BIBLE STUDY


Paul's Letters To Timothy
by Greg Williamson (c) 2014, 2019
Featuring the text of the New American Standard Bible *
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Intro | 1 Timothy 1:1-11 / 1:12-17 / 1:18-20 | 2:1-8 / 2:9-15 | 3:1-7 / 3:8-13 / 3:14-16 | 4:1-6 / 4:7-12 / 4:13-16 | 5:1-16 / 5:17-25 | 6:1-2 / 6:3-10 / 6:11-21 | 2 Timothy 1:1-7 / 1:8-12 / 1:13-18 | 2:1-7 / 2:8-13 / 2:14-18 / 2:19-26 | 3:1-9 / 3:10-12 / 3:13-17 | 4:1-4 / 4:5-8 / 4:9-22 ** | Articles & Definitions | Sources

THE STEWARD, THE SOLDIER, THE ATHLETE, & THE FARMER
(2 Timothy 2:1-2, 3-4, 5, 6-7)

1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
5 Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.
6 The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.
7 Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

 
God’s grace strengthens us and enables us to be faithful teachers, soldiers, athletes, [and] farmers. God’s grace enables us to overcome ... the world. God’s grace enables us to endure hardship as we fight the Lord’s battles. - Warren Wiersbe [ref]
 

QuoteWorthy: Growing Stronger
As our trials increase, we need to grow stronger in that which is good; our faith stronger, our resolution stronger, our love to God and Christ stronger. This is opposed to our being strong in our own strength. - Matthew Henry [ref]

2 TIMOTHY 2:1 - Links in the Chain of Ministry (vv. 1-2)


A PRINCIPLE TO LIVE BY
Mentoring Others

Spiritual leaders should develop a core of faithful men and women who can multiply their efforts. (see 2 Timothy 1:13-2:2) [ref]

You therefore (2 Timothy 2:1)
Meaning: "following my example (2 Timothy 1:8, 12), and that of Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-18), and shunning that of those who forsook me (2 Timothy 1:15)." [ref] "[I]n the midst of the general landslide, [Timothy] must stand his ground." [ref]

be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1)
Meaning: "Be strong, relying on the grace which the Lord Jesus only can impart." [ref] "Be strong" refers to "an abiding and continual strengthening" (present active imperative): "Keep on being empowered." [ref] "Timothy's strength in the sphere of grace will grow if he cultivates the gift which grace has bestowed on him." [ref]

Meaning "unmerited favor," grace often comes to us via "light directing how to act, and power enabling to act according to the light." [ref] Or, as one commentator puts it: "God’s unmerited favor which is extended to the guilty in order to cancel all their guilt and to those who have been freed of guilt in order to keep them so and to shower upon them all the gifts and the blessings they may need." [ref] Thus the grace of Christ is "the empowering influence in the Christian life," helping us to stay the course and keep progressing in our Christian walk and witness. [ref] It "incites and strengthens us even for extraordinary duties. It is an incentive and stimulus." [ref]

Natural strengths, abilities, and accomplishments tend to make people proud and independent. The Christian, on the other hand, should be quick to admit his/her weaknesses, faults, and shortcomings because only then will we feel an urgent need for God's strength. As one commentator insightfully puts it: "[You should] expect the Lord to bless you not because of who you are, but in spite of who you are! God is looking for men and women He can bless not because of their prayer, their talent, their piety, or their devotion, but simply because of His grace -- for they will be those through whom He is most glorified (1 Corinthians 1:27)." [ref]

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BE STRONG!

Scripture gives us many ways to understand the strength God offers to his people. We must daily draw on his resources.

  • Romans 4:20 - We have examples to follow (such as Abraham) who were leaders of faith.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9 - We receive strength at our point of weakness. When we acknowledge our limitations, God can use us.
  • Ephesians 6:10-11 - God strengthens us by giving us armor to combat Satan -- faith, knowledge, and truth.
  • Philippians 4:13 - God's strength equips us for his service.
  • 1 Timothy 1:12 - Our thankfulness to God for the strength he gives enables us to be more receptive.
- Life Application Bible Commentary on the New Testament [ref]

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STRENGTH/MIGHT/POWER

In the Bible, the concepts of strength, might, and power overlap in English as they also do in Hebrew and Greek. But all the different words in the original are used within a common framework: the conviction of Scripture that God’s power is supreme, and human strength is insignificant in comparison.

OLD TESTAMENT
The Hebrew words

The Hebrew language has numerous words for strength, power, and might. Many are commonly translated by all three English word groups. There are various sources of strength acknowledged in the OT: physical prowess, numbers, wealth, wisdom, and will. But ultimately, all human powers must be measured, not against other human beings, but against the overwhelming power and strength of God. It is important that no one attempt to test his or her puny strength against the Lord!

The testimony of the OT
Again and again the hearts of godly Israelites were drawn to history’s record of God’s powerful acts. The existence of Israel as a nation and the well-being of the individual depended, not on military might or physical strength, but on the active power of God, exerted on behalf of his people. [see Ps 28:7–9; cf. Isa 40:10–31]

This confidence was based on God’s historic acts for his people. It was because of God’s “mighty” hand that Pharaoh let Israel go (Ex 6:1, 6) to become his own people (v. 7). [see Dt 4:32–34]

God, not Israel, was the source not only of deliverance but also of every achievement of his people (Dt 8:17–18). The strength and power of God were available throughout history to protect Israel in their years of obedience. And a return to God brought a promise of power. [see Isa 41:10]

Israel did not always trust the Lord. And they knew many defeats. The arm of flesh failed. But when there was a turning to God, when they trusted and were not afraid, when they recognized God as their strength and song, there was renewed victory (e.g., Isa 12:2).

No wonder, then, that Scripture focuses on God’s power rather than on human armies. God, with his “great power and outstretched arm,” made the earth (Jer 27:5) and then redeemed his people from servitude (Ne 1:10). God’s past mighty acts provide the basis on which his people could hope for the future (Ps 66:5–8).

NEW TESTAMENT
The Greek words

Several Greek words express varying aspects of power, strength, and might. While other words suggesting great size or a stonelike firmness may appear, the concept of strength and power itself is expressed by ischys, kratos, exousia, and dynamis.

The testimony of the NT
The NT, like the OT, contrasts the innate power of God with the strength of human beings. Paul expresses the conclusion succinctly: Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God; and “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Co 1:25).

God’s application of his power
The NT emphasizes, not (as did the OT) salvation as deliverance from external enemies that threaten, but salvation as deliverance from forces hostile to the inner life of human beings. As we might expect, there is a similar shift in emphasis where the NT draws our attention to God’s use of his power. What remains constant is that in both Testaments, God uses his power on behalf of his people. What shifts is the focal point of that power; in the NT it is released in us as Jesus’ people.

Jesus himself becomes the model for God’s exercise of his power. Jesus was “declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead” (Ro 1:4). While OT believers constantly returned to Creation and the Exodus as examples of the divine power, the writers of the NT return to the Resurrection (e.g., Eph 1:19–20; 3:16–20; Php 3:10; Col 1:11). The parallelism is striking.

A study of the NT Epistles shows this exciting emphasis again and again. Because “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Ro 8:11). [see Eph 1:18-20; 3:20-21]

Conclusion
Both Testaments call on us to recognize God as the ultimate power in our universe. The testimony of the OT is that his power is exerted to deliver from danger those who trust and obey him. The testimony of the NT is that God’s power is exerted in Christ to bring life to the dead. As we rely on Jesus, we are released from the hostile powers that hold us in their grip, we begin to experience a resurrection kind of life now, and ultimately we will experience a resurrection through which we will be transformed into Jesus’ image.

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)

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GRACE

“Grace” is a dominant NT theme. Salvation is by grace, not works (Ro 11:6; Eph 2:5). Grace releases us from the dominion of sin, for believers are “not under law, but under grace (Ro 6:14). NT letters begin and conclude with the wish that grace will be with the readers, and the NT closes with these words: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Rev 22:21).

It is clear that if we are to appreciate the message of the NT, we need to have some understanding of the concept of grace.

