2 Timothy 2:1-13
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
I. PRELIMINARY EXHORTATION.
1. As to personal strength. "Thou therefore, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." As the apostle's power of working was already much crippled by close imprisonment, he naturally felt anxious regarding the future of Christ's cause. In calling Timothy his son, he does not formally name him as his successor. At the same time, he may be regarded as looking to him as one like-minded, who had youth on his side, to continue the work which he felt was passing out of his hands. While Phygelus and Hermogenes were untrue to him, and Onesiphorus was dead, Timothy must stand forward. For this he would require a liberal supply of strength. With paternal anxiety, then, he points him to the great Source of strength, viz. the grace that is in Christ Jesus and obtained by him for us, or the lordly power to bless without respect to the merit of the recipient. In John 1:14 he is said to be fall of grace, and, in the sixteenth verse following, it is said that it is out of his fulness that all his people receive. As the Fountain, he supplies all that depend upon him with all that is necessary for the proper discharge of their duties. To whom else, then, could he point Timothy? In spiritual work there is a giving out of strength, for which there is needed renewal. There are also occasions for which there are needed special supplies of strength. At all times there is a tendency to a culpable and enfeebling supineness, against which there is needed a gracious supply. Let the Christian minister, then, find his empowering for his work in the grace that is centred in Christ.
2. As to the regular transmission of the truth. "And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." Paul himself heard directly from Christ, who is as full of truth as of grace. But he points to a definite and solemn occasion, when he was the speaker and Timothy the hearer, viz. the occasion, repeatedly referred to, of Timothy's ordination. What he heard then was by the mediation of many witnesses, i.e. the presbyters who were present at his ordination, and laid their hands on him, and who, by the part they took in it, gave their attestation to the charge. What Timothy received then has repeatedly been called his deposit, or talent of the catholic faith. This, in turn, he was to commit to trusty men, i.e. men who could be entrusted with the keeping of the deposit. They, in their turn, were to teach others, so that they also could be entrusted with the deposit. Thus there was to be a regular succession of teachers for the handing down of the truth. There is a place assigned to tradition here; but, as it is made to depend on the trustworthiness of each individual in the chain of succession, we must think of a tradition that is to be tested by Scripture. At the same time, there is a handing down of Scripture truth with traditional associations embodying the Church's thinking out of the truth, and, if this is what it ought to be, then it is important that it should be handed down by means of a regular succession of teachers. All encouragement, then, is to be given to the proper education of young men for the ministry; and yet a theological institution will fail of its end unless there is the proper keeping up of the Church's life, which is needed to influence the right class of young men to devote themselves to the ministry.
II. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTER IS TO BE PREPARED FOR HARDSHIP. Three figures suggestive of hard service.
1. The soldier. "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service entangleth himself in the affairs of this life; that he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier." The soldier, above others, has to have his mind made up to experiencing hardship. He has to leave home and friends. He may have to encounter hardships on the march. He has especially to face the hardships and dangers of the battlefield, "seeking the bubble reputation, even in the cannon's mouth." So the Christian minister is, in a special manner, a soldier of Christ Jesus. He is one whom Christ has in a solemn way bound to himself, he has to fight under Christ and for Christ in an unfriendly world; and he need not be surprised if he is called upon to experience the hardships of a soldier. Let Timothy, then, willingly, nobly, take his part along with Paul and other soldiers of Christ. But the apostle draws attention to a special condition of excellence in a soldier. He does not entangle himself in the affairs and businesses of this life. In choosing to be enrolled under a commander, he leaves his former employment behind. He is henceforth at the will of his commander for whatever hard service he may need him. Especially does this condition apply to a soldier on service. Before entering on a campaign, he would need even to have family affairs arranged, that he may give himself up undistractedly to the service required of him. Only thus can he expect to approve himself to his commander. The Christian minister is in the same way to be unentangled with businesses, which he leaves to others. Paul was not always able to free himself from the necessity of making his own bread; but it is advisable that a minister should be left free in this respect, and it is wrong for him unnecessarily to divide his energies, or to mix himself up with what can be better done by others. For it is only when his mind is thoroughly undistracted and absorbed in service that he can approve himself to the great Commander.
2. The athlete. "And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully." The Greeks were great admirers of physical perfection. Even their men of genius, like Plato, engaged in athletic contests on public occasions. Great encouragement was given to the athletic art. The successful athlete was crowned under very inspiriting circumstances. There were many subordinate rules to be observed by the athlete, but the great rule was to go through a course of very hard preparation. Only thus could he expect to be crowned when the occasion of the games came round. The minister is, in the same way, to aim at efficiency in his art. He has many examples of this placed before him. And there is great encouragement given by that royal Personage who is to preside on the occasion of award. The successful minister is to be crowned. There are many subordinate rules to be observed by him, but the great rule is that he is to subject himself to severe discipline. Only thus can he expect to have a fadeless crown for efficiency in the ministerial art.
