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2 Timothy

Be Strong In Grace

2 Timothy 2:1-7
1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of Christians must guard the truth against the attacks of false teaching.

VERSE:

2 Tim 1:13
Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

Theme:

God’s grace enables effective Christian ministry.

Verse:

2 Timothy 2:1
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Teaching Comments:

What images do you envision as you think of a servant of the Lord? Do you picture a Paul or a Peter? Do you imagine a slave serving his master?  In these seven verses Paul encourages a young Timothy to be a faithful servant of the Lord. To help Timothy understand this task, Paul uses three pictures – that of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. These are all designed to help Timothy understand his first task is minister as teacher.

In these verses, Paul continues to maintain the close relationship with “his son.” But it is not the relationship to the apostle that is emphasized. Rather, Timothy is encouraged to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” The task assigned to Timothy is not an easy one. Paul encourages as a father to his son.  Yet, the apostle understands that Timothy’s success lays in the grace of God. This is a lesson for all of us, for our success will be measured by how much we have relied upon God’s grace to see us through the tasks at hand. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)
9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Peter 1:3 (NKJV)
3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

Paul recognizes that it is only by God’s power that we may encounter spiritual growth. This is true of Timothy as well as each of us. Spiritual growth is expected of each believer. 

2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)
18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

Having encouraged Timothy, Paul now charges him for his mission. This charge concerns the sound doctrine introduced at 1:13 and discussed last week. Timothy is to guard the words of Scripture and to pass these words on to others. What Paul offers is an explanation of “guarding the deposit” in practical terms. Timothy is not to add to the words of the Gospel. Timothy must resist attempts to amend or revise the Gospel message. Timothy is to remain loyal to the gospel message, as he has received it. Timothy’s ability to discern the sound doctrine is helped by the fact that others have received the same message: “the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses” We all are to preserve and guard the Gospel AS IT IS PRESENTED TO US IN SCRIPTURE.

The charge of Paul is to teach faithful men. “. . . commit these to faithful men . . .”  “Faithful” here is the same Greek word generally used to speak of our faith in Christ.  Here it would mean men “worthy of trust.” These are reliable men who have been saved, who have themselves believed the Gospel message and taken it to heart. One of the great tragedies of modern day Christianity is that many teachers have taught the Gospel to men who are not faithful and reliable. The presentation of the Gospel message in our schools and seminaries have fallen into the hands of educators who do not believe.  The net result is a pollution of the good news of God. 

One of the qualifications of these faithful men is that they should “be able to teach others also.” The Gospel message was not revealed only to hidden in the hands of a select few scholars. Each believing Christian has the duty to pass the Gospel doctrine onto other believers.  The CEV combines both thoughts with its translation of “. . . followers who can be trusted to tell others.”

1 Thessalonians 1:6, 8 (NKJV)
6 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, . . . 8 For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.

1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

2 Timothy 2:23-25 (NKJV)
23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,

This process allows not only the spread of the Gospel message but allows for more spiritual growth within the church. The stronger a church is in its spiritual beliefs, the more missionary minded that church will be.  

This is the pattern of discipleship. We need to realize that spiritual growth and maturity is not an instant event. The pattern is one of getting saved, commencing to grow in Christ, learning to teach others what we have learned, and then sending these new students forth to evangelize and disciple still others, thus, repeating the process. One example of this program at work is Sunday School. Another is found in various mentoring programs within the church.

We should make note that the modern pattern of discipleship is Paul’s pattern as well.

1 Corinthians 11:23 (NKJV)
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you:

Paul recognized this charge would not be easy for Timothy. Paul encourages Timothy to “endure hardship.”  Hard times and suffering is the plight of every active Christian. Suffering for Christ is one of the costs of discipleship. The Message catches the flavor here with its translation:

When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. (2:3)

To help Timothy understand how the young disciple is to endure this hardness, Paul uses three examples familiar to all of us.

First is the example of soldier (v3) -- “as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Paul frequently uses various figures of every day life as his examples. Other uses of the solder motif may be found at 2 Cor 10:3-5 and Eph 6:10-17. 

Hardness of life is the life of every good soldier. This may have been truer in the days of Paul where life was generally more difficult, but the modern soldier faces his share of difficulties in the field. Those who have recently returned from Iraq will be able to testify to this fact. If you have any military personnel in your class who have completed tours of duty in the Middle East or Korea, you ask them to give a brief testimony.

