BY THE BOOK
Week of March 2, 2008
Bible Verses:† 2 Timothy 1:8-12; 3:14-4:4.
Biblical Truth: The Bible reveals the truth about salvation and Godís instructions for right living.
Stay Confident in the Bibleís Good News: 2 Timothy 1:8-12.
† Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, † who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, † but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, † for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. † For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.†††† [NASU]
† Paul now turns from the varied factors which had contributed to the making of Timothy to the truth of the gospel and to Timothyís responsibility in relation to the gospel. Before Paul defines the gospel, he begs Timothy not to be ashamed of it. Suffering rather than shame is to characterize Timothyís ministry. God has molded and gifted Timothy for his ministry. So he must not be ashamed or afraid to exercise it. If Timothy must not be ashamed of the Lord, he must not be ashamed of Paul either. For it is possible to be proud of Christ, but ashamed of His people and embarrassed to be associated with them. It seems that when Paul was re-arrested and put in chains, nearly all his former supporters forsook him. He now begs Timothy not to follow suit. Timothy must also not be ashamed of the gospel, but rather take his share of suffering for it. The gospel of Christ crucified, folly to some and a stumbling-block to others, always arouses opposition. And opposing the message, men naturally oppose its messengers. So Paul encourages Timothy to join him in suffering for the gospel.
[9-10]† Paul makes three statements concerning the gospel: saved us; called us with a holy calling; abolished death and brought life and immortality. These statements make it plain that salvation is far more than forgiveness. It includes a holy calling whereby God calls us to holiness. But, in addition to holiness, immortality is also an integral part of Godís plan of salvation. Thus, forgiveness, holiness and immortality are all three aspects of Godís great salvation. Where does such a great salvation come from? Paul answers that it comes only according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity. In order to put beyond question the truth that Godís predestination and election belong to eternity and not to time, Paul uses an aorist participle to indicate that God actually gave us something from all eternity in Christ. What He gave us was His own purpose and grace. His saving purpose was not arbitrary, but gracious. It is plain that the source of our salvation is not our own works. For God gave us His own purpose of grace in Christ before we did any good works, before we were born and could do any good works, indeed before history, before time, in eternity. We have to confess that the doctrine of election is difficult to finite minds. But it is incontrovertibly a biblical doctrine. It emphasizes that salvation is due to Godís grace alone, not to manís merit; not to our works performed in time, but to Godís purpose conceived in eternity. Thus understood, Godís purpose of election is bound to be mysterious to men, for we cannot aspire to an understanding of the secret thoughts and decisions of the mind of God. However, the doctrine of election is never introduced in Scripture either to arouse or to baffle our carnal curiosity, but always for a practical purpose. On the one hand, it engenders deep humility and gratitude, for it excludes all boasting. On the other, it brings both peace and assurance, for nothing can quiet our fears for our own stability like the knowledge that our safety depends ultimately not on ourselves but on Godís own purpose of grace. Our salvation rests firmly grounded upon the historical work performed by Jesus Christ at His first appearing. For though God gave us His grace in Christ Jesus before eternal times, He manifested it in time, now, through the appearing of the same Christ Jesus, our Savior. Both divine stages were in and through Jesus Christ, but the giving was eternal and secret, while the manifesting was historical and public. What, then, did Christ do when He appeared and proceeded to manifest Godís eternal purpose of grace? First, Christ abolished death. This does not mean that He eliminated it. It means that at His first appearing Christ decisively defeated or overthrew death; making it ineffective or powerless. It is surely significant that this same verb, abolished, is used in the New Testament with reference to the devil and to our fallen nature as well as to death [Heb. 2:14; Rom. 6:6]. Neither the devil, nor our fallen nature, nor death has been annihilated. But by the power of Christ the tyranny of each has been broken, so that if we are in Christ we can be set free. Secondly, Christ brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. This is the positive counterpart to His abolishing death. It is through the gospel that He now reveals what He has done, and offers men the life and immortality which He has won for them.
