ISSUE: 2018, Volume 15, Issue 4
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A common complaint levelled against ‘millennials’ in the workplace is a mentality which says, ‘that’s not in my job description', accompanied by an unwillingness to take on responsibility. This should never be the attitude of a believer, in the workplace or in the assembly. Towards the end of his life and service for God, Paul wrote two letters to a younger man he loved called Timothy. In 2 Timothy chapter 1 verse 2 he addresses him as, ‘my dearly beloved son’, and in 2 Timothy chapter 2 verse 1 as, ‘my son’. It was important for Timothy to know Paul loved him because the apostle was going to share some difficult truths with him, and give him tasks that required an affectionate relationship. When we know someone loves us, it makes sense to take their wise advice, even when it seems tough. Paul’s letters to Timothy place on him serious responsibilities; among other duties, he has to be a steward and a soldier.
Of the several ‘good things’ mentioned in 2 Timothy, the first is the deposit of truth Timothy has received from Paul, 1. 13, 14. Paul is responsible for ensuring this pattern of doctrine is passed on and guarded by Timothy, just as we too must maintain the truth of God. The role of a steward is to look after something that he does not own – this spiritual truth does not originate in man but is entrusted to Paul, Timothy and each believer by the God of truth. The instruction received from Paul forms the ‘pattern’ Timothy has to guard and pass on to others. The emphasis, we notice, is on sound words. ‘Sound’ connotes cleanliness or hygiene, making the point that God’s word is essential for a healthy Christian life. In Luke chapter 16, the Lord Jesus tells a parable of an unjust steward who is identified as being unfaithful in what he had been given, and is called to account for it. In a future day, we will give account to the Lord Jesus for how we have handled the truth entrusted to us.
Not many would claim to be wordsmiths, yet our appreciation and attention to words must be significant and we see here how important sound words are. Indeed, without words we would remain ignorant of God’s mercy in Christ. When describing the Lord Jesus, John uses that very title of Him – He is ‘the Word’, the living revelation of God’s mind. Furthermore, since God has revealed His truth in specific words, we should value and investigate every word of scripture, recognizing that not one is without significance. A great question to ask when coming to the Bible is, ‘what does this mean?’ It is insufficient to ask ‘what does this mean to me?’ because, despite the relativism all around us, scripture remains the objective, unchangeable revelation of God. We can never discover its relevance for our lives until we have discovered what it means in itself.
Paul tells Timothy how to hold God’s word, ‘in faith and love’, 2 Tim. 1. 13. The pattern of sound words has to be guarded, not in arrogance or pride, but with a reality that shapes the life. Rarely is a person’s character divorced from what he believes. Truth and love go hand in hand. Although he deals directly with serious problems in Corinth, Paul also insists in chapter 13 that love is crucial, demonstrating that genuine love is inseparable from truth, for love ‘rejoiceth in the truth’, 1 Cor. 13. 6. Love, grace and reality are not opposed to truth, obedience and order.
It must have been a relief to Timothy to know that the message he was expected to preach was not to originate in him. Rather, he was to guard by the Holy Spirit the divine truth entrusted to him. The very moment we are saved, the Holy Spirit of God takes up permanent residence in our bodies so that He may empower us to live as we should.
If Paul was a champion of truth, he was also most definitely a warrior, and knew what it was to ‘endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ’. The invitation to suffer alongside Paul was demanding, as we can see when we read about his sufferings for Christ recorded in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. Many Christians throughout the world today know something of the seriousness of this as they face job loss, denial of education, estrangement from family, and even loss of life; nevertheless, few of us know anything of the kind of persecution Paul endured.
The job of a Roman soldier was no 'nine to five' affair. Warfare was his life, and would have meant frequently enduring discomfort, being constantly on guard, facing battle, and not being at liberty to engage in ordinary pleasures. The image is not of a soldier in the barracks but on the battlefield. Paul often compares the Christian life to a war zone with enemies on every hand; but we are not helpless, because we are protected by the armour of the one who called us. The danger is not so much that of being entangled in sin, but in the legitimate affairs of life; things good, necessary and appropriate in themselves, but which constitute a distraction for a ‘good solider’. King David’s example in 2 Samuel chapter 11 is a warning not to avoid the battlefield. Had David been in the front line, immorality and murder could have been avoided. Discipline and battle may not warm the heart, but the believer’s goal is to ‘please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier’, 2 Tim. 2. 4. When we fix our eye on the captain of our salvation and follow His command, we have the sure hope of seeing Him, knowing we have fought well and stood our ground.