I have read many commentaries, and listened to very many sermons by preachers who for the most part I admire, who seem to deride Timothy as a weak man, a timid man, a fearful man. And they say such things with such certainty and conviction, that I suppose I have been prone to almost believe them. I say almost, because I don’t really believe them. They say that poor Timmy was young and timid and being fearful and shy had caused him to have poor digestion and a continually upset stomach.
I said in our previous study I am not going to be surprised to find out when we get to heaven that Timothy was none of those things. First of all, he wasn’t some timid teenager at the time of this writing. Most Bible scholars agree that Timothy was about 32 years of age when Paul wrote this letter. About the same age Jesus was at the height of His ministry.
If I had to paint a picture of Timothy, I would probably paint a picture of a big strapping, burly looking fellow with a long full red beard, and very muscular. He was probably very athletic, because Paul constantly uses metaphors of athletes and boxers and wrestlers and soldiers and farmers as the means by which to illustrate Biblical truths to him. And I’m sure it was because those were the types of men that Timothy probably could identify with.
What these uber critical Bible teachers and preachers are missing here is the fact that Timothy was in a fight for his life. He was in a fight for the extinction of the gospel. Paul, his mentor and spiritual father, his erstwhile traveling companion whom he had traveled in dangerous conditions with all over the Roman Empire, was in prison again, rotting in a Roman dungeon awaiting his execution. And Timothy knew that the same fate more than likely awaited him. I don’t think Timothy was scared to die, he might have been more inclined to take up arms and fight his way out of the persecution that had arisen against Christians. But Paul is writing to tell him not to fight with sword and spear, but to fight with spiritual means, and be wiling to suffer and even die for the gospel, which though it might appear to be defeat to the world will actually accomplish greater progress for the kingdom of God.
I have to admit I get a little miffed at these preachers and commentators, even though I admire most of them on a certain level. But I’m a little irritated because they speak condescendingly about Timothy as some sort of sissy, as they write from the air conditioned comfort of their office in their multimillion dollar church building, sitting at their leather executive chair – arm chair warriors for Christ as they sip their Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with their little pinkie sticking out. And yet they have the nerve to denigrate someone like Timothy as being so timid and fearful that he gets an upset stomach. Meanwhile, you have to wonder how much suffering they have done lately for the gospel in comparison.
So Paul is not writing to a weakling, timid Timothy who needs to man up and stop sucking his thumb. No! Paul is writing to a hero of the faith, a man who had probably already risked his life more times than we can imagine. Most of the trials that Paul lists in 2 Corinthians could also be attributed to Timothy. In 2 Corinithians Paul gives greetings from himself and Timothy in the introduction. So we can assume that Timothy was with Paul for a lot of the trials listed in chapter 11:25-28 where Paul says, “Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
Those are the sort of things Timothy had experienced as well as he traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys. So Timothy was no timid weakling. He was a warrior for the kingdom of God in every since of the word. But what Paul is now counseling him about is that he should not fear dying for the gospel. Timothy would in fact one day die as a martyr. But until that day came, he should be confident that his life is hid in Christ, and the Lord was his defender and shield.
I’ve often said, that there is no safer place than to be in the center of God’s will. And there is no more dangerous place than to be out of God’s will. If you are a man or woman of God and you are living for the Lord and working for His kingdom, then you are bulletproof until the day you finish the job which God has called you to do. When he is finished with you, then he may take your life, but until He decides to do so, nothing can hurt you. And what Timothy needs to be reminded of is that losing his life is part of the plan. But it’s not defeat, it’s victory.
So then Paul encourages Timothy to not fear what man can do, not fear what Satan might do, but bravely fight the good fight until death. The kind of courage that Paul is speaking of reminds me of the type of courage that was the hallmark of a Cheyenne military society that was in existence in the mid nineteenth century. This particular military society was known as the Dog Soldiers. In battle, these warriors would dismount and stake themselves to the ground by means of a sash tied around their body. And from that position, which they were unable to leave, they would fight to either their death or victory. But whether or not they survived the battle was not really their goal, they were more concerned with whether or not they fought a good fight, fought with courage.
