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 October 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
“We’re All in Hospice” by David Faust (Lesson Application)
Discovery Questions for Oct. 11, 2020
Lesson Aim: Expect and endure the costs of serving Christ.
By Mark Scott
All things of significance cost something. A football player trains hard to win the Super Bowl. A medical student endures a grueling internship to become a doctor. A lawyer studies day and night to pass the bar exam.
Serving Christ also costs something—in fact, it costs everything (Luke 14:25-33). Otherwise we are left with “cheap grace” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship). The “wanna-be” disciples (Matthew 8:18-22; Luke 9:57-62) were not willing to pay this price. In Paul’s “minister’s manual” (2 Timothy), he told Timothy the cost of serving Christ was steep but should be expected and endured.
Suffering for the Gospel—Paul and Timothy
2 Timothy 1:8-12
Shortly before his death, Paul wrote this, his final Epistle, to encourage Timothy. After reminding Timothy of his personal connection with him (2 Timothy 1:3-4) and reminding Timothy of the younger man’s maternal influence (1:5-6), Paul called Timothy away from timidity to courage.
This courage would show up in not being ashamed of the testimony about the Lord Jesus or of Paul as his prisoner. These ideas of “shame” and “suffering” bookend this paragraph (vv. 8 and 12). Shame was very well understood in the ancient world. It was the social currency of the day. It is easy to understand how Paul’s opponents could make life hard on Timothy by reminding him that his spiritual father (i.e., Paul) was always in prison.
As soon as Paul mentioned the word gospel, he felt compelled to give a short excursus on it. This gospel rescued us and called us to a holy life. This gospel was given not because of anything we have done but due to God’s own purpose and grace. This gospel was in the mind of God long before time began. But this gospel took place in time and space through the appearing (epiphany) of our Savior, Christ Jesus. This gospel destroyed (rendered inactive) death and brought life to its immortal standing. This gospel gave definition to Paul’s work. He was a herald (preacher; one who spoke the message of the king). He was an apostle (one specifically “sent out,” 1 Corinthians 15:8-10; Galatians 1:11-17; Ephesians 3:7-10). He was a teacher (one who gave formal instruction).
This gospel caused suffering in an upside-down world. But Paul’s encouraging testimony to Timothy was that he did not care. After all, he knew in whom he had believed. Paul was convinced (fully persuaded) that God could guard (post a soldier at the door) what Paul had entrusted (handed over; committed) to God until that day (i.e., most likely the day of judgment). The cost of suffering for the gospel was high, but the price was worth it.
Suffering for the Gospel—Metaphors and the Master
2 Timothy 2:3-10; 4:14-15
Throughout chapter 2, Paul used several metaphors—son, soldier, athlete, farmer, worker, and servant—to encourage Timothy’s faithfulness. Alongside three of these metaphors Paul placed the Master himself. Jesus became the supreme example of suffering for the gospel. Paul seemed confident Timothy would understand these metaphors if he would just reflect (discern or come to understand) on them (v. 7).
Paul had great insight into Roman soldiers because he spent lots of time with them (Acts 24:27; 28:16, 30-31; Philippians 1:12-14). He even knew the parts of their armor (Ephesians 6:14-17). But in this text, Paul referenced their rigor and single-minded pursuit of their job. A soldier could not get derailed (entangled means “interwoven” or “implicated”) by civilian (the daily things of life) affairs. His one passion was to please (“fit” or “be adapted” or “inclined to”) his commanding officer (the one who enlisted him).
The other two metaphors receive one verse each. The athlete had to compete according to the rules to win the victor’s crown (wreath). (The Athenian and Ephesian games had rather strict rules of training.) The farmer should be the first one to taste the corn on the cob since he worked so hard to grow it (1 Timothy 5:17-18).
But beyond any metaphor was the Master himself. Jesus was the gospel for which Paul suffered. Paul called Timothy to remember him. This meant to not just think back to him but to bring the reality of Jesus’ suffering into the present tense. Humanly speaking, Jesus was the Son of David. But divinely speaking, Jesus was risen from the dead as the Son of God (Romans 1:3-4).
Rome could chain Paul, but they could not chain God’s word. He was willing to suffer if the church would be saved. An example not worthy of imitation was Alexander. He was a metalworker, but he made trouble for Paul. Instead of advancing the gospel through suffering, Alexander hindered the gospel through opposition. He refused to count the cost.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.