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2 Timothy

Watch In All Things

2 Timothy 4:3-8
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
NKJV

Theme: Christians are to be sober minded in completing their ministry goals.

Key Verse:

2 Timothy 4:5
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Teaching Comments:

We closed last week’s lesson with the command to “Be ready in season and out of season.” This means we should always have Christ on our lips. This week’s lesson starts by telling us why we must be prepared in such a fashion. Vv3-5 are, in a sense, Paul’s descriptions of the “last days.” This is the second time in this letter Paul has provided us a description of this season, 3:1-5 being the other time.

“But you” is found at 3:10 and 14, as well as here at 4:5. The idea is that what Paul says about every one else does not apply to Timothy. Timothy is to be different since he is to be like Paul and Jesus. Timothy is to look to Jesus (v1,3), at the contemporary scene (v3-4), and at Paul (v6-8) in coming to an understanding of this difference between “them” and “but you.”  Timothy is to exercise godly discernment. Can you? We will seen below in a quote from 1 Thessalonians that the “but you” includes us!

“The time will come” – Greek kairos meaning season -- when “they" “will not endure sound [healthy] doctrine.” Otherwise, why would they “turn from the truth" (v4)?  “They” represent the unbelieving world who are part of the confessing church. “Endure” means to hold up, hold onto, or tolerate. We are to “tolerate” Christianity to the end.  Isn’t it ironic in today’s social climate that we believers are accused of being “intolerant?”

As we have discussed many times during the course of this study, those times are certainly here. There is, also, a sense in which they have been present in every age since Christ’s Ascension. 

People follow teachers who teach the concepts and ideas the people want to hear. They follow “their own desires.”  They will do what they want to do. Paul gave Timothy a similar warning in his first letter to his spiritual son.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 (NKJV)
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.

Paul’s teachings here reminds one of the parable of the sower.  Paul is describing the third kind of soil.

Matthew 13:8, 22 (NKJV)
8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. . . . 22Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

Paul describes this as having “itching ears.”  This is actually a word formed from a Greek verb and can mean “itching” or “scratching.” However, it also carries the symbolism of being “desirous of hearing something pleasant.”  So, the concept of itchy ears carries the same idea of following one’s own desires.

Note that we have returned to the theme of the letter. How can you know your neighbors have itchy ears if you do not know sound doctrine? Certain when you compare the teachings of the Bible with the philosophies of the world today, the world has itchy ears. The recent situation with the Episcopalian church ordaining a gay bishop is a perfect example of following one’s own desires. If the world wants to make homosexuality a “norm,” then one must discard the teachings of the Bible. One must follow his own desires to accept such a teaching.

Romans 1:18-25 (NKJV)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Timothy will face these same general problems. As we previously discussed so did Isaiah. And so will we!

Paul continues this thought in verse 4. Paul repeats his warning that those embracing the false teachers are themselves turning “away from the truth.” They will contend with and leave the church.  They will drift away from the Bible. They turn to “fables.”

The Greek word translated as “fables” means a speech, word, saying, narrative, or story. It is, in other words, a fiction, invention, or falsehood. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines a fable as a fictitious narrative or statement: such as a legendary story of supernatural happenings or a narration intended to enforce a useful truth; especially one in which animals speak and act like human beings. New Age? Or the Force of Star Wars?

Contrary to the views of the false teachers, Timothy must always be on guard. This is the theme verse and bears repeating:

But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

A Christian must always be on his guard. NASB “sober” meaning to exercise self-control. We fight in a spiritual battle. While Jesus has already assured the final victory, there are many skirmishes that will be encountered until Jesus returns to claim His victory. In the meanwhile, we must be always watchful. Paul writes a similar message in one of his earliest letter, the first epistle to the Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonians 2:3-5 (NKJV)
3 For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. 4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 5 For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness— God is witness.

