2 Timothy 2:1-13 (Twenty-Frist Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 23—Series C)
“Endure as Good Soldiers of Christ Jesus”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
October 9, 2016
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is today’s Epistle Lesson recorded in 2 Timothy 2:
You, then, my child, be strengthened in grace, the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me through many witnesses, entrust these things to faithful men, whoever will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one who serves as a soldier becomes entangled in the affairs of everyday life in order that he should please the one who enlisted him. And if anyone competes, he is not crowned unless he competes legally. The hard-working farmer should receive the first share of the fruit. Consider well what I am saying, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, from the seed of David, according to my Gospel, in which I suffer hardship to the degree that I am bound with chains as a criminal. But the Word of God is not bound. On account of this, I endure all things for the sake of the elect, in order that they also should obtain salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The Word is faithful, for if we have died with Him we will also live with Him. If we endure with Him, we will also reign with Him. If we will deny Him, He will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He is not able to deny Himself.
The year was A.D. 68. From a dungeon in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote one last letter. He was cold and lonely, awaiting execution. He wrote, of all things, to encourage Timothy who served as a pastor in Ephesus. As one reads the two letters to Timothy, one discovers that Paul was not “a sour, old man, bemoaning his life and fearing his death—just the opposite, in fact!” Paul demonstrates a confident trust in the Savior despite everything. He is certain that, by the power of God’s grace which is his in Christ Jesus, he will endure with Christ and will reign with Christ.
In the time following the writing of 2 Timothy, Paul would continue to endure imprisonment. He was eventually beheaded in Rome because of his proclamation of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. But what else had Paul endured during his time as a “good soldier of Christ Jesus”? 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 spells it out for us: “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.” As an example, take Acts 14:19, “But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.” Or Acts 16:22-24, “The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”
Why did Paul suffer these various hardships, including being in chains in a Roman dungeon? Paul was not in chains because of what he believed, but because of what he preached. Paul suffered these hardships and imprisonment for preaching the Gospel, for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. He writes to Timothy, Paul’s spiritual son in the faith, so that Timothy would be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus so that he might endure through very same consequences for preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen from the dead. Paul doesn’t gloss over anything. “Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
What do Christians today endure as they suffer hardship as good soldiers of Christ? A quick scan around the globe highlights the suffering. According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions, including many Christians. The United States Department of State says that Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments and neighbors because they are Christians who proclaim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. “From verbal harassment to hostile feelings, attitudes and actions, Christians in areas with severe religious restrictions pay a heavy price for their faith. Beatings, physical torture, confinement, isolation, rape, severe punishment, imprisonment, slavery, discrimination in education and employment, and even death are just a few examples of the persecution they experience on a daily basis.”
According to Jesus Himself, this is to be expected. Our Lord tells us, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matt. 10:22 ESV). Here at home, your faithfulness to the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God won’t likely lead you to prison, but we ought not to discount that possibility even in this country. Sharing the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins with your neighbor probably will not result in your imprisonment and death. People are not going to hate you or persecute you or even slight you for what you believe as long as you keep it to yourself. And that, dear friends in Christ, is the problem.
You and I, like Paul, are not called upon to keep the Christian faith to ourselves. Christianity is not some sort of “secret society,” something that is “just inside us.” If it were, Paul wouldn’t have endured any of what he did, and he certainly wouldn’t have died for the faith. Nor would he have a need to write to Timothy in order that the young pastor should be strengthened in the grace of Christ so that he might endure suffering and hardship. For as long as Timothy kept his mouth shut about Jesus Christ, there wouldn’t be a problem. That, then, is the temptation for us Christians. It is a whole lot easier and perhaps a whole lot safer to keep Jesus in our hearts and out of our mouths.
If that’s the case, then we wouldn’t have to endure much of anything. We wouldn’t have to suffer hardships of any kind on account of Jesus Christ. Why? Because nobody would know. Jesus could be your best-kept secret ever. No one would make fun of you for being a Christian. No one would bad-mouth you for how you live as a Christian. How ideal! We’ll just lock the Word of the Gospel up in ourselves and live happily ever after.
But Paul says in our text, “The Word of God is not bound.” We cannot just keep it to ourselves. Even if we were to be so faithless, Jesus Christ would remain faithful. Even if we denied Him, He is not able to deny Himself. Jesus Christ is the One who died to save the whole world, even those who hate Him. Jesus is the One who rose again from the dead, who by grace gives forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation to all who receive Him by faith through the message of the Gospel. Think about the encounter of the disciples on the road to Emmaus on the first Easter evening. Jesus had died three days prior. The work of purchasing the forgiveness of sins was complete as Jesus shed His blood, suffering death and hell for us on the cross. Now Jesus is risen from the grave. He meets two disciples as they leave Jerusalem and says to them, “’Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent. So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (Lk. 24:26-32 ESV).
The Word of Christ, crucified and risen for us, burns in our hearts. It’s a message, it’s a faith, that we simply cannot keep inside of us, all to ourselves. This Word of truth about Jesus Christ the Savior is for all people. It is the power of God unto salvation even for those who, at this moment, hate the Lord Christ and His Church. It is for their sake, for the sake of those who will come to faith through our preaching of Jesus Christ, that we are empowered to endure all kinds of hardships so that they might hear, believe, and confess Jesus as Lord. The Word of God is not bound! Along with Paul and Timothy, we are strengthened by God’s grace through the Means of Grace in Word and Sacrament so that we can endure suffering for sake of the lost so that they too should obtain salvation—salvation from sin and death by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
You and I have been gifted salvation—forgiveness of sins and eternal glory with Christ. We have the Lord’s promise that He will be faithful to us. He will help us through the power of His Word and Sprit to endure to the end and so we will be saved in body and soul. We have already died with Christ. Our sins have been crucified with Christ, drowned in the waters of Holy Baptism. We have been made alive with Christ by His resurrection life also given to us in Baptism. As good soldiers of Christ Jesus, we can endure whatever the devil and the world throw at us. We will make it through the suffering, the hardships, the persecutions! Hear the Word of God through the Apostle Paul in Romans 5, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we 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. 5:1-5 ESV).
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, you are strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus this very day through God’s Word and Christ’s Sacrament of His body and blood, given and shed for you. You are strengthened to endure so that you might share the saving message of Jesus Christ with your neighbors. For that is what you are called to do as good soldiers of Christ Jesus. So onward Christian soldiers! Amen.
 Edward A. Engelbrecht, ed. Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook for Students (St. Louis: Concordia, 2011), 408.
 “What is Christian Persecution,” Open Doors, accessed October 4, 2016, https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution.
 Rev. Korey D. Maas, “Be Strengthened,” Concordia Pulpit Resources, vol. 26, part 4 (August 28-November 20, 2016 Series C): 35.