Matthew 7:13-23: Two Roads, Two Gates

Read: Matthew 7:13-23

Two roads, two gates – one road is hard and leads to a narrow gate that when opened leads to life. The other road is easy that leads to a wide gate that when opened leads to death. This is the imagery that Jesus gives to describe the path that he is laying out for his followers to follow. Jesus’ path is the hard path that isn’t easy to follow, but to those that do they will have eternal life.

In light of this description of paths and gates, Jesus gives a staunch warning concerning false prophets and false teachers. The Jews in Jesus’ day already understood the consequences of false teachers and prophets. The law had rather harsh consequences for false prophets: death. Any one that made a false prophecy or turned the Israelites to false gods was to be put to death without prejudice (Deuteronomy 13). When Jesus is teaching here, he is warning against such teachers and tells his hearers to test them. By way of analogy he is telling his hearers to look at the fruits in their lives. A tree bears fruit in keeping with its kind and health. For the Christian, there are two kinds of fruit: spiritual progeny and fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). One can tell what a teacher teaches based on the teacher’s students and based on the teacher’s own life. If one, the other, or both are bad, then it is indicative of the nature of the teacher and his teachings. In effect, just because somebody calls Jesus “Lord” and puts on a good show doesn’t mean that he himself is saved or teaching sound doctrine.

James 3 also gives a staunch warning about being eager to teach. In the same vein as Deuteronomy 13, to those who teach there will be a more strict judgment. In the discourse that follows, James talks about a destructive tongue, and such is the tongue of one who teaches false doctrine. It can cause a lot of harm and destruction. For the Christian to know this though it is imperative that he or she also be well grounded in the scriptures. In 2 Timothy 3:10-17, Paul reminds Timothy of the model that Paul had laid out for him and also warns him against imposters and evil doers. The antidote for false teaching was teaching from the Word of God, which is inspired by God for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness.

Lord, help me to follow the narrow path found in your Word!

Luke 6:46-49: A Firm Foundation

Read: Luke 6:46-49

Jesus closes the discourse in Luke with another parable, this one describing two builders who build houses. One builds it on a rock and the house stands when the storm comes and the other on sand which collapses when the storm comes. The interpretation of this parable is pretty obvious, and Jesus gives it, saying that the one who listen and does the things that Jesus says will be like the man who builds his house on the rock. The foundation of a house is one of the most critical components of the house because on it rests the entire structure, and when the foundation is weak the house will fall flat. Jesus is saying that his words and instructions are the foundation of ones life, and the rest of one’s life is supported by these teachings.

If Jesus’ teachings are to be the foundation of ones life, then it necessary to first understand the teachings and second aptly apply the teachings of Jesus to ones life. The teachings of Jesus are codified in the pages of scripture, so if one wants to understand what Jesus said one needs to study the word of God. This is why Paul admonishes Timothy to use scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that scripture is “God-breathed” and useful for instruction in the ways of righteousness. Jesus being God, worked through human writers produce the 66 books of the Bible, some of which contains the actual words of Jesus himself. Paul acknowledges the work of the prophets, a reference to the Old Testament and apostles which is a reference to what would become the New Testament, but all of this is built on Jesus who is the “cornerstone” of the building (Ephesians 2:19-22).

The process of studying and applying scripture is called “exegesis”, which is multi-part process. First, one attempts to understand what a text meant in the original context by studying the original language of the text, the literary features of the text, and also the historical and cultural settings of the text. These offer key insights into the next step, which is interpreting the text. Interpretation isn’t so much about finding hidden meanings, rather looking for what the text is trying to communicate in terms of instructions and principles. Lastly, one looks for application of the principles of the text, which is practical application of the text in one’s life and how one obeys the commands of Jesus.

Because the teachings and application of scriptures is is so important requires great care. This is why Peter warned against interpreting scripture in a vacuum (2 Peter 1:19-21). Rather, teachers are to be taught and to also teach what they have learned faithfully (2 Timothy 2:2). Holding fast to sound doctrine and sound teaching will give all who understand the knowledge necessary, and with the Holy Spirit’s help, one can aptly apply the scripture to ones life so that when the storms come one stands firm rather than falling flat.

