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2 Timothy

2 Timothy 2

By Pastor Doug
Paul encourages and Exhorts Timothy (and us) using the pictures of a soldier, athlete and farmer.

Chapter Introduction

I want to begin by reminding you of the picture we saw last chapter as we began this book.  It was the picture of Paul sitting on death row in a Roman prison.  He is waiting to be executed by the soldiers of Nero.  He’s an old man.  He’s finished his race.  He fought all the good fights.

And then we picture Timothy.  He is in Ephesus, the pastor of the church there.  We know there was a timid-ness in Timothy or he had some reservations; something holding him back.  There was some fear that had taken hold of him.

Paul, about to die, was bringing exhortation and encouragement to this younger man.  It’s like they reversed roles.  Timothy, the young man with lots of fight left in him should be encouraging the dying, not the other way around.  The wise old man Paul is passing the mantle to his young mentor.  Instead of Timothy following Paul around being a partner or sidekick in ministry; instead of a being mentored and always having someone to answer your questions; now Timothy, in his thirties, is being called to take the lead.

There's no one for Timothy to follow now.  In fact, Timothy is now being followed.  Whether he likes it or not others were watching.  Young men are looking at him, examining his life.  In the vast unbelieving world, some people's only exposure to Christianity comes from watching someone like Timothy.  The unbelievers who heard and saw many gods and many faiths would be evaluating the Christian faith only by looking at a Timothy.  People in our world may be the doing the same by watching you.  They evaluate Christ and his followers by how someone like Timothy or you and I handled ourselves, how we deal with people, by our love, compassion, hope, contentedness and how we live life.

From Paul's letters we don't exactly know what Timothy was going through but we see hints that make us wonder.  Maybe he is looking back and counting the cost.  Maybe he missed his family and home.  Maybe he is lonely, feeling inadequate.  We don’t really know but we can hardly accuse Timothy of some faith crisis.  We shouldn't look down on Timothy as if he was failing at anything.  He is merely growing in the Lord, coming to grips with the calling on his life.  To his unworthiness God will apply grace.  To his inadequacy the Holy Spirit will grant knowledge & wisdom.  To his timidness Jesus Christ will instill in him a boldness.

Ephesus was a difficult setting and, apart from the scriptures, there was no playbook on how to deal with all the issues.  In Timothy, we can see ourself.  We can see our shortcomings and apply Paul's exhortation to our own life.  And we can be ministered to by the Lord, to address our concerns and worries and reservations.

Timothy was at one of the checkpoints along his adventure.  It’s those places you come to where you stop to analyze what's going on.  I picture this like climbing a mountain.  You start with one step, you get a good grip and pull and climb and step and move.  It's easy going at first; you move along without much thought.  Then suddenly you look down and realize how far you've come.  You realize how far out of your comfort zone you are.  Suddenly you realize each step is getting more difficult, yet you've come so far.  You’re so high up and fear can take hold.

I think Timothy came to a similar recognition.  He realized he was at a place that was much higher and much further than he ever imagined.  And he realized how far away from home he was, how far away from friends, from comfort.  Like the climber half way up the sheer side of a mountain, Timothy questioned his strength and ability to go on and probably doubted his own ability to have even arrived where he stood.  It's at times like this when the Lord brings someone or something in your life to remind you it wasn't your strength or ability that got you to where you are.  It was the Lord, His strength, His leading.  And we're reminded we can't take any credit for ourselves.  And we realize, God didn't bring us to this point just to abandon us.  There is purpose in our journey, each painful step, in every bit of traction and grip to pull ourselves along.

It's in these places and times we once again come to the end of ourselves.  And we have no choice but to rely on God.  He is faithful and sends His people to minister to us.  Through their words or actions they reveal God to us.  They minister to us, encourage us.  They heal us up, build us up, establish us once more and send us on our way. 

Then, by faith, you check your faith, you check your direction.  You stop looking back, you make the necessary adjustments and then you move on, one step at a time, getting a new grip to pull yourself to the next place.

