Last time, as we introduced this letter of Paul to Timothy, his son in the faith, we noted that it was the faith of his fathers that Paul said he was passing on to Timothy. In that statement, Paul was referencing the faith of the patriarchs, the prophets and other saints of the Old Testament period, which he said was the same faith that he had. And I extrapolated from that passage the exhortation that we should endeavor to pass on our faith to our children, from our generation to the next. I also talked from a personal perspective as my father had been a pastor, and how he had passed on his faith to me.
My father has been dead about 33 years now, but I find that I am more aligned with his beliefs now than when he was living. But I must confess that when I was growing up, I was somewhat ashamed of my dad’s profession. I would dread those times at school when a teacher or some classmates would ask what our fathers did for a living. I would dread it because I thought that by extension his profession became intertwined with my identity. And in daily practice, I guess subconsciously I tried to do everything I could to oppose that identity.
Perhaps Paul senses a certain reluctance of his son in the faith, Timothy, to publicly and boldly identify with the ministry of Paul. That may seem incongruous to us as we think about Timothy in light of the scriptures. After all, Timothy was a pastor, the personal representative of the apostle Paul. He was someone who was greatly instrumental in the advance of the gospel in it’s infancy.
Yet if I had to guess, I would suspect that many of us here today find ourselves somewhat embarrassed of our faith. I would confess that even I find myself sometimes hesitant to let people know that I am a pastor. I guess I feel that people will treat me differently, or not be as friendly with me, or harbor certain expectations of me that I might not fill.
My wife and son and I went on a boat trip a couple of weeks ago in Chincoteague, Virginia. It was a small boat, and only one other couple was on board. The captain was an old local fisherman who loved to talk. And right off the bat, in a very loud voice, he yelled across the boat and asked what kind of work that I did. I told him I was a pastor, but I admit, I was somewhat worried about what his response might be. Turns out, my response led him on a very loud rant about religion and various churches he had been in, that lasted about 15 minutes. There was no harm in what he said, but I have to admit it was a bit uncomfortable at times, not knowing what he was going to say next, and somehow feeling responsible for everything he did say.
I think most people who are truly saved recognize that our beliefs are increasingly at odds with the culture we live in. Our faith attracts criticism like a lightening rod. Any expression of our faith is not really welcomed in public society, and as such we feel defensive, or even afraid to speak of it, for fear of being ostracized or criticized by the culture we live in.
Perhaps such a feeling of embarrassment, or uncomfortableness on Timothy’s part is what Paul has in mind in vs 8. He says “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with [me] in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” Now we that study the Bible know that when we see the word therefore, we need to find out what it is there for. And in this case, “therefore” refers back to the previous verse, in which Paul said, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”
Now that expression is a description of the Holy Spirit who has been given to Timothy and to all believers. 1Cor. 3:16 tells us, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and [that] the Spirit of God dwells in you?” And in Rom 8:9 it says, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
So the Spirit that God had given to indwell Timothy was the Spirit of power, love and discipline. The Spirit then is not something that should make you socially self conscious, or afraid to reveal, or in some way ashamed of. The Spirit of God is the power of God in you. Remember Jesus said to the disciples when they were awaiting the giving of the Holy Spirit, He said “you shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit shall come upon you and you shall be My witnesses.”
The power of the Holy Spirit is something that as Christians we cannot operate without. But there is a misunderstanding of the power of the Holy Spirit in the church today. They want to have the power of the Spirit to do miraculous signs and wonders. But they don’t see much purpose in that power other than in miracles. They don’t see the power of the Holy Spirit is the means by which we are witnesses of the gospel, that we are able to do the works of righteousness, that we are able to have control over our bodies and minds, and the power over sin and over death. Those are tremendous aspects of the Holy Spirit’s power. We could have no power over sin except by the Holy Spirit. He is the only way we have the power to live the life of Christ. He is the only way we have power over death.
So Paul is telling Timothy in light of the power of the Holy Spirit in him, to not be ashamed of the gospel. Paul describes the gospel as the testimony of the Lord Jesus. What was the testimony of Jesus? It was that He was the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Word of God made flesh, the manifestation of God to man. His testimony was that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man comes to the Father except through Him. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it was the same gospel of Paul, who was suffering imprisonment because of that gospel.
