From June to September, in these Bible readings, we are going to be reading Paul’s two letters to Timothy. These Bible readings were written by the Rev James Philip, formerly Minister of Holyrood Abbey Church in Edinburgh and are used with permission. They have been taken from the newly-digitised archive found at:
Friday 1st August
1 Timothy 6:15-16
The thought of our Lord’s return in glory awakens in Paul a wonderful doxology. One can imagine his scribe looking up from his desk as he wrote, marvelling at this torrent of glowing language pouring out of the aged apostle’s lips, his eyes glowing with heavenly fire as he dictated his letter. It were almost superfluous to try to expound an utterance of such pure worship and adoration, but one comment may awaken and preserve that spirit in us also. The word ‘blessed’ in the AV has two Greek equivalents, one as in Eph 1:3, meaning ‘to speak well of’, the other, as here, meaning ‘happy’. To read ‘happy Potentate’ here at first sounds out of place, if not irreverent, but if we pause to think for a moment, we find ourselves thinking, “Why should it be strange to think of Him as a happy God?” The reason why we do not is that He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures as so grimly in earnest dealing with sin that He has not had much time to laugh. But when sin is finally destroyed, as it will be, His true nature will surely become clear and evident, and His happiness will shine forth as the glorious and riotous thing it is. But there is something else here. Many of us can recall the grim and terrible days of the last war when Britain stood alone against the might of Germany, when for long spells it was blood and toil, sweat and tears all the way. But even within that context, there were times when we could relax and smile. It is like this also in the war between God and evil. There are times, and they are very, very precious, when God takes time to relax with His people, times of sweet and happy fellowship when the tragedy of sin is left outside, and it is then that we have glimpses – that are also foretastes – of the happiness of God and the joy and delight that are in His holy heart. And Paul must have known more of this than anyone!
Saturday 2nd August
1 Timothy 6:17-21
Paul deems it necessary to utter another warning before finishing about riches, this time to those who had them, rather than those who wanted them. It would be difficult to find a more apt and telling commentary on this than the words of the hymn, ‘Earth’s bliss – the ‘all things’ God richly gives us to enjoy – is meant to be our guide, not our chain. We are to use, but not abuse, the things of the world (1 Cor 7:31) and refuse to be brought under the power of any of it (1 Cor 6:12). Detachment from all things, through attachment to the Lord – this is what sets us free to be and do what we ought (16) and builds into us the gold, silver and precious stones (1 Cor 3:12) of character and integrity which are the only things we can take with us into the eternal world (19). Men with such a spirit are really rich, and will have much to bestow, both materially and spiritually on a needy world of men. Paul’s final word to his son in the faith reminds us of 2 Cor 4:7 – treasure in earthen vessels. It is this that was committed as a sacred stewardship to him, and we can sense the longing and concern in the aged apostle’s heart that the faith once delivered to the saints should be safeguarded and handed down after his own life’s work was done. Nor need we doubt that Timothy heeded this solemn admonition, and kept himself from all that might sidetrack him and lead him astray. God grant that we may do likewise.
Sunday 3rd August
2 Timothy 1:1
This epistle is almost certainly the last epistle that Paul wrote, written possibly as little as a month or two before his death (see 4:6). One commentary (the ICC) places the main interest of the epistle in the two character portraits delineated in it, that of the ideal Christian minister, and that of the Christian teacher face to face with death, his work finished. The first of these portraits occupies, in the main, the second and third chapters, and the latter the first and fourth. With reference to the latter, it is instructive to compare some of the statements Paul makes in his earlier prison epistle, Philippians, with his attitude in this (see Phil 1:20-25, 2:17). It is one thing to speak of having a desire to depart and be with Christ when one is reasonably confident of surviving for a considerable time, but quite another to say such things and breathe such a spirit when it has become clear that life is soon to be forfeited. It is impressive to see how, in face of certain execution. Paul is calm and serene in the hope of the gospel (4:6-8). This is the force of his particular emphasis in 1, where he speaks of “the main promise of life”. Particular circumstances direct one’s thoughts to particular emphases of the gospel. Paul was facing death, and he garrisoned himself in such an extremity with the sure hope of the gospel. There is an enormously important principle at work here; we may not be facing death at the moment, but there are other hazards and difficulties to be faced, and we must learn to match them with the particular aspect of the gospel that meets them. Happy is the man who proves in the extremities of life that the gospel is all-sufficient for his needs!
Monday 4th August
2 Timothy 1:2
Paul’s expression of endearment towards Timothy (see also 4) is characteristic of the Apostle, and tells a great deal about him. What we need to notice is the uninhibited, spontaneous expression and demonstration of love on his part towards his young son in the faith. He was never slow to show his love when he felt it, and this, we must understand, is not an optional grace in the Christian life. The gospel breaks down the barriers and inhibitions in the human heart (when we allow it to do so), and it is certain that such expressions of care as we see here are of almost incalculable value in times of need when those who receive them are under pressures of various kinds. It may well be that it is fear of ‘giving oneself away’ like this in the outgoing of our affections that prevents so many of us from expressing love for one another (as distinct from feeling it inwardly).One recalls C.S. Lewis’s words on this subject: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it willbecome unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the dangers and perturbations of love is hell….We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.” Is this, then, why we so often withhold ourselves from others? Do we find the price of loving too great to pay?
