Truth Trumps Relationship and Other Greetings
The final greeting of Paul–2 Timothy 1:1 to 2
Standing for truth and honoring the Scripture is no problem when it costs nothing. All of you agree with the truth of the Bible at church, when there is no pushback. But what about when a friend disagrees, an opponent gets hostile, an employer lays down a policy, a teacher threatens, or a parent doesn’t want to hear it or your job is on the line?
In other parts of the world, standing for truth may cost you your freedom, your health your family or your life–what about then? Will you still stand for truth when it is costly? This is the question being asked by Paul to Timothy as he opens his final letter. Even in the first two verses, there are exhortations for Timothy to stand for truth, live by the Word of God, and submit to God’s authority.
Open your Bibles to 2 Timothy as we today begin a 10-month exposition of Paul’s final New Testament letter. Here you will find the priorities of ministry–what are the most important truths to pursue in your service to Christ? You’re about to read God’s combat manual in order to fight the good fight of faith.
Students, in this letter Paul will challenge you to live bold at school and not be timid about Christ. This letter describes God’s standard for every aging saint as Paul exposes his last will and testament. Found here are the priorities to live by when society turns against us. The intimacy of 2 Timothy will show you how to respond to betrayal and abandonment.
This letter will reveal the cost you pay in order to be influential for Christ at school and work. Second Timothy gives you a pattern for friendship and discipleship and you will exalt the greatness of God, give thanks for the sacrifice of the Son, embrace the ministry of the Spirit, pursue sound doctrine, plus clarify controversial truth through this letter.
Second Timothy can make you a solid Christian in a flakey world, an unmovable saint in the midst of changing values, a mature believer among the immature, a leader amid followers and a focused servant surrounded by the distracted.
Travel back to Rome, AD 67. The apostle Paul is in trouble, again–but this time it’s lethal. A few years earlier in Rome, a Caesar psychopath named Nero ordered the torching of his own capital city. He wanted to redo Rome and clean out some of the less attractive districts, so he burned it down. But the fire caught on and burned for six days and nights. Not only did the wooden shacks of the poor burn, but the stone mansions of the rich, even massive public buildings and magnificent pagan temples were gutted. Most believe the fire went beyond Nero’s intention.
The Roman historian, Tacitus describes it this way. “But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor and the propitiations of the gods did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order by Nero. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians, by the populace.”
This begins the persecution Paul is now caught up in–he’s been arrested, again. During Paul’s first incarceration in Rome, he was under house arrest. During that confine, according to Acts 28, Paul was free to have visitors and to teach. Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon while under house arrest. Then Paul was released after trial, after which he wrote 1 Timothy and Titus while ministering freely in the New Testament world.
But this second arrest is different. As Paul writes 2 Timothy some six years later (AD 67), Paul tells Timothy he is in chains, languishing in a Roman cell, being treated as a criminal, with little light to read or write by, no sanitation, and no prospect of release except by death. In his first imprisonment, Paul had a measure of comfort and freedom. Now when Paul writes to Timothy this second time, he is confined in a dank, perhaps crowded, dungeon.
And Paul is an old man, his joints hurt–he has aches and pains from age and being shipwrecked and stoned, not merely being in jail. I have a bad shoulder—but Paul had been stoned with rocks. In the midst of the worst of circumstances, Paul shares the Gospel and writes this letter to Timothy. But it was not easy physically, nor was it easy emotionally–why?
Paul had been deserted by all his friends except Onesiphorus and Luke. The apostle forgives all his defectors. “May it not be counted against them,” but their cowardly ingratitude must have caused him deep hurt. Like our Savior, Paul was forsaken by those he had served and loved the most. Paul had led many of them to the Lord. He discipled them, not only as an apostle, but as a spiritual father and godly friend. Yet they turned away.
Add to that struggle, Timothy is in Ephesus. The church at Ephesus had fallen further into corrupt theology and ungodly behavior. Church leaders, including Timothy to some extent, were weaker and less effective than when Paul wrote 1 Timothy. Heresy, apostasy and persecution had become more entrenched and destructive. All that made Paul’s longing to see Timothy particularly emotional. So in 2 Timothy, Paul implores Timothy twice to “make every effort to come” to see him soon. There is not much time.
When you’re this low, this close to death, this uncomfortable, this abandoned by friends–how do you react? Do you become cynical about church? Do you negate what you believe in despair? Do you compromise your convictions? What would you say as you sit in a cold, filthy cell, awaiting your beheading? Paul affirms three crucial principles that should guide us during dark days.
