Fulfill Your Ministry—A Study on 2 Timothy (I)
Based on Bible Study Guide: Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus
Published by the True Jesus Church.
According to the testimony of the early church, Paul was imprisoned in
Rome a second time and put to death by the Roman Emperor Nero. It was
during this second Roman imprisonment (A.D. 66–67) that Paul penned the
second epistle to Timothy. The writing style of this epistle is
personal, reflecting Paul’s farewell address to his fellow worker and
“beloved son” (1:2). This is also Paul’s last epistle, written at the
end of his life.
Paul urges Timothy not to be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord but
share with him in the sufferings for the gospel. Knowing that false
teachers will rise to resist the truth, Paul stresses the importance of
holding fast the pattern of sound doctrine and instructs Timothy to be
strong. He gives Timothy the solemn charge to preach the word and to
endure afflictions. With these last words of exhortation, the apostle
passes on the legacy and the divine commission to his son in the faith.
Below are some of Paul’s invaluable messages to Timothy, which are
equally applicable to us.
Do Not Be Ashamed of the Gospel
In the opening chapter, Paul encouraged Timothy to press on in the
calling and ministry of God even in the face of adversity.
Remember God’s Blessings
“I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience.” (1:3)
The early church was undergoing great persecution when this epistle was
written, and many saints had already been martyred. Paul himself had
been imprisoned and knew that he had reached the end of his life. In the
face of great persecution from the authorities, the presence of false
brethren within the church, heresies clouding the truth, workers leaving
the ministry and faithful workers being martyred, Paul continued to give
thanks to God when he remembered Timothy’s genuine faith, which dwelt
first in Timothy’s grandmother and mother. Timothy’s genuine faith in
God serves as a source of comfort and encouragement to Paul.
In our journey of faith, we must continue in fervent prayer and give
thanks to God, irrespective of our environment. This is possible only if
we always remember the good things God has done for us and deeply trust
that God has His purpose behind the adversities that befall us.
Stir up the Gift of God
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you
through the laying on of my hands.” (1:6)
God has enabled Timothy to have an excellent legacy of faith (1:5).
Because of this precious legacy, Paul reminds Timothy that he must put
this faith to good use. He must not neglect the gift of the ministry he
has received (cf. 1 Tim 4:14), but must stir up this gift.
Likewise, for us today, we ought to constantly examine and revive our
zeal and our commitment to the Lord’s ministry. It is easy to become
disheartened and give up when we meet with difficulties in our ministry.
But we cannot let circumstances defeat us and put out the flame that God
has placed in our hearts. Instead, we need to stir up the gift that is
in us and serve the Lord with even greater vigor.
Spirit of Power, Love and Sound Mind
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love
and of a sound mind.” (1:7).
This is an apt reminder for us living in the last days. God has given us
power so that we may do what seems humanly impossible and carry out
God’s will (cf. Acts 4:33; 2 Cor 4:7–11; 10:4–5; 12:9–10; Eph 3:20;
6:10–20; Phil 4:10–13; Col 1:9–11; 2 Thess 1:11; Heb 11:32–34). With the
spirit of power in us, we can be strong and we do not need to be afraid
of hardship or difficulties.
Having the love of God in our hearts, we will be motivated to live for
Christ and bring the gospel of salvation to others (2 Cor 5:14–15). This
spirit of love gives us the courage to overcome all obstacles in the way
of our service. When we only seek our selfish interests, we will fear
suffering for the gospel. But if we are selfless, then we will not
hesitate to sacrifice ourselves for the gospel.
A sound mind, or self-discipline, enables us to act with composure and
wisdom (cf. Ex 14:10–14; 1 Sam 30:6; Acts 7:54–60). Instead of panicking
with fear, we can trust in God and be prudent in our actions.
Know Whom You Have Believed
For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not
ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is
able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.
In this famous conviction statement, Paul shows total trust in the Lord
Jesus Christ. Paul does not say, “I know what I have believed,” but he
says, “I know whom I have believed.” His knowledge is not just in a set
of creeds, theories, or philosophies; rather, he has come to know Jesus
Christ personally. He knows Jesus Christ as his Savior, who loved him
and died for him, the chief of sinners (1 Cor 2:2; Gal 2:20; 1 Tim
1:15–16). He knows Jesus Christ as his Lord, to whom he has dedicated
his life (2 Cor 5:15; 1 Tim 1:1). He also knows Jesus Christ as his
Defender, who has always stood by him, and his Deliverer, who will not
forsake him but will deliver him from every evil work and preserve him
for His heavenly kingdom (2 Tim 4:18).
As believers who have already accepted Christ, our knowledge of the Lord
must grow and deepen. This knowledge comes about when we live a new life
in Christ (2 Cor 5:16–17). As members of Christ’s body, we can grow in
our knowledge of Jesus Christ through mutual edification with the truth
(Eph 4:11–13). In our personal lives, we may grow in our knowledge of
Christ by diligently conforming to Christ’s likeness and obeying
Christ’s commands (Eph 4:20–24; Phil 3:8–10; Col 1:10; 3:8–10; 2 Pet
1:2–8; 1 Jn 2:4; 3:6). We also need to pray for the fullness of the
Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that our knowledge of God may
continue to grow (Eph 1:17–18; 3:14–19).
The Lord is trustworthy. Those who believe in Him will not be put to
shame (Rom 10:11). Because Paul knows that the Lord he trusts in is
dependable, he is not ashamed of the testimony of the Lord. God is able
to keep what the believer has committed to Him until His return. The
believer’s deposit in Christ includes his salvation, his walk of faith,
and his service.
