Apostle Paul: Passionate Discipleship
Beginning the Journey (for new Christians).
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
David, Life of
Glorious Kingdom, The
Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Listening for God's Voice
Names of God
Names of Jesus
Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
Sermon on the Mount
8. Endure Hardship for Christ (2 Timothy 2:1-19)by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Paul suffers in prison -- again -- this time just before his execution. Rembrandt, detail of "St. Paul in Prison" (1627). Oil on panel. Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany. Larger image.
8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
11 Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
12 if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
14 Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."
Have you had a son or a daughter who took the easy way and avoided hard work, especially the dirty work that sometimes needs to be done? Though Timothy was Paul's trusted co-worker, he had weaknesses that Paul was trying to help him overcome. One of these was to shy away from suffering and hardship. Of course, it's natural to avoid suffering where we can, but it's not the way to accomplish what's needed -- either in the natural world in which we live or in the spiritual realm.
Be Strong in the Grace of Christ (2:1)
Paul renews his exhortation to Timothy with a plea for strength.
"You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." (2:1)
"Be strong," endynamoō, means "to become able to function or do something, become strong."353 The same verb is used in Ephesians: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Ephesians 6:10). To be strong "in the Lord" means to lean on and rely on God's strength and power rather than just your own. So to be strong in grace probably means to rely on the grace of God to give you strength for the situation. Paul learned this afresh with his "thorn in the flesh." Whatever this affliction was, it was difficult, but God taught him:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
You may be faced with difficulty on every side. Here's a word for you for today: "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2:1).
Now Paul reminds Timothy again of the importance of his teaching ministry.
"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." (2:2)
In 1:14 Paul had talked about the message, the gospel, as a sacred trust -- parathēkē, "property entrusted to another, deposit" ... "what has been entrusted."354 Now he instructs Timothy to pass this sacred trust on to others.
The verb "entrust" (NIV, RSV), "commit" (KJV) is paratithēmi, "to entrust for safekeeping, give over, entrust, commend."355 Paul uses this same idea (though a different verb356) when instructing the Corinthians:
"I praise you ... for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you." (1 Corinthians 11:2)
"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you...." (1 Corinthians 11:23)
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance...." (1 Corinthians 15:3)
In other words, he passed on to the Corinthians the teachings just as he himself had received them, without alteration or distortion.
Jesus taught many thousands of people, but he passed on the gospel for safekeeping and faithful transmission to twelve disciples ("learners"), whom he named as apostles ("sent ones"). Jesus invested the bulk of his ministry with these twelve men since they were the core of his strategy to carry the gospel to the world after his death. Jesus had a teacher-disciple relationship with these men, a mentor-protégé relationship. And despite their individual flaws, all but Judas did, indeed, carry the gospel far and wide.
Paul is instructing Timothy to adopt the same strategy. The recipients of Timothy's "passing on" teaching ministry need to have two characteristics. Notice that gender is not one of these. Paul uses anthropos here, the generic word for human beings of either gender.357 When he wants to specify males, he uses the word anēr, "an adult human male, man, husband,"358 as he does in 1 Timothy 2:8, where he distinguishes between men and women. But not here. The New Revised Standard Version captures it well:
"What you have heard from me ... entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well." (2:2, NRSV)
Paul tells Timothy to look for people who are:
- "Reliable" (NIV), "faithful" (NRSV, KJV), that is, "pertaining to being worthy of belief or trust, trustworthy, faithful, dependable, inspiring trust/faith."359 You can teach flaky people until you're blue in the face and accomplish nothing. Every church has people who are constantly learning, but never get into the harness to teach others also. Look for people who are faithful, dependable, sturdy in doing what they say they'll do, and then invest special time in them.
