Only the Few–the Task of the Courageous
Paul’s example and exhortation to be bold–2 Timothy 1:12-14
One wet and miserable morning, Ray Blankenship was making breakfast when he looked out the window onto the open storm-water drain that ran alongside his house. What he saw terrified him–a small girl was being swept down the drain. He knew further downstream, the water drain ditch disappeared underneath the road into a pipe, which would cause anyone who entered it to die by drowning.
Ray ran out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the little girl. Then he hurled himself into the churning water. He surfaced and was able to grab the child’s arm. They tumbled end over end. Within one yard of the drain going under the road, Ray’s free hand felt something protruding from the bank. He grabbed ahold and held on for dear life. He thought, “If I can just hang on until help comes, we’ll survive.”
But he did better than that. By the time the fire department arrived, Ray had pulled the little girl to safety. Both were treated for shock from the cold water. Later that year, Ray Blankenship was awarded the US Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award was fitting–Ray Blankenship was at even greater risk to himself than most people knew. You see, what everyone learned at the award ceremony was this–Ray Blankenship didn’t know how to swim.
What an amazing act of courage. Mark Twain said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear; not absence of fear.” We all know stories of courage. Throughout church history, Christian men, women, even children have demonstrated incredible courage to stand firm in their conviction that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. Even in the face of torture and horrific inventions of death like crucifixion, burning at the stake, intentional drowning–believers have stood firm for Christ, regardless of the cost, even martyrdom.
But courageous loyalty to Christ is also demonstrated every day with regard to Christians when you students speak up in class against an anti-Christian teacher. You employees share the Gospel with workmates, even when employers try to restrict speech. Or you explain what the Bible says to your neighbors when they ask you what you believe. Or you express truth when error is confidently stated as fact or science. Or when the contract you must sign demands you tell the truth about your convictions.
Christians need courage, and my beloved family, you and your children will need greater courage as each year progresses in this state, this country and this world. So it’s crucial for you to hear Gods living Word given by the Apostle Paul to his beloved son, Timothy, about becoming one of the few–the few who show courage. Paul calls Timothy to be one of the courageous few.
Second Timothy 1:12 to 14 continues Paul’s exhortation of Timothy to be courageous in the midst of persecution from Rome, along with the traumatic ministry going on in divisive Ephesus. Turn in your Bible to 2 Timothy 1 and follow along in your outline–written or electronic. After Paul reminds Timothy of his great love and spiritual connection to Tim’s family in verses 3 to 5, Paul exhorts Timothy to heat up his relationship with Christ by ministering his giftedness and depending on God’s resources in verses 6 to 7.
Paul motivates Timothy in verses 8 to 11 by asking him not to be embarrassed of Christ or of Paul himself, by trusting in the power of the Gospel to transform lives. And today, Paul continues to exhort Timothy to place his confidence in Christ and his confidence in God’s Word in order to grow courageous. Paul challenges Timothy to develop the convictions required for a courageous ministry.
If you ever hope to be one of the few, in order to stand courageously for Christ when it really counts, Paul says in verses 12 to 14 to Timothy–read this aloud with me, “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”
Notice my markings. The blue underlined italic words are verbs–there’re a lot of them. Two commands stand out in verse 13, “retain”, and verse 14, “guard.” The brown words, highlighted with yellow, are repeated words you should note. “Entrusted” and “treasure” come from the same root, making the treasure the deposit key. The personal pronouns are marked in red to show who is the focus–Paul talks about his convictions in verse 12, then exhorts Timothy in verses 13 to 14.
The blue words, highlighted with yellow, are repeated verbs–the challenge to “guard” the truth is a repeated emphasis in these verses. Paul encourages Timothy to develop the convictions required for a courageous ministry. This passage is for anyone who minister’s God’s Word to God’s people–who is that? Parent to child, friend to friend, discipler to disciple, shepherd to CG, husband to wife, church planter to church; apostolic assistant to Ephesus, and pastor to congregation.
Three truths in these verses stand out and they all begin with the letter C. Are you one of the few? Are you courageous for Christ? Then express . . .
#1 CONFIDENCE in Christ Verse 12
Simple observation of the first person pronoun, “I”, helps you determine it is Paul who is speaking about himself here. It’s Paul who’s suffering, shameless and sure. Verse 12a begins with, “For this reason I also suffer these things.”