At each of these checkpoints there ends up being an altar to the Lord.  Each one of these places is a marker on the path of our life when God grew your faith through trial, testing, through suffering or loss of some kind.  I think we usually don't even recognize this till much later.

The overall effect of each of these places is we get tuned up, a course adjustment, reaffirmed in our faith and step back into our adventure.  And all along our path, when we later look back, these places and times are altars to the Lord.  It's where he moved and did His work in our life.

That’s where Timothy is.  He’s evaluating life, feeling some fears, asking some questions.  Paul, the man of God, is sending answers, reaffirming his calling, his life, his faith and the very real and present God he serves.

Timothy is at one of those checkpoints.  He's stopped and he's evaluating where he is, how he got there and what it takes to move on.  Paul is speaking God's truth into his life.

2 Timothy 2:1-2

Up to this point in Timothy's life he had always been very close to Paul.  Many times Paul was right there beside him.  Then as Paul was imprisoned Timothy was in Ephesus ministering.  Yet, Paul was still involved and coaching him.  Now, we see Paul calling Timothy to become a pastor's pastor.  Timothy was pastor in Ephesus and maybe felt inadequate or alone.  He had difficulty at times that Paul coached him through.  Now, he was to start overseeing other churches.  He was to begin, not just to preach the gospel and god's word to the people of the church, but he was to find faithful men who could teach it.  Paul had mentored Timothy for many years, along with other men.  Now, it was time for Timothy to begin mentoring men and growing them in the faith.  This was a huge responsibility.  Where does one find reliable, faithful men?  How do you go about teaching them?  You can imagine the thousands of questions that came to Timothy's mind. 

Paul once again encouraged Timothy to be strong.  This wasn't a call for Timothy to suck it up and get to work.  It was a call to be strong in the grace that is in Jesus.  This is the picture of Timothy hanging on the side of mountain wondering how he got so high up.  It was too far to go back but he didn't know how he could find the strength to go on.  Paul reminds him it was never about his strength, it was about living in the grace of Jesus Christ.  That grace is unmerited favor.  It's getting what we don't deserve.  We never feel worthy of the grace we receive because we aren't worthy.  Jesus didn't call Timothy and guide his life in His grace, only to leave him hanging in an uncomfortable place.

Jesus called Timothy to yield his life, to humble himself and then the Lord would walk with him and provide for him.  He will equip and empower as needed.  And he'll do it in a way that requires faith.  So that Timothy will know it wasn't his own power that helped him be strong.  The strength to continue on comes from the grace of Jesus Christ.


2 Timothy 2:3-7

Paul said Timothy must do this.  The must is a command.  There is no choice in the matter.  Hardship is part of the deal.  Timothy just needed to get used to the idea.  Paul offered three analogies to consider.

  • A good soldier.  Timothy needed to look at this as if he were a soldier of Christ.  It’s about who he serves.  No soldier runs away at the first sign of hardship.  The soldier stands firm, plants his feet, finds his resolve.  He remembers his orders, his mission, his commitment to duty and honor.  The affairs of this life will entangle a person.  This is to pollute your biblical world-view with the things of this world.  John called these things the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  To be entangled is to be tripped in, stumbling and impeded, unable to be engaged in warfare.
  • An athlete.  The race is run for the crown of victory.  There were strict rules for training as well as competing.  Yet, at the end of the race, the judge reviewed your race to make sure you ran according to the rules and stayed on the course.  Only then, could the crown of victory be awarded.  Athletes don’t get to make up their own rules along the way to suit themselves or be comfortable.  It’s the same for Christians.  Suffering and difficulty are part of our race.  This is about how one serves.  We must run it with perseverance all the way to the end.
  • The farmer.  Imagine a farmer growing his crops but would never eating any of them (I’d be like this if I grew brussel sprouts).  People would notice after a while.  The farmer might say, “Oh, I grew this for you.  You should partake of it, but not me!”  Timothy was teaching the gospel.  It was born out of the suffering of Christ on our behalf.  Jesus said we would also suffer and be blessed to share in His suffering.  A Christian simply can’t be ashamed of suffering – it is too similar to be being ashamed of the gospel and Jesus.  The farmer then serves by being an example in patience and faithfulness.  Sometimes the ground is hard and it takes extra work.  Sometimes you plant and nothing grows.  In spite of all that, the farmer tills, plants and has faith that a harvest will come.  The farmer’s life is tiresome, some would call it boring.  There is no hoopla, no fanfare, no celebrity status.  An entire season passes before  the faith of the farmer pays off.  Finally, his labor and faith produce a harvest of fruit.  And then he is the first to partake of the crops.