Tuesday 5th August
2 Timothy 1:3-4
The phrase “Whom I serve from my forefathers” is significant. Paul is linking together his experience under the old economy with that under the new, and maintaining that there was continuity between the two. Judaism, rightly understood, leads to and is fulfilled by and in the Christian message. But Judaism was not always rightly understood, and this was the case with Paul as well as with others, and it needed a revelation from God to make it clear to him that he had in fact misunderstood his own history and tradition. But what he is always concerned to point out (cf Acts 24:14) is that the Christian gospel affords the only true way of worshipping the God of his fathers. Paul’s remembrance of his son in the faith is particularly moving, and it prompts us to reflect on the blessing it is for any servant of God to be upheld constantly by the prayers of some faithful prayer-partner. It is true that God sometimes seems to lay a particular burden of prayer on a believer’s heart for some particular minister or missionary, and this is a service of intercession that can be quite priceless in the work of the gospel. The tears referred to in v4 may have been occasioned by the peculiar difficulties Timothy was facing in his work at Ephesus, and seem to support the suggestion sometimes made that he tended towards despondency. If this is so, we may know just how much Paul’s expression of love must have meant to him. It is a wondrous assurance to a timid and diffident spirit to know that one matters to people!
Wednesday 6th August
2 Timothy 1:5
We could link this verse with Paul’s reference in v3 to his forefathers, for here is the more immediate ‘line of descent’ in Timothy’s spiritual history. Here is a noble succession indeed, and according to promise also, for God undertakes to bless to the third and fourth generation the faithfulness of His servants. One can think of prominent families in the Christian Church of whom this has been abundantly true -the Booths of the Salvation Army, for example, and the Hudson Taylor family in the C.I.M. Set the standard high at the fountain-head, and down the years the blessing will be reaped! We should notice also that as Timothy was converted during Paul’s first missionary journey in AD 48 (see Acts 16:1, 14:6,7) which was less than twenty years after our Lord’s crucifixion, it is probable that his grandmother Lois’s faith was pre-Pentecostal, and that she was a believer in the old economy. It is wonderful to think that she may have been like those we sometimes call ‘the good of the land’, such as the aged Simeon and Anna the prophetess (Luke 2), the shepherds in the fields, Mary and Joseph, who waited for the consolation of Israel and looked for redemption at Jerusalem. We need not doubt that large numbers of true believers in the old economy responded gladly to the message of the new and recognised in Christ the fulfilment of all their hopes and of the promise made to their fathers. This was the godly heritage Timothy received from his forebears.
Thursday 7th August
2 Timothy 1:6
The ‘gift of God’ referred to here has to do with the Divine enduement in Timothy’s ordination, and earlier Notes in1 Timothy on the subject should be consulted (see 1 Tim 1: 18 and 1 Tim 4:14). The word ‘stir up’ means ‘kindle’ or ‘stir up into flame’, and would be the word to describe the action of breaking up a fire that had been banked up and left with the air vent closed for several hours. This is the first thing we do when we return home out of the cold winter air, and presently the flames are leaping up and a cheery warmth is being diffused throughout the room. The fire was not out, but it was not getting air or giving heat. It needed disturbing, in order to make it fulfil its true function. So it is, Paul means, in the spiritual life. The fire that has been implanted in us can never go out; but from time to time it needs to be stirred into flame. But the question arises. How is this to be done? Not indeed by emotional or psychological innoculation of the spiritual life, but through the exercise of the mind. Paul says in 1 Tim 4:15, “Meditate upon these things”. This is the only effectual way. When the knowledge of what we are in Christ and what God has made us in Him becomes quiescent in us, we need to do some hard thinking on the subject, in order that the sheer wonder and glory of it might grip us afresh. This is what the words of the well-known hymn are meant to convey:
“Think what Spirit dwells within thee”
The Psalmist said, “While I was musing, the fire burned” (Ps 39:3). It is when minds are gripped by the glories of grace that fires begin to burn afresh in the soul.
Friday 8th August
2 Timothy 1:7
The words ‘given us’ link with ‘gift of God’ in v6, and define this. The ‘given-ness’ of our position in Christ (which Paul says is to be stirred up) is that of the spirit in power, love and self-discipline (this is the same word as ‘soberly’ in Tit 2:12). For the gift of God to be stirred up in us means then to allow the wealth of what we have and are in Christ so to possess us that the natural craven spirit of fear and cowardice in us is set at nought and discounted as a force in our experience. To give way to the spirit of fear -or of black discouragement or despair -is to deny our calling and be untrue to our spiritual nature and inheritance in Christ. It is very wonderful to think that we do not have to cry to God for power in any particular situation, but realise rather that we are to call upon and make use of resources that He has already given us. Furthermore, it is the ‘givenness’ of the spirit of love that makes the Divine command “Thou shalt love” both meaningful and possible. How could we love as Christ loves, except it was given us? But since His love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, it is an inescapable necessity to show forth that love to others. All that is necessary is an iron grip on self, and this also is given us in the spirit of self-discipline! Well might Peter in his second epistle (1:3) remind us that “His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness….” His resources are more than sufficient for our needs.
