Here are my notes from last night:
1. What were Paul’s priorities?
2. Is Paul’s ministry a success and why?
3. How do you disciple someone?
Paul is now finishing off his final letter to Timothy, encouraging him to keep going in ministry and to come visit him quickly before he dies for his faith. All through the letter two themes, two passions, have shone through. Firstly, Jesus is his Saviour and the great news of the gospel must be proclaimed and believed. Secondly, his passion for people to be discipled and to serve Jesus Christ. I had a quick count and there are twenty five people identified by name as well as a household and other brothers and sisters.
Those two interwoven passions are what Paul exhorts Timothy to give himself to because that is what gospel ministry is; the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ his Saviour and the discipleship and love of people.
1. Loving the Gospel means Loving people
Gospel ministry cannot be separated from people. By its very nature preaching and teaching only takes place when someone is listening and learning, and discipleship requires someone to be a disciple.
This letter is littered with people that Paul knew personally, that he had spent time with, that he had preached to, partnered in the gospel with, and discipled. Some like Alexander are enemies of the gospel who have opposed and fought Paul, others like Demas, Phygelus and Hermogenes have deserted him. Some like Hymenaeus and Philetus have lost their way and are teaching false doctrine. But even then Paul knows each of their names, he feels their loss, their desertion or opposition, because he is passionate about people. And those bad experiences do not stop him loving others.
I want you to notice something about the way Paul talks about God’s people, **how does he refer to them? He names them as individuals or talks about them as a household or brothers and sisters. Paul doesn’t talk about the church as a nameless, faceless institution, he doesn’t love an institution he loves people, and that term brothers and sisters speaks of a relationship. The way he talks about God’s people reinforces his commitment to the relationship they have. I think that is something we need to think through. How do we think of church? The word ‘Church’ is not relational but almost cold and clinical, but they are our family in Christ, it is a group of people we love in the gospel, who we are committed to, who we will not lightly leave because we love them deeply. Loving the gospel means loving people.
There are those like Priscilla and Aquila who have engaged in ministry with Paul over years – serving God through their marriage, opening their home, and by their generosity. **There is Onesiphorus’ household, who is he? (1:16)He searched for Paul in prison and refreshed him. There is Erastus – a civil servant – who works hard for the gospel through his work. There’s Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia and the brothers and sisters; God’s people in Rome. All people Paul loves because he is reconciled to them in the gospel whether Jew or Gentile, whether like him or different from him.
Gospel ministry is loving people, not with a liquid love that is transient and changeable but with the same love God has for his people – committed, stable, reliable, active, lasting the test of time.
2. Loving the Gospel means Discipling Others
As Paul faces his death is his ministry successful or not? We know Paul was deeply concerned about the churches he had been involved in planting. He warns the Ephesian elders that savage wolves will come in and attack the flock, he writes to the Galatians rebuking them for turning from the gospel to embrace legalism, he writes to the Corinthians to tell them to stop welcoming immorality, and in 1 and 2 Timothy he warns Timothy to deal with false teachers in the church. The future doesn’t look too promising does it?
Paul preached to make disciples not just to win converts, he wanted to establish long lasting churches because what mattered was the gospels spread and peoples ongoing growth. And so we see in this letter that Paul isn’t just committed and passionate about people and ministry but about discipleship.
Paul disciples people who will disciple others, Paul disciples the next generation of preachers, teachers and pastors who will lead the church: Timothy, Titus, Luke, Crescens, Mark, Tychicus, and Trophimus all discipled by Paul, all trained as they partnered with Paul in mission. As they watched his life up close, as they heard his teaching first hand, and as they observed his love for people and for his Saviour who were then sent out on ministry themselves but always supported by Paul.
Paul loves all God’s people but he strategically seems to invest time in those who will be the next generation of church leaders. And it has been costly to Paul.
Demas has deserted and there is a rawness about that loss, but it hasn’t stopped him discipling others. Demas here is a warning to Timothy and us about not loving the world more than Jesus. But he is also here to say don’t let someone who you disciple going off the rails stop you discipling others.
Then there is Mark. **How is Mark described? “helpful to me in my ministry” yet there was a time (Acts 15:36-39) when Paul refused to take Mark on mission with him because he had deserted previously. But now he has been restored and failure is not final – it’s no wonder Paul tells Timothy to gently instruct opponents because look what God’s grace can do – it restores to service. Isn’t that an encouragement; failure isn’t final God’s grace restores us even if we fail. And isn’t it a great model of grace as Paul shows that same grace welcoming back one whose loss he had felt so keenly earlier.
I think discipleship has been missing from our vocabulary as God’s people. But we need to rediscovery it. Are we committed to discipling others? To laying our life open so others can see, so they hear the teaching, see the passions, see the areas where battles are fought and grace needed? To training others so that things don’t suddenly stop when we stop doing something but seamlessly transition, so that the next generation of youth workers, Sunday School Teachers, preachers, pastors etc is growing. Real Gospel ministry is one which multiplies ministers.
But how? How do you disciple someone?
· Help them think about how they have been disciple already.
· Show them what discipleship looks like in the bible (Luke 9:51f)
· Discipleship means sharing life with them (1 Thess 1)
· Time – spend time together
· Let them see you teach and ask you about how and why?
I want you to notice something else. Gospel Ministry is team ministry. Paul isn’t a one man band, Paul always engages in ministry with others, normally with a team of people. Remember how throughout the letter Paul has been encouraging Timothy to endure not desert because gospel ministry is hard, Paul knows that through bitter experience. It can involve persecution, opposition, confrontation, rejection, desertion. Gospel ministry needs to be team ministry, even here he writes to Timothy because he is not alone he is part of a team.
It is not just here but it seems to be a biblical pattern, gospel ministry is team ministry. As we stand for Christ in the workplace we need others with us, ideally physically with us but if not supporting us in prayer, Sunday school teachers, youth workers, pastors need others with them.
Gospel ministry is team ministry. We engage in ministry relying on God but needing the God given support of others.
3. Loving the Gospel means pointing to the Lord and Grace
Paul’s closing words are significant, he knows that he will die soon and as he prepares Timothy and the church for that eventuality he points them to two things which never die, two things he has pointed to throughout the letter and throughout his life.
(22a)”The Lord be with your spirit.” Even as Paul will be no longer with him Timothy is not alone. Paul prays he will know Jesus presence, a presence which enabled Paul to preach at his preliminary hearing strengthened by the Lord even when everyone else had deserted him. What an encouragement for Timothy. What an encouragement for us, God is with us.
In the final phrase the “you” is plural not singular, this is something Paul prays for the church not just for Timothy. “Grace be with you all”, grace that (1:9) “was given us in Christ Jesus...” revealed in his appearing which conquered death and brought life and light. The church needs God’s grace – it is what saves us, it is God’s power at work transforming us, enabling us to life liberated by and under the rule of Jesus.
It doesn’t matter that I won’t be with you, you don’t need me you need Jesus and grace says Paul and they will be with you.
Isn’t that liberating and humbling, the church doesn’t need one person, no matter how gifted or charismatic, it needs Jesus presence as Lord by his Spirit active through his word and his people and a working and growing understanding and appreciation of the wonder of grace. That’s why even as Paul faces death it will not be the end of the gospel because it is not Paul’s gospel but God’s, not Paul’s power but God’s, not Paul’s talent but God’s grace, not Paul’s word but God’s.
Are you ready for this week? Jesus goes with us into our week and Jesus grace covers us for this week.