Paul wanted Timothy to understand there will be hardships in his calling.  But he was to face these hardships with discipline, remembering who he served, how he served and being an example in faithfulness and patience. 

Paul put these pictures before Timothy and trusted the Lord to give Timothy understanding on how they fit into his life.  The same pictures are for us today for our discipline. 

2 Timothy 2:8-9

Paul wrote this letter with chains hanging from his hands and feet.  His life in Christ began when he was knocked to the ground on the road to Damascus.  He was called out of his religious life as a Pharisee to a new adventure, defined by suffering and hardship. 

Paul uses the example of the soldier, athlete and farmer as examples to Timothy.  At the same time, he holds himself as an example as he follows the example of Christ Jesus.  Paul was suffering for the gospel, yes, but Jesus suffered the greatest of suffering on our behalf.  He was the ultimate example and he overcame the greatest punishment that sin and the world could throw at Him.  He overcame sin and death and rose again. 

The gospel wasn’t in chains.  They could throw the main in jail, but they couldn’t contain the gospel.  This is something we must remember today.  Our culture is rejecting Jesus and His gospel for another god and another gospel, one that affirms sin and the person.  The gospel cannot be chained.  The church will not be conquered, for the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  We may suffer and die, but we’ll be known for our love.  It is love that drove Jesus and it is love that drives us to share the gospel to a hate-filled world. 

2 Timothy 2:10

All the hard miles, the beatings, the bruises, shed blood, shipwrecks, snake bite, stoning, whippings, imprisonment, trials, tests, tribulations and more were done for the sake of the elect.  He was approaching the end of his adventure and wouldn’t be silenced then.  Timothy was experiencing difficulty and Paul was displaying the attitude and heart of one who had endured all the hardships.  Paul did it for the elect that they may be saved in Christ. 

All the suffering was nothing in the grand scheme of things.  Paul encourages Timothy not just to endure it, but embrace it as part of the Christian life.  The Lord allows this for his purpose, that you may bring the gospel message to the elect, that they can also have eternal life.

The elect are those who will hear the gospel message when it is preached to them.  These are the people God will save, yet we don't know who they are.  The message must go out to all men so that those who will repent and trust in Christ will hear it.

2 Timothy 2:11-13

This is a Christian hymn or saying of that day that most Christians probably would have known.  The words make Paul’s point.  When we are born again in the Lord, we died to ourselves and find new life in Him.  That's true for every believer. 

The martyrdom of the believer as the mark of the ultimate suffering.  With Paul being on death row we know his impending death was before him and probably on his mind.  If we die with Christ, we will live with Him.  If we endure, we will reign with Him.  Yes, there was present suffering but it pales in contrast to the future glory.

The denial of this hymn is a blatant denial.  It's a permanent declaration of being apart from Christ. 

But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

NKJV; Matthew 10:33; 1982, Thomas Nelson

That kind of denial serves as a testimony that this person was never in Christ. 

In dealing with Asa, the Lord revealed His ways of dealing with men.

The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.

NKJV; 2 Chronicles 15:2; 1982, Thomas Nelson

Even if one proves to be faithless, it doesn't change who Jesus is.  The unfaithfulness of this man didn't harm the Lord in any way.  The promises of God are still intact.  God remains faithful in spite of man's unfaithfulness.  Because that's who He is, that's what He is and He cannot deny Himself.

