Live Out and Pass On Good Teaching
David gave this talk at City Church (Newcastle) in 2016. Click here to download it.
The renewal of disciple making is an important prophetic theme today. “Some people claim that we can be Christians without necessarily becoming disciples. I wonder, then, why the last thing Jesus told us was to go into the world, making disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that He commanded? You’ll notice that he didn’t add, “but hey, if that’s too much to ask, tell them just to become Christians – you know, the people who get to heaven without having to commit to anything.” Francis Chan. We are instructed to go and make disciples. Paul’s relationship with Timothy is a good example – though we can’t all travel around with an apostle but the section we're looking at today teaches us about how it is to be applied more widely to all of us.
2 Timothy 2:1-7: “Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labour. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.”
- The key verse for today is 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (NIV UK).
- Paul knew it was near end of his life. He decided to write a letter to one of his closest friends and a spiritual son, a much younger man called Timothy, now in Ephesus. He starts remembering the history of their relationship & also the sort of issues Timothy faced.
Paul’s missionary journey – to Iconium, then because of persecution went to Lystra, a village outside of Iconium – tell story of both. Timothy was a young man, probably late teens and lived in Lystra with a Jewish mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois. He had a Greek father. Later Paul went back and found that Timothy was spoken of well by other believers in Lystra and in Iconium – the bigger city. He saw Timothy’s potential – described as a young disciple, and had him circumcised (strange when Paul had spent the previous few years teaching that this wasn’t necessary but he was flexible for the sake of taking the gospel to others). Timothy would have learnt that understanding the grace of God and the fulfilling of God’s plan to reach all nations required flexibility for the sake of the gospel – so Titus, also learning from Paul, on the same team was not required to be circumcised! The flexibility of grace upsets the legalist – should he be circumcised or not!?!
Timothy travelled on Paul’s team and was sent to places that Paul could not go despite being very nervous. “When Timothy comes, don’t intimidate him. He is doing the Lord’s work, just as I am.” 1 Cor 16:10. Paul described Timothy as knowing exactly how Paul followed Jesus and could therefore be an example to others. He also could teach all that Paul taught in all the churches (we tend to distinguish between doctrine and practice whereas Paul, and therefore Timothy, saw them both as wrapped up together). Timothy learned to care for others and be a true son to Paul – “ I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News.” Phil 2:20-22.
THE PRINCIPLE OF PASSING ON TEACHING
- Paul → Timothy and others → faithful people → others. This multiplies the work, and it's how we want it to work in the church.
- There is a body of truth to be passed on that Timothy had heard Paul say many times in front of many witnesses.
- What would Timothy have heard? Cannot comprehensively summarize that truth but let me give a few hints:
- God had promised a coming Messiah – who would both carry the sins of His people as a suffering servant, fulfil the promises given to Adam, Abraham, Israel – blessing of the nations to lead them to worship Israel’s God.
- Christ came as 2nd Adam, as Abraham’s seed to fulfil all that God had promised – so all the Old Testament promises were fulfilled in Jesus – “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.” 2 Cor 1:20:
- Seed of the woman
- Seed of Abraham
- Passover rescue
- Seed of David
- The anointed servant
- The suffering servant
- The renewed temple
- The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all
- We were all dead in sin, unable to rescue ourselves, not part of Israel’s blessings, Christ died for us and we died with Him. In grace God made us alive in Christ
- To be a people in Christ (no longer in Adam) therefore belonging to the future new heaven and new earth. Therefore we inherit all the promises too. Paul describes this as the “whole counsel/plan of God”.
- These things (and many others) Timothy would have heard from Paul.
- It is those things he is to pass on – who to? Reliable, trustworthy people. Those that will not add their own ideas or what they have picked up from their secular education or humanistic philosophy – but truth. Dependable in character and gifted in ability in some measure to teach – whether to a crowd or one-to-one. But it was not only truth but a way of life – a style of giving, sharing, open life – as he explained to Ephesian elders. Timothy also knew Paul's ways in Christ. "Imitate these", Paul says to Corinthians.
- A dynamic of passing it on – through small groups and one to one.
HOW CAN WE DO THIS?
- By being strong in grace:
- God’s undeserved enabling power – without grace, to say to timid Timothy just ‘Be strong’ – would be like telling a snail to hurry or a horse to fly.
- Enjoy God’s grace – in your own life – so not regarded as a failure etc.
- Be gracious to others – let it be the atmosphere of church life.
- By enduring hardship:
- It is tough to be a Christian – persecuted church, tell stories from around the world.
- Be disciplined like a soldier – does not mean you don’t care about your secular work or your family – that is where you work out the Kingdom of God – but don’t look back (e.g. Luke 9:62) and be disciplined about your faith – Christ is your commanding officer.
- Like an athlete, compete according to the rules. All God requires is fulfilled in us as we live by the Spirit (not external legalism). Grace teaches us to say ‘no’ to sin.
- Work hard like a farmer. This is only way to produce fruit in character and evangelism.
“Fan into flame the gift in you, understanding we are not given a spirit of fear but power, love & self discipline”, 1:7.
- By thinking about It!
- Reflect on what I am saying (v7).
- Think it through.
- Also Paul says elsewhere – not rule over your faith – commend to your conscience.
- As you do this, God will enable you to understand.
- We are to understand (every believer, every new believer)
- We are to pass on (not our own ideas but a body of truth).
- We are to live it out or we can’t just pass it on.