Passing the Torch, 2 Timothy Series (1)
“A Godly Heritage” 2 Timothy 1:1-7
As many of you know, I wrote a book entitled Weapons of Peace about my great, great, great grandparents William & Johanna Anderson who were early missionaries in Africa. The new edition of Weapons of Peace is now at the printers. As William lay dying in September 1852, he called his grown-up children to his bedside & spoke first to his son Bartholomew, who was a young pastor himself. He said, “My son, God has called you to the work of the ministry. Be faithful to the end. Farewell. Give my love to your people.” A few days later, not long before he breathed his last William said to his son Bartholomew, “Tell the people that the same word I preached to them is now my support. Tell them that Christ is all in all. They must look to Him alone for salvation.” He went on to say, “I’m very happy. I rejoice in the hope that I shall soon see my Saviour.”
The last things William Anderson said were important to his family & to the church he served. The last words of the apostle Paul are even more important for they speak to all God’s people. 2 Timothy is believed to be the last letter Paul wrote. It may have been written only weeks before he was finally executed in AD 67 in Rome. Addressed to Timothy, this letter contains important teaching about how Timothy was to lead the church in Ephesus. It has important truths for the Church today.
As we begin a new series based on 2 Timothy, we come first of all to:
1. A Warm-hearted Introduction (vrs 1 & 2)
Paul begins this moving & very personal letter, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dear son.” (vrs 1 & 2)
As we have noticed before when studying letters in the New Testament, the writers begin in the style common at the time, namely: “A sends B greetings.” In the New Testament the writers also include specifically Christian greetings. We do the same, don’t we, when we write a letter or email to our Christian friends. Instead of ending off simply with words like “Kind regards” or “Yours sincerely”, we often end off writing things like: “God bless” or “Every blessing in Christ” or “Yours in Him” & then sign our name.
Paul is writing to his much-loved spiritual son, Timothy. Why do you think he starts by saying, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”? Maybe Paul wants Timothy to know that what he shares comes not only in love but it comes with authority. Paul gives Timothy important instructions, instructions that come from the Lord. Paul was not a self-appointed apostle. It was God who called & appointed him. It was according to the will of the Lord that he, the former persecutor of the Church had been made Apostle to the Gentiles.
I think every servant of the Lord, every pastor, every missionary, every Christian worker, & in fact every one of us who belongs to the Lord – we all need to recognize the call of God upon us. We too are sent out in His name as His ambassadors. We are His representatives in the world. He has appointed us. As John records in his Gospel, Jesus said to His disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you & appointed you to go & bear fruit – fruit that will last.” (John 15:16) It is an awesome calling, an awesome privilege.
And as Paul himself goes on to say, his calling is “…in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus” – in other words, his main responsibility as an apostle, as a “sent one”, was to tell people about the promise of life in Christ. This is what being an ambassador or a witness is all about – it is pointing people to Jesus, the One who promises eternal life to all who put their faith in Him.
Recently I met a Chinese couple on the top of Mt Eden. They were tourists & seemed fascinated by the fact I spoke Chinese. They wanted to know how old I was & discovering that I was just a little bit older than they were, they said something about my enjoying a long life. I said well, “I am not all that old, but my mother at 96 certainly is!” I went on to say, “But you know, what is far more important than having long life is having eternal life.” They looked mystified. I went on, “Emperor Qin Shihuang looked for the elixir of life, hoping it would ensure he had a long life & would never grow old.” They nodded. “Well,” I continued, “what he never found, I have found.” The lady’s eyes got really big. “Really,” she said. I replied, “Yes, Jesus has given me eternal life, for the Bible says whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
This is the message the apostle Paul was called to proclaim – “the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.” Of course Christians do get old & we do die physically, but we have God’s sure promise of eternal life. This present physical life is not all that there is, & when we die physically it is not the end. Eternal life, which starts the moment we trust in Christ as Saviour, is far more wonderful than we can even begin to imagine.
In v.2 Paul goes on to mention the one to whom he is writing. It is of course young Timothy. Notice how he describes Timothy. He calls him, “my dear son.” We do not know if Paul had been married & possibly lost his wife, & we do not know if he had any children. What we do know, however, is that he had many spiritual sons & daughters. And one of his favourite spiritual sons was Timothy. He had a deep affection for Timothy, something we can see again & again all through this letter.
Yes, even those of us who do not have biological children can have spiritual children, spiritual sons & daughters. Timothy was very special to Paul, so too, our spiritual children are very special to us. Timothy probably came to know Jesus during Pauls’ first missionary journey when Paul & Barnabas visited Timothy’s home town of Lystra. By the time Paul next visited Lystra on his second missionary journey, as recorded in Acts 16, Timothy had grown in his faith & joined Paul & Silas on the rest of their journey. He also served with Paul on his third missionary journey & some years later, while still a relatively young man, he was appointed by Paul as the leader of the church in Ephesus.
Some years later, in about AD 61, when Paul was under house arrest in Rome, he wrote to the believers in the city of Philippi & mentioned Timothy. They knew Timothy well, but look what Paul says about him to them: “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. …you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” (Philippians 2:20-22) Not only had Timothy come to know Jesus through the ministry of Paul, he also served as a co-worker with Paul. Their relationship as spiritual father & son & also as co-workers was very close.
As part of his opening greeting Paul expresses his desire for Timothy to know: “…grace, mercy & peace from God the Father & Christ Jesus our Lord.” We could preach several sermons on this sentence – a sermon on “grace”, another on “mercy”, & a third on “peace”, & still more sermons on the phrases “God the Father” & “Christ Jesus our Lord”. Each word or phrase is full of precious truth. We will not look at this verse in any more detail today, but I did want to say, don’t you think this is a wonderful blessing to pray for others – “…grace, mercy & peace from God the Father & Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We come now to our second heading:
2. A Godly Heritage (vrs 3-5)
In these verses Paul speaks about his own forefathers & he also speaks about Timothy’s mother & grandmother. Both Paul & Timothy had a godly heritage. Let us then look more closely at these verses.