Saturday 9th August
2 Timothy 1:8-10a
Declaring the whole counsel of God can be a very costly business, and it was not without a sense of pain and shrinking that Timothy had done so in Ephesus. The temptation is of course, to take lower ground in order to avoid something at least of the afflictions of the gospel (v8). This is the force of Paul’s earnest exhortation to Timothy in these verses. He bases his call for a resolute testimony not only on the fact that all the resources necessary for this have been given, but also on the eternal reality of the Divine purposes. This, Paul means, is something to think of when we are trembling and shrinking from Christian duty. Our calling is rooted in the mists of eternity. The sovereign electing grace that all through life has brooded over us, long before it ever appeared likely that we would be saved at all, is the grace that will be near at hand to bless and help when we are called to bear costly witness to Christ. To know that from all eternity such suffering has been in the plan for us, and that it has its integral place in the fulfilment of the Divine purposes of redemption – should not this be sufficient to undergird our faltering spirits and enable us to hold up our heads?
Sunday 10th August
2 Timothy 1:10-11
Paul’s statement about the abolition of death by Christ is one of the most glorious in all the gospel, but we need to understand aright what he means. To say that death is abolished in the gospel does not (and of course cannot) mean that it no longer exists, for death is still a reality for us. The word Paul uses here means “to make idle or inactive, to make of no effect”. It is rendered as ‘destroyed’ in Romans 6:6, referring to ‘the body of sin’, and in Heb 2:14, referring to “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil”. The meaning here, as in Rom 6 and Heb 2, is “to deprive of its power”. Death has been stripped of its authority as the king of terrors; it has been demoted, reduced to the ranks, and is now, as has been said, no more than a porter at the gates of eternal life, made to usher God’s people into the glory of His presence. Well might Paul say elsewhere in exultation, “O death, where is thy sting?”(1 Cor. 15:55). To put it another way, death that once dark and terrible prison of mankind, has itself now been put in prison, put safely out of the way so as to be unable to do any further harm to men, and awaits final execution in the morning without clouds, when Jesus comes to reign. Well, here is a threefold salvation in the death of Christ to ponder today -death, the body of sin, and the devil himself, all put out of action so as to be no longer fearful and intractable problems for God’s people. How wonderful! “Take, my soul, thy full salvation”!
Monday 11th August
2 Timothy 1:10-11
The ‘abolishing’ of death is the negative side of the work of Christ; the bringing of life and immortality to light is the positive. This is a great and wonderful word, but again we need to be clear about what Paul means. It is not the immortality of the soul as such that Paul is speaking of here, for this is not a specifically Christian idea, and not the characteristic note in the biblical doctrine. The immortality of the soul is a Greek theme; in Greek thought salvation was conceived of in terms of the escape of the soul from the body into immortality, through death. This is a mere doctrine of survival, something that ‘comes after’ death; but the biblical doctrine is very different, for it speaks not so much of life after death, but of a life from which death has been banished and plucked up by the roots, and from which the effects of death have been removed. But do we see what this means? What are the effects of death? Is not the terrible, tragic mark of death that it sunders what God put together, body and soul? This is what death means, the separation of the constitutive parts of man. And for salvation to be real, and really to be salvation, the sundered and separated elements must be reunited once more, and man reconstituted as man, body and soul, in perfect harmony. This is why the New Testament speaks of spiritual bodies in the resurrection. It is not our souls merely that are finally to be saved; it is we who are to be saved, and presented faultless in the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Heaven is to be a place not of spirits or of ghosts, but of men, glorified men, with spiritual bodies that will be the fit and worthy vehicles of expression for glorified spirits. To speak of life after death merely can still mean that death triumphed in the end, and that this ‘life after death’ is a kind of consolation-prize for death’s unfortunate victims. But to speak of the kind of immortality the New Testament invites us to understand is to speak of alife from which death and all its terrible effects have been once and for ever removed, and men reconstituted in the glad image of God, as men, not spirits, forever. Well might Paul glory in such a doctrine, standing as he was at the gates of death, and therefore on the threshold of victory!
Tuesday 12th August
2 Timothy 1:12
Here is another mighty statement which, as so often with Paul’s great and profound utterances, comes almost incidentally out of something else. He speaks of his present sufferings for Christ’s sake, and relates them to the fact of his commission to preach the glorious gospel of life and immortality. It is the greatness of the honour he feels in having been so called that takes away any sense of shame or indignity (see Acts 5:41), for anything he is called to suffer is more than offset by the fact that he is in sweet and blessed fellowship with Christ. This is the real setting of these well-known words: “I know”, he says, “Whom I have believed”. We must be careful to understand these words properly. We could expand the sentence to bring out the meaning more clearly, thus:”I know Him in Whom I have believed”. It is not so much an article of faith that Paul is stressing, as a personal relationship. It is not what he has believed, but whom he has trusted that is being stressed. It is true, of course, that real biblical faith includes both a knowledge of saving truth -i.e. propositional faith (see Heb 11:6) -and living trust in a Person -i.e. faith as personal encounter. But sometimes the former is made to do duty for the latter; acceptance of certain doctrines is made the norm of Christian experience, and the result is unbiblical travesty of the gospel that leads people disastrously and sometimes fatally astray. Knowledge of the truth and understanding of the doctrine of salvation must always of course be a necessary preliminary which can lead to the all-important personal encounter with Christ -we meet with Him, after all, in and through the word of the gospel -but must never become a substitute for it. To know Him thus, then, is not only the heart of salvation, it is also to be under girt and garrisoned against all discouragement, and strengthened and energised to stand in the evil day and, having done all, to stand.
