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3. Inadequate Servants, Adequate Lord (Luke 9:10-17)

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December 2, 2018

In February, 1977, just shy of my 30th birthday, I began to serve as the pastor of a small church in a Southern California mountain community. To say that I was unsure of whether I could fulfill the demands of the job is a gross understatement! I told the Lord that I’d try it for three years and then see where things were at. By His grace alone, I served that church for just over 15 years before moving to Flagstaff, where I’ve served for over 26 years.

You might think that the longer you serve the Lord, the more confident and competent you become, but the longer I’ve served, the more inadequate I feel. But that’s good, because it forces you to realize that you have to depend on the Lord for His blessing. If He doesn’t work far beyond your inadequacy, everything will bomb. Even the apostle Paul, who was more gifted and more zealous than all of us, exclaimed (2 Cor. 2:16), “Who is adequate for these things?” A few verses later (2 Cor. 3:5), he explained, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”

If you have trusted in Christ as your Savior, He wants you to serve Him in some way in line with the gifts He has given you. Peter wrote (1 Pet. 4:10-11):

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

This church will be healthy only to the extent that every member uses his or her gifts in dependence on the Lord, seeking Him constantly for His blessing on His church. Serving the Lord is more of a mindset and way of life than a particular job or role. It’s who you are if Jesus has saved you. If He bought you with His blood, then you are not your own. You’re His slave and you serve however, wherever, and whenever He wants you to serve.

But perhaps you want to serve the Lord, but you feel paralyzed by inadequacy. Remember, in Jesus’ parable of the talents, it was the guy with only one talent who buried it, but then got chewed out by his master (Matt. 25:14-30). So if you think you’re an inadequate, “one-talent” Christian, be careful not to bury what the Lord entrusted to you. He expects you to use your one talent for His kingdom purposes. I want to talk about how to serve the Lord when you feel inadequate to do so.

No passage of Scripture has had a more profound impact on my service for Christ than the accounts of the feeding of the 5,000. You could argue that it’s the most significant miracle Jesus performed, since it’s the only miracle reported in all four gospels. The Lord used this incident to train the twelve. We see this in His pointed challenge (Luke 9:13), “You give them something to eat!” John 6:6 tells us that Jesus was testing them (especially Philip), knowing what He was about to do. The miracle itself is almost passed over. We’re never told exactly how Jesus did it. The focus is not on the spectacular nature of the miracle, but on what it teaches those who serve Jesus about how He meets the overwhelming needs of others through them.

Christ gives us His adequacy to meet the overwhelming needs of people when we yield our inadequacy to Him.

Three things stand out in this story: the needy people; the inadequate disciples; and the adequate Lord Jesus.

1. People are needy.

The apostles returned from their first preaching tour (Luke 9:1-6) and gave an account to Jesus of all that they had done (v. 10). Jesus withdrew with them near to Bethsaida, on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee. Mark 6:31 tells us that the purpose of the getaway was rest. Mark also states that there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and the disciples didn’t even have time to eat. So they got in the boat and started off across the lake for a short “vacation.”

But the five-mile trip across the lake was the only vacation they got! The people saw them going and ran there from all the cities and got there ahead of them. When the disciples saw that crowd of needy people waiting for them on the shore, they must have thought, “Oh, no! Lord, how can we escape?”

The fact that this many people would go to this effort to be with Jesus shows how needy they were. If you had asked around the crowd, many would have said that their greatest need was for physical healing. There were blind, deaf, lame, diseased and dying people there. By the end of the day, others would have said that their greatest need was for food. There was no food in that desolate place. Others had other needs. But whether anyone recognized it or not, every person’s greatest need was spiritual. Jesus could heal their bodies and fill their stomachs, but that was only a stopgap measure if they perished in their sins. So Jesus taught them about the kingdom of God, how they could rightly be related to Jesus the King (Luke 9:11).

I’ve seen a bumper sticker that reads, “Life is tough; then you die!” If a person does not know Christ and have the hope of eternal life, that bumper sticker is really true! Sin has taken a terrible toll on the human race. Often the problems people have can be the entry point for us to serve them, not only physically or emotionally, but also spiritually, which is their greatest need. But that’s where we encounter our own problem:

2. We are inadequate to meet people’s overwhelming needs.

Note the contrast between Jesus’ attitude toward the multitude and that of the disciples: Jesus welcomed them (Luke 9:11), but the disciples said to Jesus (Luke 9:12), “Send the crowd away.” Maybe the disciples were just being practical about how to provide food for this huge crowd, but given the situation, I think it’s legitimate to assume that they were exhausted. They wanted a break from the needy people.

Then Jesus said something utterly ridiculous (Luke 9:13): “You give them something to eat!” “Say again, Lord?” “You give them something to eat!” There were 5,000 men, plus women and children. Assuming two children per couple, there were 20,000 mouths to feed! The only food the disciples could come up with was a boy’s meager lunch (John 6:9), five loaves and two fish. So we see the complete inadequacy of the disciples to meet this overwhelming need that Jesus commands them to meet.

The manner in which Jesus performed this miracle is significant. He could have called down manna from heaven. This miracle took place in the wilderness and having the people sit in groups of fifty pictures Israel in the wilderness under Moses, camped by tribes. Calling down manna would have shown Jesus to be the new Moses. But He didn’t do it that way.

Or, Jesus could have spoken the word and a loaf of bread would have appeared miraculously in each person’s hand. It would have been much more impressive than the quiet way He did this miracle. And it would have been much more efficient than having the 12 disciples distribute the bread and fish to this huge crowd. Each disciple would have had to serve over 1,600 people, which must have taken a long time.

Or Jesus could have called angels who could have taken the bread from His hand and flown directly to each group and given them the food. People would have been amazed. They would have talked about it for the rest of their lives.

But how did Jesus do it? He used the weary, inadequate disciples to distribute the bread and fish to the people. I’m convinced that the Lord did the miracle that way to teach the disciples that His method for meeting the overwhelming needs of a lost world is through His people. But not just any kind of people. He uses inadequate people!

Jesus uses tired, emotionally drained people. The disciples had just returned from their first preaching tour. Jesus knew that they were tired and needed a rest. But their only rest had been the short trip across the lake. True, Jesus let them rest all day as He taught and healed the multitude. But we see their tiredness and emotional weariness in their request, “Send them away.”

Jesus uses busy people. They didn’t even have time to eat because of all the people coming and going (Mark 6:31). I thought that our hectic schedules were unique to our culture, but apparently not! I’ve worked as a banquet waiter, so I know that once they started handing out the food to this huge crowd, the people were making demands: “Over here! We need more bread here!” They were busy men! But invariably the Lord doesn’t use people with extra time on their hands. He uses people who are already busy. The disciples didn’t have time to eat until that entire crowd had been served.

Jesus uses people who lack resources. The disciples’ comment (v. 13) about buying enough food for all these people was probably said with some sarcasm. They didn’t have nearly enough money to do that. Philip did a quick calculation and told Jesus that 200 denarii (seven to eight months’ wages) would not be enough to give each person just a little bread (John 6:7). Obviously, the disciples didn’t have anywhere near that much cash in hand. Besides, they were in a desolate place. Even if they went to Bethsaida to buy bread, the town wouldn’t have had enough bread to feed this crowd. They were hopelessly lacking in the resources to feed this multitude.

Some people say, “I’ll serve the Lord someday, but I’m too busy to get involved right now.” Or, they think, “I plan to give generously to the Lord’s work after I get my finances in better shape. But right now I can’t give much.” But they’re making the mistake of thinking that serving Christ is something we volunteer to do when we have adequate time, energy, and financial resources. Then they’ll volunteer to serve Him.

But Jesus doesn’t work through volunteers. He works through His servants (the Greek word means, “slaves”; see John MacArthur, Slave [Thomas Nelson]). Slaves don’t volunteer to serve. They don’t tell their masters, “I’ll clean your house and fix dinner tomorrow, but I’m too tired and busy today!” Slaves serve when they’re tired, wiped out, busy, and lacking in resources. Slaves serve because they’re under obligation to their master (Luke 17:7-10).

How do we do it? By yielding our inadequacy to the adequate Master to use as He pleases. Five small loaves and two fish, a boy’s lunch—not much to feed such a crowd. In Matthew 14:18, Jesus says, “Bring them here to Me!” That’s the key! Give your inadequate resources and abilities to Jesus. The insufficient becomes more than sufficient when surrendered to Christ! That points us to the third prominent feature of this story. We see the needy people; the inadequate disciples; and, the adequate Lord:

3. Christ gives us His adequacy when we yield our inadequacy to Him to use as He pleases.

Two thoughts:

A. Yield what you have, not what you don’t have.

That sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But so often we make up excuses about what we don’t have and we fail to offer to Jesus what we do have: “If I just had more time, I’d serve the Lord!” “If I just had more money, I’d give regularly to the Lord’s work!” “If I just had the ability that others have, I’d serve the Lord.” “If I just ...”! But Jesus didn’t use the 200 denarii and all the bread in Bethsaida, which the disciples didn’t have. He used the five loaves and two fish that they did have. Jesus doesn’t ask you to give Him what you don’t have. He asks you to give Him what you do have.

A country preacher went to a farmer in his church and asked, “If you had two farms, would you be willing to give one farm to God?” “Yes,” replied the farmer. “I only wish I were in a position to do it.” The preacher persisted, “If you had $20,000, would you give $10,000 to the Lord’s work?” The farmer replied, “Yes, I’d love to have that kind of money! I’d gladly give $10,000 to the Lord’s work.” Then the preacher sprang his trap: “If you had two pigs, would you give one to the Lord’s work?” The farmer blurted out, “That’s not fair! You know I’ve got two pigs!”

The Lord doesn’t use what you don’t have. He uses the inadequate things you do have when you yield them to Him.

B. Yield your inadequacy to Him to use as He pleases.

The disciples weren’t giving the orders here. They were following Jesus’ orders (Luke 9:14): “Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each.” “Eat what, Lord?” “It won’t work, Lord!” “This is crazy, Lord!” No, they did what Jesus commanded. Yield yourself to Him and let Him do as He sees fit. What Jesus did with this boy’s lunch is what He does with us when we yield our inadequate abilities and resources to Him:

  • Jesus blesses.

Without His blessing, we’re wasting our time. Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” Do you covet God’s blessing in your life and service for Him? Decades ago, Watchman Nee’s chapter, “Expecting the Lord’s Blessing” (Twelve Baskets Full [Hong Kong Church Book Room], 2:48-64) deeply affected me. I’ve read it many times. Nee argues that everything in God’s work depends on His blessing. If it is there, even an insufficient amount is sufficient; if it is lacking, the greatest resources and efforts in the world will not be enough.

By God’s blessing, Nee means a working of God that is far in excess of human calculations. If you scrape together 200 denarii and buy enough bread to give everyone a little, that is not God’s blessing. But if there is no human way to explain the results by the gifts or the efforts of those involved, that is God’s blessing. It’s not that we’re sloppy about our work and expect God to cover for our laziness or incompetence. We ought to work hard and be skilled in what we do for the Lord. But to have God’s blessing is not to expect results in proportion to my hard work or my talents, but for God to do “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

So often we’re just like the disciples. We see the need and start calculating with what we don’t have. Pastors think, “If I just had Bill Gates in my congregation as a tither!” But as Nee points out (ibid., p. 63),

If we have to accumulate sufficient wages to buy bread for the needy multitudes, years and years will elapse before their need is met. We must expect God to work beyond all that man can conceive.

Without the Lord’s blessing, five loaves and two fish were ridiculously inadequate. With His blessing, it was more than enough. However you serve, seek God’s blessing and make sure that nothing in your life hinders it!

  • Jesus breaks.

After blessing the bread, Jesus broke it. Blessing and brokenness go together. You won’t find God’s blessing apart from God’s breaking. You can see it in the lives of every person God has used. Abraham and Sarah had to be past their ability to produce a child before God gave them Isaac. Jacob had to be crippled in his hip before he prevailed with God. Moses had to fail in his own strength and spend forty years tending sheep in the desert before God used him to deliver Israel. David wrote (Ps. 51:17), “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Vance Havner observed (source unknown),

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.

Most of us aren’t too weak to serve the Lord. We’re too strong, or at least we think we are. The Lord does not want our adequacy; He wants our inadequacy so that we trust Him to supply what we lack. When we’re weak, then we’re strong (2 Cor. 12:10). His strength is made perfect in our weakness when we yield ourselves to Him and allow Him to bless, break, multiply, and distribute our few loaves and fish to meet the needs of others. Jesus blesses; He breaks. Then,

  • Jesus satisfies.

Luke 9:16b-17a: He “kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people. And they all ate and were satisfied.” The “all” included the boy who generously gave up his lunch! Everyone had enough. No one went hungry.

Don’t miss the end of verse 17: “The broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full.” How many disciples? Twelve! How many full leftover baskets? Twelve! A basket full for each disciple! But the disciples had to serve the hungry multitude first; only after that did they each collect their basket full. Sometimes we worry, “If I give my time and energy and money to serve the Lord, I’ll be drained and burned out!” But as Jesus goes on to explain (Luke 9:24), “Whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Lose yourself serving Jesus and He will make sure you get a basket full for yourself! You may be tired, but you’ll be full of joy in Jesus!

Conclusion

The bread in this miracle is symbolic of Christ. After performing this miracle, He said (John 6:35), “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” The Lord is teaching that if we will surrender ourselves to Him to use as He pleases in meeting the needs of others, then He will satisfy us with a full measure of Himself.

We hear a lot about “burnout.” While we all need adequate rest and time off, we can test our labors for the Lord by this: If we’re burned out, probably we’ve been trying to meet others’ needs with our inadequate abilities and resources. But if we come away tired, yes, but with the satisfaction of the fulness of Christ left over in our souls, then the Lord’s blessing was on us.

Do you feel inadequate to serve the Lord? Hudson Taylor, the great 19th century founder of The China Inland Mission, said that when God decided to open inland China to the gospel He looked around to find a man who was weak enough for the purpose (E. H. Broadbent, The Pilgrim Church, p. 40). He also said (Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission; The Growth of a Work of God [China Inland Mission], p. 279), “All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them.”

Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary to China (we stood by his grave in Macao in 1987), was asked, “Do you really expect to make an impact on that great land?” “No, sir,” he replied, “but I expect God to.”

A. T. Pierson said of George Muller, who supported thousands of orphans without ever making their needs known (George Muller of Bristol [Revell], p. 112), “Nothing is more marked in George Muller, to the very day of his death, than this, that he so looked to God and leaned on God that he felt himself to be nothing, and God everything.”

We’re inadequate to meet the overwhelming needs in this world. But when we yield ourselves to our adequate Savior, He blesses, He breaks, and He satisfies.

Application Questions

  1. Since there are so many needs in the world, how do we know where to devote our time, effort, and money?
  2. Is it ever right to say “no” to the needs and demands of people? How can you know when to say “no”?
  3. Sometimes you should refuse to serve because you know that you are not so gifted. How do you know if God wants you to trust Him to serve in a situation that threatens you?
  4. Are there conditions we must meet to experience God’s blessing? What are they?

Copyright Steven J. Cole, 2018, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Christian Life, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry

“Indeed” In The Psalms

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The Hebrew word “indeed” can certainly stand emphatically for that which is to be especially emphasized. Associated with this thought is an emphasis on that which is trustworthy and/or faithful, hence properly rendered at times as “indeed”. Several psalms utilize the word “indeed”. For example, in Psalm 58 David defends the righteousness of the Lord in the face of the unrighteous (cf. vv. 10-11). As the psalm begins, however, David addresses unjust rulers. He begins by citing their injustice:

Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
Do you judge uprightly among men?

No, in your heart you devise injustice,
and your hands mete out violence on the earth. (vv. 1-2)1

As Van Gemeren remarks, “The wicked judges do not render a judgment characterized by righteousness … and equity. … The Lord’s rule, on the other hand, is characterized by ‘righteousness’ and ‘equity’”.2 Futato suggests also that not only political rulers, but church leaders also have been known to make unjust decisions.3

Although we live in a world that too often is suppressed by unjust leadership, such does not mean that anyone of its residents is entitled to behave in the same manner. The scriptural teaching remains true that, “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34).

Moreover, the Lord is He who gives “what is good … righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps” (Ps. 85:12-13). Kenneth L. Barker remarks that God’s “blessings result in the enjoyment of ‘what is good’”4 Although Barker appears to intend his remarks to apply to the Israelites, nevertheless the principle remains applicable to today’s world: “Those who fear him will enjoy the benefits of his kingdom of “righteousness”.5

Indeed, it may surely be said that God is well deserving of our praise for all we are we owe to the Lord, including our protection. For God himself is our shield even as Ethan the Ezrahite wrote:

Blessed are those who have acclaimed you,
who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD.

They rejoice in your name all day long;
they exult in your righteousness,

For you are their glory and strength,
and by your favor you exult our horn.

Indeed, our shield belongs to the Lord,
our king to the holy one of Israel. (Ps. 89:15-18)

Another example may be seen in a later psalm which records that at one time the Israelites, “were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it (i.e., that is, as Israel approached the land of Canaan)” (Ps. 105:11). In this psalm it is recalled that even in their wilderness wanderings, and despite their own actions, and even though they were few in number, God’s protective hand was over them (vv. 13-14).

