2 Timothy 2:8–15 (NRSV)
8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, 9 for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11 The saying is sure:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
A Worker Approved by God
14 Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.
Remember. There is a constant theme in the life of the people of God, whether those of Hebrew heritage or those who have been grafted into the promise, of remember. Remember who brought the tribes out of Egypt, do this in remembrance of Me, Remember. There is a reason that we should take time to remember, because it is all too easy to forget. We must actively discipline ourselves to remember because every day is filled with distractions that take our attention away from what is truly important.
Remember, Paul encourages us. This is a present active verb meaning continuously direct your attention to this. Remember, Jesus Christ. This term Christ has been used to such a degree that we almost see this as being Jesus’ last name instead of a title to his position. Jesus would have been known on earth as Yeshua Bar Yoseph, but Christ was the anointed one or chosen one of God. Do we remember this distinction or do we rush over this title due to repetition? I mention this at this point because all too often we as followers of Jesus fail to recognize the importance of what it means. This is a theological argument which is important to recognize before we move forward or we might be distracted from what is important. Remember Jesus is the anointed and chosen one, this means that it is through Jesus that Father chose to fulfill the promise through. It is not us as individuals, it is not the saints, it is not the nation of Israel, or any political entity, but Jesus. The entire hope and promise first given to Abraham and extended through Moses and the prophets culminates in and is directed toward the person of Jesus. Everything, all of creation, and all of humanity according to this title which was given to Jesus, must be interpreted and understood through the one who bears it. And our lives are judged according to this Person as well.
Paul continues, “Remember, Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendent of David.” The second phrase in this reminder to the young pastor Timothy, says to remember that Jesus is raised from the dead. Keep in mind the order of the words here, Jesus Christ the anointed and chosen one, raised from the dead. Jesus the one through which everything is and is interpreted and known rose from the dead. The greatest fear of most people in our world is death, and if you are not afraid of death itself you are probably afraid that the other things you are afraid of will kill you, so you are afraid of death. What would happen if that fear was taken away? What would happen if in one moment our greatest fear was revealed to be an empty threat with no power? That is what Paul is telling Timothy. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” Everything that you have ever feared is rendered powerless in Jesus. Let that soak in for a moment, because if you are like me there is something in your life entrapping you in fear. That little fear is keeping us from experiencing the victorious life that God intended for us to have in Jesus. That fear is placing a wedge of separation between us and God that is just as harmful to our participation in the Kingdom of God as any other sin that we might participate in. Because that fear is one area of our life where we are looking at our life’s journey and saying to God, “Yes I know you are the chosen and anointed one that conquered death and all, but I do not trust that you will protect or sustain me and my family in this area so I will not follow you there.”
Paul says, “Remember not only is Jesus the anointed and chosen one through which everything of life is to be interpreted, conquered your greatest fears.” The third part, “a descendent of David,” connects Jesus to a promise made to one family, in one tribe, in one nation of the world that this light and hope of all mankind would come through them. So remember that this is not just a person that was claiming to be anointed and garnered up enough signatures on a petition to put their name in the running of Christ, but he was promised in ancient times and this promise could be traced through the linage of history. Our hope is not only placed in a person who conquered our greatest fear but it is the person promised for centuries through whom all things will be made complete. Remember, and keep on remembering. Do not let this get far from your mind.
Why is this important? Because that is the Gospel. When Jesus began his ministry he said, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” Which means the influence and reign of God is all around us if we allow it to enter our awareness. It almost seems as if Paul has taken the message that Jesus taught and changed it to remove the aspect of the reign of God out, and instead focused it on the resurrection, but that is not really the case. Paul was the apostle that was sent to those that were not connected to the family or nation, or if they were distantly connected to the nation of Israel they were among those that were dispersed throughout the empires so were just as influenced by other cultures as they were their own heritage. So when Paul says that this is the gospel that he taught he is not teaching a gospel contrary to that of Jesus but he is explaining that the good news offered by Jesus is proven because he rose from the dead. This means that because Jesus rose from the grave and was victorious over our deepest fears we have hope that even when we are not always aware of it the kingdom of God is all around us. So we need to remember and not forget.
