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Sunday, February 11, 2018

posted Feb 13, 2018, 2:01 PM by Site Administrator   [ updated Feb 13, 2018, 2:06 PM ]



2 Timothy 4:1-22

Key Verse 4:2


Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.


        First, "Preach the Word" (1-2). Look at verses 1 and 2.  Here, Paul gives Timothy a charge to preach the Word. But before issuing this charge, he shows Timothy its basis, saying, "In the presence of God and of Christ, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge." In the presence of God and of Christ, Paul issued this charge, indicating that God the Father and God the Son are in agreement with this charge - it is God's will and God's command, and thereby, Timothy must do it. He shows that preaching the Word is not his personal suggestion or private direction for Timothy, but it is the command Timothy must discharge in the presence of God and Christ Jesus absolutely. We encourage every disciple to teach the Bible to others. It is not our church's unique direction or requirement; it is not my own opinion either; it is what every believer must do in the presence of God and Christ Jesus. Whether we like to do so or not, it is not a matter; whether we are in a good situation or not, it is not a matter either. No matter what, in any situation, at any cost, we must preach the Word, because it is the command that comes from God.


        Paul also says, "In view of his appearing and his kingdom," showing that this charge is directly related to Jesus' coming. In the book of Ezekiel, God showed Ezekiel that He had established him as a watchman. When a watchman sees danger coming and warns people of it, but they do not prepare themselves accordingly, and thereby, die, they themselves are responsible for  the calamity they suffered. But if the watchman sees a danger coming, but do not warn them of it, and as a result, they die, then, the watchman is responsible for the blood of the people. In the same way, those who believe in God, those who know God's word are like the watchman - they know Jesus is coming; they know that at his second coming, peoples' eternal destiny will be decided - either eternal life in the kingdom of God or eternal judgment. So, they are obligated to preach the Word; if anyone is judged eternally because no one preached the Word to him and warned him about eternal judgment coming, then, those people who knew the Word but did not preach it are responsible for the blood of the man. In view of his appearing and his kingdom, we are obligated to preach the Word. We must preach the Word of God.


Look at verse 2. Let's read this verse together:


Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction."


        Here, 'the Word' refers to all Scriptures, which eventually reveal Jesus Christ. At the end of chapter 2, Paul said that all Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. The Scriptures have everything for people's salvation and are the best tool for God's people to be established strong and equipped for God's work. So, the best way in serving God's kingdom work is to teach and preach the Word of God; the best way for God's servants to do God's work is to teach and preach the Word.


        Preaching is a logical and systematic teaching; there is logic and message. So, preparation is a must. When should we prepare ourselves? Paul says, "be prepared in season and out of season." It means "all the time" both in good situation" and "in bad situation." When we think about this direction, "Be prepared in season and out of season," we can see that we must be always focused on "preaching the Word," and pursue it - when things are favorable, we preach the Word. When things are challenging, we preach the Word. God the Father and God the Son Jesus our Lord pay close attention to what we do as his servants.


        Paul also says, "Correct, rebuke and encourage." These words show us what we should do as we teach and preach the Word. People may have some spiritual desire, but it does not mean that they have the right understanding, right direction, purpose and vision according to God's will and purpose; or, even those people who are committed to God may still have their own ideas and desires, which are not necessarily in line with God's will and desire. As we teach and preach the Word, we need to correct their wrong ideas and desires. Even after living as Jesus' disciples for many years, still, consciously and unconsciously, people often, develop some compromising attitude; when people lose spirit, then, their old self, full of ego and stubbornness, come up. Indeed, people, I mean, we all, need to be corrected continually by the word of God. Sometimes, people refuse to be corrected. They know that they are wrong, but do not want to change. Then, we need to rebuke them. And once they accept our challenge and struggle to live in the way God desires, then, we need to encourage them to do so continually. When we think about these three words - correct, rebuke, and encourage - we understand that preaching the Word is not like just sharing knowledge or information with others; it is not like just handing out some tracks or million dollar bills with some Bible verses printed on them; it is not like impersonal lesson that is done in college classrooms either. Rather, preaching the Word is very personal, requiring us to wrestle with people, pointing out their problems and correcting their way of thinking, or desires or plans, and helping them accept God's will and purpose on them, even sometimes, rebuking them. When we think about this, we can see that, actually, preaching the Word is more like shepherding, or being mentors guiding them according to God's will and purpose. 


