2 Timothy 2:5

I. THE DUTY OF SUFFERING HARDSHIP IN THE GOSPEL. "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ."

1. The minister is a soldier of Christ, enrolled by him, trained by him, armed by him, supported by him, as the Captain of our salvation. The ministry is a warfare, involving, not only the "good fight of faith," but an increasing struggle against false teachers.

2. As a good soldier, he must be prepared to suffer hardships. Like the soldier, he must often leave home and friends, expose himself to cold and hunger and fatigue; he must fearlessly meet the enemies of his Lord, and die, if need be, in the arms of victory.

3. The apostle strengthens his admonition by an appeal to his own hardships and sufferings. Timothy took a sympathetic interest in the career of the greatest of the apostles. The tried veteran appeals to the young soldier.

II. ENCOURAGEMENTS TO BE DRAWN FROM THE DUTIES AND REWARDS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. There are three pictures presented to our view - one military, another agonistical, and another agricultural.

1. The supreme unembarrassed devotion of the soldier to his commander. "No one that serveth as a soldier entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who enrolled him to be a soldier." The Roman soldier was isolated by express law from all trades and interests and agencies that would interfere with the discipline of his profession.

(1) The minister who is supremely concerned about the affairs of the next life must stand free from the entanglements of human occupation, so as to devote his whole energies without distraction or dispersion of thought to the business of his Master. The apostle had himself occasionally to resort to industry for his own support, under circumstances of a purely exceptional nature; but he demands an extrication of the ministry from all secular engagements in his elaborate plea to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9.).

(2) His sole motive is to please the Master who enrolled him in this service. It is not to please himself, or to please men by seeking ease, or emolument, or social position, but to please the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose book of life his name is written.

2. The severe training and lawful striving of the athlete in the games. "But if any one also strive in the games, he is not crowned unless he have striven lawfully." The figure was a familiar one to the people of that age who dwelt in cities.

(1) It is implied that ministers, in striving for the crown of life, must strip off all encumbrances" laying aside every weight" - that they may the more easily press to the mark, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

(2) It implies that they must undergo the discipline of severe training to fit themselves for the work of ministry, and carry on their service according to the high laws of the kingdom of Christ.

3. The reward of the labouring husbandman. "The labouring husbandman must needs first partake of the fruits of his labour."

(1) This does not mean that the husbandman would be the first to partake of the fruits, but that he must first labour before he obtained the reward. There is evidently an emphasis on the fact that a laborious husbandman was the most fully entitled to reward.

(2) The minister of Christ must plough and sow before he can reap; he must use all laborious diligence in his calling, not discouraged because he does not at once see the fruits of his labour, for the seed may not sprout up quickly, but ever looking upward for the dews of Heaven's grace to descend upon the wide field of his ministry.

III. THE DUTY OF GIVING CONSIDERATION TO ALL THESE FACTS. "Consider what I say, and the Lord will give thee understanding in all things."

1. It is the Lord only who can give us a true insight into both doctrine and duty.

2. Those who enjoy this Divine help are under the greatest obligation to use their understandings upon the highest of all themes. - T.C.







Not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
The athlete who competes in the games does not receive a crown, unless he has contended law fully, i.e., according to rule (νομίμως νόμος). Even if he seem to be victorious, he nevertheless is not crowned, because he has violated the well-known conditions. And what is the rule, what are the conditions of the Christian's contest? "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." If we wish to share Christ's victory, we must be ready to share His suffering. No cross, no crown. To try to withdraw oneself from all hardship and annoyance, to attempt to avoid all that is painful or disagreeable, is a violation of the rules of the arena. This, it would appear, Timothy was in some respects tempted to do; and timidity and despondency must not be allowed to get the upper hand. Not that what is painful, or distasteful, or unpopular, is necessarily right; but it is certainly not necessarily wrong; and to try to avoid everything that one dislikes is to ensure being fatally wrong.

(A. Plummer, D. D.)

The phrase "lawfully" which is found in precisely the same connection in Galen (Comm. in Hippocrates 1:15) was technical, half-medical, and half belonging to the training schools of athletes, and implied the observance of all rules of life prior to the contest as well as during it. Failure to keep to the appointed diet and discipline, no less than taking an unfair advantage at the time, excluded the competitor from his reward.

(E. H. Plumptre, D. D.)

The following were among the regulations of the athletic contests. Every candidate was required to be of pure Hellenic descent. He was disqualified by certain moral and political offences. He was obliged to take an oath that he had been ten months in training, and that he would violate none of the regulations. Bribery was punished by a fine. The candidate was obliged to practise again in the gymnasium immediately before the games, under the direction of judges or umpires, who were themselves required to be instructed for ten months in the details of the games.

(Conybeare and Howson.)

I. A CHRISTIAN IS A STRIVER.

1. In the breast and forefront of this strife thou must contend with ignorance, which adversary, though his eyes be put out, and he be as blind as a mill-horse, yet his strength is like behemoths, his weapons Goliahs, his blows the batterings of a tearing cannon; for if this giant be not quelled, killed, he will lead you into mazes of error.