Paul is saying in that passage not to be ashamed of his gospel. Timothy perhaps had a reluctance or reticence about the gospel of Paul. Paul seemed to spend more time in prison than out of it. Paul was a controversial figure, to say the least. The socially acceptable society did not accept Paul, nor his gospel. Even many so called Christians of his day found Paul to be too far right, too controversial for their tastes. His doctrine wasn’t polictically correct, whether by the standards of the religious Jews or the philosophical Greeks. Remember what the philosophers said about Paul on Mars Hill? “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” And King Agrippa accused Paul of being mad. So the upper crust of society whether Jew or Greek ridiculed Paul’s gospel, and ridiculed Paul himself. Perhaps Timothy thought he should distance himself from Paul somewhat in order to be more effective in his ministry.
You know, the gospel literally means good news. And it is good news. But it’s good news to a condemned people. It is good news to a person on death row. In other words, for the gospel to be good news, you must first tell them the bad news, that they are dead in their trespasses and sin, and condemned to death. And the only escape from that condemnation of death is through believing in Jesus Christ, and in His death and resurrection. But that is sometimes an uncomfortable message to have to give to people. Some of you have unsaved brothers or sisters or mom’s and dads. And it can be very difficult to tell them that they are going to go to hell for their sins. That kind of news can completely wreck the family Christmas get together. They are not going to want to hear that sort of thing, and if you say anything remotely like it, it it’s going to make the family get together miserable for everyone.
So very likely you don’t say anything. You don’t proclaim the gospel in it’s fullness. At best, you speak lightly of God’s love, of God’s gift, but you don’t declare the full gospel. And if you examine yourself you might have to admit that though you believe the gospel, yet you are ashamed to proclaim it in it’s fullness. But a partial gospel does not save partially. Rather a partial gospel does not save at all. A partial gospel gives a false sense of security. And so you must not be ashamed of it, but you must proclaim it fully, since only in it’s fullness is the power of the gospel able to work and bring about salvation.
Paul said in Romans 1:16, “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.” Paul goes on in the next verses of that passage to say that in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, and the wrath of God is revealed against unrighteousness. Both aspects need to be revealed, both God’s gift of righteousness and God’s wrath against unrighteousness. That is the full gospel that leads to salvation.
And that proclamation of the gospel is what prompts Paul to recount a synopsis of that message of salvation. Speaking in vs 9 of God “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…”
Let’s briefly break that down. God has saved us. To be saved, one must first be lost. To be delivered from the condemnation of death is to be saved. A lot of so called Christians don’t like the term saved today. That smacks of fundamentalism, of old fashioned hell fire and damnation preaching that doesn’t play well in our culture today. But as I said a moment ago, if you don’t first understand the premise that you are dead in your trespasses and sins, and condemned to death, and death means spending eternity in hell, then you can’t understand the gospel of salvation. Because you must first recognize that you are lost in order to be saved.
But our salvation is not dependent upon our works, but it is dependent upon the call of God upon our lives. Romans 8:30 says, “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” God is the one who saves us, and He initiates our salvation in eternity past, predestining us for salvation, and then effectively calling us to Himself, and those He calls, He justifies not on the basis of their works, but on the basis of their faith in Christ whose righteousness is credited to us who believe in Him. That is the gift of salvation, the grace of salvation, that we didn’t earn it, Christ purchased it for us by His death on the cross in our place.
Paul says this salvation which was planned and predetermined from all eternity past, was manifested, or brought to light by the appearing of Jesus Christ as our Savior. The purpose of God before creation was to bring about our salvation through Jesus Christ. But that purpose was revealed, manifested, made known by the appearing of Jesus Christ on earth. The Old Testament saints did not see clearly how God would bring about their salvation, but they were saved by faith in what was not seen. But when Christ came into the world, the salvation of God was manifested, made visible in Jesus Christ. And the apostles were witnesses of HIs resurrection, which was the capstone of the gospel.
Through His resurrection Jesus Christ abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Through His resurrection from the dead, Jesus triumphed over death and sin and hell, and He holds the keys of death and hell, and those who believe in Him are given life, and that life that He gives is everlasting, it is eternal, it is immortality. That is salvation. What a tremendous gospel it is, that we who were condemned to death, to eternal death, are granted an immortal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
And the really great thing about this immortal life that we are given is that it is not given at some point in the future, but it is given now to those who believe in Him, so that Jesus can say, “He who believes in Me shall never die.” There is no greater riches, no greater treasure, than immortality. Down through the centuries of time, many men have searched the world for the fountain of youth, for the elixir of immortality, but we that believe in Jesus Christ have been delivered from death and received eternal life as a gift of God.
