Paul writes this second letter to his son in the faith, Timothy. He says in vs2, “to Timothy my beloved son.” Paul was Timothy’s spiritual father. Timothy’s natural father had died early in his life, from what we understand from scripture. His mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois raised him, presumably without a father figure in his life until the apostle Paul came on the scene. And at that point, Paul became his spiritual father, possibly leading Timothy to the Lord.
Paul went on to mentor Timothy as a disciple in the faith, and then later as a brother in arms so to speak, as he took Timothy into ministry with him on various missionary journeys, traveling together to all parts of the Roman Empire. Now as Paul is much older and Timothy is about 32 years of age or so, he writes to him as one who will be his successor, carrying on Paul’s ministry of overseeing the churches that they had planted together.
It must have been a bittersweet experience for Paul, recognizing the maturity of Timothy on the one hand, and being proud of his spiritual son, and on the other hand realizing the inevitableness of their separation, and soon his own execution, which meant that he probably would not see Timothy again on this side of heaven. In the first letter to Timothy, Paul had been released from prison, and he was able to travel again and minister freely. But when this letter is written, he is by all accounts in a Roman prison, not much more than a hole in the ground with a metal grate above from which food and water is let down to him. And it seems certain that he recognizes that this time he is not going to get out there alive. This time his imprisonment will certainly conclude by execution from the court of the Emperor Nero.
So considering their relationship, it seems odd that Paul begins his letter by emphasizing his apostleship. It would be like me writing a letter to my daughter in California and saying, Roy Harrell, pastor of the Beach Fellowship, to my daughter Rachel, greetings!” She would probably think that something was wrong with me if I used that kind of introduction.
The only explanation, of course, for Paul writing this way, was that it was going to be read as scripture in the churches, and also he wanted to emphasize his apostleship, so that it might be received in the context of his apostolic commission to establish the doctrine of the church. Notice that his apostleship was of Christ Jesus. That means he is a witness to the resurrected Christ. He is sent as an apostle to the Genties by Christ, which is the will of God.
This apostleship is in accordance with the promise of life in Christ Jesus. In other words, there could be no apostleship without the promise of life in Christ Jesus. This is the promise given by Jesus to those who believed in Him, that they would be given life. Jesus said I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly. He said “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except by Me.” Jesus said “I give eternal life to them, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.” This life that Jesus speaks of is spiritual life, which is eternal, which is real life, which is life indeed. It is life that transcends the physical existence.
This life is salvation. This life in Christ is Christianity, the Christian life. It is a new way of living, a new way of thinking, a new perspective, a new heart, new desires, new outlook. This life requires a new birth. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “you must be born again.” John 3:3, 5-6 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” … 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
And it’s fitting that Paul would mention the promise of this life, this indestructible life, when he is considering the certainty of his own death. Therefore 2 Timothy is not only the last letter we have from Paul, but there is a note of urgency and passion as we might expect from a man who knew he would soon be executed. And it’s a testament to Paul’s faith in his life in Christ, that in spite of his own impending death, he is able to bless Timothy and express thanksgiving for Timothy’s life of faith. He says in vs 2, “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I think it was the great 19th century pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon who noticed that when Paul wrote to the churches in general in all of his other epistles, he wrote the greeting “Grace and peace.” But when he wrote what are called the pastoral epistles, the letters he wrote to pastors, such as 1 Tim. 2 Tim., and Titus, Paul includes “Grace, mercy and peace.” He went on to say that pastors need more mercy than most people. ““Did you ever notice this one thing about Christian ministers, that they need even more mercy than other people? Although everybody needs mercy, ministers need it more than anybody else; and so we do, for if we are not faithful, we shall be greater sinners even than our hearers, and it needs much grace for us always to be faithful, and much mercy will be required to cover our shortcomings.”