OLD TESTAMENT
OT roots of grace

The word “grace” seldom appears in the English OT versions. There is no full parallel to this NT concept in the OT. The closest parallel seems to be drawn by the Hebrew hānan, “to be gracious,” “to be merciful” (hēn, “grace,” “favor”).

The verb portrays the compassionate response of one who is able to help another person in need. In human society it is often used in statements concerning helping the poor.

We are confident that when we call on God, he will respond. He will act, not because we merit help, but because he recognizes our desperate need and love moves him to exercise his power to meet our need. This indeed is grace!

NEW TESTAMENT
The developed concept

In the Greek language, “grace” is charis. It means a gracious favor or benefit bestowed, and at the same time it means the gratitude appropriate to the grace received. The verb charizomai means “to show kindness or favor.” The concept came to include both the gracious action and agreeable human qualities.

In the NT, Paul fastens on this word and develops it as a technical theological term. It is clear that Jesus’ teachings provide a solid basis for Paul’s affirmation of the grace of God. Jesus shows that God stoops to help the undeserving and pardons the helpless sinner (e.g., Mt 11:28–12:13; 18:21–34; 20:1–16; Lk 7:36–50; 15). But in the Gospels, these actions are not termed grace. Even in Acts, “grace” is used in a different way, namely, to indicate the visible expression of God’s power in action, an expression that marked his presence in the early church.

Yet as the church expanded beyond Palestine and penetrated the Roman world, Paul fastened on charis to communicate the truth that lies at the heart of God’s saving work in Jesus. To Paul, “grace” is a transforming reality. It transforms the way we think about a person’s relationship with God. It transforms our present and eternal destiny.

Transformed perspective
By Jesus’ time, OT faith had been seriously distorted by centuries of misinterpretation. The religious Jew relied on his physical descent from Abraham and on his knowledge of the law. Relationship with God was considered an issue of ritual piety and obedience to the letter of the law. The religious man had a claim on God, established by membership in the covenant community and based on his own merits. The sense of helplessness that moved the psalmist to call out to God, pleading only that the Lord show mercy and stoop to meet his needs, was replaced in the religious life of the Pharisees by a smug sense of self-righteousness.

The apostle Paul was thoroughly trained in this way of thinking and in rabbinical interpretation. But he was dramatically converted to Christ on the Damascus road and was driven to reexamine the beliefs of a lifetime. His perspective on a person’s relationship with God was transformed, and as Paul was committed to missionary work, he was driven to the word “grace” for a way to express the vital difference between human attempts to win God’s favor and the way in which personal relationship with God is actually established and developed.

Paul’s letters to Romans and Ephesians most clearly show the dramatic perspective that grace provides on God’s past and present actions. [see Ro 3:19–26; 4:16; 5:15-21; 11:1-6; Eph 2:1-11]

The affirmations grace makes about God and human beings stand in bold contrast to the normal human approach to relationship with the Lord. Grace holds that human beings are helpless, so locked in sin that their state can only be represented as death. Grace declares that God is merciful and loving and that he is able to act to meet our deepest need. Grace teaches that God has acted in Jesus to bring us forgiveness and new life through his atoning sacrifice on Calvary. Because of motives rooted deeply within his own character, God has reached out in Jesus to save sinners.

For the religious people of Paul’s day and for all people of every time, the message of grace is a powerful warning of our absolute need, and it is an affirmation of the overwhelming love of God that acts in Jesus to meet our need and provide forgiveness and life.

Transformed experience
The grace affirmed in the NT is always mediated by Jesus. This grace is a dynamic force that does more than affect our standing with God by crediting us with righteousness. Grace affects our experience as well.

Grace is marked always by God’s enabling work within us to overcome our helplessness. We yield ourselves to God and trust him to do what we are unable to do. This walk of faith releases us from the domination of sin, and we become slaves to God, doing his will and reaping the benefit of holiness [Ro 6:22].

[G]race is not simply a basic orientation to relationship with God. It is also a practical approach to living the Christian life. [Christ] alone can enable us to live righteous lives. We cannot approach Christian experience from the old perspective, for grace and religion are contradictory. We can only live by full commitment to the way of grace and all that grace involves.

Conclusions
The biblical concept of grace is much greater than is suggested in the common definition of “unmerited favor.” “Grace” is a word that expresses a radical view of life and of relationship with God.

Grace teaches that God’s attitude toward us is one of acceptance and love; knowing God’s heart, we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Heb 4:16) with every sin and need.

Grace is a dramatic statement about the human condition. Each person is helpless, trapped in sin and incapable of pleasing God or winning his favor.

Grace is a proclamation. It is the triumphant announcement that God in Christ has acted and has come to the aid of all who will trust him for their eternal salvation.

Grace is a way of life. Relying totally on Jesus to work within us, we experience God’s own unlimited power, vitalizing us and enabling us to live truly good lives.

The message of grace found in the NT calls us to a completely different outlook on relationship with God and on spiritual achievement than is found in any religion of human invention. Understanding the nature of grace, we decisively reject any confidence in ourselves, and we trust ourselves totally to Jesus, who alone is able not only to declare us truly righteous men and women of God but also to make us so.

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)


In classical usage the word grace referred to a person's attractiveness or charm. A gracious person was kind and of generous disposition. The relational quality of willing good for another was not a requirement but a "favor." As Aristotle said, grace was "helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything or that the helper may get anything, but for the sake of the person who is helped." Those treated graciously by others felt gratitude and expressed thanks. In scriptural usage the idea of grace  points to God's kindness toward  sinners who are unable in their fleshly natures to return anything of merit.

Some understanding of grace is basic to appreciating the Spirit's redemptive work with God's chosen people. God's undeserved acts of mercy and grace stand in contrast to his merited acts of justice. Justice is merited, grace is unmerited. As just, the Judge of the entire earth gives all persons exactly what they deserve according to their works. As merciful, God withholds punishment from the guilty. As gracious, God bestows on them unmerited blessings.

Some common misunderstandings of grace warrant attention. Grace does not undermine justice but fulfills it. The gracious acts of the Holy Spirit do not violate justice by bringing any undeserved punishment upon anyone. Grace, furthermore, is not a "thing" to be hypostatized by itself. Grace is misunderstood if it is confused with an impersonal power or energy that can neither satisfy justice nor grant mercy. It is not like magic or manna. Grace is a quality of persons. Only morally accountable persons can understand a just moral indictment, mercifully withhold judgment, and confer undeserved blessings. Since mercy and grace deal with distinctively person-to-person relationships, mechanical illustrations of humans under the power of the Spirit as puppets or robots are irrelevant.

- Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest [ref]

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2 TIMOTHY 2:2 - Links in the Chain of Ministry (vv. 1-2)

The things which you have heard from me (2 Timothy 2:2)
This is very similar to what Paul said earlier (2 Timothy 1:13).

"Paul was Timothy’s chief teacher of Christ." [ref]

in the presence of many witnesses (2 Timothy 2:2)
This may be a legal phrase meaning "supported by many witnesses" -- and they were indeed testfiers rather than mere spectators. [ref] [ref]

"Many witnesses" may refer to those present during Timothy's ordination ceremony (cf. 1 Timothy 4:14; 6:12; 2 Timothy 1:6). [ref] [ref] [ref] On the other hand, it seems more likely that they are the "many diverse groups of people" [ref] Paul had taught in Timothy's presence: "Traveling with Paul, Timothy had heard the apostle address scores of diverse audiences. Among all those groups the essence of Paul’s message had not changed. It was the same body of truth Paul had taught Timothy personally." [ref] Moreover, "the reference to the many witnesses shows that the apostolic faith was not a secret tradition handed on privately to Timothy (such as the Gnostics were claiming), whose authenticity there was no means of testing, but a public instruction, whose truth was guaranteed by the many witnesses who had heard it and who could therefore check Timothy’s teaching against the apostle’s." [ref] [ref]

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MANY WITNESSES

Having accompanied Paul on his second and third missionary journeys, Timothy had heard Paul preach, argue the gospel, and/or bring encouragement

  • to the women who gathered by the river just outside Philippi (Acts 16:13)
  • to the believers in Philippi (Acts 16:40)
  • to the Jews in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1)
  • to devout Greeks and women in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4)
  • to the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures to see for themselves if Paul's words were true (Acts 17:11); Greek women and men of high standing in Berea became believers
  • to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in Athens (Acts 17:18)
  • to the Jews and Greeks in Corinth (Acts 18:4)
  • to the Jews in Ephesus (Acts 18:19)
  • to the believers in Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 18:23)
  • to disciples of John the Baptist who had not heard the full gospel (Acts 19:1-7)
  • to many Jews and Greeks in the lecture hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus over a two-year period (Acts 19:9-10)
  • to the believers in Macedonia (Acts 20:1-2)
  • to the believers in Troas, where Paul spoke until midnight; Eutychus fell asleep and out the window to his death; Paul raised the young man back to life, then continued to speak to the believers until dawn (Acts 20:7-12)
  • to the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:17-38)

To all these different groups, Paul's message, while perhaps changing in format, never changed in content.