So also, the psalmist, who wrote Psalm 121, speaks of God’s protective hand extending and watching over his people. As Perowne remarks, “the Creator of the Universe, the Keeper of the nation, is also the Keeper of the individual.”6 Not only was this true for Israel as a nation but for all of God’s people.

Truly the Lord watches over God’s people. His protection is ever near. Even as the psalmist expresses it:

He will not let your foot slip –
he who watches over you will not slumber;

Indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep (Ps. 121:3-4).

As the psalmist says what was true for Israel (cf. Ps 87:5) is still certainly true for all God’s people (Ps. 121:5-8). Thus, the hymn writer wrote:

I trust in God wherever I may be …
Upon the land or on the rolling sea,
For come what may, from day to day,
My Heav’nly Father watches over me.
I trust in God – I know He cares for me.
On mountain bleak or on the stormy seas;
Tho’ billows roll, He keeps my soul,
My Heav’nly Father watches over me,7

Moreover, God is the believer’s true source of strength as it says in Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble”. As I have written elsewhere, “Even in times of testing a committed believer can be assured of God’s presence and strength, including the need for necessary physical strength (Ps. 18:1-2). For in our weakness we can find God’s strength to be our sufficiency for each day’s challenges (2 Cor. 12:9-11).”8

Therefore, as we read/study the Scriptures we can “indeed” be assured that God indeed is a righteous God who wants us to experience His righteousness, His protection, His faithfulness, and His guidance in our life. May we, then, “indeed” be ready and eager to look to him for all of life’s actions and adventures.


1 All scripture references are from the NIV.

2 Willem A. Van Gemeren, “Psalms”, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), V:466.

3 Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms, in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, eds. Philip W. Comfort (Carol Stream, Il., Tyndale House, 2009), VII:201.

4 Kenneth L. Barker, “Psalms”, in Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), I:886.

5 IBID.

6 J.J. Stewart Perowne, “The Book of Psalms”, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 2: 373.

7 W.C. Martin and Charles H. Gabriel, “My Father Watches Over Me.”.

8 Richard D. Patterson, “Source of True Strength” in Bible. Org, 2013, 10.

Related Topics: Devotionals, Terms & Definitions

The Bible Teacher’s Guide, Second Timothy: Guarding The Good Deposit

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The year was AD 67; persecution was rampant and false teachers saturated the church. Many believers no longer desired to hear sound doctrine and, therefore, heaped up teachers to simply itch their ears (2 Tim 4:2-4). Timothy, a pastor in the church of Ephesus, most likely, was discouraged (1:7, 2:1). With some of his last words, Paul writes from prison to encourage his disciple, Timothy, to complete his ministry (4:5). He commands him to be like a good soldier (2:3-4), a victorious athlete (2:5), and a hardworking farmer (2:6). Above all, Timothy needed to stay faithful to Scripture: he was to guard it (1:14) and teach it to others (2:2, 4:1). God’s Word was to be his chief priority.

Our times are not much different. Persecution towards Christians continues to grow, and many, from within the faith community, twist Scripture to fit the rapidly changing culture. Just like Timothy, we need to hear the apostle’s charge to guard the Good Deposit with the help of the Holy Spirit (1:14). As you consider Paul’s final letter, may our Lord sharpen, refresh, and encourage you for the task at hand and may you be found approved unto God (2:15).

Copyright © 2017, 2018 (2nd Edition) Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations and commentary have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.

This book is also available for purchase here on Amazon.

Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church), False Teachers, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Leadership, Pastors

Preface

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And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.

2 Timothy 2:2 (NET)

Paul’s words to Timothy still apply to us today. The church needs teachers who clearly and fearlessly teach the Word of God. With this in mind, The Bible Teacher’s Guide (BTG) series was created. This series includes both expositional and topical studies, with resources to help teachers lead small groups, pastors prepare sermons, and individuals increase their knowledge of God’s Word.

Each lesson is based around the hermeneutical principle that the original authors wrote in a similar manner as we do today—with the intention of being understood. Each paragraph and chapter of Scripture centers around one main thought, often called the Big Idea. After finding the Big Idea for each passage studied, students will discuss the Big Question, which will lead the small group (if applicable) through the entire text. Alongside the Big Question, note the added Observation, Interpretation, and Application Questions. The Observation Questions point out pivotal aspects of the text. The Interpretation Questions facilitate understanding through use of the context and other Scripture. The Application Questions lead to life principles coming out of the text. Not all questions will be used, but they have been given to help guide the teacher in preparing the lesson.

As the purpose of this guide is to make preparation easier for the teacher and study easier for the individual, many commentaries and sermons have been accessed in the development of each lesson. After meditating on the Scripture text and the lesson, the small group leader may wish to follow the suggested teaching outline:

  1. Introduce the text and present the Big Question.
  2. Allow several minutes for the members to discuss the question, search for the answers within the text, and listen to God speak to them through His Word.
  3. Discuss the initial findings, then lead the group through the Observation, Interpretation, and Application Questions.

On the other hand, the leader may prefer to teach the lesson in part or in whole, and then give the Application Questions. He may also choose to use a “study group” method, where each member prepares beforehand and shares teaching responsibility (see Appendices 1 and 2). Some leaders may find it most effective to first read the main section of the lesson corporately, then to follow with a brief discussion of the topic and an Application Question.

Again, The Bible Teacher’s Guide can be used as a manual to follow in teaching, a resource to use in preparation for teaching or preaching, or simply as an expositional devotional to enrich your own study. I pray that the Lord may bless your study, preparation, and teaching, and that in all of it you will find the fruit of the Holy Spirit abounding in your own life and in the lives of those you instruct.

Copyright © 2017, 2018 (2nd Edition) Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations and commentary have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.

Introduction

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Authorship

First Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus have been called “the Pastoral Epistles” since the 1700’s.1 Paul wrote “1 Timothy and Titus shortly after his release from his first Roman imprisonment (ca. A.D. 62–64), and 2 Timothy from prison during his second Roman imprisonment (ca. A.D. 66–67), shortly before his death.”2 These letters are unlike Paul’s other letters in that they were written to individuals instead of churches. He writes to his apostolic representatives, Timothy and Titus, who are serving in Ephesus and Crete. He gives them instructions on how to care for the churches.

Internal and external evidence for 2 Timothy clearly points to Pauline authorship. Second Timothy 1:1 says, “From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” Externally, 2 Timothy, and other pastoral epistles, are well attested for. William MacDonald comments,

Irenaeus is the first known author to quote these Epistles directly. Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria ascribed them to Paul, as did the Muratorian Canon. Earlier fathers who seem to have known the Letters include Polycarp and Clement of Rome.3

Ignoring internal and external evidence, critical scholars have attacked Pauline authorship. They declare that a second-century follower of Paul’s must have written the Pastoral Epistles.4 They offer five proofs for this:

(1) The historical references in the Pastoral Epistles cannot be harmonized with the chronology of Paul’s life given in Acts; (2) The false teaching described in the Pastoral Epistles is the fully-developed Gnosticism of the second century; (3) The church organizational structure in the Pastoral Epistles is that of the second century, and is too well developed for Paul’s day; (4)The Pastoral Epistles do not contain the great themes of Paul’s theology; (5) The Greek vocabulary of the Pastoral Epistles contains many words not found in Paul’s other letters, nor in the rest of the NT.5

How have these proofs been refuted? (1) As for the reasoning that the historical references in the Pastoral Epistles don’t match the Acts chronology, the book of Acts ends with Paul’s first Roman imprisonment; however, tradition says that Paul was eventually released. Philippians 1:19-26 and Philemon 22 support that this was Paul’s expectation. Therefore, the background to the pastorals happened after Acts. (2) While critics declare that the false teaching that Paul describes is full-blown Gnosticism of the second century, although it certainly contained elements of it, there were marked differences as well. The false teaching in Ephesus also included strong elements of Judaism, as Paul declared that the false teachers were abusing the law and forbidding certain foods (1 Tim 1:7, 4:2). The teaching seems to be very similar to that attacking Colosse. It had elements of Gnostic doctrine and that of the Judaizers (cf. Col 2:16). (3) The argument that the church structure in the pastoral epistles is too developed for the first century is simply not accurate. In the second century, bishops, or overseers, commonly had authority over a number of churches. That wasn’t true in the New Testament. Bishops, elders, and pastors are terms that Scripture uses synonymously for the same position (cf. Titus 1:5, 7; Acts 20:17, 28, 1 Peter 5:1-2). A plurality of elders served in churches, which is consistent with Paul’s teaching (Acts 14:23, Phil 1:1). (4) Why do the pastoral epistles lack many of the great theological themes in Paul’s other letters? First, they do contain many theological themes, but they are only mentioned and not elaborated on. This is most probably due to the personal nature of the letters. Timothy and Titus were discipled by Paul and, therefore, didn’t primarily need doctrinal instruction; they needed personal instruction. (5) Finally, the variation in Paul’s vocabulary is relative to his audience and purpose. A personal letter should look different from a doctrinal letter. We see similar differences in an academic paper versus a casual letter between friends.

Background

As a background to 2 Timothy, one must begin with Paul’s visit with the Ephesian elders before his first Roman imprisonment. In Acts 20:28-31, he warns the elders that savage wolves would arise, even from among their number, to destroy the flock. It seems that after Paul was released from Rome and then visited Ephesus, this prophecy had already come to fruition. He returns to a cesspool of false teaching, and no doubt, some of the elders were propagating it. He disciplines two of these leaders, Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim 1:20). He then travels to Macedonia and leaves Timothy in Ephesus to complete the job of combating false teaching (1 Tim 1:3). At some point, Paul was again imprisoned in Rome. Radmacher comments, “Many believe that Paul was put in prison when Nero began his campaign of persecution, shortly after Rome burned in a.d. 64. Nero blamed the Christians for starting the fire, and executed many of them with extreme cruelty.”6 Paul writes 2 Timothy during his second imprisonment. Whereas in Paul’s first imprisonment, he was under house arrest, had many visitors, and expected to be released (Phil 1:19, 25, 26; 2:24; Philemon 22), in Paul’s second imprisonment, he had no such hopes. He tells Timothy that he was already being poured out like a drink offering and the time of his departure was at hand (2 Tim 4:6). Tradition says Paul was held in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, as he awaited trial and eventual execution. It was essentially a dark dungeon with a hole in the ceiling for light and to drop food. It would have gotten extremely cold in the winter, which is probably why Paul asks Timothy to bring his cloak (2 Tim 4:13). Since Paul was a Roman citizen, he could not be executed by crucifixion, burning, or being thrown to the lions, but he could be decapitated. Tradition says he was beheaded by Nero in AD 67. While in prison, Paul writes to encourage Timothy to continue faithfully guarding and preaching the Word after his death, amidst false teaching and persecution (2 Tim 1:13-14, 2:2-3, 3:1-9, 4:2). It is possible that Timothy was discouraged and in danger of weakening spiritually. Paul’s concern is evident in his his “encouragement to ‘stir up’ his gift (1:6), to replace fear with power, love, and a sound mind (1:7), to not be ashamed of Paul and the Lord, but willingly suffer for the gospel (1:8), and to hold on to the truth (1:13, 14).”7 He also writes to ask Timothy to visit him before winter—bringing his cloak, books, and Mark (2 Tim 4:9-13). Second Timothy is a highly personal letter, as Paul shares his last written words to his protégé.

Who was Timothy? Timothy was from Lystra (Acts 16:1–3), a city in Galatia (part of modern Turkey). His name means “honoring God” or “one who brings honor to God.” Timothy was raised in a Christian home. His mother was a Jewish Christian woman; his father was Greek and probably a pagan (cf. Acts 16:1, 2 Tim 1:5). He learned the Scriptures from his mother and grandmother as a child (2 Tim 1:5, 2 Tim 3:14-15). Some believe that Timothy was led to Christ by Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:6, 7) since he always calls him his “genuine child in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2). Whether that happened or not, by Paul’s second missionary journey, Timothy had matured in the faith and was well spoken of by everyone, and therefore, Paul took him as his protégé in the ministry (Acts 16:1-3). Timothy was probably in his mid-thirties, as Paul told him to not let anyone look down on his youth (1 Tim 4:12). A man was considered a youth until his forties in the Greek world. He struggled with timidity—maybe a fear of incompetence in the ministry (2 Tim 1:7)—and he had reoccurring stomach issues. Paul told him to no longer only drink water but to have a little wine for the frequent infirmities (1 Tim 5:23). Timothy is seen throughout the NT narrative assisting Paul in various ministries, including being sent to other troubled churches (1 Thess 3:1, 1 Cor 4:16-17, 16:10-11, Phil 2:9-24).

Additionally, it is helpful to understand some of the historical background of Ephesus—the city Timothy ministered in. Ephesus was a port city located at the mouth of the Cayster River, on the east side of the Aegean Sea—making it rich for commercial trade. Emperor Augustus declared it the capital of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) in 27 BC8; therefore, it was also a political center. But it was probably best known for religion. The temple of Artemis (or Diana) was in Ephesus. The statue of Diana was a multi-breasted, crowned woman—symbolizing fertility. It had close links to local commerce and was a major tourist attraction.9 R. C. Sproul adds,

The temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the world. It was 425 feet in length and 220 feet in breadth. Architecturally it was composed of 127 white marble columns, each 62 feet high. It was opulently decorated with ornate carvings and priceless paintings. Its chief attraction, however, was an image of Diana said to have fallen directly from heaven to earth. The temple was so popular among pagans that Ephesus emerged as the religious centre of all Asia. 10

The temple employed hundreds of sacred prostitutes and was therefore a haven for deplorable and perverse sexual acts in honor of Diana. Worshipers believed that participating in profane intercourse ensured their increased financial prosperity.11 No doubt, this would have been a difficult city for Timothy to minister in. Not only did he have to deal with conflict within the church from false teachers, but also the constant pull of the city’s official religions.

Purpose

What are the major themes of 2 Timothy? As mentioned, Paul’s focus is encouraging Timothy to faithfully continue his ministry, even after Paul dies, as well as encouraging Timothy to visit before winter (cf. 1:13-14, 2 Tim 4:2-6, 9). During the course of the letter, several themes arise:

The theme of enduring suffering for Christ. When Paul wrote this letter, he was in prison awaiting execution, and everyone had turned their backs on him in order to avoid implication (1:15, 4:16). Timothy would also be tempted to escape the cross of Christ. Paul challenges him multiple times both by command and example to faithfully endure: In 2 Timothy 1:8, Paul says, “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel.” In 2 Timothy 2:3, Paul says, “Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” In 2 Timothy 2:10 and 12, Paul shares some of his motivations for suffering—that the elect may obtain salvation and that those who suffer with Christ will reign with him. It is important for us to understand that “all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (3:12); therefore, we must be willing to endure suffering for our Lord as well.

The theme of corruption in the church. Timothy is warned about vessels of dishonor in the house of God, which probably refers to false teachers and those with false professions (cf. 2:16-19). Timothy is encouraged to cleanse himself from the latter, so he could become a vessel of honor (2:20-21). Furthermore, he is warned to avoid foolish and ignorant controversies (2:23), and those with only an outward appearance of religion but deny the power thereof (3:5). It seems that the last days will be full of false teaching, false teachers, and false professions (3:1-9). People in the church will become treacherous like animals (3:1). They will be lovers of themselves and pleasure instead of God (3:2-4). It was not that Timothy was never to correct false teachers and those with false professions; rather, he was to gently instruct them and avoid quarreling with them—trusting that God is the one who brings repentance (2 Tim 2:24-26). As we get closer to the last days, corruption in the church will abound (1 Tim 3:1-9, cf. Matt 24); therefore, we must also be aware of it, avoid it, and correct it in order to help ourselves and others escape defilement.

The theme of guarding Scripture. Throughout 2 Timothy, there are over thirty-six references to God’s Word or an aspect of it.12 Paul continually emphasizes Timothy’s need to be faithful with Scripture. In 2 Timothy 1:13-14, Paul says, “Hold to the standard of sound words that you heard from me and do so with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Protect that good thing entrusted to you, through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.” Later, Paul encourages Timothy to teach this deposit to reliable people who will teach it to others (2:2) and to correctly handle it in order to be approved by God (2:15). In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul teaches the inspiration and usefulness of Scripture. God created Scripture, and Timothy was to use it to equip himself and others for every good work. He was to do this by focusing on preaching the Word, both in season and out of season, as the time would come when many would neglect or reject it (4:1-4). God’s Word was to be Timothy’s first priority in ministry. He was to protect it, by keeping it from decay and corruption and passing it on to the next generation of teachers, and we must do the same.

With both pastoral warmth and soberness, Paul wrote 2 Timothy to encourage and challenge Timothy during difficult times. This letter has continued to encourage and challenge distressed Christian workers throughout the centuries. It reminded them, as it reminds us today, that the godly will be persecuted, to not be surprised at corruption in the church, and that we must faithfully guard and teach God’s Word, as our primary endeavor. May God sharpen, refresh, and encourage you, as you drink deeply from Paul’s final letter.

Copyright © 2017, 2018 (2nd Edition) Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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1 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2069). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

2 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Handbook (Kindle Locations 10639-10640). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

3 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2070). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

4 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Handbook (Kindle Locations 10613-10615). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

5 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Handbook (Kindle Locations 10613-10615). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

6 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (2 Ti). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

7 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Handbook (Kindle Locations 10845-10852). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

8 MacArthur, John (2003-08-19). The MacArthur Bible Handbook (Kindle Locations 9706-9708). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

9 Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Purpose of God: Ephesians (pp. 12–13). Scotland: Christian Focus Publications.

