The preaching of the Word of God has been carried on from man to man throughout the entire course of the world. Starting with Adam to his children, we know that God’s commands, whether plainly given or in great detail described, have been handed down as a means to understand God’s will. Despite the fact that His will has not always been revered as it should be, nevertheless mankind is not ignorant of it, nor are they excused from failing to abide by it. To this very day, we know generally what a “pastor” is, seeing them as one who tells people what the Bible says. Sometimes, this is a means to financial gain as we see so often today, but as it was meant to be the pastor was one who proclaimed the Word of God to men for the sake of their salvation and edification. With this in mind, we find Paul the apostle (one who declared the new revelations given by God through the New Testament Epistles) writing to his disciple Timothy, whom he had raised to become a preacher after himself, and this is his second letter that we have, and more importantly this is his final letter that we know of. Paul was about to be executed by his Roman captors, who would take him out of the small, dark hole he was held in to have him beheaded, as was his right as a citizen of Rome who could not be killed by crucifixion, as so many of the other disciples (and the Lord Himself) had been. And so the whole of his letter is a very sobering thing, and should cause us to think twice before we assume it doesn’t mean anything to us. And so much of a letter’s direction can be found in the very introduction, where we are starting here…
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Firstly, notice how Paul does not begin. He does not say “Paul, your mentor and instructor,” nor does he declare “Paul, your best friend in the whole world!” Instead, he begins by saying “Paul, an apostle…” What difference does this make? All the difference in the world, actually, as we see very clearly that Paul wasn’t writing as a mere mentor or friend, he was writing as an apostle (ambassador, messenger) for Jesus Christ, which is above and beyond any friendship. All of what he is about to talk about is not simply advise, it is solid, clear and applicable truth from God, applied in the context of Paul writing to his spiritual son. Therefore, we don’t simply need to stop and think about what he is saying, but rather we need to apply every word as absolute doctrine that is vital to our Christian life (as is all of Scripture) regardless of whether or not I can directly apply it to my own personal situation at the moment. This is also a reminder of the person who is writing the letter, that being Paul whom we can read about in the Acts of the Apostles, as well as his words throughout his other Epistles.
Secondly, we see to whom he is writing these things, that being Timothy his disciple. We don’t know a great deal of Timothy’s history nor his character, apart from any implications in Paul’s letters to him. We see him mentioned throughout the records in Acts, as well as being mentioned in some of Paul’s other letters. And then of course we have two letters written directly to him, from which can extract some information, although I do not believe we can be utterly certain of Timothy’s shortcomings apart from what is said by Paul directly. Some read into the words of warning from Paul, assuming that Timothy must have transgressed, although I believe this is unnecessary, as regardless of whether or not Timothy had given in to temptations, the point of what is being told to him does not change. It could certainly be the case that Timothy had not committed these sins, but rather Paul was exhorting him to continue in this, being strong so as to avoid caving to his “youthful lusts.” One way or another, what we get out of these words is inevitable, and we should take them close to our hearts and minds.
Finally, consider what Paul is telling Timothy, in general. He is writing to a pastor, one whom he himself trained and taught, and who he sent to various churches that he could not go to. Along with Titus, Timothy went to a variety of locations to maintain and grow (spiritually) the churches throughout Asia, and often accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys, so he was able to have a first-hand look at the life of a travelling minister, and more importantly (to what is about to be discussed) the hardships that came with it. He is therefore being written to as a pastor, and we must see it as such first and foremost. This does not mean that the non-preaching Christian cannot obtain anything from this, but before we find any secondary meaning, we must first see the first and actual meaning of the text before we can ever think of taking it out of context. This is so because of who is writing it (an apostle designated personally by Christ Jesus our Lord) and from Whom he received these words (the Holy Spirit of God), making them authoritative and of utmost importance. This is further evidenced by the fact that Paul, along with most of the other apostles, and perhaps even Timothy as well, had given their lives for this Gospel which they brought to the nations, solidifying the fact that this was not for personal gain (as Paul was writing this from prison before his execution), but for the purpose of the salvation and edification of the saints. Whether or not we see an application for ourselves in any text (yes, I am looking at you Chronicles), it will always be the truth of God, and must be taken as such.
