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).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

2 Timothy 1:15-18

V15-18 – 15You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 17On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. 18May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.

In this final passage of chapter 1, Paul gives Timothy examples of unfaithfulness in Phygelus and Hermogenes and then faithfulness in Onesiphorus, who was a church member in Ephesus (v18; 2 Timothy 4:19). Paul uses the word “everyone” in v15 as an intentional exaggeration to show the danger of unfaithfulness; when an influential person goes astray, oftentimes many others follow. And being faithful to God doesn’t guarantee that people will be faithful to you! It should, and you might think it would, but it doesn’t, as evidenced by Paul here. In fact, Paul seems to expect human unfaithfulness; that’s why he rests so gloriously in the faithfulness of Christ. And Jesus expected that same human unfaithfulness, and He responded the same way that Paul does – by continuing to faithfully serve God.

V16-18 are an extended prayer for Onesiphorus, Paul’s faithful partner in his ministry. This man stood out to Paul, coming to serve him, and encourage him, in his time of need; and Paul wants God to bless him accordingly. And God will (Matthew 10:41-42; 25:40), because He is faithful. Calvin infers from this verse “that ‘the blessing of God rests, not only on the head of the righteous man,’ but on all his house. So great is the love of God toward His people, that it diffuses itself over all who are connected with them.” Timothy would have known these people and would have been further encouraged by Paul’s thoughts to be steadfast in his ministry labor. That’s the application for us. We ought to be encouraging to our brothers and sisters in Christ. But in order to be encouraging, we have to have fellowship; we have to know the struggles of our fellow believers; we have to have relationships and some level of intimacy beyond that of acquaintances; and we have to care enough to help “in many ways” (v18).

Monday, January 25, 2010

DC 402 - Week 5

Having wrapped up our brief look at Christian history, we turn this week to race, class, and gender issues. Here is how the workload might break down:

Monday - Read Numbers 1-8, 28-30, 35-36, and comment
Tuesday - Read
Psalms 95-98 and comment, and read chapter 16 of Across the Spectrum and answer question #6 in the workbook
Wednesday - Memorize Galatians 3:28 - There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus - and review previous memory verses, such as Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20, and Proverbs 27:17
Thursday - Answer questions 1a-c and 2a-e (8 questions) and review memory verses
Friday - Answer questions 3a-c, 4a-b, and 5a-e (10 questions) and review memory verses

2 Timothy 1:8-14

V8-14 – 8So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day. 13What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

This entire passage is the body of the letter (v8-14 is one sentence in Greek), including an exhortation to boldness and faithfulness. Timothy should “not be ashamed to testify about our Lord” (Acts 1:8), because he has been given “a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (v7). The mention of Paul as a prisoner of God in v8 is meant to encourage Timothy to boldness, for many times did Paul urge his followers to model him in ministry and Christian living. To be a prisoner of God and for God is the height of Christian living, because such a position eliminates both selfishness and fear. Paul was not ashamed, and he was proud of being unashamed, as he should have been. And Jesus tells us not to be ashamed of Him, lest He be ashamed of us on Judgment Day (Matthew 10:33). Those called to be preachers must preach the Good News regardless of cost or consequences. Paul urges Timothy to join him “in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” Being united to Christ in suffering is a blessing, because it means that we are united to Him in death and life eternal!

V9 is an important doctrinal reminder to Timothy from the pen of Paul. God’s action of saving an individual includes the calling to service and holy living. Paul’s teaching here recalls the covenant language of the Old Testament; Paul sees New Testament believers as equivalent, a continuation of the Old Testament faithful (Israel). God elects certain sinners (those who in time become believers) for glorification through sanctification, which in turn comes through justification (Romans 8:28-30). This election is “not because of anything we have done but because of His own [gracious] purpose.” Many ask about this purpose, and we conclude that His purpose is “mercy” (Titus 3:5; Romans 9:14-24) and love (Ephesians 1:4-5). This gracious election and calling was given to us in Christ “before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:2; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8). In other words, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not an afterthought; we were predestined to holiness (set apart), to be conformed to God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), the image of Christ. 1 Timothy 1:9 serves as an echo of Romans 8:29, which says, “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.”

V10 describes Christ as the mediator of the gospel of grace by destroying death and bringing “life and immortality to light.” He did this at His epiphany, His first coming, though the same Greek word also speaks of His second advent. Again, when Paul refers to “our Savior, Jesus Christ,” he is clearly equating Father and Son as two of the three Persons of the one and only Triune Deity. The Pastoral Letters go and back-and-forth calling God savior and Jesus savior, using identical language. Perhaps this characteristic was expressly for combating the common exclamation that Caesar was savior divine.

In v11, Paul returns to his own ministry, which got this ball rolling back in v8. He lists not so much the gifts he received for his ministry but the tasks he was appointed to accomplish with his very life. Heraldry, apostleship, and teaching referred to his tasks of preaching the gospel, being sent out to the Gentiles for the gospel, and training / edifying the saints for the sake of the gospel. He was also called to suffer (Acts 9:16; 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 6:3-10; 11:24-28) for the gospel, which in a sense, proved that he was faithful to his God-appointed mission. It became no longer a disgrace but an honor to suffer for the gospel; he wasn’t ashamed of it, because he had an ongoing, intimate relationship with Jesus (v12). There were a lot of uncertainties for Paul, but he was convinced that God guards His own people (Romans 4:20-21), that Jesus will accomplish His purposes in and through His people, (“what I have entrusted to Him” – our very selves) until “that day,” those who have by grace believed the gospel and professed that Jesus is Lord. At the end of v12, Paul speaks of that day; he’s referring in Old Testament language to Judgment Day (v18), the day of the consummation of the Kingdom of God.

Finally, in v13-14, Paul returns to his point, that Timothy needs to cling to the sound doctrine that he had learned from Paul. Not only does Timothy need to hold on to it for himself, but he also needs to guard it from false teachers so that it doesn’t get corrupted. He must do this, intending to pass it on “with faith and love in Christ Jesus,” “with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” You’ve heard, “Don’t just stand there! Do something!” Well, Paul is effectively teaching the opposite, for Timothy must ensure that his stance is firm in God’s word, or else whatever he does won’t matter. “Don’t just do something! Stand there!” In concluding this lengthy sentence, Paul practically passes over a great and valuable truth of the Christian faith. The Holy Spirit lives in us! Throughout the Bible, we see the unity of the Father, Son, and Spirit in the truth that They indwell believers, and the Son and Spirit are even referred to with the same names (“Truth” and “Advocate” – John 14:6,16,17; 16:7,13; 1 John 2:1).