TIMOTHY: FAITH KEEPS GOD FIRST

 

Week of June 25, 2006

 

Bible Passages:2 Timothy 1:3-8,13-14; 2:1-7.

 

Biblical Truth:Believers are to keep their priority on God and the work He gives them to do.

 

Recall Your Commitment to God: 2 Timothy 1:3-7.

 

[3] I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, [4] longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. [5] For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. [6] For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. [7] For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.[NASU]

 

In these verses Paul assures Timothy that he constantly remembers him. I remember you in my prayers night and day [3]. I recall your tears [4]. I am mindful of the sincere faith within you [5]. And Paul thanks God whenever he remembers Timothy. This indicates Paulís recognition that it was God who had made Timothy what he was. Timothy was a Christian brother. He was also a Christian minister, a missionary, and an apostolic delegate. And God had been at work in his life to make him all these things.

 

Directly or indirectly in this paragraph Paul mentions the four major influences which had contributed to the shaping and making of Timothy. 1. His parental upbringing. Timothy came from a godly home. Luke tells us that he was the son of a mixed marriage, in that his father was Greek and his mother Jewish [Acts 16:1]. Presumably his father was an unbeliever, but his mother Eunice was a believing Jewess who became a Christian. And before her his grandmother Lois had evidently been converted, for Paul can write of the sincere faith of all three generations [5]. Even before their conversion to Christ, however, these godly Jewish women had instructed Timothy out of the Old Testament, so that from childhood he had been acquainted with the sacred writings [3:15]. 2. His spiritual friendship. Paul took Timothy with him on his journeys and trained him as his apprentice. Such a Christian friendship, including the companionship, the letters and the prayers through which it was expressed, did not fail to have a powerful molding effect on young Timothy, strengthening and sustaining him in his Christian life and service. 3. His special endowment. Paul turns now from the indirect means God used to shape Timothyís Christian character to a direct gift which God had given him [6]. What this gift of Godís grace was we do not know with any certainty. What is clear, both from this verse and from a similar reference in 1 Timothy 4:14, is that the gift was bestowed upon him when Paul and certain elders laid their hands on him. In this case the gift may be referring to the ministry itself to which Timothy was set apart. In this way the gift included both the office and the spiritual equipment needed to fulfill it. 4. His personal discipline. Indeed, all Godís gifts Ė natural and spiritual Ė need to be developed and used. So Paul tells Timothy in his first letter not to neglect his gift [4:14] and in his second letter rather to kindle or rekindle it [6]. The gift is likened to a fire. The Greek verb for kindle afresh does not necessarily imply that Timothy has let the fire die down but could refer to a stirring up of the fire. It seems that Paulís exhortation is to continue fanning it, to stir up that inner fire, to keep it alive, even ablaze, presumably by exercising the gift faithfully and by waiting upon God in prayer for its constant renewal.

 

[6-7] In verses 6-7 and throughout this Epistle, Paul pictured Timothy as a younger and more hesitant colleague. He reminded Timothy of his spiritual gift for ministry in order to encourage a revitalized commitment. The Holy Spirit does not produce timidity or cowardice which would falter under the load of responsibilities that Paul was placing on Timothy. Instead, the Holy Spirit produces power, a reference to a forcefulness of character that can use authority boldly. The Holy Spirit also produces a love that endures even the most cantankerous opposition and a self-discipline that can use restraint and oppose indulgence. This love is not so much a love that produces ministry as a love that conquers contempt and opposition by forgiveness and refusal to seek revenge. The self-discipline refers to a controlled response which enables one to exercise the proper use of power and love.

 

Watch Out for Detours: 2 Timothy 1:8,13-14.

 

[8] Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, [13] Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. [14] Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.†† [NASU]

Paul now turns from the varied factors which had contributed to the making of Timothy to the truth of the gospel and to Timothyís responsibility in relation to the gospel. Before he defines the gospel, he begs Timothy not to be ashamed of it [8]. Suffering rather than shame is to characterize Timothyís ministry. Paul lists the three main ways in which Christian people, like Timothy, are tempted to feel ashamed: now of the name of Christ, to whom we are called to witness, now of the people of Christ, to whom we also belong if we belong to him, and now of the gospel of Christ, which is entrusted to us to spread. The temptation is strong. If Timothy had not felt it, Paul would not have exhorted him in these terms. Indeed, if this were not a temptation common to man, the Lord Jesus would not have needed to issue the solemn warning, For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels [Mark 8:38]. We are all more sensitive to public opinion than we like to admit, and tend to bow down too readily before its pressure, like reeds shaken by the wind. Paul now enlarges on the gospel of which Timothy is not to be ashamed, and for which he must take his share of suffering. He begins by sketching its main features [9,10] and then summarizes our responsibility in relation to it [11-18]. This then is the double theme of the rest of the chapter: Godís gospel and our duty.

