In the first part of 2 Timothy 2, which we looked at last week, Paul gave Timothy three instructions. Do you remember what they were? Firstly, be strong in, or by, the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Since the challenges of the ministry were getting too much for Timothy, since his troubles were piling up, since he might have been tempted to throw in the towel and give up, he needed to look to the Lord Jesus Christ for the help and strength he needed to persevere in the ministry. So, be strong. Secondly, entrust what you have heard from me to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others. So, take the gospel message which you heard from me — the good news about Jesus Christ — and pass it on to the next generation of elders so that they will know what to teach. The gospel message is to be passed along from one generation to the next so that in every generation those who are called by God to teach will know what to teach. And thirdly, endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Every one who applies to join the army needs to know that it can be a hard and difficult and dangerous life. And Paul wanted Timothy to know and he wants everyone who goes into gospel ministry to know that it can be a hard and difficult and dangerous life, because the Devil will do everything he can to prevent preachers from preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so, Timothy, you need to be prepared for it, and instead of running from it, you need to endure it. You need to endure suffering.
So, be strong. Entrust what you have heard to reliable men. And endure hardship with us. And today we come to the fourth instruction which Paul gave to Timothy. This letter is Paul’s last letter to Timothy. And in his last letter to Timothy, he wants to give Timothy some advice, some final instructions about gospel ministry and about the things Timothy should teach and do in Ephesus. And the fourth instruction which Paul gives to Timothy in this chapter is: Remember. Remember Jesus Christ.
And, of course, when he says ‘remember’ he means something like keep Jesus Christ in mind. Think about him. Fix your thoughts on him. That’s good advice for all of us, because we should always fix our thoughts on the Lord Jesus. But Paul wants Timothy to remember two particular things about Jesus Christ. He wants Timothy to remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead and descended from David. And then he adds, ‘this is my gospel’. So, these two statements about Jesus Christ in some way or other summarise the whole of Paul’s gospel. How do they do that?
When he refers to Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, he referring, not only to the Lord’s resurrection, but he’s also referring first of all to his death. And we believe that when the Lord Jesus died on the cross, he was offering himself to God as the perfect sacrifice for sins. He gave up his life on the cross to pay for our sins; and he shed his blood to cleanse us from our guilt. The wages of sin is death. So we all deserve to die. But the Lord Jesus suffered death in our place to pay for all that we have ever done wrong.
But, the Lord Jesus did not remain under the power of death. Though he was buried, he did not remain in the grave, because on the third day he was raised from the dead. Having paid for our sins in full with his life, he was raised. And he was raised from the dead as the first-fruits. That is, he was the first to be raised and whoever believes in him will likewise be raised from the dead when he comes in glory and with power. And right now, as our living Lord, he reigns over every power and authority in this age and in the age to come. And he reigns over all for us and for our benefit.
So, we’re to remember Jesus Christ, who died, but who was raised. And then we’re to remember that he was descended from David. And that means he’s God’s Promised King. Remember our studies in 1 and 2 Samuel? The people wanted a king like the other nations had. And so, God gave them a king like the other nations had: he gave them Saul to be their king, but soon it became clear that Saul was not a good king. And so, the Lord gave them David to rule over them. And David trusted the Lord; and the Lord gave him victory over their enemies. And the Lord promised that there would be a new king after David to rule in David’s place and his kingdom will never end. And throughout the rest of the Old Testament, God repeated his promise that he was going to send his people a new king to rule in David’s place. And when the time was right, the Son of God was born into the world. And the angel announced to Mary that her son was the Promised King, who was descended from David and his kingdom will never end.
And so, with the words, ‘descended from David’, Paul is reminding Timothy that Jesus Christ is the Promised King. But, with these words, ‘descended from David’, he’s also reminding Timothy of Christ’s humanity. Jesus Christ is both God and man in one person. As regards his divinity, he was begotten of the Father from eternity. And as regards his humanity, he was begotten of the Virgin Mary in time. He is the Eternal Son of God, but he is the Eternal Son of God who took to himself a human body and soul and mind and will and he was born into this world as a descendant of David. Just like everyone else, he has a family tree which can be traced, a genealogy which can be listed.
