Here are my notes from the Morning Bible Readings at Word Alive 2019.
2 Timothy 1:1-2:1
Real Christianity is looking death in the face and being confident of life through it. Paul is writing his last words to Timothy, and he has this sort of confidence. He has kept the faith in Christ Jesus, and he has taught Timothy and has written to him to ensure that the true faith in Jesus is kept and passed on to others. Each generation needs to pass on the true faith in Jesus that gives us hope, even in the face of death.
Paul was thankful for the opportunity to teach Timothy the Gospel of the LORD God of Old Testament and New Testament faith (v3-4), and for the ministry of Timothy’s family (v5). Yet there is concern in his voice (v6)… he is concerned that Timothy be not timid (that is, nervous or uncertain of our Gospel-focused position) but that Timothy would take a firm hold of his ministry and keep the faith in Jesus, despite the risk of being marginalised and shamed by the society around them (v7-8).
We have two choices when standing up for the Gospel of Jesus: we can either be shamed before God or shamed before men. Being ashamed before God feel easier than being ashamed by the culture around us… yet we must see clearly that being a servant of the Gospel means being ready to face shame from those around us, knowing that we will not be shamed before God (v8).
This is the hope and life of those who trust in the Gospel of Jesus (v9-10). We have life now, though we may face shame from the world, and we have eternal life to come, of which we will never be shamed but instead receive grace and love from God (v11-12).
Don’t be ashamed, you will face suffering… but you won’t be defeated. And so we can entrust ourselves to God and serve him regardless of the shame we may face knowing that the Holy Spirit will guard it in us, for us (v13-14).
Paul faced this kind of shame… and everyone but Onesiphorus deserted him (v15-18). Confidence in the Gospel and certainty of not being shamed by God even though we are shamed by the world is the path of Gospel service, but it is not an easy path to walk. We need faithful brothers and sisters to tend us, encourage us and strengthen us to keep going.
In the light of this, Timothy is urged to ‘be strong’… but not in himself. He is to be strong ‘in the grace of Christ Jesus’ (2v1).
2 Timothy 2:1-26
A faithful Gospel church will pass on and multiply Gospel ministry. Paul taught Timothy, who was to entrust the Gospel to faithful men, who would then pass it on. Four generations of Gospel passing-on.
Paul gives three pictures of Gospel ‘Reliables’.
- The soldier (v3-4)
There is a war, so don’t be surprised by suffering. Stay focused and serve the LORD your commander.
- The athlete (v5)
There are right and proper ways of sharing and teaching the Gospel. We ‘compete’ according to the rules, and so if suffering is part of the race, so be it.
- The farmer (v6)
The work of the Gospel is hard work. We are to work hard in so many ways, and that work should be honoured by our churches.
These things require reflection and meditation… it is the LORD who will give us insight, not brainpower (v7).
Ultimately, remember Jesus who was raised from the dead (v8). He is no longer on the cross, but he did go via the cross. Suffering is part of Jesus’ life and ministry, and so it will be part of ours. Jesus, descendant of David, who came after 1,000 years of difficulty, struggle and hardship, yet came as perfect fulfilment at ‘just the right time’.
Our service to the Gospel may even take us down the road of being treated as criminals and rejected by ‘decent’ folk (v9). The Gospel will bring suffering to the preacher but salvation to the hearer (v10). We endure everything (suffering) so that they may enjoy everything (eternal life) with us.
v11-13 summarises these things: Being a Reliable means dying with and for Jesus… but that also means life eternal. Being a Reliable means enduring suffering… but that also means ruling and reigning with Jesus forever. Being a deserter means that we are rejecting him and he will reject us. Being a struggling Reliable does not mean disaster… God is faithful in his warnings (so heed them) but he is faithful in his promises (which do not depend on us but on Jesus).
Paul has been showing us what being ‘a Reliable’ looks like. In v14-26, Paul teaches Timothy (and us) how to deal with the Unfaithfulls, the Unreliables. Avoid quarrels, handle the Word rightly, avoid godless chatter, teach faithfully.
In the midst of these warnings, there are two encouragements (v19):
- The LORD knows who are his
In the midst of a mixed-faithfulness church, we don’t need to worry or panic about the eternal outcome of our ministry. The LORD knows who are his… and will keep them safe eternally.
- Everyone who confesses the name of the LORD must turn away from wickedness
Nevertheless, wickedness and unfaithfulness requires action, and sometimes drastic action.
v19-22 are all essentially saying the same thing: turn away, flee, cleanse yourself from unfaithfulness, uncleanliness, evil desires.
Faithfulness is not a call to avoid conflict (v23-26). Rather, it is avoiding silly conflicts, pointless conflicts, ungodliness in conflict. Conflict is to be handled by gentle instruction: powerful strength held back in order to give an opportunity to learn, repent and change.
