1 & 2 Timothy Part Three Deep Dive
THE RADICAL GOSPEL | NATHAN ROSS
2 Timothy is such an intriguing book to read through and study. Although it’s intention was to encourage and guide Timothy as he led the church at Ephesus, there is so much to be gained from this book as readers today. It is just a small letter that consists of 4 chapters and may at times seem as though it is jumping from one topic to another. Although if you were to read through it all in one sitting you will pick up a reoccurring theme – that is one of suffering and persecution. The words suffering, endure or persecution repeat 10 times throughout this book. So this theme is one that’s pretty hard to miss, especially so when we remind ourselves that Paul was imprisoned in Rome as he was writing it. No wonder why it is so pertinent in his mind.
The outstanding passage in regards to such persecution is found in 1:11-12 that states, “And of this gospel, I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am.” From this, we have to question what is the connection between the gospel and suffering? Too often we talk about suffering just as suffering, but not actually why and what it is connected to.
To sufficiently explore this question it is essential to do a quick cultural study on 1st-century politics. During such a time in history, the Roman Empire was at large and had control over much of the known world. The Romans brought with them a political system that consisted of a single emperor who had leadership and control over the whole empire. Yes, there was a Senate that sat under the Emperor who gave advice and consultation to the Emperor but the Emperor had supreme power and was highly exalted and raised above all other men. Such a political system traces its roots back to the first Roman Emperor – Augustus. Interestingly enough much of the language that we encounter with the gospel message and person of Jesus Christ actually was very common in the time.
Evangelion is the Greek word for gospel or good news, yet Augustus’ birthday was declared as the beginning of the good news to the world.
Soter (saviour), yet the emperor secured salvation for the people by executing his duties.
Uios theou (Son of God), yet Augustus was considered a distant descendant of the god Venus and was the son of the divine Julius Caesar
Christos (Messiah) in Jewish implies a kingship yet there was only one king: the Emperor.
Kyrios (Lord) was a term commonly used to refer to the emperors.
So we see that the gospel that Paul was preaching was one that appropriated the current language and beliefs and redirected them to the person of Jesus Christ. Paul took all that the world (both the Jews and Romans) considered to be sacred and gave all the credit to the true King, true God, and Lord of all – Jesus Christ. This is why he faced such severe persecution. Not just because some people might have disagreed with him and his teaching, but because this gospel message was so radical that it was going to completely revolutionize the world as they knew it. For those who were secure in their power, wealth and current lifestyle this was not a change they were willing to let in. So rather they sought to shut down these followers of Christ, these Christians, so they could retain order.
Now, this is not intended to be a condemnation to you who are not imprisoned or beaten just for following Christ just as Paul was. Because, just as this Gospel is radical in a different way due to our different context, the persecution and suffering we face will also be different. But this is a reminder to expect a bit of pushback when we choose to live a life that follows Christ. Just as Paul says in 3:12, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Don’t take joy in suffering and persecution just for the sake of suffering and persecution. But take joy in the radical nature of the gospel. Take joy that at its core the gospel seeks to turn a society on its head where it would rather stay firmly planted on its two feet. So it makes complete sense that there would be some kickback for those who choose to believe, preach and live out such a gospel. Take joy in this. And let us continually remind us that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control in order for us to walk out the journey that Christ has set before us.