Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Witness of the Community

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending November 23, 2008

Scripture Text: 2nd Timothy 2:1-3 & 4:1-5 (NRSV)

2nd Timothy 2:1-3
(1) You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; (2) and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well. (3) Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

2nd Timothy 4:1-5
(1) In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you:(2) proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. (3) For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, (4) and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. (5) As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Paul is telling us, by way of this letter to Timothy, to accept God's calling to be faithful by enduring hardships, proclaiming the message, and performing our ministry.
Bible scholars do not all agree on the authorship or time of this writing; but since the letter tells us Paul wrote it and tradition says that Paul was imprisoned for a second time in Rome just prior to his death at the hands of Nero, I can accept that. I cannot explain the church structure, which appears to be that of a later time, but it is possible the church hierarchy had evolved in the twenty years since Paul's letter to the Galatians and there were Bishops in the new church. I can accept that the Book of Acts, written by Luke, may not have covered Paul's second imprisonment.
As I read and studied both 1st and 2nd Timothy, I was amazed at what appears apparent to me does not seem apparent to all of the commentary authors I read.

In reading these letters, I see Paul trying to tell Timothy something that all of us today seem to have a problem grasping. Paul was a witness to the risen Christ on the road to Damascus some thirty years prior. What Paul knew by sight was what he was trying to get Timothy to understand and accept by faith.

Paul had first met Timothy on his first missionary journey to Lystra. While on that mission, he did not follow his present belief that circumcision was not necessary and so he had Timothy circumcised (because of pressure from the Jewish population). Timothy's father was a Greek and his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois were Jews converted to the new Christianity taught by Paul.

Paul knew Timothy had all of the right teaching, and Paul knew he was facing earthly death, (“my departure is at hand”) (4:6). Therefore, he was preparing Timothy to take over his ministry. “Remember what you have heard me say, and entrust this to faithful people who will be able to teach others” (my paraphrase).

If this new leadership position brings persecution, and suffering, Paul wants Timothy to know what he knows, that ‘Christ is risen’ and whatever trials and tribulations come there is certain knowledge that Christ has a plan and a reward for those that seek Him diligently. Paul said “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him that Day”. (1:12) “Share in suffering like a good soldier of Jesus Christ”.

In chapter 4, Paul continues his challenge to Timothy, and urges Timothy to persistently proclaim the message. He warns of a time coming when sound doctrine will be rejected, and people will have ‘itching ears’ and not want to a hear the true gospel that Paul and others had been preaching. They will follow those that preach an easier message and believe in myths.

The picture Paul paints for Timothy would scare off most men: to endure inflictions, but always be evangelist.

He also shares another picture in verses 7 & 8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that Day, and not me only but also to all that have loved His appearing”.

The resurrected Christ had appeared to Paul. He knew the resurrection power and now he wanted that message carried on by Timothy to everyone. Timothy had been a witness to many of Paul's miracles and he had been taught by Paul. But, the question is, did he have the vision that Paul had? Since that time the message has gone around the world. We must assume Timothy did his part, now the mantle has been passed to this generation. Will our generation continue to preach with the heart of an evangelist or will we look to satisfy ‘itching ears’ and look for a simpler message… one that is not so hard and one that does not require enduring inflictions or persecution?

Can we envision the Risen Christ?
A special thanks to Carolyn Thomas for editing my commentary.

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