Lord, your word is a firm foundation. Help me build my life on it!

Luke 6:39-42: Teaching Godliness

Read: Luke 6:39-42

Jesus told numerous parables, which are earthly stories to communicate heavenly truth. A few of these parables are short while others are long, and some he offers insight into their meanings and others he does not. Luke inserts a break in the discourse that Jesus to note that Jesus was telling a parable, this one short and with an explanation. He tells a parable about two the blind leading the blind, and how in doing so they both fall into a pit. The explanation Jesus gives is quite simple: a student is not above his teacher but when trained the student will be like the teacher. This parable is typically applied to to the previous section of Jesus’ sermon that is talking about judgement. While this certainly does apply to judging others, the principle is broader, concerning those who teach. The warning here is against the sort of teachers who are unstudied, living a life of ungodliness or both. Such teachers are blinded by bad doctrine or sin of their own making it hypocritical to tell others about bad doctrine or sin. Jesus uses hyperbole to explain this: hypocrisy is the proverbial plank in one’s own eye which is huge compared to a speck in another’s eye.

The New Testament speaks often about the role of teaching in the church. Teaching is a spiritual gift (Romans 12:7) and a role in the church (Ephesians 4:11). The ability to teach is also a characteristic of church leaders as well (1 Timothy 3:2). The word of God is how one knows what to teach (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Timothy 2:15). At the same time, there are warnings against false teachers. 1 Timothy 6:3-5 shows the characteristics of false teachers who subvert the gospel: in short they are conceited, stir up division, and seek godliness as a means of gain. False doctrine and ungodliness is a matter of life and death on matters of salvation because bad doctrine and ungodliness turn people to false gospels that cannot save.

Teaching the word of God is a high calling and cannot be understated, but it comes with great responsibility too. Jesus’ calls for anyone wanting to teach to be mindful of what he or she is teaching and to be mindful of one’s personal holiness. Both personal holiness and sound doctrine requires a teach to also be a student of the word of God because it acts as a mirror so one can see oneself (James 1:23) and also as a sword, piercing the mind of the hearer (Hebrews 4:12). Not everyone is called to be a teacher, but just about every believer will be called to teach another believer at one point, especially if one has children. The call for everyone then is to study the word of God, apply to one’s own life, and teach it faithfully so others too can live godly lives and hold to sound doctrine.

Lord, help me learn your word so I can live and teach godliness!

Luke 2:41-50: Amazed

Read: Luke 2:41-50

Jesus parents were devout Jews, and apparently of a family of other devout Jews as they were going up to one of the three required festivals that men were supposed to attend each year. Jesus was 12 years old at the time. There’s no historical evidence to suggest that Jesus had undergone a “bar mitzvah” or becoming accountable to the law at this point. This custom was instituted later in Jewish history. Nevertheless, it is evident that Jesus was going up to the temple and spending time there interacting with scholars and priests at the temple as men would do.

But when it came time to leave, Jesus did not return home with the friends and family he had traveled with, rather he stayed in Jerusalem. Naturally, Jesus’ absents invoked great distress in his earthly parents, and rightfully so because any parent would be worried if one of their children went missing. Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem to look for the boy and they found him safe 3 days later, much to their relief.

There is an irony to this text though: Mary and Joseph, his earthly parents, went looking for Jesus in Jerusalem while they were attempting returning to their home in Nazareth calling acknowledging this fact when they call him “son” and refer to Joseph as “father”. But Jesus replies, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Jesus was affirming his heavenly parentage and origin – namely God the Father in heaven. And the knowledge of God was evidence to this. The scholars and were amazed at his understanding and answers, and his response to his parents was no less amazing or baffling. They didn’t understand, because to them their home was not the temple, rather a house in the town of Nazareth 70 miles to the north.

On this side of Jesus’ first coming Christians get to see what Mary, Joseph, and the scholars in Jerusalem did not get to see. It really wasn’t until after Jesus resurrected from the dead that people really began to understand what he had been sent to earth to do (John 20:9, Luke 24:27). Christians have the privilege of seeing Jesus ministry on earth revealed and its purpose communicated and codified in the Scriptures. At times, it may be confusing, but Christians don’t have to remained baffled. Christians can ask questions and give answers to one another and be amazed at how the Holy Spirit can illuminate one’s mind.

