Thursday, August 03, 2023

2023.08.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Timothy 4:1–8

2 Timothy 4:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does Paul charge  in 2 Timothy 4:1? Before Whom? What will the Lord Jesus Christ do? When? What else comes in final fullness at His appearing? What has Timothy been assigned to do in light of that day (2 Timothy 4:2)? What is he to preach? When is he to be ready to do so? What three things is he to do in this preaching? By what two things is it to be characterized? What time will come in Timothy’s ministry (2 Timothy 4:3)? What won’t people endure? According to what desires will they greatly increase their teachers? Because they have what sort of hearing/ears? From what will these turn away their hearing/ears (2 Timothy 4:4)? In how many things, therefore, must Timothy be sober/self-controlled (2 Timothy 4:5)? What must he endure? What sort of work must he do? What must he fulfill? Who is just about emptied (2 Timothy 4:6)? How does he describe the completeness of this emptying? What, then, is at hand? What three ways does he describe the completion of his ministry in 2 Timothy 4:7? What is laid up for him (2 Timothy 4:8)? Who will give it to him? When? To whom else will He give it?

If an apostle could give a minister a final charge for his ministry, what would he say? 2 Timothy 4:1–8 looks forward to the second serial reading of in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the apostle’s charge to Timothy included why he must labor, in what he must labor, in what manner he must labor, with what resolve he must labor, and to what end he must labor. 

Why the minister must labor. Paul solemnly charges Timothy (2 Timothy 4:1). When we have other pressures against us to do wrong, it is a mercy to have more pressure to do right. He has already reminded Timothy of the moment of his ordination to the ministry (cf. 2 Timothy 1:6), and here he uses this form of speech to add another pressure similar to that of ordination vows. 

What a weighty thing a vow is! It is made before God, Who sees all things, upholds all things, and will call all to account. And this God, the Lord, has also become Jesus Christ. He came into the world not to condemn the world, but that it might be saved (cf. John 3:17). What mercy! And how great is the condemnation if we disregard such mercy (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:6–10)! It is this Jesus (the Savior), this Christ (the Anointed), Who will judge. And He will judge all who have ever lived on the earth, in that day that He appears. He will appear as a Judge and a King.

For those who are tempted to live out of fear of what men may think, here are two great remedies: solemn charges and the coming appearance of Christ. We can see those who oppose Him and us, so we must perceive Christ by faith. Thus we must love His appearing (cf. 2 Timothy 4:8), longing for faith to become sight, and living already before His face now. Our being before the face of Christ is why a believer must labor. This is why a minister must labor. And vows and solemn charges can help us do this.

In what the minister must labor. There are many things that a minister should do. But his great task is to proclaim the Word (2 Timothy 4:2). This particular verb means to herald publicly. There is a proclaiming of the Word that must be done from house to house (cf. Acts 20:20), but Timothy’s primary task is the public preaching of the Word. Men won’t always want him to do so (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-4); there will be times when they consider public preaching to be “out of season.” But Paul reminds him of God’s position on this, of the Lord Jesus Christ’s position on this: the public preaching of the Word never goes out of season. 

There are three things that he must especially do in this preaching: “convince, rebuke, exhort.” The word behind “convince” means to make the hearer fully aware of his sin. “Rebuke” means to denounce sharply the hearer’s sinning. The former treats the consciousness; the latter the conscience. The reader can understand why such public heralding will often be considered “out of season” by men! “Exhort” is that comprehensive word for being called alongside in whatever manner is necessary (admonish, comfort, counsel, help, etc.). 

In what manner the minister must labor. It is important that the Christ-appointed content of preaching (convince, rebuke, exhort) be married to the Christ-appointed manner of preaching (with all longsuffering and teaching). If the people refuse to endure the preaching, the preacher must resolve to endure the people. How exhaustive (and exhausting!) is this demand: “all longsuffering.” The minister of the gospel is literally prohibited from ever giving up. Thank God that the sufficiency is of Him Who equips us by His Word and Spirit (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14–17; 2 Corinthians 2:14–3:6). 

So on the one hand, Timothy must preach “with all longsuffering,” but how can he keep addressing these people who are resisting the truth? The answer is found in the second part of the manner that is commanded in 2 Timothy 4:2: “with all teaching.” Keep teaching. Keep teaching. Keep teaching. The Scriptures proclaim Christ from cover to cover. They make wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. What is needed by those who are rejecting Christ… is Christ! And He has filled His Scriptures with theology about Himself, which He employs in giving Himself to us. A minister cannot give Christ to his hearer, but he can give that very teaching by which Christ gives Himself. This is the true “seeker friendliness.” For, men are nothing but resisters until God seeks them. And He seeks them through His Word. He seeks them through teaching. So the minister must preach not only “with all patience” but also “with all teaching.”

