His Devotion, Separation, Imitation, and Preservation.
Thoughts on 2 Timothy.
These four come before us very distinctly in this epistle, and hence our understanding and accepting them are most helpful to us as the Lord's servants. This understanding will prevent disappointment. The most important thing in any service is the furnishing and fitting of the servant. This is treated of from chapter 1:1 to 2:19. The servant must be first formed for his service, and in this section the paramount requirement, the sine qua non, is before us. He is to be devoted - devotion is to characterise him.
Devotion is here manifested in three ways, and these will come out more or less in every believer today who is like-minded with Timothy; for though we are not Timothys, no one will deny that we ought to possess and manifest, in these perhaps darker days, that which characterized the true servant at the close of the apostolic days. The ways in which devotion manifests itself in the servant are:
1. Antagonism to the ruler of this present scene, and seeking to deliver poor blinded souls who accept his sway; that is, he is a soldier.
2. Contending as an athlete to win the prize; i.e., he is a racer.
3. Being wholly occupied with hard work - labouring, and not eating of the fruits; i.e., he is a husbandman.
Each of these three exhibits devotion, and each of them requires it.
In the first, he is not only to be in antagonism to the enemy, but he is not to be entangled with things here. He thus is held ready to present himself at any point, and at any moment at which an enemy may appear. In the second he is striving as an athlete, and has entered the lists with two things before him. One is that he shall strive. according to the rules of the games, or lawfully; the other is that he may be crowned at their termination, and not merely come in on a level with others. Those who strive lawfully will be crowned. In the third, to labour and not to rest is his work now. The reaping time is to come, when he shall partake of the fruits. He has devoted himself to soldier work, to racing, and to a life of ceaseless toil in the field, with many, many obstacles to each. He is just content to have it so. All is divinely settled.
After devotion to our work, which is (in all of us) an individual matter, comes the responsibility of a servant in the midst of servants, that is, his attitude in the house. This is Separation. One finds himself in the midst of many vessels in the house, "some to honour, and some to dishonour"; for these vessels form the state of things in which our lot is cast. Separation is the second mark of the faithful servant here. It is before us from chapter 2:19 down to chapter 3:7. He finds himself a poor solitary vessel in the house, but one only desiring to be there "fit for the Master's use." In order to this desirable result he must purge himself from the "vessels to dishonour." Only such purged vessels are agreeable to Him. "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work.' Two reasons are before us which demand that the servant shall act in separation. One is obedience to the word, the other is to keep a clear conscience. Devotion calls for separation. This is not isolation. No. Having acted thus, he does not find himself alone. He finds that others have acted similarly, and he is directed not to walk in isolation, but to walk with them. "Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart."
Now comes in chapter 3:8 - 13 our third point, Imitation. What is right Satan always imitates with one desire - to spoil it. In one way, to find that such a thing as an Imitation exists, is a cheer to a true servant, because it proves that there is a right and real thing somewhere. Jannes and Jambres imitated what Moses had done. The action of the Lord's servant was wrought by the power of God. The imitation is by power also, but it is the power of the enemy. Six verses give this to us - from eight to thirteen. Now I think it is a great help when things happen in this way that you know all about them before they come. You really expect them, and you are furnished by this scripture with directions for your own conduct in the midst of them. These directions are twofold: we continue in the doctrine learnt from Paul, and also cleave very closely to the Holy Scriptures. (Verses 14 to 17.) We are struck by the simplicity of this provision. In it lies the antidote, when the poison of Imitation is abroad. It is God's grand preservative for every servant of His today. But there is an addition to it which is most important also. It is found in chapter 4:1-5, viz., active employment in what is good. The servant is not only preserved himself by what we have already quoted, he is also active in the work of the Master. He must "preach the word" and "do the work of an evangelist." We have thus his internal and his external, and both are necessary, in the midst of a scene such as we are in today, wherein are found professors of the truth, imitators of it, and open enemies to it. The one who is thus serving in simplicity and devotion does not imitate others; and though fully conscious that imitation exists, he is too busily engaged to be occupied with it. He who would help others must keep right himself, and the time is too short for us to stop (save by example and precept) to straighten the crooked. We seek to make straight paths for our feet, and simple obedience finds that these are then "ready-made."
Lastly, we come to our fourth point, Preservation. It must be admitted - however dark the scene in the world, and whatever the confusion of the church - that GOD is calmly having His own way in what goes on. There is no contradiction in God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. Both are fully admitted; but it is a cheer to the heart to look calmly to His side of things. Whether in the world, in the assembly, or in the individual servant, we can trace His handiwork. This comes out fully in the concluding part of this epistle. The Roman Emperor, the assembly of God, His servant Paul, are all here under review, and all work for the "preservation" of His poor imprisoned servant. Through all, come what may, Paul will be preserved, and so will Timothy, and so will all who are likeminded. Even a cruel death may come, but that does not touch the preservation of the faithful servant. This section is in chapter 4:6-18. The Lord will both deliver and preserve all His servants who tread this path "unto His heavenly kingdom; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Thank God for the cheer of this!
Many a so-called Christian path today presents far more attractions than those which this Second Epistle to Timothy offers. The true servant in Paul's line is not caught by such. Devotion, Separation, and Preservation form the only safe path for us, because of the peculiarity of the day in which we live. No greater attraction to serve the Lord could possibly be presented to faith than the assurance of God's preservation, and this we have before us in this epistle, though perhaps it is only the servant who is walking in faith that will see, or will accept it. May the Lord graciously turn many of His servants into the present enjoyment of the privileges of such a path, and keep in it all who are there for His name's sake, for the individual blessing of each servant, and for the collective blessing of all His saints. H. C. Anstey.