Lessons from II Timothy: Lesson 7 – Encouragement in Difficulties; Lesson 8 – The Scriptures

In August, THE OUTLOOK began this series of articles or lessons on II Timothy and Titus by Rev. Henry Vander Kam, pastor of Grace Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

These articles are intended for church societies, study groups, and all who are interested. Two lessons appear each month.

If the future days arc to be characterized in the way Pau l has done in the first nine verses of this chapter. what will become of Timothy? He will have to give leadership in the church of Christ during such days. Will he be able to stand in such times?

Timothy might even have a difficult time when there isn’t a cloud in the sky and how will he fare when he will have to “contend with horses?” (Jer. 12:5). Paul is seeking to encourage him when difficulties come and to arm him for the warfare of those days.

Paul’s teaching – Paul first of all shows the contrast between the enemies of the cross as they reveal themselves in the “last days” and the life of Timothy till the present time. He has been a follower of the Apostle and has patterned his own life after his. It was, therefore, the relation of teacher and disciple as well as missionary and successor. He was certainly aware of all the things which happened to Paul but also accepted that life as a model for himself. Paul often urges the churches to follow his example. This desire has been fulfilled in Timothy as might be expected.

First of all, Timothy has followed Paul’s teaching. This was the gospel of Jesus Christ of which he had been made a minister. This was the same teaching which had been entrusted to Timothy. He had not merely followed that Apostolic teaching as an interested spectator, but had adopted that teaching.

Paul’s conduct and purpose – Likewise, Timothy had followed the conduct of his teacher. He saw that that conduct was in complete harmony with the things he taught. This is the opposite of hypocrites who teach one thing and conduct themselves in a different manner. So had Timothy also learned to live. The manner of life was determined by the gospel. That gospel had so gripped both of them that the whole life was permeated by it.

Paul’s purpose had always been clear. He had a goal in life. That goal was so clear and so important that every part of life and every moment had to bring him closer to it. He had given expression to that goal when he asked his Lord, Who appeared to him as he was about to enter Damascus: What wilt Thou Lord have me to do? In all of the remainder of his life he sought to do that will. “It is no more I that live; Christ Jesus lives in me.” He has surrendered himself so completely to his Savior that he sees no other purpose than to glorify Him.

Now, you, Timothy, have followed my purpose and it is yours too. His faith has been evident to all. Timothy has seen that faith revealed again and again. He reads it in the letters he has received. That faith is grounded in his teaching, in the gospel. He lives out of that faith and therefore his conduct and purpose of life are what they are. The fruits of that faith are evident.

Timothy has been given that faith too. Timothy has seen how patient his teacher was with people. Therein too he was a true follower of his Lord. The love he had shown to the churches and to his intimate friends cannot he denied. The difficulties he had endured were well-known to Timothy. These gifts had also been given to Timothy so that inwardly he is equipped to deal with difficulties as they arise. Therefore, stir up the gift of God which is in thee! You are not defenceless!

Pauls persecutions – However, the Apostle has not yet concluded the catalogue of things wherein Timothy has followed him and will have to follow him in the future. He is, of course, aware of all the persecutions Paul has endured in the past. His had not been the life of ease as his early training might have promised. In II Corinthians 11 he recounts some of the things which have happened to him for the sake of the gospel. It is a list of brutalities and tortures.

So far Timothy has not suffered as much, but, it may come! He is also aware of the things which happened to Palll on his first missionary journey. He was opposed by the Jews at Antioch. He had to flee Iconium because they were about to stone him. At Lystra (Timothy’s home town?) they had stoned Paul and Barnabas so that the people thought they were dead. Timothy was well acquainted with all these experiences and was, therefore, also fully aware of the dangers in following Paul.

The writer mentions all of the foregoing to give encouragement to his son and successor for the days to come. It may be that Timothy will have to endure the things which were mentioned or worse. He has received the necessary spiritual gifts to be able to stand. Concerning the persecutions Paul says that the Lord delivered him out of all of them. This is difficult to understand. As he is writing these words he is in prison awaiting certain execution! But, the Lord delivered me out of them all! Surely, not out of this last one!—Or did He? Paul does not mean deliverance in the sense of preventing them. or in the sense of making them less severe. By deliverance he means that these persecutions did not separate him from his Lord! Then he has been delivered out of them all. He has promised that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35–39). He Who promised it is faithful.

What an attitude to the difficult life he had experienced which is now ending in Nero’s dungeon! Only true faith had made it possible for him to endure all these sufferings. The Lord had said to Ananias in Damascus that He would “show him how many things he must suffer for my name‘s sake” (Acts 9:16). It had now indeed been shown him!

