Unashamed, Part 2: Confidence to be Faithful – 2 Timothy 1:12-18
“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me, and found me. The Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.”
We must keep in mind that Paul’s train of thought runs from v. 6 all the way through v. 18. This really is part 2 of a message that began back in v. 6. Paul’s gentle reminder to Timothy that he must keep his God-given gift alive and burning white hot, the prohibition of shame, and the exhortation to join in suffering run ahead of these verses and yet they are a part of these verses.
Paul commanded Timothy to not be ashamed of the testimony of Christ Jesus nor of him in his incarceration (v. 8). The temptation to cower and hide from what would have been certain persecution would have seemed inviting. Yet Timothy is to stand, not in his strength, but in the power of God given him through the Holy Spirit (v. 7). If God is able to redeem Timothy without help from Timothy (vv. 9-10) then God is able to provide the power to stand unashamed. What follows advances this train of thought.
Evidence of God’s Power for Faithful Confidence (v. 12)
For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
Paul uses the exact same phrase with which he began v. 6, For this reason. Some believe he is only pointing back to v. 11 and the reason is the fact that he was appointed as a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher. But it is likely that he uses the phrase in the same manner in which it was used in v. 6, to reach all the way back to vv. 3-5. It was there that he joined Timothy to himself in their common faith and common faithful ministry. They both serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and they both have served Him faithfully; Paul with a clear conscience and Timothy without hypocrisy.
After reminding Timothy to keep his gift burning (v. 6) and calling him to join in suffering (v. 8), Paul offers himself as evidence that God most certainly does give us a spirit of power, love, and discipline rather than a spirit of cowardice (v. 7). Timothy should not be ashamed because Paul is not ashamed.
Paul gives two reasons to explain why he, of all people, is not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord nor of his own incarceration. The first reason is found in the very person and nature of Almighty God.
Unashamed because of God’s Person – Paul is not ashamed because he knows the one whom he has believed. The Greek word for know is οἶδα and indicates a level of knowledge that far surpasses the cerebral to include the experiential. Paul is not ashamed of Christ Jesus, the one in whom he has believed, trusted, and placed his faith in, because he knows Him.
This isn’t theoretical for Paul. He’s not about to be martyred for an ideal. He is laying his life down for the One who has completely changed him. Paul comes into the biblical storyline as a persecutor of this very same One. His crime was not against individual Christians, but against Christ Himself. Jesus asked him on the Damascus road, “Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). Jesus introduced Himself to Paul that day and ever since then Paul would grow to know his Lord more and more. He speaks here of experience, not just intellectual knowledge. He knows Jesus, the One in whom he trusts.
Unashamed because of God’s Power – Paul’s second reason returns to the idea of God’s power or ability. The NASB translates the same word as power in vv. 7&8 (δυνατός/δύναμαι) as able here. I have no qualms with that because we defined this word as active and real power that assumes ability. His point is that he has no shame of Christ because Christ is able (or is powerful enough) to guard what was entrusted to Paul.
Time to get a little technical. The NASB translates the Greek phrase δυνατός ἐστιν τὴν παραθήκην μου φυλάξαι as “He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him.” This translation inserts the words to Him. A more literal translation would be: He is able to guard my deposit. The word παραθήκη refers to something of value given to a second party for safekeeping. But what is this deposit? Many take this to mean that Paul has entrusted himself, his life, and his very soul for Christ to guard. While the this is most certainly true, I’m not sure that’s the best way to understand this text.
This term (παραθήκη) is only used in the NT three times, and every time it is used it is accompanied by the verb φυλάσσω or to guard. The first time this construction is found is in 1 Tim. 6:20, “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you.” Every commentator is quick to identify the deposit or what has been entrusted as the gospel message. The third time it is used comes only a few verses after the one we’re looking at in 2 Tim. 1:14. Here too the obvious idea is that of the gospel message. It would be strange indeed for Paul to refer to something other than the gospel with the same construction that he will soon use again to command Timothy to guard the gospel.
The point is this: Paul is not ashamed because he knows Jesus Christ on a very intimate level and has trusted him. He is also not ashamed because he is convinced that Jesus Christ is powerful enough to guard the gospel with which Paul had been entrusted with. It matters not if Paul lives or dies, the gates of Hell will not prevail against the bride of Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:18). Christ will come for her and it is that day to which Paul refers. Christ is able to guard the gospel entrusted to Paul until He comes for His bride…until that day.
Paul offers himself as evidence to Timothy. If you think you are not able to stand under this kind of pressure, you’d be right, Timothy. Your flesh is weak and cowardly. But God has not given us a spirit of cowardice. Look at the evidence of my life. I am certainly not ashamed. But that strength does not come from me. That strength comes from the One in whom I know, the One whom I have trusted, and the One who has power to fulfill His great commission.
Exhortation to Guard the Faith with Confidence (vv. 13-14)
Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
Next comes two imperatives or commands for Timothy. It is time to act upon Paul’s encouragement and example.
Maintain Gospel Purity (v. 13) – The present tense is used in this imperative, indicating that this is something that Timothy was already doing. Retain, hold on to, handle with a white-knuckled grip just like you have been doing and so continue to do. What is Timothy commanded to continue to hold tightly to? The standard of sound words.
The idea of a standard or pattern is less than a written script but is vastly more constrictive than some make it out to be. An illustration may be helpful here. If someone were to sew a dress, they would begin with a pattern. The color of fabric and thread would be entirely optional, but when it’s time to cut out pieces to be sewn there is no wiggle room where the pattern is concerned.
This is the same idea here. Timothy is to hold tight the pattern of sound words or healthy words; words that grow the saints and edify the body of Christ. What are these words? The same words he heard from Paul as the agent of Christ Jesus to proclaim the gospel. The slightest departure from these healthy words will lead to disaster.
