II Timothy 2:1-7 Soldier, Athlete, And Farmer.
Some will fight against gospel preachers (1:15), but others will sacrifice and go out of their way to provide support and comfort (1:16-18). The former will be cursed, but the latter blessed. When the gospel is clearly and fearlessly presented, there is no neutral ground on which to stand. One is either for Christ or against Him. This is but one reason why Timothy needed to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2:1). Paul said this same thing in his letter to the Ephesians, where Timothy was posted, just before his instructions about putting on the full armour of God (6:10). In his previous letter, Paul’s charge to Timothy was to “wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck” (1:18b-19).
Paul urged Timothy to remember what Paul had taught, and Paul was careful to state that this word was witnessed to. This is a very important part of the scriptural testimony-“By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (II Cor. 13:1). The bible is a covenantal document presenting to humanity life and death (Dt. 19:15). It is it’s own witness, coming as it does from the triune God. It was this very testimony which Paul, as an apostle, instructed Timothy to both remember and to pass on to other men who might also teach it. A good minister of the word, who is fighting the good fight of faith, must also train others to teach. He must be like Moses who trained others to share the mantel of leadership in the covenant community.
In this passage Paul also uses analogies-three. First there is the soldier. Incidentally, Jesus never forbade being a soldier, only that one act justly and not be greedy (Lk. 3:14). A good soldier must endure hardship-it comes with the position and job. Such is the case for an evangelist (4:5). We are engaged in warfare for souls. The affairs of this life are necessary, but one should not be entangled with them. Christ has enlisted us, and it is Him we must please (v. 4b). In his second analogy Paul highlights that there are no shortcuts. All athletes must compete on a level playing field (v. 5 Cf. I Cor. 9:25). As servants of the Lord we may want an easier way but it often does not come with the job. It also brings out the point that we must do His work according to His rules found in the word.
One would imagine that Paul might use three separate analogies to drive home the same points, and it is certainly true that both the soldier and the athlete are hardworking, the athlete and the farmer must endure hardship, and the soldier and farmer must follow the “rules” of their profession. However, in addition to this, Paul also seems to be following a sequence of ideas. The first thing a minister of the word must realize is that the role and job will involve hardship, but we accept this knowing it is the Lord we seek to please. However, this is not open ended. We are called or enlisted to also serve Him His way, by the rules of His word-the regulative principle. In his third analogy he adds that the minister of the word must know for himself the truth of which he preaches.
In is a sad truth that many have preached the gospel who had no experience of it’s power themselves. Paul did not want Timothy to be so engaged in the work that he neglected his own soul. A good minister must first preach the word to himself. This last analogy also brings out a truth which Paul highlighted elsewhere, namely that a minister of the word is entitled to receive his living from the work. A farmer could never grow food for others if he failed to feed himself. The same holds true for all ministers of the word-spiritually and physically. All three analogies hold out the promise of future reward-the fruits of one’s labour. These are truths we need to consider, praying that the Lord would indeed give us “understanding in all things” (v. 7 Cf. Prov. 2:6).