"To Timothy, My Beloved Child "
James M. Smelser
East Orange, New Jersey
The second letter to Timothy was the final testimony of a great soldier of the cross, as he faced death unafraid. D. Edmond Hiebert said, "It is the dying appeal of the apostle to his young associate, exhorting him to stead-fastness in the ministry in the face of appalling difficulties." Paul wrote to Timothy out of a fatherly concern for the young preacher. He was in prison facing death, the Roman government had become hostile to Christianity, and the church still had to combat the problem of false teachers rising out of the body of Christ, leading some astray. Humanly speaking, it seemed as though the church was on the brink of failure and destruction.
Because of these conditions, Paul wrote "Thou therefore, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus . . . Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (II Tim. 2:1-3). Paul also encouraged Timothy to "be not ashamed therefore of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but suffer hardship with the gospel according to the power of God" (2 Tim. 1:8).
Timothy, as, young as he was, could see the unconverted condition among many in the church. He could remember the time when Paul met with the elders of the church at Ephesus, on the island of Miletus. He could recall the love for the apostle and the fellowship that was enjoyed at that time. "And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore , and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the word which he had spoken, that they should behold his face no more . . ." (Acts 20-36-38). But now that Paul was in prison facing death, and any expression of affiliation to him could bring upon one the same fate, Paul said "This thou knowest, that all that are in Asia turned away from me . . ." (2 Tim. 1: 15). How strange it was that members of the church could show such affection when it was safe and convenient to do so, but in a time of trial, when such love was most needed, all had turned away from him.
It would seem that there is a clear application of these thoughts for the church today. Many Christians can remember having fellowship with other Christians, when they could blend their voices in songs of praise and devotion to their God, when they could unite their hearts in prayer, and when the love for one another was strongly felt in the heart of all. But in recent years in many places, this has ceased. Grievous times have come upon the church again. Many will not endure sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, have heaped to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and turned aside unto fables.
Where there was harmony and love, there is now discord and hatred. Where there was unity and fellowship, there exists division and enmity. Christians can remember when they were welcome in the home of other members of the church, but now they do not speak when they meet on the street. The cause of Christ has truly suffered because such conditions exist, and because men are lovers of self, rather than lovers of God.
This situation has caused many to cease their efforts to serve and worship their Savior, while others have lost a desire to work, because they have witnessed years of labor dashed to the ground by those who are "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." In many places the work of the Lord has come to a halt, because of the innovation of institutionalism.
It is under these circumstances that one can truly appreciate the meaning of the message of 2 Timothy. It was under like conditions that Timothy labored and Paul told him to be strengthened in the grace in Jesus, to suffer hardship, and to "remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David . . . wherein I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a malefactor . . . Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which in Christ Jesus . . ." (2 Tim. 2:8-10).
Christians need to give diligence to present themselves approved unto God, workmen that need not be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth. "And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). Christians need now more than ever to be "sober in all things, suffer hardship," and to fulfill our ministry. As the writer of Hebrews said, "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin" (Heb. 12:4).
Let all faithful Christians determine to pick up the pieces left after the falling away, and begin anew to labor, abiding in the things which they have learned, and have been assured of. How wonderful it would be to endure the heartaches, suffer the ridicule, and say as the apostle Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:7, 8). "The Lord be with thy spirit. Grace be with you."
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 4, pp. 9-10