Wednesday 13th August
2 Timothy 1:12
There is more yet to be considered in this verse. Paul speaks of that which he has committed unto Christ. The modern translations (NEB, J.B. Phillips, and the RSV) take this phrase differently from the AV, making it refer to something that had been entrusted to Paul, i.e. the gospel rather than what he had committed to God. In spite of this modern unanimity, however, we incline to think the AV is right, and that Paul is referring to what he had deposited with God, “all my precious things which I have put under His care”. This then may be taken in the widest sense, to include his soul, his life, his spiritual children, the care of all the churches, his future – everything that was a concern to him. Viewed in this way, these words are elemental. If Christ is all-sufficient, it should be possible to commit anything to Him, in the confidence that He is able to keep and safeguard it. It is something to be sure of this when you are in prison awaiting execution, as Paul was! What a word this is for our needs today: He is able! Our part is to commit the matter to Him, His is to keep. He will not fail. He cannot fail, for He is God. Are we persuaded about this as Paul was?
Thursday 14th August
Paul continues his exhortation to Timothy with the injunction to keep before him a pattern of sound or healthy teaching (v13) such as he had heard from Paul himself. Following as this does after vs9-12 we may surely gather something of that pattern. The NEB suggests ‘outline’ instead of ‘form’ and this is useful in that it suggests a corpus of teaching which can be opened out and elaborated, basic essentials and fundamentals whose implications and logical conclusions can be worked out in detail and applied in practical life. The Apostle’s words may indeed be taken as an exhortation to Timothy to stand in the true Pauline tradition, and this is surely what any teacher worth his salt would desire in one who meant so much to him as Timothy did. And even on the basis of what Paul has said in this epistle alone, it must be seen to have been a worthy and vital tradition in which to stand. The ‘good thing’ referred to in v14 has been variously understood. Some refer it back to 1:6, and take it to mean the gift and anointing of the Spirit which is the Divine enduement for service. If this is the meaning, it is one of the most solemnly important things that could ever be said to a servant of the Word, for without the unction grace that comes from God a ministry is doomed to failure and barrenness. The reference, however, may be to the gospel itself, in the sense of the faith once delivered to the saints. Paul says elsewhere (2 Cor 4:7) that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels” and it may be this that he has in mind. If so, one readily sees the force of the injunction to keep it “by the Holy Ghost”, for this is the only way to remain faithful. Devoid of the Spirit, a man will not for long abide by the truth. All of which forcibly reminds us once again that deviation from the biblical position is not an intellectual but a moral issue; the Holy Ghost is given to them that obey God, and is grieved away not by a man’s intellectual difficulties but by his disobedience.
Friday 15th August
2 Timothy 1:15
We should note the association of ideas between what is said here and in the previous verse. The implication seems to be that the Spirit had been grieved away from them with the result that these Asian believers had become disaffected from Paul in his hour of need. To be turned away from Paul may mean either disaffection from him personally or from all that he stood for (the Pauline ‘tradition’, see previous note) or both. Indeed, the two are usually linked together, the latter leading to the former. Why had these men deserted Paul? Well, he was in prison and it was clear now to most people that he was about to be put to death by the Roman authorities, and obviously to be known as a friend of his was likely to be a hazardous and dangerous matter. Were they afraid of the possible consequences of being known as a friend of his? And is this why Paul was concerned to warn Timothy about the spirit of fear (v7)? It seems likely; and we can understand something of the anguish and desolation Paul felt in being left alone by those who could have, and should have, stood by him in his evil hour. It is striking to see how the pattern of our Lord’s sufferings is ‘repeated’ in His honoured servant -striking but not surprising in one who had once said “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal 6:17) and “I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the Church” (Col 1:24).
Saturday 16th August
2 Timothy 1:16-18
The attitude of Onesiphorus is set in marked contrast to that of Phygellus and Hermogenes (v15). This believer, with a large-hearted and selfless generosity of spirit, had not been afraid of any possible consequences of associating with the imprisoned apostle, but had searched the city for him, and paid him many a visit (v16), bringing spiritual refreshment to him in the weariness of his last testing time. The references to “the house of Onesiphorus” here and in 4:19 have led some to think that at the time of writing Onesiphorus had recently died. If so, then Paul’s words in v18 could be construed as being a prayer for the dead (this passage is in fact made much of by Roman Catholic scholars as a warrant for such a practice). But it is only a supposition to say that he was dead, and a rather slender one on which to build such a precarious doctrine as prayer for the dead, and the reference to his household could be explained quite adequately by the fact that he was at that time separated from them by reason of being in Rome or elsewhere. What is important here is not whether he was alive or dead, but that he should have been such a God-given help and encouragement to Paul in his time of need, and that his whole household was to share in the reward God would bestow on such kindness. There is such a thing as an entail of grace as well as the entail of sin. God visits the iniquities of the fathers to the third and fourth generations of their children, but He also blesses in the same way, and the family of Onesiphorus was to be enriched by the benediction of God because he had been faithful. God is not unrighteous to forget our labour of love (Heb 6:10).