In the opening two verses, Paul affirms truth, love and the Gospel. God’s Word, sacrificial relationships, and God’s amazing character. These three truths start the letter as it ends Paul’s life. These three keys matter all the time and these three keys will sustain you in the darkest times. So now the old man of spiritual wisdom writes his young disciple his final letter.
The man chosen to write much of our New Testament, the great missionary, the great apostle begins in verses 1 to 2 with these words. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 2 to Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord,” (2 Timothy 1:1 and 2).
This is a familiar greeting to New Testament readers. We sign our letters at the end, but New Testament letters begin with the sender, Paul, then describe the addressee, Timothy. How awesome was it for Timothy to open this scroll and read the name Paul–how eager was Timothy to receive word from his spiritual father and friend? Can you imagine how excited he was to read this letter?
As he begins, in just two verses, Paul lists the writer and reader each once, God the father twice and Christ three times. Paul couldn’t help himself but focus on Jesus Christ. I don’t know who you are this morning, but the label “Christian” means “little Christ”. Disciple means “follower of Christ”. For the genuine Christian, “to live is Christ.” And what God wants from you this morning–the only way you will truly glorify Him is for you to either come to Christ in salvation, or become like Christ in sanctification.
Paul is fully aware the time of his departure is at hand. This letter is Paul’s dying wish, his last will and testament, his final testimony–his closing words. So what does Paul emphasize? Jesus Christ. It is not “family first”, friends–it is Christ first.
You brought nothing into this world and you will take nothing out. You may make a lot of money, have thousands of Facebook friends, drive the coolest car and have 12.3 grandkids–but what matters is, “Only one life soon past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” In just the first two verses of this letter, Paul mentions Christ three times. It’s all about Christ.
But Paul is aware he is not enjoying superstar status–he’s been abandoned and forsaken. He’s old, alone, cold and facing imminent death. Yet what a comfort for Paul to know Timothy would continue the work of planting and establishing churches.
Every mature believer is most concerned about the Gospel being proclaimed so the chosen can respond to Christ, the Word can be taught correctly so believers can grow in Christ, and so the Church will function correctly so their influence for Christ will be great. Fathers to children, grandparents to grandkids, elders to congregation, ministry leaders to their flock, and Paul to His beloved disciple, Timothy.
#1 TRUTH: The Final Greeting of the SENDER: Paul
Don’t read verse 1 too quickly–this letter begins with, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus.” If you’re curious, you’ll wonder about the title–apostle. Paul lists it for three reasons. And these reasons will expose much of the error of charismatics and explain the formation of the New Testament canon. You need to be able to answer questions about charismatics and the canon.
First WHAT IS AN APOSTLE?
“Apostle” means sent one, but in this context an apostle is the highest office a person can hold–greater than president of the United States or king or emperor. What makes it so great? An apostle was not merely sent by Christ to represent Christ. No, an apostle is a proxy of Christ. The word proxy means to have the authority and power of another.
Apostles had the same power of Christ and spoke the very words of Christ, even writing Christ’s words as Scripture. A true apostle had to personally witness the physically resurrected Christ, but they were much more than witnesses, sent ones or representatives. They were legally authorized to speak and act on behalf of the person so authorizing him.
In Matthew 10:1 to 2, notice the name change from disciple to apostles. “Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. 2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother” (Matthew 10:1 to 2).
Before the beginning of the Church at Pentecost, the twelve were primarily called disciples. But after Acts 2, the men were regularly called apostles. So what is it that changes a disciple and transforms him into an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus gave them unique apostolic authority, then they become apostles.
The Lord uniquely invested His apostles with the same power He Himself demonstrated. That is why the true apostles could say, “We command you,” in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, or even threaten to come after an unruly church with a rod in 1 Corinthians 4:21. Apostles had so much authority, they could do authenticating, miraculous signs.
Jesus was renowned for doing supernatural miracles. If you claimed to be a proxy of Jesus, but didn’t do any miracles, your apostolic claim would’ve been automatically invalidated. In fact, all the signs from the day of Pentecost on were performed either by the apostles, by those in their presence, or by those upon whom they laid their hands.
Acts 2:42 to 43 tells us the first converts were “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching…and everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” In Acts 5:12, only the apostles were manifesting signs. It says, “at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people.”
