Notes of an Address on 2 Timothy 1:8-12; 2:8-19
I desire to speak for a short time tonight about what God has been pleased to bring to light by the gospel, as it is presented to us in these scriptures which I have read, and I am sure that what He has brought to light is that with which He would have us occupied. What is before the eyes of men here upon earth is death and corruption. These are not pleasant things to contemplate, but turn to the right hand or to the left there is no getting away from them, there they remain in all their hideous reality.
But the blessed God has brought about another order of things than that which prevails in this world, and by another man than the fallen child of Adam, and the testimony to what He has brought about and established in Christ constitutes the gospel.
As far as Christianity was concerned, a very unhappy state of things was before the mind of the apostle in writing this second letter to Timothy. That which had been committed to the responsibility of man had fallen into confusion. There were those in the profession who were reprobate concerning the faith, and who, not being able to grasp the truth for themselves, set themselves in opposition to it, and sought to overthrow the faith of others. A state of things is before the mind of the apostle very much akin to that which prevails in Christendom today. You get in the epistle the “magicians,” the “silly women,” and “the man of God.” The truth is that which sets people free from the influence of the world. These magicians set themselves in opposition to the deliverance of the people of God, as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses. These men will allow you to be as religious as you please, but you must serve God in their way, and remain under bondage in the world.
“Silly women” are those who are their dupes, and are led captive by them. I need hardly say that they are not women in contrast with men, but people, who are too silly to be called men. The man of God has fully known Paul’s “doctrine,” so that the hope of God’s calling is bright in his soul, and “manner of life,” so that he has a blessed example before him, and his “persecutions, afflictions” so that he is well aware of what he may expect from the world; added to all this, he has the holy scriptures, which are able to make him wise to salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Salvation is in Christ Jesus. Life and incorruptibility are also in him. A new order of man, new relationships for men, and a new system of things are brought about in Christ, and outside Him there is not anything for God or man. In Christ God had come into the creation with purposes of blessing for the whole universe, and His thought was to light it all up with the knowledge of Himself. But first of all, in the cross of Christ, God gives expression to His righteous judgment of sin, and to His kindness and love to man; and it is in Christ risen from the dead that we see the plane upon which everything is to be placed, and the Man in whom everything is established, and that Man is preached as glad tidings to the whole creation. All the love of God rests in Him, and all authority and power for the subjugation of all things to God is vested in that glorified Christ, and He must be everything to every other man as He is everything to God.
But such a gospel as this is offensive to the vanity and pride of the rebel heart of sinful man, and so we find him in the most deadly hostility to it, and even those who had in measure profited by the grace set forth in mm, are found to be so under the influence of the world that they have no sympathy with the great apostle, who was set for its defence and who was, because of his faithfulness, a prisoner bound with a chain. All that be in Asia, he says, have turned away from me.
No one will much object to forgiveness of sins being preached. You are not likely to get much persecution if you tell men that there is a way by which they can be in the favour of God and get to heaven when they die, and that these blessings may be obtained by faith in Christ. But I think there may be two ways in which these things may be brought before the minds of men. You may make the blessing the prominent thing, and it will in that case be received as a great benefit to man, and there the thing ends, or you may make prominent the Person in whom the blessing is, so that the hearer gets the impression that Christ is to displace every other man, and that though he gets the blessing he gets it in such a way in Christ that the worthlessness of man becomes apparent, the cross is seen to be God’s estimate of all flesh, and the evil heart of man rises up in rebellion against such a gospel.
The great object in the evangelical world today is to make the gospel popular, not to have a dull moment at the preachings, and appeals are made to the fleshly emotions of the sinner to charm him by a carnal entertainment to embrace the gospel. The testimony of our Lord, which has always been the object of Satan’s attack, is very little in evidence. The apostle declared that the time would come when they would not endure sound doctrine, and that time has come upon us. Everything has gone from bad to worse in the profession, and wherever we look weakness and ruin stare us in the face.
Where then are we to look for comfort and encouragement? Not to anything upon earth. Timothy is directed to something which cannot be moved: “Remember Jesus Christ raised from the dead according to my gospel.” We need not be astonished if we see in ruin that which has been committed to the responsibility of man. God is placing everything for Himself on the footing of resurrection. All may go to the bad here, but we ought neither to be surprised nor alarmed, for we have not been told to look for anything else; it is only that which is set up in Christ that abides; there only is no failure.
And this was according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. God is working now with a view to the establishment of all that which He had purposed before the ages of time. It has nothing to do with this world. God has approached us in Christ—He has come into His own creation in Christ, to fulfil the eternal purpose of His heart. For ages all that was present in this world under man’s eye was death and corruption. The gospel has brought to light another scene where death and corruption can never come. I am prepared to see everything that the natural man has to do with falling into decay, and being brought under the condemnation of God, but my heart is in the light of a scene where death, decay, and corruption are unknown. There is no failure in Christ. Life and incorruptibility are there, and brought to light by the gospel, and what God has brought to light is that with which He would have us occupied. We are certain to get very faint-hearted, if we allow ourselves to get under the influence of that which has come to pass in the profession of Christianity. We may find men whom we once thought far advanced in the things of God, carried away by the influence of the world, and falling into the snare of the devil, and propounding all sorts of theories destructive to the faith, and we will be ready to conclude that everything is going to pieces, and to give way to despair. But we need to know that God is basing nothing upon the faithfulness of man down here, but that He has secured everything for Himself in Christ within the veil.
As to the profession the Lord knoweth them that are His. I do not. I go on with people as long as they go on with Christ, when they depart I have to go on myself. I do not say people are reprobate who do not walk with me. I say nothing about them. I do not say all are Christ’s with whom I walk. It is not my province to pronounce upon anyone. The servant of the Lord is to depart from iniquity, and follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Those who are the Lord’s are known to Himself. I know where salvation is, and I seek to obtain it with eternal glory. I know where life and incorruptibility are, and I seek to keep it well before the vision of my soul. And as to my neighbour, for him I would desire to have some godly, care, lest the light of heavenly things might become enfeebled in his soul, and in the world’s powerful current he might be swept away and be engulfed in this awful maelstrom of corrupt Christianity. While we are upon earth there is always great danger of coming under the influence of what is visible, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved the present world.” We must have our hearts under the influence of what is revealed in the gospel—life and incorruptibility, if we are to continue in the faith. “If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” This is only morally right. If we are to partake of His glory in the day of His exaltation, we must know something of His cross and rejection now. The profession has clung to life and earthly honour and denied Him, and He will deny it. It cannot be otherwise, for He cannot deny Himself.
May the blessed Lord so bring our hearts under the influence of life and incorruptibility that we will shrink from the friendship of this world as we would from the embrace of death.