Continue in What You Have Learned
Read 2 Timothy 3:12-17 (ESV)
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
According to today’s passage, where does Scripture originate and what is its purpose in the life of every Christian?
Imagine that you know that you are in your final days here on earth. Who would you want to communicate with before you go? What would you tell them?
When the apostle Paul knew that he was in his final days, he took the opportunity to send his last words to Timothy in the form of a letter. That letter is what we now call 2 Timothy. He hoped he would see Timothy again face to face before he died but he was not certain he would get that chance. When Paul penned these words, which read like his final will and testament, he was once again in prison in Rome (A.D. 67). Only this time, he didn’t seem to think he’d be released. His words in 2 Timothy 4:6-7, indicate that he was expecting to soon be executed: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Church tradition holds that Paul was martyred during Nero's reign in Rome.
Paul addressed his letter to “my beloved child,” reinforcing the fact that Paul thought of Timothy as his spiritual son. He assured Timothy that he was still praying for him and that he wished he could see him. He expressed how grateful he was for Timothy’s “sincere faith” and credited his mother and grandmother for instilling that faith in him (2 Timothy 1:5). He urged Timothy to have courage and to not be ashamed of the Gospel but instead be willing to “share in suffering for the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:7-8). Above all, he charged Timothy to “guard the good deposit entrusted to you” and pass the Gospel on to trustworthy individuals who would in turn pass it on to others (2 Timothy 1:14-2:2).
Next, Paul used three analogies to explain Timothy’s mission. First, Timothy should be like a good “soldier,” single-mindedly and dutifully focused on pleasing his commanding officer, Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:4). Second, Paul instructed Timothy to be like a determined athlete who competes according to God’s rules so that he is not disqualified from receiving the prize (2 Timothy 2:5). Third, he encouraged Timothy to be like a farmer who works diligently with the hope of delayed gratification by receiving the first share of his crops when the harvest finally comes (2 Timothy 2:6).
Paul urged Timothy to “Remember Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:8). He urged Timothy to set his mind on the truths of His Gospel. After all, that is why they were suffering! They were suffering for the sake of the Gospel and in the hope that more would be saved as God’s Word went forth into the world. No matter how difficult the suffering or how horrible the persecution, Timothy needed to remember what and who he was fighting the good fight for. Timothy also needed to: “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Holding fast to Scripture and faithfully preaching sound doctrine was of utmost importance because Paul warned that times of difficulty were coming. During these times, people would engage in all kinds of evil and immoral behavior because they would be lovers of self and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-7). He wrote: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Paul strongly contrasts the godlessness of many in the last days with those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus. In today’s verses, he warned that yes, those who follow Christ will be persecuted and it will only get worse and worse. So, in order to endure, it is crucial that Timothy, and other believers continue on and stand firm on the sure foundation of God’s Word. Scripture isn’t just man-made myth, subject to the whims of culture and the desires of mankind. Scripture is God-breathed. It explains to us how to be saved. It equips us to do God’s work and it transforms our lives. To say that the Bible is “profitable” or beneficial to believers in Christ is an understatement!
Friend, these may have been personal words that Paul penned to his beloved Timothy but that doesn’t mean they don’t apply to us as well! We are aware that the world around us is deteriorating, and it does seem to be going from bad to worse. But our mission is the same as Timothy’s—continue on in the Word.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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