2 Timothy 2:1-7: Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers

Read: 2 Timothy 2:1-7

After exhorting Timothy to be unashamed of the gospel, he commands Timothy to “be strong” in the grace of Jesus. The word, “ενδυναμου” in the Greek shares the same root with the word translated “power” in 2 Timothy 1:7. Paul was commanding Timothy to rekindle the gifts – that is set the ablaze – for the purpose of standing up for the gospel. The spirit he has been given is a spirit of power, and Paul is encouraging Timothy to be empowered (the verb is passive) in the grace of Jesus. In other words, Timothy is not to act on his own strength, but in the strength given to him by he who lives inside of him: the Holy Spirit, in much the same way he commands him to guard “in the Holy Spirit” (2 Timothy 1:14).

Paul also commands Timothy to entrust the things that he heard from Paul to other men who will be able to teach it to others. Paul says that faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:10-17). Jesus’ last command in Matthew before ascending was for the disciples to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), telling them to teach what he taught them. Paul does not want the movement to stop with Timothy; rather he wants it to keep going. Paul was a catalyst that taught what he received to others who are to teach others who will still yet teach more. Nor does Paul want Timothy to shrink back in spite of opposition; rather continue to work according to the plan. Paul describes this with three analogies:

  • The soldier: the soldier does not concern himself with daily life, rather works to please his commanding officer. Paul wants Timothy to not become entangled with things that would detract him from the mission of the gospel.
  • The athlete: the athlete trains and competes according to the rules so that he or she is not disqualified. Paul wants Timothy to live a morally pure life so that he is not disqualified as a minister.
  • The farmer: the farmer gets to reap a portion of the harvest for himself first. Paul wants Timothy work diligently as the farmer so that he will bear fruit.

Paul wants Timothy to consider the implications of each of these analogies and receive from the Lord for understanding accordingly. This is probably in regards not to the analogies, but in the application of what Paul has taught Timothy. Head knowledge about the things of God should result in skillful living according to the things of God, and this is true wisdom. Paul had shown Timothy the plan, now it was up to Timothy to act as a soldier to execute the plan, do it in such a way as to not disqualify himself, and do it with diligence – all by the empowering of God.

Being empowered by the Spirit comes through abiding in Christ. Christ had commanded the disciples to abide in him so they would bear fruit, and apart from him they could do nothing (John 15:4-5). This means that one should be intentional about spending time in prayer and devotion apart from the things of world so that God can speak into one’s life filling his or her mind with his truth and stirring up the Spirit to guide and direct the believer. Believers, through this empowering act should act as the soldier, athlete, and farmer too according to the mission: to teach others who can teach others.

Lord, help me to be empowered by you to execute your mission!