For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him, as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Text: 2 Timothy 1:13–18
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.
1. This is sermon #2
- of a 9-week summer series in Second Timothy
- To Him be the Glory forever and Ever—Unashamed and Ready to Suffer
2. Paul’s aim in this letter—aim of this series—aim of this message is that we …
- will be more courageous
- more ready to suffer than we are right now,
- to the eternal praise and glory of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Setting for this letter
- Paul’s second Roman imprisonment-
- Way different and way worse than the first 4–5 years earlier
- Jews were accusers
- he was seen as a heretic and trouble-maker
- kept him in custody—under house arrest
- conditions were comfortable
- many friends visiting
- measure of freedom to preach the gospel
- hopeful of his release and freedom.
This time ...
- arrested under Nero
- criminal against the Roman Empire
- in a Roman prison
- miserable conditions—cold, dark underground dungeon; probably a single hole for light and air
- in chains
- virtually alone (only Luke was with him)—all his associates had abandoned him.
- According to 4:6, he was expecting to be executed
Timothy is pastoring the church in Ephesus.
- The situation there had deteriorated since the first letter.
- The false teaching has gotten worse
- People were abandoning the faith, some who Timothy excommunicated were still causing Timothy trouble.
This letter is a more personal word to Timothy than Paul’s first letter—and we can sense an urgency in the letter:
- Paul’s life and ministry is ending
- Paul had devoted his life to spreading the gospel
- he had endured much suffering and was giving up his life for the souls of others
- he wants this ministry to continue
Paul and others had invested much into Timothy’s life, and faith and his development as a leader in the church.
He does not want Timothy to shrink back from this cause or worse forsake it all together as some of Paul’s associates have.
He is aware that he may not have many more opportunities to speak into Timothy’s life—in fact this could be the last.
Come on Timothy, you’re the man of the house now—hold on—don’t let go of this sacred trust …
Paul seems concerned that Timothy might be weakening under the pressure
He knows temptation to compromise …
- when your views are not popular
- or when strong, articulate influential people oppose you
- when the threat of pain and the suffering are real
He also knows that when people who identify with Jesus and bear witness to the gospel …
- are being put in prison,
- having their homes plundered
- and are being used as torches to light Nero’s garden
there is a temptation to disassociate with such people—
Paul wants Timothy to lead the church with strength and courage
even if it means suffering.
31 Exortations: 4 from last week
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you (1:6)
Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord (1:8)
nor of me his prisoner, (1:8)
but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God (1:8)
Note vv 15–18 in today’s text: 3 examples
First two: v 15—Phygelus and Hermogenes
- ashamed of Paul
- presumably ashamed of the gospel
Third Example: (v 16) Onesiphorus (whom he clearly wants Timothy to emulate)
- often refreshed Paul
- not ashamed of Paul’s chains
- (v 17) but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me
Paul wants Timothy to lead the church with Onesiphorus-like strength and courage even at the risk of suffering.
Two more exhortations in today’s passage
- follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me (v 13)
- guard the good deposit entrusted to you (v 14)
5. Relevance this book and this series for us:
A. We have been entrusted with the same Gospel,
- the same truths,
- the same doctrines
- the same deposit that Timothy was.
So if it was important for Timothy to hear this word, it is important for us.
B. This Deposit is good news!
- It ought to be treasured for what it is
- It ought to be boldly shared with ...
- dying colleagues,
- dying friends, loved ones & family members
- dying neighbors,
- dying cashiers,
- dying postal workers,
- dying classmates,
- dying commuters
- dying strangers holding a briefcase or a cardboard sign at a downtown intersection,
- dying Twins fans,
- dying flight attendants,
- dying peoples in 196 countries of the world
C. This is our last summer under John Piper’s leadership as Pastor for Preaching & Vision.
A transition in leadership is under way …
It seems significant to me that John would have us spend the summer in 2 Timothy and call us to be “Unashamed of Christ and Ready to Suffer”
- 32 years ago this month, John set out to establish us well on a solid foundation of faith and doctrine.
- He has been a faithful guard over gospel and the doctrines that undergird it.
