November 14, 2011

Tuesday after the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.5, 2 Kings 6:15-23, 2 Timothy 1:15-2:13
Evening - Ps. 11, 12, Eccles. 6:1-12, Mt. 22:34

Commentary
2 Timothy 1:15-1:13

How sad the words of verse 15 are. They present the personal hurt Paul felt by the rejection of Phygelus and Hermogenes. Having devoted himself to these very people, having brought the Gospel to them, nourished them in its teachings, suffered beatings, stonings, and prisons for their sakes, and having established a church in which they can worship God and hear the truth, he now sees them forsake him. Surely he must feel here what he wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:15, "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved." But Paul's words also express a deeper sorrow, for these people are deserting God to follow their own desires and ideas. So Paul's pain is more for them than for himself. In their heresy and rebellion, they have sealed their fates as enemies of God. Contrast verse 15 with verses 16-18. Onesiphorus, because of his love for God and God's truth, also loved Paul, and showed his love in his actions as well as in his words. As Paul suffered and sacrificed to share the word of life with Onesiphorus, Onisiphorus shared good things with Paul. This, naturally caused Paul to rejoice much, but he rejoiced even more to know that Onesiphorus walked in Biblical faith rather than following vain babblings (2 Tim. 2:16:-17).

In chapter 2, the epistle turns to the ministry again. Timothy is to be strong in grace (2:1), and to commit what he has learned from Paul to "faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." We err when we ask our ministers to spend their time planning social gatherings and recreational activities for us. We err when we ask our clergy to organise soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Their calling is to teach the Scriptures to us; to "commit" the Apostolic teachings to us. Our responsibility, just as Timothy's, is, first, to receive their teaching. Timothy had to be a learner before he could become a teacher. We, also, must be willing learners of the word of God. We are, as Peter wrote, to "desire the sincere milk of the word" that we "may grow thereby" (1Pet. 2:1-2). Primary among God's appointed means for this is the ministry of men called and consecrated to teaching us. Clergy, there is a legitimate sense in which your people may and should become followers of you, and in following you, become followers of the Lord (1 Thes. 1:6). Laity, there is such a things as a legitimate and good attachment to those who serve you in the name of Christ. Often laymen become sermon critics and develop an attitude of consumerism and entitlement toward the Church and her ministers. This is as great an offense to God as a minister preaching false doctrine.

Second, we are to transmit the Christian faith to others. Having it committed to us, it becomes our task to commit it to others, who will commit it to others, on down through the generations. The Christian faith is not an individualistic faith. It unites us to the whole company of faithful people. We are part of a Family, a Temple, a River flowing into God. We are like runners in a relay race. Others have gone before us; others will come after us. We have received the torch from those who have gone before. We now run our course with perseverance and faithfulness, and pass the torch to others to carry on till the Lord Returns. While it is true that we are part of the fellowship of all faithful people, we can never allow ourselves to believe we can be a part of that broader fellowship without also being faithful in the local fellowship, which is the local church. And it is in the local congregation that our worship, fellowship, learning, and service primarily take place.

Paul illustrates our work with examples from military service, athletic competition, and agricultural labour (2:3-6). All three require learning complex skills, self-discipline, and self exertion. A soldier ignorant of the use of weapons will soon be dead. An athlete not dedicated to his sport will soon be a spectator. A farmer too lazy to plow the fields and gather the harvest, will soon have no harvest to gather. Like wise, a minister who does not apply himself to teaching the Bible will soon have a congregation of heathens, and the layman who will not hear and learn the word will soon be one of them.

In 2:8, the epistle turns to the historical reality on which our hope is based; "Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead." We do not hope in feelings or experiences. We hope in a historical fact; that God came to earth, died for our sins, and rose from the dead. Paul would not suffer and die for a feeling or an emotional experience. He would not die for a theory, or even a religion, and neither should we. We live for, hope in, and serve a real, living God who has made Himself known in history and in flesh and blood. For Him alone we will suffer, knowing that if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us" (2:12).

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