Keep on Being Strong in the Grace – Part One

2 Timothy 2:1-4

In his book, Holiness, Bishop J. C. Ryle wrote: “I will never shrink from declaring my belief that there are no spiritual gains without pains. I should as soon expect a farmer to prosper in business who contented himself with sowing his fields and never looking at them till harvest, as expect a believer to attain much holiness who was not diligent about his Bible-reading, his prayers and the use of his Sundays. Our God is a God who works by means.” Paul will refer Timothy to several illustrations of those who gain the benefits only after they have exerted the effort. Yet, reward is not obtained by personal effort alone but by grace that can only be found in Christ Jesus.

The Devotion of a Son

First, Paul reminds Timothy of their spiritual relationship as father and son. The word “therefore” points back to the previous charge to “hold fast the word.” His continued son-like devotion to Paul meant a continued need to be strengthen as Paul now moves on to the next charge or imperative: be strong. He is not implying that Timothy is weak. But according to A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures the Greek here is present passive imperative meaning “keep on being empowered.” The source of this power is Christ Jesus. The means and motive of this continuous empowerment was through grace. Timothy’s strength was not temporary, it was an on-going process. His strengthening was not from within, but from the Divine. His empowerment was not earned, but due to the unmerited favor of God’s Son. When Paul suffered with his thorn in the flesh, his ability to have the strength to endure came about by way of the grace of God. Christ responded to his prayer for its removal, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor 15:10).

It is essential that all Christians realize that to keep on being empowered like the electric lines keep the energy flowing to our homes, they must stay connected to the generating source of that power. In the case of Timothy (and all believers) the source is not himself but Jesus Christ. The reason he is continuously connected to the source of power is not due to his efforts or keeping his bills current. The current flow of power from the Son of God to Paul’s son was by unmerited favor. Just as the Israelites did not save themselves by marching around Jericho a total of thirteen times. Just as Gideon did not realize victory out of his own military strategy. Just as the Israelites did not defeat Pharaoh’s army of their own strength. So Christians are victorious through the undeserved power coming from Christ.

The Instruction of a Teacher

The source of Timothy’s teaching material is the same things he heard Paul preach and teach to a wide variety of audiences. The many witnesses to the teachings of Paul were the women at the riverside devotion outside of Philipi (Acts 16:13); the hostile Jews at Thessalonica (Acts 17:4); the fair-minded Bereans (Acts 17:11); the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers of Athens (Acts 17:18); the Jews and Greeks in the hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9,10); the believers in Traos (Acts 20:7-12); etc. What was Timothy to do with those things taught by Paul? He was to entrust them to the next generation of teachers. As he was entrusted with the Word by the inspired apostle, he was to entrust (deposit for safekeeping) with other men.

These men had to meet three qualifications in order to be the type of teachers Paul had in mind for Timothy to educate. First, they had to be faithful. This demands Timothy to find men and women who are trustworthy. Second, they had to be able or capable of teaching. Last, they had to be willing to continue this entrusting of the Word to the next generation of teachers who would in turn go out and teach others.

This verse is not upholding the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession. Instead, it is showing that it is the entrusted Word of God being passed down from generation to generation. Apostolic authority does not reside in the individuals who have been entrusted with the Word but the Word itself.

The Endurance of a Soldier

Paul was acquainted with the soldier’s life. Military metaphors abound in his letters (Eph. 6:10ff; 2 Cor. 10:3-5, Phil. 2:25; etc.). He had spent several years associated with soldiers. He oft used this metaphor to show how a Christian must fight the good fight of faith as a dedicated soldier of the cross. The Greek terms used here denote difficulty and suffering. Soldiers are exposed to the elements, to danger, to times without food or shelter, deprived of friends and loved ones and so on. It’s a dangerous and demanding way to live. Consider U.S. Air Force Captain Scott O’’Grady, who’s F-16 fighter jet was shot down in Bosnia a few years ago. Captain O’Grady evaded Bosnian Serb soldiers for six days until his rescue by a Marine Corp search and rescue team. During that time he lived by eating bugs and licking the dew from plants.

Paul had to endure many hardships throughout his travels. 2 Corinthians 11:24-33 gives us a list: three times beaten with rods; once stoned; three times shipwrecked; spent a day and a night in the deep; journeyed frequently; danger from rivers; danger from robbers; danger from his countrymen; danger from the Gentiles; danger in the city; danger in the wilderness; danger on the sea; danger among false brethren; labor and hardship; many sleepless nights; hunger and thirst; often without food; cold and naked; and in addition to all of these, he faced pressures of concern for the church.

Even the Captain of our Salvation endured much as He served the Will of God. He is not a Commander who leads his men into battle from the rear. He has led the way and suffered the most and has assured victory.

The word “entangles” in verse four literally means “gets tangled up in” or “to weave together.” In the Roman world, a soldier wasn’t allowed even to get married until his enlisted time ended (Craig Keener,IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 626). A soldier also had to stay free from civilian affairs. He did not start a business or volunteer for civil duties that would have interfered with being a soldier. Although the ads used to recruit soldiers often appeal to the joy, adventure, and learning of the individual, yet war itself is no picnic.

The good Christian soldier does not involve himself in the affairs this world to the extent that he hardly has anytime to fight the good fight. The Lord will not be any more impressed with our busy schedule than a sergeant will accept the excuse that a private has a hot dog stand on the beach that he must keep going and therefore needs to be excused from the current conflict. Before embarking on any endeavor a Christian should ask himself: Will it hamper my Christian service?

The issue of time is the reason not becoming overly involved in life’s distractions is a key to a Christian’s success. A preacher only has so much time to do all the things that need to be done. No one can do it all. There is not enough time in a week. So, like everyone else, preachers must make choices on how they are going to redeem the time. A good soldier spends his time becoming familiar with His commander’s voice by reading his Bible which is his weapon (the sword the spirit), by praying to heaven which is his means of communicating with headquarters, by fellowshipping with fellow-Christians, and by knowing who his enemies are and their strategies.

The soldier’s motivation is to “please Him who enlisted him.” Paul is here referring to the ancient custom of generals who recruited their own soldiers. This maintained a higher level of loyalty among the ranks. God needs us to be loyal to Him and His cause. This would exclude self-centeredness and friendship with the world (Js. 4:4).

Preachers often become involved with public education, scouts, sports, serving on community committees, etc. This is what is often expected of them by the members and society. However, they need to learn first to please the one who enlisted them. We work hard not as men pleasers, but in hope of hearing the Lord say “Well done thou good and faithful soldier” when this war is over.

Keep in mind that Paul is not excluding preachers for having a job to support themselves and their families while they preach. After all, he was a tent-maker at times. Neither does this verse speak out against him being married.

– Daniel R. Vess

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2019-06-30 - Keep on Being Strong in the Grace - Part Two
Categories: The Forum