II Timothy 1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
This letter that we are studying is one of several “pastoral epistles” that God led Paul to write. Pastors need godly instruction. Pastors are supposed to be shepherds who guide God’s sheep in a proper manner. They need to know how to protect the sheep as well as keep them from going astray. They also need to have a stedfast walk so that their testimony with both the lost and the saved is believable. God’s Word is powerful, but a bad testimony can interfere with God’s work in the heart of an individual.
The pastoral epistles are important for the local pastor. They are also important for Christians as a whole. It is important for those who are not called to be pastors to have a sense of what is involved in pastoring a church. Christians need to know what God expects of them and what God expects of those He calls to be their leaders. Pastors are human beings like anyone else. They do not receive some special power that is not available to any other Christian. God places a high standard on those who are called to be pastors.
In the secular world, in Canada at this time there is unrest within the Conservative party. Just a few years ago, the party decided it did not like Andrew Sheer. Some within the party put pressure on him and he resigned. Along came Erin O’Toole. He promised to be a different type of leader and to be a true blue Tory. In the past election he proved to be a Trudeau clone. Since that election some within the party have asked for a leadership review. They do not like the way he led the party and they would like to see a change. Others in the party want this infighting to stop. They claim there is a bigger issue than who the leader of the P.C.s is. They claim it is more important to be ready to replace Mr. Trudeau and his party in the next election. Thus there are those who are prepared to hold their noses in the hope they can unseat the current gov’t. That is how politics seems to work. You cannot be a principled person when it comes to politics. You have to be able to overlook serious issues because someone within the party tells you those issues do not really matter.
Most religions work under this same premise. There are no absolutes and as long as the pastor has a certain charisma and seems to feel empathy for people, then that is all that matters. If he can draw people in, that is certainly helpful. Theology and doctrine are often held as minor issues. However, a true church cannot function that way. Man’s opinions have no place in a true church. Christians need to submit to the authority of God’s Word. No human leader can supersede the Word of God. The pastor needs to be saved and a humble servant of God. This will be evident, not so much because he says he is humble, but it will be proved by his actions. No pastor will be perfect. However, his attitude and actions toward the Word of God need to demonstrate his love for God’s Word.
As we have noted already, Timothy had proved to be a true servant of God. He had a godly heritage that helped him choose to be saved and choose to learn to walk faithfully with the Lord. God led Paul across Timothy’s path while he was a young person and Paul took Timothy and trained him further for the ministry. Timothy had been a true asset in Paul’s life and in the life of Christianity in the first century.
As we can see in this opening chapter, Timothy was struggling at this present time. He was not involved in sin. He had not divorced his wife and gone running after some other woman. He had not stolen from the local church. We are not told exactly what the concerns were, but we know that Timothy was under some stress at this time. God directed Paul to write to Timothy in a manner designed to help Timothy to be able to deal with the concerns and still be able to function well as a pastor.
Thus in verse 8 Paul was directed to challenge Timothy not to yield to the temptation to compromise. Paul wrote that Timothy should not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. It is important to note that Paul was directed to write about “our” Lord. He was not writing about “the” Lord, but specifically the Lord of both Paul and Timothy. There is only one Lord for all Christians. The religious establishment among the Jews were looking for a king to come and deliver them from Roman oppression. They rejected Jesus Christ because, rather than take that position as a physical conqueror, He came to set the spiritual captive free. He came to rebuke and expose the false teaching and the false teachers and give the people the opportunity to see and respond to the truth in a proper manner. Many of the common people were too weak to choose to follow Jesus Christ faithfully and chose to allow the false teachers to convince them to resist and reject Jesus Christ. The book of Acts begins with a major change. Many of those who rejected Jesus Christ while He was on earth, were convinced to believe in Him after His ascension because the facts presented were just too overwhelming to be rejected any longer.
It seems that under the current pressure that Timothy was facing, he was having some problems dealing with the opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul also wrote that Timothy should not be ashamed of him, as Jesus’ prisoner. Most professing Christians have no desire to go to prison. Most are not impressed with a pastor who is sent to prison. I remember one church I was pastoring where the issue of sodomy came up. Of course the world calls these people “gays” or “homosexuals”. The Bible never calls them that. God calls them sodomites. The name refers to the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. God destroyed those cities as a reminder that this lifestyle is wicked. It is an abomination to the Lord. It is completely unnatural. No one is born a sodomite. Romans 1 tells us how a person chooses to become a sodomite. We know that our “educational” system of today is promoting this perverted lifestyle and the Liberals are currently looking at reintroducing legislation that would make it illegal to seek to help a sodomite leave that wicked lifestyle.
