Wednesday, June 04, 2014

An oral tradition - 2nd Timothy 2:1-7

"You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." (2 Timothy 2:1-7)
Jesus established an oral tradition of communicating the Gospel. He taught it to his disciples (his apostles), they taught it to their disciples, and, here, Paul is commanding Timothy to teach it to others as well; specifically to the elders whom he was raising up and establishing in the church that they might, in turn, teach others. Sure, there could be a more efficient and error prone way, but Jesus chose a method that relied upon relationships. The message Jesus, and his apostles, taught was was not a secret message know only to the truly initiated. In fact Paul says that he taught it among many witnesses. It was a message for everyone and it was easy to understand and follow. An apostle is a messenger, send forth with a message to deliver to all who will hear. Paul had been entrusted with and a message that he was meant to teach and, entrust to others that they might teach as well, so that the whole world might here the message of Christ.

There is nothing new with discipleship. It has been going on since long before Jesus' advent here on the earth. But we must ask ourselves, "into what are we discipline people?" What are we teaching those whom we are disciplining? Our discipleship aught to be apostolic in that the things we are teaching and imparting are the same things that the apostles taught and imparted. The very same things that Paul taught in the presence of many witnesses, those things he heard from Jesus, and those things that Timothy taught the elders in the church, those things he heard from Paul, are the same things that we should seek to teach and impart to others.

Paul encourages Timothy to suffer hardship as a good soldier of Christ. The Greek word for suffer means to suffer hardships in the company of others. It speaks of those who have joined together, to endure what may, form the sake of a common purpose. God has not intended us to walk this journey alone. There will be difficult times and times when it will seem that we are fighting for our lives, but it will be easier if we realize that we are not alone and that we are all fighting together for ourselves, each other, and the expansion of the Kingdom of God upon the world. Can you hear the holy invitation? Others have gone forth to fight the good fight of faith and Jesus is inviting us to join them, to fight with them, to endure with them, to become a mighty army together to the glory of God.

God is calling us to leave behind the ordinary and to invest our lives into the Kingdom of God. Those who are invested in everyday life will only produce everyday results, but those who are invested in the Kingdom of God will reap eternal rewards. Paul uses three metaphors to get this point across. First, the solderer who cares more about pleasing his captain than engaging the world. In those days, people fought for glory and valor and considered them greater treasures than anything the world had to offer. Secondly, the athlete who constrains his life according to the rules of the game. It is not a life that is haphazard or reckless but one that knows that winning takes a disciplined and constrained lifestyle, Finally, the hardworking farmer who understand that increase does not happen apart from hard work. Many people want better things in their lives but do not want to work for them. However, somethings take effort. God is calling us to make a choice, to live for this world or to live for the world yet to come; to live a life of ordinary existence or to enlist in His army that they might accomplish eternal things even while they live here on this earth.

Finally, Paul encourages Timothy to consider what he is writing. This Greek word here for "consider" means to "exerciser the mind." As the increase does not come through idleness, neither does understanding come by serendipity; it takes thought, consideration, and mediation. However, if we apply our minds to the words of Jesus, and the words of His apostles, then Jesus will give us enlightenment and understanding. If we commit ourselves to the work then God will reward us with our wages.

David Robison

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