        The words, "with great patience and careful instruction" show us with what kind of attitude we must preach the Word or try to correct, rebuke and encourage. Correcting or rebuking is like performing a spiritual surgery, removing their own way of thinking, desires and plans that have been embedded into them for many years, and implanting new spiritual value system, hope and desires. No one can do this kind of surgery at random or casually. So, we must do it very carefully, making sure that we don't make any mistake. Also, we must not do such important operation in haste or whenever we see problems, or faults. Instead, we wait for the right chance to come patiently. When we think about these expressions - with great patience and careful instruction - we can see how much we must be dedicated to this job. Preaching the Word is not a joke; correcting, rebuking is not something we can do casually. The task requires real concentration and dedication - it carries eternal value, bringing eternal consequences. So, we must do this task with real sincerity, dedication and with a fearful and trembling heart - preach the Word.


        Second, "I have kept the faith" (3-8). In verses 3 through 8, Paul gives Timothy two reasons why he should preach the Word in season and out of season. The first reason is because people will not put up with sound doctrine. Look at verses 3 and 4. Let's read these verses together:


3 For the time will come when men 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.


        Timothy had sound doctrine - the true gospel. But later, people would not put up with sound doctrine. They will feel fed up with sound doctrine. We say, "Your sin is the real problem. You must repent." Then, people say, "You always talk about sin and repentance. I am sick and tired of it." They do not want to hear any real gospel message such as repentance, submission, turning to God... Instead, they gather around themselves a lot of teachers who teach them what they want to hear such as blessings, comfort, and great things. In many churches in America, people don't talk about sin or repentance - such words are found only in the Bible, but not in their real life; such words are banned. A Christian magazine called, "Pulpit Helps" had a survey, asking 7,441 Protestant pastors if they believed in the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Of the 7,441 Protestant pastors, 51 percent of the Methodists, 35 percent of the Presbyterians, 30 percent of the Episcopalians, and 33 percent of the American Baptists did not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. They were also asked if they believed that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God: 87% of Methodists said NO. 95% of Episcopalians said NO. 82% of Presbyterians said NO. 67% of American Baptists said N0. This is astounding. How can this be, these are pastors of churches? Simplely, they neither believe the Bible nor they allow it to govern their lives. The Bible is then reduced to a book with good advice, a self-improvement book, and to some, a book for success in the world. Are they believers or unbelievers? I don't know. Only God knows. Certainly, we cannot expect anything good from them. This was published in December 1987, about 30 years ago. Then, how is it now? We don't want to talk about it - we don't want to talk about how these strange pastors and theologians come up with strange theories, ideas and interpretation of the word of God only to confuse people and mislead them.


        Paul also says, "They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." Why do they turn their ears away from the truth? The truth is absolute; once the truth is acknowledged, you must adjust yourself to abide by it; then, there comes denying your own desires and plans, your own preferences and hobbies and lifestyles; instead, you struggle to live by the truth, doing what the truth shows you to do. That's not what they want to do. So, they turn their ears away from the truth; instead, they turn aside to myths. Myths is like this: Long long time ago when tigers smoked tobacco, angels saw the beauty of the daughters of men and they married anyone they chose and produced children - they became the Nephilim and great warriors like Hercules. Why to myths? Myths is fantasy - not real, but fancy, and thereby, you can just enjoy its story, not having to do anything. Nowadays, people have this stance toward the Bible. They read and know all the stories in the Bible - God's creation, Enoch's story, Noah's story, Abraham's story, Daniel's story, and even the rapture and reigning with Jesus forever,... But to them, these are just stories they like, not life-giving words of God that can transform their life completely. To them, reading the Bible or believing in the Bible is not different than reading the Odyssey of Homer.