Paul’s focus in these verses (vv3-4) is to the effect that a soldier may only endure the hardness by staying focused on the mission at hand.  If they “live” too much in the world they left behind – “affairs of this life” (“everyday life” NASB: “involved in civilian affairs” (NIV) – he will forget his mission on the battlefield. It is certainly difficult to leave wife and children behind. Their health, their finances, the general well-being will play with the soldiers mind and he will ignore his duties. This could endanger himself as well as others around him. 

The way for the solder to be alert is to place the “affairs of this life” into priority position two or three and to make soldering his number one priority. Only in this fashion the soldier will “please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” The soldier will please his commander. 

The word translated “entangles” (“involve” NIV, “tied up in” NLT) means to become entwined or involved with. It appears to originally come from the description of sheep entangling its wool in briers and thistles. Involvement in the world’s way and acceptance of the world’s values must be avoided at all costs. They all challenge the Gospel message, even if only very faintly.

To move this into the world of Timothy and Paul, Timothy’s task is to please the Lord Jesus Christ. As such, Timothy must keep Jesus and his mission/charge as the top priority of life. The affairs of everyday life must not interfere with Timothy’s battle for the Lord and the “sound doctrine” he is to be guarding.  We must never forget that the Christian striving to fulfill his or her mission for Jesus Christ is involved in spiritual warfare. We, too, must make Jesus our Commander and follow His every direction.

Paul’s second example comes from the world of athletics and the need to play the game “according to the rules” (v5). In recent years, this has normally come to light in form of illegal drug usage. Looking for that “edge” modern want-to-be superstars rely upon drugs to create a competitive advantage. Another example that gained much publicity (but one that was less “intentional”) is the situation with Sammy Sosa and the corked bat.

Paul’s example derives from the need to compete “according to the rules.” Athletes are the persons who strive for “the crown.” Nevertheless, the athlete who wins the metal – is “crowned” – is the one who participates in the contest by the rules – "he competes according to the rules.” 

For an ancient athlete to win the floral crown or wreath was our equivalent of winning the gold metal or the super bowl ring. The athlete who wins is the one who follows self-discipline and plays by the rules. Paul emphasizes the need for self-discipline in one of his other uses of the sports example:

1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (NKJV)
25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Paul does not want to be disqualified by “cheating” and failing to win. The King James describes this with colorful language that where Paul says he does not want to be a “castaway.”  He encourages Timothy and ourselves not to be castaways either. For in each case, the judge of the event is God. None of us want to be thrown out of the game by Jesus!

The New Testament frequently compares the Christian life to a race.  This is not a race where we compete against each other (Rom 12:10), but rather is a race in which we must participate in the strenuous self-discipline of training in order to overcome hardship by keeping to the rules and exercising endurance (2:5; 1 Cor 9:25-27 above; Heb 12:1-2).

Romans 12:10 (NKJV)
10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The final example used by Paul is that of a farmer (v6). The farmer labors in the fields so that he may eat. Indeed, the farmer is the “first to partake of the crops.” Although I doubt most of us have worked on a farm, many have raised gardens. With all of the problems of tilling the soil, watering, pulling weeds, spraying for bugs, and fighting the local wildlife, farming, even at the backyard garden level, is not easy work. The farmer labors just as Paul has warned Timothy that he will have to labor for the Gospel. However, the farmer reaps the reward of eating. Therefore, Timothy, too, will reap rewards.

Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)
9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

One might ask, what is the Christian harvest? You can answer this question with multiple suggestions. A couple of responses might be:

The soldier, the athlete, and the farmer each receive a “reward” in one form or another for a job well-done. The good disciple will receive his own rewards. These include:

Growth in spiritual maturity leading to a deeper personal faith.

Future rewards when we stand before the judgment seat
2 Corinthians 5:9-10 (NKJV)
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

A deep sense of personal satisfaction from knowing we have undertaking the task assigned by God and have stuck to the course assigned to us.  We will see some of the results of our labor. In 4:8 Paul speaks of receiving a “crown of righteousness.”

Paul closes this section with an admonition to Timothy to reflect upon this charge (v7). Wisdom is the ability to apply God’s Word in daily situations. Paul is telling Timothy to reflect and seek wisdom.  “Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.”  Most translations make this desire of Paul’s much stronger, translation the NKJV’s “may give” as “give” (KJV) and “will give” (NASB, NIV, NLT).

We are blessed because God will give us wisdom whenever we ask!

James 1:5 (NKJV)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

What a wonderful blessing. God has provided His revelation through the apostles and prophets. We have this revelation in the form of the Bible.  Now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, when we reflect and meditate on the Scriptures, God’s Word is illuminated in our hearts. This illumination is Jesus giving “understanding in all things.”  This is spiritual wisdom!

 

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