Monday, October 19, 2020
Pilgrimages With Paul
2 Timothy Ch 2.14 to 4.8

As in the other two pastoral letters (1 Tim and Titus) Paul continues to instruct Timothy in how to meet difficulties in the community. His words about disputes, profane and idle talk (2.14 + 16) remind us of Jesus’ words: Let your “yes” mean yes and your “no” mean no (Matthew 5.37). The metaphor of false teaching as gangrene (2.17) is particularly graphic. The two (unknown to us) men in 2.17 were spreading the rather unusual teaching that we have already risen (physically) with Jesus (that would be quite a feat!). The behavior which springs from Christian faith is very concrete; Paul advises Timothy to avoid quarreling and be gentle, tolerant and kind (2.24-25) in the hope that opponents maybe won over to the way of the Lord (2.26). Sounds a bit like our proverb about catching more flies with honey than vinegar, doesn’t it?

Chapter 3 begins with a warning that as the time of the end of the world approaches ways contrary to the Gospel will abound. It’s quite a list Paul provides (3.1-8). Two people are mentioned in 3.8 as being opponents of the truth of God. The reference is to Exodus 7 where the magicians of Pharaoh fight with Moses. The interesting point is that no names are given to the magicians in the Book of Exodus; the names that Paul gives to them are names that were “assigned” to the magicians as the story was told down through the centuries. It’s similar to the Magi in Matthew’s Gospel; the Gospel does not give them names, but people have assigned names to them as the story has been told.

Paul warns Timothy that like himself, Timothy will know persecution (Jesus words are similar in John 15.20). From 3.15 we hear again that Timothy was a “cradle Christian.” Paul says that “Scripture is inspired by God” (3.16). It doesn’t mean that God whispered into the ear of the people who wrote the books of the Bible. Rather, it means that God used the abilities of the human authors to reveal Himself in the Scriptures. The Divine Author and human authors together produced the Word of God in human language.

Paul begins chapter 4 with an awe-inspiring charge to Timothy (“in the presence of God and of Jesus Christ….’4.1) to proclaim the Gospel under any and all conditions (4.2). (It sounds like the US Postal Workers’ proverb: “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night…”). Paul writes about people following their “insatiable curiosity.” It’s an unfortunate translation; the original Greek language says “their itchy ears” (who says the Scriptures have no sense of humour?).  Paul calls Timothy an “evangelist” (4.8) which means a preacher of the Gospel (the word “evangelist” is derived from the word for “Gospel” (Good News) which comes to us from Greek, through Latin and into Middle English {as “evangel”}).

Ch 4.6-8 is considered Paul’s last will and testament to Timothy. He realizes that martyrdom is imminent (go back to Acts 9.16 where God says He will let Paul know about sufferings he will experience) and refers to himself as a “libation” (4.6; see also Philippians 2.17). In the ancient world people would pour out (from a Latin word “libare”) wine, water or other liquid as a sacrifice to God (or gods); see Genesis 35.14 for an example. Paul is saying that he is offering himself as a sacrifice to God. He traces his spiritual history comparing it to a race- he has competed well and finished (4.7). He is confident, that like a successful athlete (see 1 Cor 9.25 ) he will be granted the (laurel) crown of victory. The additional note that this prize will be granted to others who are faithful (4.8) is meant to encourage Timothy (and us) in difficult times.

Something to consider:
Sometimes we have “itchy ears,” don’t we? Eager for the latest tidbit. Or maybe just hearing what we want to hear. It’s a human trait. Google the song “Open my eyes, Lord” by Jesse Manibusan. It has a verse about opening our ears too. Use it as a prayer.

Read 2 Timothy 4.9-22

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