Sunday 17th August
2 Timothy 2:1-2
It is in relation to the contrast between “those in Asia” who had forsaken Paul and Onesiphorus who had ministered so lovingly and faithfully to him that Paul says what he does in v1. This is the force of the ‘therefore’. It is as if he were saying to Timothy, “Be like Onesiphorus, not like the others, Timothy, and do not let any natural timidity betray you into disloyalty”. The NEB translates v1 thus: “Now therefore, my son, take strength from the grace of God which is ours in Christ Jesus”, and this serves to make it clear that ‘being strong’ is not something of ourselves, but possible only when we ‘take’ the position that is ours in Christ. In Christ Jesus we are in the centre of the grace of God, and only thus can we be what God has made us. There may be an additional incentive to faithfulness meant in the words ‘my son’, as if Paul were saying, “If Onesiphorus, on whom I had no real right to call, proved faithful, surely you, who under God owe your spiritual life to me, are one to whom I have a right to appeal”. Those who have brought us to birth spiritually and nurtured us in the things of God have an inalienable right to our loyalty as well as our love. Notice Paul’s concern (v2) that the gospel should be handed down in faithfulness in a true spiritual transmission. It is not merely the gospel, but his gospel, that he is concerned with. This is something that preachers can perhaps understand best. If a man believes that God has given him a distinctive message, one that he has in the deepest and truest sense made his own, and that he is willing to suffer and die for, the greatest desire of his heart will be not merely that others will be blessed by that message, but also, and supremely, that there will be those who will catch the vision in such a way that it will become their message too, which they in turn will pass onto others. Such is Paul’s concern here.
Monday 18th August
2 Timothy 2:3-7
This is a chapter extraordinarily rich in metaphorical illustration as Paul proceeds to describe the nature of the service to which we are called in the gospel. First of all, that Christian is described as a soldier (v3) and his service as warfare (v4). The enemy ranged against him is threefold -the world (v4), the flesh (v22) and the devil (v26), and the constant interplay of these forces against the believer makes the Christian life a warfare, keen, forceful, relentless, and from which there is no respite. There are no ex-servicemen in the army of the King of kings, and no discharge in this life! The hardness Paul mentions in v3 is the inevitable accompaniment of this warfare. After all, the whole point of real soldiering is that you engage the enemy. There is no ‘phoney war’ here. The word translated ‘hardness’ is the same as that used in 1:8 and rendered there “partaker of the afflictions of the gospel”, and literally means “to suffer ill with”. This is an integral element in the Christian life, and we must recognise that no one is excused or excluded from it. The very prefix of the Greek word, meaning ‘together’, suggests the common lot of all believers in this matter; and it also indicates the reality of our fellowship with one another in it. This is the note Peter strikes (1 Pet 5:9) when, speaking of the devil, he says, “Whom resist, stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world”. Well, it is something to know that we are not alone, even on the human level, in the hardness we encounter in the Christian battle!
Tuesday 19th August
2 Timothy 2:3-7
We concentrate on v4 today, as Paul continues his military metaphor. The NEB renders the first part of the verse, “A soldier on active service will not let himself be involved in civilian affairs”. This is more a paraphrase than a translation, but it does make the point that a soldier must give his military duties priority over every other loyalty, and this is really what Paul is concerned to convey with regard to the spiritual life. In this metaphor, as in those that follow, the idea conveyed is of a ‘one-track life’, with supreme concentration on the task in hand. A soldier will not soldier well if his mind is divided between the battle and other considerations. It is not a question of turning away from or cutting oneself away from the affairs of life: as Christians we have domestic and family responsibilities and commitments that we may not neglect -but of being disentangled from them, and detached from them in the midst of them. This is one of the most difficult, but also one of the most important things to learn in the Christian life. Such an attitude is expressed very clearly by Paul in 1 Cor 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any”. This detachment from the things of the world -the legitimate, not the illegitimate things, we should note -is possible only through attachment to Christ, and this is what Paul stresses in the latter part of the verse. Pleasing Him who has called us to the warfare is the first consideration. If we love Him supremely, the ‘other things’ will not have power to entangle us. What is more, it is love for Him, rather than natural qualities of strength or courage that makes for loyalty and endurance, however much hardness we may be called upon to endure. Nothing else -nothing -is big enough to keep us faithful. Love to Jesus is – everything.
Wednesday 20th August
2 Timothy 2:3-7
The metaphor changes in v5 from warfare to the field of athletics and here again, as in v4, it is the ‘one-track life’ that Paul is concerned to emphasise. Of this we may be sure, that the athletes who win gold medals in the Olympic Games do so only by the way of sacrifice and discipline. No one gets to world class without paying a very high price. This is what Paul is saying to Timothy:”You are running the straight race for Christ. To win the prize you must be in good training, and to be in training you have got to be ruthless”. This is the point at which so many Christians baulk; they are not prepared to be ruthless with themselves. They are too self-indulgent. They live on the dreary plain when Christ is calling them to the heights. Someone has said, “The great curse of the Christian Church today is not infidelity or failure, but low aim”. We are so often content with the mediocre, and it is because our religion is only part of our lives (albeit an important part) not the whole, and it has to share our loyalty with other interests and concerns. The athlete, however, relegates other interests and concerns to the background, not because they are wrong or bad in themselves, but because they are likely to militate successfully against his chance of winning the race. And anything will be sacrificed rather than allow that to happen. But many Christians do not get beyond asking rather querulously, “What wrong is there in this for the Christian?” There is nothing wrong in it; God has given us richly all things to enjoy. But you do not run a race with your coat on. You do not want any encumbrances of that nature on the track. But there are Christians who will never make very much of the Christian race simply because they are cluttered up and encumbered with ‘other things’.
