‘…continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from who you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus…’ – 2 Timothy 3:14-15 NRSV.
What have you learned and firmly believed in regards to the Christian faith? What the writer is saying to Timothy in these verses, is that he has a foundation. His foundation was forged through the incredible efforts of women of the Gospel who Timothy was blessed to be raised by in the home setting. Back in chapter 1:5 we learn that they are his grandmother Lois and his mom Eunice. Regardless of whether they had been Christians or Jews in his childhood, they were able to raise Timothy in the faith. A faith that has continuity from the sacred writings of the Old Testament through to the revelation of God in Christ found in the New Testament.
There’s a two-fold application found in this verse. The first is for us to remember those saints who have gone before us who have helped to direct us towards Jesus. In my own life, I think of the home I was raised in and the family members I had who had a direct role in shaping my learning and belief in Jesus. In addition to many others, like Timothy, my mother and my grandmother played integral roles in shaping my faith. In fact, it was my mom who sat right beside me the day I decided to follow Jesus. My grandmother shaped me through her deep wisdom. She was always willing and ready to give me insight into her journey of faith and what she learned along the way. My sister is a 5th generation minister of the Gospel on my mother’s side, and we’re so grateful she’s able to continue in what she has learned from incredible women.
Secondly, for those in your congregation, it could be that you or they are the first generation believers. The blessing that they have to be the foundation for others is incredible, and that is what the rest of our passage from 2 Timothy is getting at, and why the charge will come later. Who are the shapers of faith for the first generation believers in your settings? Is it the young adult at your church who works at the local community college who has a chance to rub shoulders with them? Is it the congregant who pops into the local hardware store who invites them to church? Is it the pastor who goes every day to the public place of work of a parishioner just to tell them they are loved? It doesn’t matter how long someone has been shown Jesus, all that matters is that it happens! Your flock can be the ones to show Jesus to others.
Finishing off chapter 3 in verses 16 and 17 of our passage, we see that regardless of how long someone has been in the faith, Scripture has the potential to produce better disciples, equipped with all they need to be Gospel sharers and Kingdom citizens!
The five verses from chapter 4 that are included in this passage take those of us pastors reading these words today back to our ordination. Part of it is included in the charge to the ordinand in several denominations across the world. This charge was meant to urge Timothy on to the heights of faithfulness, and this is where it can do the same for our congregations today.
The charge starts with the motivating factor for why Paul is giving it to Timothy. God is present, moving and active, and God’s Kingdom is coming along with judgement day when Christ will be judge of the living and the dead. Paul wants Timothy to advance the Gospel as much as possible!
Verse 2 is a beautiful depiction of organized ministry for pastor and people alike. The list includes a variety of action words that are important facets in ministry. When I read that list before much ministry experience in my own life, some of it sounded daunting, perhaps even crass. Why should we rebuke? Is it really our job to disapprove of others? But the more that I’ve thought about that aspect of ministry, the more I find it a wonderful picture of accountability. Just like I at times have to disapprove of behavior in my daughter’s life in the role of parenting, so in the Church it’s important that we disapprove of the behavior of our peers and congregants when behavior or actions are inappropriate. It’s not disapproving of others, but it’s disapproving of their behavior and actions.
The list includes other strong action words that speak of the time we should be willing to invest in preaching and teaching. It can’t be a side item. We have to proclaim the Gospel and proclaim it well. The reason is because there will always be those who teach wrong doctrine, and others who leave the Church in pursuit of their own desires. This is a fairly strong argument for educated clergy. It is important training for pastors to be educated at the least in undergraduate work in the area of ministry, and hopefully seminary and more in order to better prepare them for the life of ministry.
Paul closes out his charge by saying in the NIV, ‘keep your head in all situations’. This gets to the heart of what it means to be sober or sober-minded. Keeping ones head in various kinds of situations speaks to the attitude of the person, but also the alertness of the person. Elsewhere in the NT, sober or sober-minded are use in that exact way in reference to the second coming. We much be ready and alert! But keeping your head also means you’re above reproach. It means being a minister of character.
Paul closes out our passage by reminding us that in ministry, Timothy will have suffering, and goodness can most of us say a hearty amen! Ministry is not for the faint-hearted. But it is worth it, in part for the work like that of an evangelist Paul references in the end of the passage. As we carry out that work, and carry out ministry fully, it will bear much fruit for the Kingdom, and that is worth all of the heartache.