Lord, show me the truth of who you so I can be amazed at who you are!

Hebrews 5:11-6:8: Spiritual Maturity

Read: Hebrews 5:11-14, Hebrews 6:1-8

Hebrews 6:4-6 is one of the more controversial set of verses in the New Testament. There are a couple of Christian doctrines that are at stake concerning this text. The first is called “perseverance of the saints”, which says that those who are truly saved will persevere to the end. The second, which is closely related to the first, is called “eternal security”. This doctrine teaches that those who are saved cannot lose his or her salivation. Some groups of Christians, however, believe that the loss of salvation is possible based on this text and Hebrews 10:26. Other groups see these texts as what would happen if such things discussed in the text were possible. In any case when one begins to consider any texts, it is important to not remove the text from the context in which they appear. It is also important to consider the whole witness of scripture to support one’s theological viewpoints. Hopefully, through a careful look at this text and others, one can draw a conclusion about what is going on here in the text.

Hebrews 6:4-6 appears in the midst of a discourse about spiritual maturity that starts at the end of chapter 5 and continues to the middle of chapter 6. The author of Hebrews is chastising the recipients of the letter because, as he sees it, they ought to be teachers when they are like children. He uses food as a metaphor to explain the fact they are like babies drinking milk when they ought to be as adults eating solid food. He wants them to move beyond the basic doctrines to deeper doctrines, and he gives a list. In verse 3, he declares that he wants “us” to move onto spiritual maturity, but in the warning, he switches to third person, talking about people who have who have been “enlightened” and have “partaken” and “tasted” the things of God (particularly the Holy Spirit), yet have fallen away, saying it is impossible to crucify Jesus again.

At the heart of the debate over this text is if one can be a partaker in the Holy Spirit and not have salvation. For some, only those who are saved can experience the Holy Spirit. For others, some see the work of the Holy Spirit, particularly through “enlightenment” in the life of a nonbeliever as a necessary prerequisite to salvation. The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 2 talks about the role of the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of God. According to this chapter, the things of God are only comprehensible by the Spirit of God. The spirit of the “world”, “flesh”, and “man” cannot understand such things, therefore it is necessary to have enlightenment from the Holy Spirit in order to fully comprehend the things of God. By implication then, knowledge of the truth concerning salvation and all other doctrines can only come from the Holy Spirit. What appears to happening in Hebrews 6 is that some have experienced to some degree or this enlightenment and have rejected it to the point of apostasy.

The question here, however is whether or not these third person individuals in the text had responded in faith to this knowledge that resulted in salvation. Scripture does teach that those who believe belong to God and cannot be taken away. John describes this relationship using a shepherd and his sheep as a metaphor—the sheep know the shepherds voice and cannot be taken away. These are the ones who have eternal life, and it cannot be taken away (John 10:27-29).  Paul makes a beautiful doxology in Romans 8:33-39, where he is convinced that nothing can separate those who believe from Christ. The role of the Holy Spirit in salvation is that the Holy Spirit as a “seal” for salvation. The idea is that once the decree of redemption is given, it is sealed as a king seals a royal document by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, Ephesians 4:30, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

Given the fact that salvation (and all true doctrine from that matter) requires enlighten from the Holy Spirit and the fact that those who are saved cannot be separated from God, it would appear that one is able to receive some sort of knowledge from the Holy Spirit, yet able to reject it through a “falling away” from sound doctrine prior to the point of salvation. To illustrated this, the author of Hebrews uses a metaphor of rain falling on the ground and bringing forth plant life – sometimes the plants are useful, sometimes the plants are weeds, thorns, and thistles. The Holy Spirit comes to some, and sometimes some believe and bring forth good doctrine, and sometimes some reject the Holy Spirit by rejecting, twisting and distorting the truth. Jesus describes the latter condition as a sin that is “unforgivable” which he calls “blaspheming the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 12:31-32). The reason that the author of Hebrews is spurring the believers to move past basic doctrine to spiritual maturity is so that the deceptions of false teachers will not lead them astray. Paul encourages Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-4 to preach the word because a time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine rather will turn to myths.

