October 29: 2 Tim 1
October 29, 2010
We would do well to meditate on the truths and the tone of this chapter as we live and speak for Christ in the twenty first century world. Those in ministry, especially during the early years, would do well to return to this chapter again and again.
Amidst all the riches on offer we will focus on three aspects of Paul's counsel to Timothy. As we do so, and although we have moved on to his second letter, we are still conscious that we are in the atmosphere of eternity. Not only are we told about the grace given in Christ Jesus "before the ages began" (1:9) but of the coming "Day" (1:12, 18) or, more precisely, "that Day." Christ will judge the living and the dead (4:1).
Timothy has been called to a life of integrity. The same "sincere faith" that dwelled first in his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice, now dwells in him (1:5). In other words there is a mark of authenticity about this faith, in stark contrast to those who "have an appearance of godliness" but no power (3:5). Paul also reminds Timothy that he has been saved by God, and not as a result of his own works, and called to a holy life.
Indeed, such are the heights and depths of the gospel that verses 9-10 of this chapter are both profoundly humbling and liberating to reflect on. When the Christian stares into the depths of eternity he does so to find great assurance from the grace given to him in Christ Jesus before time and space began. When he thinks about the appearance of Christ and his resurrection he is assured that death has been conquered and life and immortality brought to light through the gospel. He knows that all these blessings are found in Christ alone, and this is the one that he knows, and believes in and wants to testify to others about. It is by dwelling upon these truths about this great Savior that will enable Timothy, and us also, to deal with the second aspect of Paul's counsel.
Timothy must be prepared to share in adversity. It is interesting to note that Paul mentions the emotional element of this adversity as well as other forms of suffering that come as an entailment of testifying to the Lord (1:8, 12; 3:10-12). There is a social stigma involved in submitting to Christ as Lord and about believing in his resurrection.
Then, as now, there is an awkwardness and embarrassment about trusting in Christ. There is a constant pressure to accommodate the gospel to the tastes and aspirations of the culture (or as Paul would have it, this present evil age). It is only by having a firm grasp of the truth, and by being in the grip of grace, that we will testify to Christ and share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.
Timothy must be committed to the pattern of orthodoxy. In fact there must be an unswerving commitment to orthodoxy (1:13-14). Again this is in contrast to the false teachers (named and shamed as Hymenaeus and Philetus, who therefore are preachers to avoid) who have "swerved from the truth" (2:18).
There is to be exploration into the truth, an ever deepening grasp of the gospel and its implications (2:7 "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything") but no innovation, no departures from following "the pattern of sound words" (1:13). Nor should a commitment to orthodoxy by pursued in an unsanctified manner. It is is to be done in the atmosphere of faith and love that are in Christ Jesus (1:13).
When the great John Owen wrote the preface to his work Vindicae Evangelicae, his masterly refutation of the anti-gospel teachings of the Socinians, he said:
This I am compelled to say, that unless the Lord, in his infinite mercy, lay an awe upon the hearts of men, to keep them in some captivity to the simplicity and mystery of the gospel who now strive every day to exceed one another in novel opinions and philosophical apprehensions of the things of God, I cannot but fear that this soul-destroying abomination will one day break in as a flood upon us.
The gospel must be guarded not by our own strength, not merely with the help of our best arguments, but by the help of the indwelling Spirit (1:14).