- Life Application Bible Commentary on the New Testament [ref]

entrust ... faithful men ... teach others (2 Timothy 2:2)
We can count "[f]our generations in the tradition-passing process" [ref]: from Paul ... to Timothy ... to faithful men ... to others. [ref]

Paul is telling Timothy to take the Gospel-oriented teaching he has received from Paul and pass it on to "faithful" -- that is, "capable, qualified" [ref], believing, loyal, reliable [ref] -- men who, in turn, will pass it on to others. "This is the way to pass on the torch of the light of the knowledge of God in Christ. Paul taught Timothy who will teach others who will teach still others, an endless chain of teacher-training and gospel propaganda." [ref]

This may refer to an official "ordination to the ministerial office. Timothy was to see that those only were admitted to the ministry who were qualified to understand the truths of religion, and to communicate them to others." [ref] The "faithful men" "Paul has in mind must be primarily ministers of the word, whose chief function is to teach, Christian elders whose responsibility it would be -- like the Jewish elders of the synagogue -- to preserve the tradition." [ref]

In Paul's day the Pharisees, rabbis, and Greek philosophical schools all emphasized the passing on of traditions. [ref] The difference, of course, is that rather than mere human thoughts and opinions, Paul is concerned with divine truth enshrined in sacred Scripture.

faithful (2 Timothy 2:2)
Here "faithful" (Greek pistos) pertains "to being trusted -- ‘faithful, trustworthy, dependable, reliable.’" [ref] [ref]

This is "the distinguishing grace to be sought for" so that the Gospel truth will continue long after Timothy has departed the scene. [ref]

men (2 Timothy 2:2)
It is worth noting that this word (Greek anthrōpos) is gender-neutral, meaning "a human being (normally an adult) -- (in the singular) ‘person, human being, individual,’ (in the plural) ‘people, persons, mankind.’" [ref]

Related: Teach/Instruct

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THE CARE AND FEEDING OF TEACHERS

Teachers in a local church ensure that the gospel is passed from one generation to another. God's truth must be taught and modeled; therefore, teachers must be respected and not taken for granted. Teaching must not simply be left to the pastor. Every church ought to have a program to identify and train faithful and effective teachers. The following guidelines may be helpful:

  • Identify those willing to teach. They may not be immediately qualified but can be trained to serve because they are motivated.
  • Screen out and redirect those who are gifted in ways other than teaching or whose spiritual lives render them unsuitable as teachers. l Train teachers in core doctrinal issues.
  • Make training opportunities, books, and materials available to teachers. This will build them up and affirm them in their ministry.
  • Find places of service for teachers as they become ready. Give them special teaching opportunities -- —new member classes, Sunday school, etc.
  • Affirm teachers in the church. Let all teachers know they are appreciated.
- Life Application Bible Commentary on the New Testament [ref]

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THE GOOD STEWARD

The ministry is not something we get for ourselves and keep to ourselves. We are stewards of the spiritual treasure God has given us. It is our responsibility to guard the deposit and then invest it in the lives of others. They, in turn, are to share the Word with the next generation of believers.

It is important that we get our original treasure from the Word of God, and not from the ideas and philosophies of men. We do not test modern teachers by their popularity, education, or skill. We test them by the Word of God, and particularly the doctrines of grace as given by Paul. It is not we who examine Paul to see if he is right; it is Paul who examines us!

It takes strength to teach the Word of God. We must dig out of the rich mines of Scripture the “gold, silver, precious stones” that are hidden there (see Prov. 2:1–10; 3:13–15; 8:10–21; 1 Cor. 3:10–23). This strength can only come from God’s grace. The secret of Paul’s great ministry was the grace of God (1 Cor. 15:10).

The ability to study, understand, and teach the Word of God is a gift of God’s grace. “Apt to teach” is one of God’s requirements for the pastor (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24). “Apt to teach” implies apt to learn; so a steward must also be a diligent student of the Word of God.

- Warren Wiersbe [ref]

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MENTORING, KINGDOM-STYLE

Paul describes the powerful process of mentoring in 2 Tim. 2:2. Just as he had helped Timothy during a formative stage in his development, he challenged Timothy to mentor others, who in turn could become mentors and keep the reproductive cycle going. Christians today need to recover this pattern of older believers working with younger ones, which dates to the earliest days of the faith. Here are a few examples from the New Testament:

  • Barnabas with Saul/Paul. A wealthy landowner from Cyprus, Barnabas stood up for Saul, the persecutor-turned-convert, introducing him to church leaders and vouching for his conversion. Coached by Barnabas (Acts 4:36–37; 9:26–30; 11:22–30), Paul became an outstanding leader in the burgeoning movement.
  • Barnabas with John Mark. In a dramatic split with Paul, Barnabas took young John Mark home with him to Cyprus and rebuilt his confidence (Acts 15:36–39). Years later, Paul changed his opinion, describing John Mark as “useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).
  • Priscilla and Aquila with Apollos. Manufacturers of mobile living units (tents), Priscilla and Aquila drew alongside gifted but confused Apollos, tutoring him in the faith and then sponsoring his ministry (Acts 18:1–3, 24–28).
  • Paul with Timothy. Pioneering leader Paul recruited young Timothy and built on the foundation laid by the young man’s mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5). Enlisting him as a fellow-traveler and tutoring him in the faith, Paul guided him in his first major assignment, the multiethnic start-up at Ephesus (Acts 16:1–3; Phil. 2:19–23; 2 Tim. 1–4).
  • Paul with Philemon. Paul helped Philemon, a wealthy leader in Colosse, deal with a runaway slave who had broken the law. He recommended full acceptance -- even as a brother in the family -- rather than insisting on the usual retribution.
- The Word in Life Study Bible [ref]

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2 TIMOTHY 2:3 - The Soldier (vv. 3-4)
A PRINCIPLE TO LIVE BY
Suffering For Christ

When we serve our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully, we should expect difficult challenges that may at times create intense times of persecution. (see 2 Timothy 2:3-7) [ref]

Timothy can complete his mission of guarding and passing on Gospel truth only to the extent that he is 1) strong in grace (2 Timothy 2:1), 2) willing to assume his share of suffering (2 Timothy 2:3), and 3) not made ineffective through an inordinate focus on everyday activities (2 Timothy 2:3-4). [ref] [ref]

Suffer hardship with (me), as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3)
The implication is: "join with me and others in suffering." [ref]

Paul "considers a Christian minister under the notion of a soldier, not so much for his continual conflicts with the world, the devil, and the flesh, for these are in a certain sense common to all Christians, but for the hardships and difficulties to which he must be exposed who faithfully preaches the Gospel of Christ." [ref]

"Soldiers on active service do not expect a safe or easy time. They take hardship, risk and suffering as a matter of course." [ref] "Soldiers often endure great privations. Taken from their homes and friends; exposed to cold, or heat, or storms, or fatiguing marches; sustained on coarse fare, or almost destitute of food, they are often compelled to endure as much as the human frame can bear, and often indeed, sink under their burdens, and die." [ref

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SOLDIER

The soldier was the individual unit in every army, whether a member of the infantry, cavalry, or part of the group engaged in siege warfare. There are only a few references to soldier as such in the OT but many references to army, whether of Israel or its enemies (Ex 14:9; Dt 11:4; 1 Sm 17:1; 28:1; 29:1; 1 Kgs 20:19, 25; 2 Kgs 25:5, 10, 23–26; 1 Chr 11:26; 2 Chr 13:3; Neh 2:9; Is 36:2; 43:17; Jer 32:2; 34:1, 7, 21; Ez 17:17; 27:10, 11; 38:4, 15, etc.). Individual military units are also mentioned -- the armor bearer (Jgs 9:54; 1 Sm 14:7, 14, 17; 16:21), the shield carrier (1 Sm 17:7, 41), slingers (2 Kgs 3:25; Zec 9:15), spearmen (Acts 23:23), and swordsmen (2 Kgs 3:26). Sometimes soldiers are called “warriors” (1 Kgs 12:21; 2 Chr 11:1; Is 9:5).