To encourage Timothy then in this fight to the death, Paul tells him to remember Jesus. Vs8, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.”Now how’s that for a battle cry? Back in the days after the fall of the Alamo, where every man defending that fort died in battle, the Texans used it as a battle cry in their fight with Mexico. Their battle cry which roused Texans to victory was “remember the Alamo!”
Paul says, “remember Jesus!” That battle cry should stir our heart as well. There are some important doctrinal truths that we should understand are enshrined in that cry. First he says Remember Jesus Christ. That’s not to say that Timothy was in danger of forgetting about Jesus. By no means. But rather to keep certain characteristics of Jesus foremost in his mind, as an example, which Timothy is to follow.
Notice he says remember Jesus Christ, that’s Jesus the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One from God, the One promised in the OT who would crush Satan’s head, who would rule with a rod of iron, who would defeat all His enemies.
Secondly, he says “risen from the dead.” That fact should give great comfort and courage to Timothy, that as Christ rose from the dead, so we will be raised from the dead. 1Cor. 15:20-23 “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man [came] death, by a man also [came] the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming.” So first of all Jesus submitted Himself to death on a cross, and then as Christ was raised from the dead, so we will be raised.
But I would like to explain that this verse is saying the body will be raised. In the interim between death, or what is referred to as sleep for the Christian, the spirit of the man in Christ is alive. Jesus told the story of Lazarus and the rich man and they were taken to Paradise and Hades respectfully to await the resurrection. But they were alive in the interim. Peter spoke of that interim stage in regards to Christ saying in 1Peter 3:18-19 “For Christ also died for sins once for all, [the] just for [the] unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits [now] in prison.” So as Christ was alive in the Spirit in death, so are we that believe in Him.
You know, there is no more fierce warrior than the one who does not fear death. For those who would believe in Him, Jesus said, “He who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” I ask you today two questions. Do you believe in Christ? And secondly, do you believe that you will never die? Or do you live in constant fear of death? I suggest to you that if you truly believed you will never die, then you would live differently than you do. Though this body may pass away, our soul and spirit will live forever. Those who have been born again in their spirit receive the life of Christ, which is eternal life, that they might never die and not fear death.
The next characteristic of Christ that Timothy should remember is that He is “the descendent of David.” At first that may seem a little out of place. But this fact that Jesus is the descendent of David teaches us a couple of important doctrines. First, it is a reference to the fact that Jesus was not some mythical figure, but an actual man, a descendant of the royal line of David. But being a descendant of David is necessary if He is the Messiah, the Anointed One from God, the One who will rule over the earth with a rod of iron. It means He is fully man and fully God.
But I think even more to Paul’s point is the inference that as King David was the representative of Israel so Jesus is the representative of the church. What great feat was David known for? Everyone knows that David killed Goliath the giant. What we need to understand from that is that David was a type of Jesus Christ. When Goliath issued his challenge, it was that one man from each nation would come out and engage in battle, and the victor from that fight would win the battle for the nation. David slew Goliath and in effect won the victory for his nation over the Philistines.
So when we consider that Christ is the descendent of David, we should understand that He is our representative, who fought the battle against sin, and the world and death and Hades, and He defeated all his foes. His resurrection was proof that He had overcome the devil and the world, and taken the keys of death and Hell. And in turn, our victory over sin and death was accomplished through Him. Once again, Timothy might draw courage from remembering the battle which Jesus accomplished through His death, and that He arose from the grave victorious.
Now that is the gospel, the good news. That Jesus Christ our substitute, paid our penalty for sin by His death on the cross, and by His stripes we are healed, by His death we are given life. Timothy should be emboldened to give up his life if necessary for that same gospel, that others might be saved from death and given life.
Paul says in vs 9, that because of that gospel, he too is suffering. He says, “for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal.” Jesus was tried as a criminal. And Paul was suffering as a criminal. Timothy would perhaps suffer as a criminal. I think the day is coming, when Christians here in America will suffer as a criminal. If you believe and proclaim the true gospel of Jesus Christ, it will be considered hate speech. It already is being outlawed on social media. And I can imagine that in the not too distant future it won’t be that inconceivable that you can be arrested for speaking the truth of God’s word.
