Here are my notes from LightHouse last night looking at 2 Timothy 2v8-13:
Can you come up with a sentence which summarises what Paul has been teaching Timothy?
Paul has been reminding Timothy to continue, to contend, to keep going, to persevere both personally and in gospel ministry. Why does Timothy need this warning, because gospel ministry is hard, it is not easy and given that Timothy may well want to turn and run. Maybe he is feeling tempted to act like a coward, to run away – things are hard, there are those who oppose his ministry, there are those teaching that the resurrection has already happened and therefore Christians shouldn’t face suffering and Timothy wouldn’t be human if he didn’t think the grass might be greener somewhere else, why not just leave.
Or maybe it’s the temptation not to run away but to stay where he is but to compromise, instead of confronting these false teachers, or instead of teaching the challenge of the Gospel and discipleship to stay silent about the hard bits. To teach resurrection but not suffering.
Or maybe it’s the temptation to comfort, to just want an easy life. Paul is in prison because the government have put him there! Why not just settle down and give up not on the gospel but on gospel ministry. Why not just keep his faith private!
I don’t know about you but there are times I feel the temptation of those three; cowardice, compromise, and comfort. If I invite so and so to this, if I give them a question card for 1 big question what will they think? Will I be putting my friendship on the line? ‘Err God, I know the most loving thing I can do is to tell them the gospel and I’d love to but I think the time just isn’t right, I’ll just wait a little bit longer.’ Or we hear someone talking about God as a God of love who would never send anyone to hell, and we know what is coming if we contend for the truth – the compromise of silence, seems so appealing – though it is tacitly agreeing with them. And it can come from the most amazing places – I was doing a question panel day in a secondary school a couple of years ago. And the false teaching was coming not from any of the other members of the panel who I expected to be anti the bible but from the local vicar – who contended the bible wasn’t true, it was not meant to be taken literally.
Or it’s the desire for comfort where we do not interact with the world which is hostile to Christianity but withdraw into the Christian rabbit warren, or we live like the sleeper agent who looks no different from those around us.
Don’t you feel that pull – comfort, compromise, cowardice!
We are no different from Timothy, we need to understand what Paul wants Timothy to grasp. Gospel ministry is hard work, it involves contending for the truth and against error, it means laying out the challenge of the gospel, it means modelling the life of our Saviour. And it means doing so out of amazement and love at the gospel, in the strength God by his Holy Spirit provides and in the grace of Jesus Christ, with our eyes fixed on eternity.
Suffering is the norm of Christian ministry. And when the New Testament speaks about the need for the disciple to endure suffering it is not illness, or natural disasters but persecution caused by witnessing to Jesus. Paul is exhorting Timothy; contend for the gospel, engage in gospel ministry, endure hardship, train others to engage in this ministry with you, a ministry which models the gospel because it is based on Christ: suffering now glory to come.
1. The Pattern of Gospel Ministry seen in Jesus(8)
How does (8)begin? “Remember Jesus Christ”. Timothy don’t forget Jesus. What specifically does Paul want him to remember? “raised from the dead, descended from David”. I don’t think they are the two phrases we would use to sum up Jesus life and work.
But both phrases speak of Jesus sovereignty and his vindication, they encapsulate his incarnation, his coming as the Son of David who will rule forever, but that in order to reign in glory he came from glory, suffered and died. They remind Timothy that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the one who saves destroying death and bringing life to all who believe in him. Jesus is the good news and it is worth contending for and he is the template for gospel ministry. Humble service enduring suffering but ultimately and eternally vindicated by God.
It is in direct contrast to the false teachers (17-18)who are teaching that the resurrection has happened and therefore believers ought to be experiencing the kingdom rule now! Not suffering but victory, not opposition but rule and reign, not hardship but comfort! And unsurprisingly this is destroying the faith of some. Jesus is the pattern of gospel ministry Timothy – remember Jesus – suffering for the gospel leads to gospel glory.
Following Jesus means following Jesus, being his disciples means choosing to go the way of the master. Both in calling and entrusting others to engaging in gospel ministry as Jesus did but also in suffering for gospel ministry.