1 Thessalonians 5:4-8 (NKJV)
4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.

Such watchfulness will occur in the midst of our afflictions, but we are to ignore these difficulties and in their place we must continue our ministries of witness and exercising our spiritual gifts. We must “fulfill” our ministries. For Timothy, Paul states this as doing the work of an evangelist. Timothy was not called as an evangelist, so he has a larger ministry of which evangelism is only a part. Evangelism is witnessing or fulfilling your personal mission of telling the world about Jesus.

For us here at teachers’ training, this means doing the work of a teacher. It may mean doing the work of service, or administration, or showing mercy, or exhorting, or praying. We must always be ready, but we must “occupy til I [Jesus] come” as the KJV puts it (Luke 19:13).

Are you “occupying?”

Paul suddenly turns as personal as possible. This is the most personal section of any of Paul’s letters. Certainly he provides personal information in many of his other letters, defending his zealousness, explaining his trials, and setting forth personal events. But, here, we peer into his emotional depths. Paul faces death and he knows it. Jesus is not going to physically deliver the apostle this time as the Lord has done so often in the past. “The time of my [Paul’s] departure is at hand” (v6). The apostles earthly life and ministry are coming to an end.

Paul describes his death as being “poured out as a drink offering.” This imagery draws upon the sacrifices of the Old Testament. Paul remains the “good Jew” until his death bringing forth images of his upbringing and early training. This figurative picture comes from the law of Leviticus and the rules on sacrifices.  This refers to the libation connected with the daily offerings of the lambs.

Numbers 28:4-7 (NKJV)
4 The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, the other lamb you shall offer in the evening, 5 and one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering mixed with one-fourth of a hin of pressed oil. 6 It is a regular burnt offering which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord. 7 And its drink offering shall be one-fourth of a hin for each lamb; in a holy place you shall pour out the drink to the Lord as an offering.

Paul was about to offer his blood to Jesus as an offering. Could you do that? Would you be as peaceful about your death as Paul makes it sound?  Paul finds it so peaceful because he has dedicated his life to Jesus and allowed the Lord to lead him. He has always been ready “in season” and “out of season” to tell anyone who would listen about Jesus. 

Philippians 1:21 (NKJV)
21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

The apostle uses many figures in his letters. Earlier we saw him Timothy’s servanthood to that of a teacher, solder, athlete, and farmer. Here he applies several of these to his own life. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Paul has boxed and lasted all ten rounds. Paul has completed the marathon. And in doing so, Paul has kept the faith.  He has not lost sight of Jesus during his time of ministry. The Lord will surely say to him “. . . ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” (Matthew 25:23)

Paul has spoken of “struggling” and “fighting” but not of winning (v7). Winning for the apostle is endurance and lasting to the end, strong in his faith. Paul “wins” because he expects to receive a “crown of righteousness.”  Indeed, he tells us that “all who have loved His appearing” (v8) will receive this crown. Paul has returned to Jesus as Judge of at that Day in determining when the Crown will be given. Jesus is Lord and Jesus will judge. This is a certainty of the Scriptures, the “pattern of sound words." 

Paul’s intent is that Timothy, and us, repeat these same efforts.  V7 looks to Paul’s past while v8 looks to the future. In the meanwhile, Paul’s entire letter is about his present efforts. We should be struggling and fighting every moment of our day, even if this simply means forcing ourselves to “day-dream” on Christ as opposed to other pleasures as we drift off to sleep.

“Crown of righteousness” can mean either that righteousness itself is the crown or reward, or that this crown is the reward for righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). In favor of the first view is the fact that James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10 seem to say that the “crown of life” means that life is the crown, not that a crown is given because one has life. This may be the proper interpretation since we are all judged righteous now when we accept Jesus. This is a “legal” determination since we are still sinful humans. At the Second Coming we will become righteous by experience becoming fully sanctified. We will be crowned as completely righteous!

On the other hand, Revelation 4:10 speaks of the elders as throwing their crowns at the feet of the Lord. This would suggest the crowns are “real” crowns.

Revelation 4:10-11 (NKJV)
10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: 11 “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”

There are actually five crowns mentioned in Scripture.

 

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