And Finally, Model and Proclaim the Word (II Timothy 3:10-4:8)
Passage: 2 Timothy 3:10–4:8
What makes a person’s last words so important? Why, when someone is facing imminent death, do we hang on their every last word, as if the answer to every question we will ever have is on their lips? Is it because we are waiting for them to say something deep and profound about life or death, or to confess their deepest regret, or maybe for some of us it’s the hope that we will finally hear an apology for something, or a final encouraging word that we can keep with us for the rest of our lives? Indeed, we may hang on to somebody’s last words for all of these reasons and many more, but what I think is the most important and interesting thing about somebody’s last words in light of their coming death is what they tell us about what they valued or were preoccupied with in life. It’s as if we get a glimpse of the things that they cherished the most or the thoughts that dominated their minds.
Take, for example, the last words of Leonardo Da Vinci. He is reported to have said this as he lay dying, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” Now Da Vinci was not only known as a painter and inventor, but also an architect, musician, sculptor, scientist, mathematician, engineer, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer – and in the final sentence he ever uttered, we see what was most important to him – the legacy that his work would leave behind.
Or listen to these last words of William Henry Vanderbilt, one of the wealthiest businessmen in American history, “I have had no real gratification or enjoyment of any sort more than my neighbor on the block who is worth only half a million.” He realized that the accumulation of money did not equate to any more happiness than the with less.
Or consider the greatest last words of all time: those of Jesus Christ. We can almost look at the Gospels as a compilation of all the immensely important last words of Christ. More specifically on His way to the Cross, we see Jesus pray in John 17 that the Lord would be glorified in accomplishing the will of His Father and for the unity of all believers.
Now, as we read from 2 Timothy today, we need to remember that Paul, the predominant author of the New Testament and God's chosen Apostle sent by Jesus Himself to preach the Gospel, was most likely on death row in Rome at the time of writing to Timothy, his personal son in the faith. At this moment, Paul, who was quite possibly facing imminent death under the first-century persecution of the Nero, one of the most ruthless and violent Emperors of the Roman Empire, pleads what could have very well been the last words he would ever communicate to Timothy in this life. We can imagine Timothy reading this letter once through, realizing its message, and then pouring over it again and again, realizing, "This may be it, I may never see Paul again." In understanding the context that Paul wrote in, we will see that there is a dire urgency in Paul's words, an urgency in his message that we need to pay very close attention to. So what is this message that Paul leaves his son in the faith with? Well before we get there, let’s take a look at the problem Paul addresses frequently throughout this letter. Turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 3.
Now, I want to point out something very important for us to know in regard to this text. This letter is generally known as one of the three Pastoral Epistles in the New Testament, the other two being 1 Timothy and Titus. They are called this because they deal with church structure, operation, and what type of character is expected of the leadership of the church. Now, even though Paul is speaking to Timothy as a pastoral leader, we would be incorrect to think that many of the commands that Paul gives do not apply to all Christians. We know this because a turning point in Paul’s letter happens in 2:14 where instead of just giving specific instruction to Timothy, he also urges him to pass on instruction to the church, “Remind them [the congregation] of these things, and charge them [the congregation] before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” So clearly, what we are about to hear applies not only to Timothy as pastor, but also to the entire church of believers. So as we listen to the problem at hand, insert yourself in the first century as if you were a part of Timothy’s church, which interestingly enough was actually the church of Ephesus, where he sent the letter of Ephesians. Paul elaborates on the problem in chapter 2 verse 23. Let’s pick it up there.
So we see that there is a serious problem occurring or expected to occur within Timothy’s church, specifically directed toward a lack of and opposition to the truth. Paul mentions this word “truth” three times in these verses, so we have to ask ourselves, what “truth” is he referring to? Well, if you have been around the New Testament for any amount of time, you start to see that Paul is somewhat of a broken record when it comes to the subject of the “truth” being the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So what is the Gospel? If someone came up to you and asked you this question, think about it, what would you tell them? How would you describe the Gospel? I imagine that for many of you in here, this is not a difficult question to answer. You know what the Gospel is because it has affected your life in a significant way and you have become familiar with the Scriptures. But I would also imagine that there are some in here who have a hard time understanding what the exact nature of the Gospel is. Now in light of false teaching, we need to be crystal clear about what the “truth” or “the Gospel” of Jesus Christ is, and here is the most simplistic way to understand it: Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice on the Cross, has saved those who believe in Him from the penalty, power, and ultimately, the presence of sin. I’ll read that again so you can write it down on your forehead…
The Penalty for sin, which is missing God’s perfect standard when it comes to how we treat people, God, ourselves, or our world, whether in what we do or our hearts, is death. Its eternal separation from God. It’s hell. God is perfectly holy, we are not, we can’t be with Him because of this. Now the amazing truth about this Gospel is that Jesus has taken the punishment for man! He alone experienced the full weight of God’s wrath for our sin and declared victory over death to those who trust in Him! We are sinners in need of grace and mercy, and God has given this to us through Christ. He’s also saved us from the power of sin. As a believer walks with Christ, we are as Romans says no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness. God is transforming us into the image of His Son. Lastly, His sacrifice will save us from the presence of sin at His second coming when He reconciles the world to Himself. This is our hope. This is what we read about in the last two chapters of Revelation.
