Vol. 5, No. 1
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Most of us like to think of ourselves as bold and courageous. Many times, we prove it to ourselves by how fast we drive, or when we confront someone about a wrong that has been done. Why is it, then, when it comes to teaching someone about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the "Power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16), all of our vaunted courage vanishes like a puff of smoke? As a preacher of the Gospel for the last twenty years, this writer has heard many excuses offered for this phenomenon -- "I can't do that" or "I just don't know enough Scripture" and the list goes on. Why does our bold, lion-like approach to life fade away and turn into timidity when the topic of discussion is the salvation of one's soul?
We certainly agree that all of us need to be encouraged at times. A pat on the back is effective when applied in the proper circumstances. However, there are times when a good, swift kick in the backside is also needed! Too long have Christians cowered under the pressures of the worldly-minded. We have forgotten who is on our side and that none can stand against him! "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).
Consider, for a moment, the gentle but firm rebuke of young Timothy by the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 1:6-8:
"Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 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"
It is here implied that Timothy needed to be bolder in his proclamation of the truth. Paul admonishes him not to be ashamed of the aging apostle in prison, nor of the testimony of Christ. The reason, as the text points out, is that three provisions are given not only to Timothy, but to all Christians in their preaching of the Gospel.
Power comes from the word dunamis, from which we get our modern word, "dynamite." Something of great power was given to the young preacher Timothy that should have calmed any fears or timidity he had in preaching the truth. We know from the text that Paul had given him a "gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands." This is in all probability a reference to some spiritual gift that enabled Timothy to perform miracles, such as occurred in the first century. This type of gift could only be bestowed by an apostle laying his hands on another Christian. (See Acts 8:14-18.)
Timothy also received his commission to preach the Gospel through the "laying on of the hands of the presbytery" or elders in 1 Timothy 4:14. But neither this, nor the miraculous manifestation of the spirit that Timothy possessed was the power of which Paul was speaking. Consider that all of the miracles performed in the first century by Christians were done for the single purpose of confirming the word of God. Mark 16:20 tells us, "And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them and confirming the word with signs following." When one argues, "But we don't have those gifts today," he is correct. But the message of the Gospel, that all these miraculous works were confirming, is still with us! Remember Paul's words in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
The spirit of power that Timothy had was in the Word itself! This had been instilled within Timothy from his youth up. Notice in verse 5 of our text (2 Timothy 1), "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother, Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also." This is the true power. In fact, the power to heal, speak in tongues or prophesy future events pales in comparison with the "power to become sons of God" (John 1:12).
It is also love that should have driven Timothy to be bolder in teaching -- love for the lost and desire for their salvation. We become imitators of God when we love lost souls. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
The underlying motive behind all our efforts to reach the lost and dying world is love. Christians care about the lost soul. We may go about it in different ways, but in the end, we long for the salvation of the one we are trying to teach (Jude 22-23).
"And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh."
Jude is teaching that there are those we my reach by quiet, calm, reason. Others may need to be persuaded out of the fear of eternal loss. Either way, we are to have compassion on the lost, "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).
The Greek word for "sound mind," sophonismou, means self-control or discipline. The Christian's life is characterized by his conformity with God's Word. His words, deeds and the very thoughts of his mind are under the control of heaven. Without such, we are ineffective at best in reaching out to the lost. We cannot expect others to conform to God's Word if we ourselves do not keep it! Think of the effects of hypocrisy. If a salesman comes to your door and peddles a product that he purports that you simply cannot live without and you then ask him if he owns the product himself, what would your reaction be to his saying, "No, I own something different than this, but you still need it"? Those who wish to "sell" others with the Gospel must be "sold" on it themselves.
Living a disciplined life will show. Jesus said, "Ye are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid" (Matthew 5:14). We cannot be partakers of the wickedness in this world if we want to convert others. A wise man has said, "Consistency, thou art a jewel." We must "Abstain from all appearance of evil" for two reasons: 1. To save our own souls, and 2. So others will not be influenced in a negative way by our hypocrisy.
Jesus is our great example. He led a sinless life while here on this earth, and though we realize the impossibility of such a task in our own lives, we can still strive to live as he did. "Christ also suffered for us, leaving an example that ye should follow in his steps" (1 Peter 2:21)
So, like Timothy, there is really no good excuse for being timid in our proclamation of the saving Gospel. We have an obligation to teach those with whom we come in contact. The great commission still reads, "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:15-16).