        Paul told Timothy that such a terrible time would come in the future. But now in our generation, it is the present reality. By God's divine grace and revelation, sound doctrine, the true gospel has been given to us. Now what should we do in this situation? We must preach the Word more diligently, being prepared in season and out of season. As the carriers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have this divine duty to preach the Word to all peoples on earth, both to church-going people and to non-church-going people. This is our holy battle.


        Look at verse 5. Paul writes, "But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." When people do not put up with sound doctrine, but just have many teachers around them who tell them what they want to hear, Timothy might be discouraged; when it becomes the trend in the society, he might be confused. But no matter what, in all circumstances, Paul encouraged him to keep his head. No matter how other believers say or do, even if they do not put up with sound doctrine, but just enjoy what they want to hear and do, still he must keep his head, and do the work of an evangelist, by preaching the Word in all circumstances. The point of our struggle is not whether we say, "I believe in Jesus" or not, but whether we keep sound doctrine continually or not, whether we keep the true gospel or we give into the trend.


        In verse 6, Paul shares another reason why Timothy must preach the Word all the time: Soon, Paul would die. Paul had been the carrier of the true gospel, sound doctrine; he really gave himself to this holy mission completely, and now his life had been already poured out for this purpose, and he sensed that the time for his departure had come. Then, Timothy should succeed him as the carrier of the sound doctrine.


In verse 7, Paul sums up his life. Let's read this verse together:


I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.


        Paul sees his life as the life of fighting the good fight, as the race, and as the life of keeping the faith. Usually, all fights are not good because they destroy life and relationships, so don't fight. When the USA attacked Iraq in 2003, Mother Barry said that we must send missionaries to Iraq, not missiles. But our fight as Christians is the good fight, because it saves ourselves, others, and brings glory to God. It is the fight for God, for others and for ourselves. So, fight the good fight as Christian soldiers. Paul uses here the word, "fight" to describe his life of faith. What does this show us about Christian life? How do you fight? Just sitting back and relaxing? No. You fight with all your heart and strength, pouring out everything you have. That's how we live our Christian life, fighting for God and his kingdom work wholeheartedly.


        He also describes his life of faith as "the race." Our life of faith is like the race. The characteristics of this race are both it is a long race, taking a long time - our whole life span - and there is a final goal. And in this race, the most important thing is to finish it. Since it is a long race, there are good times and bad times. Sometimes, in our life of faith, things go very well - many sheep grow under our care and our children grow well and we enjoy wonderful life - we feel like we are running downhill along the beachside drive course. Sometimes, in our life of faith, nothing goes well - sheep do not grow well, we get fired, children suffer from illness - the problem is, usually when it rains, it pours. Usually, bad things happen all together. At that time, we feel like we are running uphill in the desert land. Some people quit the race in the middle only because of some difficulties, some sacrifices or some persecutions. Even though they ran very well at first, everything becomes nothing if they quit the race in the middle for any reason. Great men are not those who do things very excellently for a while, but those who finish the race to the end regardless any difficult condition.


        Paul also describes his life as the life of keeping the faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. That complete confidence, complete assurance of God's grace, God's love, God's calling, God's mission,... is described in a word, called, "faith." "God loves me!" "This is what God wants me to do!!!!" With this faith, we know what God wants us to do, what we must do, and how we must serve God, and thereby, we can dedicate ourselves to God's will and purpose completely. With this faith, our life comes to have a clear direction and purpose. This faith is more precious than gold, so, don't lose it no matter what; don't exchange this faith for anything in this world - money or success or dream marriage partner,... And this faith is the gift of God, and it is maybe, the only thing we carry from this life to the next life. If we lose the faith in Jesus, we lose everything in this life. The fact that Paul shouts victoriously that he had kept the faith shows that keeping the faith is more than just saying, "I believe in Jesus," or going to church on Sundays. Sometimes, doubt rises in us when things do not go well, when we are persecuted, when we are in prison, and when all the people desert us. At that time, do you still keep your faith in God that He is in control and that He will help you and bless you greatly? When you are laid off, when you have financial difficulty, and when your children suffer from illness, do you still keep your faith in God's goodness and love for you, God's provision and protection for you? Do you believe that He will bless you with a good job and a beautiful family as you seek his kingdom and his righteousness first? Paul's struggle was to keep the faith in God in all these challenging situations. When people lose their faith in God's provision and blessing, they struggle hard to secure what they want on their own - when a job offer comes, even if they can see that it is in conflict with God's will, they take it, even rejecting God's will upon their life - they do not know that once they lose faith, they lose everything in this life; then, what's the meaning of gaining the whole world, while you lose your soul? It cannot be covered by doing some Christian things, because God knows. Keeping the faith in God is everything, and when you keep it, you rise powerfully even in ruins, doing what God wants you to do despite all challenges. Keep your faith, because it is the gift God gave you personally; it is more precious than gold, more precious than a job or marriage, and it is the only treasure you can carry to the next life.


