Encouragement and Instructions: Remain Faithful
So far Paul has greeted, prayed for and encouraged Timothy to remain faithful to his calling as an evangelist and the message of the gospel as well as the teachings he has received from Paul as his teacher and instructor. These were important reminders for this young evangelist who was dealing with various church issues and people at Ephesus where Paul had sent him to carry out his ministry. In the section we will study in this chapter, Paul will add another area where Timothy needed to make sure he remained faithful.
Remain Faithful — 2:1-13
Remain faithful in service - 2:1-7
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
- II Timothy 2:1
As a minister, Timothy's task was to minister or serve the church and so Paul gives him four examples of service from which he could draw encouragement and understanding. Paul refers to him affectionately as "my son" and in this we sense the ache of heart that Paul had for this young man that he had trained and mentored who was now facing the hard (and often painful) work of ministry by himself. It was the feeling a father has when he drops a son off at the airport as the young man leaves for his first military duty station. It's love and pride, fear and nostalgia for his son in the faith who is now grown - all wrapped up in one emotion. It's the catch in a mother's heart when her daughter announces her engagement. Mom is joyful but at the same time wistful and a little sad that their relationship will change forever, and the future will now bring a mixture of happiness and hurt that all new brides and future mothers experience.
As a good Christian father "figure," Paul does what Christian parents today would do: he commends Timothy to the grace of God found in Christ. In other words, he encourages Timothy to find and grow in the strength that comes from God's grace. However, what and how would one do this? Being strong in the grace means that one's strength (to do one's work, deal with obstacles and trials, endure spiritual and emotional challenges) is derived from God's grace and not personal wisdom, strength or will power. In another letter Paul summarized this idea by saying, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).
Timothy has a difficult ministry and Paul reminds him to go to and depend on God for the physical, emotional and spiritual resources he will need to survive and succeed. Paul then provides four practical examples of those who succeed in their various areas of service:
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.
- II Timothy 2:2
Paul summarizes the materials, the method and the goal of his teaching all in one succinct verse. The material is the sum of instructions that he has received from Paul, from doctrine to application to Christian lifestyle. The method is to direct his efforts toward those who are faithful and worthy of being entrusted with the Word of God. Paul mentions faithful men because he wants Timothy to focus on training church leaders. This wouldn't mean that he didn't preach and teach to women in the church, but he was to concentrate on leadership training as one of his priorities. The goal of his teaching ministry was that his students would not only be able to teach others the material, but would also train others to carry on this method of teaching and training into future generations - especially those selected for leadership.
Another example of service...
3Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No 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.
- II Timothy 2:3-4
The recent Secretary of Defense, General Mattis, said in an interview that the main job of the military is to win wars, everything else is secondary and every part of the military serves this one goal. Paul is saying the same thing here. As a soldier in the kingdom, Timothy's task and goal was clear: preach the gospel, plant and organize churches to repeat this cycle. As a young man there would be many distractions within the church (to major in the minors) as well as temptations outside the church (pagan immoral society and activities). If he was to succeed in avoiding both traps, Timothy would have to stay focused on who he was (a preacher) and what he was sent to do (proclaim the gospel, teach the church to obey the commands of Christ, and train leaders to train others for service and future leadership).
Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.
- II Timothy 2:5
Paul has already alluded to the need to the type of work and necessity of staying focused in his service as a minister. By adding the example of an athlete, the Apostle now adds the idea of "how" one does the work. Like an athlete who has to compete in a framework of rules in order to win legitimately, Timothy must teach and preach accurately what he has learned from Paul, not to mention that his life must also accurately reflect his teachings. Hypocrites may be able to correctly teach the doctrine of Christ, but they won't survive the judgment of Christ.
6The hard working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. 7Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
- II Timothy 2:6-7
Paul's final example reminds Timothy that there is a reward attached to this service. The farmer is the first to profit from his labor and does so at every harvest. The thing he works at and with is also the thing that rewards him. He eats from what he plants and harvests. The "reward" analogy follows the same line of thinking - the teacher's reward is not his paycheck for teaching, it is the understanding he gains from what he studies. This is true for any teacher studying any subject, however, it is especially rich and rewarding for the one whose form of study is God Himself (through the study of His word) because God will bless and reward the student with understanding and knowledge of Himself; and this experience is in itself a genuine foretaste of heaven.
Paul, therefore, encourages Timothy to remain faithful in his service as an evangelist and teacher, and provides four examples of service (teachers, soldiers, athletes, farmers) in order to emphasize the various challenges and features of faithful service. He neatly bookends these passages with two references to God's role in Timothy's ministry. He has suffered false accusations and imprisonment as a common criminal. Nevertheless he has also seen the progress of the gospel and the church despite his personal setbacks.
Again, using himself as an example of a faithful servant, he declares that he is ready to continue suffering (even being killed) while remaining faithful in order to steady and strengthen the faith of those who are chosen. You become the "chosen" when you respond to the gospel with faith expressed through repentance and baptism (Matthew 28:18-20). Here, Paul adds the reward that all Christians will receive (not only faithful teachers) and that is salvation (forgiveness of sins), resurrection from the dead and eternal glory with God in heaven. Note that he says eternal glory and not eternal life, suggesting that our experience after the resurrection will not simply be "existence" or life after death but something more, and Paul hints at what that might be in the following verses.
11It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; 12If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; 13If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
- II Timothy 2:11-13
This is a kind of "good news/bad news" way of summarizing the different results brought forth from faithfulness and unfaithfulness.
A. The good news - verses 11-12a
If we (Christians) died with Him: He died on the cross, we died in the waters of baptism.
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
- Romans 6:3
We will also resurrect with Him. He resurrected from the tomb where He was laid after His crucifixion. We resurrect from the watery grave of baptism.
4therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
- II Timothy 2:4-5
If we endure (remain faithful to our calling, gospel, doctrine, service, etc.) then we will reign with Him in heaven.
So here's the order of our transformation beginning at lost, unregenerated sinner condemned to hell.
1. Regeneration - born again as forgiven, spirit-filled saints at baptism.
3Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" 5Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
- John 3:3-5
Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
- Acts 2:38
2. Glorification - raised from the dead when Jesus returns and equipped with glorified bodies which will enable us to exist in the presence of God in the dimension of pure spirit.
42So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48As is the earth, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
- II Corinthians 15:42-49
3. Exaltation - this is more than mere existence, exaltation explains why we are equipped with gloried bodies in the first place. Glorification permits Christians to participate in the Godhead.
It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
- II Timothy 2:11
'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
- Revelation 3:21
Jesus has enabled us to share His position in the heavens. This is the final step in our transformation and reason to remain faithful - otherwise...
B. The bad news
12bIf we deny Him, He also will deny us; 13If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
- II Timothy 2:12b-13
The consequences of being unfaithful are clearly and painfully laid out, and it's personal! We personally reject the faith, deny Christ, become unfaithful servants, teachers, etc. Jesus personally denies us and that denial causes the transformation to stop; our souls are then relegated to suffer without Christ frozen in the imperfect state of our sinfulness.
Paul adds a postscript here that speaks to the utter futility of denying Christ as some do quite openly and provocatively. The reality of Christ's existence and the truth of the gospel is such that a denial by man does not affect the reality and truth of His existence and position. A million people can rise up and say there is no sun in the sky, but its reality and presence is not affected by these denials, even if 20 million denied its presence it would still be shining in the sky. It is the same with Jesus. All the disbelief in the world has no affect on His presence, His cross and His promises for good or for bad.