- He has made huge deposits in us—I suspect identifies with Paul’s concern for Timothy
- I’m sure his heart’s desire is that this ministry continue
- That we don’t shrink back,
- That we don’t abandon the sound words that we have received under his ministry
Spurgeon in 1877 (23 years into a 37-year ministry at the Metropolitan Tabernacle)
I sometime think if I were in heaven I should almost wish to visit my work at the Tabernacle, to see whether it will abide the test of time and prosper when I am gone. Will you keep to the truth? Will you hold to the grand old doctrines of the gospel? Or will this church, like so many others, go astray from the simplicity of its faith, and set up gaudy services and false doctrine? Methinks I should turn over in my grave if such a thing could be.
- May God grant that Bethlehem abide the test of time.
- May God prosper Bethlehem after John Piper is gone.
- May we forever keep the truth.
- May we, by God’s grace, hold to the grand old doctrines of the gospel.
- God forbid that this church, like so many others, go astray from the simplicity of its faith and set up gaudy services and false doctrines.
- May this summer in 2 Timothy be one of the means of answering this prayer and giving us the desire of our hearts.
D. If we belong to Jesus—our faith (and the faith of our children) will be seriously tested
Suffering is a standard part of the Christian experience you can see in this letter Paul assumes suffering and invites Timothy to share in it.
Jesus promised his disciples …
You will be hated by all for my name's sake. (Luke 21:17)
Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. John 15:20
"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. "You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. Mark 13:12
Our faith will be seriously tested …
and it is not to difficult to imagine the kind of suffering the Paul experienced
and so many of our brothers and sisters are right now in various parts of the world
My prayer is that we might stand, unashamed of Christ and ready to suffer for the glory of God.
So let us pay close attention to what the Lord may be saying to us
over the remaining 8 weeks of this series
To that end, let’s look more closely at these two exhortations in verses 13–14 of today’s text
First the second exhortation in verse 14: Guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
A. Guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
Paul mentions this deposit in his first letter to Timothy and also warns him there to guard it (6:20, 21) …
O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called "knowledge," for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.
Here it seems that the deposit is “the faith” the Christian faith that some were swerving from.
Paul sees this faith-deposit supported and undergirded by biblical doctrines.
In 1 Timothy 1 especially, Paul was very concerned that Timothy would be duped by false teachers:
Verse 3 of 1 Timothy
Paul instructed Timothy remain at Ephesus so that he could charge certain persons …
- not to teach any different doctrine,
- nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies,
- which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.
Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions—teaching in a manner contrary to sound doctrine (1:10)
Paul speaks often of this deposit of faith as a sacred trust,
Therefore he charges Timothy hold on to this trust—guard it, protect it:
1 Timothy 1:18–19:
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith.
This faith—this gospel—that Paul is referring to in verse 12:
But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
This deposit, in one sense is very tangible and definable.
—it is the gospel message—and the doctrines that undergird it.
There is also a dimension of this deposit that is less tangible and less definable, which I think Paul has in mind in verses 5–6 of 2 Timothy 1:
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God,
This faith is the personal response of the heart to the Gospel
—the heart to embrace Christ and the truth of the Gospel
(this is something we cannot impart to another person)
—only God, through the Holy Spirit can give us.
Summary: This deposit is Gospel and the biblical truth/doctrine that undergirds it and the response of the heart to it all.
B. Verse 13: “Follow the Pattern”
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
It is difficult to know for certain what Paul exactly means by this expression.
Paul is reminding Timothy these sound words (that he has deposited into his life) are to be followed in a way that is accompanied by faith and love.
So it could be argued that this is the pattern—no just sound words together with faith and love.
Paul makes that point in 1 Corinthians 13—that speaking in the tongues of men and of angels apart form love is nothing more than a noisy gong or clanging symbol AND understanding all mysteries and all knowledge without love is nothing.
So sound words accompanied by faith and love, is an important pattern to follow even if that’s not what Paul means by the “pattern of sound words” in this passage.
Another way to think about this pattern is the manner in which knowledge is transferred from one person to another.
When imparting truth it is often put into categories or patterns which help us grasp the truth.
There are doctrines and creeds and catechisms—which by themselves are not inspired.
Some argue that these patterns exist throughout Paul’s writing.
Whether or not this is what Paul has in mind here,
we do well in this respect to guard the deposit in the pattern it has been given to us.
Our Affirmation of Faith
- a pattern of sound words
- stands on a foundation of Biblical truth
- represents what we understand to be true based on our understanding of what the Bible says and teaches
- It is accountable to Bible and every doctrine must submit to it.
- Bethlehem would do well to adhere to that affirmation and closely guard it.
