Paul is writing to Timothy to encourage his faith. Suffering and hardships can cause our faith to be shaken. So Paul writes this letter to Timothy to strengthen his faith over the fear that he is experiencing. Paul tells Timothy that he knows and prays for Timothy and his sincere faith. Use the gifts God has given to him. Do not be ashamed of the testimony of Jesus or of Paul is in prison. Instead, share in the suffering. Embrace the difficulty that comes from following Jesus. These are the points we observed in the first eight verses of 2 Timothy 1. But Paul is not finished talking to Timothy about not being ashamed. Now Paul wants to explain to Timothy why he is not ashamed and how Timothy can stand faithful, unashamed of the gospel. So let’s note the reasons why we must not be ashamed and how to stand faithfully, unashamed of Jesus.
He Saved Us (1:9-10)
We need to remember what the Lord has done for us. We will only be ashamed of Jesus when we forget or under appreciate what he did for us. So Paul wants to proclaim the gospel to Timothy. He saved us and called us with a holy calling. But please remember that he saved us not because of our works. We did not do anything to generate God’s desire to save us. We did not offer anything to God to will him to want to save us. He saved us and called us to this holy calling because of his own purpose and grace before time began. Before you existed, God’s purpose was to save you and show his grace toward you. Before the creation of the world, before even the existence of what he look at as the concept of time, God determined to save you and show you his glorious grace. Before you existed, God had a purpose for you: to save you and give you a holy calling.
Paul is not done. In verse 10 he says that this truth of God’s purpose for your life before time began has been made evident through the appearing of Jesus. Jesus came and what he did was for you. Jesus abolished death and brought life and immortality to light. This unwavering purpose of God was seen in his sending his Son as our savior so that the power of death would be broken and that life and immortality to could be achieved for us. God’s purpose is for you to have life and immortality. How can we be ashamed of him or what he has done? How can we can we be ashamed of our rescuer? How can we be ashamed of our hope? How can we be ashamed of the life that has been brought to us?
Know Who You Believe (1:11-12)
Paul continues to explain that the reason for his suffering is because of the gospel to which he was appointed to be a preacher, teacher, and apostle. But even though he is suffering for this message, Paul says that he is not ashamed. How is Paul not ashamed even though he is suffering and in prison? Paul says he is not ashamed because he knows who he has believed in and is persuaded that he will guard what has been entrusted to him until that day. Paul says he knows who he believes in. Because he knows who he believes in, he is completely convinced that this calling and this life and immorality will certainly happen for him on that day. In short, Paul is not ashamed because he is convinced by the person he believes in.
Let me try to illustrate that on a much smaller level. There are years where holidays fall on days when our trash is supposed to be picked up. There are times when I think I remember that the trash is going to be collected even though it is a particular holiday. So I roll out my trashcan to side of the street late at night. I look around my neighborhood and I see that I am the only one who has put the trashcan at the side of the street. Now I have this moment where I feel stupid and ashamed. Am I wrong? Maybe I missed something. Maybe everyone else is right and I am wrong. So what do I do? I get on my phone and check to see if the website says that the trash will be collected. The website says yes it will. Because the company says yes, then I leave my trashcan out, willing to endure the shame of being the only trashcan on the street in the hope of vindication the next morning. This is the idea that Paul is striking at for Timothy. I suffer for the gospel and I endure the shame because I know whom I have believed and I am convinced of the vindication that will be obtained on that day. Paul is willing to be the only one because of his belief and persuasion in Jesus. His confidence is in Jesus and what he will do, rather than what people say about him or do to him. He will not be afraid of public opinion because he knows in whom he believes.