2. This monster being put to flight, you are to encounter with aged superstition.

3. Close after idolatry follows covetousness.

4. At the heels of every striver you shall have sloth and idleness.

II. ETERNAL LIFE IS CALLED A CROWN. For the worth and excellency of it.

III. THE LAWFUL STRIVER SHALL BE CROWNED.

(J. Barlow, D. D.)

Man likes to choose his own way; but the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has marked out a way for him: hence one reason at least of his unwillingness to go along it. The text tells us that we must put off this perverseness of the old man, and put on all the obedience of the new man, following the direction which the Lord hath given. Man's will is to have no change of his ways, no sorrow for the past, no amendment (but he will not call it amendment) for the future. All this is too humbling to his pride, too much of a curb upon his self-will. But our Lord's precept is repentance: you must come to Me, and receive that which I give along the road of repentance. The making repentance a step, and not a course, merely a gate of introduction, and not a road also of daily conduct, is one of the short cuts by which men think to arrive at the prize, without going through all the prescribed rules of the struggle. And not only must we bring our minds to submit to the rules which our Lord hath laid down, but also our hearts to understand them: indeed, we must first understand them before we can truly accept them. We cannot in any case effectually bind ourselves to a duty of which we know not the extent; we cannot be sure of accomplishing a thing of which we have not counted the cost. Now our blessed Lord bath set before us our course, both by example and precept. And what remains is to make up our minds to rise and follow. In His trials we have the model of our lawful strife. In His ascension unto glory we see the assurance of our crown. His flesh was crucified: so must we crucify the flesh. He rose again; even so we must rise again unto newness of life. He is seated in heaven: so we must set our affections on things above. The rules are plain; they cannot he confounded with the rules of strife for any worldly mastery. We see, then, what we have to contend against. It is a compliance with the course of a sinful world; a reluctance to change our course into one which is not in conformity with it, but even in a contrary direction. It is putting God's end, indeed, before us, even the prospect of eternal life, but not using His means, but putting our own in their place, because we find them much more agreeable: it is, in short, the indulgence of our nature.

(R. W. Evans, B. D.)

We gather from this figure that in spiritual things there is a striving lawfully and a striving unlawfully, and that the prize is not necessarily given to him who wins the race, if he has not complied with certain rules laid down. I think, then, we may say that there are three distinct ways of striving.

1. There is an unlawful striving after unlawful objects.

2. An unlawful striving after lawful objects.

3. A lawful striving after lawful objects.

I. As what is right is often more clearly shown by holding up what is wrong, I shall attempt to describe WHAT IT IS TO STRIVE UNLAWFULLY AFTER UNLAWFUL OBJECTS.

1. To strive, then, after pre-eminence, to be a Diotrephes in a church (John 3:9).

2. All strife about vain and idle questions (ver. 14).

3. To seek after a form of godliness, whilst secretly denying the power thereof, or to have a name to live when dead in sin.

4. To strive after fleshly holiness and creature perfection.

5. To seek to find an easier and smoother path than the strait gate and the narrow way.

II. But now I come to another kind of striving, which is UNLAWFUL STRIVING AFTER LAWFUL OBJECTS. Now God has laid down in His word of truth three solemn rules, laws you may call them if you like, which constitute lawful striving.

1. The Holy Ghost must begin, carry on, and finish the inward work of grace.

2. The soul must be brought under His Divine teaching to be thoroughly stripped and emptied of all creature wisdom, strength, help, hope, and righteousness.

3. The glory of a Triune God must be the end and motive of all. Any departure from these three rules of striving makes a man strive unlawfully.

III. But we come now to the only striving which the Lord crowns — A LAWFUL STRIVING AFTER LAWFUL OBJECTS.

1. Now we will begin with the first rule, which is this, that the Holy Spirit must work in us all the power, wisdom, grace, faith, strength, and life, that we strive with.

2. The second rule of lawful striving is, that the runners in this race should have no strength. "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength."

3. And this enables you to comply with the third rule of lawful strife — to give God all the glory. Surely you can take no glory to self, when self has been proved, and found wanting. Now these lawful strivers after lawful objects are crowned, and they only. This crown is twofold — a crown here and a crown hereafter, a crown of grace set on the heart below, and a crown of glory set on the head above.

(J. C. Philpot.)

(2 Timothy 2:5 with 1 Corinthians 9:25): — Let us glance first at —

I. THE FACT THAT THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A WARFARE, A RUNNING AND A WRESTLING, A COURSE OF SELF-RESTRAINT, and of earnest labour and striving after a great end. Let us consider —

II. THE MANNER OF THE STRIFE. There are two words which describe this, both of which are significant. "Lawfully" is the one, and "certainly" — or to put the double negative as the apostle has it, "not uncertainly" — is the other; and the "not as one that beateth the air" is only an expletive, or repetition of that.

