the spread of the good news, the Word of God, and nothing can hinder that. If that is his focus, and it is going ahead, and nothing can stop it, then he can rejoice no matter what is happening to him.
In our world the focus is always us. When things don’t go well for us then there is no joy. Paul lives for the spread of the word of God and that means he is able to lift his eyes above his own self and find great satisfaction and joy in what God is doing in the world.
Then follows Paul’s encouragement. “If we died with him, we will also live with him.” That is, we have real life waiting for us after this life if we have died to self and live for Christ.
“If we endure, we will also reign with him.” Persecution is sure to come to Christ’s people, but if we maintain our faith, we will be triumphant, we will reign with him.
Then follow two warnings: “If we disown him, he will disown us.” That is the danger that comes with persecution and suffering, the temptation to think it’s all about us and therefore God has failed us if we suffer.
Verse 13 talks about the temporary failure of faith that often comes with suffering, but God in his faithfulness to his children, calls them back, because he remains faithful.
“This section is one of the great statements on the nature of Christian ministry. It is not about institutions, positions, ordinations, techniques or ecclesiastical clothing. It is about Christians faithfully teaching the powerful word of Godin the context of normal human hard work and the inevitability of us suffering as Christ’s servants.” Phillip D Jensen “1 & 2 Timothy For You” pg. 158.
This passage is a call to set our sights on Christ and his call on our lives rather than ourselves. In Colossians Paul puts it in terms of setting our hearts on Christ. “Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” [Col 3:1 & 2]
Jesus talked in terms of Denying ourselves, taking up our crosses daily and following him. [Matthew 16:24]
Are you prepared for suffering? Maybe you’re experiencing it right now. Is your hope in Christ and what he has in store for you? Do you rejoice in the gospel good news despite what is happening to you?
Lord God, help me to lift my eyes form myself and give me eyes that look to you and your kingdom. Amen
14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’
Timothy is not to look for new things to teach to keep his people interested. He is to keep reminding them of the well-known, important things. He is to keep reminding them that is it is not all about them. How easy it is to forget that. As the words of the old hymn go:
Tell me the old, old story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love.
Tell me the story simply,
as to a little child,
for I am weak and weary,
and helpless and defiled.
Tell me the old, old story;
tell me the old, old story;
tell me the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.
I’m reminded of the couple going for marriage counselling. The wife told the counsellor that her husband never told her he loved her. When the counsellor asked him about that he said, “That’s not true. I told her I loved her on the day I married her, and I haven’t changed my mind”. As that old hymn goes on to say, “Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon.”
Paul then encourages his protégé to work at his godliness and his leadership of the church. [v 15]. Godliness is the first requirement of a church leader, but they also require skills. They need to be an approved worker and here the number one skill is to be able to teach the word of God correctly. Beware the teacher who keeps on saying, “I believe …..”. We need teachers and preachers who say, “This is what the Bible says, and you can see it here in this passage…….”. We need Bible teachers who show us how to read and understand the Scriptures for ourselves and encourage us to check what they teach against the Bible. It is dangerous to have a congregation totally reliant on its leader to interpret the Word for them.
It is notable that Paul calls out the false teachers and names them. That is how seriously he takes their wrong teaching. Words are important. In Matthew 12 Jesus says, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” [Matthew 12:36] These People claim that the resurrection had already taken place. They can’t mean Jesus’ resurrection because that had indeed already taken place. They were claiming that there would be no physical resurrection, but that in Christ we all have already risen spiritually. The problem with this is that it, in effect, denies the resurrection of Christ because our physical resurrection is closely tied to Jesus physical resurrection [1 Cor 15:12-14]. Their false teaching may well have been encouraging and inspiring to their hearers because they’re saying that all the blessings of the next life are our now – no sickness, full prosperity, power – all ours now. You can see that in the teaching of some that because we are in Christ we need not suffer if we have enough faith, we can be wealthy here in this life and on it goes. It is, in effect, a false teaching and it has got a stranglehold on many in the Christian church. When it doesn’t work out people then lose faith.
Despite the danger from this false gospel Paul trusts God’s control and that he will keep the true believers safe. However, that doesn’t excuse Timothy from working hard at rightly handling the Word of God, because God keep his people true to him as the word is taught and believed.
