Lessons from II Timothy: Lesson 3 – To Be a Minister in Such a Time as This and Lesson 4 – The Stability of the Church

Last month THE OUTLOOK began a new series of articles or lessons on II Timothy and Titus by Rev. Henry Vander Kam, pastor of Grace Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

This series is intended for church societies, study groups, and all who are interested. Rev. Vander Kam has the knack of presenting his material briefly and clearly, as those who have used his outlines in the past will well remember. Two lessons appear each month.


II Timothy 2:1–13

To be a minister in such a time as this

In contrast to those who have forsaken him in the hour of his greatest need and in keeping with the attitude of Onesiphorus, Paul now urges Timothy to strengthen himself in the grace which is in Christ Jesus so that he may be able to do his work properly. His natural fearfulness must be overcome if he is to do the work of the ministry in the coming days.

The gifts Timothy has received are sufficient to qualify him to his task. Let him now lay hold on these gifts for his own welfare and for the welfare of the church he is called to serve. No doubt, the times will be difficult. However, he can draw on the grace of his Savior which will be sufficient regardless of circumstances.

A straight line of teaching – First of all, let it be clear that the church of Christ will go on and no circumstances can stop it. Nor does Timothy have to do the work alone. He must transmit the wealth of instruction he has received from Paul to others, faithful men, who in turn must instruct another group. So the church will go on.

Timothy has been in the presence of Paul so much in the past and has, together with many other witnesses, heard Paul expound the depths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These truths he must now commit to others. These are the sound, the “healthy” words, the true doctrine, which must be taught. Let there be a straight line of teaching from the Apostle to Timothy to faithful men to others. Thus the church will grow and the truth of the gospel will be guarded.

Called as a soldier – This teaching, however, will not be accomplished in the atmosphere of the quiet scholarly life or out of ivory towers. No, in this time it will have to be accomplished amid grave personal dangers. Paul holds this realistic picture clearly before his beloved child. Timothy should realize that he too has been called as a soldier of Jesus Christ. Although his personality longs to be “carried to the skies on Bowery beds of ease,” that is not to be expected in the days in which he is called to minister to the church. He will be called to suffer as many others also have. He must show himself to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus. A soldier in battle lives in the midst of grave danger every moment and might lose his life.

How must Timothy (and, in a wider sense, all ministers) conduct himself in his ministry? Paul uses three illustrations to make this clear. First of all, he likens the work of the ministry to that of a soldier. A soldier must be a soldier all the time! He must not have interests on the side which detract from his main calling. He may not be engaged in the business of the world for his personal profit. His calling as a soldier demands full time! He has to carry out the orders of his superior. Only in that way will he be able to please him “who enrolled him as a soldier.” While a soldier is “on service” he may not ask for an eighthour day! He may have to work the full twenty-four hours. So must Timothy, and all those who follow him in his calling, recognize his commitment.

Contending in a game – The next illustration the Apostle uses is taken from the world of sports. The purpose is to win, to be crowned. He uses this figure frequently and often speaks of the training and discipline which is required. Yet, the goal is to win. No No one is eligible to win if he does not abide by the rules of the particular game in which he was contending. So must Timothy, and those who follow him, contend according to the rules.

The ministry too has rules. Only the true gospel, the Word of God, may be brought. All other teaching is contraband. Beautiful poetry, philosophy, or the news of the day may never take the place of the gospel! It is unlawful, and what is unlawful is sin.

Like a farmer – The third illustration which is used is from the area of fanning. The farmer who works diligently for a whole season must be the first to partake of the fruits of his labors. This is the only fair method. He has earned this reward. So too with a minister. He is called upon to suffer in times of stress, he has to work long and hard to prepare the harvest, he may then also rejoice in the firstfruits of the harvest. While the season lasts there may be various disappointments. He will have to work long and hard, but the work brings its own rewards. Paul is now suffering for the gospel, but he has also had rich rewards for his labors.

The illustrations which Paul has used must not be taken lightly. There is always the danger that the illustration will be remembered but the matter it illustrates forgotten. He therefore urges Timothy to consider carefully the things he has taught by means of these illustrations. They will reveal to him the essence of the gospel ministry. These teachings he needs. He may not be able to assimilate all othat which the Apostle has taught him in these three verses at once, but, if he considers, ponders, these matters, the Lord will give him understanding in all things.

Look to the risen Christ – Although Timothy must be prepared to suffer many things for the sake of the gospel, he should not be unduly depressed by this fact. He should always keep his eye directed to Jesus Christ risen from the dead. The fact that Jesus, Who also suffered more than any other, is risen from the dead is the indication that He lives forever. He is of the seed of David, the true King whose kingdom has no end.

That Christ, risen from the dead and seated on the throne of the universe, must always stand out clearly in your mind. Then the direction of your life will be straight and you will not be led astray by present circumstances and difficulties.

Suffering hardship – That gospel Paul had proclaimed; and for the proclamation of that gospel he was now suffering hardship unto bonds. Yet, he tells Timothy to do the same thing, and, of course, it may have the same results.