Listen to God
Next, we look at the phrase “…an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…” Further applying the previous fact, this is coming from Christ Jesus and God the Father. If you remember back to the earthly life of Christ, He said to the His disciples “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” (Luke 10:16) This was a very sobering statement, in light of what He had just declared to the cities He had been through, saying “Woe to you!” because they had the Lord walk through them, presenting the saving Word more clearly than to any nation before them, and yet they had rejected it. These would face further punishment than Tyre and Sidon, because these had no reason to reject Him. How much more than should we be held accountable if we reject His Gospel, as we have the easiest access to it and the clearest means of understanding it, through the countless translations of the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and the many theologians who have strived before us to present His Word to us. The Bible is one of the most available books in the entire world, and its contents can be access on paper or electronically, free of charge in so many ways. And yet we are the most ignorant of any societies before us, because we use our access to it as a means of excusing our diligence in it, claiming the title of Christian without the means of understanding what it means to be like Christ. We have so many third-parties to hear about God’s Word, that we never bother to read or study it ourselves. Some read it for the sake of reading it, gaining little out of it, while others ignore it altogether, assuming their theologians would never make a serious error and are thereby an accurate means of hearing God’s Word without actually reading it directly. And take careful note: When Jesus told His disciples “The one who listens to you listens to Me,” He said this (wait for it!) to His disciples. Not to us. Not to theologians, not to pastors, but to His disciples. The person who rejects what I say suffers no consequences as those who rejected the apostles, as the apostles were given such authority from the Christ personally. If, however, I present the Words of God accurately and contextually, then the one who rejects them rejects the Word of God. But this implies something important. The only way one can determine whether what I say is true or false is to look at God’s Word (which I profess to study and proclaim) for themselves. If one rejects what a preacher says simply based on their feelings about it or the preacher’s tone, they are willfully ignorant and making a false claim without any effort. If, however, one rejects what a preacher says based on the fact that it contradicts the Word of God, then they are righteous, and should seek to correct and remind the preacher of his authority (God), the One to whom he will answer. But when Paul begins a letter here saying “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” there is no room for discomfort being a valid reason of rejection, nor are we allowed to overlook it as meaningless to us. These are the words of God, and you had better listen. This applies to the preacher, and the one who listens to the preacher. The only time we are ever allowed to ignore or reject the words of a minister of the Word of God is when he is not preaching the Word of God. And in such cases, correct such a one with the clearest urgency, as he commits a grave sin before God.
The Promise of Life
This is an incredible statement, if you truly see what is being stated, particularly because of what it implies at the beginning. Think about it: “the promise of life”? What does that imply? It implies that we were dead, and are holding to the promise that through God’s Gospel we are alive in Christ. Paul emphasizes this in his letter to the Ephesians, saying to the church “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” He then reminds them of this promise, saying “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:1-7) This promise is not merely an opinion we hold, or some grand idea that we adhere to as our religion, this is very thing that saves us from the state of death we were born into, making utterly clear the brutal reality of our sin and the absolute need for the Savior.
Combine this with what we just talked about, and we see a clear picture of Paul’s intent. This is important! It is vital, and the consequences of rejecting it are severe. This life can only come through Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us for the very purpose of our salvation from sin and salvation to the righteousness of Himself, so that we might stand before God blameless, being freed from all of that filthy sin and stand in the purity of the Lord. Therefore do not assume that these things can be overlooked, nor should they be treated lightly, as they are the means by which we are allowed to have any joy, and that in Him. This then adds weight to what Paul says to Timothy, his beloved spiritual son to whom he takes the time to write, even while imprisoned, saying “Grace, mercy and peace from God.” And based on what Paul is about to encourage Timothy to do, he will need them.