When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, the apostle knew that his earthly sojourn soon would come to an end (2 Timothy 4:6-8). He wanted his dear fellow-servant in the Lord, Timothy, to continue to be faithful in doing the Lord’s work, even after Paul’s departure.
Paul appealed to Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel which Paul proclaimed nor his commitment to it and the Lord (2 Timothy 1:8), to hold fast the pattern of sound words that he had heard from Paul (1:13), to be aware of those who turn away from the Lord’s Cause (1:15), and to appreciate those who have the heart of a servant (1:16-18).
In view of those matters, Paul’s next charge is, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2:1). That is a straightforward appeal, which if accepted and applied properly, would affect Timothy every single day for the rest of his life. Yes, it is that important. In the statement, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” what do you see?
First, there is the Lord’s call to be strong. God does not want His children to be weak, ashamed, fearful, reluctant, or intimidated. “Strong” is the word! It ought to be the goal of every single servant of God to be strong for Him. Our Lord does not want to hear excuses, there are no exemptions to His expectation for us to be strong, and no “free passes” are granted to those who do not take the “be strong” call seriously. Every member of the church in Corinth was charged to “be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13), so let us not think that only Timothy was called to be a strong servant. Granted, we all have different levels of strength, and, yes, God’s people should strive to “uphold the weak” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). But, the goal for ourselves and others is not to remain weak, but to become strong and stay strong. A second thing we notice in the charge of 2 Timothy 2:1 is where grace is available. God’s grace, which is His favor/lovingkindness/good will, is found in His Son and no other place. That is correct: the Bible says “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” By God’s grace, we are justified through the redemption that is in the Christ (Romans 3:24). All spiritual blessings, including the forgiveness of sins, are available by the good favor of God which is found only in Jesus (Ephesians 1:3,7). No one can be strong in serving the Lord if he/she is not in the Lord Jesus, because that is the only location where grace can be obtained.
When we consider the exhortation “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” we also see the realm in which Timothy needed to be strong. It is not uncommon for us to describe a person or some aspect of his life as being “strong.” A child might possess a “strong” will. One person has a “strong” body due to the way he exercises. Another person has a “strong” personality. A student may be described as one who is “strong” in the sciences.
What was God’s desire for Timothy? Answer: for him to be strong in the grace-Jesus connection, that is, be strong in the spiritual realm. Do you recall what the Bible says about Christians putting on the whole armor of God? That section of scripture begins with these words: “. . . be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). If you and I are going to be strong for the Lord, then we need to be strong in Him: strong in His grace, strong in His word, and strong in our faith (like Abraham was, Romans 4:20). We must not trust in our material blessings, educational or occupational accomplishments, genetic ancestry, or even other humans. Let us set our hearts to be strong in our Lord, His grace, and His way.
What else? Consider the reasons Timothy needed to be strong. Timothy needed to be strong because his work was so demanding: demanding on his time, demanding on his attitude, demanding on his commitment, and demanding on his voice. There was much work to do, and being successful in it left no room for weakness. After Paul’s appeal for Timothy to be strong, what instructions followed? In what activities would Timothy be involved?
In his efforts to help other Christians become effective teachers, Timothy needed to commit what he had learned from Paul to faithful saints (2 Timothy 2:2). Such training required strength and persistence on Timothy’s part. In addition, Timothy would face hardships in his personal life and in his efforts to proclaim the word of God. Paul called on him to endure such hardships (2:3). That would require spiritual stamina. Reading further, Timothy was to be “a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2:3). The spiritual battles in which Timothy would be engaged with the devil’s servants would require notable strength.
The appeal to Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in the Lord Jesus was not just a philosophy. It was real, everyday life. May we learn to trust in the Lord, striving always to walk with Him and for Him.
— Roger D. Campbell