In the church I was pastoring at that time, I wanted to clarify our position as a church with regard to sodomy. I was surprised by some of the opposition that was expressed by some of the men who claimed to want to serve the Lord faithfully. They were afraid of the stigma that would be attached to using Biblical language to clarify what any true church should believe regarding sodomy.
God’s goal is not to belittle people. God’s goal is to set the captives free. Those who are called to preach the word in season and out of season will sometimes be misunderstood. They will also sometimes be attacked for speaking the truth. Sometimes professing Christians will suggest certain leaders face trouble because of the way they approach a certain topic. When I read the Bible I see that faithful men of God in the Old Testament faced opposition for declaring “thus saith the Lord”. I find that Jesus Christ faced opposition for declaring the truth. I see that the apostles faced opposition for speaking the truth. It is important to have a genuine love of God in our hearts as we seek to help others. I also believe that this whole idea of which approach we use is somewhat of a smokescreen. It is another way of following the example of John Mark, who fled when he saw the opposition that Paul faced for preaching the truth. We want a sheltered Christianity. We want to be able to build our little empire and we do not want to get too “spiritual”.
Jesus Christ was crucified because the religious leaders hated Him so much. We know it was God’s plan for Him to go to the cross. He reminded His disciples often about that fact. When Jesus was arrested and put on trial all of His disciples fled. Peter denied Him three times in a short period of time, when several tried to link him to Jesus Christ. After Jesus’ resurrection and in particular on the day of Pentecost, that changed. The eleven were empowered from on high and they spoke boldly about Jesus Christ. In Acts 5:41 we read that the apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name. They were changed men.
The apostle Paul was a prisoner of Jesus Christ. He had not robbed a bank or committed any crime. He simply preached Christ crucified, and that caused the false religious leaders to hate him. It caused the occult leaders to hate him. It caused the idolaters to hate him. It led to the Roman government hating him. He was writing II Timothy from prison in Rome. Under the pressure that Timothy was facing, it seems he was drawing back from his boldness for Christ. How do you explain that your pastor is in prison? How do you encourage your children and others to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, when there is the reality of being hated by some and possibly arrested and being imprisoned just for identifying with the Lord and being bold for Him?
Paul was directed to encourage Timothy to be a partaker of the afflictions of the gospel. Timothy should not shy away from identifying with the Lord or with Paul. He should embrace that and understand that that was some of the cost of being a faithful servant of God. Not every Christian gets arrested and imprisoned. No true Christian hopes to be arrested. It is not about trying to be arrested. It is about seeking to honour God.
It is the same now with the ungodly restrictions that have been put on churches over the past two years. True churches are not looking for a way to be fined and shut down. True churches are simply seeking to be partakers of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God. True churches are under God’s authority. That has always been the case. Those that subject themselves to the authority of the state, are not true churches. They are state churches. They may gain a following, but they certainly will not help those who follow them to know God’s forgiveness and His peace. They will not be able to show the power and authority of God in the midst of a perverse and wicked generation. Paul was a prisoner in Rome, but he had God’s peace. He was not fretting and needing some pills to calm his nerves. He was able to be directed by God to encourage young Timothy. Timothy could see that God is able to stabilize His children so that they can rejoice in the Lord in the midst of trials, not only when there are no trials. There was much opposition to the truth in the first century. There have been other periods in history when there has been much opposition to the truth. We are currently coming into a time like that again. This should be a time for true saints to gather together for prayer and to encourage one another in the things of the Lord.
King Solomon was directed by God to write:
Ecclesiastes 4:12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
God has designed His people to be an encouragement to one another. There are times when we will be all alone, physically. However, we are not at that place at this time. We can still gather and be encouraged in the Word of God. It is important for us to use this opportunity as God would have us to. Paul was in prison in Rome, but God still allowed him to receive visitors while in prison. We do not know how many people there were around Timothy at this particular time, but God directed Paul to write to him and encourage him to stand strong in the Lord. He was not alone even if he thought he was. It was worth it to stand true to the Lord. It was the right thing to do. God would never leave him alone and he would be blessed in drawing nigh to the Lord.