minister once complained to an elder: “I feel that my job is
to be the captain on the 'Love Boat'.”
He was referring to a popular television comedy where
the captain's major task was to see that all passengers on
board would be having a good time.
Just as the cruise ship's staff fills the time on
board with entertainment, mixers, and recreational
activities, this youth minister's work had come to be
defined in much the same way.
How did this come about?
Members knew that their children were growing up in a
technological age where extraordinary entertainment
possibilities bombarded them daily: interactive televisions,
i-pods, movies on DVDs, computers, CDs, boom boxes, etc.
They were being shaped by such media, and someone was
needed who could keep the youth’s interest and speak their
language while promoting spiritual matters.
Of course, they wanted the church to be attractive
among all these options, so making the church “exciting,
fun, and entertaining” became the goal of these parents for
their youth worker.
He was to help the young people's spiritual fantasies
become realities, much like the main actor in another comedy
called “Fantasy Island”!
No wonder he felt like the captain on the Love Boat
wrote 2 Timothy, the minister's task was an urgent topic of
In fact, this letter can be divided into four parts:
“Some charges to a loyal minister (ch. 1), some
characteristics of a loyal minister (ch. 2), some cautions
for a loyal minister (ch. 3), and some comforts from a loyal
minister (ch. 4)” (Keathley III).
A good two word summary of this letter is “Be loyal!”
“The apostle Paul [had been arrested and imprisoned once
again and] now [he was facing] his own death.
He knew that his work could go on only if he found a
Paul now turned to Timothy [to encourage him] to
continue his ministry” (Thompson).
The most likely years for writing this letter would
be between 66-68 A.D.
Throughout the letter, “Paul describes the nature of
ministry in images that provide a striking contrast to [our]
modern images [for] ministry.
Timothy's task was to follow Paul on a mission that
could be dangerous [and a ministry that would be
He was not to become the captain of a Love Boat.
So let's look quickly at several images that Paul
uses to describe the ministry that his successor would need.
Given that all of us should be serving one another,
these images will challenge us all to be more diligent in
The first image is
found in 2:3-4: “Endure hardship as a good soldier of
No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs
of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a
This image of a devoted soldier is powerful and
provides much food for thought.
First of all, a soldier is expected to endure
hardship—it was not an easy life.
Braving the weather, living outdoors at all seasons,
carrying one's gear, being underfed, keeping guard duty, and
engaging in close combat were some of difficulties that a
Christian servants can also expect their share of
difficulties: braving false ideologies, protecting members
from going astray, engaging in spiritual battles against
Satan and his forces, being ridiculed and scorned as
“stupid, odd, or out-dated”, being shunned or held at a
distance by the majority for our upholding the Bible’s
chapter 3:12, Paul says that all who desire to live godly in
Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
So, we must be prepared not only to endure hardship
but also to help each other as we suffer.
Secondly, a devoted soldier is expected to engage in
warfare and to minimize civilian affairs.
There are real battles in an effort to overcome a
real enemy. Our
battles are just as real if we truly are doing battle with
the spiritual forces of evil: finding good companions and
good media for your children, helping former addicts to
change, standing up for Jesus in a perverted workforce,
working for justice within a corrupt organization, speaking
out for what's right, even when your position is unpopular.
These are just a few of the battles that many of us
Concerning civilian affairs, Christians do not allow
themselves to become so entangled with aspects of this
earthly life that would cause them to become so enmeshed
that they forget about what's heavenly.
Power, money, popularity, pleasures, civic clubs,
sport teams, and hobby groups do not take precedent over
Christ, His church, and heaven!
Those are “civilian affairs” which keep the emphasis
on the wrong thing. “If then you were raised with Christ,
seek the things which are above, where Christ is sitting at
the right hand of God.
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the
earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).
Thirdly, a devoted
soldier is expected to please his commander.
In Paul's day, it was the commanders who went out and
recruited others to commit themselves to becoming soldiers
and fighting under them.
Of course, our Commander is Jesus Himself, so we
strive to live in a way that is pleasing to Him.
“For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we
die, we die to the Lord.
Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's”
What a powerful image is that of a devoted soldier!
image is a self-disciplined athlete.
This is found in 2:5 and 4:7-8: “And also if
anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he
competes according to the rules. ... 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 to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all
who have love His appearing.”
First of all, we see that a strict self-discipline is
Not only did an athlete have to follow the rules of the
games in which he participated, but there was a ten month
training period which also had to be done according to
If an athlete violated such rules, he would not be
allowed to participate in the games.
Paul's point to Timothy and for us is that we need
“to keep strictly to the 'rules' fixed by the life and
teaching of Christ” (Thompson)!
Paul did not want Timothy or us to disqualify
ourselves by being lax or lazy in our relationship with
Secondly, Paul underscores faithfulness and endurance in our
Over in Acts 20:24, Paul responded: “But none of these
things move me, nor do I count my life as dear to myself, so
that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I
have received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel
of the grace of God.”
