Text: 2 Timothy 2:1-13
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for our sermon is our Epistle which was read earlier.
Children need a lot of help, especially in their younger years. They are unable to adequately care for themselves or provide the basics which they need to live and thrive. Thus, they need help from outside of them to nurture them and help them grow. The same thing can be said about the Christian. In our child-like faith, we need help, we need to be cared for. St. Paul, when writing to young Timothy, tells him something that all Christians need to hear: “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
All of us are indeed children in the faith. I say that because not a single one of us has all the answers of faith. There are questions that are left unanswered this side of heaven, and that’s okay. We are not called to have all of the answers, but rather, to believe that which Christ our Lord has done for us with regards to our salvation. We aren’t able to explain everything in the most eloquent of ways, and yet we still believe and hold this faith as true.
The encouragement that all Christians need to hear is the same thing that Paul told Timothy: “be strengthened.” But Paul just doesn’t tell them to be strengthened. He doesn’t leave it to their own interpretation of what to be strengthened in. And all as you all know, the world has plenty that it will put forward to you as truth, as a way or means of salvation. But all of those things are fleeting at best; here today and gone tomorrow. While they may promise quick and easy results now, those results will not last. That is why Paul gives them the object of which to be strengthened in: “the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
Nothing you can find in this world will give you that peace and comfort that Christ can give. You can look high and low and you will not find that which Paul speaks of outside of the Church. And so what Paul tells Timothy is the same thing that you need to hear: “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus….” That is the message that every pastor of the Gospel needs to be preaching and that is the message that every hearer of the Gospel needs to hear, not just today, not just on Sundays, but every single day of their life. It is not a matter of wanting to hear, but needing to hear of the grace of God shown to us in Christ.
From the instant man fell to sin, God made a promise, a promise that He would extend His grace to us through a promised heir. That promised heir did everything that you could not do. He kept God’s Law when you would continually break it. He remained faithful to God when you would turn away from Him. Jesus, earned life for you through His death. Jesus gave to you a resurrection unto life by His resurrection from the dead. He does and fulfills everything that you and I could not do, thus earning for us God’s grace.
But ask yourself if you deserve God’s grace. What is so good about you that you deserve what Jesus has done on your behalf? What great accomplishment have you achieved that would cause the Creator of all things to send His only begotten Son into this fallen creation so that He would die for the likes of sinners like us? That’s where grace comes in. Nothing about us is redeemable. We are sinners. We have broken God’s commandments time and time again. We turn away from Him when we desperately need Him the most, and yet God still sends Jesus for us.
Paul tells Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead…” Isn’t it taken for granted that Christians remember Jesus Christ? Paul knows, however, that in the stress of life on earth and even in the noise of religious work it is all too easy to forget Jesus Christ. Christians need to be encouraged to have Jesus and His saving work in mind continually. We need to remember at all times and in all places that Jesus Christ is indeed risen from the dead. It is a constant remembrance of who Jesus Christ is and what it is that Jesus Christ has done: that He is the very Son of God and that “he has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.” These words that Martin Luther wrote are not just mere words. These are words that every Christian needs to hear because they say exactly what it is that Jesus Christ has done for us. Words that sound so simple to us were words that meant a great deal to Luther and are words that should mean a great deal to all of us, for they say exactly what Christ has done for us.
How easy it is for us to forget that our strength relies upon Jesus Christ and not ourselves. However, that’s not what the world would have us hear. The world tells us that it’s not Jesus that saves but it’s everything but Jesus that saves. Best case is that we hear that Jesus is just one of many means of salvation. If that were the case, then why does Jesus go to such great lengths to assert that He and He alone is the sole means of salvation? Why is it that Jesus is the only one who gives His life in order to save us if we can be saved by other means?
Heaven is yours because Jesus has done all the work of living for you, dying for you, rising for you and ascending for you. He’s done all the work of giving you forgiveness and faith in Baptism, and continues to forgive you and strengthen you in His Word and Supper. That’s the Gospel. It’s all His doing.
For Paul, he knew what was at stake: the salvation of the Church. He risked his own life, time and time again to preach the Gospel. However, he doesn’t care. He reminds Timothy why he has done what he has done: “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Concern for the salvation of these elect is for Paul another motive for perseverance in Christian ministry. He has the eyes of Jesus toward the lost. He has a love for the lost that moves him to be a slave to everyone and to become all things to all men. He is more concerned with evangelizing the world than with his own personal comfort, safety or wealth. He truly has the Christ-like concern for those who have come to faith in Christ and for those who have not.
We persevere in our faith, just as Christ Jesus persevered in His. We persevere because of the final words of St. Paul: “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him…” We have the faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord, given to us by the Holy Spirit at our Baptism. Let this be the focus of our lives, for now and for all eternity. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.