Christ Pantocrator, Capela Palatina, Palermo, Italy

Christ Pantocrator, Capela Palatina, Palermo, Italy

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, and preached in my gospel, the gospel for which I am in suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal. But the word of God is not fettered. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation which in Christ Jesus goes with eternal glory. The saying is sure: ‘If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithfulness, he remains faithful- for he cannot deny himself.’” II Timothy 2:8-13)

From the beginning of this letter Paul has seemed to have one mission in mind: to exhort Timothy (and us) to heroic and faithful service to Christ and his gospel.  Over and over again, using one metaphor after another, he urges Timothy to stand firm, be bold, and willingly take his share of suffering for that Gospel.  This passage continues the theme. Here, though, Paul particularly calls Timothy not only to remember the great responsibility that is his but also the great promises he can claim and which will be fulfilled for all who are faithful.

First, he was to “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel”.  That is, he was to remember that the risen Christ was with him no matter where he went or what he faced. The risen Christ’s last words before the ascension had been, “and ,Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”.  William Barclay has put it well:

“We do not depend on the inspiration of a memory, however great. We enjoy the power of a presence. When a Christian is summoned to a great task, a task he cannot but feel is beyond him, he must go into it in the certainty that he does not go to it alone, but there is with him forever the presence and the power of the risen Lord. When fears threaten, when doubts assail, when inadequacy depresses, remember the presence of the risen Lord.”  (Barclay, Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, p189)

Second, he was to remember that no matter the outward appearance, God’s Word, for which he was to stand, could not be stopped and that even when Timothy’s own efforts seemed to fail, God would bring fruit:

“the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal. But the word of God is not fettered.”

Here Paul is calling to mind the grand promise of Isaiah which has proved true over and over again through centuries of conflict and attempts to silence it:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Finally, he was to remember the sure hope that was to be for all the faithful (along with a warning to the unfaithful) captured in one of the earliest of all Christian hymns or proverbs:

“If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign.”

If we are faithful and serve to the end, heaven is ours and so too a share in his glory and his reign in the Kingdom of God. We will share with him in God’s new world. I very much like how N.T. Wright has put this:

“[Paul] has his eye not on the present age, but on the new world that is to come, the coming time when all God’s people will not only be saved from their present plight, but more particularly, receive glory…Paul talks about ‘reigning’ with Christ. God’s new world will not simply be a place of rest and refreshment as people often imagine. That’s what awaits God’s faithful people immediately after death; but after that again, when God brings the new creation into existence, there will be new work to do, new tasks to stretch our ability and imagination. Those who are faithful in the present world will be given authority in the next one, where  they will share Jesus’ reign.” (Wright, The Pastoral Letters, 103)

In all, Paul’s call to Timothy is the same call that Jesus gave his disciples: “If any of you would come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me.” And the confident hope in doing so is also the same: “(Jesus)Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2)

Never forget, “if we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him.”

Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.