Sermon on 2 Timothy 2:8-13: Paul’s “Three Points and a Poem”

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The following sermon, preached on October 9th, 2016, speaks into Paul’s Gospel, and how he lays it out for Timothy, and for us. Please click the play button on the audio widget below to listen to the sermon.

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The text follows below.

(Note concerning the sermon text: the sermon text reflects the actual manuscript and was written to be spoken colloquially, not academically. It may contain grammatical errors such as run-on sentences, or special notation, etc. Thank you for your understanding.)
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2 Timothy 2:8 says,

“8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
11Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; 13if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

OK. This morning we are talking about the Gospel as we learn about it, here from 2 Timothy. Of course we can all read the fourfold Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but we can also read about the Gospel in different ways, like from Paul, here in 2 Timothy. And this is important for all of us, because what Paul does in his letters, is situate the Gospel within theology to help us understand the Gospel even more. And it’s always better when we can understand the Gospel in deeper ways. So that’s what we’re talking about this morning, same as our passage; knowing the Gospel in deeper ways from 2 Timothy as Paul says it—and not just with the head, by the way, but necessarily with the heart, and it is, of course, the Spirit, who works a deeper understanding of the Gospel in us.

OK so here we are, in the middle of Second Timothy Chapter 2, and Paul starts off by making a sermon easy for us. What do I mean? Well Paul lets us know that “my Gospel” has three critical factors. I’m referencing verse 8, where Paul says, “my Gospel.” Verse 8 contains three critical factors. So, what we’re going to do is focus on these three critical factors. What are they? Factor number 1: Jesus Christ. Remember Jesus Christ, Paul says first. And well this factor is basically, a given right, or you could say that Jesus Christ, is a point all to himself. So that’s point number 1. Factor Number 2: Jesus Christ raised from dead. Jesus being raised from the dead is critical to Paul’s Gospel. And we’ll spend a lot of time on this point. And, lastly, Number 3: Jesus Christ descended from David [x2? “this is my gospel”]. And so, with these three points or factors, Paul is saying, this is my gospel, this is, the Gospel, so we, too, are going to focus on these three things this morning, The Gospel in 2 Timothy.

Now, to start us off, we need to know a little bit about the context of this Scripture, or any Scripture for that matter. Why are we reading about these three factors of the Gospel to begin with, and why is that itself important? Well, as it turns out, this letter situates Paul at the end of his life. Paul has been imprisoned by the Roman Empire, and was now literally in chains for the Gospel, like a criminal—says verse 9—so, Paul is seeking to strengthen and encourage Timothy, for him to work in the Church as a leader. So the first thing Paul does here, is emphasize the Gospel: “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel” (v.8). And so, Paul breaks down the Gospel into these three points, because they are the extremely important points of the Gospel, and Paul, at the end of his life, must pass on the critical factors of his Gospel, and continue declare the good news of Jesus Christ through Timothy, so that, eventually, one day, even all of us today here right now, know this very Gospel, and we are saved by God through Christ. So that’s why it’s important here and for all of us.

Ok so that’s a bit about the context, let’s talk about Gospel factor number one, Jesus Christ. Well, to start us off on this point, I have some sad news. I believe that today, in our American Christianity at large, we have largely lost sight of factor number 1, the true person of Jesus, and who Jesus really was. This is a problem. Here’s a story about this. I remember growing up, I had a certain friend who was with me all throughout Sunday School, for many, many years. We grew up in the Church together, and one day we were at a service, and the pastor was talking about how, in the Gospel, Pilate placed a sign above a Jesus when he was being crucified, writing there “King of the Jews,” in John 19:21. Well, Suddenly a look of realization washed over my friend’s face, as if the very light of eternal truth had dawned on him. He looked up and said to me and all of our group of friends: “I get it now. I just realized something that I never realized before! Jesus was a Jewish person. King of the Jews! Now it all makes sense. Jesus was a Jew!” XD. And we all thought this was pretty funny and we gave him a hard time after that, because it is common knowledge in Scripture, that yes, Jesus was and is a Jewish person, a descendent of David in fact, point #3, but more on that later. But, you know, upon reflection, people don’t actually think about Jesus as he really is in Scripture… instead we use our own conception of who we think Jesus is, and this is a problem. And yes, I myself have a confession to make. Growing up, I always thought that Jesus was a caucasian person—Yes, I have seen the paintings. Jesus was a white man with a nice trimmed beard, trimmed much nicer than mine, of course, with blue eyes, or blue contact lenses at least, and he always wearing a white robe with a blue sash, and don’t forget designer sandals. This was the picture of Jesus for me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, this is Jesus still for many of us.