Our Gospel-usefulness is a measure not of academic prowess, biblical knowledge, or ministry strategy… it is our godliness.
2 Timothy 3:1-17
Pastors need to pay attention to the people and circumstances around them, church members need to wake up to the dangers that are continually facing the church – our churches – in these last days (v1)… and people are the problem.
Paul describes for Timothy two groups of people that will cause troublesome times for the church in these last days.
Lovers to avoid (v2-9)
These people are characterised by the things they love: themselves, money (not lovers of good), pleasure, etc. Ironically, these people are lovers of things without love. They love idols, not the one true God.
They have a form of godliness but deny it’s power (v5). These people are inside the church! These ‘loves’ are veiled as ‘religious’, ‘Christian’ and ‘godly’. This description of the church blends in with the world, so you don’t know where the unbelieving world ends and the church begins.
We are to have nothing to do with such people (v5). Stop imagining that church will be a safe place. It should be a safe place… but it might not be.
Don’t imagine false teachers are nasty people. They can be charming, worming their way into homes and people’s lives claiming authority and teaching knowledge but never knowing the truth (v6-8).
These teachers look as if they are doing well and should be listened to… but they teachers won’t last, certainly not the last day (v9).
Models to follow (v10-17)
Paul doesn’t give a diagnostic rundown that pulls apart and highlights what is wrong with the false teachers. Instead, he gives a character apologetic… a description of the genuine teacher. True teachers have integrity – everything fits together and there is nothing out of place – and they are marked by suffering and persecution (v10-13).
Paul is no phoney… he is a genuine servant of the Gospel.
Don’t think that we need to go looking for persecution… just share the Gospel and persecution will follow (v12).
For Timothy, his family also provided a genuine model of Gospel faithfulness. His mother and grandmother brought Timothy up on the Word of God and lived out what they taught. Timothy won’t be led astray by false teachers because he knows better, he has known the way of truth since his infancy.
And this upbringing led Timothy to the Saviour, Christ Jesus. The Word of God given by his family had prepared Timothy to trust in his Saviour (v15).
The Scriptures are God’s breathed out Word, teaching, rebuking, correcting, training… so that we may be ready have everything we need to serve Jesus and be such a model and teacher to others.
v16-17 are not so much telling Timothy what to teach to others… they are telling Timothy who to listen to and be taught by. Every faithful man and woman of God is to listen to Jesus and his Word in the Bible. We must not neglect our Bible time, so that we are receiving the right input from our Creator and Saviour.
2 Timothy 4:1-22
Paul gives Timothy three encouragements as he draws his letter to a close.
Preach the Word (v1-5)
It is better to be on the wrong side of history than the wrong side of eternity. Jesus is going to judge the living and the dead, and so we are to continue to preach the Word for him. That is our charge as Gospel servants (v1-2). Don’t let an awareness of who we are preaching to and how we preach it affect what we are to preach. Preach it always, at all times.
People will seek people who will tell them what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear (v3-4). We are keep preaching the word, even if the people we are preaching to aren’t listening (v5). Gospel servants keep their heads and keep thinking as God has taught us to think, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist (even if that is not your particular gift).
Long for his appearing (v6-8)
Ministry and Gospel service is tough. It is a good fight to be fought, a race to be finished (v6-7). We don’t win the fight or win the race… Jesus does, and he will give us the victors crown when he comes (v8). The crown of righteousness is not an Apostolic thing, nor is it a pastor/minister thing… it is for all who long for his return.
Hear the warnings (v9-22)
In these final verses, there is lots of warm mingle with a touch of worry. Some people have left Paul for more comfortable, more-worldly places (v10). There is great encouragement, though, as Mark is now with him, despite the conflict between Paul and Mark earlier in their lives (v11-12). To admit our needs is not unspiritual… it is human (v13).
Some people are hurtful to faithful men and need to be avoided (v14-15). Alexander the metalworker dealt a great deal of harm, and Timothy will have to pass by that way to reach Paul and so needed to be wary of him.
Some people will abandon us but the Lord is trustworthy and will stand by us as we serve him (v16-18) Ultimately, the Lord will ensure that the Gospel is proclaimed (v17) and the Lord will bring us through death into his heavenly kingdom (v18).
This chapter is filled with many faithful names… all these people matter, and all of them – including and perhaps especially Timothy – have a struggle ahead that needs to be walked carefully in the Lord. Paul finishes with an acknowledgement that his ministry can only go so far… the Lord needs to be with Timothy, and the grace of Christ will be with us all.
Every believer can share in the hope of the Gospel that Paul had proclaimed and held on to… that the Lord is faithful, he is worth serving, and will bring us safely home into his kingdom.