[11-12]† What is there about the gospel which men hate and oppose, and on account of which those who preach it have to suffer? Just this: God saves sinners in virtue of His own purpose and grace, and not in virtue of their good works. It is the undeserved freeness of the gospel which offends. The natural or unregenerate man hates to have to admit the gravity of his sin and guilt, his complete helplessness to save himself, the indispensable necessity of Godís grace and Christís sinbearing death to save him, and therefore his inescapable indebtedness to the cross. That is what Paul meant by the stumbling block of the cross. No one can preach Christ crucified with faithfulness and escape opposition, even persecution. Paulís ground of confidence was in his knowing Christ in whom he had put his trust and was convinced of His ability to guard him. There is great encouragement here. Ultimately, it is God Himself who is the guarantor of the gospel. It is His responsibility to preserve it. True, He has committed it to us, frail and fallible creatures. He has placed His treasure in brittle, earthenware vessels. And we must play our part in guarding and defending the truth. Nevertheless, in entrusting the deposit to our hands, He has not taken His own hands off it. He is Himself its final guardian, and He will preserve the truth which He has committed to the church. We know this because we know Him in whom we have trusted and continue to trust.
Practice the Bibleís Instructions: 2 Timothy 3:14-17.
† You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, † and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. † All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; † so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.†††† [NASU]
[14-15]† Paul begins verse 14 with you, however, distinguishing Timothy from the evil men and impostors he had just described in verse 13. While they proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived, Timothy is to continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of. Paul now adds two reasons. His clear command to Timothy to abide, to cultivate stability in the truths he has learned, rests on two simple and plain arguments which Paul elaborates in verses 14b and 15. The first ground of Timothyís confidence, and the first reason why he should continue in what he has learned is that he has learned it from Paul. Timothy has not only learned Paulís gospel and known Paulís authority. From childhood he had been instructed in the Old Testament Scriptures by his mother and grandmother. So the second reason why he must abide in what he has learned from Paul is its harmony with these very Scriptures. The same two grounds apply today. The gospel we believe is the biblical gospel, the gospel of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, vouched for by both the prophets of God and the apostles of Christ.
[16-17]† Two fundamental truths about Scripture are asserted here. The first concerns its origin and the second its purpose. Paulís definition of Scripture is that it is inspired by God. The single Greek word translated inspired would be literally translated ĎGod-breathedí and indicates not that Scripture itself or its human authors were breathed into by God, but that Scripture was breathed out by God. ĎInspirationí is doubtless a convenient term to use, but Ďspirationí or even Ďexpirationí would convey the meaning of the Greek adjective more accurately. Scripture is not to be thought of as already in existence when God breathed into it, but as itself brought into existence by the breath or Spirit of God. It originated in Godís mind and was communicated from Godís mouth by Godís breath or Spirit. It is therefore rightly termed Ďthe Word of Godí, for God spoke it. Secondly, Paul explains the purpose of Scripture: it is profitable. And this is precisely because it is inspired by God. Only its divine origin secures and explains its human profit. The Bible is essentially a handbook of salvation. The whole Bible unfolds the divine scheme of salvation Ė manís creation in Godís image, his fall through disobedience into sin and under judgment, Godís continuing love for him in spite of his rebellion, Godís eternal plan to save him through His covenant of grace with a chosen people, culminating in Christ; the coming of Christ as the Savior, who died to bear manís sin, was raised from death, was exalted to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit; and manís rescue first from guilt and alienation, then from bondage, and finally from mortality in his progressive experience of the liberty of Godís children. None of this would be known apart from the biblical revelation. Paul now goes on to show that the profit of Scripture relates to both creed and conduct. The false teachers divorced them; we must marry them. As for our creed, Scripture is profitable for teaching the truth and refuting error. As for our conduct, it is profitable for reformation of manners and discipline in right living. Do we hope, either in our own lives or in our teaching ministry, to overcome error and grow in truth, to overcome evil and grow in holiness? Then it is to Scripture that we must primarily turn, for Scripture is profitable for these things. Indeed, Scripture is the chief means which God employs to bring the man of God to maturity. It is only by a diligent study of Scripture that the man of God may become complete, equipped for every good work.