2. The Pattern of Gospel Ministry continued...(9-10)
It’s a pattern that Paul now shows Timothy is worked out in his life and ministry. Jesus Christ raised from the dead, descended from David is Paul’s gospel, not in terms of he made it, but in terms of he has been entrusted with it, it is his to discharge and make known, he has taken ownership of it and given his life to it. (9)And Paul’s experience is that following Jesus means following Jesus, where is he as he writes “I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal”. Jesus suffers, and Paul suffers, suffering is the norm in gospel ministry.
But as the servants of the gospel suffer and are chained God’s word is not chained. God works even through suffering – have you ever wondered what the Jewish leaders thought would happen when they crucified Jesus? They thought that would be the end of that. But what happened?
Or in Acts 8 as the persecution of believers begins what did Saul and others expect? The church to die out as its leaders and ministers were arrested and stoned. But what happened? It spread to Samaria and the world.
Or in modern day take China; massive oppression of Christians and the church, yet the church explodes and grows – God’s word is not chained. And in the ultimate irony when the Beijing Olympics were on, wanting to be like everyone else, every other games host, they realised they did not have Gideon’s bibles in the Athletes village like every other Olympic host had. So what did they do? They ordered bibles for every room in the Athletes village. God’s word is not chained.
(10)And God even uses suffering and Paul’s endurance in the gospel to strengthen the believers. If Paul can still contend so can I, if Paul endures this for the gospel it must be true, if he can carry on preaching it in prison I can preach this too.
Don’t despair Timothy, see the pattern of gospel ministry. Suffering is the norm and it does not undermine the gospel but confirms it and increases it because God’s word is not and will not be chained.
Endure Timothy, keep going, contend, guard, stand.
Gospel ministry demands endurance. You share the gospel with a friend and are rebuffed? How will you react, will you endure? You invite someone to a service and get a yes, but they never turn up or make a late excuse how will you react? You speak out in a conversation on sexuality or truth and are called a bigot, how will you react? A friend asks you to help them identify sin in their life, but when you do react angrily, what will you do? Gospel ministry is hard, it calls for endurance because the gospel saves and it is true!
3. The call to endure in Gospel Ministry
Paul now reminds Timothy of a portion of a creed or hymn in the early church, it contains both encouragement to endure in gospel ministry and a warning about the consequences of disowning Jesus.
The first two couplets provide the encouragement and motivation to continue in gospel ministry. To die with Christ means to die to self to comfort to ease, it picks up on Jesus call for disciples to carry the cross to give up their life, and the focus is on the reward for dying to self and living for Christ now, we will live with him for eternity. And if we endure we will reign with him, it’s that picture of the victors crown. Timothy lift your eyes up, get a glory perspective.
But the second pair of sayings provide a solemn warning about consequences of the alternative. If we disown Jesus Christ, he will disown us. Paul has not invented these words, they come direct from Jesus in Matthew 10:33, publically standing for the gospel brings Jesus recognition of us in heaven, but to disown him bring disownment. And the second phrase builds on that; “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, he cannot disown himself.” In other words if we deny him, if we lose our faith in Jesus, if we abandon him Jesus keeps his word. Jesus is faithful to both his promise of reward and recognition of those who stand for him and to his word of warning of judgement for those who disown him.
Jesus faithfulness to his word is a great comfort to us but also gives strength to his warnings. The nature of these warnings is borne out in this letter; Demas, Hermogenes, Phygelus disown gospel ministry and Jesus. Onesimus and others function as examples of those who endure and own Jesus despite suffering.
But we need to see that this disowning is not a temporary lapse, it isn’t a keeping quiet when we know we should speak out, or a momentary hesitation, it is a deliberate and determined decision to disown Jesus, a rejection of Jesus and the gospel. It is a warning against unrepentantly disowning Jesus.
Endure Timothy – fix your eyes on Jesus and your heart on his gospel and his word which is faithful both in its promised warnings and its rewards.
Gospel ministry is hard but it is worth it. Glory follows suffering.
Don’t give in to comfort, cowardice or compromise, but remember Jesus what he has done for you, the wonderful salvation he has secured for you by grace, and the pattern of living he calls you to. Don’t abandon Gospel ministry because of suffering because it is the norm, and he keeps his people and his word. Don’t abandon it because you have his Spirit who empowers and enables you in gospel ministry to feed on his grace and minister through grace. Don’t give up because your reward is glorious.