3. The husbandman. "The husbandman that laboureth must be the flat to partake of the fruits." The husbandman has to extract bread from the unwilling ground; and he may have to do this under unfavouring conditions of weather. He has need, then, for hard and persistent labour, especially in the season of spring. In the sweat of his face he has to prepare the soil and put in the seed. It is only the husbandman that thus exerts himself that comes to the front in the time of fruit. He is eating of the new corn, when the husbandman who has not exerted himself is far behind. In the same way the minister has to extract good products from unwilling hearts, and not always under favouring conditions from without. Hard work is needed to prepare the soil and to put in the seed. If he engages in hard work, he has the prospect of the farmer, viz. the fruit of his own labour. He will have joy in those for whom he has laboured - partly in this world, chiefly in the next world. It is the minister who does not grudge hard service that comes to the front in the enjoyment of fruit, while he who gives grudging service lags behind in the reward. Appended call to attention. "Consider what I say; for the Lord shall give thee understanding in all things." What Paul said was easily understood; but it needed to be thoroughly weighed so as to become spiritual strengthening to Timothy. It plainly meant that he was to set himself to hard work, and that he need not expect easy outward conditions of working; when the mind is made up to it, the hardest work is often felt to be light. This was a lesson which he wished Timothy to learn, with the Lord's promised and all-sufficient assistance.
III. ENCOURAGEMENTS UNDER HARDSHIP.
1. Example of Christ.
(1) Victorious aspect of Christ's resurrection. "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead." Paul's principal encouragement is to go back in memory upon the historical Jesus at the victorious point of his history. He seemed to be utterly defeated in death. His body was laid in the tomb, a stone rolled against the mouth of it and sealed, and a watch set; and the rulers thought they had conquered. Could he be released from the power of death and the grave? Let not the most distressed, the most maltreated of men, despair; for it was when Christ seemed to be utterly defeated that he victoriously got for his people victory over sin and over death and the grave.
(2) His resurrection culminating in his present mediatorial dignity. "Of the seed of David, according to my gospel." As of the seed royal, he was raised, and raised to sit upon the throne of his father David. That is the high position he has won for himself. The government of the universe is at this moment upon his shoulders. Under all outward defeat, then, let us enter into the spirit of the victorious termination of our Lord's career of suffering.
2. Example of Paul.
(1) Appearance of defeat. "Wherein I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a malefactor." He had not yet resisted unto blood. But though he had not gone the length of the Master, he bad gone the length of bonds, and, with his Master, was numbered with the transgressors.
(2) Promise of victory. "But the Word of God is not bound." Not only was his conviction strong that the Word proceeding from God could not be bound by any tyrant, but he had the fact to lay hold of that much freedom was enjoyed in the preaching of the Word.
(3) Victorious for the sake of the elect. "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." God has appointed for the elect the salvation which is in Christ Jesus. It is a salvation which is to blossom forth under a sunnier sky into glory. This glory will be ample compensation for present sufferings, not only in its quality, but in its being eternal. How, then, was he to help forward the destiny of the elect, and at the same time his own destiny? He could not preach in his dungeon; but he could follow up the preaching of others by a brave bearing. He could show that he could act what he had preached. And did not much depend on his going forward bravely to martyrdom?
3. A saying of the martyr times. "Faithful is the saying."
(1) How the Christians encouraged one another to constancy! Past act. "For if we died with him, we shall also live with him." They first went back to a definite act in the past, viz. the profession of faith with which they commenced their Christian career. They thus in obligation came up to the martyr point. They said they were willing, should the Master call them to it, to share death with him. If this was the true reading of their act, the bright side of it was that they would also be called to share life with Christ. Abiding state. "If we endure, we shall also reign with him." They next thought of their present suffering calling for an abiding spirit of endurance, and they used to say to one another, that, if they did not flinch, their future would be brightened to them by their being called to sit with Christ on his throne.
(2) How the Christians discouraged one another against apostasy! Future act. "If we shall deny him, he also will deny us." They next thought of their being put to a severe test in the future. The time might come when their choice would be between Christ and life. Far be it from them, for the sake of life, to deny Christ; for that act of denial on their part would carry with it an act of denial on his part. Abiding state. "If we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself." They next thought of an act of denial followed by no penitence, and they said to one another, that if that was their permanent state, their future would be darkened, even by reason of the unchanging character of their Saviour. It was impossible for him to contradict himself, and, as surely as he shows his approval of faith, must he show his disapproval of unbelief. The martyr times had already commenced. The first persecution was under Nero in the year 64, the last under Diocletian in the year 303. The first persecution had not yet ceased. The Christians, charged with setting fire to Rome, were subjected to the most inhuman treatment. As the historian Tacitus informs us, they were sewn in sacks made of the skins of wild beasts, and thrown to be torn by dogs. They were smeared with pitch, and set on fire as torches to illuminate the imperial gardens at night. "This persecution extended beyond the walls of Rome, and continued with more or less severity to the end of Nero's reign, four years afterwards." It was in the last year of Nero's reign that Paul was now awaiting his martyrdom. This martyr saying may be viewed as the fruit of those years of persecution. As here incorporated by Paul into this Epistle, it would be a precious legacy to the Church in the many years of persecution to come. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.