        Paul here uses the present perfect tense for all three verbs, saying, "have fought," "have finished," and "have kept." The present perfect tense shows that from the past until now, he has been doing these - fighting the good fight, running the race, and keeping the faith maybe, for 30 or 40 years. There must have been so many difficulties, challenging moments, and even temptations. But despite all those challenges, he had not been swayed away from this life of faith, but he remained loyal and faithful to God, to the task Jesus called him to do. So, now at the end of his life, when he looked back, he was so thankful and happy - he had no regret, and he was ready to meet his Master any moment. He was a conqueror and victor. So, he confidently shouts, "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."


        For everyone, the time comes when we have to leave this world. At that time, what kind of testimony are you going to share? Will you be full of regret or will you be so scared like that un faithful servant in the parable of Mina? Or, will you be full of thanks and confidence in God's great reward for you like Paul, saying, "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will award to me on that day"? If that is so, I will tell you what kind of life you must live. Fight the good fight continually; run the race enduring all hardships; and keep the faith to the end! Don't be swayed away from the life of mission by anything in this life, whether good looking or bad looking. When we do so, then, at the end of our life, as we look back, we will be really victorious and thankful. We will see that, sometimes, fire surrounded us, but amazingly, we were not burnt just like Daniel's three friends, because God was accompanying us; we will see that, sometimes, we were in the midst of ferocious beasts, but strangely, they remained obedient to us just like Daniel in the Lion's den; we will see that, sometimes, we were walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and demons were growling at us, but no harm came to us, because God was guiding us through it; we will see that sometimes, we ran out of strength and thereby, we could not go any longer, but amazingly, Jesus himself carried us on his back. As we see all these things, all these amazing grace of God that has been poured out on our life over and over throughout our entire life, we will be really happy and thankful. Then, from the depth of our heart, we will really worship God in our death bed, just in the way Jacob worshiped God while leaning on his staff. Let's fight the good fight bravely, because our God is watching us. Let's run the race continually, because all heavenly angels cheer us on; let's keep the faith to the end, because at the finish line, our Lord Jesus who loves us so much is waiting for us to give us the crown of righteousness. Jesus says, "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." (Rev 22:12)


        Third, "Do your best to come to me quickly" (9-22).  Look at verses 9 through 11. Paul asks Timothy to come to him quickly, because many of his coworkers had gone. Paul mentions here many of his coworkers - Demas, Crescens, Titus, and Tychicus. Among them, Demas was the first he mentioned, showing how painful he was when Demas deserted him. Demas was Paul's close coworker, fully established, on the same level with Luke (Col 4:14) and Mark (Phm 1:24). But while Paul was in prison during his second imprisonment, Demas deserted him, went to Thessalonica, pursuing things of the world. Demas might have many reasons, but in Paul's eyes, it was obvious - he loved the world. We must not love the world, or anything in the world, because if we love anything in the world, the love of God is not in us.


