This is our final lesson on II Timothy. It has been a journey with my staff as we have learned how to be disciples of Christ and organize our lives around the Great Commission of making disciples of Christ. Here is a list of the previous lessons that we have covered.
- Attitude toward the Word of God
- The authority of the Word of God
- Fulfill your holy calling
- The difference between the believers and nonbelievers in the church
- Compete to win the prize
- Trained soldiers needed
- Guard the Gospel
- Stir up your spiritual gift
This post deals with II Timothy 4. Take a moment to read the text and then we can discuss what we learn. The previous lesson was about fulfilling your holy calling as a follower of Christ. This lesson will teach us about the differences between those who preach the Word and those who do not. The chapter offers 2 groups of people, those who do not preach the Word and those who do. I would like to focus on these two groups to determine where we find ourselves today. How do you know if you are preaching the Word or something else? This passage will show us who is preaching the Word and who is not so that we can learn from the mistakes of some and the good examples of others.
Before we dig in to the passage and the cross references, please read the following verses and think about them as you examine each category of people.
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. (I John 2)
I. Those who are not preaching the Word
The first negative example mentioned in the text is Demas. Paul reveals who he is in the text based on what he has done. Who was he? What do other passages in the Bible teach about him? In the Timothy passage, Paul tells us that Demas loves this present world more than he loves the Gospel. He deserted Paul when things got tough. This implies that he was part of the team at one time. Demas left Paul and ran away to Thessalonica. He may have gone to the church of the Thessalonians, a church which had embraced heretical teaching and was floundering as a result. Or, he could have been the one who brought the destructive heresy to Thessalonica. Paul had to write his second epistle to the church in Thessalonica to deal with the heresy. The following two passages from other epistles from Paul shed some light on the subject of who Demas was in the ministry.
Demas had worked with Dr. Luke, the writer of one of the Gospels. Demas had been part of the ministry, a fellow worker in the Gospel. It seems that all was well until Paul was imprisoned by Rome. At that point, Demas seemed to count the cost of preaching the Word and decided that it was not worth it. He loved the present world too much to give it all up to follow Christ, to join in Christ’s sufferings so he left. How does this compare with what we read in I John 2? It seems that preaching the Word was okay until it became sacrificial and Demas decided to take his mask off and reveal who he really was and who he really wasn’t. How do you respond to suffering for the Gospel? Remember, in chapter 3 of II Timothy, Paul teaches Timothy that all who desire to live godly (preaching the Word in season and out of season) will suffer for their stand.
The second negative example revealed by Paul in the text is Alexander the coppersmith. Paul tells us in chapter 4 that Alexander did Paul much harm while he was with him. He did much harm by directly opposing the teaching of the Word. Again, it seems that Alexander was on the team and as Paul began to teach the Word, he did not agree with the teaching and actually began to oppose the Truth. Before mentioning Alexander, Paul taught Timothy of the fact that difficult times will come because men in the church and ministry will not be able to endure sound teaching and instead, wanting to have their ears tickled, will seek teachers who will teach according to their natural desires. Alexander seems to be one of those men. Was he in the ministry with Paul? Had he pretended to be a believer at one time? Let’s see.