2 Timothy 2:14

With Paul's effort to mentor and exhort Timothy, and calling him to continue on.  The charge is more of an official call to specific action, over and above the general discussion and advice.  Timothy was to charge the Ephesians, particularly the false teachers and those following false teachers, not to strive in these useless and fruitless teachings. 

The false teachers were famous for endless debate and picking about every letter and word and missing the overriding message of the gospel.  It was debating the color of the bark on one side of a specific tree while failing to notice the beauty of the forest. 

This continues to happen today.  Modern scholarship is bizarre at times, inserting agendas and thoughts into the ancient scriptures.  They take the plain and normal meaning and bend it and question whether the person was really trying to say something else.  If you step back from these analysis, they begin to look like the question of the serpent in Genesis three, “Did God really say….?” 

Some look for secret meanings and hidden codes in the scriptures to promote themselves, their ideas and agendas.  All the while, they ignore the plain meaning of scripture.  They fail to notice God’s love and His dealing with mankind with His plan of salvation.  They make a big deal about what they perceive as a hidden message while ignoring the principle message of the gospel.

2 Timothy 2:15

Paul called Timothy to be diligent.  Diligence is zealous persistence.  It's being like the soldier, athlete or farmer.  In this case it is being a workman who has used their hands, skills, mind and energy to produce something.  The workman steps back and sets the work before the master in hopes of being approved, of hearing, “well done.” 

The ‘approved’ workman wasn’t one who spoke a good game.  I could tell you of all the fine furniture and wood products I could make, but you shouldn’t believe me until it is proven out.  The approved workman in the faith is one whose faith has been tested and proven out.  They displayed discipline, perseverance, patience and faith.  There’s no instant pudding in a walk of faith.

The false teachers and philosophers were filled with big ideas to tell you what words really mean or what ideas you should really grasp.  They could tell you how to believe like they believe, talk like they talk.  But they never had a walk to point to.  There were no proving grounds for all their talking. 

The worker with no works, no fruit, no product, but only talk was one that needed to be ashamed.  Paul wants to see diligent and faithful followers of Christ who are living out the gospel.  In doing so, in being faithful, in suffering, in sharing their faith, over and over they would accumulate experiences that reveal work and fruit.  There would be no shame in this life. 

To rightly divide was to let the main things be the main things.  Let the plain meaning of scripture have its way with us.  To rightly divide was also to shun the profane and idle babblings of the false teachers who only created problems, debate, division, confusion and dissension.  In the end, they increased ungodliness that spread like cancer.

The bible means what it says and says what it means. 

Hymenaeus and Philetus were two who strayed.  Paul offered them up as an example.  They started in the right place, they had the truth, then they strayed.  Their message became profane babblings.  Paul wrote about Hymenaeus back in 1 Timothy saying that he turned him over to Satan that he might learn not to Blaspheme.  Paul was not limiting this just to these two men.  They were just two of the worst and they were some of the ones that Timothy would have known and dealt with.  They taught that the resurrection had already passed.  Their teachings spread like cancer.  This false word went out and it couldn't be gathered up and corrected.  People heard it and believed it and it affected their lives.  They lost hope, thinking that the resurrection had already happened and they were in the millennial kingdom.  You can imagine how this might affect the faith of some.  They thought, "This is it?  This is all there is?" as they stood in the midst of a sin-fallen world full of hatred, brokenness and persecution. 

Regardless of the presentation of the profane in places that are called Churches, regardless of the idle babblings of men who profess to speaking God's word, the solid foundation of God stands.  No matter how bad men mess up the presentation of the gospel, the gospel is unchanged and unharmed.