This pattern is not only to the words themselves, but to the way and manner in which they are delivered. Later we will read that Timothy is commanded to preach, rebuke, reprove, and exhort (4:2). The role of the preacher is to preach, not to give a fireside chat or sermonettes for Christianettes. This is a charge for purity. Paul adds that these words are to be held in faith and love. These words must be believed and not only understood. They must be spoken in love and desire to see men and women grow in holiness. This guards against liberalism (words without faith) and cold orthodoxy (correct theology without conviction). Only the sound and healthy words, Timothy. Only those words you heard from me. And only in the way you heard me preach them.
Maintain the Gospel Message (v. 14) – We’ve already identified the treasure which has been entrusted as the very gospel of Jesus Christ. The message of salvation from sin and death. Salvation that comes through faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ. Salvation that hopes because of His victorious resurrection that He will come again to completely undo and reverse the curse. Timothy is to guard this message. He will not allow anyone to tamper with it, change it, add to or subtract from it. This was the same message that was entrusted to Paul and now it is entrusted to Timothy.
This is a weighty and awesome task; an order too tall for any man. But once again we see that Timothy is not alone in this endeavor but that he will obey this commission through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. As men from dust we can do nothing. But by the Holy Spirit’s power we can do anything. Paul stands as evidence that this task is possible, and that God is able. So, what are you waiting for, Timothy?
Examples of Faithlessness and Faithfulness (vv. 15-18)
You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me, and found me. The Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.
The verses that follow might not seem to fit the rest of this section, but they most certainly do. Paul uses two groups of people to reveal what shame of the gospel and being unashamed of the gospel looks like. The lines have already been drawn. Timothy has already been commissioned. Into which group will Timothy ally himself?
Faithless Apostates (v. 15) – We know next to nothing about the two individuals, Phygelus and Hermogenes, other than what we read here. They are singled out among all in Asia who deserted Paul probably because they were the ringleaders of the desertion. Some say that Paul is only using hyperbole when he says that all those in Asia (speaking of the Roman province of Asia, of which Ephesus was the capital and not the continent) had turned away from him, but that would undercut Paul’s words to the point of making them almost meaningless. Is he just feeling sorry for himself? What is going on here?
We want to take seriously these final words of Paul but are forced to admit that all cannot mean all without exception because Timothy and Onesiphorus are obviously two exceptions. We know from chapter 4 that no one came to testify on Paul’s behalf (v. 16). It is likely that Paul had appealed to the Ephesian elders to come and testify as character witnesses for Paul, the same elders that wept on his neck in Acts 20. None of them came. All of them, every single one of the elders of Asia turned away from Paul.
The NASB uses the phrase turned away to reflect the Greek ἀποστρέφω or apostatize. This is not a commonly used verb in the NT and Paul only uses it a handful of times, but every time Paul uses it, ἀποστρέφω refers to a spiritual turn. Some would argue that these elders are only ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment and have only turned away from him, not from Christ or the gospel. I would urge the reader to look back over Paul’s argument since v. 3. Hasn’t he gone to great lengths to bind the two together? To be ashamed of Paul, who is in prison because of the gospel is the same as being ashamed of the gospel itself.
There are times when Paul singles people out for a very specific purpose and actually uses their names to make his point for him. As Paul concludes his letter to the Philippians (a letter written for the purpose of bringing unity to a church torn by squabbles) he commands two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to live in harmony (Phil. 4:2). Both of these women’s names are built off of verbs. Euodia comes from εὐοδόω meaning to prosper and Syntyche comes from συντυγχάνω meaning to come together. Their names spell out his command for them. Prosperity and Togetherness are to live in harmony with each other. I believe that Paul is doing something similar here.
Phygelus comes from the word φυγή meaning flight or flee while Hermogenes is related to the verb ἑρμηνεύω meaning to explain or to translate. This name is also similar to the name of the Greek god Hermes who was the messenger of the Greek pantheon. The point Paul seems to be driving home is that these two are the ringleaders of a full-scale retreat. The message of the gospel has been put to flight through their shame. Paul isn’t throwing a pity party. He’s revealing that Timothy is well aware of the fact that his own elders are on the brink of apostasy. Will Timothy join them?
Faithful Servants (vv. 16-18) – Next comes an example of devoted faithfulness. Read carefully, because there are more people involved here than only Onesiphorus. Paul begins by praying for mercy, not to Onesiphorus but to Onesiphorus’ household, or his family. As a resident of Ephesus (see 4:19) Onesiphorus would have had to leave his family behind in order to come and minister to Paul. This sacrifice was given willingly and graciously by the whole family.
It seems that Onesiphorus did not come empty handed either. This refreshment that Paul refers to certainly included Onesiphorus’ presence, but likely included material comforts like food and clothing (Rome was not fond of wasting money to feed prisoners they would soon execute). He risked his own life in searching out Paul’s location (it’s not a good idea to identify yourself as a friend of convicted criminals) and by coming to him multiple times. Onesiphorus was not ashamed even at the sight of Paul’s chain. The rest turned tail and headed for the hills just at the news of Paul’s arrest. But Onesiphorus grew bolder even in the face of where Paul had landed. May the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day – the day of Christ’s return.
Timothy knows the apostasy of his elders. Timothy knows the faithfulness of Onesiphorus. Timothy has been reminded of his calling and the resources at his disposal. But the time to decide has come. Where will he stand?
To distance ourselves from faithful servants of our Lord Jesus Christ is tantamount to distancing ourselves from Christ and His gospel. To stand shoulder to shoulder with brothers in the face of the enemy is one and the same as standing behind our King. Will we cut and run with the cowards? Or will we stand in the power of the Holy Spirit and for the glory of Christ? Soli Deo Gloria!