- "Able" is the adjective hikanos. Most often the word translated "able" in the New Testament is dynatos (adjective) or dynamai (verb), which means, "(to be) capable, competent, powerful enough"360 (for example, 2 Timothy 2:24). But the word used in this verse has a different connotation. The basic meaning of hikanos is "sufficient, adequate, large enough ... pertaining to meeting a standard, fit, appropriate, competent, qualified," with the connotation "worthy, good enough."361 The word is used in the sense of "worthy enough" where John the Baptist feels unworthy to carry Jesus' sandals (Matthew 3:11) or the centurion doesn't feel worthy for Jesus to enter his house (Matthew 8:8). This is a character issue, not just an ability issue. Paul says to look for people who are worthy teachers (by their maturity and godly life), not just those who have an ability to teach and influence others (as the false teachers did).
|Q1. (2 Timothy 2:2) Why is it important for pastors and
church leaders to execute a strategy of mentoring teachers and elders in
a congregation? How much time should be devoted to this teaching of
future leaders vs. the time spent in administration and programs?
Now Paul discusses the whole matter of a willingness to endure hardship and suffering in carrying out his ministry. Paul's exhortations focus around three word groups which occur a number of times in 2 Timothy.
Suffering. The first word group is paschō / patheō, two forms of the same word. From paschō we get our word "Paschal," to describe Christ's sufferings as the Paschal Lamb. From patheō we derive our English words "pathos" and "pathetic." The basic meaning is "to experience something," but nearly always in the Bible it refers to the unfavorable sense, experiencing misfortune, "suffer, endure."362 Sometimes Paul compounds it with another word or two: kako-, "bad, evil"363 or syn-, "together with."364
"Join with me in suffering (synkakopatheō) for the gospel." (1:8)
"That is why I am suffering (paschō) as I am." (1:12)
"Endure hardship with us (synkakopatheō) like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." (2:3)
"... My gospel, for which I am suffering (kakopatheō) even to the point of being chained...." (2:9)
"You know all about my ... sufferings (pathēma)...." (3:10-11)
"Endure hardship (kakopatheō)...." (4:5)
Endurance. The second word group is hypomenō, "to maintain a belief or course of action in the face of opposition, stand one's ground, hold out, endure,"365 from hypo-, "under" + menō, "continue," literally, "continue under, undergo." In classical Greek it carries the idea of "courageous endurance." Patience is a more passive idea. But hypomenō suggests an "active significance of energetic if not necessarily successful resistance," in the New Testament an enduring in hope of the coming of Christ.366
"I endure (hypomenō) everything for the sake of the elect...." (2:10)
"If we endure (hypomenō), we will also reign with him." (2:12)
"You know all about my ... endurance (hypomonē)...." (3:10)
Persecution. A third word group is diōkō, "persecute, suffer persecution," which we'll consider at 3:11-12.
|Q2. Why do you think our churches tend not to declare
the call to endurance and suffering? Why did Timothy tend to shy away
from it? What is the result of a willingness to suffer for the gospel?
To illustrate the importance of enduring hardship for the sake of Christ, Paul offers three examples:
"3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs -- he wants to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes 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." (2:3-7)
Soldiers who are part of an army aren't free to enjoy the luxuries and involvements of civilian life367 that might interfere with their objective. The phrase "gets involved" (NIV), "gets entangled" (NRSV, cf. KJV) is emplekō. In classical Greek it means variously, "intertwine, braid, entangle, be caught in." Here it has the sense, "to become involved in an activity to the point of interference with other activity or objective, be involved in."368 War requires willingness to endure extreme hardships of marching and camping in difficult terrain in all kinds of weather, and engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand, life-or-death combat. What's more, the commanding officer369 must be obeyed370 above all things. Soldiers don't enlist to experience a soft, self-indulgent lifestyle.
Athletes, as well, train hard so that they might compete371 well and win the prize. Athletes who avoid the never-ending discipline, the discomfort and pain of long training runs, hours of weight training, and never-ending practice never amount to anything. Don't expect to break the rules372 of athletic training and still be able to compete. It just doesn't work that way. Hardship and suffering go hand in hand with athletic victory.373
Farmers are known for their hard toil.374 But for that the farmer gets to share in the crop375 he has labored to plant, nurture, and harvest. Endurance, suffering, and waiting for the crop to come in are all part of the process. It is not an easy life.
