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“Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” – 2 Tim. 1:14
Keep the Faith
A father telephones a child who is struggling during his first year of college. “Just remember the things your mother and I taught you,” he says. “Remember what is most important. Remember who you are. Believe that you can do it, and know that we believe in you, too.”
Many of us have made — or received — similar phone calls. Growing into maturity is not an easy task. Distractions are frequent and remaining focused can be a challenge. We need the encouragement of others who know us, who have taught us, and who believe in us.
The letter of 2 Timothy is not unlike one of those phone calls, though in the form of a hand-carried letter. Paul wanted his younger colleague to see past the hard days and to grow in his confidence, his fortitude, and his commitment to the gospel.
Don’t forget your calling(vv. 1-7)
Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter, probably in Rome, and possibly expecting that his life might soon be over. One has the sense that these are his “last words” to Timothy, so he wants to make them count.
The letter was not intended for Timothy alone, though it addresses him as “my beloved child” for whom he constantly prayed. He longed to see Timothy, remembering how Timothy had wept for him (vv. 2-4).
Curiously, Paul goes on to give Timothy a raft of instructions for his ministry, but then asks him to leave it behind and come to him in Rome, bringing with him Mark, a cloak he had left in Troas, and “also the books, and above all the parchments.” Paul must have expected to need the cloak, for he urged Timothy to arrive before winter (4:9-13, 21). Whether the books (or “scrolls”) and parchments refer to books from the Hebrew Bible, copies of other documents, or fresh writing materials is unclear.
If the message, like the other Pastoral Epistles, was meant to be private correspondence alone, there would have been little need for Paul to be so keen on establishing his authority. We are not surprised by Paul’s wish for Timothy to know God’s “grace, mercy, and peace” (as in 1 Tim. 1:2), but he forcefully identifies himself as “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.” This suggests that the letter was intended for a wider audience. Paul believed God had purposefully called him to help others understand and accept “the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,” one of his favorite summary statements of what it meant to live as a Christian.
We may wonder if Paul may also have suspected that the end of his life was near, and was reminding himself as much as Timothy that true life, eternal life, is found in Christ alone. He wanted Timothy — and others who would read the letter — to remember that, too.
Paul rejoiced that Timothy also followed God with “sincere faith,” with authentic belief and actions that come from a clear conscience (v. 5), as Paul did (v. 3). Timothy did not learn the faith from his forefathers,but apparently from his “foremothers.” Timothy’s father was Greek, but his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, were Jewish Christians, and they had imparted their faith to Timothy(v. 6).
Perhaps Paul perceived that Timothy needed a spiritual “pick-me-up,” a dose of renewal and refreshing. Thus, he reminded him of how the Spirit had empowered him during a special service in which Paul had laid hands on him (v. 6), possibly in a service involving a council of elders (1 Tim. 4:14). At that time, Paul had urged Timothy to “not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands.” Here Paul urges Timothy to “rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands.”
Neither text identifies the “gift of God” for which Timothy was known, but the command to “rekindle the gift of God that is within you” suggests that Paul may have thought his disciple had been too timid, lacking the confidence or discipline to utilize it fully. Perhaps Timothy had not been as strong in leadership or prophetic preaching as Paul had hoped, so he insisted, “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (v. 7). Good leaders and good preachers are marked not only by strength and discipline, but by love and concern for the people under their watch.
Can you name one or more spiritual gifts or abilities that you possess, but haven’t fully utilized? What would it take to fan that gift into flame? What difference could it make for your church and the kingdom of God?
Don’t fear suffering(vv. 8-12)
With v. 8, Paul shifts to the subject of suffering: he knew it well, and did not fear it. Paul said he was not ashamed of his chains, and encouraged Timothy to adopt a similar attitude and “join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace” (vv. 8-9).
Human officials can imprison the body, but it is God who saves eternally and calls his followers to a holy, set-apart life. Paul knew it was tempting for Timothy to desert the faith as others had done (see v. 15), or to shy away from confrontations with troublesome authorities, but he called him to stand firm and follow his own example, even if it resulted in suffering.
