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We need to be people who are welcoming. It’s a simple thing, really. Outsiders do not want to be part of a clique. We need to build the kingdom by welcoming others. In other words, we need to be friendly and personable. We may be set apart, but we do not stand apart. We are to be in this world but not of it. We need to build networks of people to help encourage each other.
Let’s build friendly, welcoming networks in order to build up the church.
We need to be faithful people. We need to be faithful to God, and we need to be faithful to each other. We are not lone wolves. We are a wolf pack. When one of us is being persecuted, we should not abandon them. We should surround ourselves with good people, with people of the faith, to encourage each other through the persecution. We can help each other, even by providing jackets or books. And when we are going through persecution, we need to be faithful to the Lord to carry out the task set before us. We need to believe that God’s plan is good even when our circumstances are dire. We need to believe that God will save us, either in this life or in the afterlife, so that in all circumstances God will receive glory.
Let’s build up the church by being faithful to each other and to God, so that we do not go through persecution alone.
We need to be people who, to an extent, meet public expectations for the sake of the gospel. We cannot be selfish people who are in love with ourselves. We cannot be hypocrites who have the outward semblance of godliness but in actuality deny the power of God. No, we need to be people of love especially, because we will be people who must suffer for the gospel.
We need to be people who remain in Scripture. Whether the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament, Scripture is part of who we are as believers, and it teaches us and encourages in the faith. Scripture helps us learn. Scripture helps push us in the right direction. Scripture helps restore us with each other and also with God. Scripture helps train us for right living. Scripture helps us be mature, complete people–whole humans–who can do every good work. When we teach, we need to teach through Scripture, so that we can help push others in the right direction, restore others to each other and also with God, and encourage others to live rightly.
Let’s build up the church by living rightly in accordance with Scripture and taking into consideration public expectations for the sake of the gospel.
We need to be people who stand strong in the grace of God. Persecution will come in myriad forms. We need to remain strong, but not by our own power; rather, we need to stand strong by the power of God, which he has given to us by his grace in Christ Jesus. Whether we are persecuted at work for being a Christian by our peers, whether we are persecuted at home by the government for holding house-church meetings and taking benevolent offerings without a permit, or whether we are persecuted by imprisonment, torture, or death for being a Christian in this world by mobs or corrupt government, we need to stand strong. God has given us a spirit of power, not of cowardice. Because of this power, we can stand firm–and we can be strong.
We need to be people who teach others. We cannot build the kingdom of God all by our lonesome. We must invest in others, so that they might also invest in still more. Church leaders are to help especially train more leaders who can then teach others. Small group leaders are a great way for the contemporary American church to entrust the teaching task to faithful people. But it is not the only way. We can train through books. We can train through webisodes. We can train through DVDs. We can train through seminars and conventions. In the end, we need to train others for the task of teaching.
We need to be people who do not fight over words. We may teach others, but this might mean that some opposing views and opinions might come to the fore. When this happens, we cannot allow ourselves to wrangle over these words, lest our work at building the church be harmed. Arguments over words will harm those who hear, so we need to refrain from them. It’s not about debating the words, but, rather, it is about nearly coming to blows over them. We should keep our composure and seek to maintain peace. It is the mentality that we should agree to disagree on these minor matters, so that we do not cause harm on those who hear.
We need to be people who teach rightly. We can’t allow unorthodox topics to do harm and upset the faith of some people. Because we are to teach rightly, we are to avoid wrong teachings. We cannot afford to entertain wrong teachings when we are teaching others. We need to teach the major points of the faith, namely Christ–both his life and his death, and both his death and his resurrection. And we need to avoid ignorant matters. We need to be educated in the faith, so that we can avoid quarrels entirely. When we do encounter people who are ignorant and are spreading their unorthodox topics, we need to be graceful and patient in the way we go about correcting them. Our goal in that case would be to lead them by God’s guidance back to the truth.
We need to be people who do good deeds. God has saved us. God has empowered us. However, he has saved us for a purpose, and he has empowered us for action. We have been sanctified by grace, but this sanctification results in our readiness to do good work. We are not to pursue youthful desires, but we are to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Live right. Live in faith. Live in love. Live in peace. These are the good deeds for which we have been prepared and equipped. Rather than arguing and causing harm to those who hear, we need to pursue peace. We need to show love with those whom we disagree and also with those who hear our disagreement by not allowing our words to harm them. Sometimes, because of love for others and because we want to maintain peace, we need to hold our tongue. We do need to live in faith. We must embrace right teaching. We must embrace good works. Faith and works are not in opposition to each other. They are a twofold unit for the believer. Believers have faith, but they live to do good works.
Let’s build the church by standing strong in the face of persecution and by teaching others so they can teach more in kind, but as we teach others let’s be sure not to get into heated arguments that will cause harm to others who hear them, and let’s correct ignorance with gentleness and kindness, so that we can guide people back to the truth from their erroneous ideas. Let’s focus on the major teaching points and not get tangled up in minor things and opinions. Let’s enact our faith and do good works to further build up the church.
We need to be people who pray for others. It’s not just about me. It’s also about you. If we are people who pour ourselves into others as a spiritual investment in God’s kingdom, the currency of this investment is prayer. And we need to pray all throughout the day. We need to be people of prayer; people who are infused with prayer; people who are in constant communication with God; people who intercede on behalf of others. For whom are you praying?
