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Paul’s Charge to Timothy September 28, 2013

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 2 Timothy 3:10-4:8.

Summary: Paul begins by reminding Timothy that he has already imparted to him a great deal of his own teaching; moreover, he has opened his heart to Timothy so that he may know that all his teaching is sincere. Even though he is afflicted, he knows that God is with him and will always be with him. Now the world will hate all of God’s children; evil people will be obstinate in their resistance to God by doing harm and corrupting others. Yet Timothy should stand firm, because he has been taught by Paul, who is Christ’s apostle. Also, Timothy has been used to reading the Scriptures – the only source of the wisdom necessary for salvation – since his childhood. Indeed, God is the Author of the whole of Scripture, which edifies believers by:

  • teaching them
  • convicting them of God’s judgment on their sin and leading them to repentance
  • instructing them in a godly and holy life.

Scripture can make believers perfect.

Paul then states that since nobody will escape the judgment of Christ at His Second Coming – when His kingdom will be truly established and His majesty will be publicly displayed – he gives Timothy the following solemn charge:

  • he should be aggressive in overcoming all barriers and difficulties in preaching the Gospel
  • he should provide strong reproofs and exhortations to believers – with patient gentleness.

This charge stems from the fact that people – because of human depravity – will hate the Gospel message; they will want a great crowd of imposters to satisfy their pride and curiosity. Yet Timothy should work conscientiously to remedy these troubles and do what an evangelist should do.

Now Paul states that his death will ratify his teaching, and he fearlessly declares that he despises death – as his soul will pass from his body. He has achieved the goal that he has been striving for; he has been a faithful soldier to the Lord until the end. Paul concludes by stating that he is certain of his reward; moreover, all believers who hope in the final resurrection will receive the same reward.

Thoughts: In verse 12 of chapter 3, Paul notes that all believers will be persecuted. Calvin offers some odd thoughts on this point:

We should reckon with the fact that if we are Christians, we will be liable to many tribulations and struggles of different kinds. But the question arises, should all people be martyrs? It is clear that there have been many godly people who have never suffered imprisonment or banishment or any other kind of persecution. I answer that Satan has more than one way of persecuting Christ’s servants.

When Calvin notes that “it is clear that there have been many godly people who have never” been persecuted, is he contradicting himself? Should we read that statement as the words of those who would ask, “should all people be martyrs?” Based on the rest of Calvin’s commentary on this verse, he apparently agrees with Paul’s statement, so the above-mentioned statement seems misplaced. In any event, I wonder if any believer who does not experience overt persecution is still being persecuted. Could it be the case that unbelievers subconsciously judge them based on their worldview? If so, and believers are unaware that they are being subconsciously condemned, does this persecution cause them to live differently? Should believers be more aggressive about declaring their worldview, thereby compelling unbelievers to overtly persecute them?

In verses 3 and 4 of chapter 4, Paul notes that many people will reject the Gospel message and seek out teachers who will satisfy their desires. Calvin offers some insights on this point in his commentary on verse 3:

The way of the world is such that it enthusiastically gathers around itself countless deceivers, as it wants to stamp out everything that is of God. Many errors occur for no other reason than the open desire of people to be deceived rather than to be correctly taught.

One must wonder if Paul’s prophecy is being fulfilled in contemporary American churches. In particular, pastors such as Joel Osteen are often criticized for preaching messages that deviate from the simple truth of the Gospel. These pastors appear to be successful in their ministry, as their churches boast large attendance figures. Could large attendance be a sign of God’s blessing, or could it be an indication that people’s (improper) desires are being satisfied? Based on this passage, it could be argued that some small churches, by virtue of their low attendance figures, are actually teaching the simple truth of the Gospel. Can a church truly grow while its minister(s) continue to preach the unadulterated Gospel message?

In verses 6-8 of chapter 4, Paul notes that he has completed his service to God in this life, and now he rejoices in his impending reward. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 8:

It is possible to make a great effort and still fail to reach one’s goal. But Paul says that he was certain of his reward. He derives this certainty from turning his eyes to the day of resurrection, and we should do the same. We see nothing but death all around us; so we should not concentrate on the appearances of the world but should have Christ at the forefront of our minds. Then nothing can spoil our happiness.

This passage forms Paul’s clearest statement in this letter regarding his impending martyrdom. Although he is about to be executed, he reflects on his eventful life and declares that he 1) ran a strong race and 2) finished it. In some sense, he can report to Christ, “mission accomplished!” Moreover, he can expect Christ to reward him for completing the race that had been prepared for him. As believers, we should pray that at the end of our lives, we will share Paul’s confidence in our impending reward. It is clear that many who begin this race fall by the wayside once they stumble. Yet given the eternal consequences of completing this race, we must ask God for the strength to resume it when we stumble.

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