Well, point number one, Jesus was not white, beautiful, or rich. Jesus was actually a poor, peasant, Jewish person. And I’m not trying to offend anybody when I say these things of course—I’ve noticed that sometimes people get offended by this, when we start calling Jesus what Scripture says he is, a poor peasant—but this is the necessary truth of the Gospel. Jesus was poor; Jesus was born in a manger, Luke chapter 2. He was born in a stable, surrounded by farm animals. Jesus, even from birth, is not rich, and he never became, a rich, privileged person. So Paul is saying, that this poor Jewish peasant man is the one person that Paul (also Jewish, by the way) has been beaten, imprisoned, and is facing death for—and this is all because of point #2. Factor number 2. Factor #2 tells us that this poor person, remember Jesus, was much more—…that he was, in fact, the very Son of God, poor though he was. So right now we’re going shift, and begin to talk about factor #2, Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.

So let’s talk about #2, Jesus Christ raised from the dead. Well first let me tell you something interesting about celebrating Christ raised from dead, aka Easter. In the book titled “Storytelling: Imagination and Faith,” author William J. Bausch, writes: “In the Greek Orthodox tradition [of Christianity], the day after Easter was devoted to telling jokes. . . .[Cool! The day after Easter is joke day! The jokes were meant to imitate] the cosmic joke that God pulled on Satan in the Resurrection. Satan thought he had won, and was smug in his victory, smiling to himself, having the last word [with the death of Christ]. So he thought. [But] then God raised Jesus from the dead, and life and salvation became the last words.” =]. Jokes on you, Satan, because Christ is raised from dead, Amen?

So this is point #2 in verse 8. And because there really is a lot more to it than simply telling jokes, good though jokes may be, Paul goes on to explain point #2 largely with a “trustworthy saying” in verse 11. Verses 11 through 13, the end of our passage, is a “trustworthy saying,” and its function is to emphasize especially this point #2, Christ raised from dead. So right now I am going to talk about this trustworthy saying in order to explain point #2, Christ raised from the dead.

OK, so, Verse 11, the trustworthy saying, “If we died with him, we will also live with him”— see how Christ being raised informs this saying already. Paul, here, is actually talking about baptism, believe it or not. Baptism! Baptism, is extremely connected to Christ being raised from the dead. In fact, Paul is talking about here, what he says in the book Romans, quote “We were . . . buried with him [Christ] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” End quote, Romans 6:4. So here in Second Timothy, Paul is saying what he says in Romans, that baptism, having been buried with Christ; under the baptismal water—and then being raised up out of the grave, where Jesus was, out of the water, and into the new resurrection life of Christ—into the life of the Church, as it were, this is what it means to live for God, or to live with him, as our trustworthy saying is saying. It’s not that baptism saves us, it’s that baptism transforms us, by God’s grace, into the people who live now, presently, in the body of Christ, to and for God. So this is very important, to point #2.

OK, now, after this, and these build on each other, the next verse, verse 12, says, “if we endure we will also reign,” verse 12, meaning that, even as Christ reigns, now that he has been raised (point #2), and us too with him in baptism, so will we reign, if we have the Holy Spirit in us, because then we are living in His same resurrection-reigning life right now, so that’s the logic. If we live like Christ, being buried like Christ, we will reign like Christ. And by the way, that’s why it says next, “If we disown him, he will also disown us;” this is just saying the same thing—only more starkly, “if we endure we will also reign”…but if we do not endure, in other words we disown him, we will not reign. So, again all of this, coming from Christ raised from dead, point #2.