Thursday 21st August
2 Timothy 2:3-7
Again the metaphor changes and now in v6 the Christian is compared to a husbandman. The word is suggestive of ploughing, harrowing, sowing, and reaping and brings to mind the well-known verse in Psalm 126, “He that goeth forth and reapeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him”. There are two points to note. Firstly, as in the previous two metaphors, the idea of reward is prominent, and the sequence seems to be this (following Ellicott): “Not every soldier wins his commander’s applause, but only he who devotes himself heart and soul to his profession; not every athlete wins the prize, but only he who trains with anxious painful care; not every tiller of the ground gathers the earth’s fruits, but only the patient toiler. So it must be in religious life”. It is this that Paul wishes Timothy to consider, and understand (v7). Fruitfulness in spiritual work is dependent on hard, sacrificial toil. Secondly, there seems to be almost a hint, in the reference to partaking of the fruits, that Timothy, being the fruit of Paul’s own costly toil, should recognise the duty of loyalty he owes to him for having begotten him in Christ. It is a measure of how deeply Paul had felt the defection of “those in Asia” (1:15) that he should show such anxious concern about Timothy. One has only to recall our Lord’s words, “Will ye also go away?” (John 6:67) to realise how real and desolating is the hurt that such a desertion causes. What we must see from the illustration in the natural realm is that it is a violation of a fundamental spiritual principle for believers to be disloyal to their spiritual fathers, and all such violations incur the displeasure of the Lord.
Friday 22nd August
2 Timothy 2:8-10
In the NEB v8 is thus rendered: Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, born of David’s line”. The meaning therefore seems to be that Paul is exhorting Timothy to remember how it was with Christ. “Think how it was with our Lord, Timothy, in the warfare He waged, in the race Heran, in the good seed He sowed. He also endured hardship, and it led to -resurrection”. Timothy was to realise that the suffering and discipline through which he passed were part and parcel of the Divine purpose, and were the crucible in which new life would be formed, for himself and others. Jesus, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and thus set the pattern for all who will serve Him. The reference to ‘the seed of David’ is meant to indicate that Jesus suffered in the historical context of the Divine plan of the ages and fulfilled the destiny that was mapped out for Him in the purposes of God. In the same way Timothy was to see -as Paul undoubtedly saw in relation to his own experience (v9, v10) -that the hardness he endured had its contribution to make to the final victory of God, and that if he rose to meet his destiny in accepting this, resurrection would be the result. Paul’s statement of the principle in v10 is quite unmistakeable: what he endured for the elect’s sake was directly related to the salvation they obtained. This surely puts the disciplines and sufferings of the Christian life in a new light, and in their proper perspective. God help us to see it!
Saturday 23rd August
2 Timothy 2:8-10
There is another valuable and important point to be considered here, before we leave these verses. In speaking of his sufferings even unto bonds, Paul is careful to stress that the word of God is not bound. Indeed it is not! This was literally true so far as Paul was concerned, for out of that prison house in Rome there came the wealth of the four prison epistles, as we believe, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. The plain truth is that the Church might never have had these priceless documents but for the fact that Paul was in bonds. So that, in a very real sense, the word of God is not only not bound when its ministers are put in prison, but is in fact set free and liberated by that imprisonment. This is but another statement of the principle we dealt within the previous note: death leads to resurrection. As Paul puts it in 2 Cor 4:12, “Death worketh”! This also throws another light on his statement in v10 about the elect. It may well be that Paul means the elect who as yet had not been awakened and brought to a knowledge of salvation. One recalls the vision that came to Paul at Corinth when he was so discouraged and daunted by the greatness of the task that lay before him (Acts 18:10), when God said to him, “I have much people in this city”. At that point many of them must still have been in the darkness of heathendom, and were elect only in the mind and purpose of God. But in the eighteen months that followed (Acts 18:11), they must surely have been brought into the light of the gospel. Paul’s sufferings and tremblings in Corinth (see 1 Cor 2:3) ‘liberated’ the word of the gospel and set it among the Corinthians in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. O to understand and experience more deeply this mysterious and wonderful law of spiritual harvest
Sunday 24th August
2 Timothy 2:11-13
Here is another of the ‘faithful sayings’ (see 1 Tim 1:15, 3:1, 4:9, Tit 3:8), and as we can see it relates particularly to what Paul has been saying to Timothy about the disciplines and sufferings of the Christian life in the previous verses. Its ‘saying’ is a notable and succinct statement of the doctrine of the cross as the principle of the believer’s life. The first part (v11,12a) states the positive side, the second (12b,13) the negative, and these stand as stark alternatives, with no middle course. The two parts of the double statement in the first part are closely linked in thought, dying/living, and suffering/reigning. This is what Calvin calls the inward and outward aspects of participation in the death of Christ. The pattern of dying with Christ has to be worked out in our Christian experience both inwardly and outwardly. There is the inward process of mortification, the denial of self and the renunciation of the works of the flesh (cf Rom 6:3ff, Col 3:5) -this is the ‘dying-with-Christ and living-with-Him’ aspect; but there is also an outward process of mortification to be undergone in union with Christ, and this is described in the New Testament as sharing in the sufferings of Christ (cf Rom 8:17,18;2 Cor 4:10; Phil 3:10).It should be clear that the inward and the outward are inseparably bound together as two differing aspects of the same reality, not the one representing a difference in quality and intensity from the other. It is true that ‘living’ and ‘reigning’ with Christ could be distinguished in other contexts (see 1 Cor 3 and the question of rewards) but this does not seem to be in Paul’s mind here.