This is the Gospel, the “truth” that Paul informs Timothy about in this passage. The lack of knowledge of and even opposition to this essential truth will create difficult times, causing many people to choose sin over salvation. This is an unparalleled problem! It’s bigger than global warming, or war, or disease, or famine, or divorce, or racism – not to say that these things are not important because that would be ridiculous – but what I am saying is that all of these problems stem from ignorance and opposition to the Gospel! The Gospel is the only hope for this world. We can do a lot to fix the world, but who is going to fix the evil, deceptive, and sinful human heart?
Paul realizes the severity of this problem, but doesn’t leave Timothy, or us, without a solution. Let’s continue from verse 10.
As Paul explains it, the first solution to the problem of misinformed and opposed people to the truth is to model the example set by a faithful disciple. Paul commends Timothy for following all of these varied examples of living a sold-out life for Christ and encourages him to continue to do so, which is a very prominent theme in this letter. We see this exhortation hammered home over and over and over again – look at 1:6; 1:13; 2:1-2; 2:8; and we will see another one in 3:14. It is blatantly obvious that Paul wants to make it very clear to Timothy how important it is to model a faithful disciple.
It’s almost like Paul wanted his voice to be bouncing around Timothy’s mind long after he was gone. I’m sure all of us have experienced this to some degree. Think about it. We all have “voices in our head” in some form or another. The things that people say to each other stick in places in our minds that end up having a lasting effect on us, whether we realize it or not. I bet if I were to ask each of you, you would be able to think of something someone said to you, good or bad, that changed the way you thought about something or did something. It’s how we operate as people, the reason why we receive an education. And Paul wanted it to be crystal clear to Timothy, “Model the example I have set. Live what you have learned. Teach others what I have taught you and have seen me do.” Paul is passing the torch, just as Jesus did to him, as Timothy did to others, as others have done to us, and as we should be doing for others.
Paul levels a warning to those like Timothy, like any of us who pursue an exemplary life for Christ and also for the false teachers in the next two verses.
So Paul definitively says that persecution is a normal outcome of living a godly life. But what does that mean for us in America? Does that mean that if we are not experiencing beatings, torture, or imprisonment for our faith that we are not living godly lives? Well to fully understand this, it’s important to know the Greek meaning of the word used for “persecuted”. It comes from the Greek verb diwvkw meaning, “to systematically organize a program to oppress and harass people”. Often we take this word to strictly mean to experience a physical, violent persecution, which even in its modern English definition, is only an aspect of it. Now surely Paul is explaining that he has experienced physical persecution in many ways, and you can go back and read 2 Corinthians 11 and the book of Acts for proof, but where do you think a violent persecution starts? In the mind. It starts ideologically. It always starts with a worldview opposed to that of the Kingdom of God, and so what do you think, do we have any of those views in America? You bet we do. Other countries may be experiencing severe hardship for Christ, and we need to pray for those brothers and sisters and help them in any way we can. But we need to see that there will never be a worldview or government system perfectly aligned with God’s Kingdom, and as we live out our faith, we should expect that we will be opposed, and in many ways, forcefully. The question we need to ask ourselves as we live out the faith is, “Do I really believe this enough to stand firm in it and pass it on to others, even in opposition?”
So Paul has urged Timothy to live out a godly example of the faith at all costs, and what we see in the next few verses is that the foundation for living a godly life is rooted in knowing Scripture.
Paul explains three characteristics of Scripture here: It is (1) “breathed out by God”, (2) “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”, and (3) useful for “training in righteousness”.
