Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the November 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
Lesson Aim: Give thanks that God faithfully helps you to serve Christ.
“Trimming Around the Edges” by David Faust (Lesson Application)
By Mark Scott
The United States Marine Corps was formed before the Declaration of Independence. Their origin goes back to November 10, 1775. In a few days they will be 245 years old. The Marines are actually a department of the United States Navy. Their motto is semper fidelis, which means, “always faithful.” That is what God is too. We should thank God for being so faithful, because his faithfulness inspires our service to him.
2 Timothy 2:11-13
This lesson concludes our study of 2 Timothy, Paul’s last will and testament, written shortly before Paul was martyred—likely by beheading—near Rome. Our text began with the fifth and final “faithful saying” of the Pastoral Epistles. Was this something Paul created or adapted? Was it like an ancient hymn of sorts? Was it a baptismal formula? Scholars debate its origin and use. But the content is not in question—i.e., God is faithful. By implication then, we should be faithful as well.
The faithful formula deals with our union with Christ, or reigning with Christ, and our possible apostasy from Christ. The death that is mentioned may well be the spiritual death portrayed in baptism (Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2:12; 3:3). When we believe in Christ and are baptized, we pass from death to life (John 5:24). In this world are many tribulations (Acts 14:22). So believers who are attempting to be faithful to a faithful God will have to endure (abide under) suffering. But they should not despair since those same people will reign with Christ both now (Ephesians 2:6) and into the future (1 Corinthians 6:3; Revelation 5:10; 21:4).
There is one thing God cannot be: unfaithful. His nature is the very definition of faithfulness (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 25:10; 31:5; 33:4; Isaiah 25:1; 49:7; Jeremiah 3:2; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:3), and cannot be changed. If believers disown (deny or give up on) God, then God will be forced to disown them. But he cannot be unfaithful to himself since he is the epitome of faithfulness.
2 Timothy 4:16-18
Paul wrote this Epistle in the shadow of his own death. There would be no physical or earthly rescue from that. But, previous to that entrance into glory, the Lord had rescued Paul many times (Acts 14:19-20; 2 Corinthians 11:23-29), including many times in court (Acts 21–26). He referred to one such time as the Epistle ends. He referenced his first defense (preliminary hearing that would lead to an ultimate trial). Even though others deserted (left behind) Paul, the Lord stood by his side and strengthened him. But God did not do that solely for Paul’s sake. He did it so that the gospel that Paul preached to the Gentiles would go forth. Paul held no animosity against those who did not stand with him. His actions mirrored those of Jesus and Stephen, in that Paul did not wish them ill (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60).
Paul served the Lord faithfully because the Lord’s record of faithfulness was without question. Paul had been delivered from the lion’s mouth (likely a reference to the emperor Nero). Paul was confident that if God wanted to deliver him, the Lord would do so again. But Paul also was ready to face the possibility that God might give him the ultimate rescue and bring him safely to his heavenly kingdom. Paul burst out in praise for God who had the power to rescue him.
2 Timothy 4:6-8
Few words are as emotional as these. The tears drip from Paul’s pen. These words have inspired believers for more than 2,000 years. Drawing upon the imagery of the drink offerings of the Old Testament, military and nautical terminology, and athletics, Paul gave his sign-off and probably penned his own epitaph.
A drink offering was always entirely used up (Numbers 28:4-7; Philippians 2:17). None was saved for a future occasion. The word departure came from military and nautical realms and referred to soldiers breaking camp or a ship departing port for the open seas. Paul was accustomed to using athletic imagery (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) and employed it here. The boxing ring and track and field became illustrations of winning the contest. To these images Paul added the clear claim, I have kept the faith.
Paul’s confidence in the victory was based in the faithfulness of God. That confidence made him sure of the crown of righteousness (it could be the crown which is the righteousness or the crown/reward that comes from God’s righteousness). Paul was not only confident of his crown of righteousness, he was also confident of ours (but also to all who have longed for his appearing).