Sermon: On Guard
Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
In this week’s lessons, we look at three important charges Paul gives to Timothy.
Theme: The Faithfulness of Christ
There are times when the work of the church goes very well. There is unity among Christians, people are being built up through the preaching and teaching of sound doctrine, unbelievers are coming to faith, and other examples of spiritual progress. Then at other times things look like Paul’s experience in our passage, where he writes that people have deserted him. Yet, no matter how smooth or difficult the Christian life might be, it is the same gospel in both situations, and we have the same task to guard that gospel regardless of the attacks, unpopularity, or defections by those who once stood with us.
I said earlier that the reason Paul wasn’t ashamed of the gospel is that he knew the one in whom he had placed his trust. Paul also knew that the good deposit of the gospel would be guarded because he knows the one who stands beside him to defend it. That one is the Holy Spirit, who lives in us. If we were trying to guard this deposit alone, relying on our own strength or ability, we would never succeed. It would be an absolutely hopeless situation. But because the Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to guard it, we can engage in this work of proclaiming and defending this gospel with great courage. We ought to be encouraged by that and stand firm.
In the next chapter, Paul is going to use the image of warfare again. He is going to address Timothy as a soldier in God’s spiritual army. If Timothy is going to carry on the kind of responsibility that Paul is giving to him, Paul knows Timothy needs things like discipline and courage if he is to be a good soldier of Christ. Jesus Christ does not abandon the field to the enemy; rather, he stands with his people as a shepherd does with his sheep. He will not allow the sheep to suffer harm. That should be a great encouragement to us, especially when we go through difficulties in the Christian life.
Beginning in verse 11 of chapter 2, Paul passes on to Timothy what he describes as a trustworthy saying: “If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (vv. 11-13). He begins by saying that if we died with Christ we will also live with Christ, and if we endure with him, we will also reign with him. Then Paul gives a parallel statement in the negative: if we disown Christ, he will also disown us. So far all this sounds perfectly logical. But then we come to the last part of this statement, and there is a twist to it. When Paul mentions the part about our being faithless, we would have expected it to say something to the effect that Christ would be unfaithful to us. This would match what it said about disowning. But instead we are told that if we are faithless, Christ will still remain faithful to us, because he cannot disown himself. Because we know this about Christ, that should keep us firm. So let’s guard that gospel, and let’s proclaim it and share it with others, that by the power of this same Holy Spirit we will see many come to faith in him.
Why was Paul unashamed of the gospel? How is Timothy, or any of us, able to guard the gospel?
Read 2 Timothy 2:11-13. How is the ending different from the rest of the statement?
Application: When things are going well in your Christian life, or in the life of the church, what should your response be? What should your response be when you are being slandered by unbelievers, mistreated by other Christians, or when the church is under attack by the power centers of society?