2 Timothy 2:8-13 (21st Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
October 13, 2013
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is from today’s Epistle lesson recorded in 2 Timothy 2:
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for: 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 also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.
One of my most loved prayers is the Collect for the Church. Please pray with me as I speak this prayer now. “Almighty God, grant to your Church Your Holy Spirit and the wisdom that comes down from above, that Your Word may not be bound but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people, that in steadfast faith we may serve You and, in the confession of Your name, abide unto the end; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
This is a beautiful prayer that summarizes so well our text from 2 Timothy 2 this morning. The Word of God is not bound. It is not chained up or imprisoned. The early church father Chrysostom wrote, “Just as it is not possible to bind a sunbeam or to shut it up within the house, so neither can the preaching of the Word be bound. . . . The Word [is] sending forth its rays.” As God spoke through His prophet Isaiah, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isa. 55:10-11 ESV) Therefore, the writer to the Hebrews declares the Word of God to be “living and active.” (Heb. 4:12) The Word of God is not bound in order that we might obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The Word is free and goes on winning souls for salvation.
And it is a good thing it does. Because, you and I live in between two extremes. On the one hand, there is death in the past. On the other hand, there is life in the future. What lies in between? The present time of endurance in which we need the Word of God and the salvation that is in Jesus Christ.
This time of endurance stands between death and life. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Maybe I can put it this way. This time of endurance stands between the death and resurrection of Jesus and our subsequent death and resurrection in Baptism, and the Second Coming of Christ and our bodily resurrection to eternal glory. Let’s unpack this a little more.
Paul begins this section of our text exhorting Timothy (and us), “Remember Jesus Christ who stands raised from the dead.” This is Paul’s shorthand for saying that Jesus, who is risen from the dead, is the very One who suffered and died on the cross in our place to win our forgiveness and eternal life, and to rescue us from eternal death and the power of the devil. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s everlasting seal on the work Jesus accomplished on the cross for us by suffering, bleeding, and dying for our sins. God fully and completely accepted His death for us as winning our forgiveness and life, and God proved that acceptance by raising Jesus from the dead.
This present time of endurance has its very root and foundation in the cross and resurrection of Christ. And in order to bring Jesus’ cross and resurrection to us personally, uniting us and joining us directly to Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection, we had to die with Christ so that we might live with Him. So our death with Christ occurred in the waters of Holy Baptism. This is what the Word of God tells us in Romans 6, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” But we are not simply united to Christ in His death for us, but also in His resurrection. Paul continues by the power of the Holy Spirit, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom 6:3-5 ESV)
By Baptism you and I have been made to share in Christ’s death and resurrection. As He has buried our sin, so we too can and must daily overcome and bury it. And as Jesus is risen from the dead and lives, so we too can and must daily live a new life in Him. So you see, Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection places us squarely in this time of enduring where we, as the baptized children of God in Christ must by daily sorrow and repentance drown the sinful nature in us along with all sins and evil desires, with the result that the new person of faith should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
This is where we are at today in our lives of faith. We have died to sin. We have risen again to the new life of faith in Jesus. We are looking forward to “the life of the world to come” where we will reign forever with our Lord Jesus in His everlasting kingdom of glory. “If we endure, we will also reign with him.” That’s Jesus’ promise, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)
“Endurance” suggests that what we go through to reach a certain point is not particularly easy. Those who are long-distance runners have to endure a lot of sweat and pain and work to get to the finish line. They have to “hold out” until the end, not giving up. They press on no matter what. The writer to the Hebrews compares this time for us to a “race” and encourages us to run it with endurance, holding out to the very end, resisting the urges to quit. (Heb. 12:1)
And are there not plenty of those? “Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.” (1Peter 5:8 NET) That someone is you and me, the people of faith. He is constantly working to lure us away from God and His ways. The devil, along with the world and our sinful nature try to mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great sins. Add to that the suffering that we face because we live in a world totally messed up by sin and its consequences, the suffering we must endure because of unseasonable weather, disease, violence, and accidents. Add to that the suffering that we must hold out through because of our faith in Jesus, the subtle and not so subtle persecutions that we and other Christians go through day to day, the verbal, emotional, or physical abuse that we might suffer because we confess Christ.
To endure is not easy. To endure is not always pleasant. To endure means suffering, heartache, pain, loss of friends and family. To endure means taking up our cross and following Christ by faith. Because that is where the ability to endure comes from. Jesus, who claimed us as His own in the waters of Baptism, with whom we died and rose again, is the very One who gives us the ability and the power and the stamina to endure. Our capacity to hold out until the end, to run the entire race of faith, comes from the gift of faith which God gave us in Baptism and which He strengthens daily through the Word of God!
Remember? The Word of God is not bound. It is not imprisoned or inaccessible to us. No, God sends it forth to each of us in order to strengthen our faith and provide us the assurance of His love and grace, and to offer, give, and seal our forgiveness and everlasting life won for us by Jesus’ cross and resurrection.
God is faithful to us in Jesus Christ. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1Cor. 1:9) “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1Cor 10:13) The Lord sends forth His Word to us in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the [person] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2Tim. 3:16-17) In His Word we read and hear the Gospel that gives us forgiveness and life, and assures us of victory. We have the comforting words of Jesus, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. . . . Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Also, “Blessed is the [person] who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
Because we are united to the death and resurrection of Jesus by Baptism, we can, in the assurance of faith, “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:3 ESV) Because of Christ, we can endure the trials and the temptations because Christ gives us the ability to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, [and] be constant in prayer.” (Rom. 12:12 ESV) We don’t run this race of endurance alone or by our own strength. Christ runs with us as we run with the endurance that comes through faith in Christ. It is His gift to us through His Word.
Because we belong to Christ, united to Him in His death and resurrection through Baptism, when He comes again or calls us home, along with St. Paul we will be able to say with all confidence, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2Tim 4:7) This will be our confession because God’s Word has not been bound but has had free course and been preached to the joy and edifying of you and me, Christ’s holy people. In that day let it be said that we have served the Lord in faith, and, in the confession of His name, have endured unto the end. Amen.