A good soldier
Paul starts this chapter with an outpouring of love and affection for Timothy calling him his son and goes on to renew his appeal for Timothy to stay strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ. Grace is God’s unmerited favour so we are to rest in, and rely on, His presence, wisdom and strength rather than ours.
Paul urges Timothy to entrust the things he has heard Paul say to other reliable people who will in turn pass them onto others. This is discipleship in action and should spur us on to think who we are passing truth onto and seeing ourselves as a link in a chain – we get discipled and then we discipleothers who then disciple others. We are carriers of the truth and we are to do our part by passing truth to others. Our motive for doing this should be that we want others to grow and develop in the truth and in their individual callings. This is how the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be passed on. Babes in the faith are to be discipled and grow into maturity so they can then reach others. We must passionately desire for others in the body to grow in their faith.
Paul asks Timothy to join him in suffering like a good soldier. As we know Paul is in prison and this is his last letter. We have not been called to a life without trouble or persecution. The person we are following was persecuted and Jesus said we are to expect it too. The Christian life is such a paradox. It contains much blessing but also much suffering and persecution and rejection too! We are carriers of light and truth which will confront spirits of darkness and deception! Many people will not like what we stand for or understand us! But take heart because Jesus does understand us and He is proud of us when we stand up for His truth! Like soldiers, we are on earth to please our heavenly Father, who is likened to our commanding officer, and not men! This is tough for people pleasers! But it spurs me on to evangelise boldly without feeling rejected if people don’t like what I stand for. We are here to please God and not men! Like soldiers we are on a mission. We are commissioned to GO with His authority and have all the backing of heaven.
Paul also says we are to keep focussed on the issues of God’s Kingdom and not on worldly affairs. He says remember the source – it is Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, this is the gospel he preaches. And it is for this cause that he is suffering, chained in prison, being treated like a criminal. He lifts the mood in verse 9 by saying, ‘but God’s Word is not chained’. The bible tells us that the Word of God is active and living, it is a double-edged sword that penetrates to dividing soul from spirit, joints from marrow and it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. The Word is likened to a seed that is sown in the heart which God can water and grow miraculously by His Holy Spirit so even though Paul is in chains the Word of God is free to grow and multiply when it is heard and received. Paul says it is worth enduring everything if it results in others receiving Christ and eternity. Even in his suffering Paul’s focus remains passionately on other people coming to know God’s truth and getting saved.
Paul says if we die with Him, we will also live with Him, if we endure, we will also reign with Him, if we disown Him, He will also disown us but if we are faithless He will remain faithful for He cannot disown His own characteristic because He IS Faithfulness! Paul tells Timothy to warn God’s people against quarrelling about words and godless chatter because he says it is of no value and only ruins those who listen. Thinking about how we can apply this to evangelism, wouldn’t it be more productive to steer away from getting into arguments and philosophical debates with people on the streets or in our homes and instead just speak the Word that God gives us, praying with thanksgiving that God will water the seed that was sown. Hearts that are hard cannot receive the truth and carnal unrenewed minds just want to argue with worldly reasoning so better to sow a seed of truth and go! And then pray for the Holy Spirit to water the word that was sown and leave the outcome in His hands!
The joy of doing this bible study in greater depth is that He is convicting me while I am writing about the way in which I sometimes get into religious arguments but as Paul says, ‘it is of no use’. Better to ask God for a specific verse of Scripture, deliver it, bless them and then pray and believe for God to water it rather than debating and arguing! God will not bless our quarrelling about words but He will bless His Word. Paul tells us to correctly handle the Word of truth so when we heed his advice we can expect more fruit from our efforts! We are all still learning to be more effective in reaching others and I don’t think any of us has arrived yet! But we can all press on to be more effective. Asking God for a scripture or prophesy or word of knowledge or word of encouragement will undoubtedly be far more effective in reaching unbelievers than a debate! Even if we get it wrong God will bless it as long as it is offered to the person in a spirit of love and with humility.
Paul warns Timothy to avoid godless chatter because he says if we indulge in it then we will become more and more ungodly and he gives examples of people who have wandered from the truth. I was reminded recently that we become like the people we surround ourselves with, so we need to think about the people we mix with and protect ourselves from getting drawn into godless chatter. In verse 19 Paul says, ‘The Lord knows who are His’ and ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’. It is reassuring to be reminded that God knows us but it also puts responsibility on those who confess His Name to behave in a way that is pleasing to Him and be a good representative for Christ. Paul then describes a house which contains articles in it, some are of value and some are not, some are for special use and some for common use. He exhorts us to cleanse ourselves so that we can be instruments for special purposes, holy and ready for the Master to use for His Kingdom purposes.
Again Paul tells us not to have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments that produce quarrels but says to pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, calling on the Lord from a heart that is pure. And then yet again, for the third time, he returns to the matter of quarrels, saying, ‘The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome’ but is to be kind to everyone, able to teach and not resentful. As this is Paul’s last letter to Timothy, he really wants to get the message about quarrelling over to him so that Timothy can pass it on. Paul says that instead of quarrelling we are to be gentle with opponents of the truth, hoping and praying that they will come to their senses and repent and be set free.
Paul reminds us of the very serious predicament that unbelievers are in. He says they are stuck in a trap of the devil who has taken them captive to do his (satan’s) will. They need the light of the Word (truth) in order to set them free from their prison of captivity (lies). Arguing and quarrelling will not help them. They need God’s Truth to set them free! Surely the realization of the true predicament that unbelievers are in will spur us on to focus less on ourselves (or how inadequate or foolish we may feel in evangelism) and instead to have our focus wholeheartedly on the person God puts in front of us who Jesus died for but who is currently held captive by satan to do his will. If we count ourselves dead to self/flesh we will not care about being a fool for Christ but we will just be passionate about partnering with God to help those who are snared by the devil to become free. Part of our commission from Jesus is to set the captives free! HE will set them free but He wants to use us to do it!