Thursday, May 04, 2023

2023.05.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Timothy 2:1–7

 Read 2 Timothy 2:1–7

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Paul call Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1? What does he command him to do? How? In Whom? To what things does he refer in 2 Timothy 2:2? Among whom did he hear them? What is he to do with these things? And what are the faithful me to do with them? What must Timothy endure (2 Timothy 2:3)? As what? Of Whom? What would this mean not entangling himself with (2 Timothy 2:4)? Why not? To what illustration does he switch in 2 Timothy 2:5? To what does the athlete commit himself? To what illustration does he switch in 2 Timothy 2:6? What must this farmer do? Upon what is Timothy to think (2 Timothy 2:7)? How will he understand?

What must ministers do, when almost the entire rest of the church is turning away from the truth? 2 Timothy 2:1–7 looks forward to the second reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in times of general apostasy a faithful minister must entrust the truth to faithful men for future generations, doing God’s work, God’s way, in God’s strength, by God’s grace.

All have turned away from the apostle (cf. 2 Timothy 1:15). This is a repeated/basic pattern of the period from Pentecost until the return (cf. 2 Timothy 3:1–9). Often, there will be a respected man in the church who succeeds in turning an entire congregation against faithful preachers and faithful preaching (cf. 2 Timothy 4:14–16). 

Those who have endured this in the two thousand years since this letter was written are grateful for the providence of God that made it the context of Paul’s last letter to his “son” (2 Timothy 2:1) in the ministry. What is a minister to do in an age of worldliness in the church and feeble appetite for the Lord and His Word, when a faithful ministry is likely to get you rejected even by those who seem to be something in the church? 

Be a strong son, training new sons, who train sons, 2 Timothy 2:1-2. Timothy is the “son” of one who has been strengthened and kept against all opposition by God’s Spirit (cf. 2 Timothy 1:32 Timothy 1:72 Timothy 1:82 Timothy 1:92 Timothy 1:12. Now Timothy is to stand strong by Christ’s own strength, resting in the same One Whose gospel he preaches (2 Timothy 2:1). 

And Timothy is to invest himself in young men by whom he hopes that the faithful will again be multiplied, across generations (2 Timothy 2:2). The Psalm 78:6–7 solution for a Psalm 78:8 generation continues to apply throughout the history of the church. What, specifically, is Timothy to commit to these faithful men, for future generations? The apostle uses three illustrations to urge Timothy to teach dedication to doing God’s assigned work, in God’s prescribed way, by God’s own strength. And he concludes with instruction to meditate upon these things in dependence upon God’s grace.

Be a soldier; follow orders, even when difficult, 2 Timothy 2:3-4. Paul, Timothy, all ministers of the gospel, and indeed all Christians have been enlisted by the Lord Jesus Christ. We’ve been conscripted by Him in the war upon the devil and his works (cf. 2 Timothy 6:10–13). But battling comes with pain (“endure hardship,” 2 Timothy 2:3). And it means that there are things in life that we won’t get to do or focus upon (2 Timothy 2:4a). We are not our own, and what we do in life must be determined not by our whim but by the war, not by our desires but by our commander’s demands (verse 4b). As a soldier, the minister or Christian must do the work that is assigned to him.

Be an athlete: follow the rules, 2 Timothy 2:5. The minister in nurturing discipleship, and the saint in pursuing discipleship, has been given the parameters by which this comes. He has been given the only way by which we come to the finish line qualified. Ministry, discipleship, is not a place for creativity but careful attention to the parameters the Lord has given us. The theology that we teach and learn is determined by God. The material from which we teach and learn is the Scriptures. The contexts in which we teach and learn are the congregation as led by the elders and the household as led by the husbands/fathers. The ministry of the Word is bolstered by and united to the ministry of prayer and the administration of the sacraments. God’s work must be done God’s way. As an athlete, the minister or Christian must purse discipleship in the way that God has prescribed.

Be a farmer: feed yourself first, 2 Timothy 2:6. As he seeks to minister by the ordained means of grace to others, Timothy mustn’t neglect to partake of the ordained means of grace for himself. The laboring farmer needs to receive nutrition if he is going to be able to put forth that labor to provide others with nutrition. What a danger there is in trying to feed a congregation or family when one’s own soul is malnourished. In the author’s day, it has become popular to speak of caregivers’ self-care, but this is not exactly analogous in spiritual things. For, the use of the means of grace is not self-care but Spirit-care—dependence upon the Lord to use His means in our lives. The minister operates not from personal strength but from the weakness that boasts only in Christ’s strength. But let him see to it that he is actually feeding upon Christ and strong in Christ. Without Christ, weakness is just helplessness, not strength. As a farmer, the minister or Christian must work in the strength that God gives.

Dependence upon God’s grace, 2 Timothy 2:7. God transforms us by the renewing of our mind. So, Paul is following his own guidelines when he tells Timothy to “consider what I say.” Christian living proceeds from Christian meditation. The Word-directed life proceeds from the Word-drenched heart, the setting of the mind on particular things that God has said by His servants.

But even this is an employing of a means of grace. The apostle joins prayer to the instruction: “may the Lord give you understanding in all things.” We use the means of grace, because we are entirely dependent upon grace. Therefore, we have good hope as we use them, because we are looking to Him to make the means effective unto grace. Timothy is to set his mind on the teaching, but it is the Lord Who will give him the understanding. 

Thus, the apostle not only helps by prayer but sets an example for Timothy’s own praying for himself. And, as Timothy teaches others, he will be praying for them that the Lord would give them understanding. And, if they have learned well, then when they proceed to teach the generation that follows, it will be with prayer. And on it goes. Do we believe that we are dependent upon grace? Well that faith has a language in which it expresses itself: prayer for the very things that the Lord has prescribed.

What does the church need in an age like ours? What are you doing, daily and weekly, to participate in God’s bringing that? What use are you making of the means of grace and the ministry of the gospel that Christ has provided for you through His servants? What else are you doing in life that may be hindering you from giving more attendance upon these means? What is the inner life of your mind like? How is prayer involved in your meditation upon God’s Word?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Paul, Timothy, and the line of faithful ministers that You have provided even up until our own day. Even in times when church leaders turn most of the church away from faithful words and faithful preachers, You maintain for Yourself a remnant by Your strength. Forgive us, O Lord, for when we have been bad soldiers who are unwilling to suffer, or who divide our allegiance between this life and Your service. Forgive us, for when we try to run the Christian race on our own terms, rather than taking the path that You have appointed. Forgive us, for when we forget that we are as needy of Your grace as anyone else. Forgive us, for being untrained in our thought life and not setting our minds upon Your Word. Help us, O Lord! Grant that Your Spirit would give us understanding in all things, and give us to live by that understanding, in dependence upon Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH464 “The Beatitudes”

No comments:

Post a Comment