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2 Timothy 1:8-12

8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began [lit., “before times eternal,” meaning “before all eternity”], 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: 11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him [lit., “my entrustment,” meaning “what God has entrusted to Paul”] against that day.

Paul wrote 2 Timothy to encourage him to remain strong in the ministry even after his departure. As opening the letter, the old apostle exhorts the young minister in Ephesus to be bold about the gospel ministry. How could this young and inexperienced young preacher be bold about his faith in the middle of the ancient metropolitan city filled with idolatry and sexual immorality? It was because the plan of the gospel, which is presently manifested to the world, was in God’s mind long before the creation of the world. Did God plan out the way of salvation after Adam and Eve fell at Eden? Paul in today’s text says, “Absolutely no!” God is never reactive. He is always proactive. Thus, the dear apostle says, “grace [in the gospel] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (v. 9). It means that well before the first element was created, well before the angels were created, well before even time was created, God composed the beautiful plan of the gospel out of His infinite grace and wisdom. This truth bears important theological implications about our relationship to Him.

We Must Serve God in the Gospel Now

Paul urges Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel (v. 8a) and boldly proclaims that he is not ashamed of the gospel (v. 12a). Why should this young minister not be ashamed of the gospel? Why should he take pride in the gospel when both Jews and Gentiles ridicule him for his faith in it? Why should we take pride in the gospel of Jesus Christ when people belittle God and laugh at Christianity? It is because the gospel is the demonstration of God’s love for us. Even well before we decided to serve Him, well before we were born, well before the world created, we were in God’s heart. The apostle John says, “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God’s love is infinite in time and measure. His love for us is “an everlasting love” (Jer 31:3). This love was demonstrated in God’s sending of His Son who died for us (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10). When we know this love, how can we be ashamed of it? We must take pride in God’s eternal love for us.

When Paul encountered God’s great love in the gospel, he decided to know nothing but “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2) and proclaimed nothing but “Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23). So, he says in today’s text, “I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of Gentiles” (v. 11). Also, he commands Timothy to partake in this gospel ministry (v. 8b). Do we know this amazing love and grace? When you know them, how can you be silent about it? I sometimes grin at the Terrific Kids bumper sticker. What does it tell? It tells that these parents cannot be silent about their kids’ awesomeness. Chicago Cubs won back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908. Then what happened? No World Series championship for the next 100 years. When the Cubs won the World Series championship in 2016, five million people came out to fill the entire streets of the big city for a big celebration. It was the seventh largest recorded gathering in human history. Why did they do that? They were extremely proud of what their team has done and could not be silent about it! How about us, Christians? Are we excited about the amazing love planned by God in eternity past and demonstrated at the cross? How often do we talk about it to other people?

Serving God in the gospel ministry is, of course, not easy. Paul, therefore, says to Timothy, “you must be partaker of the afflictions of the gospel by the power of God” (v. 8b). For the same cause, Paul himself was facing many hardships: “For the same cause I also suffer these things” (v. 12a). Paul had gone through a lot for the gospel previously (cf. 2 Cor 11:21-29) and was currently in the prison. Church history tells us that Paul was beheaded soon after writing this letter. Facing his imminent death for his Lord, Paul wanted to encourage the young, inexperienced minister to count the cost and keep following Him. When it comes to sufferings and sacrifices, what is important is not how hard and horrible they are. What is important is for what we pay the cost.

Recently, one of our church families had to go through a long period of separation for the service of the country in the military—dad deported to the Middle East for almost a year and mom with three young children remaining in the States. It would be extremely hard not to see and embrace your three young children that long. It would also be horribly painful not to kiss your spouse for that long. The mom who worked full-time and took care of the three children all by herself for that long also made a great sacrifice. What about the three children who do not get to see and play with their loving dad? Most of all, dad was in a danger zone. The family’s dreams and hopes could be shattered in a moment. It was so hard for everyone, yet the Lord sustained them and, thankfully, they are all together now. But why would any family be willing to go through that? It is because, no matter how hard it may be, it is important to protect our nation. What about our God? Is He important? Is serving Christ in the gospel worth it? Yes! A thousand times yes! Then Let us gird up our mind and get ready to serve our Lord in the gospel no matter what the cost is.

We Must Be Ever Growing in Faith and Hope

How could Paul be so willing to serve God in the gospel when he knew the kinds of hardships he would face? It was because he did “know whom he believed” (v. 12). He was fully persuaded that the God whom he served in the gospel is able to continue what has been entrusted to him until the judgment day. The phrase, “that which I have committed unto him” (KJV), literally means “my entrustment” in Greek. In light of 1 Timothy 6:22 (O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust”) and 2 Timothy 2:2 (“the things that thou hast heard of me… the same commit thou to faithful men”), Paul most likely means that his hope is in the God who will protect the fruit of the gospel ministry, which He has entrusted to him, until the day when Paul would stand before Christ to give account for his service (cf. 2 Tim 1:18; 1 Cor 3:13; 2 Cor 5:9-10). Paul’s faith and hope in God were ever increasing because His love for him was infinite and limitless. How about your faith and hope? Are you growing in faith and hope in God like the beloved apostle?

Discipleship Questions:

  1. Read 1 John 4:7-19. How God’s love is demonstrated?
  2. Read Ephesians 1:3-6. How long ago God chose you for salvation?
  3. How God’s great love for you in the gospel motivates you to serve Him in the gospel?
  4. You have probably heard a statement like this, “If you follow Jesus well, you will have no financial crises or health problems.” How different is this idea from Paul’s words in today’s text? Is it worth to serve God in the gospel if it can bring us so many hardships?
  5. What motivated Paul to serve God in the gospel? Where do you put your faith and hope?