In Matthew chapter 16 Jesus referred to Himself as he Son of Man and asked His disciples who the people said he was.  They said, some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah and even some said Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  He (Jesus) said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”   Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

The Rock, or the solid foundation, the church was built on is the profession of the gospel message.  The good news is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  That's important, many of the profane and idle babblers are teaching other things; that sound religious but are just plain wrong.  If you don't have the foundation correct, the rest of what you believe is meaningless.

What's the first commandment?  Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.  It doesn't matter how good you are at the other commandments or how religious you are or spiritual or anything else.  If you have other gods you are fundamentally and foundationally wrong.  You have the wrong starting place it doesn't matter how good your directions are or how well you keep them if you start from the wrong place.  You have to have the right starting place and know what direction you are going.  You have to have the right foundation to build a faith upon.

The church, this solid foundation, has two seals of authenticity.  The first, the Lord knows those who are His.  While the false teachers can't harm the foundation they can lead people astray and that should concern us.  But false teachers will never pull the wool over God's eyes.  And the 2nd seal of authenticity is, let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.  Those who are his will flee from sin.  They aren't perfect but they are facing that direction.  They aren't sinless but they are getting better at spotting it and fleeing before it traps them.

2 Timothy 2:20-21

The true church is a great house.  In a great house, the vessels of gold and silver were brought out for honor.  They were special and used for honorable work.  This is like bringing out your fine China when you have an important visitor in your home.  Within that same great house there were vessels of wood and clay.  These were used for dishonor.  These are the vessels used to carry away wastes and garbage and filth.  The vessels of honor held the finest, the vessels of dishonor held the vile and profane.

In the Jewish understanding, the wood or clay vessels used for filth were defiled, unclean and fit only to be destroyed.  The other vessels of silver or gold could be cleansed if they were defiled.

Paul said anyone who cleansed themself from being a vessel of dishonor could become a vessel of honor.  Then verse 21 states that vessels of honor are useful for the Master.  That's quite an offer because the clay and wood could never become gold and silver.  Yet, in God's economy the vessels that once held the profane and filth can be cleansed to become the vessels of honor.

How much cleansing would you do on the bucket you used to haul garbage before you would eat from it?  It would have to be scrubbed and scoured and disinfected.  All the previous filth would have to be completely purged.  Yet, in the physical, even when it is was washed good, it would still always be a nasty bucket.

Verse 21 says this person should ‘cleanse themself.’  Don't make the mistake of thinking that a person can clean themselves up and make themselves a vessel of honor.  The cleansing is an act of God.  Only He can take a nasty vessel and turn it into one of honor. 

When Paul said to ‘cleanse yourself’ he is talking about taking the initiative to seek the one who does the scouring and cleaning.  This cleansing starts with a person's willingness to prepare themself for useful service.  This is consistent with the other places in scripture that show a person presenting themselves to God.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 

NKJV; Romans 6:12-13; 1982, Thomas Nelson

Your hands and feet; your heart and mind; were once instruments of vessels of unrighteousness.  Now when we are presented to God as being alive form the dead.  We become instruments of righteousness to be used by him for honorable and dignified things.  We serve Him and are used in His righteous works.  He took vessels that once held the profane and filth and made them vessels of honor; of Gold and silver; vessels that are sanctified and useful to the master.

2 Timothy 2:22

Philosophers of that day often called for people to flee from those things that were a threat or unwanted.  We might read this as it’s time to grow up.  The referenced lusts are not just sexual desires, but the lust for power and money and the lust for prideful things.  In addition, these lusts can create a spirit in you where you always have to be right.  You can get all balled up in having to be right, needing to be heard, needing to be seen as important, powerful or influential.  When you start down that road, it isn't long before all you say and do is about pleasing you and not pleasing the Lord. 

Paul may be speaking past Timothy and directing this to those who were giving Timothy bad advice and causing doubt in his life.  These youthful lusts are somewhat understandable in the youth, but there is a time when you grow out of them and mature.  Paul is telling Timothy, to flee those things.  It's time to grow up.  He's talking to those with Timothy and of course he's talking to us.