Monday 25th August
2 Timothy 2:11-13
There is difference of view in the interpretation of the second group of statements (v12b, 13). The first phrase, “If we deny Him, He will deny us” seems so harsh to some that they recoil from the very thought, and invoke the everlasting mercy as proof that it cannot mean what it appears to mean. This is but a variation on the theme that since God is a God of love, hell is unthinkable. Not to spend time demonstrating the illogicality of such a standpoint (it was the loving Jesus, not Paul, who warned most of the terrible reality of hell and eternal loss) we simply note that the text here is so unequivocal and categorical that there can be no mistaking its meaning. It is the second phrase, however.”If we believe not (better, if we are faithless, or unfaithful) He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself”, that is really open to misinterpretation. Some understand these words, as Ellicott remarks, “as containing soothing, comforting voices for the sinner, for the faithless Christian who has left his first love”, as if what Paul had in mind was to proclaim that the divine mercy is greater than human sin., This is undoubtedly true, and no one exulted more in this than Paul, but this is surely not his point here. The very balance of the statements he makes, apart from anything else, should make it plain that it is a warning he is giving in these words, a solemn reminder that faithfulness and faithlessness are not all one to a holy God, and that it costs dearly to fall into and remain in a backslidden state (cf Psalm 18:26).
Tuesday 26th August
2 Timothy 2:14
The words ‘these things’ refer to the death-resurrection pattern which Paul has been expounding in 8-13. That there is a constant need to underline this teaching can be seen from Paul’s repeated emphasis upon it in his epistles; he at all events had no doubts as to its central and cardinal importance for spiritual life. But there is another fact to be borne in mind; it is that such teaching, being radical and costly, often tends to have only lip-service given to it instead of heart-obedience, and when this happens ‘a. form of godliness’ emerges which ‘denies the power thereof’ (see 3:5). This may be what Paul has in mind when he speaks of the danger of striving about words to no profit. Any living doctrine can be reduced to being merely a subject for discussion and debate or argument instead of a power to be experienced in the life, and it is particularly tragic when a pattern of teaching which God means to be emancipating and energising should be evacuated of its power and made lifeless by being bandied about on irreverent lips as an exercise in spiritual virtuosity. A knowledge of the Scriptures and of scriptural doctrine that is devoid of the Spirit’s unction grace is not only useless, but dangerous for the spiritual life, catastrophic indeed if we take the Greek word for ‘subverting’ literally, for it is ultimately destructive of any upbuilding of the Christian life in terms of real character.
Wednesday 27th August
2 Timothy 2:15
Timothy is to give diligence to show himself approved unto God. The word for ‘approved’ here is the opposite of that in 1 Cor 9:27, translated ‘a castaway’ or ‘disqualified’, and this perhaps affords a commentary on the meaning of the diligence that is required. Certainly, the man who ‘keeps under his body, bringing it into subjection’ will be approved of God. The thought of Divine approval here is the same as that in v4, where the soldier is said to be supremely concerned to please Him Who has called and chosen him. Here, once again, the metaphor changes to that of a workman. The word in the Greek gives us our English word ‘energy’, and suggests the hard labour involved in rightly dividing the word of truth. Those who think that this is an odd thing to say have misunderstood what real ministry is. It takes all that a man has of intellectual and spiritual equipment and resources to dig the gold of the living Word out of the Scriptures of truth. No mere scratching of the surface will suffice for long, if the souls of God’s people are to be enriched and upbuilt. Nor is this all, even when such mining has been done, for the word of truth must be rightly divided. The word used here means ‘to cut straight’, and is used of a plough driving a straight furrow, and of a roadmaker making his road straight, of a stone-mason squaring and cutting a stone in order to fit it into its proper place. The meaning is clear enough: the minister of the word must get right to the heart of its meaning, and communicate that meaning in a way that cannot fairly be misunderstood. This is no unnecessary warning; it is possible so to clothe the living Word of the gospel with fine, elegant language in such a way that its cutting edge is taken away and it is rendered innocuous, just as it is possible to preach the eternal verities in such a woolly-headed and nebulous way that no-one quite knows what is the point that is being made. “Get to the point, Timothy”, Paul is saying, “make the message clear and plain”.