And in Hebrews 2:3 to 4 Paul says, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed by those who heard [who is that?] the apostles. God also bearing witness with them [again, those who heard from Jesus–the apostles], both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”
Signs and wonders belong to who? Them–those who heard Jesus Himself, the apostles. And get this, they could lay their hands on a believer and give that power to them. But those they laid their hands on, they could not give that power to anyone else. If I were an apostle, I could lay my hands on Bill and make him a prophet so he could teach the Word before it was written. But Bill could not pass that on to Frank. So as Paul writes Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, he’s writing with incredible authority. He is writing the actual Word of God.
Second WHEN IS AN APOSTLE?
Do we have apostles today? Mark Driscoll thinks we do–he told his congregation he is an apostle–why? Because he had a broader ministry than his own church. Because he was a church planter and trainer of church planters. Friends, that does not make you an apostle. In fact, no one today can be an apostle.
As Paul describes the amazing nature of the Church, he says in Ephesians 2:20, “The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” We believe in the sign gifts–but we believe they belong to the time of the apostles. The Church was built upon an initial, beginning foundation consisting of apostles and prophets. If you claim we need to have apostles and prophets today, you’re really saying we need a new foundation for the Church.
According to Ephesians 2:20, we’d also have to say we need a new Savior as well, for Jesus is the “chief cornerstone.” That’s the stone that lines up the foundation and building. You don’t build the foundation on the 21st floor, or the 21st century. The foundation was laid at the beginning of the building, the bottom floor, in the first century–not the 21st. The time of the apostles was the beginning of the Church. So then . . .
Third WHY IS AN APOSTLE?
Why does Paul call himself an apostle here? Do you get how strange this is? You should be shocked–or at least embarrassed. “Timothy, my beloved son, it’s me, Paul, the apostle of Christ.” This is an intimate letter–Timothy personally knows Paul is an apostle. So why say it? It’d be like my boys saying, “Hi, Dad,” and me replying, “No boys, call me Pastor Mueller.” Or Jean saying, “Hey Chris,” and me stopping her, touting, “Jean, call me Dr. Mueller!” (Those of you who know my wife are right now imagining her response to that.)
Why does Paul call himself apostle when he’s talking to his closest friend in the faith? Because truth trumps relationship, because Paul is writing God’s revelation, because Paul is God’s inspired Scripture-writer. Because 2 Timothy is God’s written Word, and because this letter is more important than Paul’s relationship with Timothy.
This letter is the inerrant, authoritative, inspired Word of God through His chosen human author–his apostle, Paul. Paul never forgot what was most important–that truth trumps everything. Not that you hit everyone with the two by four of truth when error is spoken, but you do graciously, unapologetically speak the truth, stand up for truth, and honor the Word of God above all.
I love the people of our church more than you know–both corporately and individually. And as giving, gracious, loving, kind and patient as you are with me, there is one thing I must never do, and that is this–to prefer you over God’s Word. To ignore God’s Word because it might offend you. To appear to be loving you, while compromising God’s truth. That must never happen.
And although they shared a deep friendship, Paul’s loving salutation to Tim carries the full weight of his apostleship. Paul says to his precious son and friend, I am an apostle, Timothy–stating the obvious, but stating the truth. And no matter how close we become, I must honor the Lord and follow His Word over you. God’s truth trumps relationship–and you must do the same.
Now pay attention, saints–this is a deep, theological truth. How did our Lord give us our New Testament? What criteria did the Church use to determine which books should make up the 27 books and letters of your New Testament? Answer–Jesus didn’t give us a list of approved books, but He did give us a list of approved authors.
The Lord promised the apostles in advance, they would speak and write his Word. John 16:12 and 13, “’I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.’”
The apostles were the pre-selected authors of the New Testament. The apostles were the only men accepted as the writers of Scripture. The Lord Jesus Himself made sure we could all be sitting here with 27 New Testament books in our laps this morning and did so by choosing those men whom we name as apostles.
Several scriptures clearly declare the New Testament to be as authoritative as the Old Testament. For example in 2 Peter 3:2, Peter said to “remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets [the Old Testament] and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles [the New Testament].” Just a few verses later in verse 16, Peter places Paul’s writings on the same plane as “the rest of the Scriptures.”
The New Testament is equal to the Old Testament. We know it is God’s Word because it was written or approved by the apostles, God’s chosen proxies. Just like the Old Testament was written by the prophets, the New Testament was written by the apostles. The Church didn’t have any major difficulties in coming up with the 27 New Testament books. There was only one issue–is this book written by an apostle, written under the authority of an apostle (like Mark and Luke) or approved by an apostle? If so, it was accepted as the authoritative Word of God.