Vigilance and aggressive pursuit of true doctrines resulting in spiritual maturity help defend against these deceptive teachings, but there does appear to be a point of no return for some. Rather than take chances, one would do well to believe the gospel and move towards spiritual maturity so they can help recognize and call out false doctrine when it does come about. Spiritual immaturity is not a place to stay, rather something to be left behind.

Lord, help me to become spiritual mature so I can help teach others your ways!

Ecclesiastes 10:5-7,16-17: Maturity

Read: Ecclesiastes 10:5-7,16-17

The Preacher again labels something a great evil, and in this case he sees foolishness and immaturity being exalted over wisdom and experience. Here the Preacher likens to a rich man in the place of a poor man, a prince in the place of a slave – this violates of the order of the way things ought. Later in the chapter, the Preacher pronounces woes on a country whose king is a boy (that is, a person who lacks experience) and whose princes celebrate before due time. A country whose ruler excels at folly will end up in ruin. And same is true whenever immaturity and foolishness are exalted above experience and wisdom in any situation.

Maturity is something the New Testament encourages Christians to strive for. Hebrews 5:12-6:1 uses the analogy of an infants and milk. The writer of Hebrews says that his readers are like infants who drink milk rather than adults who eat solid food. Their “milk” is analogous to elementary teachings while “solid food” is analogous to deeper teachings of the Christian faith. Hebrews encourages its readers to move beyond the elementary teachings to a deeper understanding. Paul uses the same analogy to describe Christian behavior in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. The Corinthian church had numerous problems, and Paul was saying that they were “fleshly” rather than “spiritual”. They were living as if they were carnal men rather than men who had received the Spirit and lived according to the spirit. The Corinthians thought that what they were doing was acceptable, but it was most certainly not and Paul makes this evident in the letter. Rather than act like children Paul encourages them to grow up in their faith, putting aside their carnal nature and take on a spiritual one.

One should not confuse this with what Jesus said concerning the nature of humility and coming to Christ. Jesus said that unless one becomes like a child, he or she cannot enter the kingdom  (Matthew 18:2-4). When Jesus says this, he is driving a wedge between people who think they know it all and those who are truly teachable. When one comes to Christ, the less he or she presumes to know about Jesus and God, the less one has to unlearn. In other words, one must first become first become humble in order to become mature in the faith. And one should remain humble as he or she grows too. What is now known as the “Golden Rule” encourages one to treat others as one would one to be treated (Matthew 7:11, Leviticus 19:18, Romans 13:9). One should honor others if one wants to be honored.

The Preacher is keen to note that foolishness and immaturity should not be exalted above wisdom and inexperience. Rather than extol folly and remain immature, Christians should pursue spiritual maturity in doctrine and deed. But in order to do this, Jesus says one should be humble, taking on the attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:3-8). Through sound biblical teachings from mature believers and the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s own life, one can grow into a mature Christian who can teach others and live skillfully before God.

Lord, help me to become a mature believer!

2 Timothy 4:1-5: “Fulfill Your Ministry”

Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Paul’s charge to Timothy is basically three words: “Preach the Word”. This charge comes on the heels of Paul’s admonition to Timothy to stay firmly planted in the scriptures and a description of the source and uses of scripture. Paul gives his charge to Timothy in the “presence” of God and Jesus and who will judge the living and dead. The strong command to preach is qualified with several commands:

  • Be ready in season and out of season. For the one preaching the word, game day is every day. One cannot be lax one day and on the next.
  • Reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction. This comes on the heels of Paul telling Timothy about the uses of scripture which are the aforementioned things (2 Timothy 3:14-16). Scripture is useful for training in righteousness.
  • Be sober in all things. Paul is telling Timothy to not let anything cloud his mind.
  • Endure hardship. This is a guaranteed thing for those who wish to live lives of godliness (2 Timothy 3:12).
  • Do the work of an evangelist. An evangelist is one who declares good news, and in New Testament terms, it is one who shares the good news about Jesus. Paul is charging Timothy to do this sort of work.
  • Fulfill his ministry. This is a command in the most general sense, just in case Paul left something out. Paul is telling Timothy to thoroughly accomplish all that he has been instructed to do.