In this passage, Paul wants to work towards finishing
his race by being a faithful participant in the ministry
that Jesus had given him to do, and this will bring him joy.
Paul made this statement about 6-7 years before the
statement that he makes in 2 Timothy.
The passage in 2 Timothy shows that Paul has endured
faithfully in his ministry to the finish line, and he is
joyful and feels victorious!
Like Paul, let’s resolve to be faithful and to
endure, whatever the obstacles Satan may use, so that we too
can finish our race faithfully and joyfully!
Thirdly, the diligent athlete is richly rewarded!
Just as athletes today receive trophies or medals for
their victories, so we also will be rewarded with the crown
One commentator made this good observation: “Paul's
crown was not merely some garland which he would wear on his
head. Just as
the brethren in Philippi, whom Paul had loved and longed
for, were his joy and crown, so his hope of heaven and his
crown of righteousness were thought of in terms of gaining
Christ. ... Paul was trying to gain Christ, and this was to
be his true reward” (Spain).
Gaining Christ can also be our reward if we will live
faithfully and continue to long for His glorious return!
The athletes of Paul's day were awarded during the
games, but all of us can be rewarded together on that Day at
the final judgment when time shall end!
The image of the athlete motivates towards
self-discipline, faithfulness, endurance, and our victorious
reward of Christ Himself!
The next image
is that of an industrious farmer.
This is found in 2:6: “The hard working farmer
must be first to partake of the crops.”
First of all, we see that this farmer is described as
He is using all his energy to nurture the soil, to provide
water, and to protect the plants in order to raise a good
Timothy and we are to be industrious workers for the Lord.
Secondly, the farmer works with crops, but Timothy
and we are to work with people.
We work with the soil of their hearts, provide the
water of salvation, and strive to protect them from ungodly
Thirdly, we will one day enjoy an eternal harvest!
Just as the farmer who gets to enjoy the food from
the harvest, so also we work with others to lead them to
eternal life and will enjoy being together in heaven after
the angels have reaped the final harvest!
The image of the farmer shows us the values of
industry, spirituality, and eternity!
The past three images of a devoted soldier,
self-disciplined athlete, and an industrious farmer show us
we on a warship or a steamboat, and not a cruise liner!
The next image is that of an unashamed craftsman.
This is found in
2:15: “Be diligent to present yourself approved of God, a
worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the
word of truth.”
Let's get some context as we look at this verse.
Paul is writing to help Timothy deal with false
teachers (verses 14-26).
He starts by giving him some positive actions to
promote in verses 14:15, and then he gives some negative
actions to shun in verses 16-18.
So verse 15 is part of those positive actions to
begin with the end of the verse and work back to the
“word of truth” refers to the Gospel.
In fact, Ephesians 1:13 states: “In Him you also
trusted after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of
Timothy is literally “to cut straight” or we might
say to be scrupulously straightforward in dealing with
Gospel, as opposed to false teachers who use crooked methods
Timothy is scrupulously straightforward in dealing with the
Gospel, then he will be like an unashamed craftsman who does
not have to be ashamed of his product, which are the
Christians with whom he works.
The word for “worker” here is also found over in the
story about Demetrius and silversmiths in Acts 19.
So, it can rightly be translated “craftsman”.
So why does Timothy have to act as an unashamed
craftsman who deals scrupulously straightforward with the
by doing so, he is striving to win God's approval for his
teachings and his converts.
He is not out to please men, but like a craftsman who
does his best to present his patron with a good product, so
Timothy is being diligent that he himself is putting into
practice the things about the Gospel which he is teaching.
One commentator noted: “The value of self-discipline
cannot be too highly estimated, for the most effective
refutation of error is for the teacher to be the living
embodiment of truth, with God's approval upon him”
this our attitude and conduct?
Are we being diligent craftsmen who are scrupulously
straightforward with the Gospel to win God's approval as we
try to live out its principles and set examples for others?
What a great challenge this image offers us—to be
living proof of the Gospel's truth as an unashamed
The next image is that of a true builder.
Notice what verses 16-19
state: “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they
will increase to more ungodliness.
And their message will spread like cancer.
Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have
strayed from the truth, saying that the resurrection is
already past, and they overthrow the faith of some.
Nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands,
having this seal: 'The Lord knows who are His,' and 'Let
everyone who names the name of Christ depart from
Here are some of those negative actions to be avoided.
Paul wants Timothy not be carried away from the truth
by erroneous human arguments which don't produce righteous
dealing with false teachers and mistaken doctrines, Paul
rarely calls names and mentions specifics, but here he does!
Hymaenaeus and Philetus are trying to persuade other
brethren with perverted reasoning that the final
resurrection has already taken place!