The soldiers of the Egyptians, Canaanites, Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans all operated in Israelite territory at various times. The Roman army was well-known in Jesus’ day. Roman soldiers crucified Jesus (Mt 27:27–37; Mk 15:16–25; Lk 23:33; Jn 19:16–18, 23, 24, 32, 34). Officers of the army, like centurions, encountered Jesus and the early Christians (Mt 8:5–13; Lk 7:1–10).

Paul had extended contact with Roman soldiers (Acts 10:7; 12:4, 6, 18; 21:32, 35; 23:23, 31; 27:31, 32, 42; 28:16). For Paul, the equipment of a Roman soldier provided a picture of the Christian’s armor (Eph 6:10–17). He referred to his friends Epaphroditus and Archippus as “fellow soldiers.”

- Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible [ref]


The most frequent word for “soldier” [in the New Testament] is Gk. stratiōtēs (occurring twenty-one times), which in the Gospels and Acts usually refers to Roman legionnaires. While the Romans permitted native officials to maintain some military forces (cf. Mt. 27:65; Jn. 18:3, 12; etc.), order in the provinces was secured by the Roman legions. The legions did not rely on elite warriors supported by less skilled recruits, as had the armies depicted in the OT, but on large, homogeneous units of highly disciplined professionals, trained to fight as an organized body.

The Gk. spekoulatōr (Mk. 6:27) refers to a member of the “head-quarters’ staff of a legionary commander or provincial governor (whose duties included the carrying out of executions)” (LSJ, s.v.); cf. AV “executioner.”

The Pauline and Pastoral Epistles develop the metaphor of the Christian life as one of spiritual warfare. Thus 2 Tim. 2:3 refers to the believer figuratively as “a soldier of Christ,” and Paul designates Epaphroditus as his “fellow-soldier” (systratiōtēs, i.e., “comrade-in-arms,” Phil. 2:25) in a greater spiritual “conflict” (agōn; Phil. 1:30). Eph. 6:10–17 likewise enjoins the believer to “put on the whole armor of God” in order to contend with “principalities … powers … [and] rulers of this present darkness.” In these texts Christians are depicted as armed legionnaires fighting alongside one another and mutually supporting one another in a wider conflict.

- D. G. Schley [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)

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2 TIMOTHY 2:4 - The Soldier (vv. 3-4)

soldier ... entangles ... affairs of everyday life (2 Timothy 2:4)
The main idea here is "singleness of purpose and detachment from extraneous cares" [ref] (cf. James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17). [ref]

Effective soldiering demanded nothing less than "single-minded purpose, rigorous discipline, and unquestioning obedience." [ref] "Roman soldiers were not allowed to marry, or to engage in any husbandry or trade; and they were forbidden to act as tutors to any person, or curators to any man’s estate, or proctors in the cause of other men. The general principle was, that they were excluded from those relations, agencies, and engagements, which it was thought would divert their minds from that which was to be the sole object of pursuit." [ref] Enlistment was expected to last for 20 years, although "only about half survived to retire." [ref]

"A soldier, who is bound to go anywhere and do any thing at the bidding of his captain, must have no ties of home or business. The implied counsel is the same as that given in 1 Corinthians 7:26-34, with its warnings against distraction between the possibly conflicting interests of the Lord and of this life." [ref] But does this mean Christians should have nothing to do with the world? Such an endeavor would be as impossible as it would be impractical. As one Bible commentator explains:

 
The Christian, who is intended to live in the world and not contract out of it, cannot of course avoid ordinary duties at home, at work and in the community. Indeed as a Christian he should be outstandingly conscientious in doing and not dodging them. Nor should he forget, as Paul reminded Timothy in his first letter, either that ‘everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving’ or that ‘God … richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy’ (1 Tim. 4:4; 6:17). So what is forbidden the good soldier of Jesus Christ is not all ‘secular’ activities, but rather ‘entanglements’ which, though they may be perfectly innocent in themselves, may hinder him from fighting Christ’s battles. [ref]
 

And as another commentator puts it:

 
Roman troops were a model of discipline, and because of that discipline, they were unbeatable. Such ideas were in Paul's mind when he chose the image of the soldier to describe the servant of Christ. Just as the duties of soldiering required freedom from entanglements of the world, so too does Christian service. And right here we come face to face with the dialectic or dilemma of Christian existence: to be in the world but not of the world. Clearly, the metaphor implies "separation," but this does not mean departure from the world.

What must be avoided is involvement in the world's ways and acceptance of the world's values, all of which subtly or overtly pose a challenge to the ways and values of biblical Christianity. But let us not be fooled into thinking this is an easy task. We face the same danger as the frog in the pan of slowly heating water. Unless we remain sharp in the faith, constantly testing the thoughts and trends of the world about us against the revealed will of God, we too will slowly die. In all walks of life Christ (our commanding officer) is the priority. In every context we are to be living expressions of the new life in Christ (1 Thess 4:12). The discipline of a soldier is needed at each point, so that our eyes can remain focused on Christ and our ambitions set on pleasing him. This kind of discipline will lead us past the world's conflicts of interest and hold us firm in the face of the suffering that our nonconformity may well elicit (Rom 12:2). [ref]
 

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TENTMAKING

There are a number of references to Paul working to support himself, both from his own letters (1 Cor 4:12; 9:1–18; 2 Cor 6:5; 11:23, 27; 1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8) and from the Acts (Acts 18:3; 20:34–35). By so working Paul supported himself and “those who were with [him]” (Acts 20:35).

Only one of these references, however, identifies the nature of Paul’s work -- tentmaking (Gk ēsanskēnopoioi tē technē, Acts 18:3). The Greek skēnopoios literally means “tentmaker” or “leatherworker.”

It is clear that Paul’s work was physical and arduous. Paul writes of “labor and toil … we worked night and day” (1 Thess 2:9; cf. 2 Thess 3:8; Acts 20:35) and of “working with our own hands” (1 Cor 4:12; cf. Acts 20:34). We gain an impression of one whose daily life was characterized by hard physical labor, which began before sunrise.

Hock has shown that, far from being peripheral to Paul’s life, tentmaking was central to it. “More than any of us has supposed, Paul was Paul the Tentmaker. His trade occupied much of his time. … His life was very much that of the workshop … of being bent over a workbench like a slave and of working side by side with slaves” (Hock 1980, 67).

Fundamental to those passages where Paul catalogs his apostolic sufferings we find references to Paul’s “labor.” Comparing himself with the Corinthians, he writes, “We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor working with our own hands” (1 Cor 4:10–12; cf. 2 Cor 11:27).

Significantly, Paul connects his work with his ministry. He reminds the Thessalonians, “Night and day working … we proclaimed … to you the gospel of God” (1 Thess 2:9). This probably means that Paul talked to people while he worked and also, almost certainly, that on some days, or during part of the day, he laid aside his apron and tools and taught the gospel (Acts 19:9–11). His lifestyle was characterized by both work and preaching.

There are three reasons in particular why Paul worked to support himself.

First, conscious that he may have been perceived as just one of many itinerant lecturers, some of whom were none too scrupulous, Paul may have worked to support himself out of concern lest his ministry and the message of the gospel be associated with other traveling philosophers (cf. 1 Thess 1:5; 2:3–6; 1 Cor 9:12; Acts 20:33–35).