Paul presents a picture where on one end of a line is youthful lusts, on the other are these virtues of godliness.  The implication is that youthful lusts keep you from godliness.  You can't have righteousness and youthful pride together.  Turning from youthful lusts and running is running toward righteousness, faith, love and peace with others who are in the Lord.  We will find like-mindedness and fellowship among believers, not people to debate with or argue with.

2 Timothy 2:23

As a servant of the Lord we should stay far from foolish and ignorant disputes.  All they do is cause a problem, generating strife and never resolution and peace.  No one ever wins in these things, they become contests over pride.  These arguments and disputes rarely offer anything of value.  They are over the craziest things.  There is nothing to win.  The honest expression of thoughts and opinions becomes bashing and trashing anyone who doesn't agree.  They hide behind these disputes as a means of justifying themselves.

Most of the time there isn't really anything to win other than a little ego boost.  There is much to lose though.  People are watching, listening and measuring you.  Your words, responses and reactions reveal your heart.  Paul warns that you can't get caught up in this.

If someone needs corrected because they have an unbiblical viewpoint or they have a sinful attitude about something, the servant of the Lord must be able to do that.  The servant must be able to teach, show them their error.  This must be done with gentleness, grace and dignity.

As a servant of Christ, we are to avoid arguments and be kind to everyone.  This allows opportunity to teach and instruct and avoid barriers that hurt relationships.  With the lines of communication open you can bring someone back and help them escape the trap of the devil.  This is a humble person who knows the truth and is able to teach it.  They don't enter into useless arguments just so they can be right and prove someone else is in error.  I had a boss once that said, blowing out someone else's candle will never make yours burn brighter.  Timothy’s job was to make the righteous light of other’s shine brighter.

We want to be careful here because this isn't a call to compromise the truth.  The servant doesn't waffle or whiff on the truth.  He is able to correct those who are in opposition.  This is done for the purpose of leading to the truth in the Lord and praying that God will grant them to repentance.

Isn't it interesting there in verse 25 that repentance is granted by the Lord.  It isn't a work of the person.  The Holy Spirit does His work in a person.  He allows them to see and know the truth and He grants them the ability to repent and run away from the traps of Satan.  And they can step out of the darkness and into the light.


In the last 2 chapters Paul has presented a walk to Timothy.  Paul said, stir up the gift, don't be ashamed, hold fast to your doctrine, be strong, endure, remember and then present yourself.  To anyone in the world these things would sound like an impossible task.  To be stirred up and stand tall and speak bold of what you believe; to hold fast to the truth; to always be strong; endure hardship and pain as part of the deal; and to remember the foundation on which you stand and to present yourself to you authority; all this sounds like an impossible task only to be taken on by the strongest, the smartest, the best educated and those with the moxy to see it through.  And that may well be what scared Timothy. 

Maybe that's what's holding you back today.  It seems like so much that we don't know how to do or how to deal with.  These things represent the kind of commitment we don't know that much about.  But Paul's message wasn't about Timothy being a better man or finding the strength to do these things.  It was about Timothy surrendering himself to what the Lord wanted to do with his life.  God called Timothy but he wouldn't make him go.  God called each of us, but He won't make you go.  Yet, with the desires God planted in Timothy's heart, and our heart, a person would only find peace, contentment and fulfillment in doing that for which they were called.

This seems like such a narrow way.  Be a good teacher, but flee from some.  Be loving and kind, but ignore some.  Hold fast to the truth, but don't enter into petty arguments.  And be diligent in it, so that you may present yourself approved to God; a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  Oh and you have to understand you live in a time when the rest of the world is chasing money, pride, other gods and so much more.

There seems to be so much working against us.  But we aren't called to inspect the entire path or to even understand it.  We are called to just present ourselves and take a step trusting the power of God.  He will make sure your foot lands on something as you step in faith.  He'll hold you up, direct your steps and show you through that narrow way.

©2011, 2023 Doug Ford