Week of July 14, 2019
The Point: Someone helped you grow in Christ; do the same for someone else.
Teaching Others: 2 Timothy 2:1-2; 3:10-17.
[2:1] You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,  and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
[3:10] You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,  my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra–which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.  Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,  while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it  and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. [ESV]
“Handing on the Truth [2:1-2]. The first chapter ended with Paul’s sorrowful reference to the widespread defection among Christians in the Roman province of Asia [1:15]. Now Paul urges Timothy that he too, in the midst of the general landslide, must stand his ground. It is the first of several similar exhortations in the letter, beginning you then or but you, which summon Timothy to resist the prevailing mood. It is as if Paul says to him: ‘Never mind what other people may be thinking or saying or doing. Never mind how weak and shy you yourself may feel. As for you, Timothy, be strong!’ Of course if his exhortation had stopped there, it would have been futile, even absurd. He might as well have told a snail to be quick or a horse to fly as command a man as timid as Timothy to be strong. But Paul’s call to fortitude is Christian not stoical. It is not a summons to Timothy to be strong in himself, but to be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Timothy is to find his resources for ministry not in his own nature but in Christ’s grace. It is not only for salvation that we are dependent on grace [1:9], but for service also. Paul proceeds to indicate the kind of ministry for which Timothy will need to strengthen himself by Christ’s grace. So far he has been exhorted to hold the faith and guard the deposit [1:13,14]. He is to do more than preserve the truth, however; he is also to pass it on. If the disloyalty of the Asian church made it imperative that Timothy should guard the truth with loyalty, the approaching death of the apostle made it equally imperative that Timothy should make arrangements for the handing down of the truth intact to the next generation. In this transmission of truth from hand to hand Paul envisages four stages. First, the faith has been entrusted to Paul by Christ. This is why he has called it what has been entrusted to me [1:12]. It is his by deposit, not by invention. As an apostle of Jesus Christ he insists that his gospel is not man’s gospel, whether his own composition or somebody else’s, nor is he relying purely on human tradition. On the contrary, he could write: I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ [Gal. 1:11,12]. Secondly, what has been entrusted to Paul by Christ Paul in his turn has entrusted to Timothy. So ‘my deposit’ becomes virtually ‘your deposit’, and what has been entrusted to me [1:12] is now the good deposit entrusted to you [1:14]. This deposit consists of certain sound words which Timothy has heard from Paul’s own lips. The exact expression you have heard from me [1:13] is repeated in 2:2, though now with the addition that Timothy has heard it in the presence of many witnesses. The aorist tense would seem to refer not to a single public occasion on which Timothy heard the apostle’s teaching – such as his baptism or ordination – but rather to the totality of his instruction over the years. And the reference to the many witnesses shows that the apostolic faith was not a secret tradition handed on privately to Timothy, whose authenticity there was no means of testing, but a public instruction, whose truth was guaranteed by the many witnesses who had heard it and who could therefore check Timothy’s teaching against the apostle’s. Thirdly, what Timothy has heard from Paul he is now to entrust to faithful men, of whom there are evidently some left among the many deserters of Asia. The men Paul has in mind must be primarily ministers of the word, whose chief function is to teach, Christian elders whose responsibility it would be to preserve the tradition. Such Christian elders are ‘God’s stewards’, as Paul has recently written to Titus [1:7], because both God’s household and God’s truth are committed to their trust. And the fundamental requirement in stewards is trustworthiness [1 Cor. 4:1,2]. They must be faithful men. Fourthly, such men must be the sort of men who will be able to teach others also. The ability or competence which Timothy must look for in such men will consist partly in their integrity or faithfulness of character already mentioned and partly in their facility for teaching. They must be able to teach, a word Paul has used of candidates for the ministry in 1 Timothy 3:2 and will use again later in this chapter [2:24]. Here, then, are the four stages in the handing on of the truth, which Paul envisages: from Christ to Paul, from Paul to Timothy, from Timothy to faithful men, and from faithful men to others also. This is the true ‘apostolic succession’. Certainly it would involve men, a line of faithful men at that, but the succession from the apostles is to be more in the message itself than in the men who teach it. It is to be a succession of apostolic tradition rather than of apostolic ministry, authority or order, a transmission of the apostles’ doctrine handed down unchanged from the apostles to subsequent generations, and passed from hand to hand like the Olympic torch. This apostolic tradition, the good deposit, is now to be found in the New Testament. Speaking ideally, ‘Scripture’ and ‘tradition’ should be interchangeable terms, for what the church hands down from generation to generation should be the biblical faith, no more and no less. And the biblical faith is the apostolic faith.” [Stott, pp. 49-52].