Lord of all mankind, may your Spirit keep me loving you word and wanting to understand it truly. Amen
20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
The large house is the totality of church membership and there are two groups of people always present: those who cleanse themselves from the world (become true Christians) and will be instruments of God for doing good, made holy. These people are like the special items in a house used for special purposes, such as the good cutlery and the best crockery. The other group are like the bucket used to empty the food scraps, for common use. They have not cleansed themselves by repentance and faith. Both are present in the church. Cleansing yourself makes you useful for doing good. How different that is from our world’s view where your morality has nothing to do with how well you can do your job. We see it in the lives of some of our politicians who we find out have cheated on their spouse for instance, and we’re told that does not affect their ability to do their job. One must ask if a leader betrays the person to whom he or she has made a solemn oath to remain faithful, the person who they have the greatest commitment to, what guarantee do we have that they will not do the same to those they represent? We often hear the false dichotomy set out in the question, “would you prefer a skilled but immoral surgeon or an incompetent but moral one carrying out your surgery?” But as Hughes and Chapell point out that is false dichotomy. They say, “The closer a job gets to the moral core of a person, the more important moral character becomes.” [Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell “1-2 Timothy and Titus” pg. 233] Some tasks are intrinsically moral, like leading a nation or a community and that is certainly the case with church leaders.
It’s been wisely said that there are three ‘Cs in appointing leaders in the church – competency (are they skilled? Can they rightly handle the word of truth, as an example), character (are they a good model for Christian discipleship?) and chemistry (will they fit well in the existing team and culture).
How do you cleanse yourself? Surely God cleanses us! [2 Tim 2:25] Both are true, are they not. You will find both aspects in Scripture. You cleanse yourself by repentance and faith, and it is God who gives us the heart for repentance and faith. In some senses we cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he carries out his work in our hearts. Furthermore, in some ways it is a continual process. I am saved and cleansed once for all in Christ, but I need to continue to live in that saved state, in the same way that a married person needs to constantly be recommitting herself to the marriage.
It is a good practice to start or end each day with repentance and a recommitting yourself to the cause of Christ. If that is not your practice, why not give it a go?
Gracious Lord, thank you for the wonderful gifts of repentance and faith. By your Spirit give me a heart that lives in repentance and faith. Amen
22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
In the context, it would seem that one of the youthful passions Paul is warning Timothy about is getting involved with foolish controversies and quarrelling about things [v 23]. As I think back on my younger days and as I mix with young church leaders in my job, I think that arrogance may play a part in what Paul is warning Timothy against – the arrogance that is quite sure our views are right and our way of doing things is the only way, and that those who have gone before us weren’t quite as savvy as us. “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome”, yet, as we’ve already seen in his letter, he or she must stand for the truth against falsehood. How does that work? Well, verse 25 tells us. We must “gently instruct” our opponents. We must be kind to them and not resentful. We cannot convince people where the gospel is concerned, because spiritual things are spiritually discerned and the mind unopened by God cannot understand them [1 Cor 2:14]. It’s up to God, but as we’ve seen in previous days, he chooses to work through his people. So, we don’t want our behaviour or demeanour to put people off; those things must adorn the gospel. Our motivation in any discussion is for the truth and the well-being of the other.
Did you notice what Paul says here in verse 26 about unbelievers doing the will of the devil? That’s not just some especially evil people who have been possessed by Satan, it is the state of all who do not have the Spirit of Christ. You can see the same thing in Eph 2 where Paul says, “2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” [Eph 2:2]
That is why all people need to be saved. It not that without Jesus we just do wrong things from time to time, but rather that we are living in a state of open rebellion against God, and in that way, we do the bidding of the evil one. So even the best of people need Christ’s rescue. It’s a matter of God opening their eyes so that they may come to their senses. By nature, we cannot make sensible spiritual decisions, we cannot even make a free choice to follow Jesus without God opening our eyes, because the evil one has taken us captive to do his will: as Paul puts it elsewhere, we are slaves to sin and our sinful nature [Romans 8]. We only come to our senses when God does a work in us and then the sensible thing to do is to come to Christ. That is how predestination works. God choosing us before we choose him enables us then to freely choose him, which we could never do before. Freed from our slavery to self and the evil one we can now do the sensible thing which will always be to follow Christ.
What a marvellous God that he would do that for us! What an incredible privilege to be one of his children.
Father, I can’t thank you enough for freeing me from slavery to my passions. Give me the opportunity to share this good news with others. Amen