The phrase, “for this reason,” reaches back to verses 8 to 11. Speaking of the Gospel, Paul says in verse 11, “for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.” Why does Paul suffer? Because Paul is a main leader of the newly formed Church as an apostle. Paul is a leader of all those who follow Christ as Lord and not Caesar as lord.
And verse 11 reminds us, Paul’s aggressive proclamation as a preacher and his dogmatic instruction as a teacher, along with his authority as an apostle make him a target for suffering. As Paul proclaims the good news that Christ alone is the only way God can save sinners, and boldly teaches all men are hopelessly enslaved to their sin and condemned to Hell, Paul calls all men to submit completely to Christ and embrace Christ’s work on the cross as their substitute.
Paul increasingly becomes more out of step with his culture. The Romans are not good with Christ as Lord alone, nor with submission to anyone other than Caesar and Rome. So verse 12, “For this reason, Paul is . . .
First Suffering Verse 12a
“For this reason I also suffer these things.” Paul is suffering because of Christ and the message, the Gospel. Paul is not suffering because he is violent, or a criminal, or unwise, or a rebel. Paul suffers in a prison cell because Paul faithfully preaches the true Gospel, that all men are lost, helpless, hopeless and dead to God. But because of God’s great love, grace and mercy, God determined to do all the work necessary to redeem His own–good news.
This is what Paul reminded Timothy of in verses 9 and 10. Paul reminds Timothy he is suffering because he teaches this Gospel truth. God rescued you, transformed you internally, made you ready for Heaven, did all the work to accomplish it and did so by His graciousness. He actually predetermined your salvation before the world was created, accomplishing it through Christ in time, by God becoming a man, resulting in the death of eternal death for His children, and giving life now and life forever with Him.
Paul is currently rotting in a dark, putrid, slimy jail cell in Rome, awaiting his unjust execution because he represents Christ and preaches the good news of salvation. Paul’s present, ongoing hardship and suffering under evil is because of the Gospel. Yet, the injustice does not cause Paul self-pity, despair, regret, or anger. Paul’s reaction to continual daily injustice and suffering is totally different. Paul is confident in Christ, therefore he is . . .
Second Shameless Verse 12b
“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed.” The apostle is not embarrassed. In his jail cell, Paul knows he is exactly where God wants him to be. Paul has been incarcerated by Jesus, thrown into the slammer by His King, tossed into a cell by the Sovereign Lord. Oh sure, Nero and the Roman establishment were the human instruments who put him in jail. But because Jesus is the true Lord, the very God who is in control, and all things work together for good, Christ is the one who put Paul in jail.
Some jealous church leaders might still be saying, “Paul’s in jail again, because his ministry is over and the Lord Jesus is done with him.” Their goal is to try to put Paul to shame, dishonor the apostle, and disgrace his work. But Paul knows who is in charge, and has continued to trust Christ and continue to labor faithfully in ministry, doing exactly what God created him to do.
Faithful ministry is both a joy and a sorrow–a blessing and a blister. The work of the minister includes cruel jabs and heart threatening attacks. But there is also joy inexpressible. Yet Paul is exactly where God wants him to be. Therefore Paul is not ashamed, Paul is not embarrassed–he is shameless. There are no regrets. And beyond his lack of shame, Paul is actually certain Christ will accomplish His will.
Third Sureness Verse 12c
“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” Paul knows, and that Greek verb “know” is to know for a fact–to know with certainty. Jesus used the same verb, “know”, in the Sermon on the Mount, when He said in Matthew 6:8, “Your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.”
When Paul says, “I know whom,” He’s speaking of God. Either the Father from verse 8, or the Son from verses 9 to 10–but in either case, the meaning is the same. Paul had firsthand, intimate, saving knowledge of God. Verse 12, “I know whom I believed.”
Paul adds, “I know whom I have believed,” using the perfect tense describing a past completed action with present abiding results, telling us Paul is saying, “I have believed in the past, and that belief continues to this very day.” Believed can mean faith, trustworthy, relying or convinced–and that is what Paul is saying. I know the one I trust, rely upon and put my faith in.
