Tuesday, January 15, 2008
2 Timothy 4
What is this passage all about?
Paul charges Timothy to preach the word because Paul's ministry is almost over.
What can I learn from it?
It appears that Paul is, in some respects, handing over the mantle of his office in this letter. He isvery direct in his charge to Timothy in verse 2, and his reasons for it, in v3 and v6. Paul is concerned that it is not enough that he has evangelised many among several different continents. It is vital that the message be upheld and continue to spread. Paul knows that, as in the nation of Israel people turned from their worship of the One True God, so now people will prefer to hear easier, more congenial doctrines than the sound doctrine of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, which is a free gift from God.
Paul is also very aware that his time on earth is nearing its end. He returns to the same imagery of an athlete running a race that he mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:5 (exhorting Timothy) as well as Galatians 2:2 and Philippians 3:12-14 (referring to himself) and Galatians 5:7 (referring to other Christians). Hebrews 12:1-3 also uses this metaphor. Having written in other letters of his progress in the race towards the goal of knowing Christ, being made perfect, and taking hold of the righteousness that Jesus has already won for him, Paul is confident that he has done what he can and looks eagerly towards the crown of righteousness that is in store for him.
Paul reflects on God's provision to him at the time of his first trial when it was the Lord, rather than people, who stood at his side. This can be an encouragement to all Christians who face persecution and particularly those whose persectution means that they are left alone without the support of their fellow Christians. Even at these times, we are never alone. The Holy Spirit is always with us and will give us strength to endure trials and even to continue to speak about the gospel in the face of this oppression. I think particularly of the church in China, with regard to this, and also of my friend David who is in the Sudan, preaching the gospel of salvation through Christ's blood to people there so that they might have the hope of something that will last eternally, rather than just as long as the present relative peace from civil war.
Paul also desires to see Timothy one last time, and asks several times (vv9,21) that he would come quickly. I am reminded that Paul was a person, not just a character in a tale. That is, in this passage I can see evidence of Paul's humanness. It is okay to feel the need for family and friends at times! God has given us the precious encouragement of fellow Christians, and it is a wonderful blessing.
How does this apply to my own life?
I need to keep praying for David as he faces the dangers of the Sudan.
I should let myself be encouraged by my fellow Christian, and seek to be an encouragement to them also - good to keep in mind as I