But though Paul, or Timothy or one day even we might be arrested and held in prison for the gospel, Paul says that the gospel is not imprisoned. Vs 9, “but the word of God is not imprisoned.” At that very moment, Paul was in prison writing the word of God in the letter to Timothy. That letter was delivered to Timothy, and read in the churches, and it continues to be proclaimed to this day, 2000 years later.
Satan’s attempts to silence the gospel, to destroy the word of God have never been successful, and they never will be successful. As 1 Peter 1:25 states, “the word of Lord endures forever.” Martin Luther wrote a hymn of which the last stanza says, “The Word of God will never yield, to any creature living, He stands with us upon the field, His grace and Spirit giving. Take they child and wife, goods, name, fame and life, though all this be done, yet have they nothing won, the kingdom still remaineth.” They burned at the stake William Tyndale for translating the Bible into English, and yet the torch that man lit by his sacrifice has become a fire that has engulfed the entire world. The gospel is not imprisoned.
This triumph of the gospel causes Paul to continue with these courageous words in vs 10 “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus [and] with [it] eternal glory.” Since the gospel will triumph, Paul endures all trials and persecutions, even to death. Though he is on death row, he is confident of victory, and whatever sufferings he has to endure he knows are only temporary and cannot compare to the glory that awaits him.
His sufferings he endures for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also my obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it, eternal glory.” Paul is willing to lay down his life for the sake of others, that they may be saved. That is love. We often wonder about how to understand the command that Jesus gave concerning our responsibility to love one another, even to love our enemies. Jesus said “no greater love has any man but this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” That is love, to sacrifice your life so that others may live. To disregard the desires and pleasures of life for yourself in order to share the gospel with others, so that they might be saved is the essence of fulfilling the command to love one another.
And that salvation produces what Paul refers to as eternal glory. There is so much that could be said about that, but at the very least, it is a reference to eternal life. Once again, Paul is emphasizing the eternal life that we have in Christ, as a reminder to Timothy to be courageous in the face of persecution and possible death.
A few moments ago I quoted part of a hymn that was written by Martin Luther. I’ve often been tempted to learn how to play it on the guitar and then teach it to the church. But it is not an easy hymn to play. However, what it does well is teach sound doctrine. That’s why we sing songs, not just to give praise to God as if God is just sitting in heaven wringing his hands, wishing we would praise Him. We do praise Him in song, but just as importantly, we remind ourselves of the doctrines of our faith, and in song we confess our faith before men. In past times, and I suppose even in the Armed Services today, there were battle songs that were sung to lift the men’s morale and encourage them in their duty.
Perhaps to achieve a similar result is why we sing Christian songs today. Or at least, it should be the reason we sing. Hymns are a way to teach doctrine, and to assure our hearts of certain truths, and the recitation of those truths should encourage and strengthen our faith, and give us courage to face the battle. The Psalms which we read on Sunday morning, and which we are also studying at this time on Wednesday evenings are examples of what hymns should be.
So Paul quotes what many Bible scholars believe is a popular hymn of the early church as a means to remind Timothy of certain truths, and to strengthen his faith to endure the trials that he must go through. Some have even called it a martyrs hymn. It’s probably not the entire hymn, but a portion of it. That hymn then is found in vs11, “It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
The phrase, “it is a trustworthy statement” may not be part of the hymn, but rather Paul is saying that this statement of the hymn is trustworthy, or reliable. He says it is trustworthy. Trust is a significant thing. If you trust someone, or something, then you are willing to bet your life on it. And I think that is what Paul is indicating here. That here are some truths that you can bank on, that you can trust with your life.
The first line is “For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him.” This is the underlying theme of the whole passage; this idea of facing death without fear, knowing that the life we have with the Lord is eternal, it will never die.
But it has an even deeper meaning than that. It also is talking about our salvation. If we died with Christ, speaks of when He as our representative man died in our place, we that trust in Him for salvation also died with Him. We died to the old man, and we are raised up spiritually to live for Him. We see that illustrated in baptism. I often say when I dip the person under the water, “buried with Christ in the likeness of His death,” and then when I raise them up from the water, I say “raised with Him in the likeness of His resurrection.” That’s a picture of what happens when we are saved. We die with Christ to sin, die to the old man, and are raised with him in newness of life in the likeness of His resurrection.