Now Paul calls Timothy to "reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this" (2:7). Think it over,376 Timothy, and you will realize that success in any walk of life requires the willingness to endure hardship. You must embrace suffering as part of the life of a Christian leader, or you'll continually shrink from your duty in order to avoid pain. You'll amount to nothing but a wimp. Think it over. God calls us to endure hardship as part of our ministry.
|Q3. (2 Timothy 2:3-7) Paul calls Timothy to endure
hardship for the sake of the goal. What in the experience of a soldier,
an athlete, and a farmer illustrates this well? Which of these examples
speaks most strongly to you?
Paul's Example of Endurance (2:8-10)
Now Paul draws Timothy's attention to Christ's example of suffering -- and of his own.
"8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering (kakopatheō) even to the point of being chained377 like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure (hypomenō) everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory." (2:8-10)
In one of his letters, Peter also had used Jesus as an example of suffering.
"But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." (1 Peter 2:20b-21)
If Jesus had shrunk from suffering, we would never have been saved. Paul's willingness to bear suffering is so that those whom God has chosen may find salvation. You have compelling examples before your eyes, Timothy, and surely the cause is worthy of our all.
A Trustworthy Saying (2:11-13)
Now to bring the point home, Paul cites an anonymous Christian hymn, probably familiar to Timothy, that speaks of endurance and steadfastness, another "trustworthy saying,"378 the fourth of five found in the Pastoral Epistles:
"11 Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
Romans 6:5, 8; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3-4
12 if we endure,
Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Romans 8:17; Revelation 5:10; 20:4, 6
If we disown380
Matthew 10:33; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; 12:9; 1 John 2:23
Romans 3:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3
for he cannot disown himself." (2:11-13)
Number 23:19; Hebrews 6:18
This hymn, solidly based on clear Biblical teaching, is designed to reinforce for Timothy the importance of enduring suffering for Jesus' sake.
Don't Quarrel about Words(2:14)
Now Paul exhorts Timothy to stop the false teachers from their endless quarrels:
Workman Handling Word of Truth (2:15)
Rather than quarreling about words, Timothy is to be a skilled craftsman when it comes to teaching the Word. I love this verse, and it was a favorite verse of my father, as well.
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2:15)
Let's look at it phrase by phrase.
"Do your best" (NIV, NRSV), "be diligent" (NASB), "study" (KJV) is spoudazō, with the basic meaning of "hurry," here, "to be especially conscientious in discharging an obligation, be zealous/eager, take pains, make every effort, be conscientious."385 Teaching God's Word is not a casual task, but one to which we must give ourselves fully and execute with all priority and seriousness.
"Present yourself" (NIV, NRSV), "shew thyself" (KJV) is, paristēmi, "present," which sometimes reflects the language of sacrifice, "offer, bring, present."386 Jesus is presented before the Lord in the temple (Luke 2:22), we are presented holy in his sight (Colossians 1:22, 28), we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). So we are to present and offer ourselves before the Lord as skilled workers387 in his word.
"Approved" is dokimos, "pertaining to being genuine on the basis of testing, approved (by test), tried and true, genuine."388 When we appear before God, either figuratively as we seek him now, or literally when we appear before him in judgment on the Last Day, we are seeking God's approval, not man's. Our responsibility is to please God, no matter what we need to suffer in the process.
"No need to be ashamed"389 for the way we've taught the Word. Shame before the secular world tempted Timothy to back off on his zeal (1:8). But Paul reminds Timothy that the alternative is shame before God. God will hold him to account.
"Correctly handles" (NIV), "rightly explaining" (NRSV), "rightly dividing" (KJV) is orthotomeō, literally, "cut straight." Perhaps the metaphor is to cut a path or a road straight without turning aside.390 We're not sure. However, Paul's idea here is to do something correctly.391
"The word of truth" is the medium with which we work. It is not our word or message. It is God's. And it is true, not compromised by what the world wants it to say.
