Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.The Christian Soldier
2 Timothy 2:1; 2 Timothy 2:3-4
St. Paul's admiration of soldiers, and his choice of a soldier to be the type of one who belongs to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, meek and gentle—all this is quite easily explained, and has been very often explained, but nevertheless it ought to challenge much more attention and thought than we usually give it. When St. Paul says, 'My son, endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,' it seems to us a commonplace; but we have to consider what the word meant when St Paul uttered it. What are the qualities of the soldier that we ought to be able to low in our religion, in our penitence, and in our gratitude to our Saviour?
I. St Paul loved soldiers, and owed much to them; and, seeing their frank and brave carriage, he says, This also is what the Christian is to be: let him be the good soldier of Christ, and keep himself from all entanglements of civil life, the ordinary affairs of this life, which he must use but not be used by, in order that he may give satisfaction to Him Who has chosen him to be, not His darling, but His soldier.
II. What has the soldier, then (side by side, no doubt, with many faults like other men, with special faults belonging to his condition), which is purely good? St. Paul would point us to two things, Discipline and Endurance. He is a man of discipline, who has taken, in the Roman phrase, a sacrament, or oath. He has chosen his side and has his Master. It is that which our dear Lord Himself praises in the first centurion of the Gospel (St. Matt. VIII.). He knew his master and his place; he knew the great principles of authority, which, whether one exercises it or subjects oneself to it, depends upon something deeper still—fidelity. It is not a mere pride which brings hearts down by the reverberation of its claim, it is not an influence which sways a crowd by its attraction; it is a reference to something lying behind, it is a claim upon a past account, it rests upon something agreed upon beforehand. The soldier, as disciplined, knows his master, and is servant because he knows to whom he has committed himself.
III. And we Christians need that lesson very much. There are Christians who all their life long are wondering on which side they shall stand, and who are ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth. Let us pray our Captain, our Lord and Saviour, that we may not fall into the awful curse of those who deny Him, their Master, who shrink back from a yoke which is no voluntary yoke, because it forms part of that great compact which is all our salvation. If Christ saves us He commands us; if Christ pardons us He claims us. Discipline, obedience, fidelity, a clear recognition of the Masterhood under which we serve, are wrought in and with the most secret, the most delicate, the most tender hopes of the penitent: if we hope that our tears will not be in vain we must see that our minds are set firm; if we hope that our penitence will not be rejected we must see that our feet walk along the path traced for us by Jesus, Who is not only our Saviour, but our Lord. Let us know our own side, let us grasp the great faith and go forward, that we may prove the strength of Him Who hath chosen us to be His soldiers.
IV. But I long to say a word about the hardness, the endurance, of the military life. That also is a lesson to us as a nation and a Church. In the nation there is a perilous seeking after softness, pleasure, satisfaction, ease, a longing to avoid what is hard; I speak not of luxury, I speak not of eating and drinking, of 'lying soft and rolling swift': those are mere specks upon the stream of our life. I speak of that general and widespread longing to avoid all that is unpleasant, to avoid the word that costs us or our neighbour pain, to avoid the manly course when we are in an awkward situation, to replace the Christian ideal of suffering and conflict by another ideal of mere release from bodily pain, of an earthly and passing peace of mind, of a health and bodily development which subjects all other interests to its own. That is what we must indeed recoil from, lest we be found, searching after what is soft, to have lost our Saviour. The man who is trying to find a soft place in the world will never find one soft enough. It is from those given up to pleasure, and longing for what they call happiness, that we hear words which come near to rebellion against God Himself when they have met with one of the common troubles of life. They see endless losses in losses which are indeed real, but in which braver souls find encouragement Fighting people find the world tolerable and joyful; it is those who recognise it as a battle who are optimists. The soft theory means a bitter heart, and the bold acceptance of God's call to arms means a heart at peace, knowing peace under the banner of a King at war.