Our Church covenant
Other patterns like
- "Faith in future grace"
- "Gutsy guilt"
- "Don’t waste your life"
- "God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him"
How do guard the deposit that has been entrusted to us individually and entrusted to us as a church?
Nine Biblical strategies
I have time to expand 3 of them.
Other 6 mention briefly and trust these and other strategies will emerge over the next 7 weeks.
1. Increase our knowledge and understanding of the truth:
- We will not be guard a deposit that we do not possess.
- We won’t courageously witness to truth that we have witnessed.
- If we are ignorant of the truth we will be easily duped and led away from it by false teaching which is alive and well in the church.
- If we are ignorant of the truth we certainly won’t risk our lives for it.
2. Know Jesus better verse 10—Paul says ...
- “For I know whom…I have believed—not “what I have believed”
- This deposit stands on the person and work of Jesus Christ
- As important as it is to know what we believe, we must know who we believe.
Paul said to the Corinthians ...
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)
And to the Colossians
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (1:28)
3. Rehearse and rejoice in the gospel often.
I think this is what Paul had in mind in verse 6 when he reminded Timothy to fan into flame the gift that was in him.
Though Timothy, I am sure, heard Paul declare the gospel hundreds of times, Paul rehearses the gospel again—verse 8–10 of 2 Timothy
… share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel ...
I think Paul means to remind Timothy, the Gospel is nothing to be ashamed of—it is glorious—it ought to take your breath away. Any suffering you experience for the gospel is not worth comparing to the glory of the gospel.
Monday Morning FDD Devotions & Prayer
Joyce Heinrich, Minister for Early Childhood Ministry, was sharing and began by quoting the first several verses of the Psalm 103:
Bless the Lord O my soul …. who forgives all your iniquities.
This should take our breath away!
We won’t boldly share what we don’t love.
We won’t suffer for something we are ashamed of—
Paul knew that which is why he reminded Timothy again of this truth.
4. Don’t lose sight of the glorious truth and doctrines that undergird the gospel.
In the early years of John Piper’s ministry, God was using him to open our eyes to see
- God’s passion for his own glory
- The radical God-centeredness of the Bible.
He gave us these patterns of sound words...
that informed our understanding of the gospel
and made our hearts sing!
Corporate Worship time was transformed ...
as roots went deeper into the Word of God
and our understanding of God was enlarging.
In his book The Forgotten Spurgeon, Iain Murray points out
That by the late 19th century a brand of evangelicalism was emerging that was effectively taking the Gospel to the masses but also bred a generation in evangelical churches that ...
loved anecdotes, humor and music, but knew nothing of theology and Confessions of Faith. … Evangelicals begin to think and speak as thought the message of salvation was not the Gospel of God and as though Christ alone is to be the object of faith Spurgeon noted this danger as early as 1879 ‘Nowadays there appears to be in some minds a forgetfulness of the Father. Christ is loved, for he died, but many seem to look upon the Father as having no share in the wondrous work of redemption.
This lack of theocentric belief came to have a serious effect upon the content of the gospel message; too often forgiveness was presented as though that, rather than knowing and glorifying God, was the end of salvation.
This is why we must hold to the pattern of sound words that we have been given.
I am so glad that our worship leaders often include portions of our Elder Affirmation of Faith in our worship service.
Savor these truths, love them, treasure them
—let us never stop being amazed by them.
—let them also take your breath away.
Preparing for this message savoring portion of verse 8
... because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.
5. Beware of competing affections and distractions.
Cravings of this world that can entangle us
Neighbor and special device for irrigation system
Within the church—
Iain Murray explains that the falling away in modern evangelicalism in the late 19th Century
... happened because the doctrine of God had been supplanted from its central position and was replaced by fads, “anecdotes, humor and music.
Paul instructed Timothy in his first letter (v 4) to ...
charge certain persons: not to teach any different doctrine nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.
DA Carson said few years ago—
There is a tendency in the church to assume the center—namely the Gospel and the doctrines that undergird it
and then emphasize the margins.
If we do that, in just a generation, the center is displaced by what was in the margins.
I took this as a warning—being very passionate and concerned about ministry to children and youth and taking seriously.