10 Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Purpose of God: Ephesians (p. 12). Scotland: Christian Focus Publications.

11 Accessed 1/25/2016 from http://www.cowart.info/Ephesus/ephesus.html

12 Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Ti 4:2). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

1. Reprioritize: Developing Apostolic Priorities (2 Timothy 1:1-7)

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From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to further the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dear child. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord! I am thankful to God, whom I have served with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I recall your sincere faith that was alive first in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am sure is in you. Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:1-7 (NET)

What are your priorities? What are the main things that you focus on each week?

In 2 Timothy, Paul’s introduction and initial exhortations to Timothy reveal his priorities. In the same way that the first paragraph of an article or research paper often conveys a writer’s focus, this is true with Paul’s writing here. In the first verses, we see his apostolic priorities; however, these priorities are not restricted to the confines of this letter, but apply to Paul’s life as well.

Priorities are vital because they demonstrate what is important to us. Not only do they guide our decision-making, but they also represent our future. Consider Paul’s future in 2 Timothy 4:7-8:

I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day—and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.

Our priorities affect our future. If we have the wrong priorities in life, we’ll make wrong decisions about family, career, and ministry and ultimately miss God’s best for our life and eternity. If we imitate Paul’s priorities, then it is possible to finish our life with the same outcome—that we fought the good fight, finished the race, and will be rewarded in heaven.

Paul writes this letter during his second imprisonment in Rome. Tradition tells us that after his first imprisonment, at the end of Acts, he was released for a short time, then imprisoned again and beheaded around AD 67 at the command of Nero.1 Unlike his first imprisonment where Paul was under house-arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16), Paul was located in a cold, damp, prison in the ground with a small opening for food to be dropped.2 It would have been especially cold in the winter, which is why Paul probably asked Timothy to bring a cloak before winter (2 Tim 4:13, 21). Paul knew he was about to die. At death, our priorities, or what should be our priorities, often become crystal clear.

As we study Paul’s apostolic priorities in 2 Timothy 1:1-7, we must ask ourselves: “What are my priorities, and do they line up with Paul’s?” Our priorities will affect where we will be in ten, twenty, or thirty years, and they will also affect our eternity.

Big Question: What apostolic priorities can be discerned from 2 Timothy 1:1-7, and how can we develop them in our lives?

The Priority of the Gospel

From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to further the promise of life in Christ Jesus,

2 Timothy 1:1

Paul called himself an “apostle of Christ Jesus.” The word “apostle” literally means “sent one.” Paul was sent on orders from Christ.

What was Paul sent to do? Paul’s orders or apostolic mission was “to further the promise of life in Christ Jesus.” This means that he was called to share the promise of life—the gospel—with everyone. In fact, in Ephesians 3:7, Paul calls himself a “servant of this gospel.” He was a gospel servant in that he lived to share the message and defend it. The gospel should be our priority as well.

Application Question: How should the priority of the gospel affect our daily lives?

1. We should share the gospel with others.

No matter whether we are a student, professor, businessman, lawyer, or homemaker, we should never forget our call to share the gospel. Paul’s official trade was tentmaking, but his identity and purpose were not tied to how he made a living. His purpose was his apostolic call to share the gospel, and it should be the same for us. The Great Commission is to “go and make disciples,” and we all must be faithful to this call.

In Romans 15:20, we see something of Paul’s gospel strategy. He comments, “And in this way I desire to preach where Christ has not been named, so as not to build on another person’s foundation.” His desire to preach where Christ was not known guided his mission endeavors. Similarly, in order to share the gospel, we must strategize as well. We must pray and consider how we can best reach those around us and people throughout the world.

Are you still seeking to share the gospel? Is that your priority?

2. We must model the gospel through our relationships.

The gospel is not only something we preach with words but with our actions as well. In Ephesians 5:25-26, Paul says: “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word.”

Paul told husbands to live out the gospel in their marriages. They should sacrifice for their wives, just as Christ sacrificed for the church. They should serve their wives; just as Christ served the disciples when he washed their feet with water. Husbands should teach their wives the Word and lead them to Bible preaching churches, just as Christ instructs his church. Marriages should demonstrate the gospel message.

In addition, Christ said this to his disciples in John 13:34: “‘I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Believers should demonstrate the gospel by loving one another sacrificially. No doubt, when the early church sold all they had and gave to the poor, people saw the gospel (Acts 2:44-45).

Christians must demonstrate the gospel through their relationships. Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel everywhere you go, and, if necessary, use words.” I think this would be better stated, “Preach the gospel everywhere you go with both words and actions!”

3. We must pray for others to hear the gospel and be saved.

First Timothy 2:1-4 says,

First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

God is pleased when we pray for the salvation of others; therefore, we must give ourselves to this type of prayer often.

Is your priority the gospel—that all would know and experience it?

Application Question: What is your experience with evangelism? How would you encourage someone who struggles with sharing his faith? What has stopped you from sharing the gospel in the past?

The Priority of Discipleship

To Timothy, my dear child. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord! I am thankful to God, whom I have served with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I recall your sincere faith that was alive first in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am sure is in you.

2 Timothy 1:2-5

Paul’s second priority was discipleship. While in prison awaiting a death sentence, it would have been most natural for him to be consumed with his impending death; however, his focus was on Timothy and his spiritual growth and ministry.

Paul calls him a “dear child” and prays for “grace, mercy and peace” over his life (v. 2). He departs from his usual greeting of “grace and peace” only when addressing individual pastors like Timothy and Titus (cf. 1 Timothy 1:4, Titus 1:4). Interestingly, “Spurgeon used this verse, along with 1 Timothy 1:2 and Titus 1:4 to show that ministers need more mercy than others do.”3 He said:

Did you ever notice this one thing about Christian ministers, that they need even more mercy than other people? Although everybody needs mercy, ministers need it more than anybody else; and so we do, for if we are not faithful, we shall be greater sinners even than our hearers, and it needs much grace for us always to be faithful, and much mercy will be required to cover our shortcomings. So I shall take those three things to myself: ‘Grace, mercy, and peace.’ You may have the two, ‘Grace and peace,’ but I need mercy more than any of you; so I take it from my Lord’s loving hand, and I will trust, and not be afraid, despite all my shortcomings, and feebleness, and blunders, and mistakes, in the course of my whole ministry.4

Certainly, this should remind us to continually pray for grace, mercy, and peace for our pastors.

After this greeting, Paul describes his thoughts and memories of Timothy and his family. Many believe that Paul led Timothy to Christ during his first visit to Lystra in Acts 14; but it seems most likely that Timothy was led to faith by his Jewish Christian mother and grandmother. (Timothy’s father was a Greek unbeliever). Paul met Timothy while on his second missionary journey in Acts 16. While visiting Lystra, the believers talked well about Timothy, and Paul took him as a disciple and gospel-partner. Paul later left Timothy in Ephesus as one of their pastors.

When Paul refers to remembering Timothy’s “tears,” it’s not clear what event Paul was referring to, but it possibly refers to the time Paul was dragged off to prison in Rome.5 Paul “longed” or “yearned” to see him like any good mentor. One commentator called it a “home-sick yearning,” which effectively demonstrates how much Paul loved and cared for Timothy.6

As Paul prays for grace, mercy, and peace over Timothy, it is clear that he wants the best for Timothy, just like any good father. This is what true discipleship is—wanting another to grow up into all the graces and callings of God.

This selfless mentorship is hard to find. We live in a competitive society where everybody wants to be first, get the promotion, and win the race, even at the cost of relationships. Many people, including Christians, get jealous when others do well; however, true discipleship means wanting God’s best for others and investing in them so they can achieve it. It means thinking about them often, praying for them, and pouring our lives into theirs.

Christ’s Priority

As Paul focuses on discipleship right before his death, we are reminded of how Christ prioritized his disciples in his last hours. In John 17:9, he prays, “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours” (paraphrase). Christ continues with prayers for their sanctification through the Word, for them to be kept from the world, for their protection from the devil, and their unity. Christ’s priority in life and death was discipleship—just as it was for Paul.

Application Question: What applications can we take from Paul’s priority of discipleship?

1. Every believer should have a disciple like Timothy.

Christ was a discipler; Paul was a discipler, and we should prioritize discipleship as well. Who are you staying up late at night thinking about and praying for? Who are you investing in?

Second Timothy 2:2 says, “And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.”

2. Every believer should have a mentor like Paul.

We all need mature believers who invest in our lives and help us grow. Where should we find such people? Sometimes in the Gospels, Christ approached people and said, “Follow me.” Other times, people approached him. We must take responsibility for getting around those we can learn from by watching and asking questions. Paul said this in Philippians 3:17: “Be imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and watch carefully those who are living this way, just as you have us as an example.”

Who are you keeping your eyes on and listening to in order to grow? Is your priority discipleship—your own and the discipleship of others?

Application Question: Who is your Paul and Timothy? Who has made the most impact in your spiritual life?

The Priority of Thankfulness

I am thankful to God, whom I have served with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day.

2 Timothy 1:3

Next, we see Paul’s thankfulness. Paul said he thanked God in his prayers for Timothy all the time (night and day). This might not seem shocking to you, but it should. Again, remember the context: Paul was in prison about to die. Most people aren’t thankful when going through difficulty; typically, we complain, get angry at God and others, and maybe even become depressed.

Being thankful must be a priority—a deliberate pursuit—because if it isn’t, it won’t happen. Often, we take God’s blessings for granted and therefore never give him thanks. We don’t thank him for food, shelter, family, church, etc. And because we don’t thank him when things are good, we certainly don’t thank him when things are bad. We naturally default to whining and complaining.

Paul taught the Thessalonians who were experiencing a host of problems—persecution for their faith, false teaching in the church, and conflict among its members—to “in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:18). This is necessary for us as well and, therefore, must be our priority.

Application Question: How can we practice giving thanks in all situations?

1. To give thanks, we must practice remembering God’s blessings.

Paul remembered Timothy and was grateful for him. No doubt part of the reason we often lack thankfulness is because we rarely take time to contemplate God’s blessings. Life is so fast-paced and busy, we often have little time to reflect on God’s goodness. Or, we address the urgent instead of the important.

Application Question: How can we practice remembering our blessings so we can give God thanks for them?

  • We can remember blessings by writing them down.

A great deal of Scripture consists of people writing down God’s acts of faithfulness such as delivering his people, conquering evil, doing various miracles, and ultimately making himself known. If we write down our blessings and answers to prayer, and occasionally revisit them, it helps us to remember God’s grace.

  • We can remember blessings by sharing them with others through testimony and song.

Psalm 105:1-2 says, “Give thanks to the Lord! Call on his name! Make known his accomplishments among the nations! Sing to him! Make music to him! Tell about all his miraculous deeds!” Personally, I have noticed that when sharing my testimony with others, I am often tremendously blessed (probably more than the people listening). It helps me remember God’s hand over various events of my life and how he’s brought me to where I am now. It renews my focus on his grace, even over my many failures. Often, singing songs of thanks helps us do the same thing.

2 To give thanks, we must practice it in trials as an act of discipline.

Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope.”

James 1:2-3 says, “My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

As a discipline, we must give God thanks even in difficult times, because we understand God’s purpose in them. God allows waiting seasons to develop our patience. He allows us to encounter difficult people so we can develop kindness and deepen our love. God is always developing our faith and character through hardships. And because we understand this, we can give thanks in faith.

Are you thanking God daily for both your blessings and your trials? Is it your priority? Is it your discipline?

Application Question: Why is it difficult to live a life of thanksgiving? What are you thankful for now?

The Priority of Prayer

I am thankful to God, whom I have served with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day.

2 Timothy 1:3

In conjunction with being thankful, Paul was prayerful. The word “constantly” simply means “unceasing.” It is amplified by the phrase “night and day,” again meaning all the time.

This is a common theme in many of Paul’s letters. Consider what he says to other churches:

For God, whom I serve in my spirit by preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness that I continually remember you and I always ask in my prayers, if perhaps now at last I may succeed in visiting you according to the will of God.

Romans 1:9-10

We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,

Colossians 1:3

From Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you! We thank God always for all of you as we mention you constantly in our prayers,

1 Thessalonians 1:1-2

Timothy was one of Paul’s prayer partners in praying for grace over the Thessalonian churches and others. No doubt, when Timothy read of Paul’s unceasing prayer, he remembered their day and night prayer sessions. He may have even shed a tear thinking about his faithful mentor’s intercession.

But again, what we must gain from this is how Paul prioritized prayer. He lifted up Timothy and the churches before God the Father. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, Paul said, “Always rejoice, constantly pray”.

The word “constantly” in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 was used of a hacking cough in ancient Greek. It’s not that a person coughs every moment of the day; it’s that the cough is persistent, occurring again and again. It must be the same with prayer; we must go back to it throughout the day.

Application Question: How can we prioritize prayer?

To prioritize prayer, we must give up other things (including good things) to practice it. A good example of this is the apostles in Acts 6. The Greek widows were being neglected but, instead of the apostles allotting time to oversee this ministry, they had seven men selected to oversee it. The apostles gave up a great ministry opportunity to focus on prayer and the ministry of the Word. They prioritized prayer over other good things. In Acts 6:3-4, they said this:

But carefully select from among you, brothers, seven men who are well-attested, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this necessary task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

If we are going to prioritize prayer, we may need to give up some good things as well, such as: extra sleep, entertainment, fellowship, and even ministry opportunities.

Application Question: What are some disciplines that have helped your prayer life? What are some good things you may need to give up to focus on prayer?

The Priority of a Clear Conscience

I am thankful to God, whom I have served with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day.

2 Timothy 1:3

Paul also prioritized his conscience. He mentions this often in his epistles. Consider the following:

This is the reason I do my best to always have a clear conscience toward God and toward people.

Acts 24:16

For our reason for confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that with pure motives and sincerity which are from God—not by human wisdom but by the grace of God—we conducted ourselves in the world, and all the more toward you.

2 Corinthians 1:12

Interpretation Question: What is the conscience and what is its function?

Our conscience is a God-given faculty in man that accuses us of sin and affirms us of righteousness. This remains in mankind from being made in the image of God. God will use it to judge people at Christ’s coming (Rom 2:14-16).

Application Question: Why is it important to keep a clear conscience?

If we neglect our conscience, then it will cease to work properly. When that happens, it becomes easier for us to sin and even fall away from God. Paul said this in 1 Timothy 1:18-19:

I put this charge before you, Timothy my child, in keeping with the prophecies once spoken about you, in order that with such encouragement you may fight the good fight. To do this you must hold firmly to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck in regard to the faith.

Timothy was called to hold on to the faith and a good conscience so that he would not “shipwreck” his faith, as others did. “Faith” probably referred both to his doctrine and trust in God. To be “shipwrecked” means that one stops progressing spiritually or falls away all together.

There are many Christians who are shipwrecked. They stopped listening to the Holy Spirit, as he spoke to their conscience, and instead practiced sin. They started to use ungodly language, watch unhealthy entertainment, practice immorality, and now their conscience doesn’t even bother them about it—it has become hardened. They are shipwrecked and not progressing in their faith. Many may never return—proving that they’re not truly saved (Matt 7:23).

In fact, Paul says that when we start to live hypocritical lives—accepting and condoning sin—it hardens our conscience in such a way that it opens doors for demonic deception. Consider 1 Timothy 4:1-2:

Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will desert the faith and occupy themselves with deceiving spirits and demonic teachings, influenced by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared.

These former Christians lived hypocritical lives for so long that their conscience completely stopped working and demons deceived them into promoting and teaching false doctrine.

Are there any ways that you have ceased listening to your conscience? Are you allowing your language, relationships, entertainment, and goals to become worldly? When you do that, it puts your faith in a dangerous place. It is like driving a boat near high rocks—you could find yourself stranded and never get back on course.

Application Question: How can we keep a clear conscience?

1. We keep a clear conscience by practicing righteousness.

God not only uses our conscience to condemn sin, but also to challenge us to do what is right. If your conscience is challenging you to get involved with church, start serving, share the gospel, or challenge someone in sin, don’t neglect or ignore it; submit to it. By doing this, we develop a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s guidance (Phil 2:13).

2. We keep a clear conscience by forsaking our sin.

If we feel convicted about some sin, we should confess it and turn away from it.

3. We keep a clear conscience by turning away from anything, even good things, that might harm another’s conscience.

In 1 Corinthians 8:12-13, Paul said:

If you sin against your brothers or sisters in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. For this reason, if food causes my brother or sister to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause one of them to sin.

Certainly, this applies to freedoms like enjoying entertainment, drinking, smoking, etc. If the use of our freedoms, might encourage others towards excess or bondage, then we should turn away from them. If people stumble because of us, our Lord will not hold us guiltless. Paul not only strove to keep his conscience clear, but also that of others.

4. We keep a clear conscience by informing it through God’s Word.

Our conscience is not a pure moral guide. It has been affected by both our sin nature and sin we’ve been exposed to. For that reason, it still needs to be informed by God’s Word. The more we saturate ourselves with God’s Word, the sharper and more reliable our conscience will be.

As believers, we must prioritize keeping a clear conscience.

