Always Being Reformed (II Timothy 1:3-14)
Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Passage: 2 Timothy 1:3–14
I. The Other Reformation
On the cold Swiss morning of January 21st, 1525, a man named Conrad Grebel baptized a brother in Christ named George Blaurock, who in turn baptized others who were present, including Felix Manz. Grebel, Blaurock, and Manz were all friends and associates of Ulrich Zwingli, the reformer who was to Zurich what Luther was to Wittenburg, or what Calvin was to Geneva. They had studied under Zwingli and labored alongside him to see that Zurich was reclaimed for Christ.
But when the city council of Zurich wanted to proceed slowly with abolishing celebrations of the Catholic Mass, the reform-minded Zwingli relented and sided with the council. Grebel was shocked. It would be unthinkable to celebrate the Mass again. He felt Zwingli had abandoned the principle of sola Scriptura, that the authority of Scripture should be honored above everything else. Grebel began to argue that the civil authorities should have no influence over church leaders or church matters, that there should be a separation.
This eventually led to other key differences, including a dispute over infant baptism. Grebel, Blaurock, and Manz argued that only professing believers should be baptized. The city council in turn condemned their position and made it illegal. Soon these re-baptizers had broken off into their own congregations (another step consider illegal by the council). But now, these believers had enemies on two sides, with both Rome and the other Reformers in opposition to their movement.
The Anabpatists (Gk. ana=again), as they were called, represent an important piece of our heritage today. You see, the most well-known Reformers were part of what many have called the magisterial Reformation. This simply means those leaders worked hand-in-hand, whenever possible, with the local authorities to implement the Protestant faith. Remember, the church and state had been tied together like this for over a thousand years by this time. But the Anabaptists argued for a more radical reformation, one that severed the church-state relationship, and let each function within its own sphere of authority.
This meant no compulsory tithing, the ability of church leaders to guard the Lord's Table, believers baptism, and church discipline that was separate from matters of civil justice. Today, the influence of these Anabaptists can be felt in so many important ways, even in our own church. Therefore we are thankful for their courage. And “courage” is the right word. You see, this movement was just one window revealing the uglier side of the Reformation. It reminds us of the thousands of Anabaptists who were murdered for their beliefs by both Catholic and Protestant authorities.
In fact, only two years after his baptism, Felix Manz was drowned for his beliefs, executed by the Reformed leaders of Zurich, including the Reformer Ulrich Zwingli.
II. The Passage: "Guard the Good Deposit" (1:3-14)
As you may remember, this Tuesday marks the 500th anniversary of the traditional beginning of the Protestant Reformation. But as we continue to think about this important movement, it's important to highlight this other side of that history. Along with those portraits of faith and courage, it's also important to remember the problems, the contentiousness, the stubbornness, the cowardice, the arrogance, the prejudice that we find in so many of the Reformers, and yes, the doctrinal errors, including among the Anabaptists.
You see, in light of God's word, we believe the Reformation was a movement of God. But as with any movement of God that involves sinful people, there will always be problems. Does that hinder God? Not at all. God's plan has always factored in human weakness. In light of His design, sin is invasive, but it is not an impediment. It is an opportunity for God's glory.
Listen to how one writer talks about this reality, about the not-so-commendable side of the Protestant Reformation...
...When we downplay the Reformers’ flaws, we obscure the heart and soul of the Reformation itself. Even at their best, the Reformers were object lessons for the gospel they preached: Jesus came for failing, broken people. God does not search for beautiful people to save; instead, he searches for broken people to make beautiful through his Son, Jesus Christ (Matthew 9:13; Luke 19:10). (Scott Hubbard)
This morning, as we wrap up our study, we want to come full circle to where we began. You may recall that our very first lesson came from I Timothy 4:16, where Paul wrote these words to his younger co-laborer: Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. Well in this lesson, I'd like to follow up with Timothy, to consider how he fared in light of Paul's encouragement to keep a close watch on himself. Let's look together at II Timothy 1.
As we look together at verses 3-14, I want us to think about the main point of this whole series, which is semper reformanda, that Latin phrase that means, “always being reformed”. As I stated when we studied I Timothy 4, “God is reminding us through these words that our desire, our commitment, is that we are “always being reformed” by the word of God, through His Spirit.” If that is your desire this morning, let's see what we can learn, once again, from Timothy's spiritual journey and Paul's inspired wisdom.
1. Faith, Fear, and Fanning into Flame (vs. 3-7)
Let me break this passage into three parts. Let's look first at verses 3-7. Paul writes...
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.  As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.  I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.  For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,  for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Can't you see the heart of Paul being pressed out in this passage? It's so evident.
But notice first of all that Paul has no doubts about the sincerity of Timothy's faith. And while Timothy's faith is clearly connected to (v. 6) “the gift of God” and (v. 7) the spirit “God gave us”, God has also used Timothy's mother's faith, his grandmother's faith, and Paul's faith as tools to nurture faith in this young man.
But we also read here about a concern, don't we? Timothy appears to be struggling with (v. 7) “a spirit...of fear”. But as Paul indicates, the Spirit God has given is not a spirit of fear, “but of power and love and self-control”. So what should Timothy do? Verse 6: he should “fan into flame the gift of God”. What is this gift? I think this phrase also connects us back to I Timothy 4. Listen, not to verse 16, but to verse 14 of I Timothy 4...
Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
In our passage in II Timothy 1, Paul simply focuses on his part in that hand-laying ceremony. But again, what is this gift? I think the overall context of this chapter, and this book lead us to a clearer statement in II Timothy 4:5. Paul exhorts Timothy...As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Now, I believe this identification of the gift as a gift of evangelism will be fleshed out in the next section. The main thing I want us to see here is that the fires of faithfulness in Timothy's life had become dimly lit embers. Do you see that? A cold blanket of fear had descended on Timothy's heart. Thus, Paul calls his spiritual son to “fan into flame” this gift. He calls him, once again, to personal reformation.