Paul’s experience is not an isolated case but is and will be the common lot of God’s people. No, others may not experience it in the severity experienced by this Apostle, but they will have to realize that their cause is not a popular one and will be opposed by the world. Paul speaks of those who would live godly, i.e., the devout, the pious. These are the ones whose faith is living and active. They refuse to compromise their beliefs. They will not follow unbelievers in their way of life. This will bring about resentment on the part of the world. Unbelievers, or false believers, will feel that they and their manner of life are being judged by the devout. This will finally lead to persecution. When the light of the gospel shines through the We of true believers and unmasks the works of darkness, they, who love the darkness more than the light, rebel. Then they turn against those who have shown them the true way of life. His people must expect these nights and should not fret when persecution comes. No, the reward which is to be given His people is so great that Paul can even rejoice in tribulation. The goal makes the struggle worthwhile!

Paul’s view of evil men – The believers of the “last days” should also see their favored position in contrast with those who have persecuted them. He refers to those who were mentioned before–especially in the first nine verses of this chapter. These he now calls evil men and imposters. They are in the employ of the evil one, and he is a hard taskmaster. They are also deceivers–they are not to be trusted. These people do not improve as time goes on but they shall wax worse and worse. They will go from bad to worse. They have already done much evil. How much worse can they get? Really, there is hardly a limit. The believer shudders at the greatness of his own sin. How deep can those fall who have not been regenerated by the power of God! When the end of time comes, such evil shall become evident as many had not thought possible!

These opponents of the people of God shall go on deceiving. They will, no doubt, deceive various people. However, not only will they deceive others, they will also deceive themselves. Sin so blinds the heart and understanding that they believe their own lies. Sin also brings its own punishment. The Apostle is not speaking of a possible conversion of such “evil men.” They are hardened in sin and, humanly speaking, conversion becomes impossible.

Difficult times arc coming, indeed. But, such spiritual strength has been given that you will be able to bear the affliction. And, the Lord rescues you out of it. There is no comparison between the glorious life of His people, though persecuted, and the empty and condemned lives of those who persecute them. Who is as rich as that man in Nero’s dungeon whose earthly life is about to come to an end? He will soon be with his Lord—which is far better!

Questions for discussion:

1. Can we also be too much concerned about the evil days to come? Will those also still be “days of grace”? Explain. 2. Paul is not afraid to hold himself up as an example to others. Is this dangerous? Can it be evidence of spiritual pride? 3. What do you think of Paul’s view of “deliverance”? Is this the secret of those who suffer much and yet are always happy? 4. Does evil grow? Explain.    


II Timothy 3:14–17

The Scriptures

If a believer is to remain standing in time of peril and persecution he must indeed possess inner strength. There must be that strength of heart and soul which is found only in those who have true faith. We do not have that strength by nature.

Learned from excellent teachers – Timothy is urged to abide in the things which he has learned and of which he has been assured. Those times will not demand anything different from that which he already has. He has been taught the truth and that is all he will need regardless of times or circumstances. It is not simply a truth which he has accepted with the mind, but, after learning it, he has also been assured of its power.

Timothy can be assured of the truthfulness and power of the things he has learned if he bears in mind who his teachers were. These were people with the best credentials. They sought his welfare. They themselves believed the things they taught and lived by those things and were ready to die for them. Paul had been his teacher! His mother and grandmother had been his teachers! To be instructed in the truth by one of the Apostles of the Lamb was surely a great benefit and honor. He spoke the Word of God. His mother and grandmother loved him dearly and would give him nothing but the best. He had no reason to doubt the sincerity of any of his teachers nor their motives. Now, then, abide in these things. Hold on to them!

From the time of infancy Timothy has been instructed in the sacred writings. They were faithful in instructing their children. Although many people of that day were illiterate, this was not true among the Jews. They had schools very early in their history. Their most important early possession was the subject matter for teaching. They had the Word of God as it was contained in the Old Testament. This Word was taught the Hebrew children from the time they were babes. They grew up with the knowledge of the Old Testament. It was the subject matter. Other people did not have this treasure. It gave them a knowledge of their history, it showed them the promises of God for the future, it gave them a view of life, it gave them moral, ceremonial and civil laws, and it gave them the book of songs. What a wealth this people possessed! In all of this Timothy had been instructed since earliest days by his mother and grandmother.

Received by faith – Paul had also been instructed in these sacred writings from his infancy, but there was one major difference between Timothy’s education. These sacred writings are not sufficient in themselves. They led Paul to persecute the church, thinking, on the basis of the Old Testament, that he was doing God service. These sacred writings will only make wise unto salvation if faith in Jesus Christ is present. Without that faith they will never satisfy.

That is clearly evident from Paul’s life as well as in the life of unconverted Jews who cling to the Old Testament. But, Timothy has not only received the instruction in these sacred writings, he has also been given the necessary faith in Jesus Christ. That fear of God is the principle of wisdom! The shadows of the Old Testament have been illumined for him by the light as it is risen in Christ Jesus. Hold this fast! Abide in it!