Paul isn’t talking about trusting a thing, an object, or even God’s truth here (as important as that is). Here in verse 12c, Paul is confident in God Himself–trusting! Paul’s certain knowledge wasn’t theology, but knowing the One whom theology describes. Paul was a mature father in the faith. First John 2:13, “fathers, know Him”–the certain man, the mature man, is the one who personally knows God.
The passion of all believers is to know God. Every believer does know God, but maturity means deep. John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Paul’s certainty and unashamed posture while facing persecution and certain execution is that he knows God intimately.
It is so vital you move beyond conversion knowledge to grow in theological knowledge, then on to deep personal understanding. God’s prophet makes that clear in Jeremiah 9:23 and 24, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.” Where is your boast?
Like Paul, when your crisis hits, when the bottom falls out, when you’re devastated–the net that catches you is your personal, theological, intimate knowledge of God. Paul adds, I am convinced that He is able to guard. God is able. Paul says God is powerful enough–to do what? To guard what I have entrusted to Him.
Guard is a military term used of a soldier on watch. Being on watch was so serious, if you failed in your duty as a Roman soldier on watch–like you allowed an enemy to sneak in and kill a fellow soldier under your watch, you would be court-martialed and killed for failure to fulfill your duty. Paul was convinced of God’s reliable faithfulness. Nothing gets through on God’s watch that He doesn’t allow.
What did Paul entrust to God? Entrust means to deposit, to trust, to give God the responsibility to care for. Some parents need to entrust their children to God. Some singles need to entrust their future mate to God. Some students need to entrust their friends and future to God. What did Paul entrust to God? In the context of the Gospel message in verses 9 and 10, Paul’s appointment as a minister of that Gospel in verse 11.
His suffering in verse 12a, and Paul writing from prison awaiting his death sentence—all lead you to believe Paul was entrusting God with his life, his eternal life. Paul put his confidence in God that He would preserve him and bring him home to Heaven. Just like God crashed his Christian-killing party on the Damascus road, then called Paul, transforming him from death dealer to disciple in a moment, Paul also trusted the same sovereign God to keep him safe until it was time to bring him home to Heaven.
Nothing can separate Paul from Christ, right? Romans 8:35,38-39, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And John 10, “No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” When your life belongs to Christ, nothing in this world or the next can touch you–not even the demons or Satan himself can mess with God’s children under a sovereign God. But there is something else the context makes really clear.
God has gifted Paul in verse 11, and that giftedness is used in the power of the Spirit for the glory of God in verses 6 to 7. Therefore, look at the end of verse 12, “Until that day.” Later in 2 Timothy, Paul tells us what that day is, in 2 Timothy 4:8. “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” What day is it?
It’s the day when each believer in this room will stand before the bēma, the judgment seat of God, where “each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” What will happen? Second Corinthians 5:10 describes the event in detail, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
In Romans 14:10 and 1 Corinthians 3, the New Testament explicitly, dogmatically, unarguably declares Christians will be rewarded. Most believe our reward will consist of a greater capacity to bring God glory forever. Like a thanksgiving dinner, my dad could eat more than us kids, but we were all full. With rewards, every believer will be full, but some will have a greater capacity to glorify God.
In this life, whatever we do can be rewarded–not merely ministry, but everyday tasks. What determines what is rewarded and what is not? Anything and everything you do with the right motive and the right power, from preaching, to mowing the lawn. Power and motive are everything for you, Christian. Whose power are you living by and what is your motive for what you do? All behavior, even ministry done in the power of the Spirit for the glory of God, will be rewarded.
All actions or ministry done in your own strength and for your glory will be burnt up. But those actions done for His glory, and in His power–in other words, entrusted to God, will be guarded until that day, verse 12, when we receive our reward from God. The key to courage in life and ministry is confidence in Christ–confidence He will keep you secure and He will reward all your efforts done through God on that day.
When you develop that confidence in Christ, you will enjoy a courageous ministry. But another conviction which leads to growing courageous is . . .
#2 CLINGING to the Truth Verse 13
Not only should you have confidence in Christ, but you must learn to cling to His Word. Verse 13 adds, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” The two commands of this passage are “retain” of verse 13 and “guard” of verse 14.