Be Rooted in the Truth
Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in
faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was
committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
The word “pattern” means prototype. The gospel that the apostles
preached is the prototype to which Timothy and all preachers of the
gospel must conform (cf. Eph 2:20). This also applies to us who are
entrusted with the same “pattern of sound words”. We have to be deeply
rooted in the truth and guard the faith, the ministry, and the sound
doctrine that the Lord has entrusted to us.
This is to be done through constant prayer in the Holy Spirit and
heeding the Spirit’s voice, as the Holy Spirit is a sword through the
word of God (Eph 6:17). He enables us to wage the good warfare,
combating all false doctrines.
A Good Worker of Jesus Christ
In the second chapter, Paul teaches Timothy how to be a good worker of
God. The attributes of a good worker can be broadly classified into
three aspects: endurance in hardship, faithfulness to the truth, and
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ
Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many
witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach
In this context, to be strong means to have the courage and the
endurance to face hardship. This strength is not based on human courage,
but on the grace of Christ Jesus. In other words, it is by depending on
the gracious help of God rather than on self-confidence that we can
truly be strong.
Apart from serving God faithfully and fulfilling our ministry, it is
important that we pay attention to searching out faithful men to whom we
can entrust the word of God and the ministry. These faithful men
themselves must also be able to teach others in order to ensure
continuity of the word and the ministry. This principle applies to all
areas of church work where we need to consciously nurture successors.
“You therefore must endure hardship…” (2:3)
Paul uses analogies of soldier, athlete and farmer to illustrate this
point. A soldier needs to endure hardship. He has to be absolutely
focused on his mission and not entangle himself with civilian affairs.
An athlete needs to push himself to the limit in training and
competition, and he must also exercise self-discipline and integrity in
following rules of the competition. A farmer has to labor and endure
physical fatigue from dawn till dusk. He also needs to wait patiently
for the time of harvest.
All three metaphors illustrate the physical and mental endurance that a
good worker of God must have. In order to carry out the Lord’s
commission, we need to persevere and not shrink from hardship. Just as
the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer do not labor without a purpose,
our endurance has a purpose, as it achieves for us the reward in heaven.
As we press on toward this reward, we must be focused, disciplined, and
diligent in the ministry.
The secret of the ability to endure hardship is to focus on Jesus
Christ’s resurrection, the foundation on which the gospel and the
ministry stand. Because Christ is risen, our faith and our message are
not in vain. We serve and preach the risen Savior, so our work is most
noble. Christ’s resurrection also signifies the victory that Christians
will have (1 Cor 15:51–58). Hence, just as Christ initially endured in
suffering but emerged victorious eventually, we will likewise be
victorious if we continue to endure.
Be Faithful to the Truth
Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to
strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be
diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not
need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun
profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more
Learning the word of God helps us to understand the will of God and
edifies the listeners. It should not be turned into a debate on
semantics. As an evangelist, Timothy has to be circumspect in speech,
and refrain from participating in gossip and useless chatter or
proclaiming popular ideologies. He must stay away from everything that
is contrary to sound doctrine and godliness. Because of the serious
influence that false doctrines can have on believers, Paul “delivered
such false teachers to Satan” (1 Tim 1:19–20). John also teaches us not
to even greet such people or receive them into our house (2 Jn 10).
Just as important, Timothy must also be diligent to present himself
approved to God. A teacher of God’s word should faithfully proclaim the
word of God so that he has no reason to be ashamed when his work is
tested. He needs to have a clear understanding and be able to discern
between truth and error. He must be filled with the Holy Spirit in order
to interpret the truth correctly (1 Cor 2:12–14; Jn 16:13) and the
courage to make a clear stand for what is right. Instead of preaching
messages that are both “yes and no,” he will truthfully and faithfully
speak according to God’s will (2 Cor 1:17–20; Mt 5:37).
Depart from Iniquity
Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal:
“The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the
name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
The foundation of God denotes what God has established, including God’s
election, the truth, and the church on which the truth stands (cf. 1 Tim
3:15). The foundation has been sealed, which means it has been
established by a divine decree and therefore cannot be changed. The
inscriptions on this seal are “The Lord knows those who are His,” and,
“Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
Just as a shepherd knows his sheep, the Lord knows who are truly His (Jn
10:14). A believer who truly belongs to God will be acknowledged and
accepted by God, regardless of how others view him. When Korah and
others challenged God’s election of Moses and Aaron as the leaders, the
Lord showed the assembly of Israel who belonged to Him. In the same way,
the Lord will eventually reveal who are His.
Therefore, we should simply trust that God knows and will keep those who
belong to Him. Conversely, God also commands everyone who names the name
of Christ to depart from iniquity. While God is the ultimate judge of
who truly belongs to him, we need to examine ourselves to see if we can
stand before God with a clear conscience. Our part as people who profess
the name of Christ is to make sure that we depart from iniquity.
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver,
but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.
Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a
vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for
every good work.
Here Paul explains that when God uses a person, He does not look at the
person’s skills or intelligence because God can easily grant these to
whomever He chooses to use. Instead, God chooses those who cleanse
themselves from iniquity, are pure in heart, and who faithfully teach
and practice the word of truth.
Likewise today, if we desire to serve Him, we have to strive for
holiness. Only then can we be useful and well pleasing to our Lord.
(To be continued….)