Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Reading Through Second Timothy

cornerstone tim to hebWe are continuing my devotional study of Paul’s “pastoral” letters. I am reading  Paul’s second letter to Timothy accompanied by The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. The 2 Timothy commentary is written by John Laansma. 2 Timothy is Paul's final letter. He writes to "pass on the baton" of gospel ministry to Timothy and the next generation of church leaders. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Paul reminds Timothy and the Ephesian church leaders of the need to endure in ministry relationships because they are in the "last days" when the battle between spiritual forces of evil and the kingdom of God will reach its greatest intensity. Timothy must pass down the gospel he received from Paul with his words and with his life despite the opposition it will cause. But Timothy can be confident because God's plan assures that the kingdom of God will win in the end.

First, Paul urges Timothy endure in his loyalty to God, to Paul and to the gospel message. Timothy can minister boldly because God's grace that raised Christ from the dead is working in him through God's Spirit and calling. Timothy must be loyal to Jesus because Jesus is, ultimately, the only one who is able to guarantee our salvation individually and corporately. Paul cites Onesiphorus as an example of one who boldly came to visit Paul and identify himself with Paul and his suffering. Paul asks Timothy to come to him and do the same thing.

Paul would not have recognized our present-day contrasts of mind and heart or intellect and spiritual devotion. He was a theologian whose penetrating and expansive reflections both grew out of and engendered a deep and living piety. Enacting the fellowship of the gospel in daily sessions of prayer was a natural reflex, a discipline formed during his Jewish upbringing and transformed through his Christian faith. 2 Timothy 1.1-4, 135

The responsibility of maintaining the “deposit” of the Good News faithfully is not merely a matter of protecting a particular creedal statement and passing it on. It must be understood and embodied. It must be creatively and dynamically developed as we respond to our world in ways that are wise, compelling, and winsome. 2 Timothy 1.5-14, 148

Servants of the Good News who, like Onesiphorus, have left their families vulnerable for the sake of the Kingdom of God may find strong reassurance in these words, as may their families. 2 Timothy 1.15-18, 153–154

Paul wants Timothy to come to him to stress the point that, just as Paul poured his life into Timothy as an example, Timothy is to find faithful people into whom he can pour the truth into their lives through teaching and example. He is to endure hardship and avoid anything that will detract from his mission of discipleship. This includes diligent study of the scriptures so he can teach them accurately, and a pursuit of righteous character. This will create great opposition (inside and outside the church) to which he must respond boldly, gently, kindly, and with the goal, not to win arguments (a waste of time) but to win back estranged brothers and sisters.

Timothy was to search out people who will manifest the same virtues that Paul was exhorting Timothy himself to exhibit and to “deposit” the Good News with them, just as Paul had done with Timothy (1:12–14). Timothy was to form with them a relationship that would be sufficiently strong to assess their character and their capabilities, ensuring that they would understand what they receive, embody it, teach and defend it, and then, in like manner, raise up their own successors. 2 Timothy 2.1-7, 159

This self-giving, welling up out of Christ’s death and resurrection, is a fount of life that runs through the streambed of our own self-giving. Where does it all end, and what is the vision that draws us in mutual support and self-giving along the way? Salvation—resurrection and life—where death and dying are no more. And eternal glory! 2 Timothy 2.8-13, 164

For any who carry the feeling of stain on their lives—either through evil done by them or evil done to them—Scripture’s promises of cleansing are, for those who believe them, a source of unbelievable freedom and joyful service. Such a person will know himself or herself to be objectively qualified by God, immune from any accusation of wrongdoing, and subjectively emboldened, freed from an accusing conscience (1 John 3:18–24). The thought here is of no mere legal declaration of holiness that is contradicted by one’s actual living. In this context exactly the opposite is in view: This is a life marked by cleansing and holiness. 2 Timothy 2.14-26, 177

In chapter 3 Paul warns Timothy that the opposition of the false teachers is only part of the "great apostacy" that will get worse and worse until the appearing of Christ at the 2nd coming. Timothy must boldly endure in the power of the Spirit and oppose these false teachers and evil people by the godly character of his life and by preaching the gospel message of the scriptures. As Timothy grows in his knowledge and application of the scripture he will become wise and able to lead people to righteousness and oppose false teaching within the church. He will also be able to withstand the persecution he will receive.

Though alone in the darkness of prison, both the promise of God and the dangers of the last times are clear as day before his eyes. Speaking as a grizzled veteran to the new recruits, Paul’s attempt in 3:1–9 has been to make clear to them the hardships and enticements that will rush like waves over their attempts to maintain the ministry described in 2:14–26. Not all are up to the unvarnished truth of what lies ahead, and many, like the contemporaries of the prophet Jeremiah, prefer soothing, “optimistic” words. Paul’s wisdom is better; it belongs to what must be faithfully passed on.  2 Timothy 3.1-9, 191

The possibility of godliness and its orientation were now centered on Christ. As a life that would take up its cross and follow Jesus (Mark 8:34), such a life would partake in the willingness to suffer (and die, if necessary) for others. Thus, the idea goes beyond profession to denote an inner orientation with its resulting life lived before, because of, and for the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 3.10-13, 195

To say that Scripture is inspired is to say that its words are God-breathed (a more literal translation); it is God’s own personal speech breathed out by God. This does not negate the active involvement of human authors, but it does affirm that God is fully responsible for Scripture, and it is therefore as true, reliable, authoritative, permanent, and powerful as is God himself. Its message is coherent and consistent, and it is such in its witness to Jesus Christ. If it were not so, it could not bring salvation nor inspire faith. 2 Timothy 3.14-17, 198

Paul concludes with another exhortation to Timothy to never stop the preaching the word whether people want to hear it or not. He is to consistently apply scripture to his own life and patiently work with people to help them do the same. Even when people respond negatively to the word, keep at it. Paul closes the letter with another plea for Timothy to come to him. For various reasons, good and bad, he is alone in his imprisonment. He alludes to Psalm 22 to compare his sufferings with that of Jesus and his assurance that God will not abandon him and will bring from his impending death, the same victory assured by Christ's resurrection. People may disappoint us, but ultimately, God will not. The victory of his kingdom is sure.

When all is said and done, it is the word that must be preached, and this is not something that one simply wakes up and decides to do on any given day, nor is it necessarily what is happening when a speaker or the music makes our skin tingle. 2 Timothy 4.1-8, 203

In facing death the greatest burden of the faithful heart is not the nature of death’s instruments, whether they will be “natural” or hostile, not the degree of pain and suffering to be inflicted, but whether one will remain faithful in extremis, whether one’s confession will continue firm and uncompromised through the ravages of illness, tragedy, or torture, whether Jesus will be honored or we will be ashamed. In response, every servant of the Lord who aligns his or her life with the Good News can face not only death but the processes of death with a confidence equal to Paul’s. 2 Timothy 4.9-18, 216

What we have before us is not a mere “work” to be orchestrated and “professional relationships” of interest. Not even merely close friendships. Rather, before us is the “household of God” (1 Tim 3:15), whose brothers and sisters, though scattered over the world, shared a true sibling affection and a common passion for the Good News of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 4.19-22, 219

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