The apostles were unique. The Bible tells us there were more than twelve apostles. We can add Paul, and 1 Corinthians 15:7 adds Jesus’ half brothers, James and Jude, as those who witnessed the resurrection, who were chosen as proxies and wrote revelation. The word apostle was used of a small few who were “sent ones” from a church–but these were not the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostles were foundational, eyewitnesses, the writers of Scripture and proxies of Jesus.
Jesus didn’t give us a list of approved books, but He did give us a list of approved authors. So because this letter is God’s Word, and extends beyond Timothy to all believers and every church for all time–Paul clearly states in phrase 1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus.”
Paul next explains his sovereign appointment was, verse 1, “by the will of God.” Paul didn’t choose this position or, like some today, give himself the label apostle. No, he became an apostle, not by his choice or his decision, but by God’s will. Paul was taking a leisurely stroll north–you know, to kill some Christians. And God interrupted his lethal agenda to call, justify, regenerate and empower Paul as His apostle.
Just like Jesus said in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you.” You may think you chose Christ. It may appear you chose Christ. But in reality, you were on a journey leading to misery and eternal death and God, by His will, chose you. God also gave you a spiritual giftedness, unique ministry passions, talents and resources for you to accomplish pre-designed tasks and serve Christ with joy while bringing Him glory.
You can resist God’s plan for your life. You can fight His will–but you will not win. You might as well seek to discover, then submit to, His plan for your life. Do that by serving. God designed Paul from eternity past to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. And like Paul, it is God’s will for you to serve in a unique way for God’s glory.
Why would you want to? Because God chose you, rescued you, forgave you and gave you abundant life and eternal life—life, which is what Paul says at the end of verse 1, the purpose of Paul’s call to apostleship and the reason why you serve, “according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus.” According to means in pursuit of, or in service of. Paul was called an apostle by the will of God in pursuit of proclaiming the Gospel.
The promise of life is the water and Jesus is the spring that gives abundant life now and eternal life with God forever. There is life in Christ—that is what transformed Paul from Christian-killer to apostle of Christ. And when God saves you, He transforms you. All born again believers will desire to live by God’s Word.
Salvation is not about a choice you make, it is about a transformation God does. Salvation is not about a decision you make, it is about a whole life direction God gives. Paul is so joyous to be freed from slavery to sin, guilt, works-righteousness and hate in order to serve Christ, he passionately wants to share the good news with everyone. He doesn’t tell people, “Accept Jesus in your heart,” but, “Turn from your sin and follow Christ by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone, to receive the promise of life.
Paul who is right now facing immediate death, rejoices in the promise of life. One of the main reasons the Lord leaves you on planet Earth is to call everyone to come to life in Christ and live their lives in Christ. True life is in Christ. Paul opens verse 1 with a reminder of the truth of God’s Word and the Gospel of Christ, as He greets Timothy in this last will and testament. Then next Paul reminds Timothy of the importance of genuine love.
#2 LOVE: The Final Greeting to the SENDEE: Timothy
Verse 2, “To Timothy, my beloved son.” Why would Paul call Timothy his beloved son? Timothy is young compared to Paul. Just a few years back in 1 Timothy, Paul told Tim, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness”–so Tim is still young. And Paul just called himself, “the aged”, in Philemon 9, so Paul is older.
But this is more than age–this young man is Paul’s beloved son because Paul likely led Timothy to Christ, trained him and Tim became his number one apostolic assistant. Paul and Timothy became family. Too many kids today don’t know their father, or they may have a dad, but don’t enjoy a fatherly relationship. But Timothy and Paul do.
Acts 16 reminds us Timothy didn’t have a believing father. Timothy didn’t have a dad who’d guide him, pray for him, teach him the Scriptures or be a godly model. But Timothy did have a father in Paul, who did that and more. Paul called Timothy my own son in the faith in 1 Timothy, and like a child serving his father in Philippians 2:22 and here a beloved son–meaning one who is loved, dear, and cared about.
Spiritually you can have a son, even though they weren’t born into your biological family. And spiritually you can have a father, even though he wasn’t your biological dad. God designed the Church to exist beyond your physical family. Paul didn’t have a wife, nor any hint of kids, yet Paul had many sons and some daughters.