With what resolve the minister must labor. If he is to have all endurance in teaching, but the people will not endure being taught, then the minister must labor with resolve. He must “be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist.” He must completely fill out the various parts of the work to which he is called (“fulfill your ministry”). 

First, a minister must be watchful. He must be sober. He must not take his eye off the ball (as various athletes might say). He must not take his hand off the plow. People will want to claim authority over their own ears and turn them in any direction but the truth. The sounder and steadier is one’s preaching of the truth, the more the itchy ear will turn away from it. Just know in advance that will happen. Know in advance and be watchful. Don’t let it throw you, when it happens. 

This is an important lesson for the minister. This is also an important lesson for every believer. Various things will come in God’s promise, especially adverse responses from other people. Know in advance that this will happen so that you can be watchful and undeterred when it does come. When affliction comes, if you are watching and praying, you can endure the affliction rather than changing course because of that affliction. 

In particular, the minister must remember that he is always an evangelist. What he is preaching and teaching is the good news of Jesus Christ. So, what should he do if someone has itching ears, and rather than enduring the steadily preached sound doctrine wishes to listen to someone else who teaches the ideas of men (fables) instead of the truths of God? … What should the minister do? He should preach and teach the gospel. He should evangelize. Isn’t the hearer who acts like this just demonstrating his need for the gospel of Jesus Christ? Isn’t such a hearer just demonstrating his need to be evangelized? Let gospel ministers, then, do the work of an evangelist. And let all who hear presume that what they need most is to be evangelized!

To what end the minister must labor. Finally, the apostle describes his own imminent fulfillment of his own ministry. He’s telling Timothy, “now it is more important than ever that you fulfill your ministry (“completely fill out the various parts of the work to which you are called”), because I am just about done fulfilling mine. 

It is a great comfort and encouragement to know that all of the work of the gospel is the Lord’s. And He has assigned to each one the time, the place, the portion of the work that has been set apart particularly to him. Paul had a particular fight to fight, a particular race to run, by faith in Jesus Christ. Now Timothy’s own faith is to be tested and employed in Timothy’s own particular fight that he’s been given to fight, Timothy’s own particular race that he’s been given to run.

And so for you, dear Christian. There is a fight that is assigned to you. There is a race that is assigned to you. And there is a Christ Who has been given to you, by faith, for that fight and that race. There’s no use having anything left in the tank when you’re done. Fight and run and fulfill your ministry. Paul was coming to the end of doing so, which is why he describes himself as being poured out as a drink offering. The drink offering would be poured out completely. Leave nothing in the bottle. To go back to sports analogies, “leave it all on the field” or “leave it all on the track.” Or as my swim coach used to say, “leave it all in the water.” Dear Christian (and especially if you are a minister, dear minister), you are a living sacrifice; you and your life are a drink offering. Pour it all out! We do not belong to ourselves; let us not live for ourselves. One great end to which we labor: that all that we are might be given up, given over, and given out to the Lord Jesus Christ!

But there is also a secondary end: the frown. The Lord, the righteous judge, is giving out crowns of righteousness. It is His righteousness and His crown, and it is reserved for a particular sort of person: the one who has loved His appearing. There are a multitude of these appearing-lovers, and so there are a multitude of these crowns of righteous to be distributed. If you love the Lord Jesus Christ, and long for His appearing, and cling to Him as your righteousness, then there is (so to speak) a crown with your own name on it. It is laid up for you. But there is work to be done between now and then. It is the work that belongs to the one who loves Jesus’s appearing. He is all of our righteous standing in our justification; He is the One Who has earned for us the crown. And He is all of the source of our own righteous living in our sanctification; He is the One by Whom we fight the fight or run the race between now and when we receive the crown. Do you love His appearing? Do you long for Him? Then live for Him while you wait upon Him for that crown. May Jesus be your everything. This is the end to which we labor: that we may honor and adore Him for Whom we long—Him Whose appearing we have loved.

There is much here, particularly for ministers of the gospel, but really for all Christians. And it is just as we might expect from an apostle’s final charge. Before the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, serve the Lord Jesus Christ, in dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ, out of desire for the Lord Jesus Christ. Such is Christianity (and how apply named!)

What tasks have you been given by Christ in this season of your life? Who is observing you as you do them? How can you be prepared to persist through affliction? How much of yourself are you giving in Christ’s service? For what are you longing, as you serve?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You, Who will judge the living and the dead. Forgive us for how half-hearted we have been in our service of You. Grant that we would instead be poured out as a drink offering. We cling to You, Who are our righteousness, that we may be forgiven of all our sins and cleansed of all our unrighteousness, which we ask through You, Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP19B “The LORD’s Most Perfect Law” or TPH119E “Tell Me, O LORD, Your Way of Truth”

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