Application Question: Why is it important to keep a clear conscience? Share a time when your conscience was pricked or challenged over some issue.

The Priority of Serving

I recall your sincere faith that was alive first in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am sure is in you. Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands.

2 Timothy 1:5-6

Interpretation Question: What does “Because of this” refer to, as Paul encourages Timothy to fan into flame his gift?

Paul says, “Because of this” rekindle God’s gift. What is this reason? He seems to be describing the sincere faith Timothy had which originally was in his mother and grandmother (v. 5). Essentially, Paul tells Timothy to serve and use his gift because he is saved. God did not save us just to go to heaven; he saved us to serve (Eph 2:10). Because of this, he gave each believer a spiritual gift (if not many “gifts”) to faithfully deploy in serving Christ and others.

“Rekindle” can also be translated “fan into flame” or “to keep the fire alive.”7 It is very possible that Timothy was neglecting his spiritual gift and not using it as he should. This could have been because of fear or timidity as implied by the passages below or simply because of spiritual apathy.

For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7

Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you.

1 Timothy 4:14

We don’t know what Timothy’s specific gift was, but most likely it was preaching, as Paul emphasizes his need to preach and teach throughout 1 and 2 Timothy (cf. 1 Tim 4:13-14, 2 Tim 2:2, 2 Tim 2:15, 2 Tim 4:2-3).

Sadly, many Christians don’t serve and therefore neglect their gifts. Often, this happens because of fear as well. Like the servant with one talent in Matthew 25:25, they declare, “I was afraid” and therefore hide their gift in the ground. For others, spiritual laziness keeps them from serving (cf. Matt 25:26). They are more interested in other things and, therefore, never fulfill God’s will to serve and fan their gifts into flame.

Application Question: How do we find our spiritual gifts?

Spiritual gifts are given for the purpose of serving and edifying the body (1 Cor 12:7). Therefore, we commonly discover these gifts in the midst of serving. As you get involved with various ministries, you will find out what areas you have an aptitude in and the ones you don’t. Typically, your spiritual gift will both edify yourself and others (cf. 1 Cor 14:3-4). Because of this, the affirmation of others is important in the discernment process. If we think that we’re gifted in a certain area but others don’t affirm it, then we might not be gifted in that area.

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to rekindle or fan one’s gift into flame?

1. To fan our gifts may mean developing our gifts into their full potential.

Obviously, in keeping with the analogy of a fire getting stronger as one adds oxygen and wood, we must do the same with our gifts. Each person has a spiritual gift which was received at spiritual birth (1 Cor 12:7, 13) or, in exceptional cases, later. It seems that Timothy received this gift later, through the laying on of hands by Paul and the church elders, at his ordination (2 Tim 1:6, 1 Tim 4:14). Whatever way we receive our gifts, it is our responsibility to find them, use them, and develop them.

I remember while interviewing for my first pastoral position, I was asked if I was a good preacher. I said, “Preaching is my spiritual gift, but I still need to make it a skill.” A spiritual gift is like an athlete’s natural ability; the athlete must practice and be trained to develop that ability. It’s the same with our gifts; we must develop them to their full potential.

How do we develop them? We do this by continually using them. As we faithfully use them, they naturally get stronger. Also, we strengthen them by being trained and coached by mature believers. As they instruct and at times correct us, our gifts become stronger—they are fanned into flame.

2. To fan our gifts may also represent zeal in using them.

The metaphor of fire might also symbolize zeal. Each Christian must be zealous in the use of his or her gifts, instead of neglecting them. Romans 12:11 says, “Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord.”

Are you zealous to serve God with your gift or content to stay on the sideline? Are you cultivating your gifts into skills—maximizing their potential? One of our priorities as disciples must be cultivating our spiritual gifts.

Application Question: What are your spiritual gifts and how do you feel God has called you to use them for the kingdom of God? How can you help other believers discover their spiritual gifts? How can believers keep up their zeal?

The Priority of Encouragement

For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7

David Guzik said, “In 1 and 2 Timothy there are no less than 25 different places where Paul encouraged Timothy to be bold, to not shy away from confrontation, to stand up where he needs to stand up and be strong.”8 Second Timothy 1:7 is one of those places. Timothy probably had a timid personality—dealing with false teachers, difficult church members, and undergoing persecution for the faith was not natural for his disposition. Therefore, Paul encouraged him with God’s resources. We must encourage ourselves and others with these same resources.

Observation Question: What resources do believers have because of God’s Spirit?

1. Believers have power through the Spirit.

In Ephesians 1:18-21, Paul prays for the believers to know the great power in them. It’s the same power that raised Christ from the dead, conquered powers and principalities, and seated Christ in the heavenlies. Often believers live below the power that is available to us. Therefore, we need to be awakened to God’s power working in us as well.

God has given us his power—power to serve, encourage others, conquer sin, and persevere through difficulties. However, we must recognize it, seek it, and walk in it by faith.

Are you walking in God’s power? Are you encouraging and praying for others to walk in it?

2. Believers have love through the Spirit.

Romans 5:5 says that the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The same love that enabled God to send his Son to die on the cross, the love that cared for us while we were God’s enemies, and the love lavished on believers and unbelievers alike through common grace (cf. Matt 5:44-45) abides in us. Therefore, when God calls us to love our neighbor and bless our enemies, we are able to do so because God’s love is inside us.

No doubt, there were people in Timothy’s congregation who were unlovable and difficult; however, Paul encouraged him to love them through God’s Spirit.

Are you loving God and others?

3. Believers have self-discipline through the Spirit.

“Self-control” is sometimes translated as a “sound mind” or “self-discipline.” It means self-mastery—the ability to control one’s mind, emotions, and body. In order to complete whatever God has called us to, we must have discipline, which God graciously provides through his Spirit. One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control (Gal 5:23).

Maybe Timothy, like many Christians before and after him, had many reasons for not being faithful in serving God: “But God, I’m not a morning person!”, “But God, I am afraid!”, “But God, that person and I just don’t get along!” Yes, and those reasons might be valid, but God has given us discipline to be faithful despite those realities.

We need to hear these encouragements often, and we need to share them with others. Second Peter 1:3 says, “I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.” God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. His children lack nothing. Are you walking in his power? Are you encouraging others to do so? Encouragement must be one of our priorities, since his children are so prone to discouragement and sin.

Application Question: Why is it important to make encouragement a priority as we serve the Lord and others? How can we better encourage others?

Conclusion

Do we have apostolic priorities? Our priorities help us make decisions about career, family, and ministry. If we have wrong priorities, we’ll make wrong decisions and ultimately miss God’s best for our lives and eternity.

What were Paul’s apostolic priorities and are we imitating them? He had:

  1. The Priority of the Gospel
  2. The Priority of Discipleship
  3. The Priority of Thankfulness
  4. The Priority of Prayer
  5. The Priority of a Clear Conscience
  6. The Priority of Serving
  7. The Priority of Encouragement

Copyright © 2017, 2018 (2nd Edition) Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations and commentary have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Ti 1:1). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

2 Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Ti 1:1). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

3 Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Ti 1:2–5). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

4 Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Ti 1:2–5). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

5 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2109). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

6 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2109). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

7 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 13). Chicago: Moody Press.

8 Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Ti 1:6). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

Related Topics: Christian Life

2. Being Unashamed of Our Faith (2 Timothy 1:8-14)

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So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel. He is the one who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not based on our works but on his own purpose and grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. He has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel! For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher. Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day. Hold to the standard of sound words that you heard from me and do so with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Protect that good thing entrusted to you, through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

2 Timothy 1:8–14 (NET)

How can we be unashamed of our faith in Christ?

When Paul wrote this letter, the persecution of Christians was widespread. They were mocked for their morality and for believing in a crucified man. They were imprisoned and killed for their beliefs. Paul himself was in prison awaiting a death sentence.

In 2 Timothy 1:8, Paul urges Timothy to be unashamed of Christ, Paul and his sufferings, and the gospel, and to join with him in suffering for the faith. Everyone in Asia had already deserted Paul (v. 15). To be associated with the apostle could lead to further persecution—so many denied him.

Temptations to shame are still prominent today. In fact, all of us have probably felt shame about Christ, other believers, or God’s Word at some point. It may be shame about Scriptures’ teachings on homosexuality, abortion, or creation. With the growing antagonism on these topics, many feel a great social pressure to compromise biblical views. Proverbs 29:25 says the “fear of people becomes a snare.” Fear (or shame) traps and stops believers from progressing spiritually. For some, it ultimately pulls them away from Christ; Matthew 13:21 describes how some will fall away because of trouble or persecution over the Word.

The fact that believers are vulnerable to shame is implied by Christ’s declaration in Mark 8:38: “For if anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” To truly follow Christ, we must be unashamed of him and his teachings. Those who are ashamed, Christ will be ashamed of them at his coming. Most likely this means that their shame will prove their lack of true salvation. In Matthew 7:22-23, many professing believers in the last days will declare, “Lord, Lord,” and Christ will reply, “I never knew you.”

This call to be unashamed is especially important as Christ taught that persecution towards believers would increase in the last days. Believers will be hated by all nations because of Christ and consequently many will fall away (Matt 24:9-13). Certainly, we can see this growing animosity happening around the world.

How can we be unashamed of our faith in an antagonistic world? In 2 Timothy 1:8-14, Paul encourages Timothy, and us, to be unashamed of our faith.

Big Question: According to 2 Timothy 1:8-14, how can believers be unashamed of their faith in a world that is antagonistic towards Christ, his people, and his words?

To Be Unashamed, We Must Be Empowered by God’s Spirit

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel.

2 Timothy 1:8

The conjunction “So” can be translated “Therefore”—referring back to the believer’s divine resources given through the Spirit, as mentioned in the preceding verse. There, Paul says, “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7). The Spirit gives us power to be bold with our words, to love those who mock and persecute us, and to discipline our lives unto holiness. We have the same Spirit that filled Christ from the womb, anointed him at his baptism, led him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, filled him with power after forty days of fasting, and worked miracles through him. It’s the same Spirit that enabled him to suffer persecution and die on the cross. Through the Spirit, we can stand against temptation and persecution.

Paul says because you have the Spirit, you must not give up, quit, or quiet your witness. The Spirit of God will empower you. Certainly, we see this throughout the book of Acts. Acts 4:31 says, “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God courageously.” In Acts 7, the Spirit enabled Stephen to speak boldly and die as the church’s first martyr.

Warren Wiersbe tells the story of an imprisoned Christian about to be burned at the stake. He was afraid that he could not endure the suffering and that he would deny Christ. Wiersbe shares:

One night, he experimented with pain by putting his little finger into the candle flame. It hurt, and he immediately withdrew it. “I will disgrace my Lord,” he said to himself. “I cannot bear the pain.” But when the hour came for him to die, he praised God and gave a noble witness for Jesus Christ. God gave him the power when he needed it, and not before.1

Are you allowing the Spirit to empower you to stand firm in a contentious and ungodly world? He does this as we abide in him through God’s Word, worship, prayer, and obedience (Gal 5:16).

Application Question: In what ways have you seen the persecution of Christians or their beliefs increase?

To Be Unashamed, We Must Accept Suffering as from the Lord

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel.

2 Timothy 1:8

It must be noted that Paul does not call himself a prisoner of Rome but a prisoner for Christ’s sake. Paul saw his imprisonment as under God’s sovereign control. Rome could do nothing apart from God’s permission. This was similar to Christ’s declaration to Pilate, when he said that Pilate could have no power over him unless it had been given from above (John 19:11). He saw his suffering as part of God’s sovereign plan.

For another example, consider David’s response to his mighty men who wanted to kill Shimei for cursing David, after he lost the kingdom to Absalom. “What do we have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? If he curses because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David!’, who can say to him, ‘Why have you done this?’” (2 Sam 16:10). David saw God as in control of even this cursing, which enabled him to endure it faithfully without shame, and this is true for us as well. If we only see Satan, evil people, or a corrupt government, then we won’t faithfully endure. We may become overwhelmed with anger, remorse, fear, or shame—not allowing us to endure the trial faithfully.

To be unashamed, we must accept suffering as from the Lord. This means our sufferings are not random but purposeful—coming from the gracious hand of our God. Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him.” The word “granted” can also be translated “graced.” In the same way that faith is a gracious gift from God (Eph 2:8-9) so is suffering. It makes us depend on God more and grow in our faith (Rom 5:3-4, James 1:2-3).30

Are you recognizing God’s hand over the difficulties of life, including persecution? That is how Paul, Jesus, and David endured suffering without shame or some other ungodly response.

Application Question: Why is it important to see God as sovereign over evil, including persecution? In what other Scriptures do we see this reality taught (cf. Heb 10:32-34, 12:6-7)? How does this encourage you?

To Be Unashamed, We Must Remember That Others Are Suffering as well

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel.

2 Timothy 1:8

After Paul mentions his imprisonment, he calls Timothy to accept his share of suffering for the gospel (v. 8). Paul’s mention of his suffering was meant to encourage Timothy to also willingly accept suffering. This is true for us as well. Our sufferings are not unique to us; they are also experienced by Christians throughout the world—many times in a greater way than us.

Have we been rejected by friends for the faith? Have we lost family? Have we been mocked? This is not uncommon. For many throughout the world, being a Christian means to be skipped over for a promotion, to lose a job, to have one’s possessions taken, to be imprisoned, or even to lose one’s life. Over 400 Christians die for the faith every day. This reality must encourage us to be faithful and willing to join in with their sufferings.

First Corinthians 10:13 says,

No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.

First Peter 5:8–9 says,

Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering.

Peter reasons that we should resist the devil “because” we know that other believers are going through the same sufferings. Remembering this should encourage us to suffer and not be ashamed.

Being Transparent and Vulnerable

As a further application, this reality reminds us of the importance of being transparent and vulnerable. One result of the fall was a lack of transparency. After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from one another and God. Now mankind has a tendency to hide their sin or struggles out of shame. However, many times we need to share our struggles, not only so we can get help but so we can help others. In 2 Corinthians 1:6, Paul said: “But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort that you experience in your patient endurance of the same sufferings that we also suffer.” When others hear about our struggles, often, it encourages them to be faithful in their own.

Are you being vulnerable with others? Or do you keep your trials and struggles to yourself? It’s important for you to share, not just to get help, but also to help others endure.

Application Question: Does the fact that others are suffering for Christ motivate you to be faithful? Why or why not? Why is it important to share our struggles with others?

To Be Unashamed, We Must Remember the Greatness of the Gospel

He is the one who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not based on our works but on his own purpose and grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. He has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!

2 Timothy 1:9-10

Paul reminds Timothy of the greatness of the gospel in order to encourage him to suffer for it. This thought is similar to Romans 1:16 where Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The gospel is so wonderful that we should never be afraid to share it or explain it to others. We should never try to change it, manipulate it, or hide it. It is too great!

Observation Question: What aspects of the gospel’s greatness does Paul focus on in 2 Timothy 1:9-10?

1. The gospel is great because it is the message of salvation.

Paul states that God “saved us” (v. 9). Saved us from what? Through the gospel we are saved from eternal death—meaning eternal punishment in hell. We are also saved from slavery to sin, the world, and Satan. We are now slaves of Christ and righteousness. The gospel is the message of salvation. Thank you, Lord!

2. The gospel is great because it calls us to holiness.

Paul said we were “called” with a “holy calling” (v. 9). Sometimes with the gospel, we only focus on what we’ve been saved from and not saved to. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.” God has called us to holiness—a life of righteous deeds done in the name of Christ to build God’s kingdom. In 1 Thessalonians 4:7, Paul said, “For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.”

3. The gospel is great because it demonstrates God’s grace.

Paul says, “not based on our works but on his own purpose and grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus” (v. 9). All other religions say, “Do!” Man is saved by good works—giving, going to church, serving the poor, etc. However, the gospel says, “Done!” Christ did everything, and we can do nothing to be saved except believe (John 3:16). The fact that we can do nothing for our salvation is reiterated by the fact this grace was given to us before time began. Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will.”

4. The gospel is great because it was revealed through the historical person of Jesus.

In referring to our calling to salvation before time, Paul said, “but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus” (v. 10). This gospel was fully revealed 2000 years ago when the Son of God came to the earth as a baby. He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and resurrected from the dead. This gospel is a historical reality; it is not a myth. We have more historical proof of Christ’s resurrection than for the life of Julius Caesar.

5. The gospel is great because it tells us about the destruction of death.

Paul said that Christ “broke” the power of death (v. 10). Other versions say Christ “destroyed” or “abolished” death (v. 10). How did Christ destroy death? Obviously, people still die today including Christians. MacArthur’s comments are helpful:

Katargeō (abolish) literally means to render inoperative. It is not that death no longer exists or that believers are promised escape from it, unless they are raptured. But for believers, death is no longer a threat, no longer an enemy, no longer the end.2

For Christians, death has lost its sting (1 Cor 15:55); it is called gain (Phil 1:21). It is simply putting off our temporary tent to go to our eternal home (2 Cor 5:1). To be absent from the body means to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8). Christ, through his death, delivered believers from the fear of death (Heb 2:15) and broke the power of death over us. Now death is just a passing through. This is an amazing gospel!

