I have been taking part in a pericope study group with area pastors at Lenior Rhyne University. It has been very enjoyable and fruitful for study and sermon preparation. We take turns preparing short papers on the appointed lessons. Here is a bit from my work on the epistle lesson for 20 Pentecost, Series C, 2 Timothy 2: 1-13.
Paul goes on to point out to Timothy that the office he holds, the ministry of preaching and teaching the Gospel, is one of struggle and suffering and toil. He presents three pictures of that office to his young charge: soldier, athlete and farmer. Note that while there is a different emphasis in each image, central to all of them is struggle and labor and great effort. A soldier is faithful to the one who enlisted him, throwing all other concerns aside. An athlete is disciplined, competing “vomimws”, lawfully, according to the rules, adhering to the pattern of sound words given to him and exhibiting that godly life called forth by the Holy Spirit through that same Gospel. It is only the hardworking farmer who can expect the rewards and results of the harvest.
Central to Paul’s message to Timothy is the expectation of suffering. “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” he says. And he then lifts up his own situation as a pattern for Timothy. Paul is suffering for the gospel of the risen Jesus Christ. He is in chained and bound yet that very Gospel for which he is suffering is not bound. That good deposit which he has given to Timothy brings with it suffering, imprisonment and persecution but it cannot be hindered. The circumstances of the preacher do not affect the course of the Gospel. We may be down hearted, discouraged, convinced of our failure, yet the Word triumphs still. While Paul is shackled, the message is not. Paul endures all things for the sake of the salvation of the elect so that they may obtain eternal glory. The preacher is a type of Christ who suffers so that the faithful may obtain salvation. He is not the Christ (his sufferings are not meritorious) but he follows in the footsteps of Christ. His life reflects that crucified life of the One whose death and resurrection is the one final sacrifice.