So, Paul wants Timothy to remember these things about Jesus Christ: he was raised from the dead; and he is descended from David. This is my gospel, says Paul. So, these two statement summarise Paul’s gospel, because these two statements about Jesus Christ tell us he came into the world as one of us and in fulfilment of God’s promises to David. And he came to die for us and for our salvation before being raised from the dead to live and to rule for ever. That’s Paul’s gospel. And I wonder, does he mention these things here, because he wants Timothy to remember how even the Lord Jesus Christ had to suffer? Perhaps he’s saying to Timothy: I know you’re suffering. I know you’re finding the ministry hard going. Your troubles are piling up and you’re tempted to throw in the towel. But remember the Saviour. Remember him and how he suffered too. He suffered as one of us, because he was a man just like us. And he suffered a painful death on the cross. But afterwards, he was raised from the dead to live and rule for ever. And perhaps Paul was saying to Timothy that you may be suffering as well, but even if it ends in death, know this for sure: that you too will be raised from the dead to live and rule with Christ for ever. So, remember Jesus Christ. Remember what he suffered as one of us and how he was raised afterwards. Remember that and you’ll not fear death, because you’ll know that when he comes again you too will be raised from the dead.
And then Paul goes on in verse 9 to refer to his own suffering. So, in verse 8 he asks Timothy to remember how Christ suffered death. And in verse 9 he refers to his own suffering. I am suffering for the gospel, he says. I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. And the word Paul uses for criminal in this verse is the same word Luke uses when he refers to the two criminals who were crucified with the Lord Jesus. And therefore it’s a word which was used in those days to refer to the worst kind of criminal, those criminals whose crimes were so serious that they deserved the death penalty. So, that’s how Paul was regarded by the authorities. He was regarded as the worst kind of criminal. And he was having to endure all kinds of suffering for the sake of the gospel.
But then he adds that, even though he was chained like a criminal, God’s word is not chained. It’s not bound up. It’s not restricted. And it seems likely that what Paul means is that, even in prison, he was able to proclaim the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have your Bible open, take a look at chapter 4 and verse 16 where Paul refers to his first defence. So, he was brought into court to defend himself. At that time no one supported him. Everyone deserted him. But, verse 17, the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear. So, when brought to court to make his defence, Paul was able — with the help of the Lord — to proclaim the good news of the gospel. And when we read the book of Acts, and read about Paul’s earlier imprisonment, you can see how he proclaimed the good news to Felix and Festus who were Roman governors at that time. So, Paul was in chains, but the word of God was not. He could still preach God’s word.
But why would he keep preaching this message which had gotten him into so much trouble? After all, he was in chains because of the gospel. Why keep preaching the gospel? And why should Timothy keep preaching the gospel when preaching the gospel was getting Timothy into trouble? The answer is in verse 10. Therefore, Paul says, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. When he mentions the elect, he’s referring to God’s chosen people, known and chosen by God before the world was made. They have been chosen by God for salvation. But they still need to hear the gospel. They still need to hear the gospel message in order to obtain the salvation which Christ won for them by his life and death and resurrection. And so, Paul will endure everything for their sake, so that they will hear the gospel and believe the gospel and receive Christ’s salvation. That’s why Paul was prepared to keep preaching the gospel, even though preaching the gospel leads to trouble and suffering and hardship and imprisonment and death. He keeps preaching it so that God’s people will hear it and believe it and be saved. And that’s why you should keep preaching the gospel, Timothy. You should keep preaching the gospel, even when it causes you trouble, so that God’s people will hear and believe and be saved.
And their salvation ends in eternal glory. Do you see that at the end of verse 10? All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But through faith in Christ we receive the hope of entering into the presence of our glorious God and being glorified in his presence for ever and for ever. And so, Timothy, keep preaching the gospel. Keep preaching the good news, so that God’s chosen people will hear and believe and obtain Christ’s salvation and the hope of eternal glory.
And all over the world today, there will be preachers who are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. And perhaps preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ will get them into trouble. Perhaps the authorities will arrest them. Perhaps an angry mob will beat them. Perhaps it’s just that there are some disgruntled members in the congregation who will complain because they don’t like what they hear. But God has called them to preach the good news so that God’s chosen people will hear and believe and be saved. And whether they suffer or not does not matter, because in the end, they will be raised from the dead to live forever with their Lord and Saviour.
The trustworthy saying
In verse 8 Paul said ‘Remember Jesus Christ’. And in the trustworthy saying which follows in verses 11 to 13, he says to Timothy and to all of us that we must never ever disown Jesus Christ. So, let’s take a look at this trustworthy saying which begins with the words: If we died with Christ, we will also live with him. Everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ as the only Saviour has died with him in the sense that, when we first believed, we died to our old life of unbelief and sin; and we began a new life: a life of faith and obedience. So, once we did not believe and we did not care if we obeyed God or not. We lived to please ourselves and we would not let anyone tell us what to do. But then God convinced and converted us to faith in Christ through the reading and preaching of his word. And we began a new life. We now believe in the Saviour and trust in God for all things. And we now want to obey our Saviour and to live our life for his glory. So, we died with him when we first believed and we have begun a new life. And since Paul says ‘we will live with him’, he’s thinking about our future life with him in the life to come. So, all who died with him when they first believed will live with him in the new heavens and earth.