This type of ungodly chatter will only produce wicked
those who preach falsehoods, it does not change the Gospel's
truth. In fact,
just as ancient buildings had inscriptions to show their
purpose, so God's Gospel has an inscription or a seal with
two unchanging absolutes: God know who are his true builders
and those are false ones, and all those who are true
builders will separate themselves from falsehood and ungodly
conduct. It is
interesting that Paul's quotations here come out of the
context of those who were false priests.
Look at the story of Korah's rebellion in Numbers 16,
and the two absolutes that Paul mentions here are very
similar to verses 5 and 26 in that chapter.
The point is that we should encourage others to build
on the Gospel's truth and to keep living out in their
conduct what the Gospel's truth teaches!
The image of true builder stresses security and
image is that of a holy vessel or container.
Notice what is written in 20-23: “But in a great
house [a reference to the church] there are not only
vessels of gold and silver [those who hold the Gospel's
truth], but also of wood and clay [those who can
leave the faith and become false teachers like Hymenaeus and
Philetus have done], some for honor and some for
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter
[this means that those who are honorable will purify or
separate themselves from those dishonorable], he will be
a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master,
prepared for every good work.
How can righteous servants further keep themselves
vessels of honor?
Well, Paul spells that out in the next few verses:
“Flee youthful lusts, but pursue [diligently follow
after like a hunter does his prey] righteousness, faith,
love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure
heart [but don't be a lone hunter, pursue these virtues
with other good brethren].”
The honorable vessel disassociates or separates from
the dishonorable ones, but pursues virtues with those
striving to be honorable vessels.
We all need to be holy vessels.
The next image
is that of an humble servant.
Notice what is said in verse 24-25: “And a servant
of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentile to all, able to
teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in
A servant voluntarily submits himself to doing
whatever his master orders him to do.
He does this willingly because he loves and respects
This servant must not quarrel but must be gentile to all the
rest of the members.
Paul is not saying he should be gentile with those
who are blatant false teachers.
Christ's servant should not waste his time with false
teachers, but he should strive to teach and to correct those
members who have been led astray so that they might repent.
The Lord's servant knows His Master, and like his
Master, he strives to make his teaching so clear that
mistaken members will see the error of their ways.
In other words, this servant of Jesus is constantly
radiating and generating more light than he is heat!
The servant image encourages us to approach others
led astray with wisdom, so the truth may clearly shine forth
in cause them to repent!
These three images of a true builder, a holy vessel,
and an humble servant show us that we are on a ship of
conviction and education and not one of recreation and
The next image
of a drink offering is found in the first part of 4:6:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering ....”
Paul knows that
his execution is imminent.
But Paul does not see his death as a misfortune or a
miscarriage of injustice, but as a pleasing sacrifice to
God. In fact,
the drink offering was often poured on a sacrifice to give
it a fragrant aroma as the fleshed was being cooked.
Paul does not dwell on the painful suffering that
will take place, but on the pleasant aroma that God and
others will experience through the gift of his life!
What an optimistic outlook on death this image gives
The last image
of a hopeful traveler is found in the second part of 4:6:
“and the time of my departure is a hand.”
“The word 'departure' triumphantly expresses the
apostle's view of the end.
It [is like a ship that is loosed from its moorings
at the dock so that it may begin sailing towards its new
What might seem the end to Timothy appears to the apostle as
a glorious new era when he will be released from his present
Someone has said, “Destiny is not a matter of chance;
it is a matter of choice” (Bryant in Rowell).
What a triumphant and hopeful outlook on death this
image gives us!
Are our ships in order and ready to sail on?
These two images show us that we are on temporary
rafts heading for heaven, not on luxury liners headed for
every pleasure port this earth has to offer!
No, we aren't
offering you a pleasure cruise this morning.
We see from Paul's images that Christianity is
challenging: a devoted soldier, a self-disciplined athlete,
an industrious farmer, a skilled craftsman, a true builder,
a holy vessel, an humble servant, a drink offering, and a
It won't be easy, but all our members want to work it
together with you!
May the following prayer be ours as well:
“From prayer that asks that I may be sheltered from winds
that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire, from faltering when I
should climb higher.
From silken self, O Captain, free Thy soldier who would
From subtle love of softening things, from easy choices
Not thus are spirits fortified, not this way went the
From all that dims Thy Calvary, O Lamb of God, deliver me.
Give me the love that leads the way, the faith that nothing
The hope now disappointment tire, the passion that will burn
[O Holy Carpenter, make me Thy tool; O Flaming God, make me
“Be loyal!” Can
you affirm like Paul: “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 to me on that Day!”?
Let Jesus be your Commander by being immersed into His name!
Let Christ be your Captain to help you fight more
bravely in the future by asking for His help.
Become Christ's tool, become God's fuel!