6. The gospel is great because it is the message of life and immortality.

Some see “life” and “immortality” as synonymous—referring to eternal life in heaven with God and Christ. However, it possibly refers to abundant “life” on the earth and “immortality” in heaven. Christ said, “I came that you might have life and life more abundantly” (John 10:10, paraphrase). This includes knowing God (John 17:3) and having his peace in all situations (John 14:27).

When Christ came, he brought to “light” life and immortality—meaning this wasn’t fully understood in the Old Testament. They knew of heaven and the place of the dead, but not in the clarity that we understand it now. In the Old Testament, these realities were in the shadows, but in the New Testament they were brought into the light. The gospel teaches about abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven.

One of the reasons that we should be unashamed of our faith, in an antagonistic world, is because of how wonderful the gospel is. It is the message of salvation, holiness, grace, Jesus, the destruction of death, and the offer of life and immortality.

Application Question: Why is the gospel needed for believers to continually hear and not just unbelievers? How does the gospel encourage you to be unashamed?

To Be Unashamed, We Must Remember Our Duty to Share the Gospel

For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher. Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.

2 Timothy 1:11-12

Paul shares how God uniquely called him to proclaim the gospel as a herald (or preacher), an apostle, and a teacher. This description of Paul’s divine duty was a reminder to both Timothy and us of our duty to faithfully proclaim the gospel. If we don’t share it, nobody else will. Stott said this about Paul’s various roles in relation to the gospel:

Perhaps we can relate the three offices of ‘apostle’, ‘preacher’ and ‘teacher’ by saying that the apostles formulated the gospel, preachers proclaim it like heralds, and teachers instruct people systematically in its doctrines and in its ethical implications.3

Heralds were sent by a king to proclaim his message with his authority. We do the same every time we share the gospel. As teachers, we explain the applications and implications of the gospel. We may not be apostles, in that we are not a part of the historical group who saw the resurrected Christ and proclaimed his resurrection with signs and wonders (cf. 1 Cor 15:7-9, 2 Cor 12:12); however, the word “apostle” literally means “sent one”, and we’ve all been sent by our Lord to proclaim the gospel. In the Great Commission, Christ said:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

We must be unashamed of our faith because it is our duty to proclaim it. If we don’t proclaim it, nobody else will. We are heralds, teachers, and “sent ones.” Christ sends us out like sheep among wolves (Matt 10:16), and yet we must faithfully discharge our duty.

Application Question: Why is the gospel so offensive to people? What is your experience with sharing the gospel?

To Be Unashamed, We Must Invest in God

Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.

2 Timothy 1:12

Paul said that his suffering for the gospel was no cause for shame because he knew that God was able to protect what he had entrusted with him until that day—the day of Christ’s coming. The word “know” Paul uses “carries the idea of knowing with certainty.”4 The word “entrusted” can be translated “deposited.” It was a banking term. Paul knew with certainty that God was the best person to trust and invest in. He therefore would never suffer ultimate loss or shame, and neither will we.

Interpretation Question: What had Paul entrusted with God and why?

It could refer to several things:

1. Paul had entrusted his life with God.

When people put money in a bank, their hope is to not only protect the money but also to make a profit. Paul may be referring to that here. Christ was the best person to entrust his life with. Yes, other places were safer in one sense, but by investing in Christ, he would experience God’s best. Even if he died, God would resurrect him. If he didn’t die, God would continue to use his life. For these reasons, Paul could say, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain” (Phil 1:21). To live means to serve and know Christ and to die is to serve and know him more. It is gain.

This is true for us as well. There is nothing better than living for Christ even if it leads to persecution and earthly loss. God is able to make up that loss either on earth or in heaven. The wisely invested life will be a life full of earthly and heavenly rewards.

Christ said this to Peter who wondered what the disciples would receive for leaving all to follow Christ. In Mark 10:29–30, Christ replied,

”I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much—homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.

The reward for investing our lives in Christ includes open homes, new family members, new lands to serve, persecution, and eternal life. But with these persecutions for the faith, there will be great heavenly reward as taught in the Beatitudes (Matt 5:10-12).

2. Paul had entrusted his work with God.

Obviously, Paul had given his life to preaching and teaching the gospel, founding churches, disciplining believers, and correcting false teachers. However, none of this work would be loss. Even when the gospel was rejected, false teaching prospered, and persecutions came, he could trust the fruit of his ministry to God. In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow.” Fruitfulness comes from God.

We can entrust our work to the Lord as well. He will draw people to himself in his time, set them free from strongholds, and deliver them from spiritual lethargy. God makes things grow. Therefore, we should not be ashamed when things seem fruitless. When Christ died, there were only 120 devoted followers waiting and praying in a room. However, after the Spirit fell at Pentecost, 3000 repented and were saved. We must deposit our work in the bank of Christ and leave the results to God.

There is no need to be ashamed of our investment in the Lord. If we give our life and work to the Lord, he will maximize them. We will be rewarded both on earth and heaven. He will produce fruit for his name’s sake.

3. Paul had entrusted the gospel with God.

Some believe that Paul was referring specifically to the gospel. In 2 Timothy 1:14, Paul challenges Timothy, “Protect that good thing entrusted to you, through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.” Paul sought to guard and protect the gospel, and he challenged Timothy to continue that work. However, even if it was God’s will for Paul and Timothy to die because of persecution, the gospel would still go forward. God was trustworthy (v. 12). And certainly, we see this fruit today. The Roman Empire that killed Paul disintegrated, but the gospel didn’t, and it never will. It is still moving triumphantly throughout the earth today. Though each of our lives will one day end (at least in its present state), the message we share is eternal and will never cease.

William MacDonald said this about the various views concerning the “deposit”:

Perhaps it is best to take the expression in its broadest sense. Paul was persuaded that his entire case was in the best of hands. Even as he faced death, he had no misgivings. Jesus Christ was his Almighty Lord, and with Him there could be no defeat or failure. There was nothing to worry about. Paul’s salvation was sure, and so was the ultimate success of his service for Christ here on earth.5

Have you invested your life, your work, and the gospel in God’s hands? If so, God will use your investment for his glory. In God’s eyes, it is the invested life that is the successful life.

Application Question: What keeps people from fully investing their lives with God? Was there a certain point in your life when you decided to go “all in” with God? Describe that time and the effects of that decision.

To Be Unashamed, We Must Keep Sound Teaching

Hold to the standard of sound words that you heard from me and do so with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Protect that good thing entrusted to you, through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

2 Timothy 1:13-14

Finally, Paul instructs Timothy to “hold” to sound words (or teaching) with faith and love. It can also be translated “hold fast” or “keep.” The word “sound” means “healthy.” We must hold fast to healthy teaching, as it’s possible to lose it or allow it to be corrupted. We must guard it as a deposit with the help of the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 5:19, Christ said that those who disobeyed his teaching and taught others to disobey it would ultimately be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Believing and teaching unhealthy doctrine ultimately leads to shame before God and others. Therefore, to be unashamed on earth and in heaven, we must keep sound teaching.

Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by challenging Timothy to keep the pattern of sound teaching?

1. To keep sound teaching, we must understand it through disciplined study.

In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul says, “Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.” Many who profess Christ don’t really know what God’s Word teaches. For others, they are lazy in their study and therefore mishandle God’s Word—causing others to stumble. This will lead to shame before others and ultimately God.

If we are going to be unashamed, we must understand God’s Word through disciplined study.

2. To keep sound teaching, we must obey it.

One of the main reasons people are ashamed of God and his words is because they don’t obey them. They feel hypocritical, and are often viewed as such, because their lifestyle doesn’t match their professed belief. If we are to be unashamed, we must practice what God’s Word says.

3. To keep sound teaching, we must test all teaching against God’s Word.

Paul told Timothy to keep Paul’s instruction as “the standard of sound words” (v. 13). The Greek word for “standard,” or it can be translated “pattern,” was used of “a writer’s outline or an artist’s rough sketch, which set the guidelines and standards for the finished work. The Christian’s standard is God’s Word, which encompasses the sound words” which Paul taught.6 God’s Word equips the man of God for all righteousness (2 Tim 3:17). Therefore, we should test parenting strategies, marriage customs, work norms, and cultural expectations against it—less we be led astray. In addition, we must test all teaching in the church against God’s Word. In Acts 17:11 (ESV), the Bereans were called “noble” because they tested Paul’s teachings against Scripture day and night. We must do the same. This will protect us from being ashamed about accepting unhealthy teaching, promoting it, or living it out.

4. To keep sound teaching, we must demonstrate faith and love.

Paul says to keep the pattern of sound teaching with “faith” and “love” (v. 13). “Faith” means both to believe God’s Word and to be faithful to it. “Love” means that we must love God’s Word. David said, “O, how I love your law!
All day long I meditate on it” (Psalm 119:97). First Peter 2:2 says that we must “yearn” for it like infants yearn for milk. If we love it, then we’ll study it, meditate on it, and share it. In addition, we must speak the truth to others in love (Eph 4:15). If we have faith without love, we become harsh Pharisees. But if we have love and no faith, then we become antinomians—touting freedom to sin.

Are you keeping the standard with faith and love?

5. To keep sound teaching, we must protect it.

When Paul says to “protect that good thing entrusted to you” (v. 14), he further clarifies what it means to “hold” or “keep” the standard of sound teaching (v. 13). Since false teaching abounds around the world, as it did in Ephesus, we must contend for the truth by exposing bad doctrine in order to protect others from it. By doing this, we protect sound doctrine from either decay or being lost. In addition, we protect sound teaching by sharing it with others, so they can obey it and also be kept from lies.

6. To keep sound teaching, we must rely on the Holy Spirit.

In verse 14, Paul adds that we must protect sound teaching “through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.” Only God’s Spirit can enable us to keep the pattern of sound words. We must depend on the Holy Spirit through prayer and a deepening relationship with Christ and his body. Like David, we must cry out for God to turn our eyes from worthless things and to preserve us by God’s Word (Psalm 119:37). We must rely on the Holy Spirit to help us discern what is false (1 John 2:27). We must rely on him to enable us to teach God’s Word and correct misinterpretations of it.

Are you keeping the pattern of sound teaching? Only by keeping God’s Word can we be unashamed before God and others. To accept and promote what is false always leads to shame.

Application Question: Why is it so difficult to keep the pattern of sound teaching in our lives, churches, and Christian organizations? How have you seen this pattern lost in many of our churches and Christian organizations? How do you feel God is calling you specifically to contribute to keeping the standard of sound teaching?

Conclusion

How can we be unashamed of our faith in a world that is increasingly antagonistic to Christ, his people, and his Word?

  1. To Be Unashamed, We Must Be Empowered by God’s Spirit
  2. To Be Unashamed, We Must Accept Suffering as from the Lord
  3. To Be Unashamed, We Must Remember That Others Are Suffering as well
  4. To Be Unashamed, We Must Remember the Greatness of the Gospel
  5. To Be Unashamed, We Must Remember Our Duty to Share the Gospel
  6. To Be Unashamed, We Must Invest in God
  7. To Be Unashamed, We Must Keep Sound Teaching

Copyright © 2017, 2018 (2nd Edition) Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations and commentary have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 241–242). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 22). Chicago: Moody Press.

3 Stott, J. R. W. (1973). Guard the Gospel the message of 2 Timothy (p. 41). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

4 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 25). Chicago: Moody Press.

5 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2112). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

6 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 29). Chicago: Moody Press.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry

3. Performing the Ministry of Refreshment (2 Timothy 1:15-18)

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You know that everyone in the province of Asia deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my imprisonment. But when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me. May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day! And you know very well all the ways he served me in Ephesus.

2 Timothy 1:15–18 (NET)

How should we perform the ministry of refreshment?

Paul has just been challenging Timothy to stand firm, to be unashamed, and to be willing to suffer with him for the gospel (1:8-14). Paul was imprisoned in Rome awaiting a death sentence, and the majority of believers in Asia, who previously supported him, deserted him, including two men named Phygelus and Hermogenes (v. 15). We don’t know who these men were. What seems clear is that they were professing believers who deserted Paul and probably encouraged others to do so as well. Maybe, like Job’s friends, they declared that his sufferings proved that he was not right with God and probably not an apostle.

However, in the midst of Paul’s darkness was a bright light—a man named Onesiphorus. His name means “profit bearing”1 or “help bringer.”2 This man lived out his name. When Paul was deserted by others, Onesiphorus sought him out and refreshed him (v. 16). The word “refreshed” means “to cool again.”3 The Amplified version translates it “Bracing me like fresh air”.

Living in a world with sin and the consequences of it, means that we will always need refreshment. We all are negatively affected by trials, our sin, or the sin of others and therefore need refreshment. Paul was a great apostle and yet still needed to be refreshed. Similarly, in Christ’s last hours, when he was ‘weary unto death’, he called upon his three closest disciples to pray with him—to provide support and refreshment. We all need this type of ministry, and we all need to offer it to others.

By mentioning Phygelus and Hermogenes and then Onesiphorus, Paul essentially calls Timothy to be like Onesiphorus—a refresher—and not like Hermogenes and Phygelus—deserters. How can we perform the ministry of refreshment? We will learn six principles from the example of Onesiphorus.

Big Question: What principles can we learn from the example of Onesiphorus about refreshing others?

To Perform the Ministry of Refreshment, We Must Reach Out to Those in Need

You know that everyone in the province of Asia deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my imprisonment.

2 Timothy 1:15-16

Again, when everyone in Asia deserted Paul, Onesiphorus went to see him. People were deserting Paul because associating with him could lead to imprisonment or execution. Christians in Rome were being burned at the stake by Nero and offered to lions in the Colosseum. One author said this about Onesiphorus, “He went to Rome at a time when every Christian was trying to get out of it.”4

Someone said this about friendships: “In times of prosperity, our friends know us, but in times of difficulty, we know our friends.” When all deserted Paul, Onesiphorus faithfully reached out to him—even risking his life to minister to him. We must do the same to practice the ministry of refreshment.

It’s hard to reach out to people in pain. We often feel like we don’t know what to say. We’re afraid talking with them will be awkward. Sometimes we’re even afraid to make things worse. It’s good to remember that often the best thing we can do when people are suffering is simply minister through our presence. Like Job’s friends did initially, as they simply sat and mourned with him, we should do the same.

Ecclesiastes 7:4 says, “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of merrymaking.” The fool only wants to laugh and have pleasure, but the wise is drawn to the house of mourning—both to minister and to learn.

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a relative is born to help in adversity.” The author of the proverb is using parallelism—reinforcing the first phrase with the second. A real friend is like family—they are there at all times, even in adversity, just as Onesiphorus was. In order to practice the ministry of refreshment, we must reach out to others in need.

Are you reaching out to those around you in need?

Application Question: Why is it difficult to meet with others in times of adversity? Describe a time when someone faithfully ministered to you in a time of adversity.

To Perform the Ministry of Refreshment, We Must Prepare and Protect Our Families

May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my imprisonment.

2 Timothy 1:16

When Paul first mentions Onesiphorus, he does so in a prayer for his family. This implies that his family suffered in some way through Onesiphorus’ ministry to Paul. No doubt, they suffered by his being away perhaps for months. Some commentators even believe that Onesiphorus was captured and killed in Rome. They come to this conclusion because of Paul’s present tense prayer for the family in verse 16 and his future tense prayer for Oneshiphorus in verse 18. He prays for him to receive mercy on the day of judgment. It seems clear that, at minimum, Onesiphorus was currently not with them. They were either separated by distance or by death.

If Onesiphorus was dead, it would appear that Paul is praying for the dead. Catholic commentators use this verse to support the need for believers to pray the dead into heaven. However, Scripture does not support belief in purgatory. Nor does it support the belief that we can contribute to salvation (ours or anyone else’s) by works. Christ did everything needed for one to be saved. All we are called to do is put our faith in his work and follow him as Lord and Savior (John 3:16, Rom 10:9-13).

With that said, the point is that there was some amount of suffering Onesiphorus’ family experienced because of his ministry to Paul. This is common in ministry. There is strain when a husband or wife is absent. There is extra spiritual warfare on families who serve in ministry. However, having parents who serve is healthy for children: it helps them develop a ministry mindset, delivers them from selfishness, and often leads them to a lifetime of ministry. But, it is important to understand that we should never sacrifice our families for ministry. Sadly, this happens too often. Paul said our first ministry is our family (1 Tim 5:4), and he required potential elders to run their households well in order to be selected for ministry (1 Tim 3:4). To neglect one’s family means to be disqualified from serving in other ministries.

Application Question: How do we prepare and protect our families and yet maintain a healthy balance with ministry?

(1) One way we prepare our families is by having honest conversations: That means asking them about how the balance between ministry and family is going. Do they feel neglected? Are the children getting enough attention? (2) Also, we prepare them for busy seasons by talking with them beforehand and committing to make up missed time. (3) In addition, we prepare and protect them by constantly praying for them, even as Paul did for Onesiphorus’ household. We should ask the Lord for special mercy and protection over them. (4) Finally, we protect our families by always prioritizing them. Family members should always know that they are first. Yes, there will be times of sacrifice in serving God and others; when those times come, families must work together to best navigate those periods.

Edith Schaeffer gives wise counsel on balancing family and ministry in the book “What is Family?” (Revell, 1975), as shared by Steven Cole:

As you may know, the Schaeffers raised their children at L’Abri in an open home, where many people came at all hours. In one chapter, Mrs. Schaeffer describes the family as a door with hinges and a lock. The hinges open to welcome those in need, but the lock gives the family time to grow and be refreshed for ministry. They did not damage their family by over-commitment to ministry, and yet they instilled in their children a ministry-mindset.5

To prepare and protect our families, we must do the same. We must open the door of our home for ministry and lock it to protect and refresh our family.

