Friday, April 1, 2011

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 3, 2011

AN APPROVED WORKER
(An approved worker endures by faithfully following GOD’s word to the letter)
(2 Timothy 2:1-15)

A worldly person sees giving service to others as drudgery, or, as a burden. A GODly person sees service to others as a worshipful experience, and, as being, CHRIST-like.
After winning release from his first imprisonment in Rome circa A.D. 63, Paul went on to preach the Gospel in Spain for a short while. However, hostilities initiated by the Roman emperor, Nero, against the Christians in Rome, soon began to intensify. Nero, who was under suspicion at that time, of being involved in starting the historical fire that destroyed almost half of the city of Rome in A.D. 64, increased his local persecution of the Jews, in order to take the heat and focus off of himself, for his alleged crime against his own citizens. In fact, it was this round of persecution that eventually led to the deaths of both Paul and Peter, near the end of the reign of Nero, in A.D. 68, after which, the guidance of the Christian Church had to be passed on to the next generation, and the likes of Timothy and Titus, who, had by then, become proven leaders.
Paul’s bold return to Rome, during the great persecution, led to his final incarceration and death, and it was during the time of this imprisonment, that he wrote this second letter of instructions to his young protégé, Timothy. In fact, it is the last known written communication that can be accredited to the Apostle Paul.
In this letter, Paul looks back on his own life and service with a feeling of deep satisfaction. He has kept the faith, and he now looks forward to the rewards he is sure to claim at the end of his race. But he also offers words of encouragement and warning to Timothy, as he tells him to remain totally committed, and to be prepared for the mounting difficulties and new challenges that will certainly develop from within the new church. The values and commitments that Paul imparts to Timothy in his epistles, are something that, we today, can also readily adopt to enrich our lives.
In 2 Timothy 2:1-15, Paul stresses the importance of applying GOD’s word “the right way”, and “following GOD’s rules for doing GOD’s work”. In verses 1-2 we can readily see two things. First, we see “reception of faith”, which is based on “hearing the word of GOD”. And then we see, “transmission of faith”, which is based upon “spreading the word of GOD”.
Timothy had already received the truth of GOD’s word from Paul, and, from many other witnesses who had experienced how the truth of GOD’ s word had transformed their own lives. And so, it is through these encounters that young Timothy learned, that, although everyone who hears the word will not be able to teach the word in a formal setting, those who don’t have the gift of expression, can, nevertheless, become vital witnesses to the affects that GOD’s word can have on one’s personal life, when it is practiced.
In verses 3-4, Paul tells Timothy, that, as a soldier in CHRIST’ Army, he must be prepared to endure suffering just as CHRIST did, and just as he himself was doing, as he continued to fight to uphold the standards of GOD. He tells him that, if he becomes too involved in the pleasures of the world, he cannot possibly satisfy the ONE WHO enlisted him, which is CHRIST JESUS.
In verse 5, Paul shifts from using the analogy of the “soldier”, and engages the metaphor of an “athlete” to describe the discipline one has to have, in order to run the Christian Race. The Christian Race must be run by GOD’s rules at all times if one seeks to win GOD’s rewards at the finish line. A person (especially those who are called to be leaders) who aspires, or, is called to do GOD’s work, can only do that work properly, if they do it according to GOD’s rules. It can be a disturbing thing if a person crosses the finish line of a race, thinking they’ve won, only to find out later from the judge, that they have been disqualified because they didn’t follow the rules.
The final image, or, analogy, that Paul presents to us in this passage, is that of a “farmer” (v.6). The emphasis here is placed on the word “hardworking”, or, in the KJV, “laboureth”, which is, in the original Greek “kopiao” (kop-ee-ah-o) and it means simply “to work hard”. However, at the base of its meaning it describes “the fatigue one feels as a result of one’s toils”.
Clearly, the diligence that Paul describes in each instance will have its rewards at the end of the struggle. The soldier will win the praise of the commanding officer, CHRIST. The athlete, who runs by the rules, will win, and get to keep his prize. And finally, the hardworking farmer will be the first to enjoy his own crop. And so we see that, Christian success is achieved through discipline, hard work, and, by remaining undivided in one’s allegiance to GOD, and following GOD’s rules.
JESUS CHRIST is our great example of endurance, faith, and discipline, and HE is also the subject of the Good News that we preach and teach. We are responsible to HIM to make our lives conform more fully to the word of GOD, just as HE presented it to us, during HIS earthly ministry. We should work hard so that GOD will approve us in the way that we teach and preach HIS word, and we should strive to do HIS work, by HIS rules, not ours.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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