2. Suffering, But Spiritually Secure (vs. 8-12)
Keep that idea in mind as we keep reading through this passage. Look with me at verse 8...
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,  who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,  and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,  for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher,  which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.
What is this section of verses all about? It's about the gospel and (v. 8) “suffering for the gospel”. Timothy's fears were causing him to shrink back when it come to doing the work of an evangelist, or literally, of a 'gospel-ist'. This is why Paul would go on to write in 4:5, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Notice the encouragements Paul gives Timothy in light of this charge. First, he reminds Timothy that we can suffer “for the gospel by the power of God”. Remember, the Spirit God has given us is (v. 7) a Spirit of “power”. It is this power that gives Paul confidence to endure with conviction, as we see in verse 12.
But that first encouragement is connected to the second. There is no need to be ashamed of the gospel, because through it we have been saved and called to a holy calling, and that is according to (v. 9) God's “own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus...[when?]..before the ages began”. And that purpose and that grace were “manifested” through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And so because of what God has done, “not because of our works”, Timothy is a herald of “life and immortality”. Wow!
If this is what God has done, is doing, and will do, why should Timothy be afraid or ashamed? Doesn't he have every reason to rejoice instead; to be confident in God's power, even if he must suffer for the gospel?
Please see this: please see that in this passage Paul is bringing Timothy back to the unifying themes of the Five Solas. He is reminding Timothy of both the content of the gospel of grace, and the significance of that gospel for the season of struggle in which Timothy finds himself.
3. Given Grace, Guarding Grace, Giving Grace (vs. 13, 14)
But there are two more verses we haven't tackled. Look at verses 13 and 14. We read:
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
So we know Timothy is struggling, right? And, as I've pointed out, I believe the context tells us he is struggling with fear, specifically a fear of standing up for the gospel (even though he's an ordained evangelist!). So Paul not only reminds Timothy of the content and significance of the gospel, but as we see here, he reminds him of why this work is so important.
There is a “pattern to follow”, there are “sound words” to heed, and there is a “good deposit” to guard. Notice that this “good deposit” has been entrusted to Timothy. Now not only did Paul give Timothy this same command in I Timothy 6:20, but Paul just used this word “entrusted” in reference to himself in verse 12. And if we consider the context, and the letter as a whole, and what the book of Acts tells us about Paul and Timothy's relationship, then it makes sense that what Jesus entrusted to Paul, Paul in turn entrusted to Timothy.
And look at how this is confirmed and expanded on in the next chapter...
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,  and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. (II Timothy 2:1-2)
Timothy was called not simply to declare the gospel, but to entrust it to others, to pass it along into faithful hands. But again, he was struggling. As Paul languished in prison because of his faithfulness to the gospel, Timothy was struggling with fear, fear of what might happen if he followed that same path of faithfulness. He needed encouragement. He needed a gracious reminder of the grace and power that was his in Christ, through the Spirit of God. And that's precisely what we need as well.
III. Five Hundred Years from Now
Yes, brothers and sisters, there was an ugly side to the Protestant Reformation. And it existed for the same reason Paul wrote these words to Timothy: because we are sinners saved by grace. Because fear keeps us from faithfulness, because we are prone to forget the gospel, because we stray from the “holy calling” to which we've been called.
But the only hope for that ugliness is the very thing restored by the Reformation: the beauty of the gospel of grace. It's no surprise that right after calling Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God”, Paul moves straight to the gospel of grace. You see, there is nothing that can revive the flames of faithfulness like the fresh wind of the gospel. Nothing can so excite the heart like a renewed appreciation for God's message of forgiveness, love, and hope (aren't those the things we're searching for anyhow?).
When a marriage is struggling, many times it is good for that couple to get away from the 'rat race' and to rediscover the love and joy they once knew. And in some cases, that could lead to renewing their wedding vows. Well, when you “get away” and take time to meditate on the gospel, it's like a lopsided vow renewal. Why? Because in the gospel, God has given promises, astounding promises, to any who will trust Him...”life and immortality”! And as we've seen, all we can do, all we are called to do, is to believe.
But genuine saving faith is a faith that inspires endurance and hope. It motivates us, from a heart of love and gratitude, to live soli deo gloria, for the glory of God alone.
What have we seen this morning? We've seen, once again, why reformation is so important. Let me try to summarize these ideas. We've learned that because the fires of faithfulness can grow cold, I must regularly prize, protect, and pass along the gospel, always being reformed by God's good news of grace.
Do you think about the gospel in that way? Do you think about your spiritual life in that way, as revolving around the gospel? The Five Solas we've studied (guided by Scripture alone, saved by grace alone, righteous through faith alone, standing in Christ alone, and to the glory of God alone, these) represent the essence of the gospel message. If we are to know, grow, and go in Jesus, then like those Reformers 500 years ago, we need to prize, protect, and pass along these truths, not only for the sake of future generations, but because in them, we find the forgiveness, love, and hope we desperately need.
Five hundred years from now, should Christ delay, what will that generation of believes say about our generation? Will our example of faithfulness inspire faithfulness? Will our example of courage inspire courage? Will our humility and repentance in light of our own failings encourage others to search their own hearts? I hope so. But it will only happen as we prize, protect, and pass along these solas.
We began with Luther, so let's end with Luther. Listen to what Martin Luther wrote about our journey in this life, in light of the amazing gospel he and others fought to reclaim: “This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”