Reference.—II. 2.—Archbishop Benson, Living Theology, p. 109.
2 Timothy 2:3
A depressing and difficult passage has prefaced every newpage I have turned in life.
—Charlotte Brontë, in Villette.
2 Timothy 2:3
Garibaldi told his Sicilian volunteers: 'Men who follow me must learn to live without food, and to fight without ammunition'.
References.—II. 3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi. No 938. R. Primrose, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 27 C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 308. H. P. Liddon, Sermons Preached on Special Occasions, p. 342. S. Spink, Penny Pulpit, No. 1689, p. 551. J. Aspinall, Parish Sermons (2nd Series), p. 182. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 459. II. 4.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Timothy, p. 45. II. 5.—J. Martineau, Endeavours After the Christian Life (2nd Series), p. 62. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 240. II. 8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1653. Expositor (5th Series), vol. iii. p. 450; ibid. vol. ix. p. 13. II. 9.—Basil Wilberforce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 81; ibid. vol. li. p. 294. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1998. W. T. Davison, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 262. J. A. Alexander, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 499. Expositor (4th Series), vol. viii. pp. 115, 116. II. 10.—Ibid. vol. i. p. 34. II. 12.—Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 263. W. J. Knox Little, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 278. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x. No. 547.
2 Timothy 2:13
Among the cavaliers who fought at Edgehill was Sir Jacob Astley, whose prayer and charge, says Dr. Stoughton, were characteristic of the bluff piety of the best of his class. 'O Lord, Thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget Thee do not forget me. March on, boys!'
References.—II. 13.—G. Bellett, Parochial Sermons, p. 32. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv. No. 1453. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Timothy, p. 58.
2 Timothy 2:14-16
I remember no discussion on religion in which religion was not a sufferer by it.
The Workman and His Overseer
2 Timothy 2:15
These are words that you might write anywhere: on the bishop's palace, on the magistrate's bench, on the king's throne, on the editor's office, on the factory door, on the gardener's spade, on the maid-servant's broom, on the schoolboy's satchel.
I. God expects us all to be workmen. Our Lord Jesus has told us that God Himself has never ceased to work from the beginning, and His will is that we should all be co-workers with Him. Christianity is a divine workshop, and all who seek for admittance at its door must come with their loins girded for service. Christ expects every man to do his duty, and duty means hard, honest work of some kind. Our religion tells us all that labour and not pleasure should form the main substance of life, and that manhood loses all its dignity if it does not play a workman's part in the world. Everywhere the Christian idea is gaining ground, that rank and nobility are determined by service; that there can be no greatness in indolence, but that there is something great in all honest work.
II. We are to do our work and live our lives as under the eyes of the Great Overseer, remembering that we are seen of Him whom we cannot see, and that each day's work is submitted to His inspection. That is what the Apostle means by 'Study to show thyself approved unto God'. For it is not likely that we shall do our work well without an overseer. It is well for all of us that our brother-men take account of our doings. That is good, but there is something better. For if we recognise no judges of our work, and no overseer except our fellowmen, we lose the highest motives, and the most constant spur.
III. We are to work and live in such a way that we shall not be ashamed of ourselves. I know it is a hard task. It is all but impossible for a man to live and work in such a manner that he is never ashamed of himself. One of the noblest men I ever knew, the Hon. Baptist Noel as he was called, who had given up family prospects and position for conscience and Christ's sake, said tremblingly, just as he was dying, to some one who whispered to him, 'You will soon see Jesus,' 'Yes; I shall be very glad, but very much ashamed'. There is no escape from that with the best of us. But we can endeavour by the help of God to make each day's shame less, and to stand before God at last with something that will bear thinking of as well as much that we would thankfully forget.
—J. G. Greenhough, The Cross and the Dice-Box, p. 99.
References.—II. 15.—G. Lester, Preacher's Magazine, vol. x. p. 359. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1217. J. Baldwin Brown, Aids to the Development of the Divine Life, No. xi. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 69.
