Epistles: Summary of the Gospel (2 Timothy 2:8-15)

The gospel (verses 8-13)

Paul now moves to another topic, and a different style. He begins with a pithy saying: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel…” It’s about Jesus, summarized here by his resurrection and his role as Messiah in the line of David.

Paul sometimes gave more prominence to the crucifixion, but as he sat on death row, the resurrection might well grow in importance. And Jesus’ Davidic role may be what got Paul into the most legal trouble: he was proclaiming that Christ was king.

It is the gospel “for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.” But ironically, “God’s word is not chained.” The work is still being done, because Paul gave the message to reliable workers who could teach many more.

“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.” Why should Timothy work hard and risk persecution? Earlier, Paul hinted at a reward. Here, he emphasizes the results it has for other people — he wants others to become aware of and grasp the salvation that is (already) in Christ. That is something he can feel good about forever: the reward is intrinsic to the work.

Paul includes another summary of the message — this one has rhythm to make it easier to remember. “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him” (and we did), “we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him” (another hint of reward).

And what happens with the opposite extreme? “If we disown him, he will also disown us. If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” In the first three pairs, we are like Christ. In the fourth, Paul breaks the parallelism: If there is any failure in the process, it is because we have rejected our Savior. If we follow him, we will get what we want: eternal glory. If we reject him, we will also get what we want: he will let us leave. His desire for us continues; the question is, whether we will continue to desire him.

Good work (verses 14-15)

In another change of style and topic, Paul begins to warn Timothy that some doctrinal discussions are a waste of time: “Keep reminding them of these things” — of the central truths of the gospel. “Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” What words were people arguing about? We do not know.

In contrast to fruitless arguments, Paul advises Timothy to “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Timothy needs to work with the gospel correctly, with no regrets when he presents himself to God.

Things to think about

  • Is my pastor training the next generation of leaders? (v. 2) Is there anything I can do to make it easier for my pastor to do that?
  • Do I feel like a soldier or an athlete working for Christ? (v. 5)
  • What does it mean for Christ to be faithful even to the faithless? (v. 13)
  • What is the most recent fruitless argument I have seen? (v. 14)

The Greeks had a Word for it: Ορθοτοµέω

Orthotomeō comes from orthos, meaning straight, and temnō, meaning to cut. We see ortho in English words such as orthodontist and orthodoxy; we see the root tom in words such as appendectomy and atom (something that supposedly could not be cut).

Literally, orthotomeō means to cut straight, a skill needed in tentmaking and other crafts. Paul uses the word in 2 Timothy 2:14 as a metaphor for accurate work in the “word of truth.” The emphasis is accuracy, not surgery. Paul is not talking about dividing the truth, nor is he talking specifically about Scripture. Rather, he wants the gospel to be handled correctly, and that Timothy not be distracted away from its central truths.

The word is used in other Greek literature for cutting a road through a forest — the emphasis is on making a straight path, not on cutting the forest in two. In the context of 2 Timothy, Frederick Danker suggests that the word implies to “guide the word of truth along a straight path (like a road that goes straight to its goal), without being turned aside by wordy debates or impious talk” (Greek-English Lexicon [University of Chicago Press, 2000], 722).

Author: Michael Morrison


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