One clear sign that Paul loved his “spiritual son” Timothy was the fact he prayed for him. He did not only pray for him now & again. He prayed for him very often. He says in v.3, “I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night & day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” Paul prayed for Timothy night & day.
Elizabeth & I pray for many of you very often but I find what Paul says here extremely challenging. The way he prayed for Timothy – “night & day I constantly remember you in my prayers” – amazing isn’t it! Let us all pray for one another more than we do. Let us pray for those in our Life Group. We can use the Church Directory. After all, it is called MBCC Prayer & Contact Directory.
Notice too what Paul says about serving God with a clear conscience, as his ancestors had done. Sadly, not everyone who serves in Church or in Christian work serves with a clear conscience. Some serve with mixed or even wrong motives. Some serve because they like the limelight or the status. But if this is the case, they are in danger of becoming proud & of serving for totally the wrong reason. Those serving behind the scenes are less likely to be serving for such reasons. Of course, we need people to serve up front, so if God calls you to serve in this way & if your desire is to honour Him & obey Him, then please do not hold back. We need you! We need people willing to serve, whether up front or behind the scenes. But wherever & whenever we serve let us do it with a pure heart & a clear conscience.
Not only did Paul speak of serving with a clear conscience, he mentions that this was how his ancestors had served God. Does he mean that his parents, grandparents & so on, had all been serving God? Paul himself, before he became a follower of Jesus, thought he was serving God when he was in fact persecuting Christians. I think maybe he is simply saying that his ancestors had been devout followers of the Jewish faith. Even if they had not known about the Messiah Jesus, as Paul now did, they had given him a godly heritage. They had taught him the Scriptures & lay foundations in his life that later, when the Holy Spirit opened his eyes, bore much fruit.
I feel very blessed that going back for many generations, way beyond my own parents & grandparents, many of my ancestors loved & served the Lord. Of course this did not make me a Christian. I had to trust in Jesus for myself. However, having this heritage is indeed a precious blessing that I do not take for granted.
You may not have such a spiritual heritage in your family, but do you know what? You can start a new line of blessing as you commit yourself to serving the Lord in your generation. Blessing will begin to flow from your generation down to the next & the next, & the next – if Jesus has not returned by then!
Timothy also had a godly heritage – Paul writes, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois & in your mother Eunice &, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” Timothy’s father was Greek but his mother & grandmother were Jewish. They too must have been devout worshippers of the one true God & it seems as soon as they heard the preaching of Paul, they believed in Jesus as the Messiah. Timothy must have been deeply influenced by the faith & the prayers of Eunice his mother & Lois his grandmother.
How many of you have been influenced by the faith & prayers of your parents & grandparents? There are two famous examples of praying mothers that spring to my mind. One is Hannah, the mother of the great leader of Israel, the prophet Samuel. Another is Monica, the mother of the famous 4th century theologian, Augustine of Hippo. The godly lives & the prayers of such women played a crucial role in the lives & ministries of their sons.
Those of you privileged to be mothers, let me encourage you to pray for your children. Help them come to know Jesus. Teach them to love God’s Word. This is far more important than academic success or being the best in ballet, piano or sport.
Finally for today:
3. A Challenging Reminder (vrs 6 & 7)
Paul now gives Timothy the first of many challenges. He says, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
Timothy was a young man when Paul & the elders had laid their hands upon him setting him apart for service as pastor in the church in Ephesus. We see this in 1 Timothy 4:14, “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of the elders laid their hands on you.” That gift may have been the gift of preaching or teaching or pastoring. Whatever it was, Timothy is challenged by Paul to fan the gift into flame.
The Holy Spirit gives different gifts to different members of the body of Christ, to you & me, & all His gifts are to be used for building up the Church. It is very possible to neglect the gifts we have been given – whether those gifts are natural talents or spiritual gifts – we need to use them. Like muscles, if we do not exercise them they may become weak & useless. As Paul tells Timothy, let us fan the gifts we have been given into flame so that we burn more brightly for Jesus. If your gift is hospitality – use your gift & many will be blessed. I know some of you are using this gift beautifully. If your gift is giving – use your gift & God’s work will not lack finances or resources. If your gift is helping – use your gift & many will be encouraged. If your gift is healing – pray for those in need & God will bring healing & comfort. If your gift is words of wisdom – what God gives you could be exactly what someone needs to hear. And so I could go on.
Some of us get fearful when we think of using our gifts & of serving. We worry about what others will think, or we worry about messing up. Timothy was a bit like this. He was timid by nature. Paul reminds him, “…God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love & of self-discipline.” Next week we will look in more detail into this wonderful verse but as we close I want simply to challenge each one of us, like Timothy, not to hold back but to step out in faith to serve the Lord.
Let us thank God for the many opportunities, blessings & gifts He has given us. Let us thank Him for those who have been a godly influence in our lives. Let us ask Him to fill us with courage, to fill us with the power of the Holy Spirit & to fill us with His love. Let us ask Him to help us keep focussed & self disciplined as we seek to fulfil His calling upon our lives.
My ancestor William Anderson spoke words of encouragement to his family & church before he died. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy before he was executed – words that speak to us today. What kind of legacy will you leave behind? You may not have the opportunity to say or write much, but will your life itself speak? Will you be remembered as someone who lived for God, someone who loved & served Him & was a blessing to others?