A Workman Approved

9636492-1475802169666_640x640Proper 23 (28) (October 9, 2016)


2 Timothy 2:8-15 | New International Version

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

11 Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,
    we will also live with him;
12 if we endure,
    we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
    he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot disown himself.

Dealing With False Teachers

14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.


This week we pick up where we left off last week.  Although the text is relatively short, we will also be looking at the surrounding verses in 2 Timothy 2.  We see several key words as we look at last week’s verses  and the verses surrounding this week’s verses.  Paul is sitting in chains for preaching the gospel.  He reminds young Timothy to be faithful to the gospel – to not be ashamed of the gospel – the Good News.  At the beginning of chapter 2 Paul writes, “You then, my son, be strong, in the grace that is in Christ Jesus…Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”  Being a minister of the gospel is not easy work – it’s not for the faint of heart.  Last week I mentioned that there are times when the stuff of ministry will jade us.  Paul is reminding ministers to be strong, not in themselves, but in Christ Jesus – lean on his grace.

He goes on to talk about the single-mindedness of the solider of an army.  Paul is encouraging us to live a citizens of heaven.  I’m sure you’ve all heard the adage that that some people are so heavenly-minded their no earthly good, but the same is also true in reverse – don’t be so earthly-minded we are not heavenly good.  We work for the Kingdom of Heaven – not of the Kingdom of this world.  The soldier in an army doesn’t get involved in civilian affairs.  A soldier does what his commanding officer commands him to do.

It’s been several years now since I ran the Richmond Marathon.  As you may know, Facebook allows you to go back and see what you wrote “On This Day.” Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing that on a regular basis and I see those posts that I wrote in the months leading up to Richmond.  I do remember that there was a laser-like focus on the prize.  It seemed like I ate, drank, lived, and slept running.  Paul must have been an athlete at one time because he writes about it quite a bit.  How do we receive the victor’s crown?  We follow the rules.  A runner of a race – in order to win – or even to race fairly – must follow the rules of the contest.  They must follow the prescribed route – which is first and foremost.  They must begin at the start and finish at the end.  Beyond that (while they are not rules) there are the correct things that must be done in order to train for and run the race – such as correct hydration, nutrition, sleep, practice runs, and on and on.  I remember it seemed like the marathon training consumed everything.  It took great discipline.  This is what Paul is getting at.  To be a minister of the gospel – to be a faithful follower requires a laser-like focus on the prize.

What is the prize?  This is where we pick up with today’s scripture.  In verse 8 Paul writes, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.” Jesus, God with us – God in the flesh – Son of God – son of man – fully God and while he was on earth, fully man – it is this Jesus – the promised Messiah – a descendant of David – who came to earth to dwell with us – who came to be the perfect, spotless, Lamb of God – to take away our sins – to pay the price for our sins on the cross – this Jesus who died on the cross and was risen again on the third day to crush the power of sin, death, hell and the grave – this Jesus appeared to over 500 of His followers – this Jesus who said, “Go be my witnesses – Go make disciples – of all nations – every where” – this Jesus who 40 days after his resurrection ascended back to heaven and in the same way will come back to take His people home with Him – this Jesus – this Jesus – is our gospel – this Jesus is our Good News.  It is for this reason that Paul encourages Timothy to be faithful to the Good News – to the work of Christ – so that many “will obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (vs 10)

Paul goes on to quote what is probably an ancient hymn:

If we died with him,
    we will also live with him;
if we endure,
    we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
    he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot disown himself.

The point of this quote is that Paul reminds us that our suffering – our suffering for Christ – will be followed by eternal glory.  Paul reminds us that if we died with Christ, we will also live with Him.  What does that mean? In Romans 6:3-4 Paul writes, “[Don’t] you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  When we turn our lives over to Christ, we die to the old self – or at least we should.  In verse 6 of Romans 6 Paul writes, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” Paul reminds us that for those of us whose lives are in Christ – that we are no longer our own – we are his – we have died to sin.  2 Corinthians 5:15 reminds us: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” The point here is that if we have died to our selves – if we are new creatures in Christ – we have nothing to lose as we share the gospel.  God is calling each one of us to be faithful messengers of the Gospel.  Paul tells us if we endure – we will also reign with Him.  What a wonderful promise.  God is calling us (McCrae Brook Wesleyan Church) to be faithful ministers of the Gospel.  He is calling our church to be a lighthouse to the McCrae Brook Valley and beyond.  That excites me.  We are called to be faithful workers.

I like what it says in verse 15 – which is really the heart of this section of Paul’s letter

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

What does it mean to present yourself to God as one approved?  Alan Knox writes that the Greek word here  should be translated “be diligent,” “be eager,” or “make an effort.” We see that in the words present yourself.  I like that be diligent, be eager, make an effort.  Furthermore Knox writes, “So, the exhortation to Timothy – in the presence of those who live contrary to God’s desire – is for the young man to do whatever it takes to continue down the path of the good news of Jesus Christ. As a person approved by God, an unashamed worker, and one who is already living according to the gospel… this is exhortation to continue down the road he is already walking, without letting others tempt him into a different manner of life.”

If we look at this scripture, we can see that pattern. Look at verse 21, “If a man cleanses himself from the later (meaning ignoble purposes or sin), he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” Then Paul gets very practical with young Timothy.  He says, “Flee the evil desires of youth…” I love that Paul puts that first, but then expounds on what Timothy should pursue…It’s a list that each one of his children should pursue. What are those things that we should pursue?  Paul tells us to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. It reminds me of the fruits of the Spirit.  What should we be producing?  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Have you ever noticed that there have never been any laws written against these things.  Do you want to show yourself as a workman approved for God’s work?  Do these things.

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