“Standing Firm in the Faith [3:10-17]. In stark contrast to the contemporary decline in morals, empty show of religion and spread of false teaching Timothy is called to be different, and if necessary to stand alone (you, however). Every Christian is called to be different from the world. Certainly the pressures upon us to conform are colossal, not only from the direct challenge to traditional beliefs and morals, but also – and more – from the insidious, pervasive atmosphere of secularism which even seeps into the church. Many give in, often without realizing what they are doing. But again and again the word of God addresses us, calling us not to be moved. We are to stand firm. Paul first reminds Timothy what he has been doing thus far: you have followed my teaching . Then he exhorts him to continue in the same path: continue in what you have learned . So verses 10 to 13 describe Timothy’s past loyalty to the apostle, and verses 14 to 17 urge him to remain loyal in the future. The two main verbs sum up the gist of the paragraph: you have followed my teaching ; so then continue to do so . The Past [10-13]. Timothy’s position is explained in terms of a certain ‘following’ of Paul. Here Paul is using followed in terms of ‘a real commitment of mind and life’, to ‘follow faithfully’. Paul is reminding Timothy not simply that he has ‘fully known’ or ‘observed’ his doctrine and conduct, as if he were merely an impartial student or a detached observer, but that he has become a dedicated disciple of the apostle’s. No doubt he had begun by taking pains to grasp the meaning of Paul’s instruction. But then he went further, he made it his own, believed it, absorbed it, lived by it. Similarly, he doubtless began by watching the apostle’s manner of life, but then he went on to imitate it. Because Paul knew himself as an apostle to be following Christ, he did not hesitate to invite others to follow himself [1 Cor. 11:1]. He even made himself the standard by which truth could be distinguished from falsehood [Phil. 3:17]. Thus, in both belief and practice, in teaching and conduct , Timothy became and remained Paul’s faithful follower. The contrast with the first paragraph of this chapter [1-9] is obvious. The men described there were following their own inclinations (they were lovers of self, money and pleasure), and their pathetic converts had been carried away by their own impulses. Timothy, on the other hand, has followed an altogether different standard, namely the teaching and the example of Christ’s apostle Paul. So Paul goes on to list the characteristics of his life, in contrast to that of the self-lovers whom he has characterized in verses 2-5. Why, however, does Paul give us in verses 10 and 11 this catalogue of his virtues and sufferings? Is it not more than a little immodest, even conceited, that the apostle should put himself forward like this? Perhaps it is understandable that he should mention his teaching, but why go on to blow his own trumpet about his faith and love, his purpose and conduct, his sufferings and his endurance? Is it not rather unseemly that he should boast like this? No, Paul is not boasting. He has reasons quite other than exhibitionism for drawing attention to himself. He mentions his teaching first, and then goes on to supply two objective evidences of the genuineness of his teaching, namely the life he lived and the sufferings he endured. Indeed, these are good (though not infallible) general tests of a person’s sincerity, and even of the truth or falsehood of his system. Is he so convinced of his position that he both practices what he preaches and is prepared to suffer for it? Have his beliefs made him a better man, even in the face of opposition? Paul could answer both questions affirmatively. The apostle Paul lived a consistent life of righteousness, self-control, faith and love, and remained steadfast to his principles through many and grievous persecutions. In verse 12 Paul makes it clear that his experience was not unique. He sought to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, loving and serving God rather than himself, and he suffered for it. Timothy had found the same thing. For all Christian people who are in Christ Jesus (through union with Him) desire to live a godly life … will be persecuted. The godly arouse the antagonism of the worldly. It has always been so. It was so for Christ, and He said it would be for us [John 15:18-20]. This inevitability of persecution is further explained in verse 13 by the continued activities of false teachers. Paul describes these false teachers as evil people and impostors who go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. The Future [14-15]. In contrast to the false teachers (but as for you), Timothy is to continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed. This kind of summons is not infrequently heard in the pages of the New Testament. It is especially relevant whenever innovators arise in the church, ‘radicals’ who claim to be progressive and who repudiate everything which savors of the traditional. It has perhaps never been more needed than today when men boast of inventing a ‘new Christianity’ with a ‘new theology’ and a ‘new morality’, all of which betoken a ‘new reformation’. To be sure, the church of every generation must seek to translate the faith into the contemporary idiom, to relate the unchanging word to the changing world. But a translation is a rendering of the same message into another language; it is not a fresh composition. Yet this is what some modern radicals are doing, setting forth concepts of God and of Christ which Jesus and His apostles would not have recognized as their own. The apostles themselves constantly warned their readers of newfangled ideas and called them back to the original apostolic message. Paul enjoins Timothy to continue (abide) in what he has learned. Timothy had learned things and now firmly believed them. All right. Now he must continue in these things with steadfastness and not allow anyone to shift him from his ground. The apostle 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 he elaborates in verses 14b and 15. Timothy must continue in what he has learned, because he knows from whom he has learned it. The teaching was guaranteed by the teacher. Paul’s apostolic instruction was Timothy’s model (my teaching ). Thus, the first ground of Timothy’s confidence, and the first reason why he should continue in what he has learned is that he has learned it from the apostle Paul. Timothy was confident in Paul and his teaching authority, and we can share his confidence. Paul’s gospel is still authenticated to us by his apostolic authority. Timothy has not only learned Paul’s gospel and known Paul’s authority. From childhood he has been instructed in the Old Testament Scriptures presumably by his mother and grandmother, and he was therefore extremely familiar with them. So the second reason why he must abide in what he has learned from Paul is its harmony with these very Scriptures. This was Paul’s consistent claim.