Paul is considered to be a malefactor, a criminal. Those who uphold the law of God and the laws of men are now considered criminals! But the gospel is not bound! You instruct faithful men, and let them again instruct others in that gospel! Preach it to all men! The gospel is not in chains! This fact gives the Apostle the courage to endure all things for the sake of those whom God has chosen to faith and obedience. They will obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

The question, however, arises: How does Paul’s endurance of his sufferings work for the salvation of others at a later date? One answer is that he knows the gospel will be victorious in spite of the fact that he was made non-active through his imprisonment.

Yet, there seems to be further reason. Humanly speaking, if Paul had not given the right answer to his tormenters, the faith of many would have been shaken. The eyes of the church are on him as he stands before his accusers. As Christ gave the gooconfession before Pontius Pilate, so Paul gave the good confession before Nero. The leader must recognize his responsibility to those he leads!

A faithful saying – At the conclusion of this section the Apostle again, as he does several times in the Pastoral Epistles, refers to that which has become a faithful saying. It is a confession generally accepted—perhaps in the form of a stanza of a hymn.

The words of this “saying” are now applied to Timothy in his work as a minister in these times. This “stanza” consists of several lines following the same pattern. It is: If we do this—Christ will do that. They are statements so obviously true, no one is expected to deny them. If we died with Him we shall also live with Him. Remember, this is to be applied to Timothy. Even though the martyr’s lot awaits, that is not the end, for we shall live with Him who is risen from the dead. Fear not them which are abJe to kill the body! Should you have to die as a martyr for the sake of the gospel, you will be ushered into the full life with Jesus! This truth Paul has applied to himself!

“If we endure [that is, the suffering of the present time], we shall also reign with him.” He who endures till the end shall be saved. “If we deny him, he also will deny us.” Those who confess Him, He will confess before His Father and before the angels; but, the contrary is also true. The last line of this “stanza” has given some difficulty. Some think it means: Whether we are faithful or not, He is always faithful because He cannot deny Himself. However, this goes contrary to the whole train of thought expressed in this faithful saying. In complete harmony with the foregoing it means: If we are faithless in respect to the gospel, He is faithful to His own threats in regard to this. He will not condone unfaithfulness. He would have to deny His own being to overlook this. That He cannot do—He cannot deny Himself! He will “reward” faithlessness according to its desserts.

The times are difficult. Nevertheless, Timothy must be a true servant of Jesus Christ. All the things necessary for the true ministry are at his disposal. Christ will guard His church and cause it to grow.

Questions for discussion:

1. How can we strengthen ourselves in faith?

2. Which are some of the dangers peculiar to the ministry? Don’t we usually think that a minister’s faith is the strongest?

3. Paul made tents. Was this contrary to what he tells Timothy—that he should give full-time to the gospel ministry?

4. The gospel is old. Many people would like to hear new things. Does the gospel also satisfy the craving of these people? May ministers give in to the desire to have something “different”?

5. What are some of the firstfruits of which a minister partakes?

6. Does a minister’s heresy affect himself only? Explain.



II Timothy 2:14–19

The stability of the church

In the pastoral epistles Paul deals essentially with the welfare of the church for the future and the role the offices play in the weUare of the church. Timothy is Paul’s immediate successor and he must see to it that there will be others to stand at his side and to continue the work after he too must relinquish the reins.

Paul has written concerning these matters to Timothy but he must see to it that the other officebearers will be instructed in these same things. The things of which he has written in the previous paragraph arc of great importance to everyone who is charged with the oversight of the church of Christ. They must all teach the same thing and they must all have the same attitude to office.

Dangerous teachings – In the first epistle Paul had spoken of various teachers who led the people astray. He now refers to the same teachers. Evidently things still have not improved regarding this matter. In the former epistle he had characterized these teachings as myths and old wives’ fables.

Such teachers would go on endlessly about genealogies, etc. It was essentially a striving about words. This is of no profit—useless. With this kind of teaching they obscure the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then it becomes dangerous—not an innocent exercise. They are undermining the faith of the people. Instead of giving them the true food for their spiritual life, they “feed” them with that which is of no profit. Timothy must make an end to this practice. He must charge them in the sight of the Lord! It must be made plain to these so-called teachers that the Lord of the church condemns their practice.

A workman approved by God – How should the true servant of God conduct himself? The true serv· ants of God must live in the realization that he is accountable to his God! God will be the Judge of his work. Men-pleasers will never pass the test. Therefore His servants must do their utmost to receive divine approval. This will produce various difficulties because the approval of God and the approval of men are not always the same.

This fact had brought many sufferings into Paul’s life. Yet, God‘s approval is the only one that counts, in the final analysis. Timothy must therefore see to it that he receives divine approval both in the present time and in the moment he stands before God’s throne.

That divine approval will be given him if he is a conscientious workman. The amount of work to be done is staggering. He must be a workman rather than a striver about words. As a workman he will do the tasks assigned. The work he is called to do will be so great and so arduous that it may well consume him. How can anyone have the impression that’s the work of a minister of the gospel is easy? It will be work for both day and night—if he takes the word of God and the importance of the church seriously. His conscience must be clear, he may not be ashamed of the quality of work he performs. If one does not do his best he will be ashamed before the people of God; and, what is more important, before God Himself. Let His servants labor in such a way that the divine approval may rest on both them and their work.

