Paul's Charge to Timothy
by J. R. Miller, 1909
2 Timothy 3:14 to 4:5
This letter to Timothy, the last product of Paul's pen—was written from the prison at Rome. In his desire to encourage the young evangelist, he gave him much counsel—counsel which is as valuable for the Christian today as it was for Timothy.
Paul urged Timothy, "Continue in what you have learned." 2 Timothy 3:14. That is what we should always do with the good things we have learned—abide in them, keep them in our hearts—then live them out. A great many people know a great deal more truth than they put into practice. The true test of knowing—is doing. We really only know—what we get into our experience and conduct. A young man said to his pastor at the close of a year that he had gone through the Bible five times that year. His pastor asked him quietly, "How often has the Bible gone through you this year?" "If you know these things—you are blessed if you do them." John 13:17
Paul reminded Timothy of his home training: "From childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures." It is a great privilege to grow up in the atmosphere of Bible teaching, to have for one's teacher a godly mother, who whispers into her child's ear the truths of God, the counsels of heavenly wisdom. Such lessons affect the life, even down to its close. Those who have had such mothers should never cease to be thankful for them.
The reason for valuing the Scriptures, is that they are able to make the reader "wise unto salvation". There are different kinds of wisdom. A man may know a great deal of science, literature, philosophy, and be very wise in this world's matters—and yet not have found salvation. It is very clear, that that is not the true wisdom—which fails to show men the way of eternal life. The true wisdom is found in the Word of God, which reveals to us our need, and then tells us of God and of Jesus Christ, and of the way to be saved. This Book may not answer questions about geology, astronomy, mathematics or world history—but it does answer all necessary questions about Christian duty, about God, about the way of salvation.
Someone tells of hearing a sermon in which he said the distinguished clergyman told him a great deal about the way from Jerusalem to Jericho—but did not tell him anything about the way from earth to heaven. How sad!
"All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness." Paul has no uncertain word about the inspiration of the Scriptures. The Bible alone is the Word of God. Holy men wrote it as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. There are other good books in the world—but none like the Word of God. We ought to read the Bible reverently, since God speaks to us in its pages. We ought to believe it, for His Word must be absolutely true. We should obey it, since what God commands must be right. We may yield our whole life to its influence, to be guided and fashioned by it. It is profitable for teaching—that is, for instruction in all matters that concern life. It is profitable for rebuking—it shows us our sins, our follies, our mistakes. It is profitable for correcting—to bring us back from wrong ways to right ways. It is profitable for training in righteousness—it gives us instruction for all true and beautiful living.
"So that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." The purpose of the Bible is to make complete men of us. If we follow it in everything, it will show us the right way, it will reveal to us the perfect ideal of Christian character, it will inspire us to holy living.
"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge." Living according to God's Word, we must ever be conscious that we are living in God's sight. Life is very serious. We often say it will be a solemn thing to stand before God in judgment. Our common days are judgment days. We should learn to do everything as in the sight of God. This makes our every act and word solemn. We should never leave God out of our life, nor do anything otherwise than we would do it—if we saw the divine eye looking down upon us!
The Word Timothy had received, he was to give to others. "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season," Paul said to him. He was not preaching with the burning ardor which should characterize a minister of Jesus Christ. Paul sought to stir him up to do better work. Many of us need this lesson. We are living, some of us, only half-heartedly, probably the saintliest of us below our best. From this Roman prison, comes the call to every young Christian to rouse his best energies in behalf of Christ.
That a minister's work may not be all soft words, Paul indicated when he told Timothy that he must be ready to "correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction." The minister is to watch his flock with a shepherd's care. If he sees any of them going astray, he is not to be indifferent—but must seek to save them. We need great wisdom, however, when we speak to others of their faults or mistakes, lest by our lack of tact—we only drive them further away. Words of reproof should always be spoken in tender love and unwearying patience.
One reason for the faithfulness in preaching, is that "for the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." We often hear about the serious responsibility of the preacher—but we should think also of the responsibility of the hearer. Of course, the teacher should teach well. There is no excuse for being dreary or dull in presenting the glorious truths of Christianity. Paul urges Timothy to do his part earnestly for the very reason that the people would be apt to turn away to fables instead of listening to the gospel. He must preach the old gospel in such a way, that the people will be compelled to listen.