Studies in 2 Timothy. Presentation 01. Introduction And Encouragement Chap 1v1-18. Presentation 01. Background.
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This is thought to be the last letter written by Paul as he awaited execution in Rome. The letter is addressed not to a church but to Timothy who had been Paul’s young companion and apprentice for a number of years.
Paul met Timothy in Lystra early in his second missionary journey
At the time of writing Timothy appears to have been involved in serving in the church at Ephesus but was finding things difficult and was in need of encouragement.
Many parents have seen their children run away and hide because they were afraid to face some unpleasant situation. They might hide in a cupboard, under the stair, or in a tree house.
Parents have two options.
Leave them where they are. But this will only
serve to reinforce a pattern of escapism which the
child will develop when faced with life’s hardships.
Find a way to draw them out of their hiding
Place and confront their fears. In this way they are
helped to face the harsh realities of life.
A child’s personality, temperament and upbringing can
shape their response to life’s difficulties.
Timothy was the kind of person who ran away from the harsh realities of life. That in turn affected his Christian life and service. He had a tendency to be a ‘Tree House Christian’. He had no stomach for controversy and was content with the quiet life.
However, by withdrawing from the real world, he was in danger
of becoming faithless. Faithfulness to God is not to
be confused with some kind of monastic withdrawal.
Indeed our withdrawal from the world can often
compromise our faithfulness. Jesus said,
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world
but that you protect them from the evil one. They
are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
It is for this reason that Paul, Timothy’s spiritual father, writes this moving epistle.
His goal is to draw Timothy down from his Tree House and equip him to be faithful to his calling.
Many Christians share a great deal in common with Timothy. They know that the natural inclination of their personality is to withdraw from conflict and hardship.
They are happy to let their light shine in a comfortable shelter as long as they are not asked to step out of their shelter and face the gales of controversy that blow in the world.
Paul reveals a profound insight into Timothy’s character and displays a wise pastoral approach. He knows that timid souls respond much better to tender encouragement than they do to severe criticism or censure.
The psychology of Paul’s pastoral care is seen in this epistle. However, it is worth noting the process Paul employs to coax Timothy out of his Tree House Christianity mind-set.
The Structure of the Book
Opening Greetings 1v1-2
Paul’s Encouragement 1v3-7
Exhortation to faithfulness 2v1-7
Christian Endurance 2v8-13
The Approved Workman2v14-26
Recognising the Times3v1-9
The Scope of God’s Provision3v10-17
Charge to faithful Service 4v1-5
Paul’s Final Reflections 4.v6-18
The opening is very similar to other letters of that age. This author first identifies himself, then his recipient and finally conveys his greetings. Paul also identifies his office as “an apostle of Jesus Christ” and provides a reminder of his divine appointment, “by the will of God.”
Paul lived in an age when religious and political offices were bought or given to relatives and friends but the apostolic ministry does not fall into that category. Paul was an appointee of God and has been equipped to write with God’s authority.
First, in v3 Paul reminds Timothy that he is constantly prayed for. Timothy had coped remarkably well when he was an associate evangelist at Paul's side. He had benefitted from enriching spiritual nurture and fellowship in the early days of his faith.
But once isolated from that support network
he is faced with his own inadequacies. Without
Paul and the others it was not so easy to cope.
Did this dawning realisation contribute to the
tears mentioned in v4?
Often when young Christians leave a caring
fellowship in pursuit of study or work, they
begin to find their true spiritual level. They
recognise how much the local fellowship had
bolstered their own spirituality.
The shock is worse where there are no other local fellowships around to care for them. Previously they had operated well within the security of a strong home fellowship but they now begin to question if they’ve got what it takes. The temptation is to withdraw into a Tree House Christianity. Spiritual isolation can panic us in that direction.
When young missionaries go overseas they often feel more inadequate and incapable of coping than at any other time in their lives. In that kind of situation we all need some kind of 'parental concern‘. And so Paul begins by reminding Timothy that he is constantly prayed for. Nothing lifts our spirits quite like that knowledge!
Secondly, in v5 Paul reminds Timothy of his significant spiritual heritage. Eunice and Lois are mentioned here because their faith triumphed in adversity. We know from Acts 16v1. that Timothy’s father was not a Christian.
Can you begin to imagine some of the terrible tensions which that must have produced. Often ridicule, discouragement and abuse is poured out on the believer.
Timothy had seen his mother and
Grandmother’s faith triumph under
fire. They had discovered grace to
endure. In this context Paul reminds
Timothy of his spiritual heritage.
