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2 Timothy 21-13 Ex Notes


CONTEXT: 2 Tim. 2:1-13 presents a series of examples Paul wants Timothy to consider. Among these are soldiers, athletes, farmers, Jesus Christ, and Paul himself. Rather than give extensive details, Paul encourages Timothy to consider how each of these applies to his own life. The context for all of this is ''suffering,'' meaning the hardships endured for the sake of Christ. Those who endure do so by the power of God, not their own efforts.

v. 1:  Paul returns to his focus on Timothy in this verse, after discussing other Christian ministers at the end of chapter 1. This is the second time Paul calls Timothy his child in this letter (2 Timothy 1:2). This theme was also seen in 1 Timothy (1 Timothy 1:2, 18). Paul saw Timothy as his spiritual son in the faith. Paul was at this time an old man, likely in his 60s, and did not have a wife or children. Instead, he had devoted his life to serving Christ. Timothy was likely the closest thing he had to an actual son.

▪ Paul's words include a positive tone as he begins his list of word pictures. Timothy's strength was not found in himself, but in the grace of Jesus. Grace is the source of salvation (Acts 18:27; Ephesians 2:8-9) as well as the power for the Christian's daily life. We start in grace, stand in grace (Romans 5:2), and are strengthened in grace. This is comforting for us, as limited people, since we often feel weak and inconsistent. Christ, however, is eternal and invincible.

v. 2:  This famous verse on discipleship offers Paul's strategy for passing on the faith. He begins by reminding Timothy about the specific lessons Paul gave to him. Paul shared Christ with Timothy and did so "in the presence of many witnesses." The importance of other witnesses to Timothy's faith was also evident in 1 Timothy 6:12 when Paul shared, "Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."

▪ Timothy was to teach this same message to others who were capable of passing along that same knowledge. This is not a reference to evangelism, since these were to be "faithful men," or people who already believed in Christ. If done correctly, these trained believers would "be able to teach others also." This is the primary means by which the gospel is spread: through relationship and discipleship.

▪ All told, Paul's comments here put four generations of discipleship into view: from Paul, to Timothy, to teachers, to others. Passing on the faith is not a single step, but a multi-generational process. Christian discipleship has the long view in mind: reaching others who will reach still others.

v. 3:  Paul then transitions from his own ministry to Timothy to the first of many word pictures related to the Christian life. First, Paul notes, "Share in suffering." Paul was suffering in prison at the time he wrote. He expected Timothy to also be willing to suffer for the faith. He had already mentioned suffering twice (2 Timothy 1:8, 12) and will mention it three more times in this brief letter (2 Timothy 2:9; 3:11; 4:5). Suffering-enduring hardship for the sake of Christ-was the expectation of the person who sought to live fully for God.

▪ Timothy was to suffer "as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." Paul did not have violence in mind, but rather the attitude of a well-trained soldier. Military personnel focus on their mission, not unrelated concerns. They leave the greater planning, as well as the details of food and housing, to their commander. The next verse further develops this concept. Ephesus was a Roman military city during this time. The image of a soldier would have been very familiar to Timothy as well as to other believers in Ephesus. Of course, Paul was likely in contact with Roman soldiers on a daily basis during this second Roman imprisonment, which may have kept this imagery at the forefront of his mind when writing his last letter to Timothy.

v. 4:  Paul continues his word picture of a soldier who shares in suffering for Christ from the last verse. Paul points out that soldiers don't concern themselves with non-military matters: they have a job to do. Nor do they worry about issues unrelated to their specific mission. In other words, a Roman soldier would not be distracted by "civilian" concerns: entertainment, politics, or weather, for example. Instead, his focus was entirely on fulfilling the orders of his commander. In this word picture, Christ is the one who has enlisted Timothy. His goal was not the trivial issues of life, but the mission for which God had called him.

▪ Paul elsewhere used the concept of a soldier in relation to the discipline required in the Christian life (Phil 2:25). Believers who serve together are considered "fellow soldiers," a phrase Paul used as a positive reference to those who worked with him (Philippians 2:25; Philemon 1:2). In modern terms, this is like saying Christians are to be well trained and disciplined, like an experienced Marine who is prepared for any battle.   

v. 5:  This verse transitions from the imagery of a soldier to that of an athlete. Athletes, both as amateurs and professionals, existed even prior to New Testament times. Athletics was especially popular in the ancient Grecian Olympics. Winners were presented with an olive wreath from a sacred tree near the temple of Zeus in Olympia.  An athlete who broke the rules of competition could not be crowned. In ancient times, just as in the modern day, rules existed both for the competition and the training. In the ancient Olympic Games, athletes had to swear before the statue of Zeus that they had strictly trained for 10 months prior to the event. Similarly, today's elite athletes devote their entire lives to training and competition. Yet athletes can be disqualified by breaking one major rule and even have prior medals or awards taken away. The Christian is to likewise follow God's truth in daily life in order to successfully be awarded in heaven. This is not a matter of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), but of heavenly rewards.

v. 6:  Paul has discussed his own life (2 Timothy 2:1-2), a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-4), and an athlete (2 Timothy 2:5). He now shifts to "the hard-working farmer." Interestingly, Paul qualifies this category by presenting a particular type of farmer, one who is hard-working. Not every person who worked on a farm in Timothy's day was devoted to it. Yet those who were devoted had a right to expect compensation for their efforts.

▪ The stereotype of the hard-working farmer exists for a reason, and this has been a common analogy from ancient times until today. A hard-working farmer is known for rising early in the morning, attending to a variety of important issues throughout the day, and sometimes even tending to problems in the evening. The saying, "A farmer's work is never done," has become popular for this very reason. A hard-working farmer always seems to be either at work, or thinking about what work is next.