How are these commands different? Retain means to keep, to hold, and to partake. To guard means to preserve, keep in custody and watch. Here in this context, retain focuses on your own dealings with God’s Word. Guard focuses on dealing with others as they interpret God’s Word. In verse 13, Paul gives a command to continually “retain the standard of sound words.” This is a rich phrase–Paul is telling Timothy to hold firmly onto the sound words you heard from me, so that they will not be changed, altered or manipulated.
Paul says, continually retain the standard of sound words. Standard means pattern—literally, it’s an outline, a sketch used of a writers outline or an artist’s rough sketch. Paul says, “Do not move from the sketch I gave you, Timothy. Do not draw outside the lines of apostolic teaching and doctrine. Keep the standard, Timothy.” The Church’s standard together, and the individual believer’s standard is God’s Word.
In verse 13, you see Paul, as an apostle, gave Timothy sound words. Timothy heard this standard of sound words from Paul’s preaching, teaching and mentoring. Sound means clean, safe, well and healthy–and healthy or sound words in the New Testament are always God’s Word, which is always designed to make you more like Christ.
Sound words will always mold your character, behavior and words to be like Christ. Sound is the Greek word hygiaino, where we get the English word for hygiene. Hygiene is the very word, the exact word I say to my wife every morning, “Hi, Jean!” Paul tells Timothy, “Retain, cling to apostolic teaching, (verse 13) you heard from me. That’s the guideline to follow, that’s the outline I gave you, Timothy. Stick with the author’s intended message of any text. Fight for it in your own life and teaching.”
Today, this is the commitment of the few. In a time when there are too many sermonettes for Christianettes–men teaching topical, self-help messages which tickle ears, but distort the Bible in context. Men who preach their experiences and lace it with verses. Men who study the text, are impacted by one truth, and build their entire sermon on the basis of that one truth, while distorting the rest of the passage. Men who expose one passage, but entertain more than teach the author’s intended message.
The few must have the courage to teach what God meant by what God said through His chosen author, in another time, in another place, in another language, in another culture–the author’s intended meaning. Then, only after proper exegesis, make application to today. This is what I must do, and this is what you must do.
Most of the professing Church today functions without any theological convictions. You know them by their 7-point doctrinal statements they post on line. They think teaching dogmatic truth and sound doctrine is unloving, antagonistic, even argumentative. Listen, friends–Titus 1:9 commands elders in the Church to teach sound doctrine and refute those who contradict.
Without detailed doctrine, you actually don’t know if the Jesus that people are submitting to is the true Jesus. Without doctrine, there are no convictions. Without doctrine, a church can’t develop biblical priorities. Without sound teaching, a church can’t live a holy lifestyle. Without authorial intent preaching, you can’t know God’s will. Without sound teaching, children won’t really know God at all. Courage in the faith is not possible without clinging to strong biblical convictions.
But biblical teaching is not meant to be a head-bashing, harsh experience. Look at how Paul ends verse 13, “in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” The attitude of your ministry is almost as crucial as the accuracy of your ministry—almost. Your attitude must be like Christ in John 1:14, where he was full of grace and truth.
Your attitude needs the same goals as Paul in 1 Timothy 1:5, “The goal of our instruction is love.” Your commitment must be guided by Romans 14:23, “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” Paul says here in verse 13, your ministry of truth must include faith–a humble dependence upon the Lord, and love–a compassionate desire to sacrifice for others.
Preaching the author’s intended message in the pulpit will cut and be absolute, so there must be hopeful confidence in God and love for others too. Ministry to your family or flock cannot be continually harsh. True ministry requires tender confidence on God—faith, and a compassionate love for others . . . both of which are only found in Christ Jesus.
Verse 13 says cling exclusively to apostolic truth, but do so with hopeful faith and sacrificial love for others. Friends, this is why this kind of courage is so rare. Only the few balance dogmatic, sound, apostolic truth with God’s gracious love. Only the courageous develop the conviction of clinging to the truth with love. And the last challenge Paul makes in verse 14 is even rarer than the first two.
#3 CONTESTING for the Truth Verse 14
“Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” This second command calls you to guard the treasure, advances Paul’s challenge for Timothy to live courageously a step further. Yes, Timothy, you must be loving and faithful in your confidence in God’s Word personally, verse 13, but you must also be perpetually vigilant, like a soldier. Stay alert as you watch for error.
