St. Lukeís Evangelical Lutheran Church -- Watertown, WI
Pastor Mark Gartner
Sermon for Pentecost 21, October 21st and 24th, 2004
2 Timothy 2:8-13
8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But Godís 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.
12if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us;
Dear children of God. Amen
This past week I read in the paper that the inventor of the alkaline battery died. It got me thinking about what life must of been like before this invention. We have all seen the commercials for the Energizer bunny that keeps going and going and going, We have all used enough batteries in our life to appreciate how wonderful this invention really is. We can actually power things like flashlights and games without electricity. All that power contained in little tiny battery.
As we look to this portion of Godís Word we are also looking at something that seems so small, yet is filled with more power than we could every imagine. This text is talking about the power of Godís gospel. The message of Jesus and his life and death for our forgiveness. God is the one who has given his gospel and much like the energizer bunny, it keeps going and going and going. That is why the theme for today is
Sermon Theme: The Remarkable Gospel of Jesus Christ
1. It promises eternal life to all who believe
2. It spreads in spite of opposition
3. It deserves our total dedication
If I was going to summarize the theme for this Sunday it would be talking about perseverance. God is encouraging Timothy and the Apostle Paul through his powerful and encouraging gospel message. Paul at this time was writing to Timothy from prison. This was not his house arrest imprisonment which was not as severe, but this was his imprisonment in the prisons of Rome that most likely was jut before he died. Amongst all this doom and gloom, we see the apostle Paul reminding Timothy and us why we can keep going even in the face of all kinds of trouble. Listen to Paulís first words of encouragement, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David." At first glance we might be saying to ourselves, "Well this sounds pretty obvious, why doesnítí he tell me something I donít already know."
But Paul knows, however, that in the stress of life on earth and even in the troubles we might face as Christians it is all too easy to forget Jesus Christ. Christians need to be encouraged to have Jesus and his saving work in mind continually. Christianity is a religion of "remembering!" And, remembering Jesus is the prime motive for perseverance in our Christian lives, especially in time of opposition. As we look at this verse did you notice what phrase was included? Paul highlights the fact that Jesus was "raised from the dead." Implied in this phrase, of course, is the work of Jesus on the cross. But the resurrection assures us that our sins are paid for and we are forgiven. It guarantees that Jesus has saved us! Romans 4:25 says, "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." For this reason Paul regularly puts the resurrection of Jesus in the spotlight
Paul also refers to Jesus as "descended from David." This seems like an odd statement when we are talking about finding comfort and strength. This statement however has a big purpose. It reminds us that Jesus is the promised Messiah who rules eternally on the throne of David in keeping with Old Testament prophecy. It is the perfect Savior that was true man and true God that came and won the victory over sin and death.
Paul makes it very clear why he is in prison, "This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal." As I said before, Paulís second imprisonment in Rome is different from his first imprisonment. During his first imprisonment he lived in a rented house and enjoyed a measure of freedom. This time he is "chained like a criminal." From Paulís perspective, at any rate, it is for the sake of the gospel that he is suffering. Later in this letter Paul says, "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted".
Notice, too, what Paulís gospel is. It is the good news of Jesus, raised from the dead, descended from David. It is not the "power of positive thinking" or "Ten Principles for a Better Life." The example of Paul should lead us to examine our willingness to make sacrifices for the gospel. Would we be willing to be "chained like a criminal" for Christ? Do the examples of Godís people of old inspire us to be willing to give everything for the sake of the gospel?
2. It spreads in spite of opposition
Paul was in prison, but he wanted everyone that heard his message to remember that this doesnít mean the end of Godís Word, "But Godís Word is not chained." This little statement says much about the power of Godís Word. God will see to it that his Word does its work in spite of human opposition! Paul may have a ball and chain on his leg, but the message of Jesus is off and running. We need not become discouraged when it looks bleak for Christianity. Godís Word is still at work. No human power can stop it.
But why would we want to follow the gospel and preach the gospel, if it leads to some terrible things in our lives. Paul tells us why, "Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory." The elect in Bible terminology include those already converted and those yet to be converted according to Godís plan.
Concern for peopleís salvation is for Paul another motive for perseverance in Christian ministry. He has the eyes of Jesus toward the lost.. He has a love for the lost that moves him to be a slave to everyone and to become all things to all men.. He is more concerned with evangelizing the world than with his own personal comfort, safety or wealth. Paul knows that people need to hear Godís Word in order to obtain eternal salvation in Christ Jesus. Paul knows that the preaching of Godís Word brings persecution for the preacher. His sufferings, therefore, result in salvation for others simply because they accompany the preaching of the Word.
The questions for us might be. How are we at persevering when it comes to making sure that all people have a chance to hear Godís Word? Can it be said of us that we would endure everything for the sake of the elect? Or, are we likely to be cool toward mission work when there is a personal cost or sacrifice? Are we eager to do whatever it takes to make sure that the remarkable gospel is preached into all the world, or are we a little more concerned with how we are doing?
3. It deserves our total dedication
This leads us into the final part of Paulís words. It reminds us once gain we dedicate our lives to Jesus and his work, Paul starts this section with some simple words, "here is a trustworthy saying:" This statement is used by Paul to highlight some important, reliable truth . He follows this little phrase with four important truths. Some think that these words might have been part of hymn that was sung during times of persecution. Whatever the background, the message is very clear.
The first two phrases kind of fit together, "If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him." The thought in these two phrases are almost the same. The believer in Jesus who continues in faith to the end will receive eternal glory . Our conversion and baptism have so linked us with Jesus that we have shared in his death and resurrection. We have died to the old life of sin. We have been raised to a new life of forgiveness and godliness . This life exists already on earth for us and will continue eternally.
The next set of words are a little more harsh, "If we disown him, he will also disown us." The warning is clear. If in time of persecution or hardship we deny that we are believers in Jesus or in any other way abandon him, and if we continue in such unbelief, we will be lost eternally. This warning has its place for Christians under pressure. If we are tempted to give up our faith, remember the eternal consequences! Heaven or hell for all eternity is at stake. The salvation of our own souls, therefore, is also a motive for persevering in faithful Christian ministry and in our lives as children of God.
But Paul closes this section with a reminder how wonderful Godís gospel is. We know that we sin and fall short of what God wants, and we know that many people just plainly donít want to believe, but this doesnít nullify Godís love, "if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself." The thought is this: If we donít believe, Godís gracious forgiveness in Christ is still real and reliable. Our unbelief does not undo or cancel the redemptive work of Jesus. Unbelief causes a person to lose the blessings of forgiveness personally, but Godís grace is unchanging. The promise still stands and will be enjoyed by all who repent and believe. Paul in such a wonderful way takes us from comfort to warning and back to comfort. And as usual Paul ends with thoughts of Godís overflowing grace. As we live on this earth, we are witnesses to Godís wonderful gospel. While things on this earth may not work just perfect, Godís gospel will no! t change. His love will endure forever. Amen