Paul says that there will come a time when people will not endure sound doctrine, surrounding themselves with teachers who tell them what they want to hear. They will turn from truth and believe “myths”. The New Testament describes such things as cleverly devised tales (2 Peter 1:16) and fables (1 Timothy 4:7). These things stand in stark contrast to the words of truth from the scripture that Paul is telling Timothy to proclaim and the testimony of eyewitnesses that have been handed to Timothy and the many others concerning Jesus from the apostles.

This charge to Timothy is a popular passage for ordination services in many churches. The charge is very relevant to those who are starting out in the gospel ministry as it outlines what a pastor is supposed to do concerning his ministry. But the application of this text is not limited to just pastors – all Christians should be ready to do what these very things themselves. Most certainly, Christians today are living in a time when people not want to hear sound doctrine, but rather hear what they want to hear. This requires that Christians know sound doctrine and know how to correct and rebuke those who do not endure sound doctrine with patience and love. This way, one can fulfill one’s own ministry as Paul wanted Timothy to do.

Lord, help me to fulfill my ministry!

2 Timothy 2:14-26: Vessels of Honor

Read: 2 Timothy 2:14-26

After admonishing Timothy to remember what it means to be one of God concerning how one should live his life according to the salvation promised through Jesus, Paul commands Timothy to avoid the emptiness that comes from idle chatter. What is apparently going on is that there was some strife being stirred up by Hymenaeus and Philetus in the church at Ephesus concerning to heretical teaching. Hymenaeus is listed with Alexander as a blasphemer. In 2 Timothy, Hymenaeus and Philetus are described as living in sin although they had believed in Jesus. This is what Paul is encouraging Timothy not to do. Also, they taught that the resurrection during the last days had already happened, which had “shipwrecked” or destroyed the faith of many (1 Timothy 1:19-20). Their reasoning was perhaps because the resurrection had happened that what had been set to accomplish by God was done, so they were no longer required to live righteously, so they lived lawlessly instead. Paul says there teachings are like gangrene. When a wound becomes infected, the infection spreads to other parts of the body. If the part of the body is not removed, it will ultimately kill the one with the wound.

In opposition to this though, Paul encourages Timothy to properly handle the word of truth and avoid godless chatter and ignorant speculations. These sort of things spark debate and quarrels among the church. Also, as mentioned, Paul encourages Timothy to live rightly. He says that the ones who call on the name of the Lord should abstain from wickedness and flee the lusts of youth. He illustrates this with an analogy concerning common vessels and vessels of a special purpose. The vessels of honor are used by the master for good works. Rather than being quarrelsome, Timothy is encouraged to be patient when wronged and correct with gentleness. He is to be filled with faith, love, and peace that come from a pure heart. These things are the antithesis of people looking to lead others astray through idle chatter and ignorant speculations that start fights. The sort of patients Paul is encouraging Timothy to have is so that Timothy can help people escape the snare of the devil – that is the devil’s attempt to sow dissention among believers to keep them from accomplishing the task of making disciples (2 Timothy 2:2).

Advocates of doctrines different from those taught by Jesus and that do not conform to godliness are those that are to be rejected. Paul calls such doctrines conceited and without understanding (1 Timothy 6:4). Some common heresies today are things such as:

  • Prosperity theology that suggests that if one does pious deeds, one will receive material blessings and/or good health as a result. Paul corrected this theology 2000 years ago because it apparently cropped up then too (1 Timothy 6:4-12). Right living is an act of obedience on the part of the Christian in response to Jesus love. He says that those who love him will obey his commandments (John 14:15).
  • Theologies that deny that Jesus was God. The gospel of John makes the deity of Jesus abundantly clears in the opening verse (John 1:1) Jesus also claims oneness with the Father They wanted to stone him because they understood him to be claiming equality by God (John 10:30-33). He also claims to be present at Abrahams birth and to be the great “I AM” of the Old Testament for which they wanted to stone him too (John 8:57-59).
  • Theologies that deny that Jesus bodily rose from the dead, and rather than think of Jesus is the sacrifice for sin, think of him as an example of how to live one’s life. Paul says that without the resurrection, people are still in sin and without hope (1 Corinthians 15:1-19).
  • Theologies that teach there is some other way to God other than by faith in Jesus. Jesus himself said that he is the only way to God (John 14:6, John 3:36) and Peter affirms this (Acts 4:12). Paul also feels a sense of urgency to spread the gospel to the Gentile world because of this (Romans 15:20).
  • Theologies that teach works can save someone. These claims are patently false according to scripture. Ephesians 2:8-9 says it by faith that one is saved, not by works. Works, as mentioned, are an act of obedience in response to Jesus’ love, not the means to salvation.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as these are just a few. Paul gives Timothy a number of little reminders because of the plethora of heresies that even he was dealing with. Christians today are broad spoken to by different media that want them to think a certain way about religions, the person of Jesus, how deeds relate to salvation, among many other things. For this reason, Christians should be as Paul encourages Timothy to be: grounded in the word of truth. This requires one to know what the Bible teaches, which comes through careful study of the Bible, not looking to prove theology from the Bible by selecting verses, but trying to understand the Bible and rightly apply the Bible to one’s life. Only through this can one recognize a heresy when one sees it. At the same time, Christians are not to be jerks for Jesus. Going on witch-hunts to root out heresy is the improper way. Rather Paul encourages patience, love, and gentleness for the purpose of restoration rather than looking to pick a fight. Like Timothy, Christians should be vessels of honor useful for the master’s purpose!

Lord, help me to be a vessel of honor by knowing your truth and living according to it!

2 Timothy 1:7-18: Not Ashamed

Read: 2 Timothy 1:7-18

Paul called for Timothy to rekindle the gifts that had been bestowed upon because God did not give him a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-control. This reminder to rekindle the gifts prompts Paul to write about the implications of this rekindling: to be unashamed. Paul encourages Timothy to be “not ashamed” of the testimony of Jesus or Paul. Paul before he went to Rome declares to the Romans that he is not ashamed of the gospel because power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). Paul wants Timothy to join him in the suffering for the sake of the gospel – that is, as Paul describes the bringing of immortality by conquering death. John calls it “eternal life” (John 3:15-16, John 17:3, John 12:50, etc.) Paul calls it eternal life elsewhere (1 Timothy 1:16, Titus 1:2) Paul was appointed an apostle, preacher, and teacher of this gospel, and Timothy, his protégé, is also like him in this respect in that he is a preacher and teacher of the gospel. Paul’s unashamed because of the certainty of what he believes and who he believes in, namely Jesus Christ. Paul later recalls some of those who abandoned him because they were ashamed that Paul was imprisoned: Phygelus and Hermogenes. Paul yet recalls Onesiphorus, who went to Paul and Rome while Onesiphorus was visiting there. Paul recalls what services Onesiphorus rendered in Ephesus and later salutes Onesiphorus’ house because of this.

Sandwiched between his recalls of abandonment and his encouragement to Timothy, Paul gives Timothy two commands. First, he says that retain the standard of “sound words”, that is the sound doctrines that Timothy had received from Paul. Paul qualifies this command with faith and love in Jesus Christ. These sound words are not only right doctrine, but right action on the part of Timothy. These doctrines were not only taught, but lived out accordingly by Paul such that Paul was an example of the faith and love that is in Christ Jesus. Second, Paul commands Timothy to guard the “treasure” through the Holy Spirit which was entrusted to him. Paul does not specify what these treasures are, but that which is entrusted to a person, is generally speaking, not owned by that person. Timothy had been sent to Ephesus to the pastor the church there. Paul had advised the elders in Ephesus to shepherd the “flock” (that is the church at Ephesus) there in the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). Paul in Acts notes that Jesus bought these with his own blood. They belong to him, but are entrusted to the elders there. Timothy is likely receiving the same sort of commission here to be on guard against threats from within and from without. Timothy, with a spirit of power, can exercise his gifts in love to hold fast to sound doctrine and guard the flock entrusted to him.