You must also guard the treasure of truth entrusted to you. All agree that treasure is the sound words of verse 13. The verse 14 Greek word “entrusted” is the picture of property given to another, who then takes responsibility for it. Paul tells Timothy, take responsibility for the purity of apostolic truth. And to you, Christian, take responsibility that God’s Word be interpreted correctly.
Speak graciously against error, but speak and graciously correct error when you can. Always respond to God’s Word, but always reject anything I would say contrary to God’s Word. Like elders in Titus 1:9–verse 13, “exhort in sound doctrine,” and now verse 14, “refute error.” Verse 14, guard the truth of God’s Word. Paul says to Timothy, “You’re on duty–you’re on watch, meaning it’s your responsibility to watch for enemies who might do harm. Take responsibility for God’s Word being taught correctly and stop error whenever possible.
Never allow outside human ideas into the text and stop any distortion from the original intention of the text. Guard, meaning be on watch against the Bible being adulterated, 2 Corinthians 4:2, or peddled, like it was for sale, 2 Corinthians 2:17, or distorted in order to deceive, 1 Thessalonians 2:3, or disfigured, losing an accurate Gospel, Galatians 1:6 to 7.
Guarding the Word means you’re at war, defending apostolic truth and sound doctrine–not only against savage attacks, but also the subtle attacks. That requires courage. As a result, only the few back then, and only the few today will contest for the truth.
Paul makes a powerful connection in these verses–a gracious trade from God. He reminds Timothy in verse 12, God will guard you, keeping you eternally secure and providing you with eternal reward. Then in verse 14, since God is guarding you eternally. The trade is, guard His eternal Word while you remain on Earth.
God is guarding you eternally, so He commands you to guard His eternal Word. Contest for the truth–now be humble, gracious, teachable and be careful. I spend 25 hours on the Greek text, and you glance at a blog that disagrees with me. I am sorry, but I am not interested in a lengthy discussion. Our elders are not interested in those who want to argue, yet at the same time are unwilling to read their Bible. To work through issues here, we study the Bible, because at FBC we submit to what the Bible says–not your favorite author, theologian or blogger.
But you and I are to contest for the truth. Guard the treasure of God’s Word, which we are responsible for–apostolic truth has been entrusted to us. The good news is, you and I don’t have to fight for truth alone, or guard the truth in our own strength. Look at verse 14, “through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.”
Jesus told us He’d send another Helper. Paul teaches the Spirit dwells in us and Romans 8:9, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” You are not flesh, but Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. Indwelling means you have all of the Spirit. In order to experience His strength through you, to contest for truth, you must be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18b, “Be filled with the Spirit.”
Where indwelling means you have all of the Spirit, filling means the Spirit has all of you. Being filled requires you’re saturated with God’s Word, dependent upon His power, repenting of all known sin, willing to serve your spiritual giftedness in the Church along with sharing the Gospel to the lost in the world by stepping out in dependent obedience.
When you’re filled with the Spirit who dwells in you, God gives you the ability to contest for the Word, guard the treasure and stand courageously against error and stand for Christ during persecution. Just as God has power to guard what you’ve entrusted unto Him in verse 12, God gives you power to guard through the Holy Spirit, the treasure He has entrusted unto you, verse 14. Paul tells Timothy today . . .
1 Be one of the FEW–Don’t be timid, be COURAGEOUS by developing the convictions required for a courageous ministry. Put your confidence in Christ alone. Cling to apostolic truth, truth which seeks to determine only the author’s intended meaning. And finally, contest for the truth–stand for and speak against error. Don’t listen to error and don’t send your children to sit under so-called believers who teach error.
2 Be one of the FEW and grow courageous by learning SOUND DOCTRINE and grow LOVING and DEPENDENT in the way you share, teach and talk about it.
3 Be one of the FEW–SUBMIT to Christ in salvation. When you turn to Christ in repentance and faith, you submit to Him as a person and rely solely on His death and resurrection on your behalf. True Christians submit to Christ as Lord, and follow Him as Master–what He says, you want to do. You faithfully go to church, interconnect with God’s people, give generously, serve diligently, live holy, and worship Him wholeheartedly. Submit to Christ for salvation today. Let’s pray.