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The Prisoner's Confidence

By Mark R. Rushdoony
August 01, 1999
Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:6-12)

Paul predicates these statements on the joy he has in Timothy. The history of God's grace in Timothy's life and those of his mother and grandmother (vv. 4-5) must cause Timothy "stir up" or develop this grace, especially as it relates to his ministry.

Paul is speaking of Timothy's ordination to the ministry when he refers to the laying on of hands. This was a carryover from ancient (and then current) Hebrew practice. Paul himself had laid hands on Timothy at his ordination. It was therefore an act that had a great deal of personal meaning for Paul, as Timothy certainly knew. This ceremony was a solemn act of consecration. The sign itself did not convey grace merely by its performance but rather represented the grace of God in making a man a minister of the divine message. The ceremony represented an outward acknowledgement of God's grace in the life and ministry of his faithful messenger. Timothy's job was to "stir up" that grace.

God has not given us the spirit of fear, Paul says. Then as now, there was every human reason for a minister to fear. Timothy was reading a letter from his spiritual father and mentor who was imprisoned and awaiting his appeal to the emperor.

When Paul said to stir up the gift of God, he was urging Timothy to give evidence of the gifts. He could not do this if he allowed himself to be controlled by fear. The opposite of fear is power. He was telling Timothy to engage his duties with strength of purpose, secure in the strength of God's Spirit. This power must be balanced by love and a sound mind. This balance distinguishes godly strength from foolhardiness masquerading as courage.

There is a tendency in all ages to yield to conventional thinking. But the conventional thinking Timothy was confronted with was that the gospel of Jesus Christ was for those who chose to put themselves on the fringe of society. It went against the prevailing Greek philosophy of the day and was not really protected by Roman law. Paul tells Timothy in verse 8 not to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. Going back to Paul's comments about the spirit of power (v.7), we can see that Paul is saying that if your ministry is in the spirit of power rather than fear, you will not be so concerned about man's opinion that you will fear to give an unpopular message. The world will often show its contempt for Christ and His gospel; it requires courage to confess openly what men despise.

Paul adds "nor of me his prisoner." There were, no doubt, those within the church who advised Timothy that making known his association with Paul could be a dangerous thing, given the apostle's long imprisonment at Romans hands. Outside the church there were those who probably suggested that Timothy would soon find himself in Paul's situation. Paul invited the young minister to be "partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God." He was telling Timothy to accept such afflictions, for to avoid them was tantamount to hiding in shame from the implications of the gospel message as it confronted sinners. We cannot always have a message of sweetness and light; sooner or later the gospel must confront men with the uncomfortable message that they are sinners. Paul had even more to deal with than a few angry pew-warmers — he had the anger of the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem and the arbitrariness of a state that saw itself as sovereign. Thus, he advises Timothy that he needs "the power of God" in order to endure.

Paul knows why he is not ashamed of the gospel; God "saved us, and called us with an holy calling." Christ secured our salvation in His death but it becomes ours through the gospel. If he was ashamed of the message he would be ashamed of the salvation it announces and the Savior it proclaims. Paul attributes his eternal salvation solely to the election and grace of God in Jesus Christ. If Timothy is to do likewise he must preach the gospel with confidence and strength of purpose.

God's "own purpose" was made manifest by the "appearing" or incarnation of Jesus Christ. Christ's atoning death was not some divine afterthought or "plan B" as dispensationalism teaches. Christ was the manifestation of God's eternal purpose at the time of His choosing. He "abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." The only way in which the benefits of Christ's work can be communicated to men is through that gospel. To be ashamed of the "testimony of our Lord," the gospel, is thus to be ashamed of God's "own purpose and grace." Timothy's responsibility was to preach the gospel with the spirit of power. To fail in this was to fail in his most basic obligation.

Paul again brings in his own apostleship. It is easy to feel Paul plays this "trump card" too often. But it is important to realize that even with Paul's teaching and epistles, error abounded in the early church, and from Paul's own writings we see the hostility and opposition he acknowledged. Paul's comments about his apostleship were to assert the authority of his message and the purity of the gospel he urged. As a herald he proclaimed the kings decrees, as a teacher he speaks with authority to his pupils in the Faith.

Paul suffered for the gospel of Jesus Christ (v. 12). Yet he adds that he was not ashamed. Imprisoned without charges, and sent to Rome to await the whim of the emperor, Paul is unashamed. He knows the cause of his imprisonment was his stand for the gospel, especially its message to the Gentiles. Far from being ashamed, Paul knew his imprisonment was for obedience to Christ's call. Neither was Paul discouraged, and his encouragement to Timothy was to think likewise.

"For I know whom I have believed," Paul writes. This is the confidence we have when the world would have us be "ashamed of the testimony of our Lord." Paul's faith was great, but he also knew — he understood the implications of his faith. If our faith is combined with an understanding of its scope and it implications it will be strong so that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 16:18). Paul, remember, was not theorizing; he was under arrest in Rome and writing his final epistle. Paul had committed his soul to God and was confident in His promise. Our eternity is in God's hands; we must act and speak as though we believe our times are also.


Topics: New Testament History, Church, The

Mark R. Rushdoony

Mark R. Rushdoony graduated from Los Angeles Baptist College (now The Master’s College) with a B.A. in history in 1975 and was ordained to the ministry in 1995.

He taught junior and senior high classes in history, Bible, civics and economics at a Christian school in Virginia for three years before joining the staff of Chalcedon in 1978. He was the Director of Chalcedon Christian School for 14 years while teaching full time. He also helped tutor all of his children through high school.

In 1998 he became the President of Chalcedon and Ross House Books, and, more recently another publishing arm, Storehouse Press. Chalcedon and its subsidiaries publish many titles plus CDs, mp3s, and an extensive online archive at www.chalcedon.edu

He has written scores of articles for Chalcedon’s publications, both the Chalcedon Report and Faith for all of Life. He was a contributing author to The Great Christian Revolution (1991). He has spoken at numerous conferences and churches in the U.S. and abroad.

Mark Rushdoony lives in Vallecito, California, his home of 40 years with his wife of 42 years and his youngest son. He has three married children and nine grandchildren.

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