The Origin and Purpose of Scripture [3:15b-17]. Two fundamental truths about Scripture are asserted here. The first concerns its origin (where it comes from) and the second its purpose (what it is intended for). First, All Scripture is breathed out by God; it is inspired by God. What does Paul mean by all Scripture? It seems to me not at all impossible that by this comprehensive expression he is including the two sources of Timothy’s knowledge just mentioned, namely what you have learned and the sacred writings. His definition of Scripture is that it is inspired by God. The single Greek word here would be literally translated ‘God-breathed’ and indicates not that Scripture itself or its human authors were breathed into by God, but that Scripture was breathed out by God. ‘Inspiration” is doubtless a convenient term to use, but ‘spiration’ or even ‘expiration’ would convey the meaning of the Greek adjective more accurately. Scripture is not to be thought of as already in existence when (subsequently) God breathed into it, but as itself brought into existence by the breath or Spirit of God. It is clear from many passages that inspiration, however the process operated, did not destroy the individuality or the active cooperation of the human writers. All that is stated here is the fact of inspiration, that all Scripture is God-breathed. It originated in God’s mind and was communicated from God’s mouth by God’s breath or Spirit. It is therefore rightly termed ‘the Word of God’, for God spoke it. Indeed, as the prophet used to say, ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken 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. In order to show what this is, Paul uses two expressions. The first is in verse 15: the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation. The Bible is essentially a handbook of salvation. Its over-arching purpose is to teach not facts of science which men can discover by their own empirical investigation, but facts of salvation, which no space exploration can discover but only God can reveal. The whole Bible unfolds the divine scheme of salvation – man’s creation in God’s image, his fall through disobedience into sin and under judgment, God’s continuing love for him in spite of his rebellion. God’s 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 man’s sin, was raised from death, was exalted to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit; and man’s rescue first from guilt and alienation, then from bondage, and finally from mortality in his progressive experience of the liberty of God’s children. None of this would be known apart from the biblical revelation. More particularly, the Bible instructs for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. So, since the Bible is a book of salvation, and since salvation is through Christ, the Bible focuses its attention upon Christ. This comprehensive portraiture of Jesus Christ is intended to elicit our ‘faith’ in Him, in order that by faith we may be saved. Paul now goes on to show that the profit of Scripture relates to both creed and conduct [16b,17]. The false teachers divorced them; we must marry them. As for our creed, Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. As for our conduct, it is profitable that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 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.” [Stott, pp. 92-104].
Questions for Discussion:
- What four stages for the transmission of the truth does Paul envision [2:1-2]? What two characteristics does Paul instruct Timothy to look for in those he is to teach? Notice here the importance Paul places upon sound teaching for the well-being of the Church.
- What type of follower of Paul was Timothy? Why does Paul emphasize these areas that he wants Timothy to follow ? Why is it essential for all pastors and teachers to seek to follow Paul in these areas? What happens to the life of a church when its leaders fail in these areas?
- What is the relationship between teaching (belief) and conduct (practice)? What judgment can we make if someone’s conduct does not consistently agree with their teaching? What two objective evidences does Paul give to evaluate the genuineness of someone’s teaching?
- According to 3:14-17, what is the origin and purpose of Scripture? What does the inspiration of Scripture mean? Paul lists five ways in which “God-breathed” Scripture is useful to us [16-17]. How do each of these apply to your spiritual life? What must you do in order for Scripture to equip you for every good work?
1,2 Timothy, Thomas Lea, NAC, Broadman Press.
The Message of 2 Timothy, John Stott, Inter Varsity.
The Letters to Timothy and Titus, Philip Towner, Eerdmans.