Declare the Bibleís Truths: 2 Timothy 4:1-4.
† I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: † preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. † For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, † and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.†††† [NASU]
[1-2]† The main emphasis on this first verse is not so much on the presence of God as on the coming of Christ with the three truths: the appearance, the judgment and the kingdom. The essence of the charge is in the three words Preach the Word. The Greek word translated preach means literally, proclaim, herald, make known officially and publicly a matter of great significance. Thus to Ďpreachí does not imply that an ordained minister is to stand behind a pulpit and expound Scripture. It called Timothy to a public heralding of the gospel message, whether done in a mass meeting or person-to-person. We have no liberty to invent our message, but only to communicate Ďthe Wordí which God has spoken and has now committed to the church as a sacred trust. This communication of the Word is an urgent proclamation. We are to be ready at all times: in season and out of season. All true preaching conveys a sense of the urgent importance of what is being preached. The Christian herald knows that he is handling matters of life and death. The one who announces the Word is to reprove, rebuke, exhort. This suggests three different ways of doing it. For Godís Word is profitable for a variety of ministries, as Paul has already stated [3:16]. For some people are tormented by doubts and need to be convinced by sound biblical arguments. Others have fallen into sin, and need to be rebuked. Others again are haunted by fears, and need to be encouraged. But each of these activities must be done with great patience. We must never resort to the use of human pressure techniques, or attempt to contrive a decision. Our responsibility is to be faithful in preaching the word: the results of the proclamation are the responsibility of the Holy Spirit, and we can afford to wait patiently for Him to work. We are not only to preach the word but to teach it, or rather to preach it with all instruction. Whether our proclamation is intended to primarily to convince, rebuke or exhort, it must be a doctrinal ministry. Thus Paulís charge to Timothy is to preach the word, and as he announces the God-given message to be urgent in his approach, relevant in his application, patient in his manner and intelligent in his presentation.
[3-4]† Notice the word for which introduces this verse. Paul is giving a second basis on which to ground his charge. It is another future event, the coming of dark and difficult days. It is plain from this paragraph and from what Paul has written earlier that such a time has already begun for Timothy. What are these times like? One characteristic is singled out, namely that people cannot bear the truth. They cannot stand the truth and refuse to listen to it. Instead, they find teachers to suit the speculative fancies into which they are determined to wander. Notice that what they reject is sound doctrine or the truth, and what they prefer is their own desires or myths. They thus substitute their fancy for Godís revelation. The criterion by which they judge teachers is not Godís Word but their own subjective taste. Worse still, they do not first listen and then decide whether what they have heard is true; they first decide what they want to hear and then select teachers who will oblige by toeing their line. It is important to recognize that Paul was speaking these words to believers. In 2 Timothy 3:6-9,13 Paul had described the actions of false teachers. Now he warned that even professing believers would feel the influence of this wanderlust for unfamiliar ideas and that which satisfies their itching ears. Is not this turning away from the truth of the Gospel the condition of many churches today?
Questions for Discussion:
1.†††††††† How does Paul define the Gospel in 1:8-12? Where does such a great salvation come from?
2.†††††††† What is the practical purpose of the doctrine of election?
3.†††††††† What two fundamental truths about Scripture does Paul assert? What is the purpose of Scripture? What can you do to ensure that this purpose is accomplished in your life?
4.†††††††† What does it mean to preach the word?
2 Timothy, Thomas D. Lea, NAC, Broadman.
Guard the Gospel, John Stott, Inter-Varsity.