Keys for Christian Workers – Part 2

Structure

Chapter distills 6 keys for Christian workers: be strong in God’s grace (2:1), invest in and train teacher/leaders who will do the same with others (2:2), embrace the hardships involved in following Christ (2:3-13), handle the Word accurately (2:14-18), be committed to your own sanctification (2:19-23), and respond properly to opponents (2:24-26).

Study/reflection questions for this passage

Chapter 2 distills six keys for Christian workers.  We covered the first one (2:1) last time; we will cover the last three next time.  You can discover these keys by looking for imperative statements.

  • The second key is easy to identify (2:2).  State it in your own words.  What is the most difficult aspect of this key for you in your present ministry?
  • The third key is more difficult to identify.  It covers 2:3-13.  2:3 is the imperative that introduces the key--summarize this key by stating it in your own words. How does 2:4-6 unpack this imperative?  Provide practical examples of each of these three forms of hardship. 2:8-13 provides several reasons why this key is important and worthwhile.  Identify them and state them in your own words.  Which reasons are most/least compelling to you?  Why?

Theme question: “sound teaching/doctrine/words”

  • List each reference to this phrase in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.
  • Do a word study of “sound.”  What does this word mean?  Carefully examine these references (and their immediate context).  What does Paul mean by this phrase?
  • This is a big emphasis in the Pastoral Epistles (8 times here, but nowhere else in Paul’s letters).  Why is it so important for Christian leaders to communicate “sound teaching?”

The priority of “sound teaching”

One of Paul’s main commands to Timothy is to “retain the standard of sound words” (1:13).  This is a big emphasis in the pastoral epistles (8 times here, but nowhere else in Paul’s letters).  What does this phrase mean?

“Sound” is hugaino, from which we get “hygiene” (see Lk. 5:31; 7:10).  “Sound words” is healthful teaching, instruction about a healthy way of life.  It involves both correct doctrine (focused on God’s grace) and the way of life that should issue from God’s grace (a life of love toward others).

“Sound teaching” (1 Tim. 1:10b) is connected to a lifestyle of “love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim 1:5) and contrasted to an emphasis on the Law and theological speculation that leads to a selfish and destructive way of life in 1 Tim. 1:6-10a.  Notice how Paul stresses the importance of these same way of life in 2 Timothy by charging Timothy to maintain a “clear conscience” (1:3), a “sincere faith” (1:5) and a “pure heart” (2:22).  This is a life of sacrificial love toward others rooted in a:

“good conscience” - sensitive and responsive to God’s moral correction (Acts 23:1; 24:16; 1 Tim. 1:19; 3:9), contra the “moral mule” attitude of Ps. 32:8,9)

“pure heart” - probably affections trained to thrive off of God’s way of life (2 Tim. 2:22), contra seeking fulfillment and stimulation by gratifying “youthful lusts” OR a sincere commitment to God contra hypocrisy (Matt. 5:8; 6:1ff.).

“sincere faith” - genuine dependence on God’s acceptance and power, contra mere moral will-power.  It isn’t possible to have either of the other two without this.

It is “doctrine conforming to godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3)—contra the way of life described in 1 Tim. 6:1,2, 4,5 (sloth and materialistic greed).

It is teaching that is contrary to sinful lusts, and people’s tendency to find teachers that justify these lusts (2 Tim. 4:3).

It is summarized in Titus 2:1ff.—strong emphasis on God’s grace (2:11-14; 3:4-8), and on proper loving relationships with others that includes playing our social roles as a good witness for Jesus, being rich in good works, etc.

SUMMARY: Sound doctrine is an emphasis on God’s love for us through Jesus Christ, and on a lifestyle of loving service to others because of God’s love for us (“LOVE-LIFE;” WESLEY’S “HOLY, ACTIVE LOVE”).  We have to teach grace clearly and strongly, and we have to call our people unapologetically to a life of radical love.  (In order words, sound doctrine keeps the STAVES high and the BOTTOM solid.)  Keep the standard here—contrary to the tendency to let people settle for selfishness with a “nice” and religious veneer!  This builds a consensus of commitment under grace--one of the most important things we do as leaders.

Intentionally develop workers (2:2)

This is one main way that we “retain the standard of sound words you have heard from me” (1:13) and “guard the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (1:14)—by entrusting this “healthy doctrine” to people who will pass it on to others (4 GENERATIONS).  It is not enough merely to possess this faith and love, or even to model it to others.  We must find spiritually responsive Christians and intentionally develop this mindset and lifestyle in them.