6. Choose our leaders carefully—be rigorous in doctrinal assessments.
Iain Murray notes that by 1908 (17 years after Spurgeon’s death) almost everything that defined the ministry of the Metropolitan Tabernacle under Spurgeon’s ministry had vanished—mainly owing to carelessness of the church in choosing leadership…
The root of the trouble lay in the fact that the Tabernacle, had come to be ruled by a Pastor and office-bearers who did not believe in the constitution of the church and who allowed many of its provisions to be ignored as to doctrine and order. The very first of these provisions was that the pastor shall be a man holding and maintaining the doctrines commonly called Calvinistic, and he is only to hold office so long as he does so. --- But the leaders allowed these truths to be forgotten, and Arminianism to take its place …”
We’ll see next week Paul’s instruction (2 Timothy 2:2) and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
7. Faithfully following the pattern of sound words and guarding this deposit that has been entrusted to us, means that we as a church must take seriously the joint responsibility that we have with parents to entrust this deposit to the next generation.
Refer back to verse 5 where Paul writes ...
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
Here we can parallel the previous 6 points.
a. Devoted to imparting a knowledge and understanding of the truth to our children.
Not all of you know that my first 10 years as pastor at Bethlehem I was devoted to outreach, urban ministry—in many respects still my passion.
I was not trained in Christian education, I had no aspirations of becoming a pastor for children, youth, parents family.
16 years ago what drove us to this inescapable calling was the conviction that these truths that had so shaped and influenced us
were not effectively being taught to our children—one of the reasons was that the significant limitations of resources available.
In 1996 I was charged to lead the church in this effort—writing curriculum designed to help us pass on to our children a pattern of sound teaching.
If this deposit is going to be protected beyond our life time,
we must be faithful to make this deposit in the younger generations.
i Know Jesus Better
If guarding the deposit means knowing Jesus better, then our aim must be to bring our children to Jesus, that they might know him.
That’s why every curriculum points our children to the Christ.
That’s why we spend a whole year on the curriculum
“Jesus, What a Savior”
And another year on “To Be Like Jesus”
ii Rehearsing and Rejoicing in the Gospel often ...
Is not only crucial for guarding the truth in our own hearts but also in the hearts of our children.
Our children will respond to what we say but they will be influenced by who we are.
For our children to treasure Christ and savor the glory of the gospel, they must witness that reality in us.
They will witness the Glory of God manifested in our lives when they see us satisfied more in him than we are in the things of the world.
They will believe us when we say that Christ is our greatest treasure when they witness us truly treasuring Christ above all the attractions and distractions of the world in and outside the church.
The next generation will ...
- be firmly established in faith and doctrine if we are firmly established in faith and doctrine
- passionately embrace and pursue a God-centered vision for their lives if we passionately embrace and pursue a God-centered vision for our lives
- live courageously in the world even under pressure to conform if they witness us living courageously in the world even under pressure to conform
- thoughtfully and effectively engage the culture for the sake of the gospel if they see us thoughtfully and effectively engage the culture for the sake of the gospel
- they will become spiritually-fruitful men and women who are devoted to spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ if …
We’re not playing games with our children while they are with us.
We are depositing truth and trusting that the Lord will deposit faith in our children.
I want to invite you, challenge you and encourage you to join us in this endeavor.
Take advantage of the opportunities
to be employed in this effort to entrust this deposit
including today after this service—people available at tables—etc.
In addition to the benefit this will be to our children is the benefit to you
—Recurring testimony from our volunteers is
“I have learned so much, I have grown so much—not so much in their ability to teach children but in their understanding of and delight in the truth.
8. Keep that day in view.
I was going to build this whole message around this idea.
Verse 12: I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
Verse 18—blessing to Onesiphorus: May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!
Few things motivate me more in ministry to children or courageously open my mouth to share the gospel.
And I suspect that one of the truths that would sustain me in suffering for the gospel is knowing there is day coming when every knee will bow before the king of kings and Lord or Lords to whom we will give an account.
- A day when those who are in Christ and clothed in his righteousness will be welcomed into the eternal joy of our Master
- When those are not will be cast into the outer darkness.
- A day when there will be no more suffering, no more crying, no more tears for those who are in Christ and who have shared in his sufferings.
9. Commit to Christ that which has been entrusted to us because ...
He ultimately is the only one able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to us (verse 12).
Apart from him ...
- we will not grow in knowledge,
- we will not know whom we have believed
- we will not love him or the truth,
- we will not treasure it or him above all others
- we will not follow the pattern of sound words
- or successfully entrust our deposit with next generation,
- nor will we be unashamed of Christ and ready to suffer for the Gospel
- and most assuredly we will never be ready to stand before him on that great day.