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2 Timothy 2:1-6 - The Disciple's Path: Pass It On

The Disciple's Path  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  23:27
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A faithful disciple keeps the Gospel by passing it on

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Introduction

In the early months of 1860, a newspaper advertisement appeared in East Coast papers:
Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.
The job was for a new transcontinental mail system created by the Central Overland California and Pike’s Peak Express Company that promised the impossible—delivering mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California in only ten days! Instead of a traditional stagecoach transport, the “Pony Express” used riders mounted on fast ponies who would ride the 1,900 mile-route along a network of 184 way stations built ten miles apart. Riders would take turns riding anywhere from 75 to 100 miles, day or night, stopping only long enough to change horses every ten miles.
The job paid handsomely— $100 per month for anyone who signed up (over $3,000 today). And for good reason—the Pony Express route traveled through nearly “two thousand miles of uninhabited desert, ice-capped mountains, oceanic plains roamed by Indian tribes, whitewater-choked rivers, and harsh, unsettled wilderness.” Each rider would carry a 20-pound mail sack (called a mochila), specially designed to be thrown over the saddle and held in place by the rider’s weight. Their employers made it very clear that, if it came down to it, the mochila was more important than the survival of either horse or rider—they had to be willing to die to preserve the messages inside that pouch!
The book of 2 Timothy is the last letter that the Apostle Paul wrote, and he is writing to his “dear son in the faith” Timothy, encouraging him to
2 Timothy 1:13–14 ESV
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
Like those “young, skinny, wiry fellows” that rode the Pony Express, Paul wants Timothy to understand that he is being entrusted with a message that is far more important, far more life-changing, far more precious than any letter tucked into a saddlebag. In this letter we see Paul entrusting Timothy with the Gospel itself—the message that Paul described as being “of first importance” in 1 Corinthians 15:
1 Corinthians 15:1–4 ESV
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
In this letter—Paul’s final letter before he was executed by Emperor Nero—he pleads with Timothy to guard this message with his life! Paul says in verse 15 that everyone in Asia (the Roman province where Timothy was living) had abandoned him. So this letter was Paul’s plea for Timothy to “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2:1), so that he would not fail in his stewardship of the Gospel.
Beloved, we are very much in the same position today, aren’t we? Everywhere you look today we are seeing modern-day equivalents of Phygelus and Hermogenes abandoning this Gospel. People who named the Name of Christ, people who stood in pulpits and platforms and preached this Gospel of the atoning death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who are now bowing to the onslaught of a world that hates to be confronted with the holiness of God. The secular media is filled with gloating predictions of the death of Christianity as mainline denominations are losing members by the thousands each year because they have thrown away this “good deposit” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and replaced it with so-called “social justice” issues.
So the question before us today is: How can we be faithful to this “good deposit” of the Gospel in an age of faithlessness? What does it mean to be faithful keepers of the Gospel in an age where it is being routinely thrown away? So what I want us to see from this passage this morning is that
A faithful disciple keeps the Gospel by passing it on
There are three marks of a faithful disciple here in these verses, three ways that the grace of Jesus Christ sustains us and enables us to stand strong in our “guarding the good deposit” of the Gospel that has been entrusted to us.
First, Jesus makes us

I. Faithful to receive the message (2 Timothy 2:2)

Paul tells Timothy in verse 2:
2 Timothy 2:2 ESV
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.
First of all, notice that Timothy is called to receive what he has heard from Paul—he is to “follow the pattern of the sound words” that he heard from Paul’s teaching (2 Tim. 1:13). The first step in being a faithful disciple is to hear and receive the Gospel, to come to a saving faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ as your Savior, repenting of your sin and placing all of your hope, trust and obedience in Him alone.
But notice here that Paul says that this message is a sound message—the Greek word “sound” there is where we get our English word hygiene. You practice good “hygiene”—wash your hands, cover your cough, etc.,—so that you don’t get sick or make other people sick, right?
That is in essence what Paul is saying about the Gospel as he preaches it—it is pure, it is right, it is a healthy Gospel, not twisted and poisoned by the errors and contaminations of the false teachers. A faithful disciple is careful to receive the message
From a trustworthy source (cp. Gal. 2:1-3)
Paul says that he has preached the Gospel “in the presence of many witnesses”—that his Gospel preaching and teaching has been heard and evaluated and examined by many people, and it is healthy (Paul tells us in Galatians 2:1-3 that he was careful to go and have his Gospel-preaching evaluated by the apostles in Jerusalem, to make sure that he was getting the Gospel right.) So Paul tells Timothy that this Gospel that he is handing off to him is not going to make someone spiritually sick or lead them into error and false teaching. Timothy can receive this Gospel from Paul with confidence.
And notice also the implication that Timothy is to receive this Gospel from Paul
With a heart of integrity
Paul is not handing this Gospel off to Timothy to do with it as he pleases—Timothy has a responsibility to guard this deposit—not mess with it! Think back to those Pony Express riders carrying that mochila saddlebag across the frontier—they did not have the right to open up the padlocked pouches and go through the mail they were carrying! They were not free to open up the messages and re-write them according to what they thought the letters should say!
In the same way, a faithful disciple knows that they are not free to adapt or change the message of the Gospel to suit their personal tastes! The righteousness of God is not up for debate—the call for sinners to repent and turn away from their rebellion is not a negotiable one! We cannot mumble where God’s Word speaks clearly; we cannot whisper where the Scriptures roar. By the grace of Christ living in us, we must receive this message with a heart of integrity that will be faithful to preserve and guard the Gospel!
Not only was Timothy called to be faithful to receive this message, but we see just as clearly that he was called to be