I had a believing Dad who went home in 1988–he was not theologically deep, but thankfully a biblical model for me in many ways. Thankfully, through the Church, I also had a few older men who were and are true spiritual fathers to me. Do you? You should. One of the great dangers of our culture right now is generational identity, where all that matters to any person here are those in their same age category.
God designed us to be inter-related, interacting and interconnected with all ages–especially to have spiritual fathers and mothers and spiritual sons and daughters. Do you? As Paul looks at the end of life, he values not only truth, but love–love for his beloved son, Timothy. Like every worthy father in this room, Paul desired and experienced an intimacy with his son, whom he writes. So from his dungeon-like prison cell, Paul writes of truth, love and now the Gospel.
#3 GOSPEL: The Final Greeting SOURCED in Christ
Verse 2b, “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus is mentioned fifteen times in this letter and three times just in these two introductory verses. The letter is written by Paul, written to Timothy, but is fully written about Christ. This letter is about Jesus–Christ is the subject.
The entire Bible is about Christ. The Old Testament is the preparation for Christ. The gospels are the presentation of Christ. Acts is the proclamation of Christ. The epistles show us the personification of Christ through His Church, and Revelation is the predomination of Christ. Paul wants Timothy, the church at Ephesus, and you today to be consumed with Christ.
But the problem is—no one can be. It’s impossible. You and I are helpless and hopeless. It is not, “Ask Jesus into your heart”–no, God must save you. Your sin makes it impossible for you to be in Christ or intimate with Christ by your effort or decision. Your anger, pride, hurtful words, lust, materialism, indifference, religiousness, your good works with selfish motives make your ability to be rescued by Christ impossible.
If you’re not a Christian, you don’t have the tools to have an enduring friendship with God. You need what’s found in verse 2b, God’s grace, mercy and peace. Grace is the undeserved favor of God. Grace is God giving you what you don’t deserve. Receiving God’s grace means you can be the friend of God. He gives you His perfection, His righteousness so you can stand before a perfect God.
Mercy is the self-moved compassion of God to remove the guilt of your sin and relieve you of your just punishment for sin. It is God not giving you what you do deserve. Mercy allows Christ to take the punishment of your sin upon Himself on the cross and take your place so you can stand before a sinless God. You sin against God, but He gives you mercy instead of a just eternal punishment in Hell.
Verse 2 includes peace. Peace is the state of salvation between you and God, and the state of your heart in Christ. Peace is God making life with God now and forever available to you. Only God could do this for you, so the one God in three persons chose to provide it. Paul says in verse 2, “from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” God the Father determined it, God the Son provided, and not mentioned here is, God the Spirit applied it to you.
The good news is, God saves sinners. Cry out to Him today. Ask Him to open your heart, to transform you so you can respond with faith to believe in Christ and a heart to repent of your sin. So you can be the friend of God now and forever. You can be in Christ–the recipient of grace and mercy and peace from our great God.
You say, “I will do it my way. No you won’t, you rebel. See who Jesus is? “Christ Jesus our Lord”–He is in charge, He rules the universe, He makes the rules. Submit to Him or you are lost forever in torment. Read it again, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 2 to Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
TAKE THIS HOME:
1. Embrace importance of spiritual MENTORS
Like Timothy had his spiritual father, Paul–each of you should have mentors, models, people in addition to believing parents, who live for Christ, serve Christ, and obey Christ. It doesn’t need to be one, but can be many. And for many of you, seek to be a mentor to others in the body besides your children. Be that believer who invests in, prays for, and comes alongside others to become like Christ.
2. Possess the commitment of truth over RELATIONSHIP
Toughen up, and remember God’s will over your feelings, God’s plan over your preferences, God’s Word over your thinking, and God’s doctrine over your desires. Be willing to say, “I love you Mom, but that is not true. I hear your heart, but it doesn’t jive with God’s Word. I care about you greatly, but your thinking on this is not biblical.”
3. Pursue the necessity of intimacy with CHRIST, His truth, love and Gospel
As Paul begins his letter, he focuses on Christ three times. He points to God’s truth, God’s love and God’s Gospel in the first two verses. Do you? Are you keeping your eyes focused on Christ and what is important in life and relationship? Of course you need to have Christ in order to enjoy the blessings of being His child. And Christian, you need to depend on God’s Word and God’s Spirit to live in Christ.
Next week, Paul talks about the power, character, commitments and influence of family. The keys to biblical parenting and influencing your children for Christ. Let’s pray.