Rom 6:4-11 says, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with [Him] in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be [in the likeness] of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with [Him,] in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
That statement then should give Timothy and us the courage to face death. But it also gives us the assurance that we have the power over sin, and the power to live the life that we have been given in Christ.
The next statement is “if we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” If we endure the trials here on earth in the flesh, if we endure persecutions and afflictions, even if necessary unto death, then we will receive a reward in heaven. We who are servants here will be kings with Him there. I don’t know exactly how we will reign, or over whom we will reign, but we shall receive a crown, an inheritance, which the Lord compares with reigning as kings. Peter calls it a royal priesthood. One thing is for sure, the promise is trustworthy that if we endure trials here on earth for the kingdom of God, then we will reign with Christ when His kingdom is consummated.
The third stanza says, “I we deny Him, He will also deny us.” How do we deny Christ? The foremost reason would be they deny Jesus the rightful place as Lord of their lives. They deny that He is the Savior of the world, the Messiah sent from God. They deny that He is God incarnate, and that He died on the cross and was resurrected from the dead and now sits at the Father’s right hand. They deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The cry of the Israelites at His first coming was, “we will not have this man rule over us.” That is to deny Christ. Jesus said it plainly: “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33). There is a fate worse than earthly persecution. And that is to find yourself at the judgment seat of God, and Jesus says, “depart from Me, I never knew you.”
The last stanza says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
If we are faithless… what does that mean? I don’t know that it speaks of a lack of faith, because no man can be saved without faith in Christ. It may refer to the temporary lack of faith in the face of persecution that Peter fell victim to when he denied the Lord. Did Peter lose his salvation that night around the fire of the soldiers who had arrested Jesus? He certainly denied knowing Jesus, and he cursed to add assurance to his claim.
But I don’t think the Bible teaches that Peter lost his salvation. I think it’s obvious that Peter was saved, and his conviction afterwards is evidence of that. But what is important is that Christ did not prove faithless when Peter had a failing of faith. Jesus prophesied in Luke 22:31-34 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded [permission] to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.”
We are told that after Peter’s denial, after Christ’s resurrection, the Lord sought out Peter and restored him, and gave him the ministry to feed His sheep, and tend His lambs. The Lord is faithful. Salvation is of the Lord. The Lord understands our weaknesses. He loves us with an everlasting love. I think another illustration of the faithfulness of the Lord is the story of the prodigal son. We all know the story. A son told his father that he wanted his inheritance and his father gave it to him. But the son went to a far away country and spent his money foolishly on wild living. But soon he found himself with no money left, and took a job tending pigs that he might eat the pods that were their food. At some point he came to his senses, and realized that even a hired servant fared better in his father’s house than he was doing. And so he decided to come home and ask his father to make him as one of the hired servants. But when he was still a long ways off from home, his father looked down the road and saw him walking a long way off. And the father hitched up his skirts and started running down the road, and when he got to his son, he embraced him, pig smell and all, and took him home and cleaned him up and restored him to his rightful place in the home. That’s a picture of a faithful God who cannot deny Himself. He cannot deny that this is His son. He cannot deny His love for His son. And so He will do whatever it takes to restore those who may have fallen, those who have drifted away, those who think they no longer want to be under the care of their father. Yet the faithfulness of God never fails. The Lord will restore the lost sheep, the wandering lamb who fell into sin. Because the lamb belongs to Him.
There is an old hymn that we used to sing in church when I was a boy. I haven’t heard it for years. And I will close with this;
1 I’ve wandered far away from God, Now I’m coming home;
The paths of sin too long I’ve trod, Lord, I’m coming home.
Refrain: Coming home, coming home, Nevermore to roam,
Open wide Thine arms of love, Lord, I’m coming home.
2 I’ve wasted many precious years, Now I’m coming home;
I now repent with bitter tears, Lord, I’m coming home. [Refrain]
3 I’ve tired of sin and straying, Lord, Now I’m coming home;
I’ll trust Thy love, believe Thy word, Lord, I’m coming home. [Refrain]
4 My soul is sick, my heart is sore, Now I’m coming home;
My strength renew, my hope restore, Lord, I’m coming home. [Refrain]
If that song describes you today, I hope that you will come home to Christ today. He is waiting, and He is willing to restore you, to strengthen you, and give you hope.