[13-14] Here we come to Paulís double exhortation to Timothy. Paul refers to the gospel, the apostolic faith, by two expressions. It is both a pattern of sound words [13] and a precious deposit [14]. Sound words are healthy words, the Greek expression being used in the Gospels of people whom Jesus healed. Previously they had been maimed or diseased; now they were well or whole. So the Christian faith is the sound teaching, consisting of sound words, because it is not maimed or diseased but whole. It is what Paul had previously called the whole counsel of God [Acts 20:27]. Further, these sound words had been given by Paul to Timothy in a pattern or standard. Thus Paul is commanding Timothy to keep before him as his standard of sound words, or as a model of sound teaching, what he had heard from the apostle. So Paulís teaching is to be Timothyís guide or rule. He is not to depart from it. Paul is concerned not just with what Timothy is to do, but with how he does it. His personal doctrinal convictions and his instruction of others, as he grips hold of Paulís teaching, are to be characterized by faith and love. He is to seek these qualities from Christ, a sincere belief and a tender charity. The apostolic faith is not only the standard of sound words; it is also the treasure. For the gospel is a treasure Ė a good, noble and precious treasure Ė deposited for safe keeping with the church. Timothy is to guard it. There were heretics abroad, bent on corrupting the gospel and so robbing the church of the priceless treasure which had been entrusted to it. Timothy must be on the watch.

 

Stay Focused on Godís Work: 2 Timothy 2:1-7.

 

[1] You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. [2] The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. [3] Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. [4] No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. [5] Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. [6] The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. [7] Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. [NASU]

 

[1-2] This is the first of several similar exhortations beginning with you therefore which summon Timothy to resist the prevailing mood surrounding him. Be strong, a present passive imperative, implies that Timothy was to keep on being empowered by God. The command demanded Timothyís continuous active cooperation with God. Paulís exhortation to Timothy is to find his resources for ministry not in his own nature but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Having been strengthened by Godís dynamic grace, Timothy was to serve as a teacher. Paul wanted Timothy to pass gospel truths to reliable men. These trustworthy men could keep the home front secure against heresy. Note the close relationship between the task of this verse and the imperatives of 1:13-14. The things Timothy was to entrust were the foundational truths of the gospel, the treasure of 1:14. Thus what Paul entrusted to Timothy in 1:14, Timothy is now to entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. The treasure of the gospel is not to be hoarded but is to be passed on by faithful teachers. Thus we see the crucial role that teachers play in the Church.

 

Paul enlarges on the teaching ministry to which Timothy has been called by using three metaphors: the soldier, the athlete and the farmer. He has made use of them several times in former letters to enforce a wide variety of truths. Here they all emphasize that Timothyís work will be strenuous, involving both labor and suffering.

 

[3-4] The Dedicated Soldier. Here the good soldier of Christ Jesus is so called because he is a dedicated man, who shows his dedication in his willingness both to suffer and to concentrate. Soldiers on active service do not expect a safe or easy time. They take hardship, risk and suffering as a matter of course. Similarly, the Christian should not expect an easy time. If he is loyal to the gospel, he is sure to experience opposition and ridicule. The soldier must be willing to concentrate as well as to suffer. When on active service he does not get himself entangled in the affairs of everyday life. What is forbidden the good soldier of Jesus Christ is not all affairs of everyday life but rather entanglements which, though they may be perfectly innocent in themselves, may hinder him from fighting Christís battles. If we are to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we must be dedicated to the battle, committing ourselves to a life of discipline and suffering, and avoiding whatever may entangle us and so distract us from it.

 

[5] The Law-Abiding Athlete. The Christian life is regularly likened in the New Testament to a race: in the strenuous self-discipline of training [1 Cor. 9:24-27], in laying aside every hindrance [Heb. 12:1,2], and in keeping the rules [2 Tim. 2:5]. The Christian is under obligation to live according to the rules, to obey Godís moral laws. True, he is not under the law as a way of salvation, to commend him to God, but he is as a guide to conduct. So far from abolishing his law God first sent his Son to die for us in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, and now sends his Spirit to live in us and to write his law in our hearts [Rom. 8:3,4; Jer. 31:33].

 

[6] The Hardworking Farmer. Paul used the analogy of the farmer to show that the one who works hard has the first claim on the fruits of the work. The Greek word for hardworking means to become weary, to work hard, toil, strive, struggle. Paul frequently used this verb to describe the work of ministry [Rom. 16:6,12; 1 Cor. 15:10; Gal. 4:11]. Paul was deliberately contrasting the energetic farmer with the farmer who is afraid of work. The phrase to receive his share of the crops probably is not an appeal for a diligent worker to receive an adequate salary. The context of this passage is not discussing earning a livelihood from the gospel, although Paul did broach that subject in other passages [e.g., Gal. 6:6]. Rather it promises a spiritual reward from God for a job devotedly done. The harvest Paul has in mind could possibly be the realization of the gospel message being protected from false teachers as Timothy faithfully passes it on to faithful teachers and the fruit that such faithful teaching of the gospel will always bear.

 

[7] There is an important biblical balance in this verse. If Timothy is to know and understand the truth, two processes will be necessary, the one human and the other divine. Timothy himself must think over or reflect on the apostleís teaching, listening to it carefully and applying his mind to it. For then the Lord will grant him understanding in everything. We must be hardworking farmers in our approach to bible study. We must use our minds and grapple with the text of Scripture; using all the resources available to us. But, in doing so, we need to always remember that understanding of Godís Word comes only from Him. Thus prayer for understanding must always be connected with our diligent study of His Word.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.†† List the commands or instructions that Paul gives Timothy in these verses. Now beside the commands list the resources or reasons that Paul associates with that particular command.

 

2.†† Why are power, love and self-discipline all important for those who want to serve God [1:7]?

 

3.†† What do we learn about living the Christian life from the three illustrations in 2:3-7?

 

References:

2 Timothy, Gordon Fee, Hendrickson Publishers.

2 Timothy, Thomas Lea, NAC, Broadman.

The Message of 2 Timothy, John Stott, Inter-Varsity Press.