Friday, January 29, 2010

2 Timothy 2:1-7

V1-7 – 1You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 3Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer. 5Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

In v1-6, Paul commands Timothy to “be strong” using three analogies to emphasize wholehearted devotion to a singular task (solider in v3-4, athlete in v5, and farmer in v6). The phrase “be strong” (endynamoo) literally means, “continue to be made strong.” God does the strengthening, and our response to that fact is not to resist His work, even to help it along.

The “reliable men” Paul mentions in v2 are specifically the elders of the congregation, although in large churches, such as Southeast Christian, there are non-elders who do a great deal of teaching. This verse would still apply for them as well. Church leadership should teach the teachers to follow Paul’s instructions. Paul treats his words (“the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses”) as authoritative; his words are to be “entrusted,” or passed on with care to those who can and will carry on the mission of evangelism, edification, and discipleship.

Paul turns to the illustration of a soldier in v3-4, encouraging Timothy to “endure hardship,” staying focused on the task of pleasing “his commanding officer” without getting involved in “civilian affairs.” In other words, Timothy ought to please God rather than men, acknowledging the hardship that comes with working for the Lord; he ought not get caught up in the foolishness of what the false teachers were proclaiming, nor should he get tangled up in the world’s corruption, secular humanism (2 Peter 2:20). And then Paul gives two more analogies, both of which mention a reward for fulfilling the duty (Proverbs 27:18).

In v5, Paul gives a similar illustration, the method of an athlete. An athlete’s goal is to win, but he must compete “according to the rules.” It does no good to win by cheating, for the crown will have to be forfeited. In other words, Timothy must win by remaining faithful to Christ, in terms of methods and message content; he shouldn’t try to win by playing the preacher game on his own terms, or by stopping before the contest is completed (1 Corinthians 9:24). In v6, Paul says, “The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” In other words, Timothy is to diligently serve Christ, and in turn, his reward will be a priority upon Christ’s return.

Finally in v7, Paul tells Timothy to reflect on what he is saying. Some commentators attach this verse to the previous verses, such that Timothy should really ponder Paul’s analogies; he shouldn’t just rest in God’s grace, but he ought to strive in God’s grace and work hard and “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (v1). This view makes sense when considering v14. Others assign this verse to the following passage, which serves as a testimony to the faithfulness of Paul and, more importantly, Christ. Either way, Paul says, “The Lord will give you insight,” and he’s referring to the new covenant ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

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