I told the group that came out on Wednesday evening to our bonfire Bible study that I had recently found some old cassette tapes of my Dad’s preaching. My dad died over 30 years ago now. These tapes were probably made back in the late 70’s and preached in country churches in eastern North Carolina. I hadn’t heard them for over 30 years, and now that I’m a pastor, I listened to them a lot more critically than I had before. And I was struck by a few things as I listened to my dad. First, I would have recognized his voice anywhere. But unfortunately, he wasn’t speaking to me as his son, he was speaking as a preacher. And in those days, in that culture, preaching had a particular style that was definitely of that era and of that region, and of that particular brand of church.
I must confess it was a little hard to listen to in some respects. I guess there is no greater critic than those of your own family. But I will say this about my dad. He was faithful to the Lord. He was faithful to scripture. He may not have understood every doctrine perfectly, he may not have been the greatest orator. But I believe that the Lord counted him faithful. I said last week that when my Dad died, he did not look like a winner from the world’s perspective. He was living in subsidized housing. He had no family nearby. My mother had divorced him. His health was ruined. And he died at the same age I am now. But I believe that in the sight of the Lord, he kept the faith, he fought the good fight, he finished the course. And I believe the Lord will reward him on that day. And I will add this, the testimony of the faithfulness of his life is my faith today. I have the same faith as my father. I may not preach the way he preached, I may not understand all doctrines the same way he understood them. But the fundamental faith of my father is the same faith that I have.
Paul didn’t look like a winner to the world either. His enemies were rejoicing that he was in prison. They had followed him all over the Roman Empire trying to undermine his ministry, discredit his apostleship, and malign his character. And now he was rotting in a Roman prison, cold, hungry, hurting, and he says later in this letter that everyone had deserted him except Luke. And he urged Timothy to come soon, and bring his winter coat and the parchments, that would have been the scriptures. We don’t know that Timothy ever got there in time. It’s doubtful. But the triumph of Paul’s faith was the enduring faith of Timothy. It was the faith that he passed on to Timothy, that he instilled in Timothy, the faith that would endure even after his departure.
And in turn Paul speaks about the faith of his forefathers that had been passed on to him in vs 3, “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day…” Paul had a clear conscience in regards to his ministry. Though he was convicted by the Roman courts as a criminal, he knew that he had served God faithfully and fully. Though he would be sentenced to death by the world’s court, he would be granted life by God’s court.
But what’s interesting is that he references the faith of his forefathers. That is a reference to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, and other men of old, Israelites who believed in God, and it was counted to them as righteousness. Not men who kept every commandment perfectly, but who were given righteousness by God as a gift of His grace, in exchange for their faith. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. The OT saints were saved the same way we are saved; they were saved by faith.
And so the examples of faith that we read about in scripture should be examples for us to follow, to emulate, that give us encouragement. They were men with similar passions such as we have. They were flesh and blood like us. They were sometimes weak, sometimes timid, sometimes doubtful, but they persevered in faith, and they were counted as faithful, and as such they were granted the righteousness of Christ. The faith of our fathers should encourage us, it should strengthen us, and give us hope that we can also persevere in faith.
But notice that a key to Timothy persevering in faith is the fact that Paul prayed for him constantly night and day. Do you think that is merely hyperbole on Paul’s part? Do you think he really is praying constantly night and day for Timothy? I can assume from my own experience in praying for my kids that perhaps Paul puts night before day because nighttime is a time when I really pray for my kids. In the middle of the night I seem to wake up and lay there and the thoughts concerning my kids come unbidden in the darkness, and I have no other recourse but to pray. At three in the morning here it’s midnight in California, and I start to wonder whether or not they are safe in their beds are running around somewhere in California and I really begin to pray in earnest.
I can’t over emphasize the importance of your prayers in the life of your children. I don’t know how it works, I don’t often see evidence of my prayers working, but I believe that our prayers can change the trajectory of our children’s lives. I believe God protects them according to our prayers. I believe God hears our prayers, and answers our prayers, especially the prayers of a parent in the middle of the night. I often think in that regard of Jesus, who in the middle of the night before he was arrested and crucified, asked the disciples to pray with Him for just one hour. Do you think their prayers were necessary? Do you think their prayers helped? It’s hard for us to understand how it works, or what purpose there was to their prayers, but nevertheless, Jesus wanted them to pray for an hour. Have you ever prayed for your kids for one solid hour? Maybe you should.