Inspired of God – We now come to a most important verse in Scripture. It deals with the nature of the Bible and its inspiration. There has been some debate on the question whether it should be translated “all Scripture” or “every Scripture.” I believe it makes little difference and both translations are possible.

It must be noted that “all or every Scripture” does not mean the same thing as “sacred writings” in the previous verse. By “sacred writings” were meant the Old Testament only while the “scripture” of verse 16 includes both the Old Testament and the writings of the New Testament which were completed at this time. These are all placed on the same plane by Paul. Timothy must realize that from a babe he had been taught the Word of God.

The letters of Paul with which Timothy is familiar, as well as the letter now before his eyes, is also the Word of God! Therefore it will he sufficient for him regardless of the nature of the times and, coupled with faith, will make him wise to salvation.

All the Scriptures are inspired of God, says the Apostle. They are Godbreathed. They have their origin in God Himself. The doctrine of inspiration has given much difficulty throughout the ages and our own age is no exception. We are, after all, dealing with a “book” which was written by many different individuals over a long span of time. Some are so afraid that we will not do justice to the “human factor.” It is, of course, true that the styles of the different authors differ greatly. The church has, therefore, insisted that we are not dealing with a mechanical inspiration, but, rather, an organic inspiration. God took the human authors as they were—in their own times and with their ability or lack of ability and gave us His Word. He did not only inspire the thought, but every word! Paul bases a whole argument on the fact that a certain singular is used rather than a plural (Gal. 3). Christ says concerning the law that not a letter or part of a letter shall fail! (Matt. 5:18).

Trustworthy – Seeing that the Scriptures are the product of God Himself they are trustworthy, Were this not true, how could man “live and die happily”? The believer must have an unshakable foundation upon which to stand or his hopes will be dashed.

Those who cast doubt on the veracity of any part of the Scripture are undermining the faith of His people. If the truth of Scripture is called into question everything else falls with it. The believer will have nowhere to turn. Paul had suffered bitter persecution and is ready to die for the truth revealed to him in the Scriptures! Timothy, and all believers must hold fast to it for the days to come.

Profitable – To the Apostle there is no possibility that any part of the Scriptures should not be the Word of God. Because God is the Author, it is perfect! If God wrote it, it is infallible. Then only is it pro6table and useful for the work of the church. It is to be Timothy’s textbook! He must find all of his own strength for his own spiritual life in it—and he must feed the people entrusted to him with it. No substitute may be condoned. The Spirit uses the Word to instill faith in Jesus Christ and so makes them wise to salvation. Nothing else can do this. Men have found and used substitutes for the Word of’ God again and again, but the Spirit has never found a substitute!

To be preached and taught – Timothy must preach that Word and he must also teach it. The people arc to be instructed in that Word so that they will know it. Only if the Bible is acknowledged as the inspired Word of God will it be profitable for teaching. Besides, this Bible will also be extremely profitable in all the pastoral work which Timothy performs.

By means of the Word Timothy will reprove those who are erring. It is not Timothy who says they are wrong, but God says sol It will also have to be used positively to correct that which has not attained that ideal in Jesus Christ. It will be profitable to train the people to whom he ministers in true discipleship. Tn all that he is called to do, Timothy will have to use the Word. Philosophy will not comfort and psychology will not touch the heart but the Word does both.

Leads to every good work – What will be the result of such ministerial and pastoral work? One who has a calling as Timothy should have a goal in mind. All of the spiritual labor bestowed on the church of Christ is aimed at equipping the people of God to their task.

Paul speaks of “the man of God” by whom he means all true believers. Under the new dispensation all God‘s people have become prophets and priests and kings. The wish of Moses is being fulfilled (Num. 11:29). They have a great task to perform in their own hearts, in their family circles, and in the world. To do this properly they must be nourished by the Word of their God. He is building His church. He does so from within and from without. The inspired Word of God must be ministered to them faithfully to equip them to their task That Word is to mold their lives. That Word is to give them vision.

Those who are not fed with the Scriptures will never be able to do the work given them to do. If they are fed with the true food, they will be equipped to very good work The divine Judge will pronounce their works to be good because they stem from a true faith, are done according to the law of God and to His glory, and are not based on their own opinions or on the precepts of men (Heid. Cat., Q. 91).

Questions for discussion:

1. Are our godly teachers properly honored? How can we improve this situation?

2. How soon should we begin to instruct our children? Should we emphasize memorization of Bible texts and songs? Is this done enough?

3. How would you define inspiration?

4. Is the Bible without errors? Explain.

5. Is it so serious if we do not believe some of the things stated in the 6rst chapters of Genesis to be historically true? What would be your answer to those who say that these things have nothing to do with our salvation?

6. Can spiritual life grow by any other means than the Word of God?