"Remember Jesus - Raised From the Dead!"
2 Timothy 2:8-10
(Delivered Resurrection Sunday, April 16, 2006 at Bethany Bible Church. All Scripture quotes, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New King James Version.)
This morning, I'd like to draw your attention to something that the apostle Paul wrote about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul, of course, wrote many things about the resurrection; but this particular passage is unique in that it involves a command. It teaches us something that we are to do with the news that Jesus has risen from the dead and is alive today.
This passage is found in his second New Testament letter to Timothy. The key word in this command is "remember". And I believe that if you and I will commit together to faithfully obey this "resurrection" command from Paul, it will transform the character of our lives.
Paul wrote to Timothy and said,
Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:8-10).
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Have you ever wondered what it is about some people that makes them excited and motivated when it comes to the Christian faith? Why is it that some people are unusually energized to live the Christian faith in an out-in-the-open, public manner - eager to share the good news of the gospel with others; while others are shy and timid about their faith, and are fearful and hesitant to tell others about Jesus' love? What makes some professing Christians so intensely motivated, while others hold back? Why does the Christian faith make such a difference in the lives of some, while it seems to make so little difference in the lives of others?
I think there are many reasons for this difference. But I believe that one of the key reasons is highlighted for us in this morning's passage. It can be summed up in that important word "remember".
People for whom the Christian life is exciting - something that they are eager to share with others - are those people who have "remembered" Jesus and the fact of His resurrection. They have come to believe - with all their heart - that Jesus Christ has truly died and has truly risen from the dead, and that He is alive today to transform the lives of anyone who trusts Him. Such people so believe that Jesus truly has risen from the dead - and so faithfully and continually keep that fact always before themselves - that it has become the key conviction of their hearts. It becomes the theme of everything else in their life.
If you were to read Paul's letter to Timothy, you'd see that Timothy needed to be encouraged to hold on to this. When he wrote it, Paul himself was in prison. He was, in actual fact, about to be put to death for his faith. And Timothy - a pastor in the ancient city of Ephesus - was demonstrating a timidity about his own faith. He was fearful and hesitant. Paul had to exhort him; saying,
Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind (2 Tim. 1:6-7).
Timothy looked at the suffering that he was undergoing for preaching the gospel. And, of course, he also looked at how much Paul was suffering. And naturally, Timothy was tempted to shrink back. But Paul had to urge him,
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God . . . (v. 8).
He confessed to Timothy that he himself certainly suffered for the gospel. And he also knew that Timothy would suffer. Paul was realistic and honest about the situation. But the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ was what gave Paul confidence and hope in the face of such suffering. He wrote,
For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day (v. 12).
In fact, near the end of his letter, Paul was able to make this great affirmation of "resurrection" hope:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (4:6-8).
Paul sought to share his own enthusiasm for Christ with Timothy, and to see it replicated in his life. And so, in that context, this tiny little letter is filled with wonderful exhortations; exhortations that have been an encouragement to followers of Christ throughout the centuries - exhortations to rise up for Christ, gladly proclaim Him, and confidently suffer for the cause of His gospel.
Paul told Timothy such things as, "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2:1); "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2:15). "[Y]ou must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (3:14-15). "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in seasons and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (4:1-2).
And what is it that Paul offers as a key motivation? What does Paul urge Timothy to do that will keep his zeal strong in the face of so much suffering and opposition to the gospel? It is that he obey this command: "Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, according to my gospel . . ."
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Let's look at this command from Paul in greater detail. It's my prayer that the Holy Spirit will so work it into our hearts that we, too, will become motivated to live out our faith in Christ with zeal before this needy world.
First, notice . . .
1. WHAT WE ARE TO DO (v. 8).
Paul says, "Remember1 . . ." And let me share with you a few things about this word, as Paul writes it in the original language. This is a word that is given in the imperative mood. In other words, it's given to Timothy as a command to be obeyed. We should always pay attention to commands given in the Scripture - and, of course, be sure that we obey them. And this is just such a thing - a command!
It's also given in a tense of the verb (that is, the present tense) that indicates that it is a command to be obeyed continually and as an ongoing habit of life. In other words, Paul is not simply suggesting a passing memory to Timothy. Rather, he is commanding Timothy to deliberately - as an act of the will - keep something before his thoughts as a habit of life; and to so continually fix his thoughts on it that the truth of it transforms him.
And what is this thing that he is to remember? It is the very thing that we are here today to celebrate. "Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, according to my gospel . . ."
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Let's take this apart even further.
First, Paul tells Timothy to remember that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. And again, I must share with you a little bit of the grammar that Paul uses. (I hope you don't mind when I do that. The Holy Spirit has inspired the words of the Scripture even down to its points of grammar; and great gems of spiritual truth are dug up from out of the divinely inspired grammar of the Bible's text.)
Paul, you see, doesn't simply say that Jesus was raised as if it were a mere fact somewhere in the past but no longer relevant today. Rather, he uses a form of the verb2 that speaks of an act that was performed in the past in a once-for-all-time kind of way; but one that also has an ongoing, present impact. Jesus was, in other words, raised up by God from the dead unto a resurrected life that is "permanent and present"3. He has been raised from the dead; and that fact has an impact on this world today.