Paul said to Timothy that he was “longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy.” Undoubtedly, Timothy had learned or was possibly even there when Paul was taken prisoner, or at the least, had wept when Paul had departed from him the last time, perhaps knowing that this might be the last time they would be together. Timothy had a genuine love for Paul that I think was like the love a man has for his father. I know in my life there was nothing that rocked me to the core like losing my father. I had anticipated it for years because of his bad health, but when it happened it tore me up. I would have done anything for just one more day with him.
And Paul as well longs to see Timothy one more time. The memory of Timothy’s tears probably made it especially hard for him. But ultimately, he knows and is assured of Timothy’s faith, and the fact that one day they will be reunited again in heaven.
He says in vs5 “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that [it is] in you as well.” I don’t know if we can be sure that Paul led Timothy to the Lord, or his mother Eunice did, or perhaps his grandmother Lois. But one thing is for sure, his mother and grandmother played a major part in his coming to faith.
In chapter 3:14 Paul says to Timothy, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned [them,] and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” How could Timothy know the sacred writings, the scriptures from childhood unless his mother and grandmother had not read to him and taught him the word of God when he was a little boy.
Listen folks, as a parent or a grandparent you have no greater responsibility than to raise up your children in the nurture and admonition of the word. You have no greater responsibility than to bring your children with you to church. I am just flabbergasted when I hear parents or grandparents say that they can’t come to church the next week because their grandchildren are visiting with them. That’s your opportunity to live out your faith before them as an example. That’s your opportunity to share the scriptures with them which are able to give them the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Perhaps some of you think that because the church doesn’t have a children’s program they won’t be able to understand or relate to what’s going on. Nothing could be further from the truth. Timothy learned the scriptures from childhood. And the scriptures gave him the wisdom that lead him to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Jesus said in Mark 10:15 “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it [at all.]” So childlike faith is what is required for salvation.
We had a young family come to our bonfire Bible study the other night and they have two boys, one 7 and the other about 12. And I was surprised when I talked to them the next day that they said they had really enjoyed the Bible study. I was surprised because we didn’t have anything special for the kids. And we were studying Malachi. A few weeks earlier we had studied Jonah and I could maybe see how kids might enjoy the story of Jonah. But not Malachi. And the littlest one, Solomon was his name. He was so smart, he was telling me all the things that I had said, or at least what he thought I had said. But he was pretty much on track. I doubt many adults had understood much more than he did. But you know, it’s the Holy Spirit who teaches us from the word. And so the Lord is able to give them enough understanding. But what is probably the greatest lesson that children get from church is seeing the faith of their father and mother as they participate in church. They may learn more from watching their parents than they do from hearing the pastor preach a sermon.
On the basis then of the faith that Timothy’s mother and grandmother had established in him, Paul says in vs 6, “For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Now most commentators seem to agree that the gift which Paul refers to here is the gift of ministry as the apostle’s representative to the churches. And the reference to Paul laying on of hands on Timothy Is more than likely a reference to that.
But I think it could also be the gift of faith that Paul is referring to. He is saying, rekindle the gift of God which is in you. That is very possibly the gift of faith. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, [it is] the gift of God.” What is a gift? Salvation or faith? I would say that both are a gift of God. Because faith is salvation. And God is the initiator of our faith. 1 Cor. 12 which lists the gifts of the Spirit includes in that list “faith.” So faith is a gift. And I can tell you from experience that faith needs to be stirred up from time to time.
Peter had this to say to the church in 2Pe 1:13-14 “I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.”
