II TIMOTHY 1
INTRODUCTORY ESSAY TO II TIMOTHY
As Paul begins this last letter to Timothy that we have on record, he re-emphasizes some of the important things he has told Timothy in his first letter. However, the wording he uses here is more emphatic. This indicates how important the Apostle considers these things to be.
As with most of his writings, he starts by firmly establishing the origin and therefore the authenticity of his calling. He says that he is “an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God”. What this means is that Paul was no ordinary preacher. He had been especially selected, by God Himself, to carry the message of life, found in Christ Jesus. Even when he was a rebel against Jesus Christ, God recognized that he was a man of unswerving faith. Not just the faith of an ordinary follower of Christ, but such complete faith in God and in His promises that he was devoting his life to protecting those promises. This is the faith that the Hebrew writer had in mind when he wrote that for one
to please God he must “believe that He is (”God”, i.e., believe that He is all that the word “God” implies), and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”. Paul not only believed in the eternal, all-powerful and all-wise One, but that he should put that belief into the most determined action. He believed he must devote his life to it.
In this demanding world we live in, I often ask myself how much of my time and energy is devoted to pursuing my faith, versus how much of it is devoted to survival and competition for my place in this temporary world. It is a demanding and important question for all of us, who claim to have faith in Christ, to ask ourselves. The sins that I commit because of my ignorance or even my human weakness are not the sins which bother me. It is the sins that I commit in violation of my conscience that weigh on my mind. Paul says here that he follows God with a clear conscience, as his fathers did. What he is saying is that his fathers, even though they made many mistakes, were still doing what they thought God wanted them to do. I Peter 3:21 says
we are baptized, not just to be cleansed by water, but in answer to a good conscience before God. In other words, the reason for baptism is because that is what God wants. No logical reason is necessary. Doing what your conscience tells you to do is doing what you believe God wants you to do. That is all. Real sin is when we violate this principle.
Paul’s faith is a model of the kind of faith God wants. Because of our human limitations, we have to do many things by faith. When I lived in San Francisco, I often crossed the San Francisco Bay Bridge. I simply rolled through the toll booth and across the bridge as if I KNEW it would take me safely across and would still be there when
I returned. I acted as if I knew because I had crossed it many, many times and because thousands of cars did so every day. Upon that evidence, I had faith which made me act as if I knew, but one day an
earthquake caused a part of the bridge to collapse so that cars could not travel on it. What we had faith in, from past evidence, and acted upon as if we KNEW, failed. However, when we see the wonders of God’s creation, and know the story of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the evidence should make us act as if we
KNEW God’s promises were true. That is what Paul means here when he says, “I KNOW whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted to Him against that day”.
True Christians should act, no matter what the cost, as if they KNEW His promises were true. Over the years I have asked many Christians, “Do you believe you are going to Heaven when you die?” Unfortunately many of them reply, “I hope so”. At the end of His life, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions…if it were not so I would have told you”. No more comforting words can be found. What Jesus is saying is that He loves them too much to have brought them to the risks of being His disciples if there was not a supreme reward at the end of the road. He would have warned them if it had not been so. What a wonderful promise from our Lord. We should have so much faith in Him and His promises that we KNOW whom we believe and are sure He will be waiting at the end of the road.
At the end of the initial part of his admonitions to Timothy, Paul tells him to guard the precious commission he has been given with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells in him. Jesus said to His disciples,
“I will be with you always”. God promised through the prophets, “I will pour out MY Spirit on all flesh”. So the Spirit of Christ and of God will dwell in the heart of every Christian to help him cope with the temptations of life and to keep him focused on the goal if we will but listen to that Spirit and let Him be our guide every day.
Next week we will hear Paul further emphasize these principles to Timothy, for he obviously thinks they are vital to the Christian life.