The idea isn't just correct interpretation of the Scriptures -- though that is important. It is to faithfully teach and preach the truth, rather than to veer off into quarreling about words (2:14), godless chatter (2:16), and false teaching (2:17-18).
|Q4. (2 Timothy 2:15) Exactly what is the analogy with a
skilled workman that forms the basis for Paul's instruction to Timothy?
How does this apply to our teaching of Scripture today?
Avoid Godless Chatter and False Teaching (2:16-18)
Paul instructs Timothy concerning the alternative, seen all too clearly in the false teachers:
"16 Avoid godless chatter392, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread393 like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have wandered away394 from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some." (2:16-18)
We already met Hymenaeus in 1 Timothy:
"Some have rejected [faith and a good conscience] and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme." (1 Timothy 1:19-20)
Philetus is a new name to us. His name means "amiable," but his influence in the church was something else entirely. Together these false teachers have not only "shipwrecked their faith" (1 Timothy 1:19), they also "destroy395 the faith of some" (2 Timothy 2:18). They are dangerous men, whose teachings are like "gangrene,"396 which, if allowed to spread, can eat itself into healthy tissue and destroy it.
Here we get a glimpse of one of the false teachers' aberrant doctrines:
"They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some." (2:18b)
This heresy was circulating elsewhere in the early church as well. In Corinth some denied the resurrection itself, while in Thessalonica some taught that Christ had already returned.
"... How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Corinthians 15:12)
"Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered397 to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come." (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2)
Probably the false teachers' claim that the resurrection had already taken place was a kind of spiritualization of resurrection, that resurrection wouldn't be literal after all, but some kind of spiritual "resurrection life" that believers could live out in the present. We see a similar kind of spiritualizing in our era as an attempt to deny the "non-scientific" events of Christ's miracles and his own resurrection. But this kind of spiritualization undercuts the historical basis of Christianity and any hope for a future coming and judgment at the end of history by Jesus Christ.
The result was that the false teachers had "upset" (NRSV) or "overthrown" (KJV) the faith of some in the Ephesian church. The verb anatrepō means literally "to cause something to be overturned, cause to fall, overturn, destroy." Here it is used figuratively, "to jeopardize someone's inner well-being, upset, ruin."398 False doctrine comes at a high price to the church!
God's Firm Foundation Will Stand (2:19)
Paul's writing is rich with word pictures -- gangrene, shipwreck, craftsman -- now a sure and mighty foundation (see Isaiah 28:16)399 being sealed400 to authenticate it as God's personal property. In this way he assures Timothy -- and us -- that the false teachers will not prevail. There are two inscriptions:
"Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: 'The Lord knows those who are his,' and, 'Everyone who confesses401 the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.'" (2:19)
1. "The Lord knows those who are his." (2:19a)
This contains a clear echo from the rebellion of Korah and other rebellious priests who sought to challenge Moses' leadership. Regarding the ringleaders of the rebellion and the faithful priesthood, Moses says:
"In the morning the LORD will make known who is his, and who is holy, and who will be allowed to approach him...." (Numbers 16:5, NRSV)
False teachers may fool the people, but they don't fool God. He knows who are his faithful servants and will vindicate them. This rebellion shall not stand in the face of God's power.
2. "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." (2:19b)
The second inscription is a bit more difficult to pin down to a specific Old Testament reference, since the idea appears in many places (for example, Psalm 6:8; 34:16; 97:10; Proverbs 3:7). But Paul probably has in mind the rebellion of Korah that is referred to in the first inscription.
"[Moses] warned the assembly, 'Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.' So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram...." (Numbers 16:26-27)
The false teachers not only spread false doctrine, but also lived sinful lifestyles. So Paul exhorts Timothy that true Christians must "distance themselves" (aphistēmi402) from those who are wicked or unrighteous, so that they are not destroyed when judgment falls upon the false teachers.
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This chapter may seem hard -- suffering, hardship, endurance, opposition. But it is the reality that Christian leaders must be prepared to face if they intend to make progress for God. Help us, Lord, to be willing to endure hardship for You!
