by Mike Ratliff
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13 ESV)
The Christian has been called by God to serve the Lord Jesus as His bondservant (δουλος). This role of bondservant also includes being His obedient disciple and valiant warrior. I grew up in an era in which there just was not much turmoil in the churches I was part of. The Pastor was considered the one who should take moral stands on issues and proclaim the truth to those in darkness, but the rest of the folks in the church did not consider themselves soldiers of Christ Jesus except when they sang songs such as Onward Christian Soldiers. However, times have changed. There are some preachers these days that deserve a proclamation of “woe” such as this one from the Prophet Isaiah.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20 ESV)
Yes, God has called some to be elders and pastors and deacons. However, all Christians should consider themselves soldiers for Christ on the front lines. I know that He has called some of us with the speaking and teaching gifts to fight it out with the enemy in specialized ways, but all genuine believers should enter into the battle with prayer and encouragement for those in the thickest part of the fight day in and day out.
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. (2 Timothy 2:1-7 ESV)
Those who share in the suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus are able to do so because they are strengthened (ενδυναμου) by the grace (χαριτι) that is in Him. These share the truth they have learned by God’s grace with others who will also teach and disciple. Because of this faithfulness, they will share in the suffering (συγκακοπαθησον) of Chirst. This word, συγκακοπαθησον, describes suffering hardship or evil together with another. My brethren, if we are standing firm as we are commanded to do by God, then we will consistently obey Him as we walk through each day and this will cause the enemy and his seed to attack us. I know many, therefore, who shy away from the battle lines because of this. I know of others who think that those who do fight the good fight are being mean or legalistic or some other derogatory term because they have believed the lie that humility means that one never takes a stand and rebukes false prophets and such. No, true humility is found in those who walk in obedience to their Lord as His δουλος. This means they do rebuke those who teach what is false. They use the plumb line of the Word of God not human philosophy. They debate instead of dialogue.
In v4 Paul tells us to not allow anything, even good things, to distract us from being the δουλος of Christ Jesus. In v5 he uses an analogy of an athlete following the rules as he competes. This analogy refers to obeying the Word of God in the pursuit of spiritual victory not the way and means of the world. Think of all those church leaders in our time who have attempted to blend the ways of the world in with how they “do church.” This is compromise and is the antithesis of what Paul is teaching here. Seeker-sensitivity is a fallacy that has its roots in unbelief that God is sovereign in salvation. In v6 Paul uses the analogy of a “hard-working” (κοπιωντα) farmer. This word, κοπιωντα, describes one who labors to the point of exhaustion. This is an exhortation for us to not be lazy or indolent, but to obediently labor with a view to the harvest.
In v7 Paul tells us to think over (νοει) what he says. This word describes clear perception, full understanding, and careful consideration. Paul used the present tense, imperative mood, and active voice form of this verb. This verb form is not simply a giving of good advice, but a command to continually be in deep thought to what he is saying. He also tells us that as we meditate on these truths, God will give us understanding (συνεσιν) in everything. This word denotes insight, the critical faculty of how to evaluate, things, and circumstances. Other places where this word is used in God’s Word: Mark 12:33; Luke 2:47; 1 Corinthians 1:19; Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 1:9; 2:2. What is Paul telling us through this my brethren? If we study God’s Word and reason through teachings like these by meditating and seeking the truth then God will give us the insight to know and understand it and how to apply it to what is going on all around us. This includes using His Word to show how the false teachers out there deserve the Woe that is coming their way if they do not repent.
Soli Deo Gloria!