Are you investing in “faithful people?”

What do “faithful people” look like?  Without being perfectionistic, consider the following questions:

Do they evidence interest in the Word?  Disciples are “learners,” and Jesus said we are his disciples if we abide in his Word (John 8:31,32).  How do they habitually respond to teachings—with excitement and conviction, or with boredom?  Do you see any evidence that they are reading the Bible on their own?  Do they ask spiritual questions and respond to good answers?  Or do they only want to debate, want to spend time with you without expressing real interest in spiritual things, etc.?

Are they honest about what is going on in their life?  Jesus said the “good soil” signifies people with “honest and good hearts” (Luke 8:15).  Prospective disciples will admit the sin-problems they are struggling with, and often seek help for them.  Do they respond properly to God's discipline (through others and directly from God)?  Or do they always have to be corrected by people, agree but don't act, etc.?  Beware of the dishonest double-life!

Do they show a willingness to serve others?  (Mark 1:17)  Do you hear about them talking to others about Christ?  Do they respond to requests for ministry help?  Do they offer to help people out in practical ways?  Look closely here—sometimes the evidence is subtle.

Do they take challenging steps of faith?   Are they are demonstrating that their relationship with God, and his promises, is real to them and impacts their lives? (EXAMPLES: financial giving; confessing sin; witnessing; confronting)?  Or do they usually stay in their comfort zone?  (Remember: what is challenging to them may not be challenging to you at this point.)

Do they have/make the time to commit to your home group?  Or are they chronically preoccupied with other matters (see 2 Tim. 2:4; Mk. 4:18,19)?  Spiritually hungry people make time for spiritual things.

Are you discipling realistic leader candidates?  Or are you trying to disciple people who you would do better to shepherd?  It may be better for you to be discipling no one (praying and seeking for a faithful person) than spending scheduled time with someone who is not ready and willing.

Are you intentionally investing in them toward this end--or is your time together undirected “hanging out?”  It means being in synch with the Holy Spirit to help them develop in 4 areas: WORD, CHARACTER, MINISTRY & PRAYER.

Note the connection between these areas and 1 Tim. 4.  We are to make progress in these areas in our own lives, and to help other hungry people make progress in the same areas!

Embrace the rigors of being a Christian worker (2:3-13)

2:3-7 is an elaboration of 1:8.  Paul uses 3 metaphors that elaborate on 3 kinds of suffering we must embrace if we want to be effective Christian workers:

  • SOLDIER: Do you expect your life to be mainly warfare, with occasional times of refreshment and refueling—or do you expect your life to be mainly vacation with occasional bumps in the road?  Do you have a wartime, active duty mentality, keeping a light hold on the things of this life—or do you have a peacetime, reservist mentality, willing to serve bi-monthly (and more in a crisis) but focused primarily on the things of this life?
  • ATHLETE: Are you strict with yourself with regard to your own spiritual fitness (e.g., disciplined progress in 3 areas as per 1 Tim. 4; turning away from behaviors & attitudes that disqualify like hiding sin, fatalism & negativity, unforgiveness, etc. as per Rom. 13:14)—or are you slothful and soft on yourself in this area?
  • FARMER: Are you diligent and consistent in your ministry (outreach, discipleship, gifted areas)—or are you just dabbing at it?  Only God can produce the harvest—but our hard-working cooperation matters!
  • As you consider this issue, God will give you understanding of what he wants to work on and how you can cooperate with him (2:7).  Are you getting personal insight on this from God?  If not, is it because you aren’t asking for this, willing in advance to act on what he shows you?

In 2:8-13, Paul reminds Timothy of 4 reasons why it is worth it to embrace these rigors in Christ’s service:

  • 2:8 - Jesus is the promised One (the key to human history) and the victor over death.  It is a privilege to serve the Lord of history, knowing that we will share his victory over death (see also Acts 5:41; Phil. 1:29).
  • 2:9 - If we suffer for the advancement of the gospel, we will see God sovereignly advance the gospel even through our sufferings (cf. Phil. 1:12ff.; 2 Cor. 2:14; Acts 8:1,2; 11:19-26).
  • 2:10 - Our willingness to suffer in Christ’s service is necessary if others are to come to Christ and grow in him (cf. Col. 1:24; Eph. 3:13; 2 Cor. 4:8-12).
  • 2:11-13 - If we endure sufferings for Christ’s sake, we will reign with him in the next life (Lk. 19:17,19; Matt. 19:27-30).  He will more than make it up to us!