Tuesday, April 10, 2007

2 Timothy 1:8-18

Shame is an insidious poison, a worm in the apple, a horrible feeling. It occurs when we are exposed – we trip on the way up to the stage, we get a bad mark on an exam everyone else claimed was easy, we feel embarrassed at the way our parents dress. But more than that, it is our heart’s desires that get shown up: acclaim for the spotlight on the podium, a want to cover up our need for help on that subject, an acknowledgement that coolness is of the utmost importance. Shame tells me what my true beliefs are, that perhaps it is all these things and not God that are at the centre of my life. It acts as “pride’s cloak”, as the poet William Blake puts it.

Paul writes to tell us why we do not need to feel that shame! He has already given us a basis for why we should not be timid or restrained, that we have in us a spirit of "power and love and self-control". But more than that, he now boldly tells us that it is because of who God is and what he has done that he does not think to feel shame at ridicule or disapproval. "I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed..." (v.12). Paul puts his trust in the person of Jesus Christ. Why? Because of the gospel! The good news of the Jesus way is that God has "saved us...because of his own purpose and grace...which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which has now manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality."(v.9-10)

This is a succinct statement of the message of Christianity. God saves us via grace not because of anything we’ve done. Instead, he "called us to a holy calling" (v.9), that is, to be his disciple. He has saved us from the effects of sin – death. (Remember that Paul is staring at the reality of death while writing this.) What is interesting here is that this is not anything new, yet Paul obviously saw the importance of foregrounding the gospel in encouraging Timothy (He does this a lot in the pastoral epistles, apparently.) In a way, we never move beyond the basics – it is the gospel that keeps us going in this life.

Paul also reminds Timothy not to be ashamed of him, but “share in suffering”. Throughout 1:8-18, there seems to be some sort of link between the threat of suffering and the temptation to be ashamed, and evidently Timothy must have been struggling with this. (If you want to look it up, the same sort of dynamic seems to be going on in Mark 8:34-38). Perhaps Timothy was tempted to water down the gospel to escape imprisonment. After all, Paul "was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do." I don’t think there is any escaping the implication that to follow Jesus means to encounter suffering. This might mean re-evaluating our criteria for what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus. That is why Paul needed to write v.9-10, so that Timothy, and us, will not follow the example of Phygelus and Hermogenus (v.15) but Onesiphorus instead (v.16-18).

Verses 12-14 constitute the difficult bit of this section. It isn’t immediately apparent until you read verse 12 in different translations. In the NIV, the second bit of v.12 is rendered "...and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day." In the ESV, it is rendered "...I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me". That’s quite different, don't you think? I think it has to do with the way the sentence is originally constructed in Greek which makes it difficult to translate. What is it that’s being guarded? We’ll leave that behind first and move to v.13. Here is Stott on that verse:

'Sound' words are 'healthy' words, the Greek expression being used in the Gospels of whom Jesus healed. Previously they had been maimed or diseased,; now they were well or 'whole'. So the Christian faith is the 'sound teaching' (4:3), consisting of 'sound' words, because it is not maimed or diseased but ‘whole’.
Tim should therefore make sure that he does not modify his message but to preach the same gospel as the one he heard from Paul, in a manner consistent with followers of Jesus.

Again, Paul mentions the Holy Spirit, the Helper whom Jesus has left with us. It is through him that the Tim can guard the "good deposit", which seems to follow from v.13. So now, to return back to v.12, it seems as if it is the gospel that is being mentioned here. God will definitely be able to make sure the truth of the gospel is not contaminated, but entrusts it to Tim, and Christians, to live in light of it and proclaim it.

I don’t think we will be free of shame this side of heaven, because we will still sin, and when we are exposed it will still bite. But maybe my first paragraph was an overstatement. True shame helps us along the way of repentance, and that helps bring us back to the gospel, back to Jesus. “I know whom I have believed…” And if we really believe in Jesus and his gospel of redemption, his promise of the Holy Spirit, there is no need to be ashamed. For me, the problem lies in keeping my gaze on Jesus; it is always averted. So I feel more liable to being ashamed of Him, which in turn, ironically, makes me more vulnerable to shame itself.

Comments are open. Anyone wanting to tackle v.12-14 is especially welcome because I know I haven’t really thought it through yet. I should quickly state that although I think that it is the gospel that is being referred to here, not everyone agrees. For instance, some see the deposit as Paul’s life and work rather than the gospel. Feel free to ask questions too!

† Expand post


Blogger Micky said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You

5:25 am  
Blogger mad_scientist said...

To take a break from my thesis and exams, here's a 5 pointer.
(Brian, don't kill me for this long long post ya? te he he ...)

1) Knowing God ... and knowing God.

Many times we say that we have a personal relationship with God.
How personal is it?
For Paul ... well, he knew his God alright. And his words weren't just being read off some list of lecture notes, but from a person who knows who he's talking about and experiences firsthand the truth of the Gospel. Even willing to die for Him.
"who has saved us and called us to a holy life ... because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus ... Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."
Head knowledge, knowing ABOUT Him, knowing those who know Him - 2nd hand information will not suffice when the storms of life strike; we need to know Him individually, we need to know Him in depth. Or we can become so familiarised with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible and so on, that we are detached from the true impact/meaning of all that we know. "Yea, I know all this stuff about God and salvation. So?" It's a subtle danger that we can fall into, especially after a few years have passed in our Christian walk.