Are you preparing and protecting your family?

Application Question: Why is it important for ministers to prepare and protect their families? In what ways have you seen those in ministry (or in other occupations) damage their families through over-commitment? What are some other wise principles for protecting our families?

To Perform the Ministry of Refreshment, We Must Persistently and Practically Serve Others

May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my imprisonment... And you know very well all the ways he served me in Ephesus.

2 Timothy 1:16, 18

In verse 16, Paul says that Onesiphorus “often refreshed” him, and in verse 18, he comments that while in Ephesus, Onesiphorus “served” him in many ways. The word “served” comes from the same Greek word we get “deacon” from. Therefore, some think Onesiphorus was a deacon (servant) in Ephesus.6

Onesiphorus certainly served Paul in many ways and often. When Paul was hungry, he brought food. When thirsty, he brought drink. When discouraged, he prayed with him. When rejoicing, he sang with him. No doubt, Onesiphorus refreshed Paul physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We should do the same with others.

It is especially important to minister persistently to people in seasons of adversity. This is necessary because difficulties often come in packs and take a while to dissipate, as seen in the story of Job. This means we need to meet up with them often. It means listening, listening, and listening again. It means lending a helping hand often. To refresh people, we need to minister persistently and practically.

Application Question: How can we faithfully serve others, especially in times of difficulty?

We gain great insight by considering the Macedonian churches’ ministry to the Jerusalem churches in 2 Corinthians. Consider what Paul said about them:

For I testify, they gave according to their means and beyond their means. They did so voluntarily, begging us with great earnestness for the blessing and fellowship of helping the saints. And they did this not just as we had hoped, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and to us by the will of God.

2 Corinthians 8:3-5

The Macedonians gave themselves first to the Lord and then to others. Ministry to others always comes from an overflow. If we are not abiding in Christ, we cannot effectively minister to others (John 15:5). To serve persistently and practically, we must first give ourselves to God, then, look for others with needs and go meet those needs.

In considering this, we must recognize that another hindrance to the ministry of refreshment is selfishness. For many their life and ministry is all about themselves. They come to church to get encouragement, to learn about the Bible, for a good children’s program, and when their needs aren’t met, they complain and leave the church. For many, their focus is always, “Me! Me! Me!” instead of God and others. When God is not first, we will be increasingly prone to selfishness, discouragement, and burn out. To serve persistently and practically, we must give ourselves first to God and then to others.

Are you willing to refresh others by serving them persistently and practically?

Application Question: How can we find the balance of putting God first before ministry to others? How do we keep from burning out when seeking to refresh others? How can we set up appropriate boundaries?

To Perform the Ministry of Refreshment, We Must Accept and Empathize with Others

May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my imprisonment.

2 Timothy 1:16

Paul also said Onesiphorus was “not ashamed” of his chains. This means that when Onesiphorus visited Paul, he didn’t condemn him. He didn’t say, “If you just had more faith, God would set you free!” He just accepted Paul as he was. This is where Job’s friends failed. Initially, they just remained with Job and mourned with him. When they did that, they did well. But eventually, their true colors were revealed; instead of accepting Job and his suffering, they poured condemnation on him. They said he was suffering from sin and called him to repent. Like the Asian Christians who deserted Paul, Job’s friends were ashamed of him and his suffering.

In contrast, we must accept people where they are, just as Onesiphorus did. Yes, there are times to rebuke and correct, but we must wisely discern those times. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” When refreshing others, many times those hurting are primarily looking for empathy—someone who understands them emotionally and who will stand beside them. They need someone to say, “It’s OK to cry,” “It’s OK to feel betrayed,” and “Yes, that wasn’t fair.” That’s what we see in many of the Psalms—honest sharing of a person or community. However, they also need the balance presented in the Psalms where the writer ultimately says, “But God.”

Are you willing to accept and empathize with others in order to refresh them?

Application Question: Why is empathy so important to refreshing others? What are some helpful tips for developing and practicing empathy? How can we help people see God in their trials without condemning them or disregarding their pain?

To Perform the Ministry of Refreshment, We Must Accept Various Inconveniences

But when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me.

2 Timothy 1:17

When Onesiphorus went to Rome to minister to Paul, he experienced various inconveniences. Even the trip from Ephesus to Rome was difficult in those days. It covered a distance of over 2000 kilometers. Most likely, he traveled by boat and foot. However, his journey wasn’t done when he got to Rome. It seems that Onesiphorus initially couldn’t find Paul. Maybe, there were many prisons, and it was difficult to find the right one. Maybe, the Roman officials weren’t helpful and probably rude. Maybe, since Christians had gone into hiding because of persecution, they were skeptical of a person searching for a state prisoner. In order to minister to Paul, Onesiphorus experienced various inconveniences.

It’s the same for us. If we are going to practice the ministry of refreshment, we must be willing to accept inconvenience. At times, it means tossing our original plans for the day to minister to someone in pain. It means going to bed at a later time or getting up earlier. At times, it means caring for a person who won’t listen and who makes bad decisions. There are various inconveniences that come with the ministry of refreshment. It’s always easier just to do nothing, as it would have been for Onesiphorus.

However, if we’re going to perform this ministry, we must accept inconvenience, including, at times, being unappreciated. When people experience trials, they tend to become self-focused and selfish. This extreme self-focus can at times blur the lines between those who are trying to help them and hurt them. For this reason, genuine ministers are often unappreciated or even hated.

Obviously, Paul was tremendously appreciative of Onesiphorus’ ministry; however, that is not always the case. Christ gave his life for the world and the majority of the world rejects him, and even Christians often take him for granted. To do the ministry of refreshment, we must accept inconvenience.

Are you willing to be inconvenienced, and maybe even unappreciated?

Application Question: How can we be prepared for the various inconveniences that often come with ministering to those in need? How have you experienced inconvenience in ministry, including being unappreciated?

To Perform the Ministry of Refreshment, We Must Focus on God’s Reward

May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day! And you know very well all the ways he served me in Ephesus.

2 Timothy 1:18

Finally, Paul speaks a blessing over Onesiphorus for his faithful ministry. He says, “May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!” Mercy in this context seems to refer to receiving rewards from God at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10).7 It reflects the promise in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God’s favor is on the merciful both in this life and the life to come. God will be gracious to them.

This blessing is seen in how Christ responds to the merciful in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. At Christ’s coming, he says to those who fed, clothed, and visited his brothers in prison, “Take your inheritance in the Kingdom, for what you did to the least of these, you did to me” (Matt 25:34-40, paraphrase). There is a reciprocal blessing with the ministry of refreshment. Proverbs 11:25 (NIV) says, “Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” In the context of washing the feet of others, Christ said “blessed will you be if you do this” (John 13:17, paraphrased).

If we are going to perform the ministry of refreshment, we must focus on God’s reward. Focusing on God’s reward is especially important when our ministry is rejected, demonized, or appears to be unfruitful. God sees, and he will faithfully reward. Hebrews 6:10 says, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name, in having served and continuing to serve the saints.”

Are you focusing on God’s reward, especially in times of discouragement? If not, it will be easy to become depressed and give up.

Application Question: Why is it important to focus on God’s reward when performing the ministry of refreshment? Is serving God for reward wrong? Why or why not?

Applications for Those Being Refreshed

We’ve talked about how to perform the ministry of refreshment; now, we’ll briefly consider how to respond when we are the ones being refreshed.

1. When refreshed, we should constantly give thanks to God and to the refresher.

We would never know about Onesiphorus if Paul hadn’t mentioned him here in 2 Timothy. He is memorialized by Paul for his faithful ministry. Paul demonstrates his pleasure and thanksgiving before Timothy, the churches in Ephesus, and the world through this letter.

It’s important to be thankful for a refresher’s ministry because it’s so easy to take it for granted. It’s kind of like most children’s relationships with their parents. They birth, raise, and educate us, and yet we easily forget and neglect them. This often happens with people who refresh us without requiring our appreciation or remuneration.

Do you often thank those who refresh you? Refreshers at times feel awkward when receiving appreciation, but they’re always thankful for it.

2. When refreshed, we should constantly remember our refreshers in prayer—praying both for them and their families.

Paul prays for Onesiphorus and his family. We should do the same. Galatians 6:6 says, “Now the one who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with the one who teaches it.” One of the good things we should share with those who refresh us is prayer. Pray for protection from the enemy, encouragement, intimacy with God, knowing of his Word, and bearing fruit. We must bless our refreshers through prayer, even as Paul did.

Do you often pray for those who refresh you? Let us lift them up often.

Application Question: Paul often started his letters with prayer and thanksgiving for those he served or served with (cf. Phil 1:3, Col 1:3). How can we be more effective at praying and thanking our refreshers? Who is God specifically calling you to pray for and give thanks to?

Conclusion

How can we perform the ministry of refreshment? How can we embrace people in need like a breath of fresh air?

  1. To Perform the Ministry of Refreshment, We Must Reach Out to Those in Need
  2. To Perform the Ministry of Refreshment, We Must Prepare and Protect Our Families
  3. To Perform the Ministry of Refreshment, We Must Persistently and Practically Serve Others
  4. To Perform the Ministry of Refreshment, We Must Accept and Empathize with Others
  5. To Perform the Ministry of Refreshment, We Must Accept Various Inconveniences
  6. To Perform the Ministry of Refreshment, We Must Focus on God’s Reward

Copyright © 2017, 2018 (2nd Edition) Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations and commentary have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 243–244). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

2 Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Tim 1:16–18). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

3 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 244). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

4 Albert MacKinnon, cited by Guy King, To My Son [Christian Literature Crusade, 1976], p. 34 (as cited by Steven Cole in his sermon on 2 Timothy 1:15-18 at https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-7-ministry-refreshment-2-timothy-115-18)

5 Accessed 10/15/16, from https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-7-ministry-refreshment-2-timothy-115-18

6 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 243–244). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

7 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2114). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Related Topics: Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Pastors

4. The Disciplines of a Strong Minister (2 Timothy 2:1-7)

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So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well. Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him. Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he will not be crowned as the winner unless he competes according to the rules. The farmer who works hard ought to have the first share of the crops. Think about what I am saying and the Lord will give you understanding of all this.

2 Timothy 2:1–7 (NET)

What are the disciplines of a strong minister of Christ?

Remember that when 2 Timothy was written, the persecution of Christians was widespread; Paul, himself, was in prison. Because of this, everyone in Asia had deserted him (1:15)—some had, no doubt, even deserted Christ. In view of the surrounding persecution, Paul calls Timothy to use his spiritual gift, to be unashamed of Christ and the gospel, and to guard the apostolic deposit (2 Tim 1:6, 8, 13-14). Second Timothy 2:1 unfolds on this backdrop; Paul says, “So you, my child be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

“Strong” means to be “‘inwardly strengthened,’ suggesting strength in soul and purpose.”1 When many were falling away or compromising the faith, Paul wanted Timothy to stand strong. This was important for Timothy to hear as his natural disposition seemed to be timidity (2 Tim 1:7). He needed to hear this exhortation and so do we.

Similarly, when God called Joshua to lead Israel, he said, “Be strong and brave.” He repeats this twice in Joshua 1:7 and 1:9. When talking about spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6, Paul calls for the Ephesians to be “strengthened in the Lord” (v. 10). If we are going to be faithful ministers of Christ, we must be strong. Why? Because we are constantly under spiritual attack from demons, principalities, and rulers of the darkness. Because we are in a world that is antagonistic toward Christ, his teachings, and his people. And also, because of our tendency to sin, get discouraged, and wander away from Christ. In the midst of all this, we must be strong to complete what God has called us to do.

How can we become strong ministers of Christ—ones who faithfully complete our God-given work, instead of quitting or falling away? We learn the disciplines of a strong minister in 2 Timothy 2:1-7.

Big Question: What disciplines of a strong minister can be discerned from 2 Timothy 2:1-7?

A Strong Minister Relies on God’s Grace

So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 2:1

“Be strong” is passive “indicating that the source of Timothy’s strength was not in himself but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”2 The NEB translates this “Take strength from the grace of God which is ours in Christ Jesus.” As we study Scripture, it is clear that in our salvation Christ gave us abundant grace—grace to believe, grace to serve, grace to stand, grace to overcome our weaknesses, etc. Consider the following verses: John 1:16 says this in the ESV, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.” First Peter 4:10 says, “Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God.” Ephesians 6:10–11 says, “Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” In addition, 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.”

Grace has been abundantly given to believers, and therefore, we must stand and not quit. Kent Hughes comments on this passage nicely sum up Paul’s words to Timothy:

Nothing would come Timothy’s way as he guarded the gospel that he would not have the graced strength to handle—no person, no pain, no problem, no responsibility, no tragedy. There would be no time when he could not stand tall. And that is true for all who are in Christ and thus under his grace. If he calls you to do something, he will supply sufficient strength through his grace. If he calls you to step forward, he will give you the power. If he calls you to step up, he will give you the fortitude. If he calls you to endure, the strength you need will be found in “the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”3

Application Question: How can we rely on God’s grace in our ministry?

1. To rely on God’s grace, we must not put our trust in our own abilities.

Philippians 3:3 says, “For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, exult in Christ Jesus, and do not rely on human credentials.” We put no confidence in our abilities. It is when we feel confident in our counseling, serving, or teaching that we lose God’s power. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness—not our strength.

If we are confident, we must repent. If we feel weak, we must thank God as Paul did. He said that he boasted in his weakness so that Christ’s power could rest on him (2 Cor 12:9-10). Are you recognizing your weakness before God? It is the secret to experiencing his grace.

2. To rely on God’s grace, we must abide in Christ.

In John 15:5, Christ said, “‘I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.” We must daily abide in God’s Word, prayer, and worship in order to be strengthened by God’s grace. If not, all our work and ministry will be done in the flesh and only produce fleshly results.

Are you abiding in Christ?

3. To rely on God’s grace, we must ask for more of it.

Yes, God has given us much grace in our salvation. However, there is more that he would like to give. James 4:6 says he gives more grace. Are you asking for more grace over your parenting, your work, your service, your relationships, etc.? In James 4:2, the author says we have not because we ask not. Are you asking?

4. To rely on God’s grace, we must work.

Though the phrase “be strong” is passive, it does not suggest passivity. Relying on God is more a matter of the heart than an action. However, to rely on his grace, we must, in fact, work. As we pray and trust God, we must work in accordance with his grace. In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

Some trust in God but don’t work. Others work but don’t trust. Neither is a proper balance. To not work and simply claim it by faith is to have no faith at all. Because God gave grace, Paul worked harder than everyone else, and therefore, God’s grace was not without effect.

Is God’s grace effective in you? Are you trusting and working? Strong ministers rely on God’s grace, and it prompts them to faithfully work hard.

Application Question: Why is it important to rely on God’s grace in order to be a strong minister? What is the balance of relying on God and working?

A Strong Minister Faithfully Teaches God’s Word

And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.

2 Timothy 2:2

Paul called Timothy to faithfully teach others what he originally learned from Paul. The word “entrust” “carries the idea of depositing something valuable for safekeeping.”4 Timothy was part of a long train of people who had been entrusted with God’s Word with the purpose of them teaching it to others. There are four generations of teachers in this passage: Paul, Timothy, faithful people, and those the faithful people teach.

William Barclay expands on this concept, “The teacher is a link in the living chain which stretches unbroken from this present moment back to Jesus Christ. The glory of teaching is that it links the present with the earthly life of Jesus Christ.”5 The apostles, including Paul, received from Christ and taught the message to faithful men like Timothy, and they passed it on to us through a long line of faithful teachers.

It is like a relay race where individuals keep passing the baton from one person to another. Sadly, in this race, there are people who for some reason feel tired or distracted and therefore drop the baton or quit the race all together. Maybe they say, “I don’t feel like reading the Bible!” “I don’t feel like going to church!” or “I don’t feel like sharing God’s Word with others!”, and therefore, they break the link. There is nothing more selfish than this. This baton saves and changes lives. Plus, when we drop it, we neglect the work of Christ, the apostles, pastors, teachers, small group leaders, youth leaders, and parents who faithfully passed it on to us. We must be faithful students and teachers of God’s Word. We are living links in the chain, and therefore, we must pass it on to others. First Corinthians 4:1-2 says, “This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

Are you being a faithful link in the chain—a faithful teacher of God’s Word? Don’t neglect the stewardship passed on to you—share it with others.

Observation Question: What type of people is Timothy called to share God’s Word with?

In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul uses the phrase “faithful people” or it can be translated “reliable people.” What does he mean by this? Shouldn’t we share it with everybody? Yes, we should. However, there are some that we should invest the most energy in. Who are they? They are people who faithfully attend church and small group. They use their spiritual gifts to serve others. They faithfully study the Word individually and corporately. They are disciplined with their spiritual life, work, ministry, and family. They are not letting entertainment and activities drown out their spiritual life. When you invest in these types of people, you multiply your ministry because they are going to share it with others.

This is what Christ did with his ministry: He ministered to the multitudes and ate with tax collectors and sinners. He had the seventy-two who he sent out to minister and preach the gospel. He had the twelve apostles, and even within the twelve, he had the three—his inner circle of Peter, James, and John. Though he ministered to everybody, he especially invested in the faithful. We must do the same.

