2 Timothy 3:5 . . . having a form of godliness but denying its power.
The leading religion in the world is not Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism, but Formalism. People are religious by nature because we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). But most people do not take their religion very seriously. They practice the external form, but their main concerns are to get along, make money, and enjoy their lives.
Sadly, this is true of many who claim to be Christians. They claim to believe in Jesus Christ, but their lives are no different than others around them. Instead of going to a temple or a mosque, they simply go to church. They are not real Christians; they are Formalists. They have a form of godliness, but little more.
2 Timothy 3:12 Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Paul did not say Everyone who claims to be a Christian will be persecuted but, Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. The world will punish mediocre Christians on occasion, but it prefers to punish those who are fully devoted to Christ.
Forms of persecution can be arranged on a continuum from the least to the greatest: (1) disapproval, (2) ridicule, (3) pressure to conform, (4) loss of opportunities, (5) economic sanctions, (6) shunning, (7) alienation, (8) loss of employment, (9) loss of property, (10) physical abuse, (11) mob violence, (12) government harassment, (13) kidnapping, (14) forced labor, (15) imprisonment, (16) torture, and (17) murder.
I came to Christ just before college, and quickly discovered that Jesus was not very popular on campus. I hid my faith for most of the year, but recommitted my life to Christ in the spring, and returned in the fall a different person. I told my friends about their need for Jesus Christ, and was no longer welcomed as part of their group. One even threatened to knock me out if I mentioned Jesus one more time—and he could have done it.
I was embarrassed, at times, but also remember feeling very close to the Lord. If Jesus is your greatest treasure, he will be your greatest pleasure (John Piper). Believers should be less afraid of persecution than a total lack of it. Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed.
Paul was convinced that every syllable of Scripture came directly from the mouth of God. Likewise, It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law (Luke 16:17), said Jesus. Every disciple of Christ should believe in the inerrancy of God’s word—and many do. But there is a problem: many who believe in the inerrancy of God’s word have not actually read it.
One man bragged that, whenever he stays at a hotel, he looks in the night stand for a Bible. If he finds one, he rips out a certain page that condemns his favorite sin. Most Christians would never think of doing such a thing, but we are all inclined to skip over parts that we do not like. This should not be. The Bible is not a smorgasbord from which we pick and choose. It is the word of God by which we live and die.
2 Timothy 4:1-2 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: Preach the word.
The faithful preaching of God’s word is the greatest need in the world. That is why Paul made this charge to Timothy as solemn as he could: Preach the word. This command has not changed in two thousand years.
One preacher put it this way: I am not here to be a cheerleader or a life coach or a motivational speaker. I am not here to be a psychologist or a political pundit. I am here for one reason: to teach the word of God (Greg Laurie).
This kind of preacher is a gift from God, as promised in the Old Testament. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15). A faithful shepherd with a heart for God, who teaches with knowledge and understanding, is God’s gift to his people. We ought to be thankful for all such preachers.
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Paul looked back over his many years of ministry with a feeling of satisfaction. He fought the world, the flesh, and the devil without giving up. He finished the race without dropping out.
Paul may have been thinking of the marathon race which was started in memory Pheidippides. He ran about twenty-five miles, from the city of Marathon to the city of Athens, to announce a military victory. But once he arrived, he fell over dead from exhaustion.
The Christian life is a marathon that does not end until we die. But all who finish the race can say with Paul, Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day (2 Timothy 4:8).
2 Timothy 4:18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.
Paul was on trial for his life, and did not expect to live (2 Timothy 4:6). But after decades of serving Christ, he was ready for heaven. This was not the end of Paul’s life, but the beginning of the best part of his life. Everything good was coming his way.
When I was a child, the best day of the year was the last day of school. The second hand circled the clock for the last time, and the bell finally rang. I ran out of school, free as a bird, with the whole summer ahead of me. We lived across the street from my grandparents, who lived on the lake, so I spent summers skiing, swimming and fishing.
Every day seemed better than the one before, and it felt like it would never end. But soon it was July, then it was August, then we were back in school. Like my mother used to say, All good things must come to an end. But according to the Bible, that is not true. God himself says, my salvation will last forever (Isaiah 51:6).
Some people have a five-year plan; others have a ten-year plan; but Christians have a ten-thousand-year plan. When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.
Reflection and Review
Why does God allow persecution?
Why should pastors teach the Bible?
Why don’t all Christians look forward to heaven?