And Paul says in vs 11, of that gospel, that wonderful, tremendous good news, that for that reason he “was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.” There could be no higher calling, no more noble endeavor, than to be the means by which God’s salvation is made known. But unfortunately, that is not the perception of the world. You know, there is nothing more foolish to the world than a preacher. A lot of pastors I know personally avoid referring to themselves as a preacher. It’s bad enough to tell people that you are a pastor, but if you were to say “I am a preacher” they immediately categorize you as some sort of right wing radical. And so a lot of pastors avoid that title.
But not Paul. Paul was a preacher. And guess what? John the Baptist was a preacher. Mark 1:4, says John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. … 7 And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals.” And then in vs14 we read that Jesus was a preacher. It says, “Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God.” And likewise Peter was a preacher, and so was Paul.
In fact, Paul said in 1Cor. 1:21 that preaching is the means by which God saves the lost. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Vs. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” So let’s not be ashamed of preachers, nor of preaching, for it is the power of God.
Nor was Timothy to be ashamed of the fact that Paul was an apostle. To be an apostle was to be one who was a witness to the resurrected Christ. Paul referred to his apostleship as one who was untimely born. He recognized that his apostleship was different than the twelve. And yet he said in no way was he any less an apostle. His apostleship was different, but not less. He did witness the resurrected Christ. He was taught personally by Christ. He was taken up into heaven and heard and saw things which he was not permitted to speak of. He was possibly the greatest apostle, though he would not have claimed that for himself.
And I say that he was the greatest apostle on the basis of his teaching. He says he was a teacher of the gospel. No one wrote more, taught more doctrine, more explanation of the gospel, than Paul did through his writing. He was by far the most prolific teacher, who wrote more epistles than any other apostle which have been the basis for most of our Christian doctrine. Timothy should not be ashamed of Paul on the basis of his preaching, or apostleship, or teaching. In fact, he should be unapologetically proud of his adoptive father.
But because of this glorious gospel, because of the testimony of Jesus Christ, because of the fact that Paul was a preacher and teacher of this gospel and an apostle of Jesus Christ, he was suffering in prison, knowing full well that he was going to die for the gospel. He says in vs 12, “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”
Though the Jews and the Romans had sentenced Paul to prison, though he would soon be executed as a criminal, he was not ashamed. He was not ashamed of the gospel. He was not ashamed to be identified with Christ who also suffered death as a criminal in the eyes of the world.
He is not ashamed because He knows whom he has believed, and is persuaded that He is able, to keep that which he committed to Christ, that is his very life, until that day when he is joined to Christ forever through the death of his body. Paul had committed his life to Christ, the very life that Christ had given him, Paul gave back to Christ, to live for Him, to live for the glory of Christ and the proclamation of His gospel. And he was convinced that this life he had entrusted to Christ, Christ was able to guard this treasure of an immortal life, until the day when it was fully realized by passing from this world to the next.
Peter spoke of that trust in 1Peter 4:19 “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” In that context Peter was speaking of the life of the believer, doing what is right, speaking the truth, sharing the gospel with the unsaved, so that he says if [anyone suffers] as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” I think that the suffering we might experience for the gospel is pretty tame in comparison to what the apostles suffered. But I do recognize that we can suffer the loss of friendships, even the loss of family relationships due to our sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I can also promise that the glory that awaits us on that day when the Lord shall be revealed will far surpass any momentary light affliction we may experience here on earth.
Let us not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For it is the only power of God that will accomplish the salvation of our loved ones and friends. Let us be bold in our proclamation of the truth, and let the power of God loose to work out their salvation.
And if you’re here today, and you have not received the gift of life that Jesus has purchased for you through His death, I urge you to trust in Him today as your Savior, repenting of your sin and by faith in Christ receiving forgiveness of your sins and the righteousness of Christ applied to you account, that you may receive life, and that life which is eternal. Today that life is offered to you, look to Jesus and be saved.