When you’re looking for people to disciple, find the faithful. Reach out to unbelievers, go after the lost sheep, encourage the nominal, but invest the majority of your time in the faithful.

As we consider this, we certainly must ask ourselves, “Are we faithful?” If not, we will miss out on God’s best. With the faithful, he expands their stewardship of both the Word and souls. Are you being faithful?

Application Question: What person or persons had the most effect on your spiritual life? Who was the greatest depositor of God’s Word in you?

A Strong Minister Demonstrates the Attitude of a Good Soldier

Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him.

2 Timothy 2:3-4

When every believer was born again, they were enlisted in a war. They are in a war with their flesh, as they fight against sin (1 Pet 2:11). They are in a war with the devil, as they fight against powers and principalities and rulers of the darkness (Eph 6:10-13). And they are in a war against the world, as they fight against being conformed to its pattern (Rom 12:2). We are all soldiers in a war whether we recognize it or not. The question is, “Are we good soldiers?” Charles Spurgeon said it this way:

Paul does not exhort Timothy to be a common, or ordinary soldier, but to be a ‘good soldier of Jesus Christ;’ for all soldiers, and all true soldiers, may not be good soldiers. There are men who are but just soldiers and nothing more; they only need sufficient temptation and they readily become cowardly, idle, useless and worthless; but he is the good soldier who is bravest of the brave, courageous at all times, who is zealous, does his duty with heart and earnestness.6

Observation Question: What aspects of a good soldier’s attitude does Paul focus on in 2 Timothy 2:3-4?

1. Good soldiers are willing to suffer for Christ.

Again, Paul says, “Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (v. 3). As Christians were being persecuted throughout the Roman Empire, many deserted Paul, and probably Christ. Paul calls Timothy to be a good soldier who does not shrink from suffering. People enlist in the military knowing that they may have to suffer and even give their life for their country. This should be true of Christians as well.

Christ said this in Matthew 16:24–25, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” To take up our cross refers to the daily battle with our flesh. We must die daily to our affections for sin. But it also means being willing to suffer for Christ in a world that hates him and his Word. Timothy needed this attitude and so does every Christian.

Are you willing to suffer for Christ?

2. Good soldiers stand with other soldiers.

When Paul said, “take your share of suffering,” it not only was a call to suffer but to stand with fellow suffering soldiers—for Timothy to take his share of the whole. One of the goals of the military is to take individuals and form them into a community willing to suffer for both their country and one another. I remember when I enlisted and went through basic training in the Air Force. After eight weeks of following our training instructor, I felt a supreme amount of trust and affection for him and that I could even die for him, as well as for others in my unit. It should be the same for believers with the church.

Though we are individuals, one of the aims of the New Testament is to teach us that we are a body and that we are dependent upon one another (cf. 1 Cor 12). We may not feel this instinctively, but we must learn it and live it out. In the same way that the eyes need the hands and the feet, we need one another. When one part of the body suffers, we suffer. And when another part of the body excels, we excel. We must learn this as members of one body, but also as soldiers in Gods army. We do this, in part, by sharing our problems and joys with one another, carrying one another’s burdens, and protecting one another. Many never experience this reality because they never share their burdens, never carry others’ burdens, and never seek to protect their brothers and sisters. Therefore, they know nothing of the ‘experience’ of being part of the army of Christ and part of his body.

Are you committed to the body of Christ—the army of God? Or are you a lone-ranger?

3. Good soldiers focus on their job by avoiding distractions.

Paul says, “No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life” (v. 4). What does he mean by this? When a person enlists, he often leaves friends, family, and other career ambitions to focus on serving his country. It is not that he never talks to his friends and family, it’s just that in certain seasons of military service, like a deployment, they cannot be his primary focus.

Macdonald said this about verse 4:

The emphasis is on the word entangles. The soldier must not allow ordinary affairs of life to become the main object of existence. For instance, he must not make acquiring food and clothing the main aim of life. Rather, the service of Christ must always occupy the prominent place, while the things of this life are kept in the background.7

John MacArthur adds,

I recall a story about a Civil War soldier who happened to be a watchmaker. One day the bugle sounded and the men were told to break camp. “But I can’t go now!” the soldier complained. “I have a dozen watches to repair!”8

Sadly, many Christians are like this: career, family, friends, entertainment, and many other things come before God and his mission. They may be soldiers; however, they are not good ones. They are distracted and entangled in affairs that often keep them out of church, God’s Word, and prayer, and therefore, they can’t faithfully serve in God’s army.

What is entangling and distracting you from faithfully serving in God’s army?

4. Good soldiers aim to please their Commanding Officer, Christ.

Sadly, many are more focused on pleasing friends, family, professors, or bosses. Proverbs 29:25 says, “the fear of people becomes a snare.” Many, including those serving in pastoral ministry, are ensnared by the expectations of others which keeps them from fully committing to Christ and doing his will. They become people pleasers instead of God pleasers. In Galatians 1:10, Paul said, “Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!”

Are you a slave of Christ or a people pleaser? You can’t have two masters; you will always hate one and love the other.

Timothy was timid and not naturally disposed to the attitudes of a soldier. However, Scripture seems to indicate that by God’s grace he in fact developed these attitudes and faithfully discharged his duties. Hebrews 13:23 says, “You should know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he comes soon, he will be with me when I see you.” At some point, he was imprisoned for his faith and eventually released. By God’s grace, Timothy was a good soldier of Christ, and by God’s grace, we can be as well. We can be soldiers that are willing to suffer, partner with other soldiers, avoid distractions, and please our Commanding Officer—Christ.

Are you a good soldier of Christ or just a soldier? Christ has given grace to be faithful, even amidst hardships and temptations.

Application Question: What are some other important qualities of a good soldier that are necessary in the Christian life?

A Strong Minister Competes Like an Athlete, According to God’s Rules

Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he will not be crowned as the winner unless he competes according to the rules.

2 Timothy 2:5

Paul often used athletic illustrations in his letters. He mentions track and field (1 Cor 9:24), boxing (1 Cor 9:26), and wrestling (Eph 6:12). Here in 2 Timothy 2:5, he refers generally to sports and particularly to the Greek games. In these games, there were three rules that each athlete had to keep:

First, he had to be a trueborn Greek. Second, he had to prepare at least ten months for the games and swear to that before a statue of Zeus. Third, he had to compete within the specific rules for a given event. To fail in any of those requirements meant automatic disqualification.9

Though the Christian life is often compared with an athletic competition, we are not competing against each other, but to complete the race God has given us and be rewarded (cf. 1 Cor 9:24-26, Heb 12:1). For this reason, we must keep the rules, lest we become disqualified (v. 27).

Application Question: How can Christians follow God’s rules like an athlete?

Every athlete, often from a young age, spends time learning the rules of a sport. A basketball player knows that he can’t carry the basketball while running—that’s a travel. He can’t slap somebody on the wrist while playing—that’s a foul. In the same way, Christians must strive to know the entire revelation of Scripture so that we may be approved by God (2 Tim 2:15) and not disqualified for the prize—eternal reward.

Ephesians 5:8b-10 says, “Walk as children of the light—for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth—trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” We learn what pleases God by knowing his Word, discerning his will through prayer, his work in our hearts, the counsel of godly saints, and his sovereignty over the events of life. Our ultimate desire must be to please God, our Commanding Officer.

Sadly, many Christians don’t know the rules, or they simply try to make up their own. Some even talk as though they have some special relationship with God which allows them to break the rules. I’ve met Christians who say things like, “God understands where I’m at right now, and I feel like I’m OK with him.” Then they go on to describe why it’s OK for them to date an unbeliever, to live with their boyfriend, to not go to church, or to participate in some other form of rebellion. If we are going to be rewarded, we must, like athletes, compete according to the rules.

Are you competing like an athlete—according to God’s revealed will?

Application Question: How can we discern God’s will concerning things not clearly taught in Scripture like what job to take, who to marry, etc.? What other disciplines of an athlete are important in our Christian life?

A Strong Minister Is Like a Hardworking Farmer

The farmer who works hard ought to have the first share of the crops.

2 Timothy 2:6

Paul switches metaphors here, from sports to agriculture. He exhorts Timothy to be a strong minister by modeling a hardworking farmer. The phrase “works hard” means “to toil intensely, to sweat and strain to the point of exhaustion if necessary.”10 Sadly, many Christians think they don’t have to work hard—they just need to wait and trust God. Maybe, they’re in a spiritual rut—they don’t enjoy their spiritual disciplines and are struggling with some sin. But instead of disciplining themselves to get out of it, they are apathetic and lazy. They think it’s God responsibility to change them with no effort on their own. Therefore, they fold their hands, and their hearts, and get mad at God. Essentially, they say, “Why won’t God change me? Why won’t he give me a heart for his Word or to serve? Why won’t he set me free from this sin?” However, Scripture says, “continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God” (Phil 2:12-13). We should work because God is working in us. We need to faithfully do our part.

First Corinthians 15: 58 says, “…Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” If we are going to be strong ministers, we must be willing to work hard. Our emotions can’t control us, our faith in God must. Just as farmers get up early to work the field and, at times, go to bed late after working all day, we must demonstrate that same faithfulness in our labor. If we’re going to be strong and not weak, we must work hard.

With that said, more characteristics are implied by Paul’s illustration of a hardworking farmer that partakes in the harvest.

Application Question: What are some other characteristics of a hardworking farmer that should be applied to our spiritual lives?

1. Christian farmers must be patient.

The farmer works hard but waits on God to make the fruit grow; ministers must do the same. If we are not patient, we will become frustrated with the spiritual growth of others or even ourselves. Paul said this in Philippians 1:6, “For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Are you confident in God or frustrated at yourself and others? We never see a farmer yelling at the field. He simply works, while patiently trusting in God.

2. Christian farmers must be faithful in the mundane.

John MacArthur adds:

The teacher often finds exhilaration in the aspiring minds of his students, the soldier often has the excitement of battle, and the athlete the thrill of competing. But most of a farmer’s working hours are tedious, humdrum, and unexciting… Many Christians’ lives are like the farmer’s. Although there may be occasional times of excitement and special satisfaction, the daily routine is often, in itself, unattractive and unrewarding.11

Most of the Christian life is being faithful in the mundane—the everyday, ordinary tasks. We don’t always experience harvest seasons or times of revival. Most times life includes hard labor with little fruit and little encouragement. However, it is probably in those seasons where our true faith shows. It’s easy to have faith on the mountain top, but what about while in the valley or climbing the mountain? If we’re going to be hardworking farmers, we have to be faithful in the mundane seasons of breaking up hard ground, sowing seed, and waiting.

Are you faithful in the mundane?

3. Christian farmers must hope in a future harvest.

Again 2 Timothy 2:6 says, “The farmer who works hard ought to have the first share of the crops.” However, MacDonald suggests a different translation, as originally shared by Darby. He says,

While Darby agrees that the above is a possible rendering, he suggests that the sense of the passage is that the farmer must work in order to enjoy a share of the harvest. Therefore, he translates, “The husbandman must labour before partaking of the fruits.” This preserves the thought of necessity: The soldier must endure; the athlete must keep the rules; the farmer must work hard.12

Either way, it is clear that Christians, as do farmers, must work hard to receive a harvest. It is hope in seeing the harvest that inspires both the hardworking farmer and the hardworking Christian. Without hope, we’ll get discouraged and give up. Are you laboring in hope?

Interpretation Question: What type of harvest is Paul referring to?

Two types of harvest most naturally come to mind: Obviously, we should work for the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, etc. (Gal 5:22-23)—to be born in our lives and others. These fruits should motivate us as we labor. Initially, all we may see is the opposite of these fruits—anger, unforgiveness, lack of discipline, etc., but as we sow the truth with love into hearts, fruit may in fact grow.

Secondly, harvest also refers to the salvation of souls. Christ said the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few (Matt 9:37). We should labor in prayer, share the gospel, and live holy lives with the hope of seeing the fruit of salvation.

If we are going to be strong ministers who last and don’t give up, we must be hardworking farmers. We must demonstrate patience, faithfulness in the mundane, and also hope in a harvest.

Application Question: Which characteristic of a hardworking farmer do you feel most challenged to grow in and why?

A Strong Minister Is a Faithful Bible Student

Think about what I am saying and the Lord will give you understanding of all this.

2 Timothy 2:7

Paul tells Timothy to “think about” what he said and the Lord would give “understanding.” The word “think” means “to consider carefully,” “to ponder,” or “to mull over.” The form of the verb is “an imperative, indicating that Paul was giving a strong admonition, not mere advice.”13 With all this said, Paul’s instructions in verse 7 has applications for understanding not just 2 Timothy 2:1-6 but all of Scripture. Therefore, to be a strong minister, Timothy would need to be a faithful Bible student, and this is true for us as well.

Application Question: How does Paul’s instruction apply to understanding Scripture?

1. To understand Scripture, we must study it.

As mentioned above, to “think” means to “consider carefully.” One of the reasons many aren’t growing in knowledge of Scripture is because they never carefully consider it. They quickly look over a few verses in the morning or at night, if they do it at all, then wonder why they don’t get anything from it and are not growing. They passively listen to a sermon on Sunday, and expect the Holy Spirit to saturate them with understanding and fruit. However, he doesn’t. And the reason is because they are not “carefully considering” it. They are not studying.

Psalm 1 talks about the blessing on the man that “meditates” day and night on God’s law. The word “meditates” is used of a cow chewing his cud. He chews, swallows, regurgitates, and then chews, swallows, and regurgitates again, and so on. God blesses those who study Scripture like that. He gives them more understanding and blesses them in many other ways. He makes them like trees that bear fruit in season (1:3). One application of the tree metaphor is the strength of a tree. Because of their root system, they can stand amidst great storms. That’s what Paul wanted of Timothy. He wanted him to grow strong in God’s grace through meditating on God’s Word.

Do you faithfully study God’s Word?

2. To understand Scripture, we must rely on God.

Studying, by itself, will not unlock the truths of Scripture or produce fruit. God must give us understanding. Therefore, like David, we must always pray, “Open my eyes so I can truly see the marvelous things in your law… Teach me, O Lord, the lifestyle prescribed by your statutes, so that I might observe it continually” (Ps 119:18, 33).

Whereas some rely on God but don’t carefully consider, others carefully consider but don’t rely on God. They pull out their commentaries, biblical encyclopedias, and Greek and Hebrew lexicons and yet still don’t gain understanding or fruit. We must do both. We must study, and we must rely. We must do our part, and God will do his part—he will give us both understanding and fruit.

Are you a faithful Bible student? If not, you won’t be a strong minister of Christ.

Application Question: What disciplines have you found helpful in studying Scripture? Do you tend to rely on God and not study or to study and not rely on God? How should we maintain this delicate balance?

Conclusion

In an ungodly and antagonistic world, we must be strong ministers who faithfully serve God and others. What are the disciplines of a strong minister of Christ, and how can we become one?

  1. A Strong Minister Relies on God’s Grace
  2. A Strong Minister Faithfully Teaches God’s Word
  3. A Strong Minister Demonstrates the Attitude of a Good Soldier
  4. A Strong Minister Competes Like an Athlete, According to God’s Rules
  5. A Strong Minister Is Like a Hardworking Farmer
  6. A Strong Minister Is a Faithful Bible Student

Copyright © 2017, 2018 (2nd Edition) Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations and commentary have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W., Jr. (1996). Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Vol. 2, p. 198). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson.

2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 37). Chicago: Moody Press.

3 Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 193). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

4 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 40). Chicago: Moody Press.

5 The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1957], 182.

6 Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Ti 2:3–4). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

7 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2114). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

8 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 245). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

9 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 44). Chicago: Moody Press.

10 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 47). Chicago: Moody Press.

11 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 47). Chicago: Moody Press.

12 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2115). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

13 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 47). Chicago: Moody Press.

Related Topics: Discipline, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Pastors

5. Encouragements to Endure Suffering for Christ (2 Timothy 2:8-13)

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Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David; such is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a criminal, but God’s message is not imprisoned! So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory. This saying is trustworthy: If we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us. If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself.

2 Timothy 2:8-13 (NET)

How can we faithfully endure suffering?

In the context of 2 Timothy, Christians are being persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. Paul himself is in prison awaiting a death sentence. Many throughout Asia deserted Paul (2 Tim 1:15). Throughout this letter, Paul has been encouraging Timothy to faithfully endure suffering: In 2 Timothy 1:8, Paul calls for Timothy to accept his share in “suffering for the gospel.” In 2 Timothy 2:3, he calls for Timothy to endure suffering with him like a “good soldier” of Jesus Christ, and in 2 Timothy 2:10 and 12, Paul describes how he endures everything for the sake of the elect and also adds, “if we endure, we will also reign with him.” Timothy needed to be encouraged again and again to endure suffering, and so do we.

Today’s world is not much different than Timothy’s; if anything, it is growing worse. More Christians have died for the faith in the last century than all the previous combined. An estimated 400 believers die every day for faith. The encouragements that Paul gives Timothy, we must listen to well. How can we faithfully endure suffering? In 2 Timothy 2:8-13, Paul gives six encouragements. These encouragements are helpful not just for faithfully enduring sufferings for Christ but any types of sufferings.