▪ At the same time, despite the farmer's efforts, he is dependent on God to produce the harvest: "See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains" (James 5:7). Likewise, the Christian is called to work hard, to suffer when necessary, yet depend on God for the results.

v. 7:   Verses 1-6 were directly addressed to Timothy. Rather than develop each idea in great detail, Timothy is meant to reflect on Paul's words and their application in his own life. Interestingly, "what I say" may also be another indication that Paul dictated this letter, and another person wrote his words down. If so, the most likely candidate is Luke, the person Paul will later say is the only one with him (2 Timothy 4:11), and who had already written the books of Luke and Acts by this time. Luke was considered Paul's fellow worker (Philemon 1:24) and was known as a "beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). Luke was likely the only Gentile author of a New Testament book.

▪ The final phrase, "the Lord will give you understanding in everything," may allude to Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Understanding was a key theme of the Proverbs and something to be sought by those who loved God.

v. 8:  In prior verses, Paul has been discussing suffering like a soldier, athlete, and hard-working farmer (2 Timothy 2:1-7), for the sake of Jesus Christ. He tells Timothy to "remember" Jesus, a key theme in Old Testament worship. Worship often includes meditating upon God's previous works. For the Jewish people in particular, there are many to consider, whether it's God parting the Red Sea, bringing Abraham into a new land, or making David king.

▪ Paul then mentions two aspects he considers part of "my gospel." First, he speaks of Jesus as "risen from the dead." The resurrection is the foundation of the Christian faith. First Corinthians 15 develops this theme in detail, concluding, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14). Second, the gospel includes the fact that Jesus was "the offspring of David." The Messiah was to be from David's family line (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Matthew 1:1, 6). Jesus' adoptive father, Joseph, was called "son of David" (Matthew 1:20). Jesus was likewise called son of David (Matthew 9:27; 12:23 15:22; 20:23). Jesus literally fulfilled the prophecy of being a son of David who rose from the dead (Isaiah 11).

v. 9:  This verse continues Paul's sentence from verse 8, noting that it is the gospel "for which I am suffering." He had done nothing illegal except to proclaim Christ. Yet he was "bound with chains as a criminal." Paul has already mentioned his chains (2 Timothy 1:16). In this particular case, this likely means literal chains on his hands and/or feet, similar to Peter in Acts 12:6. Unlike Paul's first Roman imprisonment, in which he lived in his own apartment for two years under house arrest, this imprisonment was much more serious. Paul expected he would not live much longer, but rather would suffer until the end for Christ.

▪ In contrast to Paul's situation, he rejoices in knowing that the truth of the gospel could not be restrained! Even from his cell and in chains, Paul communicated God's truth that influenced Timothy, his congregation, other early churches, and became part of the New Testament. Still today, the Word of God given through Paul impacts lives around the world. As Hebrews 4:12 teaches, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

v. 10:  Because the Word of God cannot be limited like a physical person can, Paul is willing to "endure" whatever he has to for the sake of saving souls. Paul would suffer in any way necessary for those who would come to faith in Christ. The elect referred to those who were believers or would become believers. Paul addressed election in his letter to the Romans written about a decade earlier (Romans 8:33; 9:11; 11:7, 28). Paul considered himself a servant to the elect: "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth" (Titus 1:1).

▪ The destiny of those who are elect includes two aspects. First, it means obtaining salvation during this life, which brings the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This gives believers the power of that Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7). Second, being one of God's elect includes a glorious eternity with the Lord. These two aspects were also developed by John, as he notes the abundant life of the believer now (John 10:10), and the eternal life of the believer with the Lord in heaven (John 3:16).

v. 11:  The phrase, "The saying is trustworthy," is unique to the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; Titus 3:8). In this context, the trustworthy saying is the poetical statement to follow in verses 11-13. These verses are set apart in many translations, since they appear to have been an early hymn or poem in the church. It may have originated with Paul in this letter. Or, it may have served as a reminder, with Paul quoting a known song from the early church.

▪ The first part of this statement begins at the end of verse 11. Believers have died-to sin and the world-with Christ (Colossians 2:20; 3:1-3) and will also experience resurrection with Him (1 Corinthians 15:52). The two words translated "died" and "live" in this verse rhyme in the original Greek: synapethanomen and syzēsomen. The same rhyming pattern is found in the next verse as well. This creates an easily-remembered phrase which would have been easily passed along by early believers.

v. 12:  Paul continues his hymn from verse 11, adding the concepts of stamina and authority.  Endurance here is from the Greek word hypomenomen, and includes the idea of "remaining, lasting, enduring or suffering." This is a theme found throughout 2 Timothy. Those who endure are the true believers who will also reign with Christ in the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:6). The Greek words for "endure" and "reign" in this line, hypomenomen and symbasileusomen, share the same ending as "died" and "live" in the previous verse. This creates a pattern of four rhyming words in two lines for easy recall by readers and hearers in the original language.

▪ The next phrase, "if we deny him, he also will deny us," presents a contrast with those who endure. If a believer endures, he or she reigns. If a person denies Christ, He will deny eternal life to them. The idea is that of denouncing or rejecting, not simply closing a door to someone. God rejects those who renounce or reject Christ (John 3:18, 36).

v. 13:  The final phrase in this hymn ends on a word of hope: God can hold us, even if we fail. Those who are saved (2 Timothy 2:11) and endure will reign with the Lord (2 Timothy 2:12). Those who reject Him will be rejected by Him. Those believers who struggle, or are "faithless," are still held by God. He remains faithful, even when His people are not. This theme is consistent with God's faithfulness to His people Israel in the Old Testament. Though they often rejected Him, He continued to keep His promises to them.

▪ The final phrase "for he cannot deny himself," reveals that the audience in mind in this last verse involves believers. We are clothed in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:1-5) and cannot be separated from His love: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).