The Holy Bible is the supreme authority in Christianity, as it reflects the person and power of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Most Christians take it far too lightly, and suffer confusion and powerlessness in life as a result.
The founder of the Hindu religion is unknown, but he bequeathed a political and cultural system entrenched in thousands of lives and dozens of cities to the residents in the Indian subcontinent. Moses granted his heirs a religio-legal system and a powerful nation on the brink of conquering its Promised Land. On his death, the Buddha left behind an oral tradition of teachings as well as a network of thousands of monks and lay followers, and many monasteries in northeastern India. Muhammad left a religion, a political system, and an empire for Muslims. Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim religious and political leaders ended their earthly lives with books, songs, people, cities, armies, land, money, and everything else befitting a mighty character in history.
Jesus Christ left behind little, at least by conventional historical standards. He wrote no book and sired no offspring. He controlled no lands, no cities, and no armies. He developed no political structure and did not establish a religious order. The Rabbi from Galilee did not even leave a building in His name. What did Jesus pass on to history? 120 followers (Acts 1:15), a little money, and His words and actions as recorded by others. With such a slim posterity, why is He the central figure in human history and the faith that He taught, Christianity, the largest religion on earth?
One reason for the preeminence of Jesus Christ is the supremacy of Scriptures in Christianity. The Apostle Paul recognized the Bible’s power in his letter to his protégé Timothy, the pastor of the church at Ephesus. Paul summarized his life for Timothy and directed him to carefully follow his example, knowing that he would face many of the same trials (2 Timothy 3:10-13).
Doctrine – Unlike the false teachers decried earlier in the chapter, Paul revered the scriptures, known to us as the Old Testament. He used them for wisdom, for comfort, to persuade others, and to impact every area of his life. Paul had sound doctrine, capable of doing everything that he needed it to do. As modern believers, our Bible reading or Bible study are too often aimless, intended more to check a box on our “to do” than to change our thinking and our lives.
Manner of Life – The Apostle’s lifestyle grew out of his beliefs which grew out of his relationship with the Scriptures. His lifestyle also emerged from his upbringing and his past. Paul was a former Pharisee, possessing a profound knowledge of the Jewish faith. He had studied with the most revered teacher of his time, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Luke records that Gamaliel cautioned the Pharisees to leave the nascent Church alone, lest they be fighting against God (Acts 5:34).
Paul was raised in the city of the Tarsus, in the province of Cilicia, which was known for its fine goat’s haircloth. His father taught him to sew tents out of this cloth for soldiers, shepherds, and other customers. This trade could be practiced anywhere in the Empire, and so Paul was able to go into a city, buy supplies of cloth, rope, and loops, establish a shop, and make enough money to support himself. Tentmaking was a common industry, so Paul used it to connect with others in each location and to share the gospel.
Purpose – Paul lived to proclaim Jesus Christ. His doctrine and manner of life both supported this purpose. His purpose was constantly at the forefront of his attention. Paul’s focus was not money, comfort, fame, or power. His one desire in life was to know the Lord and become like Him. He is a model for us.
Faith – Paul trusted in Christ alone, both for his day-to-day conduct and for his eternity. The Apostle did not worry about his sustenance today or his legacy tomorrow.
Longsuffering – While the false teachers of Paul’s day taught health, wealth, and prosperity, Paul knew to expect suffering. Suffering came occasionally from the malice of others, but more commonly from the chronic frustrations, slow deterioration, and ever-present frailties of human life. Longsuffering includes slowness in avenging wrongs. The wicked hate the good simply for being good, as the very hearts of evil ones condemn them.
Charity – Paul chose to be charitable to those around him, placing their needs before his own.
Patience – The Apostle was not swerved from his purpose and his character was not shaken regardless of the trials that overtook him.
Persecutions – Evil hates and fears good, and evil people hate and fear good people. Paul was abused and had to flee from Damascus (Acts 9:23-25), Psidian Antioch (Acts 13:50), Iconium (Acts 14:6), Thessalonica (Acts 17:10), and Berea (Acts 17:14). Timothy’s hometown of Lystra was about forty miles from Iconium.
Afflictions – This term refers to the persecutions and other suffering and misfortune of life. The Lord delivered Paul through all of these, not from all of these. Paul was not protected from pain but had to endure it and overcome.
In verse 12, Paul reminded Timothy that everyone who follows Christ would be persecuted. The Apostle repeats this theme to the younger man throughout the book, and to others in every book. It is astonishing that we Christians expect lives bereft of suffering despite these warnings. Such suffering is due to evil men, who strive to deceive others as they are deceived themselves. Wicked men reject the truth and adopt whatever beliefs feel good to them. Wanting to justify themselves, they persecute those who deny their illusions. Such men and women persist in every generation and their numbers will grow until the final days.
By aligning himself with Paul’s ministry and making similarly good decisions, Timothy would be able to imitate Paul’s life and achieve similar victories. Followers of Jesus Christ today, adhering to the examples of Biblical leaders, historical church fathers, and modern leaders, can and should learn from their forebears as they walk through the Christian journey. Technology changes, but human nature stays the same. The key issues of life in AD 100 are largely the same as they are in AD 2021.