Scripture having been “breathed out by God” is what theologians call the Doctrine of Biblical Inspiration. It is the understanding that the Bible was not merely dictated by God to its authors, nor that it was something completely made up on man’s own initiative, but that God Himself is the Divine Author through the work of the Holy Spirit in the human authors. I know, easy stuff right? I urge you to study on your own if you want to know more, but here is the most important thing we need to know about this: Since Scripture is inspired by God Himself, it is the only authoritative book we have about God. This is a very high view of the Bible, and it has important implications for the next two characteristics.
Since this book is literally “breathed out by God” or “inspired”, it is the only source we have to know how to be “wise for salvation through Christ Jesus.” Essentially, God’s Word is given to us to share the Gospel. This is the way God has decided to reveal Himself to us, and we are called to reveal Him to others.
And even after evangelism, the “breathed out” and “inspired” Word of God is authoritative and more than sufficient for “training in righteousness”, that is, taking the Word of God, learning it, studying it, and not only gaining knowledge, but letting it transform us so that we can become an example of it, as Paul has urged Timothy. There is no other way to become a model of the faith without humbly receiving the Word of God in truth. Paul levels his final charge to Timothy in the next two verses.
Paul’s second solution to the false teachers is proclaim the Word of God. The term “preach the word” here can also be translated as “proclaim the word”. It is again important to remind ourselves that yes, Paul is instructing Timothy in a pastoral role, and part of that role is preaching the word from the pulpit. But if we understand that “preaching” simply means “proclaiming”, we see that this is important for all Christians, regardless of their role in the church body, whether you are a greeter or you teach Sunday school. So, if any of you in this room call yourself a Christian, you are called in Christ to proclaim his word. How do we do this? Paul says it here by reproving, rebuking, and exhorting. What do these mean?
When we reprove someone in the Word, we are correcting them. Maybe someone we know has a tremendous fear that they are going to lose their salvation, so we help them by correcting their false view of this by taking them to the end of Romans chapter 8 and show them the unbreakable security a believer has in Christ.
When we rebuke someone in the Word, we are again correcting a false view of the Scripture, particularly in some sort of sin they may be in. Maybe someone is viewing sexual or emotional lust after a man or woman as ok as long as they don’t act on it, so we take them to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and show them where Jesus calls out even lusting in the heart a sin.
And when we exhort someone in the Word, we strongly encourage them toward further right living in their walk with God. Maybe we know someone who has been boldly living for Christ, whether in discipleship or raising their children, but they have reached a point of discouragement or hopelessness. So we take them to Galatians 6:9 and exhort and encourage them to not grow weary in doing good, because God is their reward, beyond the circumstances in life.
We are all called as Christians to not only model His Word, but to also proclaim the Gospel, and we can only do these things if we know Scripture. And as we go forward in reproving, rebuking, and exhorting, let us not forget that the manner in which we are to do it is as Paul says here is, “with complete patience and teaching.” Don’t be argumentative, combative, arrogant in your conversations with others, but instead, show humility, respect, and gentleness, which reflects the love of Christ.
Modeling and proclaiming the Word go hand and hand and are inseparable. Here is a basic illustration of this.
-The hypocritical pastor
Paul then reiterates his charge to Timothy as to why he must model and proclaim the word in the next few verses, closing his instruction with his own personal testimony of living His life for Christ.
In these presumably dying words of Paul, he has the utmost confidence of doing everything he could to live for Christ’s glory. He welcomes the end, because he knows he has fulfilled his purpose in honoring God with his life. Can you say this? Can I say this? When faced with the end, can we be confident that we have modeled and proclaimed God’s Word for His glory? Maybe some of us can. Good job, continue to humbly walk with Him in obedience. But for anyone in here that struggles with this, let me encourage you – don’t lay a guilt trip on yourself right now. Today is a new day, a new beginning, and God our Father is always standing by, waiting for us to ask Him to make something beautiful out of our lives.
Practically, you can make significant steps toward this confidence.
First and foremost, pray. Ask God to transform your life so that it shines for Him.
As you do that, you can reach out to someone you know who models the faith well and ask them to meet with you for intentional discipleship.
If you are a more mature Christian, make yourself available to meet with someone young in Christ, and pass them the torch just as Paul did with Timothy.
You can buy a book called Grasping God’s Word, which is a great introduction to interpreting and understanding Scripture.
You can get plugged into a growth group here at Way of Grace. The Christian life was meant to be lived in community, and it’s amazing how God can use a group like this in your life.
If you need more direction on where to start, Pastor Bryce would love nothing more than to meet with you to give you more direction.
God has provided so many opportunities for each of us to model and proclaim His Word. May we submit to His ways. May we grow in confidence in Him. May each of us at the end of our lives be in a place to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”