2 Timothy 1:8-18
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us. This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well. (vv. 8-18)
There is so much in these verses that I was almost tempted to divide this portion into about three sections. But in one way they are all linked together, so I thought it best to consider them all at one time. They are connected by that expression “not ashamed.” We have it three times in these verses: first, in the admonition of Paul to Timothy; second, Paul’s own declaration; and third, in that which he testifies concerning his friend, Onesiphorus.
I wish we might fix our attention upon these words, “not ashamed.” In Romans 1:16 we have that declaration of the Apostle, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Why should anybody be ashamed of the gospel? It answers every question concerning sin and its remedy that the mind of man can possibly raise. God has opened up His heart to men in the gospel. It is His message concerning His blessed Son and the salvation He has wrought out for all who believe.
It was because of his faithfulness in proclaiming the gospel that Paul was in prison. And now, writing to his younger friend, he said, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.” It is as though he said, “Timothy, you have something of which you need never be ashamed as you go forth in Christ’s name, telling how God has given His only begotten Son up to the death of the cross that all who put their trust in Him might be redeemed from sin’s guilt and power.” There are preachers who never seem to have anything to say about the blood of Jesus or the cross on which He died. But this is God’s own message to a lost world, and we to whom it has been committed should never be ashamed of it.
The Apostle adds, “Nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.” He says, “Do not be ashamed of me.” There might have been those who would say to Timothy, “You are linked up with that fellow, Paul. I understand he came to a bad end and is now in prison.” It would be easy for Timothy to say, “Oh, I knew him somewhat, but I was not intimate with him.” But Paul said, “Do not be ashamed of me, but speak out boldly and let people know you stand for the same things for which I stand, because it is for this that I am in prison. It is for you to be partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.”
It is a great privilege to partake of the blessings of the gospel, but God has ordained that we should not only have a part in these privileges, but that we should also be permitted to suffer for Christ’s sake. This is the only world in which we can do that. Nobody suffers for Christ in heaven. It is down here only that we have this blessed opportunity. We should ever count it a privilege to bear shame for His name’s sake when we think of what He has done for us.
In verse 9 he says, “Who hath saved us.” Are you sure that you have been saved? There is a lot of uncertainty with many about this question. Some people think of salvation as a process going on all through life, and eventually, if they are faithful enough, they hope to be saved. But the Apostle says, “Who hath saved us.”
In the epistle to the Ephesians he writes, “By grace are ye saved [literally, by grace have ye been saved] through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (2:8-9).
There is no reason why any believer in the Lord Jesus Christ should be uncertain in regard to this question of salvation.
It may sound humble to sing as John Newton wrote one time when he had a fit of despondency,
’Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought;
Do I love my Lord, or no?
Am I His, or am I not?
But that is not the language of faith. The man who believes God can say, He “hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works.” We do not purchase salvation by good behavior or by anything else we can do, but it is “according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began”—that is, before the ages began. Before sin came into the world, God had made all His plans for redemption. It was not an afterthought with God. It was all arranged. The Devil thought he was ahead of God when he caused man to sin, but God had already prepared for man’s redemption, and that redemption “is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death.”
It is written in Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” That is what makes death so terrible for the unconverted man: he has to face God in judgment after he leaves this life. But the Lord Jesus Christ has “abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Elsewhere it is written, “That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15). In the Old Testament even believers had a fear of death. They did not know the blessedness of an accomplished redemption; and so many of them were left in a state of doubt and uncertainty as to what death might mean. They could not all say with Job, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (19:25-26). Many did not understand that. But now Jesus has gone down into death and has come up in triumph. He says, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, … and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:18). Thus He delivers them “who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:15).
I have often used an illustration of this, and it might not be out of place to repeat it in order to make this clear. Years ago when I was preaching out in the mountains of California the Lord gave me the joy of seeing many souls saved. After they were converted it was my desire to baptize them, and I have always been very old-fashioned in my idea of baptism. I take them right down under the water. Of course, some of you may sympathize with me in my ignorance, but that is all right, I return the compliment. I have baptized in lakes, in rivers, in ponds, and even in horse-troughs.
One time we had quite a group to baptize, both men and women. It was in the winter, and winter in California is a rainy time. It was in the region where the only water available was in the Sacramento River, which runs high in the winter and is very dark because of the silt brought down from the hills. I went out the day before and scouted around to find a place that seemed to be fit. There was room for a good audience to stand on the bank. I waded out into the river to make sure it was all right. On the next day we gathered together. It had been noised around that there was to be baptizing, and so there were hundreds of people gathering from all over the countryside. We preached the gospel. I saw those who were to be baptized looking at that dark river, and away down in their hearts I am sure everyone of them wished they were Presbyterians! I could tell they did not want to walk down into the water; they did not know what kind of experience it might involve.
