Press on in the Work

II Timothy 2:2 “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

There must not only be perseverance in the way, there must to perseverance in the work! Paul’s letter to his young comrade was one of preparation. Paul knew that the time of his “departure is at hand” (II Timothy 4:6) and the work must not cease at his leaving! Paul was looking down through time beyond his generation. In fact the text reveals that Paul has four generations in view; his, Timothy’s, the one that would succeeds Timothy, and the generation that succeeded them. Paul was reminding Timothy that they had been called, not to a temporal work, but to that which is eternal. A temporal work dies when the worker dies; this was not to be the case with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ! The ministry and message of the gospel is an eternal work that supersedes the temporal life of a worker.

Paul began with the character of the work, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses.” That which characterizes the work to which Paul refers is the gospel; “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (see I Corinthians 15:1-4). Those that knew the Apostle Paul knew that the gospel was a prized work. For Paul, life was all about the gospel. Writing to the believers at Corinth, Paul said, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16). Writing to the Philippians, Paul said, “I am set for the defence of the gospel” (Philippians 1:17). Paul viewed the gospel as a prized possession; worthy of living for and worthy of dying for! This was the type of devotion that Paul expected from all that had embraced the gospel and was recipients of eternal life. Paul also spoke of a public work; “things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses.” The gospel didn’t consist of secret doctrines conveyed to Timothy in private or clandestine meetings, but rather that which had been broadcast abroad. One writer points out that “among many witnesses”, is in the aorist tense and would seem to refer to not just a single public occasion such as Timothy’s baptism or ordination, but rather the totality of Paul’s instruction over the years. Speaking unto His disciples, Jesus said, “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops” (Matthew 10:27). The gospel was a precious commodity that was to be prized by all and made public to all. It is a work that must go on!

Secondly, we see commitment to the work, “the same commit thou to faithful men.” If the work was to continue, it would require commitment! Paul speaks of the principle of commitment when he uses the phrase, “the same commit.” It begins with the principle of purity. Note that Paul used the phase, “the same.” Geoffrey Wilson said, “The Apostle did not evidently expect the future teachers of the church to produce a new or different teaching. The gospel is changeless in all ages.” Speaking to the Galatians, Paul said, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Every generation must be committed to the purity of the gospel! Paul speaks of the protection of the gospel. The word “commit” means to place alongside, to deposit as a trust or for the purpose of protection. Paul would defend the gospel with his life and he would expect no less from those that would follow. Paul then speaks of the people of commitment, “faithful men.” It is the opinion of most that Paul’s reference to “faithful men” is to be in sharp contrast to the converts in Asia and his companion, Demas that had left him for the pleasures of the world. It was the responsibility of Timothy to choose men that were trustworthy, faithful, sure; individuals that could be counted one to stay by the stuff; men much like himself!

Lastly, we see the continuance of the work, “who shall be able to teach others also.” While Paul viewed the work from the perspective of four generations, he doesn’t see that as being the end. The work is to continue by the means of enlightenment; each generation is to be light to the next. By means of education, this generation of believers is to be ready and willing to teach the next. Truth and tradition should be interchangeable terms! One writer said that the church should hand down from generation to generation, biblical faith, no more and no less.