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Encouragement to be Faithful September 15, 2013

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 2 Timothy 1:3-2:13.

Summary: Paul begins by asserting that he worships the God of Abraham – who gave His law through Moses – with a pure and heartfelt affection; he gives thanks to God. He notes that there is no time when he does not pray. He encourages Timothy by reminding him of the faith that his mother and grandmother displayed, even though they were not Christians.

Paul then exhorts Timothy to make progress every day in accordance with the grace that he has received; indeed, his ordination symbolized the fact that God gave Timothy the grace that he needed to carry out his work as a minister. Thus, he should not fall back into a state of laziness, but he should show himself to be full of the Spirit’s power by acting out of a calm concern for edification. Then he would not refuse to be Paul’s companion in the common cause of teaching the Gospel while relying on God’s help. Moreover, believers have received eternal salvation through Christ; salvation does not depend on works, as it is given to believers by free grace. Indeed, Christ has now appeared for salvation, and He has revealed eternal life by His death and resurrection. Now Paul states that he is a faithful and legitimate minister of the Gospel, as he:

  • has been tasked with publicly announcing the decrees of God
  • enjoys a special relationship with those who learn from him.

In particular, he has been appointed to the Gentiles, which is why he is currently imprisoned; yet he is not disgraced by his imprisonment, since he:

  • does not doubt that God will be true and faithful
  • has adequate protection in God’s power, since He has his salvation in His hands.

Now Paul exhorts Timothy to make his own teaching follow in the same mold as he has been given; his teaching should consist in faith and love, which stem from knowing Christ. He should take care that the gifts of the Spirit in which he excels are not taken away from him because of his laziness; indeed, God will give him the necessary strength to care for the dignity of his ministerial office.

Paul reminds Timothy that many of the believers in Asia have deserted him; moreover, two of them – Phygelus and Hermogenes – have been making false accusations against him.

Paul then prays that God would bless Onesiphorus and his whole family, since Onesiphorus showed generosity and zeal by assisting him. He prays that God would pardon Onesiphorus and be merciful to him.

Now Paul affectionately tells Timothy to shake off laziness and complete his task through the unmerited favor that:

  • comes from Christ alone
  • is given to all believers

He exhorts him to preserve the form and features of his teaching; in doing so, Timothy can rely on the support of many people who can testify that his teaching comes from Paul. He also exhorts him to hand on his teaching to those believers who have an outstanding measure of faith. In addition, he exhorts him to be prepared to patiently endure evil, since he is a servant of Christ. He reminds all pastors that:

  • soldiers concentrate only on the war – instead of their ordinary occupations and caring for their families
  • athletes finish running the race – instead of giving up halfway through it
  • farmers wait patiently for the harvest – instead of shrinking from the hard work of obtaining fruit after a period of time.

Timothy should ponder these metaphors, and he prays that God would give him understanding on this point.

Paul then emphasizes the following parts of his teaching:

  • Christ was born as a descendant of David, and so He was the Messiah
  • He rose from the dead.

These two points comprise the Gospel message, and because he has preached it to the Gentiles, he is now imprisoned; it appears that he is a common criminal, yet the Gospel has not been stopped from having free rein. Indeed, his imprisonment has promoted the welfare of the church so that they may receive salvation in Christ.

Paul concludes by encouraging believers to hold to the following truths, which are difficult to believe:

  • by bearing the death of Christ, believers also reveal the life of Christ
  • those who have given up confessing Christ will have no part with Christ
  • those who desert Christ will take nothing from Him.

Thoughts: In this passage, I found additional phrases that hint at Paul’s impending martyrdom. For example, he must have desired Timothy’s support at this difficult time, as he exhorts him to “join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” He also boldly faces his imminent death by stating that “I am not ashamed…and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” In the midst of this trial, he remembers why God is testing him in the first place: “I endure everything for the sake of the elect.” He holds fast to the promise that “If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” Most likely Paul was greatly encouraged as he wrote this letter; thus, 2 Timothy can be an encouragement to those who are facing difficult circumstances that they cannot escape.

In verses 16-18 of chapter 1, Paul warmly remembers the kindness that Onesiphorus showed to him. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 16:

We should also note that while it is only Onesiphorus himself who is praised for his help, Paul also prays that his whole family would be blessed by God. From this it is right to infer that God’s blessing rests not only on a righteous man himself but on his whole household. God’s love for his people is so great that it spreads over everyone who is connected with them.

Now Calvin’s note reminded me of the Hebrew emphasis – as seen in the Old Testament – on collective responsibility and blessings, as opposed to the Western emphasis on individual responsibility and blessings. An entire family could be wiped out for the sins of one person, while the righteous actions of one person could elicit blessings on their family for generations to come. This makes me wonder if I will have the opportunity to meet Onesiphorus’ whole family in the next life; if so, that would be quite neat. If Paul’s prayer was effective in this case, then it would have spurred Onesiphorus’ family to exhibit the same generosity and zeal for God that he displayed towards Paul during his time in Rome.

In verse 13 of chapter 2, Paul notes that those who abandon Christ cannot detract from His glory. Calvin offers some insights on this point:

So, Paul deprives ungodly apostates from having this comforting thought to console themselves with. Because they change their colors according to their circumstances, they imagine that Christ is also two-faced. Paul says that this is impossible.

I have struggled to understand this verse ever since one of my friends noted that this was one of her favorite Bible passages. The flow of verses 11 and 12 seems to be rudely interrupted by verse 13, and so I could not reconcile this verse with the rest of the passage. I checked the ESV and NASB translations of this verse, but they are essentially identical to the NIV translation. In any case, Calvin’s explanation is quite satisfactory as it illustrates how this verse connects with the rest of the passage. Of course, one must wonder if this passage has been used to support the notion that one can lose their salvation; if so, how would Calvin, as a prominent advocate of predestination, respond to that argument?

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