Then Paul says that if we endure with Christ, we will also reign with him. We all suffer in many ways, because we live in a fallen, broken world. And believers suffer in particular ways, because the Devil comes at us with his wicked schemes and he stirs up an unbelieving world to oppress and oppose Christ’s church. And so, we have to endure these things. Think of the Lord’s parable of the seed and the sower and the seed which fell on the rocky, shallow soil, so that the plants which grew up quickly withered and died. And he said that this stands for those who receive the word with joy, but they do not endure, because when troubles and persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Well, instead of falling away when trouble comes, we need to endure these things. And those who endure will reign with him. That’s the destiny of every believer who perseveres to the end. When God made Adam and Eve, he made them to rule the earth. And we too were to rule the earth with them. But instead of ruling the earth, we are by nature dominated by sin and Satan and death. But when Christ comes into our lives, he frees us from Satan’s dominion and from the power of sin and from the sting of death. He frees us from those dominating forces in our life. And in the life to come, we will reign over the new heavens and earth with Christ our Saviour.
But here comes the warning. And it’s a warning about disowning or denying Christ. And the warning is this: if we disown him he will disown us. And we need to note that what Paul is saying here is not new, because he’s only repeating what the Lord Jesus said, because the Lord Jesus warned — didn’t he? — that whoever disowns him before others, he will disown before his Father in heaven. He warned that whoever disowns him before others, he will disown before the angels of heaven. What Paul says here is not new, because the Lord warned about this. And they’re referring to those who know about the Saviour. Perhaps they’ve been brought up in the church and they’ve been brought up to believe. But there comes a time in their life when they decide that this is not for me. I want nothing to do with Christ the Saviour. I do not want him as my Saviour. And so, they reject the Saviour. And in that case, he will reject them. He will disown them. Although they were brought up in the church, when the day of judgment comes, he will disown them and say ‘I never knew them’. And he will say that about them because they had disowned him.
And so, this is a serious warning. But we also need to remember that our God is gracious and kind and he’s ready to pardon. The Apostle Peter once disowned the Lord Jesus. In fact, he disowned him three times. But afterwards, Peter was heart-broken and he wept over his sin. And the Lord forgave him. The Lord is always willing to pardon those who come to him in sorrow and repentance and who humbly confess their sin and ask for his forgiveness. And so, there is a way back for those who once disowned the Saviour. But if they persist in their rebellion, and do not confess their sin and turn from it, then the Saviour will disown them on the day of judgment.
And then Paul writes that if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, because he cannot disown himself. When he says that God cannot disown himself, he means that our God does not change. He is unchangeable. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. You and I change all the time and our mood changes. Perhaps we get out of bed in the wrong side and we’re a bit grumpy one day. But the next day, we’re happier. We change all the time, but God does not change. And he’s always faithful. He’s faithful to his promises and he’s faithful to his people. But we can be faithless. That is, we can be unfaithful.
The commentators discuss whether there’s a difference between disowning the Lord and being unfaithful to the Lord. Some say they’re the same thing. But others suggest that being faithless or unfaithful is not the same as disowning the Lord. The person who disowns the Lord has decided that he or she wants nothing more to do with the Saviour. That person deliberately gives up the faith. But the person who is faithless or unfaithful, is the believer who loves the Lord and wants to do his will, but they stumble and fall into sin. Perhaps, when they’re under pressure, because of persecution or opposition, or because of the troubles and trials of life, they briefly doubt the Lord and his goodness. They’re overwhelmed by their troubles and instead of trusting in God’s fatherly goodness, they become anxious. They doubt him. But only for a time. Or perhaps, under the pressure of temptation, they give in to it and they end up doing something they know is not right. And, of course, every believer is like this. None of us has perfect faith and our faith is often weak. And we often go astray. But the good news is that even though we can be unfaithful, God remains faithful. He remains committed to his people and his love for his people is never-ending. And he has promised not to hold our sins against us, but to forgive us our sins and shortcomings for the sake of Christ our Saviour who loved us and who gave up his life for us. How does John put it? If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves. If we confess our sins, he is what? He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins. He remains faithful to his promise to pardon the lowly, contrite sinner who confesses their sins and shortcomings and asks him for forgiveness.
And so, here’s a faithful saying we all need to hear. Yes, there’s a serious warning to those who may disown the Saviour. But for those who believe in him, and who persevere in the faith, there’s the promise of living with him and of reigning with him in glory. And there’s the wonderful encouragement that if we are unfaithful to him, he will remain faithful to us and to his promise to pardon those who come to him, confessing their sin and asking for his forgiveness.