Today: [2 Timothy 1:] Staying Strong when Leaders Falter: In 2 Timothy Paul begins by urging Timothy to remain strong at a time when Paul himself is under tremendous persecution. When leaders suffer their followers tend to fall back. This was true in Paul’s day and in the day we live in. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to remain resolute in his faith in such times is apt for us as well during times when leaders we respect face their own challenges.
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[2Ti 1:1-18 KJV] 1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, [my] dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, [and] peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve from [my] forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; 4 Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; 5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. 6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. 7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9 Who hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: 11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. 13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us. 15 This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. 16 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: 17 But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found [me]. 18 The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.
This second letter of Paul to Timothy was written from Rome while Paul was imprisoned there around 60 AD. There is dispute among scholars regarding the authorship and dating of all three of Paul’s pastoral epistles because they address a church that seems to be more organized and structured then they believe it actually was at that time. For this reason, they contend that the letter was written under a pseudonym around 140 AD. This is held suspect by more conservative theologians as questioning the dating and authorship of these books largely is just one part of an overall strategy to question the infallibility of the whole of the scriptures.
In the opening of chapter one, Paul refers to Timothy as his son in the faith and gives Timothy a reassurance of his prayers for him night and day. Again we see the prominence of prayer in the lives and leadership of the early church. Paul is mindful of Timothy’s tears from his time with him previous to the writing of this letter, calling to remembrance Timothy’s background in the faith being raised by a godly mother and grandmother. Timothy is the only believer mentioned in the New Testament as being influenced as an intergenerational convert.
Paul goes on to put Timothy in remembrance to stir up the gift that is in him by the laying on of hands. The laying on of hands is one of five first principles of the doctrine of Christ mentioned in Hebrews 6:
[Heb 6:1-2 KJV] 1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
To lay hands upon someone was for the purposes of impartation, prophetic utterance and identification in ministry purpose. Paul indicates in v. 7 that he believes Timothy not only received spiritual gifts through this practice but also an impartation of power, love, and soundness of mind. Paul points back to what must have been a potent laying on of hands experience in admonishing Timothy not to be ashamed in of the fact that Paul is now imprisoned. Apparently, he thinks that Timothy is somewhat low key in his ministry work in hopes of avoiding the abuse that Paul has suffered for his boldness. To this end, Paul reminds Timothy (v. 9) that he is called with a holy calling and that the sufferings of persecution that come are not cause for shame if one knows in whom he has believed (v. 12).
The suffering mentioned here in v. 12 is specifically persecution. Many take these statement and apply them to sickness, poverty and other things that according to the gospel Jesus died to remove from our lives. Let us be clear that God will never choose to suspend the merits of the cross as a means of allegedly glorifying himself or to chasten or teach us something as believers. This is commonly taught in Christianity for which reason believers often claim that their lack of faith to receive is because God chose to withhold the work of the cross in their situation, not because of unbelief but because they are so spiritual. This is wrong-headed and cannot be backed up in scripture. Nonetheless, Paul is suffering persecution and imprisonment and is not ashamed for he is persuaded that God is able to keep that which Paul has committed to him “against that day.”
Paul urges Timothy to hold fast the form of sound words from his previous teachings commending a life of faith characterized by love which is in Christ Jesus. He admonishes Timothy to remain faithfully committed to the ministry that is his portion by the impartation of the Holy Ghost. He mentions two believers that turned away from Paul while he was in Asia by way of saying to Timothy that he doesn’t want to see him likewise to abandon him in his suffering. By contrast, he is thankful for those of the house of Onesiphorus who were not ashamed of Paul’s chains of imprisonment seeking him out regularly to minister to his needs no doubt at high risk to their own freedom.
In these things, we can see Paul is ministering to Timothy at a low ebb in Timothy’s ministry. Being in prison the word of Timothy’s struggles may have come to him from other believers in Ephesus or simply been revealed by the Spirit of God to Paul in prayer. The overall problem is a Christian leader standing firm in faith when his mentor is imprisoned and facing profound challenges himself. Jesus himself made the statement that when the shepherds are smitten the sheep scatter and that is Paul’s concern here regarding Timothy. In your lifetime you will no doubt experience times when leaders you put stock in go through difficult times. Today the common practice is not to make known these things as when leaders today likewise suffer their followers tend to dwindle away. It is this very phenomenon that Paul is addressing. Let it be in our heart to stand in solidarity with our leaders and with one another when challenges arise and not to allow our faith to falter but remain strong and resolute in our faith and our love one for another and specifically those in leadership.
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