25 September 20182 Timothy 2:1-15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. (v. 15)
Psalm: Psalm 23
It is highly likely that Paul expects this letter to be read to the church that Timothy is pastoring, but the words are addressed particularly to his young protégé, encouraging him in his ministry even if he and the church are given a tough time by their opponents. Timothy’s primary responsibility as a teacher of the faith is clear from the beginning and end of this passage. By “rightly explaining the word of truth” (v. 15) he is to pass on the teaching Paul has given him, not simply to the congregation, but to people who will themselves in turn become faithful teachers (v. 2). This verse concisely indicates the emergence of the importance of what comes to be called “the tradition”, namely gospel teaching which Christ gave to the apostles and which is then passed to each generation as a charge to be preserved faithfully, an authority for faith.
Suffering is perhaps inevitable for someone in Paul’s or Timothy’s position (v. 3) and Paul uses the examples of a soldier who must remain focussed and detached from many civilian concerns, an athlete who must train hard as required by the rules of competition, and a farmer who must work unstintingly, though the hardship of these professions does bring rewards too (v. 4-6). In his own sufferings Paul takes strength from reciting what is probably a primitive Christian creed (v. 8), and although he is chained in prison the gospel cannot be – see Philippians 1:12-18 where, in a previous imprisonment, Paul explains how his incarceration has led to the gospel’s progress. In verse 10, “the elect” stands for all those who are or will become Christians, and whom Paul believes will be strengthened in faith by his example of fortitude under trial.
“The saying is sure” (v. 11) is a common cliché in the letters of Timothy and Titus, Jewish in origin, and here introducing what may be a quotation from a hymn, perhaps used at baptism, which was seen as a process of dying and rising. The third line, “If we deny him, he will also deny us”, is found on the lips of Jesus in Matthew 10:33; the last line stressing God’s faithfulness even if we fail to live up to our profession is used to encourage Timothy and his flock when consciences are troubled.
- Which of the images in v. 4-6 – soldier, athlete, farmer – most challenges you at this point of your Christian journey? Is it the detachment from civilian affairs, the constant need for training/learning, or the persistent hard work, that constitutes the greatest test?
- “Avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening” (v. 14). Over what topics do you consider the Church of today fails this dictum?
- How do you see the relative authority for contemporary faith and living of the words of Scripture itself, and the tradition of interpretation passed down through the Church?