This means something of the utmost significance to you and me in our daily lives right now! It means that when we cry out to Jesus, He hears us and is able to help us. It means that He is seated today at the right hand of His Father in heavenly glory, and is - even now - interceding for us. It means that His promise is true - that He is with us always, "even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). It means that our Savior is also a divine Friend who is always with us, always caring for us, always watching out for us, always leading us, always empowering us.
Second, he reminds Timothy that this Jesus, who was raised from the dead, was "of the seed of David". And here, Paul is highlighting the fact that Jesus came into this world in the fulfillment of prophetic Scripture - not only to die and then to be raised, but also to reign over this world as the promised offspring of King David.
Jesus is the fulfillment of God's promise to David that, "When your days are fulfilled, and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever" (2 Sam. 7:12-13). The resurrection proves that it is Jesus who will return to this world to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords; because as the apostle Paul said, God has "appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).
Jesus is that coming Judge and King that the scriptures promise; "who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:3-4). All of this is asserted in that affirmation that He is the resurrected Christ, "of the seed of David".
And finally, he reminds Timothy that this is all "according to my gospel". There is, in that statement, a great assertion of authority and solemn truth; because Paul never allowed it to be thought that he came up with his gospel message on his own. Instead, he insisted that it had been given to Him by divine revelation of God.
Paul once wrote to the Galatian believers and said, "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of God" (Galatians 1:11-12). He presented the gospel as a "mystery" that had been revealed to him by God (Ephesians 3:3); and saw himself and the other apostles as entrusted with a message "which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ" (Eph. 3:9). In saying all this, he was making the assertion that his gospel was divinely authoritative.
And he also asserted that the "resurrection" was an essential part of this divinely authoritative gospel. He once told the Corinthian believers,
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you - unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time (1 Corinthians 15:1-9).
In fact, Paul even makes the assertion that if the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, then we all might as well forget about the Christian faith altogether. Paul himself admitted this. He said,
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up - if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable (1 Corinthians 15:13-19).
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ; if the bodily resurrection of Christ from the grave is not a real, literal, actual, historical event, then the gospel message isn't true. We shouldn't waste anymore time believing it. That's how essential Paul made the resurrection of Jesus to the gospel he preached.
But praise God, it is true! And Paul calls Timothy - and us - to "remember" it. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and is now alive. And we are commanded to so continually call this fact to our conscious attention, and so keep it before our minds, that its truth transforms us from the inside out.
If you want to see your Christian faith mean something in this world, if you want to see it make a difference in your life, then obey this command! "Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead . . ."
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Now; if you do so, you need to know that it will cost you. You need to know that you will be making an assertion that this world finds unacceptable - an assertion that is contrary to everything it is committed to, and that it finds utterly repulsive. You will be telling the world what it does not want to hear - that God now calls all people everywhere to repent of their sins and believe the gospel message; that He has set a time on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained; and that He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.
There's no doubt about it: The preaching of the message of the gospel - of which the resurrection of Christ is a key part - brings upon ourselves the opposition of this world. This leads us to a second point. We see not only what we are to do, but also . . .
2. WHAT CHALLENGE WE WILL FACE (v. 9).
Paul spoke of the gospel he preached; "for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains . . ."
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Do you know Paul's story? He was a committed Jew - a Pharisee, in fact. He could heartily testify from personal experience that the preaching of the gospel is opposed by the people of this world - and one reason why he could testify to it so confidently was because he himself was once one of the strongest opponent to the gospel message you could ever meet!
But the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ had placed His call on Paul's life. Christ Himself said of Paul, ". . . [H]e is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake" (Acts 9:15-16).
While Paul was on his way to Damascus - to arrest the Christians that lived there and to drag them to their deaths - he was abruptly met by the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. That encounter transformed Paul from the church's greatest antagonist into the church's greatest missionary. There is no other way to explain Paul's life but by the fact that he met the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.
But Paul no sooner began to preach Christ, and to prove conclusively that He truly had risen from the dead, than he suffered threats to his life (Acts 9:23-24). Paul's whole missionary life from then on was a matter of fleeing from one deadly threat to another. He hints at it all to Timothy when he tells him,
But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra - what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:10-12).
In 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, he speaks of his experiences as a preacher of the gospel of the resurrected Christ:
. . . [I]n labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness - (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
And look at where he is as he writes these words to Timothy! He is even then suffering trouble as an evildoer - sitting in prison "even to the point of chains" - awaiting what will prove to be his execution under the orders of Caesar Nero.
Let's be clear about it. If you "remember" that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead - and so remember it that it transforms your life in this world, and moves you to proclaim Him in it - then you will "suffer trouble".
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But note also the confidence that Paul had. He admitted to Timothy that, yes, he was in chains; "but the word of God is not chained". Nothing that was going to happen to Paul would prevent the message that God had entrusted to Him from being spread.