Second, Paul regarded idleness, which was endemic in Greco-Roman society, as inappropriate for the Christian believer. So he deliberately set the example of hard work to support himself and called upon his converts to imitate him (1 Thess 5:14; 2 Thess 3:6–13; see Imitation).

Third, as one called to be the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul had no option but to obey God’s call to preach the gospel. God called him, and so Paul made “the gospel free of charge” to the people to whom he came (1 Cor 9:16–18). His obedience to God would have been diminished by receiving payment from others.

- P. W. Barnett [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)

please the one who enlisted him as a soldier (2 Timothy 2:4)

 
[The soldier's] great object is to approve himself to [the one who enlisted him]. It is not to pursue his own plans, or to have his own will, or to accumulate property or fame for himself. His will is absorbed in the will of his commander, and his purpose is accomplished if he meet with his approbation. Nowhere else is it so true that the will of one becomes lost in that of another, as in the case of the soldier. In an army it is contemplated that there shall be but one mind, one heart, one purpose -- that of the commander; and that the whole army shall be as obedient to that as the members of the human body are to the one will that controls all. The application of this is obvious. The grand purpose of the minister of the gospel is to please Christ. He is to pursue no separate plans, and to have no separate will, of his own; and it is contemplated that the whole "Corps" of Christian ministers and members of the churches shall be as entirely subordinate to the will of Christ, as an army is to the orders of its chief. [ref
 

One commentator provides the following insightful illustration:

 
Knowing they would be mowed down by Nazi machine guns, the first soldiers off the landing craft at Omaha Beach charged valiantly. Those who miraculously made it to shore safely began to climb the cliffs, knowing they were most likely climbing to their deaths. What would cause a man to hit the beach or to climb a cliff, knowing he would be gunned down in the process? Subsequent studies have shown that the heroes of D-Day did so out of respect and appreciation for their commanding officer and fellow soldiers. The concept of fighting for one’s country is sometimes too big, too abstract. But risking one’s life for the safety of one’s commander or for the safety of the soldiers right beside him makes sense. [ref]
 

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ONWARD, CHRISTIAN SOLDIER!

The picture of man as a soldier and life as a campaign is one which the Romans and the Greeks knew well. "To live," said Seneca, "is to be a soldier" (Seneca: Epistles 96:5). "The life of every man," said Epictetus, "is a kind of campaign, and a campaign which is long and varied" (Epictetus: Discourses, 3, 24, 34). Paul took this picture and applied it to all Christians, but specially to the leaders and outstanding servants of the Church. He urges Timothy to fight a fine campaign (1 Tim 1:18). He calls Archippus, in whose house a Church met, our fellow soldier (Phm 1:2). He calls Epaphroditus, the messenger of the Philippian Church, "my fellow soldier", (Php 2:25). Clearly Paul saw in the life of the soldier a picture of the life of the Christian. What then were the qualities of the soldier which Paul would have repeated in the Christian life?

(i) The soldier's service must be a concentrated service. Once a man has enlisted on a campaign he can no longer involve himself in the ordinary daily business of life and living; he must concentrate on his service as a soldier. The Roman code of Theodosius said: "We forbid men engaged on military service to engage in civilian occupations." A soldier is a soldier and nothing else; the Christian must concentrate on his Christianity. That does not mean that he must engage on no worldly task or business. He must still live in this world, and he must still make a living; but it does mean that he must use whatever task he is engaged upon to demonstrate his Christianity.

(ii) The soldier is conditioned to obedience. The early training of a soldier is designed to make him unquestioningly obey the word of command. There may come a time when such instinctive obedience will save his life and the lives of others. There is a sense in which it is no part of the soldier's duty "to know the reason why." Involved as he is in the midst of the battle, he cannot see the over-all picture. The decisions he must leave to the commander who sees the whole field. The first Christian duty is obedience to the voice of God, and acceptance even of that which he cannot understand.

(iii) The soldier is conditioned to sacrifice. A. J. Gossip tells how, as a chaplain in the 1914-18 war, he was going up the line for the first time. War and blood, and wounds and death were new to him. On his way he saw by the roadside, left behind after the battle, the body of a young kilted Highlander. Oddly, perhaps, there flashed into his mind the words of Christ: "This is my body broken for you." The Christian must ever be ready to sacrifice himself, his wishes and his fortune, for God and for his fellow-men.

(iv) The soldier is conditioned to loyalty. When the Roman soldier joined the army he took the sacramentum, the oath of loyalty to his emperor. Someone records a conversation between Marshal Foch and an officer in the 1914-18 war. "You must not retire," said Foch, "you must hold on at all costs." "Then," said the officer aghast, "that means we must all die." And Foch answered: "Precisely!" The soldier's supreme virtue is that he is faithful unto death. The Christian too must be loyal to Jesus Christ, through all the chances and the changes of life, down even to the gates of death.

- William Barclay [ref]

QuoteWorthy: Christ Is Faithful
[Christ] is faithful to his threatenings, and faithful to his promises. This truth makes sure the unbeliever's condemnation, and the believer's salvation. - Matthew Henry [ref]

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IN THE WORLD BUT NOT OF IT

I find it particularly disturbing when a Christian or pseudo-Christian group or organization decides to cave on a major moral/spiritual issue. Most recent case in point: World Vision's decision to employ gay married couples. And while that decision is bad enough, it is made even worse by their attempt at rationalization. The excuses always sound very similar: "This is meant to help, not hurt, our organization and the people we serve." "We want to get past this controversy." "We are not changing our mission." "This is not a slippery slope." (NOTE: World Vision has reversed its decision -- only two days after having made it.)

Christians will always encounter hardships and difficulties this side of Heaven. As Jesus put it: "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 NASB). I love the way The Message renders it: "I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world."

The principle is the same whether dealing with individual people, groups of people, organizations, or even entire nations. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle of cosmic proportions. And while universal, eternal peace will not come until the war is over, nonetheless we can know true inner peace now -- but only if we are willing to faithfully follow our spiritual commander in chief, Jesus Christ. Caving to the world's demands and adopting the world's ever shifting standards of right and wrong may result in an immediate (albeit temporary) reduction in friction -- but it can never bring about true and lasting peace. It is surrender, not victory.

Here we can take a page from the apostle Paul's playbook. Abandoned and awaiting execution, from inside a dark and damp Roman dungeon prison, Paul reached out to seemingly his last friend on earth. He wrote both to encourage and admonish young Timothy to guard the Gospel and pass it on to others who can teach it faithfully. "Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don't get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them" (2 Timothy 2:1-4 NLT). Put simply, Timothy could complete his mission of guarding and passing on Gospel truth only to the extent that he was 1) strong in grace (2 Timothy 2:1), 2) willing to assume his share of suffering (2 Timothy 2:3), and 3) not made ineffective through an inordinate focus on everyday activities (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

At this point in time Christianity had become very unpopular. Emperor Nero blamed Christians for the great fire that destroyed much of Rome. In retaliation he was putting believers to death in horrible ways. Paul's name was on the execution list and he knew it. And so he wrote to Timothy and told him to compromise the Gospel in order to save his own skin, right? Wrong! Paul told Timothy to dig in, as it were. Preserving and passing on Gospel truth must be done graciously and with faith and love -- but it must be done (see 2 Timothy 1:5-14).

This is the mission of every true Christian. Will it mean discomfort, conflict, and even occasional hardship? Absolutely. Just ask our faithful Christian brothers and sisters who right now, this very instant, are being persecuted unto death in Muslim and Communist countries around the world. Somehow I doubt they are overly concerned with the need to avoid controversy.