Paul put such suffering in perspective by reminding Timothy that God’s salvation also came through suffering. Through God’s own purpose, grace was made manifest in the earthly life of Jesus. Through his death and resurrection, Christ Jesus “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (v. 10). Humans are not inherently immortal, but the work of Christ has made eternal life available to all who would trust the gospel message of his grace. Earthly suffering pales in importance when compared to eternal life with Christ.
Few of us have faced the possibility of arrest or jail for expressing our faith, but we still may be tempted to back away from our convictions or change our behavior in the face of peer pressure or social venues in which faith may not be valued. Have you experienced such situations? How did you respond?
Paul reminded Timothy of his own faithfulness to the gospel, for which he was “appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher” (v. 11). His unbridled commitment to that calling was the sole cause of his present suffering. Yet, Paul was not ashamed or afraid, because he knew the one who had called him and was convinced of his ultimate victory.
Christians through the ages have found comfort in Paul’s affirmation of v. 12: “I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.” We often encourage children and new Christians to memorize the words as a bulwark against temptation, and we sometimes sing them when gathered for worship. A familiar hymn written by Daniel W. Whittle draws on the King James Version:
For I know whom I have believed, / and am persuaded, that he is able / to keep that which I’ve committed / unto him against that day.
Don’t lose the treasure(vv. 13-14)
As Timothy faced the pressures of life, politics, and doctrinal aberration in the churches, Paul challenged him to “Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me” (v. 13a). It is unlikely that this refers to a particular body of encoded doctrine: the word translated as “standard” means “pattern,” and in Greek the article “the” is not present, so Paul probably had in mind “a pattern of sound teaching” (literally, “healthy words”) drawn from what Timothy had learned from Paul.
Paul was wise enough to know that no amount of teaching or doctrine is sufficient for ministry: it was always to be weighed against and expressed through “the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (v. 13b). In reminding the Galatians of the centrality of following Jesus, Paul had said “the only thing that counts is faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6b). Faith brings us into relationship with Christ: love guides our living in Christ.
Paul urged Timothy to guard “the good treasure” that had been entrusted to him (v. 14a), using a term that normally means “deposit.” Paul had invested himself in Timothy, “depositing” both sound teaching and his own example of fervent faith. He wanted Timothy to keep the faith, but knew that he, like Paul, would need “the help of the Holy Spirit living in us” (v. 14b). Others had turned away, deserting Paul and perhaps the gospel, too (see v. 15). Paul was counting on Timothy to remain faithful.
Have you ever had the experience of a Christian brother or sister turning away from you or from the church? How did that feel? Can you remember others who have remained steadfastly faithful in offering encouraging refreshment? If others were thinking of you when answering this question, would your example be uplifting, or a spiritual downer? What would you like it to be? NFJ
Adult Teaching Resources
Download the PDF for October 2, 2016 teaching resources. This PDF contains the FIT Teaching Guide, Digging Deeper, and Hardest Question pages.
Read Scripture online: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
How you act is important to who your children will become. No, really, it is the most important thing in who your children will become. The National Study on Youth and Religion states that parents have the greatest impact on their children’s faith then anyone else with whom they have contact. More influential than their friends, what they watch on tv and online, and even their ministers at church. There is a correlation between the importance of their parent’s faith and the faith of a child. That being said, you can’t outsource your children’s faith to someone else. In 2 Timothy, Paul commends the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother for who Timothy has become. Apparently much hasn’t changed in 2,000 years. Be aware of your faith and how you live out your faith. Your children are not only watching, they are emulating.
Teaching Resources | Download
Download the PDF for youth teaching resources. This PDF contains the FIT Teaching Guide for this lesson.
Encourage youth to check out this video ahead of the lesson.
“Too Ashamed to Marry” from Ask the Dust via www.youtube.com
Read Scripture online: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
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