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Work in 2 Timothy (3)

P McCauley, Belfast

The fourth reference to work in 2 Timothy is: "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (3.13-17).

Many were defecting and deserting, ground was being given up, and people giving in, but Paul tells Timothy to continue in the things he has learned from him and the other witnesses (2.2). He is talking about New Testament revelation there. Then in v.15 he introduces something additional: "And that from a child thou hast known...". He has before him Old Testament revelation, then in v.16 he puts the two together and states: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God". This is a clear indication that the apostles knew that their teaching was on the same level of authority as the Old Testament Scriptures.

It is important to notice that Paul states that the Old Testament is able to make one wise unto salvation. The Old Testament therefore contains the way of salvation. Why is that significant? It is significant because there are many people who believe that to be saved you must undergo baptism, belong to their church, observe the Lord's Supper, etc, so what we can ask such people is this: "Can you show me that from the Old Testament?". None of those things can be found in the Old Testament, but what we can find is that a Saviour was coming and that salvation is by faith in Him.

But Paul tells us that the purpose of the Scriptures is not just to produce children of God but men of God, not just Christians but mature Christians. Salvation is not the end of God's dealings with us, it is only the beginning.

Paul states that all Scripture is God-breathed. This applies to every word (Mt 4.4), letter (Gal 3.16), part of letter (Mt 5.18), and tense (Mt 22.31-32). The Word of God gives evidence of its inspiration in many ways, allowing us to prove the Bible is God's Word, and we can use that word PROVE as an acronym to help us:

Prophecy – the many predictive prophecies of Scripture serve as indisputable evidence of its divine source. There are prophecies relating to the nations, the nation of Israel, and the Messiah, furnishing abundant proof of the fact that holy men of God spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1.12).

Reality – the manner in which the Bible accounts for the condition of the world and humanity, in a way that no other world view can, shows us it comes from God.

Oneness – the unity of the Bible, having, as it does, approximately 40 different authors, who were writing 66 books over a period of about 1600 years, shows that the message is one. Themes are woven throughout the fabric of Scripture that could only be done by the God who spanned the ages and guided the writers.

Verification – the claims of Scripture on matters of history, geography, and science have been repeatedly confirmed by subsequent discoveries. In addition, it has the highest verification of all from the Son of God Himself who confirmed the authority of the Old Testament and anticipated the writing of the New Testament.

Experience – the promises of Scripture can be proven experientially. God's Word promises new life for those who trust Christ for salvation, and multitudes can testify to the truth of that. Furthermore, we meet with God in His Word; how often His Word meets us in our circumstances, answering exactly to the situations in which we find ourselves.

Paul says that Scripture is all profitable so that the man of God may be complete. There are two things to notice here: it is all profitable so we should not take from it, and it is given that the man of God may be complete, that means it is sufficient, so we should not add to it. It has been the error of liberal Protestantism to take from the Word of God and it has been the error of Roman Catholicism to add to the Word of God. There are serious warnings against both courses of action. The Scriptures have the ability to make us complete, that is, fully fitted out. I am told that this is a term that would be used for a ship that is ready to sail. Remember what was said of those in 1 Timothy 1.19 – they made shipwreck – they were not rigged out. If we do not give heed and be submissive and obedient to God's Word we will make shipwreck too. Let us renew our commitment to Scripture again.

Our next "work" verse is 4.5: "But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry". There were problems within the assembly, and threats to local assembly testimony, but Paul did not want Timothy to get so occupied with internal problems that he neglected his duty to the lost.

There is a collective responsibility to seek to reach the lost. Every assembly ought to be a gospel focused assembly. The New Testament teaches the need for collective gospel witness. It is not enough simply to open the doors of the hall once a week. We need to work to get people under the sound of gospel preaching, and make sure that when they come they will hear the gospel preached with clarity and conviction.

There is also a responsibility that falls upon every Christian to seek to reach the lost. There are people within your sphere of influence and you are their link with the gospel. We need to put effort into it, and we need to work at making contacts, taking opportunities, showing compassion, answering questions, helping with problems, dealing with difficulties. It can be hard going, but would it not be worth it all to see a soul saved for eternity? Do the work of an evangelist!

The final text is 4.14-18: "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen". With Paul's final strokes of the pen he gives Timothy a warning about Alexander. It is important to notice that the expression, "the Lord reward him according to his works", is an indicative not an imperative, that is, it is a statement of fact not an expression of a desire. Paul knew it was not the place of any Christian to take vengeance or seek retribution. He could leave this man in the hands of the Lord. It is good to know that we can take all the hurts, misrepresentations, slanders and heartaches and leave them with the Lord.

How sad to see the great apostle in such lonely circumstances, as his life draws to a close. What gave him comfort and encouragement? The passage gives us a clue; look at the language he uses: he says he is forsaken with no one standing with him, he speaks about the Lord strengthening him, he tells Timothy he was delivered from the mouth of the lion, and then he mentions the Lord's Kingdom. This is all Psalm 22 language (see Ps 22.1,11,19,21,28). It seems to be that during his dark hour and in his deep valley he remembers One who passed through a darker hour and a deeper valley. Because of what He passed through we can never sympathise with Him, but He can sympathise with us. Are you suffering? He knows what it is like. Paul's work is done, but there is still plenty to do. We are working for the best Master in the greatest business; let us not slacken off, for "the night cometh, when no man can work" (Jn 9.4).

Concluded.

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