- AC21DOJ

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2 TIMOTHY 2:5 - The Athlete

competes as an athlete ... win the prize ... according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5)
The main idea here is that of self-control (see 1 Corinthians 9:25). It begins with "wholehearted, single-minded devotion to service" [ref], and it is what the soldier and the athlete have in common. [ref] The rules cover both preparing for and participating in the contest. [ref] [ref] Along those lines, one source notes: "The Greek athlete was required to spend ten months in preparatory training before the contest. During this time he had to engage in the prescribed exercises and live a strictly separated life in regard to the ordinary and lawful pursuits of life, and he was placed on a rigid diet. Should he break training rules, he would, in the words of the A.V., be a castaway (I Cor. 9:27), adokimos, 'disqualified,' barred from engaging in the athletic contest." [ref]

"He competes according to the rules" (Greek athleō nomimōs)

 
was used by the later writers to describe a professional as opposed to an amateur athlete. The man who strove nomimōs was the man who concentrated everything on his struggle. His struggle was not just a spare-time thing, as it might be for an amateur; it was a whole-time dedication of his life to excellence in the contest which he had chosen. Here then we have the same idea as in Paul's picture of the Christian as a soldier. A Christian's life must be concentrated upon his Christianity just as a professional athlete's life is concentrated upon his chosen contest. The spare-time Christian is a contradiction in terms; a man's whole life should be an endeavor to live out his Christianity. [ref]
 

An alternate translation/interpretation sees a continuation of Paul's military imagery:

 
["Competes as an athlete" can also] mean to contend in battle; and the preceding reference to the soldier would seem to suggest that meaning here. The allusion to crowning ["crowned" KJV; "win the prize" NASB] is not decisive in favor of the Rev. rendering. Among the Romans crowns were the highest distinction for service in war. The corona triumphalis of laurel was presented to a triumphant general; and the corona obsidionalis was awarded to a general by the army which he had saved from a siege or from a shameful capitulation. It was woven of grass which grew on the spot, and was also called corona graminea. The corona myrtea or ovatio, the crown of bay, was worn by the general who celebrated the lesser triumph or ovatio. The golden corona muralis, with embattled ornaments, was given for the storming of a wall; and the corona castrensis or vallaris, also of gold, and ornamented in imitation of palisades, was awarded to the soldier who first climbed the rampart of the enemy's camp. ... ["According to the rules" can also mean:] According to the law of military service which requires him to abandon all other pursuits. [ref]
 

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ATHLETIC GAMES

In Greece And Rome
It is known that in the Hellenistic period many Jews readily adopted Greek games, and the gymnasium and theater became popular, largely through the influence of the Seleucid rulers. Early in the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 B.C.) a gymnasium was built in Jerusalem (1 Macc. 1:14; cf. 2 Macc. 4:9, 12). Reportedly even priests were such enthusiastic spectators at the athletic fields that they would leave the altar and run to the arena when they heard “the call to the discus” (2 Macc. 4:14). The Tobias family, which was the leader of a new aristocracy of wealth, was responsible for converting Jerusalem from an obscure city into a town of prominence. To hellenize Jerusalem they succeeded in building the above-mentioned gymnasium and formed bodies of (Gk) éphēboi, i.e., corps of young men associated with this central institution of a Hellenistic city. Judean youths and priests were nude during the athletic games (1 Macc. 1:12–15). After the Maccabean revolt (167 B.C.) the athletic games fell into general disrepute among the Jewish population of Palestine (Josephus Ant. xv.8.2 [277]). Nevertheless, Hellenistic games were familiar to most in Jerusalem and elsewhere during the later Herodian and Roman periods. Herod the Great built a theater, amphitheater, stadium, and hippodrome in Caesarea, where games were to be held every fifth year. He also built a theater in Jerusalem and an amphitheater nearby (Ant. xv.8.1 [268]). Jericho reportedly was also provided with a theater, amphitheater, and hippodrome. Thus, Greek and Roman games appear to have been widely known in Palestine, and an acquaintance with them will facilitate a better understanding of a number of NT passages.

The public games of Greece (Gk agōnes) and Rome (Lat. ludi) consisted of a variety of athletic games and contests. The athletes were trained in the Greek gymnasium, which was the central market where poets, artists, and merchants brought their goods. The exhibitions of the later Roman amphitheater and circus never matched the glory of the ancient Greek games; they were at best a shadow and later nothing more than a farcical imitation.

The Olympic games were the earliest and remained the most celebrated of the four national festivals of Greece. The foot race (drómos) of a single lap of the stadium (stádion), which was about 180 m (200 yds.) long, was at first the only contest. Later (14th Olympiad) the double lap and others were added. The goal of the foot race was a square pillar that the runner kept in view to redouble his exertion. Wrestling was introduced at the 18th Olympiad. Plutarch called wrestling the most artistic and cunning of all athletic games. The wrestler’s limbs were oiled and sprinkled with sand. Otherwise wrestling differed little from that of today. No struggling was allowed on the ground, however, and the third throw decided the victory (cf. 2 Macc. 4:14). Boxing was carried on much as it is today, with leather thongs bound round the boxer’s fists and wrists. The Greek boxers did not hit out straight from the shoulder but fought in a windmill fashion. A Roman development of boxing involved a weighting of the leather thongs with lead, iron, or metal studs, which produced grave injuries to the boxers. The chief strategy of the boxers was therefore evasion. Discus throwing was carried on with a round plate of stone or metal 30 cm. (12 in) in diameter (2 Macc. 4:14). Pausanius enumerated twenty-four Olympic contests, though it must not be supposed that all were exhibited at any one festival. At first the games lasted one day; later they were extended to five.

The Pythian games, as a chronological era, dated from 527 B.C. and were especially devoted to musical competitions. The Pythiads were also held at the end of every fourth year. The Nemean games were biennial and dated from 516 B.C. The contests were like the Olympiads. The Isthmian games began in 523 B.C. and were held at the first and third years of each Olympiad. These games were managed by the Corinthians on the Corinthian Isthmus. They included gymnastics, horsemanship, and musical contests. A herald (Gk kēryx) announced the name and country of each competitor and the name, country, and father of each victor. The victors were rewarded at the great games by a wreath or crown consisting in the NT period of wild olive (Olympiads), laurel (Pythiads), wild celery (Nemeads), and pine or wild celery (Isthmiads).

The Romans introduced the venatio, i.e., the baiting of wild animals that were pitted against each other or against men who could be either captives, criminals, or trained hunters called bestiarii. This type of exhibition was carried on in the amphitheater. Herod the Great followed the custom of the Roman proconsuls and generals in supplying his arenas with lions and other wild beasts of rare or unusual strength in order to have condemned men fight them or have these animals fight each other (Josephus Ant. xv.8.1). The special show of the amphitheater was the manus gladiatorium or gladiatorial combat. These brutal shows clearly exhibit the vein of coarseness and inhumanity running through the character of mankind. It is known that Herod the Great had condemned criminals thrown to wild animals in his amphitheater near Jerusalem in order to afford “delight to spectators” (Ant. xv.8.1). After the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, Titus had a great number of captives either thrown to wild beasts or forced to kill one another as if they were animals (Josephus BJ vii.2.1 [24]).

In The New Testament
The NT references to games are fairly frequent but never direct. With rare exceptions they are used in drawing spiritual lessons.

Spiritual lessons could be easily drawn from the various known Greek and Roman games. In 1 Cor. 9:24–27, Paul, who may have witnessed the Isthmian Games in A.D. 51 (Broneer, pp. 185–87), called the attention of the Corinthian believers to the vigorous training of the athletes (a metaphor also used by the Greek poet Epictetus). The athletes exercised “self-control in all things” (v 25; cf. 1 Tim. 4:7; 2 Tim. 2:5), which reflects the Greek custom that athletes observe a severe period of training under very specific rules and exercise self-denial in watching their weight. The race in which all the runners competed (v 24) referred to the foot race. Paul did “not run aimlessly” (v 26), because like the runners in the foot race of the Greek games he had his eyes fixed upon the goal. As the victor received the “prize” (v 24) in the form of “a perishable wreath” (v 25), viz., the wreath of wild celery of the Corinthian Isthmian games that withers quickly, so the Christian will receive a wreath. But his wreath or crown of victory is “imperishable” (v 25; cf. 2 Tim. 2:5; 4:8; cf. 1 Pet. 1:4; 5:4). Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19; He. 2:7–9; Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10; 3:11 also allude to the wreath or crown. The palm-bearing multitude of Rev. 7:9 is possibly reminiscent of the carrying of palm branches by victors at the games.

