A Young Man in a Pagan Culture

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A Sermon Series Through 2 Timothy

This is a very dear book to me personally.  It was the spring of 1993 that I was listening to the radio on a Sunday at my grandmother’s house.  Brother Jack Ward was preaching.  He ministered on II Timothy 4:1-4.  It was a burning in my soul that I cannot explain.  Had it been a fleeting thing, a non-fruitful thing I would have dismissed it.  Yet the fire is still there today, 25 years later.  Over 25 years of ministry that has always been there in some capacity or another.  I have been in part time or full-time ministry over half of my life.  It’s always been there, without actively pursuing ministry.  In fact, sometimes running from it.  I trace it all back to that spring Sunday and the scripture of II Timothy 4:1-4.

Why preach through the scriptures? 

When I say preach through the scriptures I mean preaching through a book and or chapter verse by verse.  This is opposed to style of preaching that takes a scripture here and there to prove the speakers point.  Or take a text as a pretext.

A brief summary is as follows as why we should preach through the Bible:

  1. It is biblical. Ezra preached through the law, Moses read through the law, Jesus read a continuation of Isaiah when announcing his ministry, Jesus exposited the law when on the road to Emmaus.
  2. It provides the essentials to our spiritual diet.
  3. It provides a better picture of God’s will and redemption in Christ
  4. It adds a rich depth and fosters a spirit of patience in the congregation.
  5. It forces the minister and congregation out of their theological comfort zone and to face hard passages.

So, it is with this information that we begin with our preaching.

To place perspective on this book, it was written to Timothy.  A dearly beloved son of the faith to Paul.  This is a book of teaching and encouragement to this young man.  So, the letter is written from that perspective.  To encourage a young man in his journey of faith, living in a pagan culture, with the threat of persecution arising.  Encouraging him in faithful suffering and diligent discharge of duty.

Verse 1-5

Paul is writing here under apostolic authority.  Ever wonder why certain books, letters, were added to the Bible?  I mean there were numerous letters and writing floating around at this time.  Why this letter?  One simple, and powerful answer: Paul was an apostle.  Apostles had several unique qualifications.  First, they saw the Lord Jesus and were commissioned by Him.  This carries heavy weight and authority.  It was foretold by Christ they would be lead into by the Spirit and their apostleship confirmed by extraordinary works of the Holy Spirit.  This was true of the twelve and of Paul.   Healings and miracles abounded in their ministry and were recorded.  They lead the church and wrote letters that were inspired by the Spirit and included in the Bible.  This is abundantly clear by the phrase in verse 1 “an apostle by the will of God.”

The question is are there apostles today?

No.  Not in this sense.  First, no one today has been commissioned directly by the Lord Jesus nor have they physically seen him.

Secondly, there have not been the quantity or quality of miracles to substantiate any claim of apostleship.  False prophecy, psychosomatic healings, loose scripture teaching and boasting are characteristic of today’s “apostles”.  To be clear, an instantaneous healing of a blind person is a miracle.  Gradual recovery from an eye surgery is not a miracle.  Interestingly the Biblical miracles and supernatural happenings were sparse.  When there were supernatural happenings, it coincided with revelation.  Examples include the giving of the Law, the time of the prophets, Jesus and the twelve’s ministry.

Next, is that one must interpret portions of scripture as non-repeatable events that have served their purpose and are not meant to be repeated.  For instance: the ark, the crossing the red sea, the temple, the first advent of Christ, the walking on water, the transfiguration of Christ, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, the commissioning of the twelve and Paul.  One should not expect these events to be part of the “norm” of the church.  To think we should have a Pentecostal type of advent every church service is to misunderstand the first advent of the Spirit.

An Apostle of What? 

What was he the apostle of?  Contrary to these new apostles, who focus on signs wonders, glory clouds, etc., the apostle Paul’s chief end “was the promise of life in Christ Jesus.”

What is the promise of life in Christ Jesus?  Well, it has covenant overtones.  The phrase, the promise of life has a reference to the covenant of grace.  The very word, “promise” has reference to the promising or covenant.  This is the promise of God to bless the world in Christ.  The Abrahamic covenant is a continuation of the Adamic covenant.  It is called the covenant of Grace which was revealed to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and fulfilled in Christ.  It is the promise of life, it is not attained by works.  Unlike the covenant of works or the law of Moses, life here does not come through works.  The life promised comes through Christ.

That is Christ asked for life as a mediator, procured life as a sacrifice, and rules life as a King.   He is the object of the covenant of Grace.  He is the subject material of Paul’s apostleship.  Paul ministers Christ and urges his son timothy to do the same.

Gill says,

“Now it is the business, of Gospel ministers, not to direct persons to work for life, or to seek to obtain eternal life by their own works of righteousness, but to hold forth the word of life, or to show men the way of life and salvation by Christ alone.”

Verse 3. 

Before we get to the main thought we will look at this parenthetical phrase, “whom I worship with a pure conscience as did my forefathers”.  Paul traces his faith to the forefathers.  He does not separate the testaments saying that the Old Testament is irrelevant.  He shows a continuity of faith handed down from Adam, to Abraham, to Moses to David and so on.  Secondly, Paul’s conscience is pure.  I liken this to a conscience that has been washed with the word.  Left to our own self, we can justify anything.  The Lord’s Word cleanses our way and gives us good conscience.  Psalm 119:1 “Blessed are the undefiled in the way who walk in the Law of the Lord.  Verse 9 wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way?  By taking heed thereunto according to thy word.”

Now interestingly enough, the Holy Spirit is the teacher that leads into the truth of the word.  He is the one who teaches the word that we may wash ourselves thereby.  The scripture teaches that it is the Spirit in connection with the word that is effectual.   II Corinthians 3, 4.  Note that it was the same Paul in Philippians chapter 3 that declared himself blameless in the law as a Pharisee.  Yet, being blameless in an unregenerate state is far from being pure in conscience when the word through the power of the Spirit examines you.  Praise God, Christ sprinkles and makes us clean unto a pure conscience.  Now onto the substance of Paul’s thanksgiving.

Paul is thankful to God for the ability to pray for his spiritual son and to witness faith in in spiritual son.  I think we should reflect this as well.

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