By Adam Brown –
The first chapter of 2 Timothy can be summarized by a single word: Persevere. The driving sentiment of everything Paul says to Timothy in this chapter is that he must gird himself up and keep going, even though he was facing strong internal resistance from his local church.
Personal Thanksgiving and Encouragement (2 Timothy 1:3-7)
In this section, Paul seeks to encourage Timothy through a fourfold remembrance:
- “I remember you constantly in my prayers” (2 Timothy 1:3). You may be facing strong internal opposition in your local church, Timothy, but I want you to know that you are not forgotten. I remember you and I am praying for you. I am on your side, and so is my God – the God of my ancestors (see 2 Timothy 1:3).
- “I remember your tears” (2 Timothy 1:4). The prospect of ministry overwhelmed you at your ordination. You wept when we parted ways. I have received a report of your difficulties and your tears. But I want you to know that if I were there with you, I would be thrilled with your work. You would fill me with such joy (see 2 Timothy 1:4).
- “I am reminded of your sincere faith” (2 Timothy 1:5). Conflict such as you are experiencing can be disorienting. You may begin to doubt yourself and the position you have taken. False teachers might even make you question your faith. But I want you to know that you are the real deal. Your faith is sincere. You are walking in the ways of your grandmother and your mother (see 2 Timothy 1:5), and of me, your spiritual father (see 2 Timothy 1:2).
- “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6). I told you that Christian ministry is a fight, and so it is proving to be. But I want you to remember that when I laid hands on you the Holy Spirit affirmed that He had given you the gift of teaching. You are a gifted teacher, Timothy. So teach. God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self control. Preach with authority. Let the people see your love for them. Get control of yourself and keep doing what you are doing.
As we see in Timothy’s example, fidelity to the Scriptures has never been popular. When we meet resistance and opposition in the local church, what shall we do? Shall we buckle under pressure, or persevere?
Exhortation to Suffer and Not be Ashamed (2 Timothy 1:8-12)
In verse 8, Paul exhorts Timothy, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.”
In verses 11-12, Paul puts himself forward as an example to be emulated, “I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”
Faithfulness to the gospel will result in suffering, even from the hands of men and women who profess to be Christians. When this suffering comes, we all have a choice. Will we shrink back in shame or will we be bold by trusting in the power of God to guard the faith and the message that He has entrusted to us?
In verses 9-10, Paul hints at this power and, by so doing, he encourages Timothy to fully entrust himself to God.
Like Timothy, we should expect to suffer when we try to implement 1 Timothy and the other Scriptures. We must choose not to be ashamed of these efforts. God will help us to see it through.
Paul Puts Himself Forward as an Example to be Emulated (2 Timothy 1:13-18)
There are three lines in this final section of the chapter that are of paramount significance:
- “Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me” (2 Timothy 1:13). Timothy, I have given my life in the pursuit of Christ. If you follow me, you too will be pursuing Christ.
- “Guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14). God has revealed His gospel to you, Timothy. I have shown you how to live out and teach this gospel. More than that, I have written you instructions so that you might know how one ought to behave in the household of God (1 Timothy 3:14-15). Guard these things with your life.
- “You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me” (2 Timothy 1:15). I know you are having some difficulty in Ephesus right now, but I had trouble with all of the churches in Asia, including Ephesus. Even – if you could believe it – Phygeluls and Hermogenes abandoned me! Yes, with the exception of Onesiphorus, everyone stepped back from me when I was imprisoned in Rome. Sometimes, Timothy, ministry is a very lonely effort (see 2 Timothy 1:15-18).
Paul does not romanticize church leadership or membership. Sometimes it is just plain hard. It comes with a good measure of suffering. Nevertheless, we must endure until the end, making every effort to remain faithful to the One who saved us. And it is only in the power of our Saviour that we can keep going. Our daily, moment by moment, need for Him is a constant reminder that we are saved by faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Amen.