The phrase “I do not box as one beating the air” (1 Cor. 9:26) depicts a boxing contest in which the hands were bound with studded leather that inflicted grave injury. The boxers, therefore, used a technique of evasion rather than one of parrying -- hence the phrase “beating the air.” Paul concluded this passage by comparing himself to the “herald” (kēryx) who called others to the contest but was himself disqualified from competing (v 27; cf. 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). These pictures drawn from the Greek games were particularly meaningful metaphors for the Corinthian readers of this letter, since the Isthmian games were a Corinthian festival.

Several NT epistles compare the Christian life to a foot race. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews stressed that the successful runner of the Christian’s race had to lay aside everything that was a hindrance (sin) and had to persevere in order to win (He. 12:1). In addition, the runner’s eye had to be fixed upon the goal, Jesus (v 2), as the eye of the runner in the games was fixed on the square pillar that he must reach. Paul employed the picture of the runner a number of times. He wanted to make absolutely sure that the course that he was pursuing or had pursued was not in vain (Gal. 2:2). The fruit of the Philippian believers proved to Paul that he had not run the race in vain (Phil. 2:16). Paul’s whole attention in the race that he was running was on the finish line in order to win the prize that God had in store, viz., life on high with Jesus Christ, his Lord (Phil. 3:14). But the wreath or crown of the winner could not be received unless one had kept the rules of the athletic contest (2 Tim. 2:5).

A reference to wrestling (Gk pálē) is found in Eph. 6:12, where the Christian is told that he is engaged in an all-out wrestling match not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and world rulers of the present aeon of darkness.

Philippians 3:13f may refer to a chariot race. In NT times hippodromes existed in many cities of the Roman empire, and Philippi was a Roman colony. Paul seemed to picture himself as a charioteer who in the decisive state of the chariot race was “straining forward to what lies ahead” (v 13). In such intense pressing on “toward the goal for the prize” (v 14) at high speed a glance at “what lies behind” (v 13) would be fatal. Thus, Christians must “forget” that which they have achieved already, and with newly bestowed powers they must strain forward and press on with all their might to reach the goal and gain the prize of victory.

The judges who sat near the goal and had been carefully prepared for their task (at least at the early Olympiads) are employed in a metaphor in 2 Tim. 4:8: “The crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day.…” The emphasis on the “righteous” nature of the judge may likely be due to the deterioration of the games, as was illustrated by Nero’s announcement of his own infamous victory at Olympia (A.D. 67).

- G. F. Hasel [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)

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CALLED TO BE LIKE ...

In describing how Christians should live, Paul often resorts to analogies or metaphors. [Here are] some of the metaphors of the Christian life found in the New Testament.

Christians are called to be like …

  • Soldiers (2 Tim. 2:3, 4) - Like a single-minded soldier, we should respond to the orders of our commanding officer, the Lord Jesus, with unquestioning obedience.
  • Farmers (2 Tim. 2:6) - Farmers labor strenuously and consistently in order to reap a fruitful harvest. We also must work hard in serving the Lord.
  • Athletes (2 Tim. 2:5) - Athletes follow strict training rules so as to avoid being disqualified from their race; we must display a similar measure of self-control.
  • Workers (2 Tim. 2:15) - Our work is to “rightly divide” or correctly handle God’s Word so as to avoid shame.
  • Vessels (2 Tim. 2:20, 21) - We must take care to keep ourselves pure, like a clean dish, so that we will be “useful for the Master.”
  • Fishers of men (Matt. 4:19) - As fishermen, we are called to “catch” men with the Good News of Christ.
  • Salt (Matt 5:13) - As salt, we act as a godly preservative in an evil society; moreover, we make people thirsty to know their Creator.
  • Light (Matt. 5:14–16) - As light, we point the way to reconciliation with God, and we reflect God’s character, for He is the Light (John 1:7).
  • Branches (John 15:5) - As branches, we bear godly fruit as long as we are attached to the Vine, Christ.
  • Stewards (1 Cor. 4:1, 2) - Like administrators, we have responsibilities to manage. God will evaluate how we handled the resources He has given us.
  • Ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) - We are representatives of God’s kingdom to the lost citizens of this world.
  • Living stones (1 Pet. 2:5) - In former days, God dwelt in a physical temple; now He dwells in His people, the church.
  • Priests (1 Pet. 2:5, 9, 10) - Like priests, we have the privilege of approaching near to God, and the responsibility of helping others in reconciling themselves to Him.
  • Sojourners (1 Pet. 2:11) - As children of God, we do not belong to the world. This world is not our home; we are only “passing through.”
- The Nelson Study Bible [ref]

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QuoteWorthy: Because ... Build
Because God will examine what kind of workers we have been for him, we should build our lives on his Word and build his Word into our lives. - Life Application Study Bible [ref]

2 TIMOTHY 2:6 - The Farmer
A PRINCIPLE TO LIVE BY
Suffering For Christ

When we serve our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully, we should expect difficult challenges that may at times create intense times of persecution. (see 2 Timothy 2:3-7) [ref]

The hard-working farmer (2 Timothy 2:6)
That is, "the toiling tiller of the soil." [ref] "Hard-working" "implies hard, wearisome toil" [ref] -- and for the farmer this would include preparing the soil to receive the seed, sowing the seed, and cultivating the growing plants. [ref] "Ancient farmers worked long hours of backbreaking labor under all kinds of conditions, with the hope that their physical effort would be rewarded by a good harvest. Paul is urging Timothy not to be lazy or indolent, but to labor intensely (cf. Col. 1:28, 29) with a view to the harvest." [ref] There is more than a little truth in the assertion that when compared with that of the soldier or the athlete, the farmer's life is "‘totally devoid of excitement, remote from all glamour of peril and of applause’." [ref]

The opposite of the hard-working farmer is the sluggard -- that is, "a habitually lazy person." [ref] As noted in the book of Proverbs, the sluggard "always loses his harvest, either because he is asleep when he ought to be reaping, or because he was too lazy to plough the previous autumn, or because he has allowed his fields to become overgrown with nettles and thorns (Pr. 10:5; 20:4; 24:30, 31)." [ref]

ought to be the first (2 Timothy 2:6)
Possibly meaning "before him who is lazy and careless." [ref]

to receive his share of the crops (2 Timothy 2:6)
"[T]he main thought is that labour, discipline, striving are the portion of him who would succeed in any enterprise." [ref]

Apparently Paul is reminding Timothy of the principle "that labor must precede reward; that if a man would reap, he must sow; that he could hope for no fruits, unless he toiled for them. The point was not that the husbandman would be the first one who would partake of the fruits; but that he must first labor before he obtained the reward. Thus understood, this would be an encouragement to Timothy to persevere in his toils, looking onward to the reward. " [ref] [ref]

The two previous examples, of the soldier and the athlete (2 Timothy 2:3-5), likewise emphasized diligence. "The three illustrations have in common the point that success is achieved through discipline (cf. 2 Timothy 1:7), hard work, and single-mindedness." [ref]

Related: A Theology Of Obedience

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FRUIT-FILLED (ref: 2 Timothy 2:6)

There is an important sense in which the farmer must be the first to receive his share of the crops here and now, before anyone else. As one commentator explains:

This is not the truth that Timothy and Paul and preachers generally must have physical sustenance to do their spiritual work, the farmer takes his share of the very produce he raises for others. So Timothy and Paul, who toil for spiritual fruit for others, must ever and ever, as the very first ones, take of this spiritual fruit for themselves. They toil by preaching and teaching the gospel (2 Timothy 1:11), and this toil produces faith, love, godlines, etc., precious “fruits” indeed. But unless they are the first to appropriate their share of these fruits they soon cease to be the Lord’s farmers to produce anything for anybody. Yet the point which Paul would here make is the value, the blessedness of the fruits, and the joy of having one’s share in them. Also this truth: there must be farmers to sustain the life of the world; there must be preachers to sustain the life of the church. Since this is a necessity in fact, the preachers sit at the very fountain, their very profession compels them to be the first to partake. [ref]

This goes along with the fact that rather than going to the Bible in search of a sermon, a preacher should go to the Bible first of all to see what God says. "An approved worker diligently studies the Word and seeks to apply it to his own life." [ref] Only after the preacher is personally confronted and comforted is he then ready to prepare a message to share God's truth with others. In other words, the preacher must first be nourished by God's spiritual fruit before he is ready to share that fruit with others.