Hold What You Have (1:13-14)
Therefore, hold on to what you have. In particular, hold on to the sound teaching you have received from the apostle Paul. But notice that Paul does not say to just know what he taught Timothy. Rather, hold on to it in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This means that holding on to the sound teaching is to lead us to a life lived in faith and love. Guard that sound teaching through the Holy Spirit who lives in us. I love these kinds of statements that we find in the scriptures. We are never told that we are alone as we hold on to the faith in Jesus. Nor are we told that God is doing all the work to keep you holding on and you are doing nothing. Hold on the sound teaching and guard that treasure and God will help you in your effort. You have a treasure. Did you know that? You have God helping you. Did you know that? So do not give up and do not be ashamed. God is with you and is helping you. Devote yourself to the Lord and he will support you. I believe what Paul told Timothy in verses 13-14 is very similar to what Paul told the Christians in Philippi.
Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12–13 CSB)
God is working in you as you are working for him. I am not ashamed because I know that God is with me and is supporting me while I suffer shame for his sake. He will continue to hold on and will not give up.
Failing To Hold On (1:15)
Paul now presents an example of warning in verse 15. But the warning is disheartening and crushing. Listen to what Paul says in verse 15. You know that all in the province of Asia have deserted me. There are many who are ashamed of Paul and the testimony he gives. All in Asia have deserted him. Two people are named in particular, either because of how well known they were, or at least well known to Timothy. Even Phygelus and Hermogenes have deserted Paul. When things became difficult, everyone bailed out. Everyone left him.
Please hear this: your faithfulness to God does not mean people will be faithful to you. Many will be ashamed of you. They will be ashamed of your faithfulness. But you cannot let that dissuade you or shake you. You know in whom you believe. But people will desert you for this. It is going to hurt when people turn their backs on you. It is going to hurt when shame is cast on you for your devotion to God. The hurt really stings when it comes from people that you thought were also followers of Jesus. The hurt is great when you thought you were going to be standing side by side with others and those others desert you. This is what Paul is experiencing. Rather, than standing firm with Paul, they are ashamed of Paul and deserted him. So know this: when it gets hard, many are going to be ashamed and fall back.
Mercy To Those Who Hold On (1:16-18)
But look at what Paul says in verses 16-18. There was one who did not shrink back. There was one who was not ashamed. Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s chains. One person determined to refresh Paul while he was in prison. In fact, Onesiphorus went out of his way, searching all over Rome, trying to find where Paul was so that he could refresh Paul. He went to Paul and encouraged him. Mercy is given to those who are not ashamed but hold on to the sound teaching. Mercy will be given to those who hold on to this treasure that we have been given. God has not given us a spirit of fear. God is with us. How can we have a spirit of fear? Listen to the message our Lord gives in the book of Revelation.
6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life. 7 The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son. 8 But the cowards, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:6–8 CSB)
To those who hold on, who are not ashamed, and do not shrink back, they will inherit the spring of the water of life. The Lord will be their God and they will be his children. But listen to those whose share is not with the Lord but with the second death as recorded in verse 8. Are you surprised by the first description? The cowards will have their share with the second death. Mercy is not given to the cowards. Mercy is not given to those who bend under the pressure. Mercy is not given to those who waver because of public opinion. Mercy is not given to those who are ashamed. Listen to what Jesus said:
Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and that of the Father and the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23–26 CSB)
Why would we try to save our life and not be willing to lose it for Jesus? Because we are ashamed of him and his words. What chilling words to consider that Jesus says he will be ashamed of us when he comes in glory if we have been ashamed of him while we live on this earth.
So what did Paul show us? We will not be ashamed when we recognize what we have been saved from and see the holy calling we have been given in receiving life and immortality. We will not be ashamed because we know in whom we believe and we are convinced that he will do just as he promised for us. We will be vindicated for our faith and not be put to shame at the end. Therefore, we must hold on the treasure we have, the sound teachings that have been given to us by God, which will transform us to live lives of faith and love. Mercy will be given to those who are not ashamed. But the cowards will have their part in the second death and will not have their part in the glorious kingdom of God. Jesus will be ashamed of us if we are ashamed of him.