Paul lived in a time and place where the influence of God could often seem to be lacking. At the moment of writing Paul was chained as a criminal and potentially facing execution, which was a fate that was realized. It would be easy to hear about the gospel and get excited about it and then when the situation turned a bit tense, our attention could drift and our awareness of hope could begin to wane. So Paul encourages us to remember once more. As the struggle intensifies we need to remember all the more, even when we endure chains of persecution. Paul continued to preach and encourage those to continue the journey through life with Christ even though he face death, because the hope in Christ was even greater. And he joyfully faced it to bring hope to the elect so they might receive the very hope provided through Christ. But what is the elect? This is where theologians can really get excited. Some might say that it is people chosen by God from the beginning of time, where others might have a different view. The danger with focusing too much on the semantics of one word is that even when there is a religious focus is that this narrowing attention can become a distraction from the larger awareness of what God is doing around us. To stay true to the larger awareness the elect is the church or those that are walking the pathways of life with Christ. These people are elect not because of who they are, but because of who Jesus is.
“The saying is sure:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.”
It is Jesus who is the elect one and we are heirs to the promise through him. Because He is the anointed one, who conquered our fears and was promised for ages. And he is faithful because he cannot deny himself.
Paul again urges Timothy to remember and to remind. Our jobs as followers of Christ is not to be the judge, or the jury, we are to remember and remind, to encourage and to walk along side. Paul is very practical in his advice when it comes to this task. “Avoid the wrangling of words, which does no good, but only ruins those who are listening.” This is about as straight forward as one can get. He is saying do not debate over semantics, but stay focused and remember. We can get trapped in words. We can stew over something that we perceived to be said when it was not intended that way. And we can become diverted from the truth by taking things out of context. This can be seen throughout history especially when we look at the church. Leading up to the civil war churches used the same books of scripture to support vastly different ideologies. One side used verses to promote the abolition of slavery, while another used verses to support the continuation of the custom. Our nation at that time was caught in a political and spiritual word wrangle that led to a schism in the nation as well as the church, which led to war. This wrangling of words in many ways distracted the church from the truth, and they began to forget that even though the ancients tolerated slavery they did not promote it, instead they condemned those that regarded their slaves as less than human.
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David, and remind the church of this. The kingdom of God is at hand. It is all around us and expanding its influence, but are we distracted? Are we listening to the Spirit’s call? Are we allowing the worries of the world to entrap us and place chains on our ability to encourage? Are we living lives consumed by fears? Remember, and keep remembering! Jesus came to earth as a baby, he lived a full human life, and began to teach us how to live life with God. He gathered a group of common people from all walks of life and encouraged them to walk, watch and learn and then he sent them out to the world. He trained them in a holy rhythm of life, a life of worship, prayer, and ministry to others. He was the anointed one, the one through whom all creation would be redeemed and perfected, he is the elect one through whom all people receive the promise that was passed down through the generations. His power an influence expanded over the nation, and those who felt threatened by the words nailed him to a cross, where he died. They placed his dead body into a grave and on the third day that body was restored and glorified. Jesus Christ rose from the grave conquering our greatest fears and giving us hope.
We have hope because He lives. We face struggles in life that seem to push us down, locking us in, but the word of God will not be chained. There is hope. What seems unbearable today, what threatens to kill our spirit and lives will not be the end of the story because if he rose we will rise with him. Remember and keep remembering because if we lose faith he will have faith for us because he cannot deny himself. Remember and keep remembering, because you need hope in your fear. Remember and keep remembering because the world also needs hope that Christ really can overcome the world. Remember and keep remembering and remind them because our hope cannot be chain, it cannot be buried and it cannot be killed because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, descended from David and is the good news that we need today. Remember and keep remembering, open yourselves up to the Spirit of God and become aware of what He is doing and would like us to join Him in. Remember who you were and who you are. And let us all be instruments of the grace that gives hope for a kingdom not of this world, one that is here today and will be to the end of ages to come.