This same truth applies to every believer. We must first spend quality time in prayer and the study of God's Word (the Bible) before we are ready to offer the fruit of our lives to others -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23).

- AC21DOJ


A TWOFOLD HARVEST

To what kind of harvest is the apostle referring [in 2 Timothy 2:6]? Two applications are more obviously biblical than others.

First, holiness is a harvest. True, it is ‘the fruit (or ‘harvest’) of the Spirit’, in that the Spirit is himself the chief farmer who produces a good crop of Christian qualities in the believer’s life. But we have our part to play. We are to ‘walk by the Spirit’ and ‘sow to the Spirit’ (Gal. 5:16; 6:8), following his promptings and disciplining ourselves, if we would reap the harvest of holiness. Many Christians are surprised that they are not noticeably growing in holiness. Is it that we are neglecting to cultivate the field of our character? ‘Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap’ (Gal. 6:7). As Bishop Ryle emphasizes again and again in his great book entitled Holiness, there are ‘no gains without pains’. For example:

‘I will never shrink from declaring my belief that there are no “spiritual gains without pains”. I should as soon expect a farmer to prosper in business who contented himself with sowing his fields and never looking at them till harvest, as expect a believer to attain much holiness who was not diligent about his Bible-reading, his prayers, and the use of his Sundays. Our God is a God who works by means, and He will never bless the soul of that man who pretends to be so high and spiritual that he can get on without them’ (Holiness by J. C. Ryle [James Clarke, 1952], p. 21).

As Paul puts it here, it is ‘the hardworking farmer’ who has the first share of the crop. For holiness is a harvest.

Secondly, the winning of converts is a harvest too. ‘The harvest is plentiful,’ Jesus said, referring to the many who are waiting to hear and receive the gospel (Mt. 9:37; cf. Jn. 4:35; Rom. 1:13). Now in this harvest it is of course ‘God who gives the growth’ (1 Cor. 3:6, 7). But again we have no liberty to be idle. Further, both the sowing of the good seed of God’s word and the reaping of the harvest are hard work, especially when the labourers are few. Souls are hardly won for Christ, not by the slick, automatic application of a formula, but by tears and sweat and pain, especially in prayer and in sacrificial personal friendship. Again, it is ‘the hardworking farmer’ who can expect good results.

This notion that Christian service is hard work is so unpopular in some happy-go-lucky Christian circles today that I feel the need to underline it. I have already mentioned that the verb signifies to ‘toil’. Arndt and Gingrich say that it means first of all to ‘become weary, tired’ and so to ‘work hard, toil, strive, struggle’. Both the noun (kopos) and the verb (kopiaō) were favourite words with Paul, and it may be healthy for us to see what strong exertion he believed to be necessary in Christian service.

It goes without saying that the word can be used of manual labour, and Paul applied it to his tent-making. ‘We labour,’ he could write, ‘working with our own hands’ (1 Cor. 4:12; cf. Eph. 4:28; 1 Thes. 4:11). But in his view spiritual work involved exertion too. He was quick to recognize thoroughness in others and sent special greetings at the end of his Roman letter to ‘Mary who has worked hard among you’ and to ‘the beloved Persis who has worked hard in the Lord’ (Rom. 16:6, (12b). Not that Paul expected more of others than he was prepared to give himself. His exertions for the gospel were phenomenal. He could write of ‘labours, watching, hunger’ because, like his Master before him, he was often too busy to sleep or to eat, and could claim in respect of the other apostles, ‘I worked harder than any of them’ (2 Cor. 6:5; 1 Cor. 15:10; cf. Gal. 4:11; Phil. 2:16). If we were to press him about the nature of this toil, I think he would reply in terms of those two apostolic priorities ‘prayer and … the ministry of the word’ (Acts 6:4). For he alluded in his first letter to Timothy to those elders ‘who labour in preaching and teaching’ (1 Tim. 5:17), and described to the Colossians his ‘toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me’ (Col. 1:29–2:1; cf. 1 Tim. 4:10) in a context which seems to refer to the prayer-battle in which he was engaged on their behalf.

The blessing, of God rested upon the ministry of the apostle Paul in quite exceptional measure. No doubt many explanations of this could be given. But I find myself wondering if we attribute it sufficiently to the zeal and zest, the almost obsessional devotion, with which he gave himself to the work. He gave and did not count the cost; he fought and did not heed the wounds; he toiled and did not seek for rest; he laboured and asked for no reward except the joy of doing his Lord’s will. And God prospered his efforts. Again, it is ‘the hardworking farmer’ who gets a good crop.

- John Stott [ref]

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2 TIMOTHY 2:7 - Reflection

Consider what I say (2 Timothy 2:7)
A literal rendering is: "Be understanding what I am saying!" [ref] "The idea is not that Paul’s figures [of soldier, athlete, and farmer] are dark and difficult; they are quite lucid. But so much is concentrated into them that one must pause and think to apprehend it all. The words are so brief, one might read them too hastily and not comprehend all that they contain." [ref]

As one source explains: "When the minister of the gospel thinks of his hardships, of his struggles against an evil world, and of his arduous and constant discouraging toil, let him think of the soldier, of the man who struggles for this world’s honors, and of the patient farmer - AND be content." [ref]

The truth Paul conveys regarding faithfulness in the face of hardship is a major NT theme:

 
Paul's teaching does not apply only to unusual circumstances. He portrays the normal Christian life. In fact, to judge from the New Testament, it is not the presence of struggle and suffering in the life of the Christian that ought to be questioned, but rather the absence of them. The images remind us that discipline, devotion and diligence all come into play in faithful Christian service. The strength to serve in this way comes from Christ (2 Timothy 2:1), but the images persistently sound the note of personal decision and commitment to the task. This is one of the reasons for the call for reflection in [2 Timothy 2:7]. The Christian must decide to be a soldier who will suffer, a well-trained athlete who will compete according to the rules, and a farmer who works diligently until potential becomes reality. [ref]
 

for the Lord will give you understanding (2 Timothy 2:7)
Meaning: The Lord will "[e]nable you to see the force of these considerations, and to apply them to your own case." [ref] God is ever willing and able, through both his written Word and our personal circumstances, to give us understanding. But we must prize understanding, ask him for it, and then 1) diligently study the Bible and 2) look for and appreciate God's "gracious providence" in our everyday lives. [ref]

It is very possible that here Paul is alluding to Proverbs 2:6. The larger context of Proverbs 2 is a contrast between those who diligently pursue wisdom and those who have forsaken it.

 
In the wider discussion of 2 Timothy this latter group could correspond to the opponents and also to those who have forsaken the apostle, whose desertion is described with the language of Prov. 2:13 (2 Timothy 4:16: “all have forsaken me”; 2 Timothy 4:10: “Demas deserted me”; cf. 2 Timothy 1:15). If this broader comparison is intended, then in these instructions Paul reconfigures the wisdom tradition’s ideal way of wisdom and uprightness (i.e., according to Prov. 2, “the fear of the LORD”) as the way of suffering for the gospel that the apostle has exemplified and Timothy is to walk in. In the new context, the promise of the Lord’s assistance [in 2 Timothy 2:7] applies first to understanding the immediate teaching; however, in view of the wide scope implied by “in all things,” and if the Proverbs background is considered, the gift of insight extends beyond the immediate passage to the dangerous path of suffering that still lies ahead for Timothy. As the citation is applied to Timothy, “the Lord” is to be understood as Jesus. [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)
 

THE FALSE TEACHERS. "[Paul's teaching] represents an adjustment to the false teachers' views, which were quickly gaining ground -- they denied the role of suffering in Christian service, and qualities such as discipline, devotion and diligence necessary for prolonged struggle had little to do with their triumphalistic spirituality. Where do such qualities figure in our thinking? Both as to their correctness and as to their necessity, the Lord will give insight. So the strength to do and the understanding of what is to be done will (a promise, not a wish) come from God, but the decision to serve him rests with us." [ref]

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*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org) | **This outline is from The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe