“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14, 15).
“Do your best to come to me quickly ” (2 Timothy 4:9).
These words Ð written by Paul in the closing time of his life Ð were addressed to Timothy.
Paul had earlier written to the congregation in Philippi that he looked forward to dying. Then he would see the Lord and have some of his unanswered questions answered. At the same time, Paul was concerned about the church on this earth and anxious to leave his work in good hands that the gospel might reach those who had never heard of Christ and His saving work.
In our text, Paul wants to have one more talk with Timothy before he is martyred. Timothy was a faithful assistant to Paul. However, he was lacking in some things. John Stott, the English clergyman described Timothy as “young in years, frail in physique, and retiring in personality.” He was shy and an introvert. But Timothy knew the Lord. The Holy Spirit, who had empowered Timothy to receive Christ as his Savior, would empower Timothy to be a faithful witness, even though Paul would no longer be around to guide and encourage him.
Timothy had known the Lord Jesus from his youth. He had a mother and a grand-mother who trusted Christ as their Savior, and they shared this faith with Timothy (1:5). While Timothy’s father was not a Christian, Paul tells us that Timothy had been introduced to Jesus in his home, and the young man’s knowledge of the Lord Jesus impressed him.
When St. Paul visited Timothy’s home some years later and saw how the young man had matured in his Christian faith, he invited him to accompany him and Silas on their missionary journey.
Before they left, Paul circumcised Timothy. He did this because of the Jewish population who lived in that area. Experience taught Paul that the Jews would be more accepting of Timothy if he was considered one of them.
Some believe that this ceremony of circumcision was also an ordination service for Timothy where he was set aside to be a preacher and teacher of God’s Word.
During the next years, Timothy had the privilege of being taught by Paul. He saw what it meant to be a servant of Christ. When Paul felt Timothy was ready for greater responsibilities in building God’s Kingdom, he left him in Ephesus to be their spiritual leader.
Timothy’s growth in the faith shows the Holy Spirit at work in a person’s life. It can give us a picture of what it means to live in our baptismal covenant. Parents come to the font with their child in arms. God establishes a covenant with the child and grants them the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is a solemn moment. It is the beginning of a personal relationship between Christ and this child. But baptism is only the beginning. The child is to be fed the Word of God by his parents and congregation until the day comes when he confesses his faith in Christ.
My baptismal certificate hangs in my study where I am preparing this sermon. When I was a child, it hung over my bed, and my parents would often remind me that this was my spiritual birth certificate. They took the pastor’s words seriously at the time of my baptism. Those words told them to take me home and introduce me to the Savior through the years by reading the Scriptures in our home, teaching me to pray, and bringing me to church and Sunday school each Sunday. Their faithfulness was their greatest gift to me.
Through my high school and college years, I asked myself what God wanted me to do with my life. While attending a Bible camp, one of our teachers asked me if I had ever considered becoming a minister. It was the farthest thought from my mind. Me? A minister?
From that day on, I prayed about it. Although I had no great emotional experiences, I gradually felt God’s leading hands. Then came the day when I was ordained as a pastor in the Lutheran Church. From that day to this, it has been my opportunity to bring the good news of salvation to thousands of people.
Several of my high school friends went to work in a paper mill and became active members of our church. Who knows how many they have led to Christ?
God can use us wherever life leads us.
I will never forget one day in my theological education. A great professor, Dr. George Aus, finished his last lecture with the words, “Hold high the cross.” And then as he left the classroom our teacher turned and said, “Carry on men, carry on. There are millions who need to hear of our Father’s love for them.”
I believe that, on the last day they were together, St. Paul looked up from his dungeon cell and said to Timothy, Carry on, Timothy, carry on. There are many who need to hear this Gospel.
Timothy was that faithful servant.