Theme: The Image of a Soldier
In this week’s lessons Paul continues to encourage Timothy in his Christian life and ministry.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:1-3
This chain of receiving and passing on the gospel is the true apostolic succession. Sadly, many men have received their ordination through the laying on of hands, but who have not remained faithful to their ministerial calling, whether because of believing bad theology or by living an impure life. By this I am not discounting the practice of ordination. It is important to mark one off publically as being a minister of the gospel, and we need to have men with proper training and examination and all those things. But what I mean is that the ordination of men is not the same thing as the ordination of the Spirit of God, by which this chain that Paul describes to Timothy goes on throughout the history of the church. The real succession is those whom God has called and raised up generation after generation, who are faithful to the truth of the Word and who pass it on to others who will go on to prove faithful themselves. It is in this context that Paul encourages Timothy to be strong.
Now at this point in the letter he introduces three images, which occupy verses 3-6. They are images that are directed particularly to Timothy, who perhaps was timid, in order to encourage him to be strong. The three images are of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. Here’s the way he puts it: “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.” In the case of each of these three images there are applications for the way Timothy is to serve as a faithful minister of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now what is it about the soldier that Paul has in mind? We remember that Paul knew them well, certainly he knew them far better than most of us know them. The reason is that in Paul’s case the soldiers he knew were jailers. In Philippians he describes how the gospel spread from his imprisonment throughout all the Praetorian Guard and hence to the very household of Caesar. From this we can imagine what Paul’s experience would have been. He would be chained to a guard for probably a lengthy period of time, during which Paul witnessed to the guard. I am sure he struck up a certain friendship that may well have allowed for the two of them to converse about various things. Eventually Paul worked around to the gospel, and some of these soldiers became Christians, who then after their shift with Paul went back to the barracks and told their fellow soldiers about what they had heard from their prisoner they were guarding. As a result, the gospel began to spread, even through such a means as Paul’s imprisonment. 
You have another example of this military theme in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In the sixth chapter he is talking about our spiritual warfare, and that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against rulers and powers of this dark world and against forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Paul refers to a whole set of images based upon the armor and weapons that were carried by the normal soldier of the Roman armies. He uses these to talk about the Christian life and the blessings we are given by God to live victoriously for Christ in this world. 
Thus, as Paul is writing to Timothy from Rome, he wants him to apply the soldier’s experience to Timothy’s spiritual life and his work in the ministry. A soldier’s life is hard and Paul wants Timothy to endure the kind of hardship that he is facing and will face as a minister of the gospel. If you have ever seen or read anything that describes a soldier’s life in boot camp, and especially in wartime, you know just how difficult it is, and the terrible experiences that soldiers must endure. Being a soldier is certainly not for everyone. It takes a certain kind of person to go through the rigorous training, and even more when one is called to obey dangerous orders under enemy fire. Paul is likening Christian warfare to that kind of hardship. To be a faithful soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ requires great endurance that only comes through the grace that God gives in the gospel.
Study Questions:

What are some characteristics of the man who has been ordained to the ministry by the Holy Spirit?
How does Paul’s use of the image of a soldier apply to Timothy’s situation?

Application: List the pieces of equipment that belong to us as Christians in Ephesians 6. How will you seek to live as one who is fitted for the Christian life in these pieces?
Key Point: To be a faithful soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ requires great endurance that only comes through the grace that God gives in the gospel.

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