It is as though he said, “Timothy you have seen God sustain those two godly women. Can you not believe that he will do the same for you?”
The power of godly example is used by God to enable us to endure hardship. An English
minister, Richard Baxter said:
“There is little we touch but we leave the
print of our fingers behind.”
The finger prints of Lois and Eunice were left behind on Timothy’s soul. God provides us
with encouragers who leave indelible finger
prints on our lives and who challenge us to abandon Tree House Christianity. Are we able to thank God for such a spiritual heritage?
Thirdly, Timothy is reminded that he possesses the gift of God’s Spirit v6. When God calls us to serve him in what ever capacity then he provides the necessary gifts to fulfil that calling. Timothy had been set apart by God for ministry. God had equipped him for that task. Paul and other presbyters laid their hands on him at his ordination.
Timothy’s failure to develop his ministry, in a hostile situation - both within and outside the church- resulted in his God-given gifts lying dormant.
The longer we fail to use our gifts the easier it is to lose sight of their existence. Timothy’s gift needed rekindling. The embers needed to be coaxed into a burning flame. How does that happen?
When we have been confined to bed for some months because of a serious illness, it is not uncommon once our health improves to discover that it is difficult to walk. Why? The muscles in our legs have atrophied!
We do not respond by asking the doctor for medicine or for an operation to cure our legs! The solution is simple. We need to use them and exercise them.
That is what strengthens the muscle groups.
Timothy is encouraged to recognise that God has
given him all that he requires to fulfil his ministry
but he needs to use what God has given.
If we are tempted to stay in the safety of our Tree House, we need to remember, ‘I too have been gifted by God for service’. Being a Christian involves possessing super added gifts of the Spirit. These gifts vary in character and number from one Christian to another. Scripture makes clear that God’s gifts are for using not for burying. Matt.25.18
“Much misunderstanding surrounds the purpose ... of spiritual gifts. Some speak of them as 'love gifts', as if their main purpose is to ... use them for our own benefit. Others think of them as 'worship gifts', ... But Scripture asserts that they are 'service gifts', whose primary purpose is to 'edify' or build up the church”. John Stott
Fourthly, Timothy is reminded of God's enabling ‘power’ in v7. Clearly, Timothy had problems with his health, his youth, his natural shyness.
Had Timothy’s mother constantly pampered
him? Was he regularly told what a fragile,
sickly boy he was? Had this in turn
reinforced his natural timidity?
Paul therefore now encourages him to
recognise what God has given him. Paul
goes beyond saying that, ‘the God who
calls us, gifts us for service’. He is saying,
‘the God who gifts us, empowers us to
use those gifts’.
The development of Paul’s thought here is crucial. Have you ever bought a gift for a child without reading the small print, "batteries not included“? The gift on its own is of little use without the power to make it function.
God never gifts and equips us without empowering and enabling us.
But we do not discover the enabling power of God until we use the gift.
It is as the eyes of faith see God’s gift and determine to use it that God’s power is activated.
We can be tempted to stay in our Tree House until we see evidence of God’s power but note God’s power is not engaged until God’s gift is used.
God not only gives his power, he gives his ‘love’ cf. v7. It is a self-giving love that reaches out with compassion and care. It is not obsessed with personal reputation or safety. What is Paul saying?
‘The love of Christ that marked his self-giving on the cross has taken up residence in our hearts’.
What an antidote this is to the Tree House Christianity which wants to keep our ‘little self’ safe from the pressures of the world!
This unconcerned-about- my-own-safety-love is part of Christ’s furniture that has been moved into the heart of every believer.
The third quality mentioned in v7 is ‘self discipline’ literally,“sound mindedness in action”.
If a person fears Satan’s persecuting power more than he trusts God’s ability to help he has lost a
correct mental balance. Timothy has not
reached that stage but he needs to take
himself in hand to battle against cowardice.
We can so easily fail to use our God-given gifts by failing to discipline ourselves as we ought. The grace
of self-discipline helps us to say ‘No’ to cowardly self and to put Christ first. Self-discipline cultivates a passion for Christ’s kingdom and this burns up the dross of self-interest in our hearts.
In ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ John Bunyan writes:
“He [Pilgrim] saw two lions in the way. He thought, I see the dangers that Mistrust and Timorous were driven back by. (The lions were chained, but he didn’t see the chains.) Then he was afraid, and thought of running back. But the porter at the lodge, cried out him, saying, "Is your strength so small? [Mark 8:34-37] Do not fear the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for the trial of faith. Keep in the middle of the path, no harm shall come to you.”