By: Raymond Harris
Contributor: Bryan Walden
Regarding Scripture: II Timothy 3.12-13
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Epistle of Second Timothy in conjunction with this article.
To Endure the Hardship
Each of our shepherds have been asked to provide some ideas as to what they find interesting and noteworthy for examination in our articles. As we continue our examination of Second Timothy, this week’s suggestion comes from our Elder, Bryan Walden. Brother Walden found several verses of interest from the third chapter. Of note were the first five verses speaking about difficult times for the pursuer of truth, and verses twelve and thirteen declaring that persecution will happen to those who live godly in Christ Jesus, and that there will be an increase of those who will deceive and who will be deceived. There is much that can be learned from this third chapter, but our Elder has asked us to focus primarily on verses twelve and thirteen.
Chapter three reveals some very interesting thoughts from Paul to Timothy, so much information that it affects the context of the first eight verses of chapter four. One of the things that Paul is doing is that he wants to make Timothy aware of difficulties that will come,1 perhaps even in Timothy’s own time period, especially when one considers Paul’s warning in chapter four regarding those who will not listen to healthy teachings from the Bible.2 Additionally, it seems that Paul believed that it would be increasingly difficult to teach from the then current Scriptures3 that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
However it appears that Paul wants to remind Timothy of several things about the Bible even though preaching and teaching would become more difficult. First, Timothy needs to be aware that those who desire to live faithfully will endure hardship.4 Second, Timothy has been associated with the Old Testament Scriptures from a very early age and that they through his faith in Jesus would make him wise to salvation.5 Third, all Scripture6 is profitable7 not just for the evangelist to preach from8 but for the church to hear.9 While each of these items are a profitable study, we will spend our time with a portion of the first item – hardship.
Hardship is not something that we prefer to think about. Now, we might consider the benign hardship like a “hardship license” because someone’s situation is such that they need assistance. But, most of the time, we do our best to avoid hardship. It is not comfortable. It is not enjoyable. If anything, it is terrible. Consequently, when Paul tells Timothy that he, like Paul himself,10 will endure suffering it should have been no shock to Timothy. But considering what Paul endured, personally, this writer has no (nor I imagine, that the reader really has any) desire to endure persecution and affliction at the hands of “evil people,” as the King James translates it. Yet, we are both told that this is exactly what is going to happen.
Persecution can come from two places: one, from those outside the faith; two, from those inside the faith. Evil knows no boundaries. But if a human has to measure the affect on the faithful, persecution from the inside has to be worse than from the outside. In a sense, one expects affliction from the outside, but not from the inside.
The difficulty of affliction is that it does not have to be limited only to enduring the physical like stoning, hunger, or thirst. One can also be afflicted emotionally. Consider this statement from Paul, “I persecuted this way [believers and followers of Jesus] unto death, binding and delivering into prisoners both men and women.”11 Paul publicly admitted to tearing families apart. Ripping children from their parents. Tearing wives from their husbands.
By Paul’s approval, those people were bound and shoved into first-century grimy, gritty, unclean, damp and dangerous prisons. If that were not enough, Paul would have them punished unto their ultimate death. Is it even possible for a modern disciple in America to even envision themselves “enduring to the end” in such a scenario? What tremendous emotional torment. It is one that modern twenty-first century American disciples simply cannot identify with. So when Paul speaks about affliction, he knows what he is talking about. It seems that he received similar persecution and affliction to that which he gave prior to his conversion.
But we as American Christians do know hardship. By defending birth over abortion, Christians are ridiculed and demeaned. Some who have publicly defended creation over evolution (whether Christian or not) have lost their jobs. But experiencing character assassination at the hands of the angry is nothing new to Americans. From our foundations as a nation, persecution has been the reward of those wanting the freedom of religious practice. And even within our recent history (the last seventy years), mature Christians have defended God-given equality of all people to be protected, to be accepted and to be esteemed. Standing up for what is socially correct may gain you fan club of vermin. But standing up for what is Scripturally correct may gain you more persecution and affliction that you would have ever thought possible.
Truth is, after all, the truth. But all truths are not created equal. For the believer, our savior tells us that by the truth we will be made free12 and then in his final prayer with his disciples Jesus asked the Father to set them, and by extension believers today, apart by the truth and then equated truth with God’s Word.13 The Word was used by Paul in the synagogues to demonstrate that Jesus was the promised Messiah; it is the Word that Paul tells Timothy to preach from. It is the Word that Jesus himself taught from, and it is the Word that we need to be aware of today. May the LORD bless us as we study His wonderful truth.
1. “Timothy Difficulties Will Come.” Second Timothy 3.1-5, KJV.
2. “Will Not Listen to Healthy Teachings.” Second Timothy 4.4, cf. 3.15-17, KJV.
3. “The then Current Scriptures.” For Paul and his contemporaries they primarily used what Christianity refers to as the Old Testament, but there were also some of the New Testament writings that did exist and were being circulated.
4. “To Live Faithfully: Endure Hardship.” Second Timothy 3.10-13, KJV.
5. “Holy Scriptures through his faith in Jesus would make him wise to salvation. Second Timothy 3.14-15, NASB.
6. “All Scripture.” Recall Endnote Three, but also consider that Second Timothy was written circa AD/CE 66, and for example, that First, Second and Third John were not yet written (being composed circa AD 90) nor was Revelation yet written (being composed circa AD 95). All of these New Testament documents were written long before canonization of the New Testament Scriptures (which began circa AD 200). The apostles, and the first century church primarily developed their spiritual faith through the use of Old Testament Scriptures, and the work of early church leaders. In several instances churches were established with the use of Old Testament Scriptures and then upheld as accurate teachings through follow-up letters, consider the church at Thessalonica (cf. Acts 17.1-10, I Thessalonians and II Thessalonians).
7. “All Scripture Is Profitable.” Second Timothy 3.15-17, KJV.
8. “Evangelist to Preach from the Scriptures.” Second Timothy 4.2, KJV.
9. “The Church to Hear the Scriptures.” Second Timothy 4.3-4, KJV.
10. “Paul’s Hardship.” Second Timothy 3.10-11, KJV.
11. “Paul’s Statement of the Persecution” Acts 22.4, cf. 21.40, KJV, brackets by article author.
12. “The Truth Will Set You Free.” Gospel of John 8.31-32, NASB.
13. “The Truth Is Equated with God’s Word.” Gospel of John 17.17, NASB.