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2 Timothy

Strong in the Grace

2 Timothy  2:1-19

Lesson audio

It is important to have a grasp on the difference between substance and delivery. You get your water from a faucet. But you would not be such a fool as to carry a faucet into the desert instead of a canteen.

Strong in the grace

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.

(2Ti 2:1-10 NASB)

In preparing this lesson I was struck with the power of the phrase, “strong in the grace.” I understand grace as forgiveness; I understand grace as a gift. But I never understood grace as a source of strength. After some thought, my mind was drawn to the illustration of Christ as the vine, his followers as the branches. Permit me an illustration of how His metaphor might teach us more. I have a vine in my backyard, the kind that clings to vertical surfaces, such as my block wall. Consider that vine:

  • Even though it has grown over most of my block wall over the last twenty years or so, the leaves at the farthest end are the same as those at its tap root. So it is with us: the grace that makes us strong does so that we may produce the same fruit at our end as He does at the tap root of the Father.
  • The vine and the root alike share whatever hardships come along. If it rains, both get wet. The leaf at the end has no reason to expect sunshine if the root is rained on. But – if the root is watered, the leaf also prospers. As Christ pours His grace through us (we are but a channel where His grace is poured) we take in his gift; it is fitting, therefore, that we suffer like Him as well.
  • If the leaf is trimmed off, it no longer grows, nor can it render any benefit. It is fit only to be thrown away. If you wish to be strong in the Faith, remain in grace.

Grace is more than forgiveness; as Christ told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

The Christian Apart

There is a myth in the church today: the Christian is just like everyone else in this world. In some ways this is true; we are but flesh and blood. But in a very real sense we must be different. Paul puts it this way to us:

  • You’re a soldier? Others may pick and choose their orders; you can not. So it is with us. Others may pick and choose the idol of the moment; we must remain devoted to Christ. We’re different.
  • You’re an athlete? Then you know that each sport has rules, and you must play by the rules to win. Christians too are to be obedient to the Law of Christ. We’re different.
  • You’re a farmer? Your sweat and blood entitle you to the first share of the crops. Our Lord promises reward for what we do for Him; therefore there is no life of ease for the Christian. We’re different.
The power of example

One trained in physics looks at things differently some time. Permit me a story. I was 24 years old when I went through basic training – with a group of kids, most of whom were barely 18. I felt like the chaperone.

One day we were given an exercise to strengthen our self-confidence. A large log had been raised up over a sawdust pit. The top of the log had been shaved level – about 30 feet above the ground. We were to walk over this. The drill sergeant called for a volunteer to be first.

Everyone else saw the 30 feet high – I saw how wide the log was, at least eighteen inches on the flat. Such a walk would be a trivial task. So I volunteered. The platoon watched as the “old man” walked the log in rather casual style. It instantly cracked the spell; if the old man could do it, so could they.

The power of example: consider the example of Christ, who suffered in innocence as if He were a criminal. Consider the example of Paul, in chains for the Faith. God teaches us much by example:

  • The example inspires confidence; if he can do it, I can do it.
  • The example teaches method. He does it, now I know how too.
  • The example invites commitment. Commitment implies trust, and you cannot please God without it.

Know the truth

It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.

(2Ti 2:11-14 NASB)

If you stay with Christ

You may face death as He did. Millions of Christians have died for the faith. Indeed, it was so common in the 4th century that Athanasius used that ever present fact as an argument for the truth of the Resurrection. Even if you don’t face martyrdom, you will face death, unless He returns first (which will divert your attention from such problems). Face death with Christ; make Him your constant companion. If you die with Him you will rise again, as He did.

Perhaps your suffering will not be martyrdom, but suffering in this world. Remember your example: He suffered, and was rewarded with the Name above all names. As He was rewarded, so shall you be. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

If you leave him

Much of our emphasis today is on believing so that you might be saved. But the Scriptures also emphasize that we are to keep the Faith. This command is a reflection of the basic nature of God Himself – who is eternal, unchanging.

I AM does not change, but some of us do. Some chase the things of the world, some are distracted by care and worry, some never really believed in the first place. It does not matter: He remains the same. He rewards those who seek Him; He condemns those who depart from Him. But that is part of His eternal nature; His reward is also eternal.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

This passage is here for a reason. There is the ever-present temptation to legalize the faith, to turn it into a set of rules. We are here to win souls, not debates. The Pharisees delighted in hard work to win over a convert to their system. Pride prevailed there, but in the kingdom of God humility is required. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

A Workman not Ashamed

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness."

(2Ti 2:15-19 NASB)

Paul opened this section talking about shame, and when to despise it. There is true shame in this passage; it is for those who preach a false gospel. There are many such in our time. There are those who preach the “prosperity gospel”, the idea that God wants to make you rich; if you give to the church He will do so, and we’re the right church for you to give to. Of course, their extravagant lifestyle is proof that their theory works – right? (P. T. Barnum might have had another explanation for this.) Add to these all the legalists, cults and sects today and the opportunity for going astray is really great. And really shameful.

What should we do about it? No surprise here, God’s answer calls us to do things His way. He asks two things of the poor teacher:

  • First, that he will be a workman. Which is to say, the lessons (live and taught both) require work. There is a reason I put in the hours.
  • He also requires that the workman “rightly divide” (accurately handle) the Word. If I seem precise at times, perhaps this is why.
Empty chatter

He tells us that empty chatter leads to ungodliness. How can this be?

  • False doctrine spreads like gangrene. Those who want the easy way to heaven are always ready for such things. Even if the false doctrine is one of works.
  • Sometimes we get the opposite effect. We trivialize the Gospel for the sake of “niceness.” That way visitors will not be offended by the Stone of Stumbling, the Rock of Offense.
  • Of course, we can also distort the truth of the Gospel in the search for harmony in the church. There is a difference between “everyone agrees” and “no one disagrees.” When the Gospel is put forward as “nice people should do nice things” it is no great wonder that it attracts only nice people. Where are the sinners called to repentance?
The firm foundation

Remember: the Lord knows who are His own. Your witness and His knowledge should coincide – and that means that you do not lead the life of ungodliness. If you name the Name, abstain. When He knows you, and you show it, then harmony replaces hypocrisy. Which is as it should be in the kingdom of heaven.

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