        Crescens was gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, and Tychicus to Ephesus. They were fully established and committed disciples. So, now they were sent out to take care of churches in other cities - they were reliable, useful and effective, taking care of God's churches. Tychicus was one of the people who accompanied Paul from Ephesus during his third missionary journey, because the Jews there plotted to kill him. (Acts 20:1-5) Since then, he lived as Paul's faithful, loyal coworker, and grow to be a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. (Col 4:7; Eph 6:21) He carried Paul's letters to Ephesus, Collos, and Philemon (three of Paul's four prison letters - Ephesians, Philippians, Collossians, and Philemon).


        Titus was Paul's loyal coworker - Paul put him in charge of collecting offerings from the churches and taking them to the Jerusalem church. It could have been burdensome for anyone to be in charge of collecting offerings. But Titus not only welcomed this duty, but he did it with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. Paul must have been greatly encouraged by him! (2Cor 8:6-23) Paul says of him, "I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you." (2Co 8:16) After he was released from his first imprisonment, Paul pioneered Crete, a Greek island in the Mediterranean Sea, and he left Titus there to strengthen and organize the church by appointing the elders. Then, while Titus was serving the church in Crete, Paul wrote a letter to him, called, 'Titus', and said to him, "As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there." (Tit 3:12) It was during his fourth missionary journey right before his second imprisonment. Then, now during his second imprisonment, he sent him to Dalmatia.


        In this way, Paul had many well established, faithful, and effective disciples, so while he was doing God's work visiting many places, or while he was even in prison, he sent them to the churches in need in Asia and Europe freely - they served churches, and when a new direction came, they had a baton touch and moved to other places according to Paul's instruction. In this way, together, they were one dream team for God's kingdom work.


        Paul says in verse 11, "Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." Mark was the very one who had deserted the mission team during Paul's first missionary journey; at that time, he was too naive, having just a fantastic idea about the mission life, not knowing what it meant to suffer for Jesus. When he faced many sufferings in his mission life such as walking all the time, hunger, thirst, cold, heat, and persecution, he was shocked and he left the mission team, and went back to Jerusalem, where his mother's home was. Because of him, eventually, the dream team of Barnabas and Paul was broken. It seemed that Mark was useless at that time. But under the shepherding of the apostle Peter, Mark was established as a useful and effective servant for God's work. Now, Paul says of him, "He is useful to me in my ministry." It seemed that he was very smart and talented like modern day college student shepherds who know how to build websites, how to do power point, how to use computer, or playing musical instruments, etc. Some people may have weaknesses and as a result, ineffective now. But once established, they can become so useful and effective for God's ministry.


        Look at verse 13. "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments." Unlike his first imprisonment when he was allowed to stay in a rented house, during his second imprisonment, he was put in a dungeon. It was cold. So, Paul asked Timothy to bring his cloak, and try to come to him before the winter. His scrolls, especially the parchments refer to the Scriptures. In that difficult situation, what he earnestly wanted was the word of God - the source of encouragement, comfort, vision and hope.


        In verses 14 and 15, Paul warned Timothy to be on his guard against Alexander the metal worker, because this man had opposed the gospel message strongly and done a great deal of harm to Paul. In his first trial, no one came to support him; everyone deserted him. But the Lord stood at his side and gave him strength, so Paul proclaimed the gospel message to all the Gentiles there at the court fully. Even though he worked with many others, he did not rely on humans, but on God alone. Paul shouts, 'The Lord will rescue me from every evil and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (18) In verse 19, Paul greets Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. Paul concludes his letter, saying, "Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you."


        Through the study on the book of 2 Timothy, we learned about the true gospel. Paul calls it, "my gospel," "sound teaching," and "sound doctrine." Christian life is not only about enjoying privileges as children of God in Christ Jesus. Instead, it is also about discharging the duties and responsibilities as children of God. It says, "If we died with him, we will live with him; if we endure with him, we will reign with him also; if we disown him, he will disown us also." Modern day people do not put up with this sound teaching, bu they find teachers who will teach them what their itching ears want to hear, and this is the trend, even in the Christian community. In this situation, Paul gives us this solemn charge in the presence of God and Christ: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage -- with great patience and careful instruction. Let's pray that we may carry out this charge with all our heart and strength. In that way, we fight the good fight, run the race, and keep our faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

One Word: Preach the Word!