Lesson 24: "[Be] A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ" (II-Timothy 2:3)
Paul's Letters To Preachers. Welcome to lesson # 24. Our reading begins in II-Tim. 2:1 and we're going to read 13 verses. Get your eyes on the text! Up until now, Paul has said in essence, Timothy you are a good boy, I admire your faith in Jesus ("an unfeigned faith" Paul called it). Timothy, don't be ashamed, suffer if necessary, be committed, hold fast that form of doctrine which was delivered to you and committed to your trust. This is a repeat of what Paul told Timothy back in I-Tim. 6:20, "0 Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust." If you are ready, let's read, beginning in ch. 2...Here we go, 2:1... "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits. Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead, according to my gospel: wherein I suffer trouble, as an evildoer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself."
O.K., a rather short passage and yet undoubtedly one of the strongest preacher admonitions in the whole N.Testament. Notice how this passage begins: "Thou therefore..." and take the time to notice that this beginning phrase is repeated again (in v.3). What is Paul saying? Well, we would probably say it something like this: Timothy, my son, as a result of what has already been said on this scroll (what you and I call ch. 1), Timothy, you need to do THIS... Do what Paul? Now here it is (listen close), first thing, "be strong" in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Where is this grace? "In Christ Jesus." But, NOTICE: Timothy has a part in that grace! What's Timothy's part? "BE STRONG IN THE GRACE," i.e. be committed, be faithful, suffer if necessary AND hold fast that doctrine which was delivered you. Then, number two (starting in v.2), the thing that Paul had committed to Timothy, he was not only to hold it fast, he was to pass it on to others... other faithful men..."who shall be able to teach others also." Have you got it? Now, what is that? That's the great commission (as given by Jesus back in Matt. 28:18-19-20). "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations [teach what? Teach the gospel!], baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [then do what?] Teaching them [i.e. those they baptize, teaching them...what?] to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Jesus gave it to the apostles, the apostle taught it and committed it to others. Paul was an apostle and Paul is doing that to Timothy, right in front of your eyes. Then, by the gospel being written down, it was preserved by the Holy Spirt through the Bible. Through that Bible it is committed unto you and to me. Are you faithful, able to teach others also (v.2)? Well, thank God, we're working on it, alright? How committed are you? How committed am I? Let's pass it on! Are you ready?
May I take just a moment and let's go back to Paul's writing style. He usually gave a principle, a command, a regulation or a rule to be followed and then what? Well, sometimes he repeats that rule for emphasis. Then, sometimes he explained it more fully. And then, sometimes he illustrated it. Now, I want you to back up and re-read the whole 13 verses, we just read. Notice that in v.1-2, he states the principle. Two items (really): (#1) Timothy be strong!. (#2) Timothy, teach others and commit the gospel to others. Why? So it will be passed on, disseminated or propagated, so the whole world can be taught.
Then, one more minute, before we get back to Paul's illustrations beginning in v.3 (keep your finger at v.3 just a minute). I don't want to lose continuity, and yet I want to toss in something here that's worth your time. The great commission that Jesus gave is part of the Bible. Do you agree? Matt. 28:18-19-20, we just read...there's Mark 16:15...Luke 24:47. There's an indirect reference to this in Acts 1:4 and Paul said HE received this (I-Cor. 15:3) and he made a further comment there about the Galilee occasion when more than 500 brethren were present further over in I-Cor. 15:6 AND I think you could consider II-Tim. 2:2 (where you have your finger) as a simple restatement of the great commission. It's part of the Bible, get that! Now, the reason I go to the trouble of calling your attention to this IS that some people today (some of them probably don't live very far from you); they believe that they must hereditarily connect back to Jesus and his apostles to be the official religion of Jesus today, which they claim to be, i.e. the Christian religion, so-to-speak. I once had a private discussion with one of these people. As part of our study, he brought to me a book called Martyr's Mirror, written by a Mr. Fox, maybe back two or three hundred years ago, I can't remember exactly when...and please don't drop it on your toe, I mean it must have had a thousand pages...it was about all one person could carry. He insisted that the information in that book was essential to understanding Christianity, official Christianity. I just couldn't get it right without understanding what was written in that book, according to this man. Well, what's in the book? I must have spent about a week, hours and hours pouring over that book. Finally, when I was about to give up (I'm not telling you I read every page), I finally got the connection. Here was the point, these people through their ancestors try to connect back by families through all the ages (since the first century and pentecost) to show that they were/are related, i.e. blood related and by religious association to first century Christians including Stephen the first martyr. That book contains a lot of history and much of the historical information was probably right, I'm not trying to say it wasn't. The thing you need to understand (here) is simply this: the great commission is binding upon us today because it's part of the Bible...just like baptism, just like living the Christian life, just like Jesus' second coming and the general resurrection. Now, if you believe the Bible, it wouldn't matter if you were not related to anyone in the middle ages or ever knew anything about the middle ages. The connection to Jesus and the apostles is made immediately today when you read the Bible and believe it. The Holy Spirit of God had this information written down for you, me and for everyone. "Faith cometh by hearing" (Rom. 10:17). Read Matthew's account of the great commission real close. When I read that, I am being taught by the apostle Matthew through the Holy Spirit, even today. The connection is made! Forget about what happened in between! Now, there's nothing wrong with knowing what happened in between, over the last 1900 years. However, it will not strengthen your spiritual connection to God, not even one iota to be able to prove that you are blood related or by any continuous association of your ancestors. There is no difference between Jews, Greeks, Gentiles, hobos or millionaires, presidents or jail birds. Gal. 3:28, says it very clearly. "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ," this is what Paul said in the verse before that (Gal. 3:27). Now, I throw this in to save you a lot of time, when you bump into that kind of thinking. I wish I had more time on this; but, let's get back to v.3. Your finger must be getting a little tired by now.