Thursday 28th August
2 Timothy 2:16-18
There seems to be a contrast intended between the workman ploughing a straight furrow through the Word of God (v15) unto godly upbuilding of His people and the advance or progress into godliness that is the inevitable result of profane and empty utterances. The word ‘increase’, meaning ‘advance’ is said to have been used originally of the pioneer cutting his way through brushwood (Souter), and this may serve to remind us that it is not a negative question or mere drifting into godliness through neglect, but rather of being driven by a positive and malignant power. This is borne out in v17, where ‘canker’ translates the Greek word ‘gangrene’. Paul has two things in mind here, it seems. This canker makes havoc in a man’s own life, and this would be sufficiently obvious in Hymenaeus and Philetus; but it also grievously harms the life of the fellowship, eating into its life and vigour with disastrous consequences, overthrowing the faith of some. It is well for us to stand back for a moment, and see this grim progression, from striving about words to no profit, irreverently and unspiritually handling the Word of life (v14), to the cancerous progress of an evil, destroying principle in the life of the fellowship. Nothing could emphasise more graphically the dangers attendant upon handling the word of God deceitfully. How needful to have men in the Church of God who are able rightly to divine the Word of truth!
Friday 29th August
2 Timothy 2:18
A word is necessary about the particular nature of the heresy mentioned here. Hymenaeus and Philetus were asserting that the resurrection was past already. This can only mean that they spiritualised the idea of resurrection, asserting that resurrection for the believer was in fact simply his regeneration, his “rising again with Christ” to newness of life. It is of course true that the believer’s regeneration is spoken of in the New Testament in terms of a resurrection, and this is the element of truth in the heresy that would make it subtle and dangerous (many scriptures could be quoted in support of it!). But this is not what the New Testament means by the resurrection, and to maintain so is indeed heretical. The Christian doctrine is the resurrection of the body and this is solidly based on the fact of our Lord’s bodily resurrection. It is significant perhaps that this last is also questioned by some today (perhaps it was then, also) who speak of His rising again in spiritual rather than in corporal terms. What we must realise is that the reality of Christ’s risen, eternal, indestructible manhood is an integral and fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith, and that it is the basis and guarantee of our bodily resurrection. It is men that Christ redeems, not spirits, and in the final consummation they will be seen to be men, with glorified bodies, as Christ’s human body is glorified, and not disembodied spirits. This is the resurrection to which the apostolic writings bear witness, and it is indubitably not past, but future (see Phil 3:20, 21 and Note on 2 Tim 1:10).
Saturday 30th August
2 Timothy 2:19
The statement made here is full of allusions that we must seek to understand if we are to grasp the meaning and significance of Paul’s point. The RSV renders the first phrase thus: “But God’s firm foundation stands”, and the NEB, “But God has laid a foundation, and it stands firm”. In view of what has gone before, particularly with reference to the resurrection, it must surely be clear that the foundation referred to is that of the Church built upon the fact of the resurrection of Christ. It is as if Paul were saying, “In spite of all the false teaching of those who are denying bodily resurrection, let it be known that this is in fact the very foundation of the gospel, that on which God is building His Church.” With regard to the seal, or inscription referred to, commentators point out that it was an ancient custom to inscribe on a building or monument an inscription which told of its origin and purpose (cf Rev 21:14). On this building of God, built of living stones, are two inscriptions, one of comfort and hope, reminding men that God would ever know His own, the other of duty, reminding men that God’s own had no share in unrighteousness (so Ellicott). It is thought that there is a reference to the story of the gainsaying of the sons of Korah in Numbers 16, where two verses in particular, 5 and 26, seem to answer to the twofold seal Paul speaks of here. The reference must then be to Hymenaeus and Philetus; and true believers, who name the Name of Christ and are sealed unto God, are to dissociate themselves from them and from all who by their heretical teaching undermine the foundations of the faith.
Sunday 31st August
2 Timothy 2:20-21
There are two possibilities of interpretation here. The first is to take ‘the great house’ to refer to ‘the visible Church’ or ‘Christendom’. If this is what Paul means, then what he says parallels our Lord’s teaching in the parable of the drag-net (Matt 13:47ff), which speaks of an ultimate separation of good and evil at the end. On first thoughts this seems to be the most likely interpretation; but if we apply it to the situation of which Paul is writing, it would mean that Hymenaeus and Philetus must be regarded as unbelievers. But in 1 Tim 1:20 Paul’s deliverance of the former to Satan was interpreted, it will be remembered, as a solemn discipline upon a believer, not an unbeliever. This leads us, then, to the second possible interpretation which is that Paul has in mind the honour and dishonour of believers within the true Church. The contrast he makes here between the different kind of vessels, gold and silver on the one hand, wood and earth on the other, certainly recalls a similar contrast in 1 Cor 3:12-15, where he is thinking of reward and loss for believers, not the separation of believers from unbelievers. Other references to this subject are found in 1 Cor 9:27 (‘castaway’ meaning ‘disqualified’) and 1 John 2:28 (where ‘ashamed’ is in some measure analogous to ‘dishonour’). This seems to accord better with the general meaning of Paul’s words in these verses. Timothy, by building the gold, silver and precious stones of true Christian character, will be a vessel unto honour, useful to God and usable in God’s hands. The others, made useless by their unfaithfulness and sin, are disqualified and shall suffer loss, and be ashamed before Him at His coming.