The Law of Moral Environment
2 Timothy 2:17
One subject suggested by the text is the deep social and religious truth of the influence of environment. Timothy is asked to shun, and to do what he can to make others shun the evil doctrine and ungodly life of their environment, which have crept into the Church also. It is because the Apostle realises the tremendous power of environment that he warns with such impressive solemnity. He knew that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
I. We usually take an outside and surface view of what environment means. We think of it as our outward surroundings, conditions of work, and conditions of home life. But the law of environment is a far subtler thing than all that, and cuts much deeper into our lives. After all is said about material conditions, it has to be remembered that the chief environment of a human life does not consist of things but of persons. There is a moral and spiritual climate as well as a physical. The people make the homes and the workshops and the towns, which have such influence over our lives.
II. When we think of it, we see that all the permanent influences of life come from persons. Home is not the walls where furniture is stored, but the place where others exercise their weird influence over us. The real environment, the mighty forces that play upon life and mould character, are thus spiritual; and this is where we have power over our environment. We can submit to what is evil in that environment, or we can shun it.
III. In all human intercourse influence permeates ceaselessly the whole circle from centre to circumference—your influence on others, their influence on you. It is not a plea for a hermit life, but a plea for serious consideration of the conditions of social life. The consideration should be twofold, the sense of your duty towards others, the sense of a necessary duty towards yourself in this matter.
—Hugh Black, Edinburgh Sermons, p. 113.
References.—II. 17.—Bishop Magee, Sermons at Bath, p. 124. II. 18.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 468; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 151.
The Foundation of God
2 Timothy 2:19-21
You will remember that the closing pages of the Bible are made glorious with a vision of the New Jerusalem, that is, a vision of the perfected Christian Church, and that that vision was seen by St. John from the heights of a great mountain. I am never surprised to hear that men see wonderful things from the heights of the mountains. Are you not surprised, however, to find that a similar vision appeared to St. Paul, when he was in his prison-house at Rome? In that narrow, dark prison he looked out and saw God's great house—the New Jerusalem, the perfected Christian Church. The eye sees what it brings the power to see. I want us to see the vision that appeared, then, to St. Paul.
I. And, first of all, I want us to gather the impression that was produced upon St. Paul when he looked upon the great house of the Lord. When St Paul looked upon the house of the Lord he said it was a great house, and had been built by a mighty workman; that it had stood steadfast in the midst of all the turmoils of time, and that is the impression that ought to be produced upon us when we gaze upon the Christian Church.
II. I want you to pass upward and look upon these inscriptions: (1) 'The Lord knoweth them that are His'. There are a great many people to whom God says that, to whom you never say that. And one of the greatest surprises will be to find so many people in heaven that we never expected to meet. (2) 'Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.' Let us have great sympathy with doubt, and hesitation, and becloudment of mind, but a very stern voice for all iniquity. We must have a pure Church.
III. But now we must get inside. Go into the banqueting hall. Look! See! It is ready for the King. The vessels of silver and gold as they stand upon the festal table seem to suggest one question to me. It is: How may I be a vessel of honour in the house of the Lord? Paul says: 'If a man, therefore, purge himself from these he shall be a vessel unto honour'. And it is supposed that the reference there is to such men as Hymenaeus and Philetus. We have light upon the character of one of these men who troubled the Early Church. He made 'shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience'. If you want to be a vessel of honour in the house of God, get very near to your Master.
—J. S. Simon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. LXXIII. p. 198.
References.—II. 19.—T. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 408. C. D. Bell, The Name Above Every Name, p. 67. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1854. J. Bowstead, Practical Sermons, vol. ii. p. 99. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 358. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Timothy, p. 68. II. 20.—Ibid. (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 39; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 275. II. 20, 21.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1348. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Timothy, p. 77. II. 26.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 22. III. 1.—T. Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 245. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 468.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.
Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:
Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.
Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.
If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.