Acts reveals to us that Alexander was part of the team. He actually stood and defended the Gospel at one time, in the midst of heavy persecution. He seemed willing to suffer for a time. Along the way something happened. I Timothy reveals that Paul had to do some church discipline with Alexander, similar to what he had to do in Corinth. The difference between what happened in Corinth and what happened to Alexander is that the man in Corinth repented and was accepted back into fellowship. Alexander obviously did not repent, or at least not during the lifetime of Paul. Alexander had begun to blaspheme. This means that he was actually speaking ill of the Lord, knowing what he was doing. He was not teaching false doctrine out of ignorance. He knew good and well what he was doing. He was slandering the Lord and His true followers. Alexander falls right in line with what I John 2 teaches. He was never really a believer. He was a good pretender. Does this scare you a bit? It puts the holy fear of the Lord in me. It makes me want to examine myself daily to make sure that I am a genuine believer. I have been preaching the Word for 15 years, but like Jesus taught His followers, “he who endures to the end demonstrates that his salvation was genuine“. I want to preach the Word in season and out of season until the end. As Paul teaches, I want to be a good soldier each and every day, and run the race to win. I know that I cannot do it on my own strength and I need to depend on the Lord moment by moment. If I try to do it on my own, I will end up like Demas and Alexander. What about you, are you trying to do it on your own or are you living day by day totally dependent on the grace of God? Now let’s turn to the faithful ones who endured until the end. Please notice that they were not perfect. As you will see, they made mistakes but unlike Demas and Alexander, they did endure until the end.
II. Those who are preaching the Word
We have already learned of one of the team members, Luke, who served with Demas before he (Demas) walked away. He was a doctor who came to Christ and then began researching the life of Christ. Luke was classically trained in the best schooling that the Greeks had to offer so he was very methodical in his research. That research led him to write one of the Gospels. He wrote the Gospel to share Christ with one of his friends. The person obviously came to faith in Christ because Luke follows up his Gospel with Acts, a letter of discipleship to that same friend. Luke was ready to preach the Gospel in season and out of season. He was ready to suffer for the Gospel and did so as he traveled with Paul on his missionary trips. He is in Rome with Paul. He did not run away like Demas but was ready to join in the sufferings of Christ.
The next positive example that we see is John Mark. We learn that he is Barnabas’ cousin and part of the missionary team of Barnabas and Paul. Mark’s mother is also a believer and has a church in her home. A genuine believer is ready to sacrifice and use all that he has in the furtherance of the Gospel, even his home. Peter reveals in his first epistle that he is the one who led Mark to faith in Christ, and probably his mother too. Mark has the gift of helps and he helps Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary trip. Along the way, probably as persecution began to get severe, like Demas, he deserted. The difference is that Barnabas confronted him and he repented because he comes back to the team, even though Paul does not trust him. Mark goes on with Barnabas and proves his worth as a servant of Christ. Later on, Paul reconciles with Mark and asks for him by names in II Timothy 4.
Another positive example that we see in the text is Tychicus. He is part of the team that Paul works with, maybe even a disciple of Paul. In Acts we see that he worked and traveled with Paul on his missionary trips. He is a minister of the Gospel, preaching the Word in season and out of season. Tychicus is sent by Paul to Ephesus, Colossae, and Crete. He is always ready to serve and sacrifice when and where he is needed. A genuine believer builds his life around ministering the Gospel wherever he is needed or sent. He knows how to work in a team and is obedient to the Lord and his spiritual leaders.
Finally, we see Priscilla and Aquila. They were Jews who were forced out of Rome. In their journey, probably back to Jerusalem, the meet Paul in Corinth because they all worked in the same trade, tent makers. Paul seems to be the one who led them to Christ and they join him in the ministry as he travels on his mission trips. They are well trained and have the spiritual gift of teaching. Paul leaves them in Ephesus and they start a church in their home. They confront with the Word of God and then exhort with the same Word of God, exactly what Paul teaches Timothy to do in II Timothy 4. As a result, Apollos comes to faith and becomes a minister as well.
As we have seen, genuine believers preach the Word, endure hardship and suffering, sacrifice all that they have to get the Word of God to the people around them and disciple them. They invite others to join a team, work together as a team, and endure until the end. What about you my dear friend, which category would Paul place you in based on how you have organized your life and how you live it moment by moment, day by day? Do you live to be a disciple and make disciples? How do you respond when confronted with the Word of God? How do you respond when you are rebuked? Does it lead you to repentance and faithfulness or do you run away? Based on your reaction, you mark youself as being in one category or the other. May the Lord help us all be faithful disciples until the end, spending our days in the process of discipleship and making disciples.