We need to be people who encourage others. We do not walk alone. We need to help motivate each other to stay the course, which is a natural result of fellowship, but sometimes more encouragement than fellowship itself can provide is necessary to help reignite the faith of some believers. Life is complex. There could be discouraging and harsh circumstances that drain people’s batteries more than others. Such people need a sincere and encouraging word. Church leaders are not exempt here. Working in the church can be exhausting, and, at times, discouraging. Imagine being the new reverend of a parish. Imagine that the previous reverend, whom has recently retired, was absolutely superb, and his parishioners were quite devoted to him. Now, imagine that the parishioners begin complaining about your style of leadership in comparison to the previous reverend. Imagine also that the parishioners begin complaining about your style of preaching, expressing how they wish the previous reverend was still around. You would be crushed and discouraged! Even church leaders need encouragement.
Let’s build up the church by praying for each other constantly and by encouraging each other, including, but not limited to, our church leadership.
We need to be people who pour ourselves into other people. We can pour ourselves into our kids. We can pour ourselves into youth. We can pour ourselves into our contemporaries. But just as Paul poured himself into Timothy, we need to pour ourselves into others. It is a spiritual investment. We want to impart what we have learned, both from our knowledge and our experience, into someone else, so that we can pass the torch and keep the flame going just like the olympic runners who start the ceremonies. But it is an investment, because those in whom we pour ourselves become our life-long friends and partners in the faith. We do not each stand alone like lone wolves. No, we need to be part of the wolf pack. Christians need to stick together. By investing in others, we invest in ourselves; by investing in ourselves, we invest in the group. If you are not pouring yourself into someone right now, look for the opportunity to invest your faith, knowledge, and experience. Help build up others in order to help build up God’s kingdom.
We need to be people who are gracious, merciful, and peaceful, not in our own right, but because of God and the power he has given us. That is right: he gave us the power to be gracious, merciful, and peaceful, not power to fight and physically overpower our foes. God has been gracious with us by sending his Son, the true gift of God, to save us from our sin. God has been merciful with us by washing away our sin by the blood of Christ. And God has been peaceful with us by relating to us through Jesus, who is our peace, our propitiation of our sins, and so appeases God’s wrath against us. If God is gracious, merciful, and peaceful with us, how can we expect not to be the same towards others? We must follow the example he has given to us. His Holy Spirit empowers us in this way of life. Left to our own strength, we could not complete this task. It is evident in the world just how depraved we truly are as human beings. But God has called us to a holy calling. In Christ, we are to be truly human as Christ was truly human, which means that we must be gracious, merciful, and peaceful towards each other. Be gracious when others harm your reputation, showing them mercy and maintaining peace. Be gracious when others disagree with your opinion or perspective. Don’t quarrel about it, and in so doing disrupt the peace. Show them mercy. We don’t want to do further injury to others who hear our arguments and disputes. If we are gracious, merciful, and peaceful people, we will reduce the additional injury of nearby bystanders. We will reduce the additional injury between the disputing parties. We will reduce the damage that would have ensued not just to the individuals, but also to God’s kingdom. By being gracious, merciful, and peaceful, we are investing in the protection of his kingdom.
Let’s build up God’s kingdom by investing in others, but let’s also help protect God’s kingdom by being gracious, merciful, and peaceful.
Paul closes the letter with several epistolary aspects. First, he charges Timothy to greet Prisca and Aquila along with the house of Onesiphorus. Second, he informs Timothy that Erastus remains in Corinth and he left Trophimus in Miletus because he was ill. Third, he instructs Timothy to hurry to arrive before winter. He needs his cloak to stay warm. Finally, Paul reports that Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brothers and sisters greet Timothy. There is a sort of symmetry here between Paul’s instruction for Timothy to greet Prisca, Aquila, and the house of Onesiphorus and Paul’s report that Eubulus and others greet Timothy. Paul then closes the letter with two succinct phrases: “The Lord be with your spirit”, and, “Grace be with you.”
Paul now gets far more personal. After having exhorted Timothy to be patient and to fulfill his service, he now writes about his imminent death in terms of an offering. Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” He goes on: “The wreath of righteousness is reserved for me from now on that the Lord will award to me on that day.” In this case, he is not talking about the day he dies but the eschatological judgment in which Christ will judge the living and the dead in his second coming. Paul will be joined with everyone else who has longed for Christ’s return, and they, too, will receive the wreath of righteousness. Paul commands Timothy to hurry to come to him quickly, because he has been deserted. Demas left him for Thessalonica, Crescens for Galatia, and Titus for Dalmatia. It seems that Demas left a bit of a sour taste in Paul’s mouth, for he writes that he is in love with this present age and deserted him to go to Thessalonica. Paul says that Luke alone is with him. He instructs Timothy to bring with him several things. First, bring Mark. Paul says that Mark is useful for service to him. Second, bring the cloak that he left with Carpus in Troas. Paul later writes that winter is coming. He wants to keep warm, and this fact may be another reason why he tells Timothy to hurry to him. Finally, he instructs Timothy to bring some books, “especially the parchments.” We simply do not know exactly what he meant by the books and parchments, but clearly he wanted to read. Paul implores Timothy specifically to avoid Alexander the coppersmith who did great harm to him. Unlike Paul who will be awarded a wreath of righteousness, the Lord will award to Alexander according to his wicked deeds—for his strong opposition to Paul’s words. Demonstrating just how deserted he was, Paul mentions that no one came with him in his first defense, but he does not count it against them. He highlights that the Lord stood by him and strengthened him instead, so that his charge to preach the gospel might be fully proclaimed and the Gentiles might hear it. Paul says that he was delivered from the lion’s mouth as a result. Paul says that the Lord will rescue him from every evil deed, saving him for the kingdom. Finally, Paul gives all glory to God as a final declaration of the gospel.