Presented at Trinity Fellowship on 12/27/1992
2:1 You therefore my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
4:1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction.
As we come to the end of this series on Second Timothy, we come to the climactic theme of the book and indeed of Paul's life: the proclamation of the Gospel of Grace. Everything we have seen in this book: the content of the Gospel itself, which we must get clearly and get right; the expected response to that content which can lead to persecution and suffering, which we must be prepared to face; the source, power, and rewards of the Gospel, which can enable us to face those hardships; all of this is ultimately taught us to the end that we might fulfill our purpose and proclaim this Gospel which is the power of God to salvation for those who believe.
The Apostle Paul was the greatest missionary of all time. Though today we tend to use that word in a special sense to indicate only those who do it across an ocean, a missionary is properly one who carries out the mission of the Church. And the mission of the Church is the Great Commission: wherever we go in the world, to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all things Christ has taught us. For this is how God is glorified; this is how the Kingdom comes.
Paul was the Church's greatest missionary because his heart beat with the Gospel and with the Church's mission. Paul's missionary heart is shown throughout his life after his conversion. In Acts 9:2-0 we discover that as soon as he was saved, Paul immediately began to proclaim Jesus as the true Messiah. But it was not just in momentary encounters; it involved what today we inaccurately call "follow-up"--as if a real "disciple" could be made without it. (The Great Commission after all does not command us to make converts, but disciples. Conversion is simply a necessary but not a sufficient step in that process.) So we find Paul teaching for a year at Antioch, for two years at Ephesus (Acts 11:26, 19:10). With such a good understanding both of the message and of the method, it is little wonder that Paul was early singled out by the Holy Spirit and commissioned by the Church for the work (Acts 13:1-4). He not only made disciples himself, he recruited others and trained them as disciple makers too. His exhortation to Timothy to entrust the message to faithful men who would continue that process (2 Tim. 2:2) was simply an exhortation for Timothy to follow Paul's own example in entrusting the message to Timothy himself when their association began (Acts 16:1-3). He thought through all the intellectual issues surrounding the Gospel so he could make a strong rational case for it, and it was his normal custom to present the Gospel in that way (Acts 17:2-3, 17, 18:4, 19, 28, 19:9, etc.). His spirit was provoked within him by the sight of people who had not heard the Gospel; he could not sit still in the presence of such people but had to do something about it (17:16). And he was cheerfully willing to risk death rather than lose an opportunity to preach the Gospel in a new and pioneering place (20:17-14, 21:13).
Paul's missionary heart is also shown here at the end of his life when all his concerns center on the ongoing mission of the Church. His chief concern is that Timothy have the boldness to do what is necessary so that the Gospel will continue to be proclaimed and disciples made. As we have said so many times, because of the content of the Gospel there will be opposition to the Gospel, which will often lead to suffering for the Gospel; but when we consider the source of the Gospel, the rewards of the Gospel, and the power of the Gospel, those considerations should give us boldness for the Gospel, in the preservation of the Gospel and the proclamation of the Gospel. That is where it is all going.
Paul's over-arching desire in this epistle then is to give Timothy a missionary heart. And God's desire for his Church today is to give it a missionary heart. What is a missionary heart? It is one that is more concerned with the Great Commission than its own comfort. It is a genuine concern for lost souls which leads to a concrete commitment to doing something about it. Doing what kinds of things about it? At a minimum they surely include being informed, being willing to go across the street or across the world or wherever God calls you, being committed to regular prayer and financial support of those who are called to go to another land or culture if you are not so called yourself, and meditating sufficiently on the content, source, rewards, and power of the Gospel so that one has sufficient boldness to share it with one's unsaved friends and neighbors. You cannot claim with any credibility to be concerned about the tribesman you have not seen when you are doing nothing about the neighbor whom you have seen. Ultimately it means a willingness to give all for the spread of the Gospel so that more disciples might be made. You can hear such a heart beating in 2 Tim. 2:10. "For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they might also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory."
Alright, then, Paul's overarching desire is to give Timothy--and us--a missionary heart. So the question becomes, how do you cultivate one? We've all been put on more guilt trips at more missionary conferences than we can count, and that is not the way to do it. After a while, we just stop hearing them. So let's put the question positively. How do you cultivate a missionary heart? What can you say to people to motivate them positively to care about the Great Commission--to act as if it is their commission? Paul says three things to Timothy in 4:1 as a foundation for his exhortation in 4:2 to "preach the Word." He solemnly charges Timothy to preach the Word in the presence of God and Christ, and mentions three truths about Christ which make the charge meaningful.
