2 Timothy 2:1-7 – Christian Service

This week we will be discussing 2 Timothy 2. Paul begins this reading with three analogies to Christian service. In each of these analogies, the protagonist has the temptation to give up his required service and to neglect his duties.

The first analogy is that Timothy (and us) should be good soldiers for Christ Jesus. (vv3.4). During the Roman Empire, the military oath soldiers took what was called the Sacramentum. In this oath, the soldier pledged (upon pain of being sacrificed to the gods) that he would faithfully execute the Emperor’s commands, never desert his service, and not seek to avoid death in service of the Republic. This oath translates well into the Christian service that Paul is reminding Timothy to which he has been called and set aside to serve. (The very close analogy between Christain service and the service in the Roman army is one reason why many early Christian writers taught that Christians could not serve in the army. (Tertullian, On Idolatry, ch.19)). The army is a place of discipline, obedience, and suffering, which is not always the most enjoyable life compared with the relative ease of a civilian existence. However, as Paul points out, a soldier should be unconcerned with a cushy undemanding civilian life, because a soldier’s duty is to his oath, his unit, and his commander.

The second analogy Paul uses is that Christian life is like that of an athletic contest. (v.5). Paul often uses this type of analogy (1 Cor. 9:24-26Phil. 2:162 Tim. 4:7Hebrews 12:1). Paul says that athletes must compete according to the rules of the contest. There are no shortcuts. The competitor simply cannot give up and claim victory but must see the game until the very end. Timothy appears to want to throw in the towel and Paul is telling him to get back into the race.

The final analogy is one of a tenant and absentee landlord. (v.6). Jesus uses this social situation in his parable of the wicked tenants. Matt. 21:33-46. Like Southern sharecroppers, the tenant farmer did all the work but had to share his produce with the absentee landowner who did none of the work. In the church, the temptation is to be the landowner and not the tenant. We often want to sit back and enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor without ourselves engaging in any work. There is always someone else to serve, I only have to show up. Paul reminds Timothy (and us) that our calling is to be the tenants and to labor for the harvest.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is Thanksgiving in July. Discussion about 6:45. Please bring a friend.

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 

Matthew 9:35-38

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