Friday, March 23, 2018

2nd Timothy, How to Be a True Servant of Christ

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

2nd Timothy was written by St. Paul shortly before he was martyred. This letter to his beloved friend has to do with the personal walk and testimony of a true servant of Christ. 

Let’s see how Paul encourages Timothy in the opening verses of the second chapter:

1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

He tells him to “be strong” and the implication here from the Greek is to be strong in mind. He encourages him to teach others to be teachers. There is a huge difference between teaching your subject matter and teaching someone else how to teach your subject matter. I spent over thirty years teaching and the experience of having a student-teacher to train was incredibly difficult yet enriching and like Paul says, you need that future teacher to be reliable.

3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

The soldier analogy is perfect because, unfortunately, every generation can relate to the comparisons. Paul likens Christians to soldiers so we must be at war. Against what? Against the world. Look again at verse 4. The commanding officer is Christ. Do you want to please Him? Start by not getting entangled in worldly things.

Paul likes to use athletic analogies. Some of the qualities he is inferring are effort, setting a goal, being self-sacrificing and following rules. The athlete parallel and the farmer comparison are forever current. The soldier and the athlete are in it for the victory and the crown. What does the farmer get? Ah, yes, the first fruits. First fruits are the blessings.

 1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

The time will come when people will not put up with correct doctrine. And that time seems to be right now as many reject portions of the Bible as being old-fashioned, narrow minded or misinterpreted. Look what verses 3 and 4 say they will do: they will surround themselves with people who tell them what they want to hear. They will turn from the truth and accept myths. Myths? You mean like horoscopes, witchcraft, paranormal stuff, extra-terrestrials, vampires, Scientology, drugs, global warming, yoga meditation and myriad superstitions? Yup. I like the phrase “itching ears.” What does that mean to you?

In verse 6 the Greek phrase that is translated “being poured out like a drink offering” is an allusion to an Old Testament sacrifice mentioned 32 times in Numbers 15. What do you think Paul means?

Paul finishes by keeping his soldier, athlete and farmer images in order: I have fought the good fight (soldier), I have finished the race (athlete), I have kept the faith (farmer). 

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