Studies in the Pastoral Epistles and Philemon
6. 2 Timothy 1:15-2:7 - Work Hard for the Lord
Paul refers to his own situation in Rome: “You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.” These men didn’t necessarily desert Christ, but they were afraid to help Paul in his most recent troubles.
In contrast to them, Paul praises someone who was not afraid: “May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.” Onesiphorus had helped Paul in prison, and now Paul asks God to help his family. Was he still alive? We do not know.
“On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me.” This is an example that Timothy might need to copy when he comes to Paul (4:21).
“May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day!” Did Paul think that he needed to ask God to show mercy to a loyal worker? No; Paul is playing on words: Just as Onesiphorus “found” Paul, Paul wants him to “find” mercy. Paul knows that the Lord “will” give him mercy, because the Lord is full of mercy, and it has already been granted, even before time began. Nothing can change that.
Strengthened by grace (1 Timothy 2:1-7)
Paul exhorts Timothy: “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” “Strong in grace” could have several meanings: 1) to be confident in God’s grace toward humanity, 2) to emphasize grace in preaching, or 3) emboldened by God’s grace, to be confident in all of life.
Paul knows that he is going to die, and Timothy will die, too. So Paul wants him to train some replacements, to create an expanding network of teachers: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” This is a good principle for ministry today.
|“If God’s church had a foundation stone, what would be inscribed on it? Paul says it would have a promise, and a warning.”
Timothy will encounter problems, persecution, and sometimes even boredom. Timothy needs to be mentally prepared for the challenges. So Paul reminds him that he needs to be committed: “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Timothy is not alone — he is enduring it “with us.” And he is not working for himself — he is working for Christ.
“No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer.” It’s OK to be involved in secular affairs — Paul sometimes worked as a tentmaker — but Timothy should not be entangled in the secular world, looking there for his sense of self-worth. He is primarily a servant of Jesus, and he should seek to please Jesus, even if he has a secular job.
Paul moves to another metaphor: “Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” Paul hints at a “victor’s crown” for Timothy, when the work is done the way his commander wants it done.
A third metaphor: “The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” Paul again hints that Timothy will receive something in return.
Paul was not the first to use soldiers, athletes and farmers as examples of diligence — various Greek writers used the same three metaphors. Paul uses this trio to point out that gospel work involves toughness, focus, obedience and hard work. He concludes by inviting Timothy to see himself in these metaphors: “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”
Author: Michael Morrison, PhD