1. This "lawfully" requires that all our effort and striving should be in accordance with Divine rule. And this implies at least two things —(1) That it should be preceded by our trust in Christ. Nothing we can do is acceptable or valuable until by faith in Christ we have been reconciled to God.(2) In the efforts we put forth we are not to follow our own impulses or inclination, but to be directed by the will of Christ.

2. "Certainly." The certainty is secured by the lawfulness. Those who are guided by Christ's will are not in any doubt either as to what they ought to do, or as to the result of doing it. Let us notice —

III. THE OBJECT OF OUR EFFORT AND STRIVING. The apostle defines this object in the words, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection," and in this he but describes the warfare of the spirit against the flesh, or of the new man against the old, which is characteristic of the Christian life. And this leads me to notice in the fourth and last place —

IV. THE MOTIVE OF THE APOSTLE'S STRIVING.

1. That he might not be a castaway. "A castaway." Try to realise what that word means, if you would understand the full significance of the text, and the mighty force of the motive by which the apostle was actuated. "A castaway." There was a picture so designated painted some years ago, and engravings of it were frequently met with. One of these you may have seen, and the remembrance of it will help you to a conception of what the apostle dreaded. In that picture a gaunt figure with unshaven head and unkempt hair, badly clad and hunger-stricken, is seen seated on a raft in the midst of a raging rainy sea, sheltering his face with his arm from the blinding drift, straining his hollow eyes to descry a sail in the far distance. He is the very picture of umnitigated, hopeless, unpitied misery. He is not only alone in the universe, but the whole universe, so far as it is visible, seems to be against him. The sky frowns on him; the rain descends on his unsheltered head, the wind smites him; the sea dashes over, and threatens to engulf him; hungry monsters of the deep are waiting to make him their prey. There is no ear to hear his cry, no eye to witness his miserable and forlorn plight, no hand to help him, no haven near, no friendly star gleaming through the darkness to show him where he is. He is left alone of men, cast out by the world, persecuted by the elements. The only thing that befriends him is the raft to which he clings. Now to be a castaway in the spiritual sense is worse even than that — unspeakably worse. The word is fraught with all kinds of imaginable and unimaginable horrors. To be rejected by the universe of being, to be despised and spurned, to be expelled from any circle into which it is desirable to enter, to be disowned by all the good, tormented by ell the bad, to see every door of hope closed, to find everything in the universe hostile, every force operating unfavourably, every object wearing a frown, no eye to pity, no hand to help, no car to hear, no voice to utter one consoling word, no means of mitigating, no friendly raft even to bear up amidst the engulfing misery! What conception can be more horrible than that?

2. Paul was not only actuated by the desire to escape being a castaway, but also by the desire to gain a crown. "They do it," he says, of the competitors in the games, "to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible."

(W. Landels, D. D.)

As the chemist, the navigator, the naturalist attain their ends by means of law, which is beyond their power to alter, which they cannot change, but with which they can work in harmony, and by so doing produce definite results, so may we.

(Shorthouse, "John Inglesant.")

New Cyclopaedia of Illustrations.
If a boy at school is bidden to cipher, and chooses to write a copy instead, the goodness of the writing will not save him from censure. We must obey, whether we see the reason or not; for God knows best.

(New Cyclopaedia of Illustrations.)

Many years ago the Turks and the Christians had a great battle, and the Christians were defeated, and with Stephen, their commander, they fled toward a fortress where the mother of the commander was staying. When the mother saw her son and his army flying in disgraceful retreat, she ordered the gates of the fortress to be closed against them, and the gates were dosed, and then the mother stood on the battlement and cried to her son, "You cannot enter here except as a conqueror." Then the commander rallied his scattered troops, and resumed battle and won the day — twenty thousand scattering like flying chaff two hundred thousand. Ah! my friends, defeated in this battle with sin and death and hell, there is no joy, no reward, no triumph for you. Only shame and everlasting contempt. But for those who gained the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ the gates of the New Jerusalem are open, and you will have abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

The truest freedom is secured by the most implicit obedience. Those who profess themselves free in the sense of being superior to law do but make themselves the slaves of sin. It is in the observance of rule that we find the fullest scope for the development of our individuality and the improvement and elevation of all our natural powers. They soar highest, and act with the greatest vigour, and move with the greatest freedom, who keep themselves most completely subject to the restraints of law. Loyalty elevates. We are ensnared and deteriorated when we follow our own caprice; for the liberty which is lawless is essentially degrading. The worlds describe their brilliant course over the dark brow of night because of the force which binds them to their great centre; let that force be destroyed, and they are free to rush whithersoever the centrifugal force propels. Their movement may be swifter than the lightning, and their track more dazzling than its path, but it will soon end in darkness and destruction. And so it is with the mind and the law of duty which hinds it to God. The freedom which comes from the violation of that law is a freedom which, instead of securing its welfare and elevation, only lands it in deeper degradation and death.

(W. Landels, D. D.)

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