Paul had the sort of confidence that was expressed Hebrews 4:12; that "the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of the soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Nothing on this earth will ever stop the word of God's salvation through Jesus Christ from being spread; because the Son of God Himself said that "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations" (Matthew 24:14). He has promised that His church will be built, "and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
And so, even in though it's true that those who proclaim the resurrected Christ will suffer trouble, Paul could encourage Timothy - and us with him - to "endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3). The gospel of the risen Christ will be victorious - no matter what.
Is that your confidence, dear brother or sister? It will be if you first "remember" - in the midst of the suffering - that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead.
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So then; we've seen what we must do - that is, "remember" that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. We've also seen what the challenge is that we will face - that we will "suffer trouble" in this world for proclaiming Him. But this leads us to a final and very practical point in these words of Paul to Timothy . . .
3. WHAT OUR PERSPECTIVE WILL BECOME (v. 10).
If we keep ever before us the fact that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead - if we genuinely believe this affirmation as absolute fact; and if we faithfully proclaim that fact confidently, even in the face of trouble and opposition - we will grow to look beyond the immediate suffering, and will become increasingly motivated by the long-term results that God Himself will bring about through His gospel. Paul himself told Timothy,
Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus to eternal glory (v. 10).
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When I think of these words of Paul, my mind goes to the Book of Revelation. Do you remember how it begins? The apostle John is given a revelation of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ in heavenly glory. This revelation was given to John during a time when he himself was suffering persecution. He was in exile on the Isle of Patmos "for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:9). He was "suffering trouble" because of his testimony of Christ in this world. And Jesus appeared to him to give him a vision of the things that the church would suffer in times to come.
But do you remember how Jesus speaks to John? He begins by telling John, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and Death" (Revelation 1:17-18).
Think of that! Our risen Savior presents Himself to His suffering people - many of whom would soon be called upon to lay down their lives for His sake - as one who says, "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore." It's as if He were saying, "See? I tasted death, as you also will. I have suffered for you; as you too will be called upon to Suffer for Me. But behold! I live! And if you trust Me, you will live also! So, don't be afraid of the cost! I have conquered and am victorious! I have in My hands the keys of Hades and Death! Now, go forward and suffer faithfully for My name's sake; because nothing can ultimately hurt you!"
What a wonderful picture! And I see in Paul's words to Timothy that kind of confidence in Christ. Look at the details of Paul's "resurrection" perspective:
First, we see that he looks ahead to those who are the "elect" or "chosen ones". This speaks of those whom God has graciously appointed for salvation from the beginning. Some people struggle with the idea that God has chosen some folks in advance for salvation. But I don't believe we should struggle with it. The Bible clearly teaches it. The fact that God has sovereignly chosen some undeserving sinners for salvation highlights the fact that He is a gracious God. Paul didn't know who the elect were, but he knew that God knew who they were.
Second, we see that Paul faithfully proclaimed the gospel of the risen Savior "that they [that is, those whom God had chosen] may obtain salvation which is in Christ Jesus"; and not salvation from sin alone, but also "with eternal glory". This was what motivated Paul to proclaim the gospel - even though it would bring trouble upon himself to do so. He knew that, if he faithfully proclaimed the gospel message that God had entrusted to him, the elect would hear and believe! Who the elect were was a piece of business that God had kept to Himself. But the fact that everyone was to hear about the risen Savior - no matter what the personal cost might be - was the piece of business that God had entrusted to Paul. And it thrilled Paul to know that he could be used by God in the salvation of the elect of God!
And so, thirdly, we see the purpose Paul saw in the sufferings and troubles he endured for the sake of the gospel. He "remembered" continually that Jesus Christ was alive - raised from the dead; and could declare, "Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect . . ." Though Paul suffered greatly for preaching the gospel, he considered the cost to be well worth it. He never saw himself as suffering needlessly or without purpose; because the suffering was always highly and divinely purposeful, and was directed toward the salvation and eternal glory of the elect in Christ.
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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ; we have great reason to celebrate today. Jesus Christ is alive from the dead. He has risen!
But my hope and prayer today is that we will do more than celebrate that fact - and then simply walk out the door and forget about it until next year. I pray that we will obey Paul's command to Timothy. I pray that we will actively, consciously, deliberately, and persistently "remember" that Jesus Christ was risen from the dead. I pray that we will remember that, as the seed of David, He has been raised from the dead to come to this earth once again and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
May we so remember this that it will become a truth indelibly fixed upon our minds and hearts; and that we will so rejoice in the light of it that we will faithfully live it out and share it with others. May we become motivated to cling to it and proclaim it, even though it costs us to do so - even though it means we must, for a time, "suffer trouble". May we so remember it that we will "endure all things" for the sake of the spread of this wonderful news unto the salvation of others!
On this important day, and from then on afterwards, may we obey this command and continually "remember" Jesus - raised from the dead!
1Mnămoneuő; to remember; to keep in mind.
2Egăgermenon ; the accusative singular middle perfect passive participal of egeirő.
3H.C.G. Moule, Studies in II Timothy (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977), p. 81.
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