Big Question: In 2 Timothy 2:8-13, what encouragements does Paul give Timothy to help him endure suffering and how can we encourage ourselves and others with them, when experiencing trials?

To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember Jesus

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David; such is my gospel,

2 Timothy 2:8

Paul calls for Timothy to remember Jesus in order to help him endure. In fact, “remember” is an imperative1—a command—which shows us how important it is. While Timothy could never literally forget Christ, it was possible for him to live in such a way that Christ was not affecting his daily decisions. And this is true for us as well. Christ must be at the forefront of our thoughts if we are going to faithfully endure. In Hebrews 12:2-3, the author of Hebrews similarly encourages suffering Christians. He says,

keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.

A mind fixed on Christ, not our trials or difficulties, is essential for endurance. When Peter walked on water, it was when he shifted his focus from Christ to the storm that he began to sink. As long as he focused on his Savior, he was able to walk in faith. We must do the same.

Observation Question: What aspects about Jesus does Paul call Timothy to remember?

1. We must remember that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Interpretation Question: Why is remembering the resurrection so important?

There are many reasons that Christ’s resurrection is important to continually remember:

  • The resurrection reminds us that Jesus Christ is God.

The resurrection was the ultimate proof that Christ was not just a good man or a prophet. He was the Son of God. He was the first to ultimately rise from the dead. Lazarus and others were only raised to die again, but Jesus continues to live. In fact, the verb “raised” is in the perfect tense—meaning that Christ is still alive today.2 Romans 1:3-4 says, “concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh, who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Being appointed the Son of God by his resurrection, means that his resurrection proved his deity. Christ is God!

  • The resurrection reminds us that we will be raised from the dead.

Scripture teaches that Christ was the firstfruits of the resurrection. First Corinthians 15:20-22 says,

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

Firstfruits were used by farmers to discern the future harvest: Was the harvest going to be good or bad? In the same way, Christ’s resurrection is proof of our future resurrection. This was extremely important for Paul to remember as he faced his own death. And it was important for Timothy if he was going to continue to be faithful, even to death. He had to remember Christ’s resurrection and his own future one.

2. We must remember that Jesus Christ is a descendant of David.

Interpretation Question: Why is remembering that Christ descended from David so important?

  • Christ’s descending from David reminds us that Christ is human.

While the resurrection confirms Christ’s deity, his descent from David confirms his humanity. Christ had to be human in order to die for us, but he needed to be God to pay for the sins of the entire world. His humanity also means that Christ understands us—he knows what it is to be hungry, thirsty, and sleepy. He knows what it means to be hated by others, lied about, betrayed by friends, tempted, and ultimately killed because of his profession. Timothy needed to remember this, as he walked the same path of Christ. Christ walked it first, and Christ would walk beside him to give strength to faithfully endure. Hebrews 4:15-16 says,

For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.

  • Christ’s descending from David reminds us that Christ is the promised King.

The first prophecy about Christ was in Genesis 3:15 where God promised Eve a male seed that would conquer Satan and reverse the results of the fall. In Genesis 22:18, God promised Abraham a seed that would be a blessing to all the nations. To Judah, the son of Jacob and Abraham’s great grandson, God promised that a king would come from his lineage that all the nations would submit to—a world ruler (Gen 49:10). Then this prophecy was narrowed to the lineage of David, as God promised that David’s seed would have an everlasting kingdom (1 Chr 17:11-14). In Luke 1:31-33, the angel said this to Mary:

Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.”

Christ is the reigning King and at the same time the future King. When he returns, he will punish the rebellious and reward the faithful. We must remember our King and his coming kingdom if we are going to endure suffering.

In our ministry, if we focus primarily on people, what people say, our trials, or what seems to be a lack of fruit, we’ll get discouraged and give up. Our focus must be on our King; it is this mindset that will enable us to endure.

Remembering Christ is not only important for us, but it is also important for how we minister to others, as demonstrated by Paul’s exhortation to Timothy. Some may think challenging people to remember Christ in the midst of their trials might be unsympathetic or shallow, but it’s not. It’s the most important thing we can do. In our relationship with Christ lies everything needed for a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). As we abide in him, we will produce much fruit (John 15:5).

Are you remembering Christ in your trials? Are you encouraging others to?

Application Question: Why are we so prone to forget Christ in the sense that his presence does not affect our daily decision-making, especially during trials? How can we faithfully remember him so we can endure suffering with integrity? Also, how can we help others remember him, without seeming insensitive and unloving?

To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember that God’s Word Is Unstoppable

such is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a criminal, but God’s message is not imprisoned!

2 Timothy 2:8b-9

Paul was suffering in prison—restricted like a criminal; however, the Word he taught could not be chained. It was triumphantly moving around the world and, no doubt, even affecting those in prison with him. We saw this dramatically happen in his first imprisonment in Rome. In Philippians 1:12-14, Paul says,

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my situation has actually turned out to advance the gospel: The whole imperial guard and everyone else knows that I am in prison for the sake of Christ, and most of the brothers and sisters, having confidence in the Lord because of my imprisonment, now more than ever dare to speak the word fearlessly.

In Paul’s first imprisonment, the prison guards were hearing the gospel, and other saints were being encouraged to proclaim God’s Word boldly because of his suffering. In fact, Paul spoke the loudest in prison as he penned several epistles—Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. No doubt, the gospel was also advancing in Paul’s final imprisonment.

Similarly, John Bunyan who wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress also spoke the loudest in his suffering. John MacArthur shares:

John Bunyan’s preaching was so popular and powerful, and so unacceptable to leaders in the seventeenth-century Church of England, that he was jailed in order to silence him. Refusing to be silent, he began to preach in the jail courtyard. He not only had a large audience of prisoners, but also hundreds of the citizens of Bedford and the surrounding area would come to the prison daily and stand outside to hear him expound Scripture. He was silenced verbally by being placed deep inside the jail and forbidden to preach at all. Yet in that silence, he spoke loudest of all and to more people than he could have imagined. It was during that time that he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress, the great Christian classic that has ministered the gospel to tens of millions throughout the world. For several centuries, it was the most widely read and translated book in the world after the Bible. Bunyan’s opponents were able to stop his preaching for a few years, but they were not able to stop his ministry. Instead, they provided opportunity for it to be extended from deep within a jail in the small town of Bedford to the ends of the earth.3

This has been a common experience throughout church history. Wherever the church has been persecuted, the Word of God has gone forth triumphantly. The early church father, Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” In fact, Paul taught that Christians boldly suffering for Christ is a necessary witness to unbelievers. Consider what he says in Philippians 1:27b-28:

… by contending side by side for the faith of the gospel, and by not being intimidated in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of their destruction, but of your salvation—a sign which is from God.

Therefore, Paul could endure confidently because even his suffering was a witness of the truth of the gospel. His gospel was unchained.

David Guzik adds,

The Bible has been attacked more than any other book through history. It has been burned, banned, mocked, twisted, and ignored—but the word of God still stands forever… The Word of God is not chained. No government, no religious authorities, no skeptics, no scientists, no philosophers, or no book burners have ever been able to stop the work of the Word of God.4

Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word never returns void; it always accomplishes God’s purpose. First Peter 1:25 says, “the word of Lord endures forever.” No matter if people imprison us, as they attempt to shut our mouths, God’s Word will go forth. Timothy needed to take encouragement from that, and we must as well. We have an unstoppable message.

Application Question: In what ways does the fact that God’s Word, the Bible, is unstoppable encourage you to endure trials, especially sufferings for Christ?

To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember the Lost

So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory.

2 Timothy 2:10

Interpretation Question: What is election?

Paul says he endures everything for the sake of the “chosen,” sometimes translated “elect”—referring to the lost who God chose for salvation before the foundations of the earth. Ephesians 1:4 says, “For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.” Election is a controversial doctrine; however, it should be noted that all believe in election. It is taught throughout Scripture (cf. Rom 8:29-30, 9:10-13, 1 Peter 1:1-2). The question is, “Why did God elect?” Did God elect because he knew who would choose him? Or did he elect out of his sovereign choice alone?

Scripture teaches that man cannot choose God apart from God’s grace. Romans 8:7-8 says, “because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” When man sinned in the garden, it so corrupted him, that he would always turn away from God. Adam’s first response after the fall was to hide from the Lord’s voice. Therefore, God chose because, if he didn’t, no one would come to him. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”

The very faith we have in salvation is a work of grace. Since our corrupted will cannot choose God, God gave us the will to seek him and turn to him. Those God chose before time, he gave faith to receive him. This is a great mystery; a righteous God punishes sinners, but a loving and merciful God saves a remnant.

With this said, Paul says election motivated him to suffer for the elect so they could hear the gospel. This is important to consider because many feel as if the doctrine of election hinders gospel preaching. They reason, “If God chose people to be saved, then we don’t need to evangelize. God will ultimately save them.” Therefore, they ask, “Why preach the gospel?” However, Paul had a different reasoning. The doctrine of election motivated him both to suffer and preach. Consider again, “So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory” (v. 10).

The God who chose the outcome—election to salvation—also chose the means—the preaching of the gospel. The elect are saved as believers unashamedly preach the gospel, even amidst suffering. Election, correctly understood, is a tremendous motivation for gospel preaching. We can preach because we know some will respond to the message. We see this throughout the book of Acts. Acts 13:48 says, “When the Gentiles heard this, they began to rejoice and praise the word of the Lord, and all who had been appointed for eternal life believed.”

To endure suffering, we must remember that the elect need to hear the gospel to be saved. Romans 10:14 says, “How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them?” For people to hear the gospel and be saved, there must be a messenger. Who the elect are is a mystery we must leave to God. We are just called to preach his Word, even if our suffering is necessary to do it.

Are you willing to suffer so others can hear the gospel—even if it means scorn, rejection, or imprisonment?

Application Question: What is your view on election? Did God choose based on his sovereign choice alone or based on his knowledge of who would choose him? How would you support your view?

To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember to Worship

This saying is trustworthy: If we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us.

2 Timothy 2:11-12a

As Paul considers reasons to endure, he recites what many believe to be a fragment of an ancient hymn in verses 11-14.5 As in Paul’s brief imprisonment in Philippi, maybe this was a hymn he was currently singing while behind bars (Acts 16:25).

Similarly, worship is an important discipline needed for us to endure suffering. If we don’t worship and give God thanks, we will succumb to pity, doubt, and depression, which all prompts us to give up rather than endure.

Application Question: How can we worship God in the midst of our trials?

1. We must remember God’s purpose in our trials.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” We must believe what God’s Word says in order to “consider it nothing but joy” when we face trials of various kinds (James 1:2). We must remember that these trials create perseverance in us, character, and hope in God (Rom 5:3). If we don’t remember the purpose of our trials, then it will be impossible to worship God in them.

2. We must remember that we are commanded to worship.

First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God commands us to both have joy and give thanks in all situations. It is in fact a sin to complain and grumble. Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world.” God disciplined the Israelites when they complained in the wilderness. First Corinthians 10:10 says, “And do not complain, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel.”

If every situation is used by God for our good, then we should, in acknowledgment of this, trust and praise him. Do you sing praises in your trials or do you complain? Paul praised God even during his imprisonment and before his death.

Application Question: Describe a time that you praised God in the midst of a trial instead of complaining. What were the results? What are some other tips that are helpful for praising God in the midst of a trial?

To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember God’s Reward

This saying is trustworthy: If we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us.

2 Timothy 2:11-12a

As mentioned, it is thought that Paul is reciting a fragment of an ancient hymn in verses 11-14. The hymn has four verses with two parallel couplets.6 The content of this hymn has rich theological insights that are important to understand in order to faithfully endure suffering.

Interpretation Question: What does the first couplet in 2 Timothy 2:11-12a mean and how was it meant to encourage Timothy to suffer well?

First, we’ll consider what it means to die “with him” (v. 11), as it unlocks the meaning of the rest of the couplet. There are two possible views:

1. To die with Christ means to die spiritually.

Romans 6:5-8 says,

For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.) Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

At salvation, Christ’s death is applied to our account. Our sin nature died with him on the cross. It is not that we don’t have a sin nature anymore, but that Christ broke the power of sin on our lives. Therefore, we are no longer slaves of sin—having to obey its yearnings. We are now slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:19). What Christ did on the cross, we must apply daily by dying to our sinful desires and living for God. Those who died spiritually with Christ on the cross and demonstrate this daily by fighting against sin “will also live with him” eternally (v. 11).

If this is the correct interpretation, Paul is reminding Timothy to endure suffering because his sin nature died on the cross. The nature that wants to run and be afraid of suffering for Christ no longer has power over him; therefore, he should stand in the midst of suffering and so must we. We must stand because our sin nature died with Christ on the cross, and now we’re living a new life—a life in the Spirit. God has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7).

2. To die with Christ probably means to be martyred.

The surrounding context of suffering for Christ points to martyrdom as the best interpretation. Dying for Christ is proof that we will live with Christ eternally (v. 11). Matthew 5:10 says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” Suffering for Christ is the gold stamp on our salvation. It is proof that we are truly converted and that the kingdom of heaven is ours.

This also better fits the parallelism of the second verse: “if we endure with him, we will also reign with him” (v. 12a). Those who suffer for Christ will ultimately be rewarded not only with heaven but with heavenly rewards and various degrees of ruling. Many verses describe this reward and the believer’s ruling with Christ in his kingdom:

Matthew 5:11-12 says,

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.

James 1:12 also describes the suffering believer’s reward. It says, “Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him.”

In the Parable of the Minas, Christ grants rulership of cities as a reward for faithfulness. In Luke 19:17-19, it says:

And the king said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you will have authority over ten cities.’ Then the second one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has made five minas.’ So the king said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’

To endure suffering, we must remember Christ’s reward. Those who suffer with him, as they die to sin and experience persecution for righteousness, will live and reign with Christ. God will reward them in the coming kingdom. This is a tremendous encouragement to help believers enduring suffering.

Application Question: Why does God give eternal rewards? How does the prospect of eternal rewards affect you?

To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember God’s Judgment

If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us. If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself.

2 Timothy 2:12b-13

Finally, the last couplet describes God’s judgment on the unfaithful, as a motivation to endure suffering. To “deny him” (v. 12b), doesn’t refer to a temporary denial, as in the case of Peter just before Christ went to the cross. It refers to ultimate denial, as seen with unbelievers or apostates like Judas. They deny him by their words and actions. The third verse resembles what Christ said in Matthew 10:32-33: “Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before people, I will deny him also before my Father in heaven.”

Similarly, Christ said this in Mark 8:38: “For if anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” To deny Christ is to be ashamed of him and his words in this wicked generation. If we do this, he will declare, “Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’,” as seen in Matthew 7:23.

Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself” (v. 13)?

Some have said this means that God will be faithful to us even if we, in moments of weakness, deny him. In this case, where verse 12 refers to permanent denial (as with an unbeliever or an apostate), verse 13 would refer to temporary denial as seen with Peter. If so, this would encourage Timothy who was timid and fearful about persecution—even if he failed, God would be faithful to him.

However, this interpretation is unlikely. It does not maintain the parallelism of the couplet—the first two stanzas being positive and the last two being negative. Most likely, this refers to God being faithful to judge the faithless, as he cannot deny his characteristics of being just, holy, and wrathful.

Dinsdale Young explains: “God cannot be inconsistent with Himself. It would be inconsistent with His character to treat the faithful and the unfaithful alike. He is evermore true to righteousness, whatever we are.”…Van Oosterzee says, “He is just as faithful in His threatenings as in His promises.”7

Certainly, this is a tremendous motivation to endure suffering. Christ calls for all to take up their cross to be his disciples (Lk 14:26-27). Therefore, we must endure suffering lest Christ deny us and God judge us.

Application Question: Which interpretation of verse 13 do you learn more towards and why? Which is more motivating to you—God’s mercy to the faithless or his judgment—and why? Do you ever use God’s discipline/judgment to motivate others towards righteousness? Why or why not?

Conclusion

As we conclude, let us consider this challenging story shared by David Guzik about a persecuted Christian in ancient Rome:

When one Christian in the days of the ancient Roman Empire was commanded to give money to the building of a pagan temple, he refused; and though he was old, they stripped him practically naked, and cut him all over his body with knives and spears. They started to feel sorry for him, so they said, “Just give one dollar to the building of the temple.” But he still would not. “Just burn one grain of incense to this pagan god,” they asked—but he would not. So he was smeared with honey, and while his wounds were still bleeding, they set bees and wasps upon him until he was stung to death. He could die; but he could not deny his Lord. The Lord can give you the same strength to live for Him, even as this man died for Him.8

How can we faithfully endure suffering for Christ?

  1. To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember Jesus
  2. To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember that God’s Word Is Unstoppable
  3. To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember the Lost
  4. To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember to Worship
  5. To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember God’s Reward
  6. To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember God’s Judgment

Copyright © 2017, 2018 (2nd Edition) Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations and commentary have been added.

BTG Publishing all rights reserved.


1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 54). Chicago: Moody Press.

2 Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 201). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 59–60). Chicago: Moody Press.

4 Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Ti 2:9). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

5 Stott, J. R. W. (1973). Guard the Gospel the message of 2 Timothy (p. 63). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

6 Stott, J. R. W. (1973). Guard the Gospel the message of 2 Timothy (p. 63). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

7 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2116). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

8 Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Ti 2:11–13). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

Related Topics: Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Pastors, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

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