Hold firm. 2:8-13
In the face of suffering, Paul encourages Timothy to stand firm for Christ in his Christian ministry. To achieve this end, Paul explains why he himself strives to "endure everything." The source of his determined stand for Christ has to do with his desire to preserve God's people to the end.
v8. Paul begins by encouraging Timothy to focus on the gospel, a message which concerns the Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. The term, "raised from the dead" is the central truth of the gospel. Christ has broken the bonds of death and is alive, and because he lives we may live also. Paul also adds "descended from David". Only on one other occasion, Rom.1:3, does Paul include such a phrase in the gospel. It is a messianic term defining Jesus as the anointed descendent of David who receives an everlasting kingdom and rules it in power. To a Gentile audience, Paul would normally use the title of "Lord". So, the gospel is presented in the following terms: Jesus is risen from the dead and he is Lord.
v9. Gospel ministry ("the care of all the churches") made Paul vulnerable to arrest and imprisonment. There is a sense where he now suffers as Christ suffered. Yet, his chains cannot chain God's Word. Apostles, pastors and teachers, Timothy himself, even Paul's letters, are all channels for God's Word.
v10. Paul now tells us why he is willing to endure suffering. He does it for the sake of God's special people that they too might inherit eternal glory. For Paul, one of the strongest motivations for his service to Christ is found in his desire to see all of God's children sharing that glory. That's what keeps him at it, and it can keep Timothy at it as well.
v11-12. Here we find another of the trustworthy sayings that Paul quotes in his letters to Timothy. There are five trustworthy sayings altogether, each a teaching saying, probably in common use throughout the Christian church at the time. Paul quotes the saying to support his exhortation that Timothy should endure in Christian ministry. The saying is made up of three elements:
i] Through our identification with Christ's death and resurrection there is a consequential death to sin and judgement and an enlivening to life eternal, cf. Gal.2:19f, 1Cor.15:45. This is a central Pauline doctrine.
ii] Our "reign" with Christ in eternity is preceded by the learning experience of discipleship.
iii] The danger we face in the Christian way is denial of Jesus. If we abandon our faith in Jesus, if we "disown him", we are lost, cf. Matt.10:33, 12:32.
v13. In this verse Paul qualifies the third point: "although, as is so often the case, we are unfaithful, Jesus remains faithful." What we have here is the wonderful doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. In the end, our Christian life may be very paltry, but our final salvation does not rest on our ability, but on the grace of God. If we hold onto Jesus our salvation is assured.
This passage gives us some good reasons for endurance in the Christian life.
1. The person of Jesus, v8. The center of the gospel, which we claim for ourselves and proclaim to the world, concerns the person of Jesus. He is a living Lord and in him we can live also. As the trustworthy saying puts it in v11, "If we have died with him, we will also live with him." There is nothing surer. Troubles can weigh us down at times, but as Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 4 verse 17, "our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."
2. The power of God's Word, v9. Our Christian walk goes hand in hand with the Word of God. Take a simple example like teaching children the Bible. After a year of hard work we may wonder if it is worth it. What does Paul say? "God's Word is not chained." We may not see anything happen, we may even be totally frustrated, but God's Word is not chained.
3. The perseverance of God's people, v10, 13. One of the most worrying things we face as a Christian is the possibility that in the last day Jesus will say to us "I do not know you, depart from me." We will always face the danger of having our faith undermined by false teaching. An emphasis on law-righteousness, on doing rather than receiving, can undermine a believer's faith. Salvation is by grace through faith, not works of the law. Our unfaithfulness does not annul Christ's faithfulness.
4. Sharing in the reign of Christ, v12. We can put up with hard times when we are sure of a good result. Our future is to rule with Christ in eternity. The rough and tumble of life prepares us for our rule with Christ. Once we have this perspective, it is easy to endure.
1. The trustworthy saying in v11 and 12, along with Paul's qualification in v13, outlines the gospel. Present a short gospel message from the truths found in these verses.
2. What does Paul mean when he says "God's Word is not chained?
3. What do we have to do for Christ to "disown" us?
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