I would suggest that all of us need our faith to be stirred up now and again. That’s one of the main reasons we need to be under sound preaching of the word. We need to be refreshed once in a while. It’s possible for our love to grow cold. It’s possible for our spiritual fire to start to wane, to flicker and come close to going out. I would suggest that some of you have left your first love and gone back to the things of the world and have allowed the things of the world to draw your focus off of the things of the Lord. Folks, I urge you to rekindle the gift which has been given to you. Let us be able to say like Paul, I have kept the faith, I have finished the course, I have fought a good fight. That we persevered to the end. That we might leave a legacy of faith for our family to emulate as they carry on in our absence.
So to that need to be stirred up, to kindle afresh the gift of faith within you, Paul adds in vs 7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Our faith is not something to be timid about, to be kept in a closet. Our faith is not something we are to hide under a bushel basket. Our faith is not some private, personal thing that we do not share with others. But our faith is the source of power. This word power in the Greek is dynamis. It’s the word we get our word dynamite from.
It’s the same word used in Romans 1:16 where Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Faith is the means by which we tap into the power of God, by which we believe in the promises of God, so that we might even move mountains. So that we might be able to do that which seems impossible. Timothy needs to be rekindled in his faith so that he might be able to proclaim the gospel in the power of God. The power of God is able to be brought to bear on our situation, because we pray in faith, we persevere in faith, and we act in faith. The power of faith is a tremendous power. Not faith in faith, but faith in God and in His word, His promises. By faith we receive the Spirit of God, by whom we have the power of Christ in us.
Then Paul says our faith produces love. Love is not a feeling. A lot of people think that faith is a feeling. Faith may be joined to feelings, whether they be good feelings or not remains to be seen. But faith in and of itself is not feeling, it’s believing in the truth, and then acting upon the truth. And the truth of the gospel is God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. And then through faith we love Him because He first loved us. And through faith we love one another because He loves us. And through faith we love even our enemies. But love is not a feeling, it’s obedience. It’s obedience to the Lord’s commands. If we love our neighbor, then we will certainly share the gospel with our neighbor that they might escape the condemnation of death and be saved.
1 Cor. 13 says, “if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” So true faith produces love, and love is considering the needs of others as more important than your own. The world is lost and dying and without hope, and we have the answer. If you love as Christ loved us, then we must tell the world of the hope of life that comes through Jesus Christ.
Last thing Paul says faith produces is discipline, or sound judgment, or a sound mind. I have quoted this verse a thousand times to soothe a person or even my own mind in times of distress, emotional upheaval, and things like anxiety attacks or depression. And the translation “a sound mind” certainly helps us to see that application. But I must confess that I don’t think the definition of a sound mind means a peaceful mind. Though peace should be the result of a sound mind. But the word in the Greek is “sōphronismos”. (so-fron-is-mos’)
“Sōphronismos” means discipline, or self control. Faith then produces power, love and self control. In other words, through faith I have power over sinful impulses. Through faith I have power over temptation. Through faith I have power over the lusts of the flesh. But my faith needs to be stirred up. I need to be reminded of the faith of my fathers. I need to remember their steadfastness, their devotion to the Lord regardless of their circumstances, regardless of their temptations. I need to be reminded of the Lord’s love for me, and His sacrifice on my behalf that I might be considered righteous before God.
Self control by the way is a fruit of the spirit that is listed in Galatians 5:23. We don’t hear a lot about it because it’s not as glamorous or exciting as some of the other gifts. But self control is something we achieve by faith, especially by a faith that is stirred up, because we know that God’s way is better than man’s ways. We can trust God’s plan, and so we don’t have to feel like we need to give in to our lusts, or our sinful desires. But it also means trusting in God’s word as being true, and recognizing the lies of the devil and the lies of the world. That’s self control, that’s sound judgment, and that produces a sound mind. A mind that is set on the right course by the word of God, that as a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him who is the head, [even] Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
The bottom line is that the faith of our fathers is one which we pass on to others, which is a mature faith, which is not timid, but is a faith that produces power, faith and love. I trust that you will rekindle the faith within yourselves, that you might be able to say with Paul, 2Tim. 4:7-8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”