Proclaim the Word – The most important work to which God’s servants are called is the proclamation of the Word. The servant of God must handle aright the Word of truth. Great care must be taken in the use of this Word because the church must be fed by it. The God of truth does not want His words to be twisted.

If the church does not receive the true Word from its ministers its growth will be stunted and its health impaired. That Word of truth is the revelation of the mind of God and is, therefore, often difficult to understand by the mind of man.

To handle that Word aright is a tremendous task!

Let the servant of God agonize over that Word until he is able to handle it properly! There is too much at stake to take this task lightly. The manner in which His servants handle the Word of truth will determine the spiritual health or sickness of the members of the church for years to come.

Shun profane babblings – To show how important it is that the Word of truth be handled properly, the Apostle again refers to the unfaithful teachers at Ephesus. Timothy must not allow himself to be detracted from his own labors by them. Shun these profane babblings! Dont debate them. Ignore them! They will go on to further ungodliness. That which may have seemed to be innocent speculation to some will go from bad to worse.

Whenever the Word of God is used in the manner in which these “teachers” use it, if can do nothing but increase in ungodliness. The one error leads to the other. Therefore one must be so careful in the handling of God’s Word. The teachings of these men will eat like a gangrene. It will destroy healthy tissue and spread farther and farther. It is deadly! Its progress is often far greater than the victim realizes. When it is recognized—it is too late.

Heretics renounced – Paul is not merely mentioning an unidentified group, he also becomes very specific. Let the heretics be mentioned by name so that everyone may be on his guard. He mentions Hymenaeus, who had also been mentioned in the first chapter of the first epistle, and Philetus, who is named for the first time. We do not know anything about these individuals except that which the writer now says about them. No doubt, they were leaders among the false teachers and well known to Timothy.

Paul does not say that he disagrees with these men, but, much stronger, they have erred concerning the truth. They are heretics! They have wrested the Word of God! Thy teach that the resurrection is past! No future resurrection of the body is to be expected. Do they believe in a resurrection? Certainly; and thereby they overthrow the faith of some. They use the same terminology as the true church does and pour an entirely different content into the terms they use. The resurrection—that was the rebirth! You arose from the state of sin to salvation! Now, doesnt that sound a deep spiritual note? The body isn’t so important. The soul is the allimportant thing.

Almost every heresy receives a hearing and this one is no exception. The faith of some has been turned upside down. This type of teaching is a mixture of the gospel and Greek philosophy. The seat of evil, according to some of the Greeks, is in the body. To deny its resurrection might be applauded by some. However, Paul bases his whole gospel on the truth of the resurrection of the body! If Christ is not raised, then . . . . They also minimize sin by stating that the real resurrection was our rebirth. What is then our present condition? Are we now perfect seeing we have already partaken of the resurrection? Indeed, our rebirth was a miracle of God’s grace, but it was not the resurrection of which Scripture speaks.

The church stands – What is now the state of the church and what may be expected of the future? There are so many who are undermining the faith of His people. How shall that church stand under these conditions with no outlook for improvement on this score in the future? One would almost become despondent.

The Apostle, however, ends on an entirely different note. Regardless of all the difficulties both within and without, the firm foundation of God standeth! There has been much discussion about the question: what does he mean by this foundation? This is, I believe rather fruitless.

The context makes it very clear that Paul means the church. Indeed, at other times he refers to other things as foundations—but here it is clearly the church. In spite of all the opposition—the church stands. In spite of the attacks of Satan—the church stands. In spite of all unfaithful ministers—the church stands. It is the foundation which God has laid, therefore nothing is able to overthrow it. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. This stability of the church is of the greatest comfort for those who belong to it. It is God‘s work and His work never fails.

There are many passages in the Pauline epistles where the author goes into the meaning and character of the church much more than he does in this particular place. However, the solidity and lasting character of the church is taught as strongly here as any other place. Timothy needs this. The times are difficult and will become worse but his labor is not in vain!

A seal with two sides – There is a seal on this foundation. This sounds rather strange, but the truth which the Apostle teaches is usually too rich to be contained in anyone metaphor.

Seals are usually not found on foundations! This is a double seal—or one with two sides. On the one side is written: The Lord knoweth them that are his; and on the other: Let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness. The very fact that it is sealed reveals ownership and authenticity. Let no one break that seal!

By the first inscription God reveals that the church finds its origin in His election. He has chosen and purchased them so that the church is His property. The second inscription shows that certain requirements are made of those who form His church. They must be pure. Here His election and the responsibilities of the elect are brought together. They always belong together—no one may separate them even though no one can harmonize them.

Questions for discussion:

1. Does topical preaching do justice to the Word of God? Explain. 2. How must the Word of God be handled or “divided”? Of what importance is the knowledge of the original languages in “handling” the word aright? 3. When different ministers or theologians use such terms as “Word of God,” “election,” “rebirth,” etc., do they necessarily mean the same thing? How necessary is it to define the terms? 4. What is modernism‘s view of the resurrection? 5. Do we have any guarantee that “our church” will always remain?