II. Faithful to share the message (1 Timothy 2:2b)

Paul tells Timothy that once he has received this message, he is to “entrust it to faithful men”. To take this good deposit that has been entrusted to him and set it before others, who will be just as faithful with it.
Now, don’t miss the movement of Paul’s argument here—he is telling Timothy that once you have received this message,
Do not keep it to yourself!
Now, that sounds almost too obvious to point out—except that it does not seem at all obvious to far too many Christians today! Imagine a Pony Express rider taking the mochila from the previous rider, folding it under his arm and walking away to his own house! Of course, in one sense the message of the Gospel does belong to you, doesn’t it? The truth that Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, lived a perfect life here on earth and suffered the death-penalty for your sin so that you could have His own righteousness counted to you and securing for you by His blood your eternal salvation—that Gospel is your most precious treasure.
But it is also a treasure that is meant to be given away, isn’t it? Paul tells Timothy to entrust this message to others—to seek out ways to set this Gospel before them as well. And Timothy is to set this Gospel before them in such a way that he will
Pass on the priority of sharing it
Paul tells Timothy, “When you find faithful men to pass this Gospel on to, make sure they know that they are meant to teach it to others! Beloved, if you have been given this Gospel—if you have heard this message and it has (as Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:10) “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light” in you, then you take this same message and pass it on to the next person and teach them to pass it on to the next person, and on and on. A faithful disciple doesn’t keep this Gospel to himself, but passes it on to others who will “be able to teach others also!”
Paul called TImothy to be faithful to receive the message, faithful to share the message, and in the next three verses we see that he is called to be

III. Faithful to live for the message (2 Tim. 2:3-6)

One of the founders of the Pony Express, Alexander Majors, was an entrepreneur who had spent years building a vast overland freight network across the American frontier. He knew better than anyone just how much danger his riders would face as they made their way through hundreds of miles of treacherous terrain, and that they would need to be utterly focused and disciplined if they were going to survive. He made sure to impress upon them their need for discipline by requiring each rider to swear an oath when they were hired that ran like this:
I, ... , do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement... I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.
In verses 3-6, Paul charges Timothy in very similar terms—he tells him that he must
2 Timothy 2:3 ESV
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
Paul knew more than anyone how dangerous, how perilous it was to carry the message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. So he warns Timothy that he was going to suffer for this Gospel:
2 Timothy 1:8 ESV
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,
And so Paul charged Timothy to live a disciplined life "by the power of God”, “strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus”. Paul lays out three illustrations in quick succession in verses 4-6 to drive home to Timothy the kind of discipline he would need for his task:
In verse 4 he says
2 Timothy 2:4 ESV
No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
Timothy’s life is to be
Focused like a soldier
Don’t get distracted, don’t get caught up in the meaningless affairs of this world. A soldier doesn’t live as he pleases and only occasionally show up at the barracks for an hour of parade ground drills and then go home—a soldier lives his training, wholly committed to his commission—day and night, no matter where he is, he remembers that he is a soldier.
In verse 5 Paul tells Timothy
2 Timothy 2:5 ESV
An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
Every athlete has to know the rules of the game, don’t they? You don’t only need to have the physical training and conditioning or just hone your skills running or hitting or catching or throwing—you need to know the rules—is that ball inbounds? Was that pass interference? Did my foot cross the centerline?—because we have all seen games won or lost because of the rules!
In the same way, Paul says that Timothy must be
Conscientious like an athlete (cp. 1 Tim. 4:16)
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul charges him to
1 Timothy 4:16 ESV
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
No wide receiver wants a 60-yard pass to be called back because they didn’t get both feet inbounds—and no faithful disciple wants to have their stewardship of the Gospel ruined because they didn’t watch their life closely! Don’t pull down with one hand what you’re building up with the other—don’t speak about the righteousness and holiness and grace of God through Christ in this Gospel while you live a life of sarcasm and bitterness and selfishness and compromise.
In verse 6 Paul reminds Timothy that
2 Timothy 2:6 ESV
It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.
Be focused like a soldier, conscientious like an athlete and
Hard-working like a farmer (cp. Matt. 11:28-30)
The Greek word translated “hard-working” here literally means to “work to the point of exhaustion”. It reminds me of a line from Little House on the Prairie, when Charles Ingalls says to one of his kids, “God put a certain amount of sweat in a man, and He didn’t intend for it to stay there!” Paul wants Timothy to understand that there is a lot of sweat that goes into faithfully keeping and sharing this message—there will be long nights and difficult days, there will be heartbreak and persecution, there will be labor and toil. But the faithful disciple will face all of that labor and toil strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus! Jesus Himself calls us in Matthew 11:28-30:
Matthew 11:28–30 ESV
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Everything Paul sets before Timothy here in these verses—how to receive the Gospel, how to share the Gospel, how to live for the Gospel—all of it is possible because Christ is

