Online Bible Commentary
The Message Will Endure
2 Timothy 2:8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for 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. 11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; 13 if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (NIV)
The Apostle Paul is writing to Timothy for a second time addressing the false teaching spreading throughout the Asian churches. Timothy is helping the house churches in Ephesus at the time of this writing. Paul is giving Timothy instructions on finishing his ministry in Ephesus, since Paul wants Timothy to return to him. Paul is currently imprisoned in Rome. This imprisonment is more severe than the first, when he was under house arrest. This imprisonment leads to Paul’s execution within the year.
Paul has been emphasizing loyalty to Timothy. He wants to make sure that Timothy remains true to Paul’s gospel, the true Gospel, and not fall into the teachings of the false teachers. So, Paul begins this passage by calling on Timothy to remember his roots. He urges Timothy to remember that Jesus was raised from the dead (v. 8a) as a pattern for all Christians. All Christians will also be raised from the dead and their spirits will ascend to Heaven, to be joined with their resurrected bodies later. That is their reward for remaining faithful to the true Gospel. He also urges Timothy to remember that Jesus came from the line of David (v. 8b), one that was loyal and faithful to the end. By recalling David, Paul likely is encouraging Timothy to be steadfast in his faith, as was David.
It is this gospel, the true Gospel, Paul’s gospel, for which Paul is “suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal” (v.9a). The word translated “criminal” is the Greek word “kakourgos”, a form of the word “kakos” which means “evil”. It was a term reserved for the most hardened criminals. In using this word, Paul shows how offended, and wronged, that he is. He is wronged so greatly, just for teaching the word of God. But he fights back, writing that they may be able to chain him but they can not chain the Gospel (v. 9b). God’s word can never be restrained. Evil men may restrain the messenger, but they will never restrain the message.
Because the message will never be restrained, Paul will persevere, enduring incredible suffering for the sake of God’s people, Christians (v. 10a). He will endure so that they “may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (v. 10b). The stakes are high. The fate of souls hangs in the balance.
The remainder of this passage is a “trustworthy saying” (v. 11a). This is the fifth of five trustworthy sayings throughout the Pastoral Epistles (1Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus). These are sayings of theological importance. The previous four were 1Ti 1:15, 3:1, 4:9, and Titus 3:8. This is the fifth because the book of Titus was written prior to 2 Timothy, even though it follows 2 Timothy in the Bible. Paul’s writings are ordered by the length of the book, not the chronological order.
This “trustworthy saying” is in the form of a poem, or hymn. It is composed of four conditional statements that serve to summarize the previous verses in this passage. If we endure in His teachings, we will be raised from the dead, as was Christ (v. 11b). If we endure in His teachings, we will reign with Christ in Heaven, and in His reign upon the earth (v. 12a). If we depart from His teachings, He will depart from us (v. 12b). In other words, if we decide we do not want the Lord to be in charge of our lives, He will leave us to our own devices. If we harden our hearts toward Him, He will allow us to go our own way. This is the way to Hell. The fourth conditional statement is if we depart from His teachings, He will still remain faithful to His teachings, to Himself (v. 13a). He is who He is. He never changes. He can not be something that He is not. He loves us, but the character of God, His mercy, grace, and justice, will never change. He “cannot disown Himself” (v. 13b).
So, with these four conditional statements Paul remains faithful to the message to Timothy, and God’s people. That message is to remain loyal to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not to follow false teaching. False teaching is prevalent in churches and denominations today just as it was in the first century New Testament churches in Asia. The only thing that has changed is the nature of the false teaching.
The false teaching of today is designed to accept sin as the fabric of the church. We all are sinners, even Christians. However, the Gospel teaches that sin is not to be accepted, or taught as acceptable, by the church. Sin should always be fought by the church, never to be accepted. Sin is to be repented, renounced, by Christians, not to be paraded as an acceptable lifestyle. The church is to help people refrain from sin, not to support them, or embrace them, in their sin.
This is the false teaching of today. It is to be fought, just as Paul did from a prison cell in Rome. The Gospel is worth it. It is worth saving. And it will be. This false teaching will pass, just as that of Paul’s day. The message will endure, even if the messenger is restrained. We have God’s word on that.