Alright, v.3, "thou therefore," i.e. starting this thought over again. What was the first step? "Be strong" (v.1). Here's the illustration: Timothy, "endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." Paul was impressed by those Roman soldiers that managed and supervised Paul as he waited-it-out there in prison. Do you remember Ephesians chapter six? Timothy, take it serious, just like Nero's soldiers do. They are serving Nero, you are serving the Lord Jesus Christ. "Be a good soldier of Jesus Christ." Now, get the thought in v.4! These soldiers put their duty first, Timothy. They don't let material things, ventures and other enterprises interfere with their service to their master. Timothy, there's a lesson in this for us. When those Roman soldiers fight a war, they fight a war, they didn't let any other involvement interfere. There's especially a great need for that lesson today. The religion of Jesus is not a hobby, it's our vocation (Eph. 4:1).
Then, v.5, the apostle continues the thought; but, switches his illustration to those Roman athletes. Another category of trained men that endured hardness, that followed rigid rules. Those athletes strove for mastery, i.e. to win the game. However, the apostle cautions: "yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully." To be saved, we must follow the rules. Do you get it? If those soldiers and those athletes endure such a rigid and tough set of rules for a worldly crown, Timothy, surely we can do the Lord's work for a heavenly crown. The crown those athletes were striving for was a temporal thing. Do you remember I-Cor. 9:25? Paul said, "they do it [i.e. the athletes do it] to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible" crown. That incorruptible crown of course is heaven or salvation. Now, I'm tempted to go off on another excursion, right here. Paul told Timothy to be committed, to commit to the doctrine. But, you can't get people to commit today, i.e. concerning the faith. Unless, you know more dedicated people than I do. Try to get them to attend the services, try to get them to study the Bible, have a cottage meeting in their home, or just anything spiritual. What's the first thing they say? Well, I don't know, I won't promise! I'll come if it's convenient; but, I won't promise! Have you heard that? Now, they don't think anything of buying a $20,000 car and committing to the bank. They'll sign that mortgage note in a moment and be on time every month with their payments. They'll commit to worldly things. What if they told the banker, I'll send in a payment each month if it is convenient; but, I won't promise. You know and I know they are committed to worldly things. However, spiritual things (that really count), they will not commit to with even their little finger...am I right? And between the lines here some place is either faith or the lack of it. Timothy, the gospel of Christ is worth suffering for, be committed to the gospel and it's author, Jesus Christ. Do you get Paul's illustration?
Just in case you can't identify with that, he uses yet another illustration (v.6). If you will supply the word farmer (here) for the older word "husbandman," the illustration may come through a little faster. A farmer has to labor hard for a long time before he harvests a crop. He has to obtain the land, prepare the land, sow the seed, cultivate, water, put on fertilizer, fight the bugs, endure the heat of the day, and on and on before he finally plucks off the fruit that God gives him and is able to hold that precious fruit, the product or the outcome in the palm of his hands. Paul says there's some rule that he gets to take the first bite. Do you get the illustration? We must first learn about salvation (Rom. 10:17), we must attend to the spiritual things spoken us (Acts 16:14), i.e. be baptized into Christ and be added to the church (Acts 2:47), "be thou faithful unto death, and I [the Lord Jesus Christ, Rev. 2:10] will give thee a crown of life." Do you get Paul's illustration?
Now, look at v.7! Timothy, "consider what I say." Consider Nero's soldiers, consider those athletes and consider the farmer. Now, what is the gospel? Paul defined the gospel (back in I-Cor. 15:1-3) as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18), the first fruits of them that slept (I-Cor. 15:20). Timothy, remember the gospel! "Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead, according to my gospel" (v.8). It is only when you consider Jesus Christ, his resurrection from the grave, his second coming and the general resurrection that these things begin to give you real understanding (as Paul said at the end of v.7), real insight, insight that will inspire you to endure hardness as a soldier of Jesus Christ. The life of a fighting soldier is not easy. The life of an athlete, training strenuous and long hours is not easy. The life of a farmer enduring the heat of the day (Matt. 20:12), is not easy; but, it's part of the path to the goal. You may have to suffer trouble along the way. Then (v.9), the apostle does not hesitate to use himself as an example. Timothy, it is for the gospel of Jesus that "I suffer trouble, as an evildoer, even unto bonds" (v.9). However, even in those chains, the "word of God" (v.9), the "gospel" (v.8), is not bound. Even connected to a' chain, the apostle was teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ through and by a scroll with pen and ink. Jesus had said to the 12, "fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28). It's important to get the gospel out (v.10). Salvation is important (v.10). The apostle said (v.10), "I endure all things" for the benefit of others, "for the elect's sake," i.e. "that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus..." Where is salvation? "In Christ Jesus" (v.10). How do we get in? We are baptized INTO Christ (Gal. 3:27). "We are buried with him by baptism into death, that...we also should walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6:4).
Then finally (here in v.11-12-13), the apostle restates that principle (he gave up in v.1-2) in the form of one of Paul's "faithful saying." There are four "if's" in this FAITHFUL SAYING. Here it is! (If # 1): "If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him," i.e. Christ (v.11). (If #2): "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him" (v.12). (If #3): "If we deny him, he also will deny us" (v. 12). And finally, (if # 4), "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself" (v.13). This the last of Paul's FAITHFUL SAYINGS and "worthy of all acceptation" as he said back in I-Tim. 1:15, where he said: "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." We'll begin with v.14 in our next lesson. Until then, try hard to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Hang-in-there like an athlete or like a farmer. In Gal. 6:9, the apostle said: "let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." AND, have a good day.