Next, verse 13 says, “13if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself,” meaning that, even if we give up on God—if we are struggling and we lose our faith, and we are faithless, in this journey—God will still be God, and point #2, Christ was raised from the dead. Even if we lose our faith, God will not give up on us; God will never give up on us, God never gives up! BUT, God will not force us to love him, if we do not endure or disown him, because love cannot be forced. God never gives up, because Christ, was raised from the dead, and God gets the last word, so God can’t disown himself, but as Paul says, “If we disown him, he will also disown us.”

So all this is point #2, Jesus Christ raised from the dead. It is a huge point, and it is really too much to talk about all at once even though that’s what I have been trying to do, and I think that’s why Paul gives us a shorter, “trustworthy saying.” There is just so much to it, that Paul gives us a guide in a saying format.

OK, Well, we’ve talked about Jesus Christ, we’ve talked a lot about Jesus raised from the dead, using our trustworthy saying, and we’ve come to our last point here, factor #3, which is Jesus Christ descended from David—this is my gospel. Let’s talk about it.

Does anybody like to read the genealogies in the Bible? Your faces betray you. They tell me just how much you enjoy, you know: He was the father of him, father of him, father of him…or… he begat him begat him begat him begat him, you know, it just goes on and on! Check out first Chronicles chapter 1, you’ll find a genealogy that goes on for 10 chapters! We always memorize John 3:16 but why don’t we memorize the genealogies, right? 
 Jesus Christ descended from David is a very important factor that Paul gives us. But what does it mean? Well the 100% human Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, of course, was not the Son of Joseph, Mary’s fiancé-husband but rather, Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is 100% human, yes, and 100% divine, so, What are we talking about Jesus, when Paul says, “Descended from David?” Well, in the ancient world of 1st century Judaism, when Jesus was born, and in the tradition of the Hebrew people, the first born son has all the claims of inheritance to his father’s property, or lineage, you might say. And who was Jesus’s Father? Well, God, but, who was Jesus’ “legal father” on Earth? It was Joseph. Take a look at Matthew chapter 1. You will find there, in Matthew chapter 1, a genealogy of Jesus, that Joseph is descended from Abraham, and David, all the way to being married to Mary, who gave birth to Jesus. So in fact, we learn, in Matthew 1:1–17, the genealogy of Jesus, that the first born legal son to Joseph and Mary, inherit the lineage of Abraham, and King David. Jesus Christ descended from David.

Now, the point is that this Jesus is the one who fulfills the story of Old Testament Israel, and King David, and literally inherits the prophecy of God promising that a descendant of David would rule forever. Jesus is the one, raised from the dead, descended from David, who is, truly, the coming king, and He is the king even, of course, over death, when he defeated death by His being raised from the dead by the power of God.

And I want to begin to come to a close this morning, now that we’ve covered our three points, and just mention one thing that I have not mentioned yet. Paul says, he “endure[s] everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory,” v. 10, and what’s he talking about? who are these elect? Well, the elect are the people who have a saving faith in Christ that God enabled them to have, by the power of His Spirit. When Paul’s Gospel is declared, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with three points—three points and a poem—this communication of the Gospel is what God uses to work in the hearts and minds of people, to bring them to Christ. That’s Paul is passing this along at the end of his life—the Gospel is the power of salvation, it’s God’s power—and we don’t know how the message of the Gospel is the tool that the Spirit uses for people to come to God, but it is just what happens, and why Jesus tells us to go and make disciples. The most important thing in this life, in our life—why Paul is chained up, and saying what he is saying, is the Gospel, because it is the power of salvation. And you know, if you are feeling the Spirit leading you this morning, through the power of God, come to Jesus, and if you already know the Lord, come even more to Jesus, that is why Paul is doing all of this, that we too “may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”