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2 Timothy

Not Ashamed of the Chains

2 Timothy  1

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This short letter is the source of a number of familiar quotations, but the letter as a whole is somewhat out of favor amongst Bible teachers. The reason is the rise of the “quarterly” – the neat, canned series of lessons which last one quarter – usually either twelve or thirteen weeks. This letter is too short for that.

That does not, however, remove its usefulness in the preparation of the Christian. We shall examine its stern ways, seeing if even the modern church can incorporate them.

Relationship Renewed

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

(2Ti 1:1-7 NASB)

The letter starts with the traditional (for the time) greeting. In this era it might be months before a letter could be written and delivered, so Paul is careful to renew their relationship first by outlining who he is, and who Timothy is.

Paul says he is an apostle. The word in English has suffered lately, as virtually all charismatic Christians have an “apostle” for what we would call a minister. Paul’s experience is different. He is not an apostle by his desires; he is an apostle because he was called to it. He was drafted, if you will, on the road to Damascus. This is God’s doing, not man’s.

But Paul adds a qualification: it is according to the promise of life. From the earliest days of the Old Testament, culminating in Christ Himself, the word has been clear: God will provide eternal life for those who please Him. It is, and always has been, plan A. God’s purpose from the beginning could not be thwarted.

Timothy is called his beloved son. It is a reflection of the fact that Paul brought him to Christ; more than that, Paul was his mentor in the faith, his encourager. In renewing this old friendship from afar, Paul pronounces three great blessings upon Timothy:

  • Grace – the word in the Greek means “a gift.” Either the gift of salvation, or the many gifts of God which uphold and empower salvation, is intended.
  • Mercy – often translated “compassion.” Each of us will face the judgment; those who love God will see his compassion.
  • Peace. One of the great gifts of God is the peace that surpasses understanding. Those who live in the eye of the hurricane know such peace.
“I thank God”

Paul is renewing a relationship, and so he returns to repetition of things he said in the first letter. Have you ever told your wife you love her – I mean, more than once? Paul is doing the same thing. He is praying for Timothy, and wants to see him again.

Why? Because Timothy has shared the same trials, fought for the same faith and suffered in like manner as Paul. He has, in other words, sincere faith – which is the common experience of the true Christian.

“Kindle afresh”

Paul reminds Timothy of his spiritual gift. It’s an important lesson. We don’t know specifically what this was – but by the lack of evidence we may conclude that it was not something miraculous. It is therefore like the gifts of the Spirit today – meant to build up the church, not dazzle the observer.

The fact that Paul encourages Timothy to “kindle afresh” means that such a gift can be allowed to die out. How? Simply by not using it. That’s the natural way such things decline. But why would we treat the gift of God so poorly?

Fear. We are afraid of what others will think. Fear turns us into quiet little mice, where God gave us the gift of being a lion.

What to do about this? We need to remember that it is His gift, and He will sustain it. We must make the deliberate decision: nurture this gift in an environment which will cause it to grow:

  • Power – remember, this is God’s doing. He will supply all the power you need for it, if you will but ask.
  • Love – which includes suffering for and with this gift. Perfect love drives out fear.
  • Discipline – God is not the author of chaos but of order.

Testimony (Martyrdom)

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.

(2Ti 1:8-11 NASB)

Have you ever visited a prisoner? There is a certain sense of “shared shame” you have the first few times – as if the criminal’s crimes were somehow rubbing off on you. There is something about the prison atmosphere that says, “This is a place of disgrace.” So we may feel queasy in doing it. We should not.

  • If you are ashamed of the place of punishment, then you are ashamed of Christ – for He went through that punishment in your place. Crucifixion is a shameful death.
  • Rather, we should be willing to join in the witness of suffering. If one you know is in prison for the cause of Christ (and there are more in America than you might think), what should you do for them? Most of these objected to abortion. And the American church has turned her back on them.
  • In such suffering you discover the power of God. It is moral judo; the world sees you suffering, but God uses that obedience and magnifies it.

May I give you an example of that last? Rosa Parks. Her refusal to go to the back of the bus caused her arrest – and sparked much of the civil rights movement.

How we obtained this

We did not attain either this martyrdom (or testimony, the words are the same) not by our own wonderful doings. It is Christ’s doing. He did this in accord with God’s eternal purpose (remember Plan A?), by his grace - and it lasts for all eternity.

But that is not the end of the matter. You’re saved, now what? He also called you to a holy calling. Or He will, shortly – when you are ready. Let’s understand how this works:

  • Under the Old Testament Law (and Mormonism, and Islam, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and who knows how many others) you became righteous by what you did. In the New Testament, it’s different.
  • Now, we are under grace. Man is made righteous by the Holy Spirit – and out of that righteousness flows the work of the righteous man.
  • This all comes in God’s way, in His time, for His purposes and by His Spirit – we choose none of these.
“To God be the glory”

The one who abolished death by His own death, who brought us immortality – He is the one who appoints us to our posts. I am a teacher because the King of Kings made it so; it is my glad service. If you don’t think that I’m a small cog in a very big work, consider the nature of Christ again.

Dealing with shame in this world.

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. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me-- the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day--and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.

(2Ti 1:12-18 NASB)

In this world you will need to deal with “the shame of the chains” – the fact that the church is not politically correct, condemned as a collection of wild-eyed right wing fundamentalists. How do we do that?

Mental Attitude

Paul’s response to that is rather simple: get your attitude straight. Let’s remember who is who here.

  • I know who He is. His opponents are rather insignificant compared to the Ruler of the universe.
  • I know what He can do – and also what He promised to do. He promised me reward if I will be faithful to Him. I know He can deliver.
  • I know how He will see me through the my suffering and my tasks. He holds the future; we win.
Keep the faith

It’s a simple phrase, but Paul gives us four ideas on just how to do it:

  • Stick with “sound words.” In other words, keep your intellectual picture of the faith, who Jesus is and what you are supposed to do. Sound thinking is a prerequisite for right living.[1]
  • Hold fast to the faith. Stubbornly cling to the sound words you were given. You may not be an intellectual giant – but you should know to hang on to the good words, and throw out the bad.
  • Practice love at all opportunities. This is exercise which keeps the Faith.
  • And, recognize what your spiritual gift is – then guard it. Use it regularly, and with the help of the Spirit, see that it never needs be rekindled.
The unknown example

Onesiphorus is mentioned only in the letters to Timothy. But I would have you consider him an example for those of us who are never going to be world famous Christians.

  • The man is a dynamic Christian – his entire household follows him in this belief.
  • He has enthusiasm in the faith – see how he “eagerly searched.”
  • He practiced the practical side of Christian charity.
  • He did this, unashamed, even though Paul was in prison.

For this, Paul commends him and pronounces a blessing upon him – that the Lord will be merciful to him on the Last Day – the Day of Judgment. Will we find similar favor with God? If not, why not?

[1] Which, of course, conflicts with the contemporary attitude of, “Check your brain at the door because God wants your heart.”

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