Lord, we instinctively avoid pain and hardship. Forgive us when we have been weak. Teach us, train us in your school of discipleship so that we are willing to endure hardship for your sake. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2:3)
"If we died 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;
if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself." (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)
367. The phrase "civilian affairs" (NIV), "everyday affairs" (NRSV), "affairs of this life" (KJV) is made up of two words, bios, "life and activity associated with it, life" (BDAG 177, 1) and pragmateia, "activity, occupation" (BDAG 859).
377. "Chained/bound" and "chains/bonds" are paired closely. The noun desmos means, "that which serves as a means of restraint by tying or fastening, bond, fetter" (BDAG 219, 1a). The verb deō means "to confine a person or thing by various kinds of restraints, bind, tie" (BDAG 221, 1b).
380. "Disown" (NIV), "deny" (NRSV, KJV) is arneomai, "to disclaim association with a person or event, deny, repudiate, disown" (BDAG 132, 3b). See Matthew 10:33; Luke 12:9; John 13:38; 18:25, 27, of Peter's denial.
383. "Quarreling about words" (NIV), "wrangling over words" (NRSV), "strive about words" (KJV) is logomacheō, "to dispute about words, split hairs" (BDAG 598). We saw the related noun in 1 Timothy 6:4.
384. "Ruins" (NIV, NRSV), "subverting" (KJV) is katastrophē (from which we get our word "catastrophe") is "ruin, destruction," here "state of being intellectually upset to a ruinous degree, ruin" (BDAG 528, 2).
392. "Chatter" (NIV, NRSV), "babblings" (KJV) is bebēlos, "pertaining to being accessible to everyone and therefore devoid of real significance, pointless, worthless" (BDAG 173, 1). The word appears here and at 1 Timothy 4:7; 6:20.
394. "Wandered" (NIV), "swerved" (NRSV), "erred" (KJV) is astocheō, originally, "miss the mark," then of the inner life, "to go astray by departing from moral or spiritual standards, miss, fail, deviate, depart from something" (BDAG 146).
395. "Destroy" (NIV), "upsetting" (NRSV), "overthrow" (KJV) is anatrepō, literally, "to cause something to be overturned, cause to fall, overturn, destroy," then figuratively, "to jeopardize someone's inner well-being, upset, ruin" (BDAG 74, 2). Also at Titus 1:11 in a similar context.
396. "Gangrene" (NIV, NRSV), "canker" (KJV) is gangraina (from which we get our word "gangrene"), "a disease involving severe inflammation, which if left unchecked can become a destructive ulcerous condition, gangrene, cancer" (BDAG 186).
397. The phrase in verse 1 "our being gathered to him" (NIV) is episynagōgē, "the action of assembling with someone" (BDAG 382, 2), from epi-, "direction toward, to" + sunagō, "to gather, bring together." We get our word "synagogue" from one form of this Greek root.
399. "Foundation" is themelios, literally, "the supporting base for a structure, foundation," then figuratively, "the basis for something taking place or coming into being, foundation" (BDAG 448, 2b).
403. Skeuos, BDAG 927, 2. It can also refer to "an implement of any kind." In the plural it can cover "house-gear, utensils, chattel," as opposed to livestock and fixtures, equipment, baggage, luggage, the tackle or gear of ships (Skeuos, Liddell-Scott, A).
In-depth Bible study books
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- Apostle Paul: Passionate Discipleship
- Disciple's Guide to the Holy Spirit
- 1, 2, and 3 John
- 1 Peter
- 2 Peter & Jude
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- 1 & 2 Timothy
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- Abraham, Faith of
- Christ Powered Life (Romans 5-8)
- Christmas Incarnation
- Colossians and Philemon
- David, Life of
- Glorious Kingdom, The
- Great Prayers of the Bible
- Jacob, Life of
- Jesus and the Kingdom of God
- JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
- John's Gospel
- Lamb of God
- Listening for God's Voice
- Lord's Supper
- Luke's Gospel
- Moses the Reluctant Leader
- Names and Titles of God
- Names and Titles of Jesus
- Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
- Resurrection and Easter Faith
- Sermon on the Mount
- Seven Last Words of Christ