IV. Faithful to strengthen you

This is the wonderful promise that you have, Christian—you do not have to do all of this in your own strength! You are being called to take this message through hostile territory, you are being called to labor to the point of exhaustion, you are being called to risk losing everything for the sake of guarding this mochila with your life—but you have an unbreakable promise from Almighty God that He will strengthen you!
He has promised to strengthen you by His grace
As you hear this message
He has placed you here with other believers so that you can hear this Gospel, study it, grow in your understanding of the salvation that Jesus Christ has purchased for you by His blood. Your Christian life begins with the Gospel and moves on into more knowledge and more understanding—but it never moves past this Gospel! So use the resources here—come to Sunday School and dig into God’s Word with other believers, use the outlines in the bulletin to follow the sermon, listen to them online, come to the Ladies’ Bible study, come to the Disciple’s Path Bible study starting next Thursday night. Take advantage of the resources in the library—the books, the DVDs, the commentaries—all of these things are here for you so that you can be faithful to receive this message. And in all of these things God has promised to give you “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) to hear and receive and understand and rejoice in this message!
He has promised to strengthen you by His grace
As you share this message
You don’t get to keep this message to yourself—you “keep” this Gospel by passing it on! You don’t have to be a pastor or a missionary or a full-time evangelist to share this Gospel. We want to make this such a difficult and intimidating prospect, but it doesn’t have to be.
Can you pray and ask God to give you an opportunity to share the Gospel? Can you tell someone what your life was like before you knew Christ? Can you tell them how you came to call on Jesus for your salvation? Can you tell them how your life has changed since you trusted Christ? If you can do those things, then you can pass this Gospel on!
We’ve placed several copies of this booklet, Simply Sharing Jesus, on the back table. It’s a very simple, ten-page booklet straightforward guide on how to share the Gospel. It includes a method of sharing the Gospel in four simple steps (with Bible references) and an example of a prayer that a person can pray to receive Christ. But whatever system or method you use, never forget that the power of the Gospel to save does not come from you! It comes from the Holy Spirit Himself who awakens a spiritually dead heart to hear and believe—you only have to share it, and watch Him work!
God has promised to strengthen you by His grace
As you live this message
God has placed us together as a church family here at Bethel so that we can live together with one another, strengthening one another, investing in one another. There are a lot of good Bible teachers and preachers out there who you can read, stream or watch that will help you learn to live a faithful life as a disciple of Christ, and we live in an age when we have more access to more solid Christian teaching than any other time in human history.
But those Internet preachers and teachers can never be a substitute for your brothers and sisters in Christ right here in this room! Alistair Begg might help you understand how to live the fruit of the Spirit in his sermons on Galatians, but don’t forget that you’ll never see how he lives the fruit of the Spirit! John MacArthur may preach a powerful series on prayer in the Christian life, but he’s never going to show up in your hospital room when you need prayer, is he?
That’s why you need this church family! As great a blessing as those teachers and authors might be, you need the present and local Body of Christ to help you live as a faithful disciple! So take advantage of the opportunities to build relationships here—come to the picnics, the hymn-sings, the Ladies’ Fellowship and the Men’s Prayer Breakfasts, the Out To Lunch Bunch, the Valentine’s Banquet. You need the Body of Christ in your life—we need to encourage, protect, guard and strengthen one another.
Jesus Christ sacrificed His own body on the Cross to break down the barrier of our sin separating us from God, and the barrier of our hostility separating us from each other (Eph. 2:14). And so it in by His grace to us that He poured out along with His blood on that Cross that we are strengthened to receive this Gospel, share this Gospel, and live this Gospel. So get this Gospel right, Christian, and set yourself by the grace He gives you to study it, to love it, to draw your joy from it so that your joy in this message will draw your friends and family and neighbors and co-workers to it as you set it before them and invite them to come—and welcome—to Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Paul says that he delivered the Gospel to Timothy “in the presence of many witnesses”—that many people had examined Paul’s understanding of the Gospel and had approved his ministry. What steps can you take to make sure that you “get the Gospel right” when you share it with others?
When Paul defines the Gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, he says that you are saved by this gospel “if you hold fast to the word I preached to you” (v. 2). What does it mean to “hold fast” to the Gospel? Are there parts of the Gospel message that you are tempted to “let go of” in order to make it more appealing? What does this passage say about changing the Gospel in order to suit your own feelings?
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