While the people were singing the final hymn, I left the company, walked out into the water, and went on until I reached the place suitable for the baptizing. I felt around to see that there were no deep holes or dangerous rocks. I could see that those who were to be baptized were watching me. Finally, I went back to the shore, and when I put out my hand they came one after another. They were not afraid anymore. Why? Because I had gone down into the dark river and had come up safely.
Jesus went down into the dark waters of death and came up in triumph. And those who have trusted in Him do not dread death. They know death simply means going home to be forever with the Lord.
Now the Apostle says, “It is this that I was sent to preach, for which ‘I am appointed… an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these things.’” He was in prison. He was enduring much hardship. He was suffering for His name’s sake who gave Himself for lost mankind. And in order that he might carry that gospel to the world, he had given up all his earthly ambitions. He had given himself wholly to this one purpose of carrying the message from nation to nation, from people to people, from city to city. Now they had put him in jail, and this seemed to be the end of life, for in a little while he was going out to die for Jesus’ sake. But he could say, “Nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Paul gloried in the privilege of suffering for Christ. He was not ashamed of his message or of his Lord.
Observe Paul does not say, “I know what I have believed.” He did know what he had believed. He had no doubts about that. But it is one thing to believe what, and quite another thing to believe whom. He says, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
Again and again the questions come to me, either by mail or from people whom I meet, “Do you believe in the perseverance of saints? Do you believe that if a man is once saved he is saved forever?” I generally say, “I certainly do not believe in the perseverance of saints as such. I know them too well, for I am one myself. But I believe with all my heart in the perseverance of the Lord Jesus, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
The Apostle had committed his soul to the Lord, and he knew that He would not let him down. That is why he is able to say elsewhere, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). Do you know anything which is neither included in things present nor things to come? Do you know anything that is not included in life or in death? Paul says that nothing in death, nothing in life, nothing present, nothing to come, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Again he says to Timothy, “Hold fast the form of sound words.” In other words, he is saying, “Timothy, do not let anything go that you have received from God. Cleave to the truth, and then in that day when you have to give an account you will have the Lord’s approval because of your faithfulness.” On the other hand, he adds, “Which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” You know it is an easy thing to become very disagreeable and contentious, even when one is endeavoring to be faithful to truth. The servant of God is called upon to contend for the faith. He is to maintain an attitude of faithfulness to Christ and love to the brethren. As we walk in love toward our brethren and stand firmly for the truth, we will commend to others that truth which we seek to proclaim with our lips.
At the time that Timothy went into the service of the Lord, he was commended to the Lord in a special way by a group of the elder brethren at Lystra, Paul joining with them, as we have noted already. In answer to their prayers, God gave Timothy some special gift to fit him for the work. So here in verse 14 Paul says to him, “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.”
Paul had heard that many in Asia had turned away from the truth, the simplicity which is in Christ. Timothy was in Asia at this time where Paul had labored years before, and where many Christians had been led away from the truth by certain evil-disposed men who had gone in among them, teaching things contrary to the grace of God. Many of the saints were getting bewildered and carried away with these teachings. Some had even gone so far as to repudiate Paul’s doctrine and refused to accept him as an apostle. We see that in the epistle to the Galatians. This was a great grief to him.
“This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.” Now do not misunderstand. Paul did not say they were no longer Christians, but he declared that they had turned away from him. These false teachers had come in and turned the saints away from the full gospel message that Paul had taught them, and they had repudiated him, no longer recognizing him as an apostle of Christ.
Next he mentions one who had come from Asia, who had been very faithful to him and very true. Paul speaks most tenderly concerning him. I do not know what had happened, whether he had been imprisoned or martyred for Christ’s sake, but something had taken place which led him to write, “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain.”
Evidently this man was what we would call today a traveling man. He moved about, possibly on business, or it may be that in the work of the Lord he went from place to place. In the course of his travels he came to Rome while Paul was a prisoner there. “But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.” It might not have been easy to find Paul in that great city, but Onesiphorus inquired of one and another until he found him.
Paul said, “[He] was not ashamed of my chain.” He was not ashamed to stand by that prisoner in the dungeon and say, “He and I are friends. He and I stand for the same things. We serve the same Master.”
I repeat, I do not know what had happened, but in the next verse Paul says, “The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.”
“Not ashamed!” Paul says to Timothy. “I do not want you to be ashamed. Do not be ashamed of the testimony of God; do not be ashamed of those who suffer for Christ’s sake.” Paul himself was not ashamed. Onesiphorus was not ashamed. He boldly identified himself with the prisoner of the Lord.
So I pass the word on to you who know and love the Lord. May we never be ashamed of His name.