First, Paul solemnly charges Timothy in the presence of God and of Christ who is to judge the living and the dead. It was frequently stressed in early examples of evangelistic preaching from the book of Acts that God had appointed Christ to judge the world. Why? Because there is a judgment coming which Man in his sin is horribly unprepared to face. That is the backdrop against which the Gospel is good news. Before Christ's role of Savior can be meaningful to people, they first have to see him as Lord and as Judge. Then to be told that you can have Christ's righteousness charged to your account because he has accepted your sins as if they were his own and paid the penalty for them in full is good news indeed, and news that calls for decision. For if you do not receive Christ as Savior and Lord, you will face him as judge.
For the sinner, then, the coming judgment reminds us why we need a Savior. For the believer, it reminds us of the sore need that faces the unsaved, of the terrible position in which they stand apart from Christ. An inexorable judgment is coming, and we are none of us righteous, no not one. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If you knew that a bridge over a yawning precipice was out and that someone you loved--or just anyone at all--was driving toward it, would you make no effort to warn them? I apologize for dragging out this overused illustration one more time, but its aptness leaves us little choice but to face the fact that this is indeed our situation. If we want the Church or ourselves as individuals to develop a missionary heart this is one of the truths of the faith that we must not allow ourselves to forget.
Second, Paul charges Timothy by Christ's appearing. He is coming back, and when he does, time as we have known it, the world we are used to, the period in history that we have lived in, when the Gospel is being made available to fallen mankind, will be over. Just like that. Without warning. There will be no sign in the heavens that says, "Warning: you now have one year to fulfill the Great Commission, one year left of opportunity to repent and believe the Gospel." There will be no repeat warning at one month, one week, one day. We do not know the day or the hour, the times and the seasons that are reserved for the Father's command, but we do know that the time is limited. We need to be about our Father's business, for we do not know that we can afford to save it for a convenient tomorrow.
All of us who have raised small children are familiar with the phenomenon of "dawdling." The child has been told to clean up his room or do his homework or complete his chores. And he is not exactly being disobedient, at least not in a defiant manner. He just has no sense of urgency about the matter. There is a timetable in the parent's head that the child cannot comprehend and hence cares nothing about. And so the parent comes back an hour later and finds to his or her exasperation that nothing has happened. The child has been dawdling. It is not (necessarily) outright rebellion; it may just be immaturity. But it is certainly a sign of immaturity, and the child who grows up properly will have to grow out of it.
Well, guess what that tells us about the Church's stage of development? You would think in 2,000 years we would have grown up a bit. But with the date set and fixed by the Father growing irresistibly closer, our Lord finds the Church dawdilng, filled with childish earthly and material and worldly concerns while its Commission remains unfulfilled and the job is just not getting done. That is why Paul charges us by Christ's coming. If we want a missionary heart to be a practical matter, we had best not forget this important Christian doctrine either.
Finally, Paul charges Timothy by Christ's Kingdom. Of course. The very first formula in which the Gospel was preached was "Repent, for he Kingdom of heaven is at hand." The "Kingdom" of Christ in Greek means the rule or the reign of Christ. It was "at hand" when Christ came, for in Christ God rules, and God's rule in Christ was breaking into this sinful world, into its history, bringing peace, life, healing, and joy--or judgment. When we accept Christ as our Lord, his rule enters our lives and we become citizens of that kingdom, no longer rebels against it. We then are assigned to be its ambassadors, as if God were entreating through us, begging people on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).
To charge us by the kingdom of Christ, in other words, is to charge us by the Lordship of Christ. If he is truly your Lord, having given us the Great Commission, then you must be concerned with these things. If you are not, then he is your Lord in name only.
What Paul is saying is this: For a person who claims to know Jesus Christ as Savior, to have received forgiveness as a free gift by faith paid for by his blood; for a person who claims to love Jesus Christ with a love appropriate for one with such a debt of gratitude; for one who claims to worship Him as God and follow Him as Lord; for one who claims to have that kind of relationship with the One who loved sinners enough to go to the Cross for them and whose last request was for his followers to share with every creature the Good News of what he had done; for a person, in other words, who professes to be a Christian; for that person not to have as the burning passion of this life the salvation of sinners and the proclamation of the Gospel which is the only means to that end is an inconceivable and intolerable inconsistency. And if we find such an inconsistency in ourselves, the cure for it is to reconnect ourselves with the Gospel itself and its implications as laid out by the logic of Second Timothy and especially with the truths of Christ's role, his appearing, and his kingdom. For because of the content of the Gospel there will be opposition to the Gospel, which will often lead to suffering for the Gospel; but when we consider the source of the Gospel, the rewards of the Gospel, and the power of the Gospel, those considerations should give us boldness for the Gospel, in the preservation of the Gospel and the proclamation of the Gospel.
Will we keep faith with our Lord, or will he return to find us asleep at our posts? Let each of us deal with that question in our own hearts. And may we use as we do so the means Paul has placed at our disposal for cultivating a missionary heart--for that is to have the heart of Christ.
Here endeth the lesson.
Dr. Donald T. Williams