Paul is convinced of Timothy’s faith that he received, and he encourages Timothy to join in his suffering for the sake of gospel of Jesus. Paul notes that he is in chains because of the gospel and adds two names to the hall of shame and one to the hall of fame of faith. Persecution for the sake of the gospel did not stop with Paul and Timothy – it continues all over the world today: Many nameless believers die every day because they, like Paul, are not ashamed of the gospel and have taken stock in the promises of Jesus to bring immortality. This sort of hope makes death rather moot, so one has a spirit of power and can stay faithful to the truth of the gospel and guard those who they shepherd, whoever they may be. But even when persecution is not prevalent, other things, such as busyness, apathy, comfort, inclusivism, materialism, among many other things can seep into the church and lives of believers and cause people to become ashamed of the gospel. Christians who are not experiencing persecution should still obey the commands Paul gave Timothy: to hold fast to sound doctrine and guard what is entrusted to them whether this be family, a church, a class, a small group, friends, even one’s own self. Christians should be alert and unashamed in a spirit of power, love, and self-control, on the watch for danger.

Lord, help me not be ashamed of the gospel, for it is what brings life!

2 Timothy: “Preach the Word”

Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-4

2 Timothy was written by Paul, and perhaps the last letter that Paul ever wrote before he was executed in Rome. Paul seems to be under great distress while he is in prison abandoned by all save a few people. But in spite of this, Paul encourages Timothy to be faithful under pressure and hardship.

Timothy at the time was pastoring the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was a large metropolis boasting 300,000 – 400,000 people during the First Century. It was the largest city in Asian region in the Roman Empire which occupies modern day Turkey. The city had a temple to Artemis and an open air theater that would seat some 25,000 spectators. The city already had a Jewish synagogue there. Paul preached at this synagogue in Acts 18 where he proved from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ to the Jews. Paul on another journey through Ephesus came into the city. God was performing miracles through Paul and people were coming Paul for healing because of this. The Ephesians saw Paul as a threat and caused a riot against him, dragging him into the amphitheater. The Ephesians were fiercely loyal to the Greek goddess Artemis and had a cult devoted to her. People would make pilgrimages to the city to worship her there. The craftsman profited from this religious worship. Paul spent a substantial amount of time in Ephesus. He started the church there, spending 2 or 3 years getting the work started. After this time, he entrusted the church to elders that he loved dearly. They came to see him as he was passing by on a journey to Jerusalem. Many feared that Paul would not return if he went to Jerusalem. He charges them to be on guard for their flock (Acts 20:28). Even in spite of opposition, by the end of the Second Century, Christianity had supplanted the worship of Artemis in Ephesus.

The fierce opposition to the Christian movement in Ephesus is displayed in book of Acts. It is apparent that the opposition did not stop because Paul makes similar charges to Timothy while he is pastoring the church at Ephesus. Timothy was one of Paul’s most loyal followers. Timothy is first mentioned in Acts when Paul is making his way back through Asia and visits Lystra (Acts 16:1).  Acts says that Timothy was a disciple, a believer, and the son of a Jewish woman and a Greek father. Timothy had been raised up by Paul to become a leader among the churches in the Greek-speaking world. Timothy was Paul’s emissary to the church at Corinth to help straighten out the messes there (1 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Corinthians 16:10), to the church at Philippi (Philippians 2:19), and the church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-4).

In his tenure at Ephesus, Timothy received two letters from Paul. The second one, as mentioned, was probably the last letter Paul wrote. Paul is encouraging Timothy to remain strong in the faith in spite of the opposition that he was facing. Paul makes an appeal for Timothy to remain true to the doctrine that he received from Paul and also to the scriptures that Timothy himself likely learned as he grew up with his Jewish mother and grandmother. Undoubtedly, the attacks against Timothy and the church itself were mounting from the outside by the worshipers of Artemis and Jews, and also from the inside from people that wanted to be Christian but not abandon their old ways either. The charge to Timothy at the end of the book serves as a sober reminder to all Christians to take charge of the things they know and be faithful to the truth, even under intense pressure from the outside. For more information about the book of Second Timothy, check out introduction to the book at bible.org.

Lord, help me to remain faithful to the truth!

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