Whether be it in the lives of those I've read in autobiographies (Corrie ten Boom, Bro. Andrew, Jadzia Gazda, Hudson Taylor, etc) or in the lives of some Christians I've seen around me (parents, church leaders, etc), I can say that those lives shows a closeness with the Lord, the reality of true relating with our Lord. They don't just have the facts, they know the One whom the facts talk about. Do we? The answer to that question will be revealed in our response to hardships and problems that He sends our way. But we don't have to wait till then to find out.

2) Ashamed of the Gospel

Being ashamed of suffering for the gospel ... well, in reality, many Christians are already suffering for the Gospel - be it in Africa, Asia, Europe and even America; just in varying degrees depending on each nation. Indeed, thank God our nation is rather ok for the time being.
But don't talk about persecution ... what about the small daily things of life?
Paul stood up against the false teachers of his day in defence of His Truth. "Harmony and unity above all else"?
He was willing to be identified with Christ and bear the results. "Actions speak louder than words", "Secret service believers"?
He proclaimed the Gospel before Roman governors and judges, King Herod, and perhaps before Emperor Nero himself. "I'll talk to my collegues/friends ... someday"?
He was willing to be thrown into prison and suffer all sorts of punishments, even to be executed for his God. "But I want that pay increment la ... dunno if my boss will still give it if I talk to him about Jesus"?
God ... may it be that we will not be ashamed to testify for You.

3) It's not a bed of roses

Doesn't it seem strange when Paul reminded Timothy not to be "ashamed of me his prisoner"? I mean, now in our time, Paul is regarded as one of the greatest of the apostles in terms of the amount of his written teachings and his sacrifices for the Gospel. What is there to be ashamed of?

But back then ... he was left in a cold prison with only Luke accompanying him. Deserted by all in Asia, Demas and others. No support during his first defence. He's to be executed soon. Ouch. Not exactly a picture of the great man of God that we've always thought of. In fact, it looks like a sad ending from the aspect of circumstances. That's the reality though - things aren't going to be a bed of roses for us. But all too often, many expect God to provide a smooth road all the way to Heaven's doorway, and start grumbling when it's not. How not to when our expectations are off?

(sidenote: Reading through the book though, you can see that Paul sounds anything but defeated. In fact, Paul gives his famous statement in this letter, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness... " Regardless of his condition, Paul looked beyond the obvious to the unseen and took hope in His promises and finished with his chin up. And we see in the next point further reasons for his hope)

4) What DID Paul entrust to God?

Ha ha ... verse 12.
"what I have entrusted to Him for that day"
What is it that Paul entrusted? Some say it's his soul, others say other stuff. Well, let's connect it back ...
1st, Paul was asking Tim not to be ashamed of him.
"So do not be ... ashamed of me his prisoner."
Then he said further on,
"And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because ... and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day."
We can see from my previous point that Paul is in one bad shape. Yet, Paul isn't ashamed in his current state of suffering and seeming defeat ... though in chains, it isn't as if his life's work is destroyed and all his effort rendered pointless - He knows God is the One guarding it and takes hope in that. The messenger may be killed, but the Message he preached and defended will continue on. God will make sure of that ... after all, we are the recipients of His Gospel that survived through the ages. Indeed, God did guard it.

Back to the issue. You mention it could be either the Gospel or his life's work and achievements ... well, from how I see it, the spreading, teaching and defence of the Gospel is his life's work, so perhaps we can leave it as interconnected? What he entrusted to God = Paul's life's work = the Gospel?

And you mentioned the issue of differing translations. I'm no Bible scholar, but I'll give a go at this.
In the NIV, "and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day."
In the ESV, "I am convinced that He is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me."
From the ESV, it can be put out as that God entrusted to Paul the work of preaching the Gospel, and though Paul may die now, God will guard his life's work.
From the NIV, it seems that Paul entrusts to God his life's work, knowing God will guard it.
Not so different if seen from this viewpoint - it can be entrusted BY God to Paul, and also entrusted FROM Paul to God ... like a gift that is returned. So it's not mutually exclusive, but can be fitted together.
*Head stops spinning*

5) Guarding WITH the Holy Spirit's help

I agree that the "good deposit" in vs 14 is the gospel. And it serves as a reminder, "guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." ... the Gospel is to be guarded with the Holy Spirit's help. As much as scholarly study, intellectual reasoning and discerning scrutiny has its place, on their own, they will not be sufficient against the onslaught that pummels the foundations of our faith. We can't discount the fact that pure human reasoning is inadequete and has been tainted by the Fall. We must guard God's Gospel by relying on the assistance of His Holy Spirit which indwells us. As Satan masquarades as an angel of light, mere human rationale can't screen out the Enemy's lies or distortions. Only God's Light can reveal the Enemy's false light.

A simple query: Whenever we face controversies, differing opinions and new teachings (and we'll always do) ... do we leap straight in with our minds analysing away? Or come to His throne of grace to ask for His Spirit's guidance and discernment before anything else?

4:47 pm  
Blogger BK said...

Yep, watch out for that assassin. He's coming to get you. :)

Thanks for that, point 5 is particularly helpful. Point 4 is interesting, but I probably should have been clearer, there are actually other interpretive options as well; some think that Paul is referring to his salvation, which isn't quite the same thing as the gospel. Your point I think does bring out the complexities of that particular sentence structure. Anyway, for now I'm happy to leave that alone.

6:53 pm  

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