The Worthy Life (2 Timothy 1:8-12)
I hate being the hero of the story, but the truth is that Tammy and I have made sacrifices for me to preach. We have sacrificed financially; I don’t mean to imply in any way whatsoever that I’m unhappy with my salary. But I could have taken a different career path and made much more money.
There have been numerous family sacrifices. Tammy and I haven’t lived near our parents for over 20 years. That has created some challenges. There have been times we’ve needed to travel a long way to see loved ones in the hospital. Our boys’ grandparents didn’t get to attend school activities like most grandparents do. I had to make many trips to the neurology clinic at West Virginia University, and those were always overnight trips. Tammy and I had to find someone to keep the kids overnight; we always hated to ask church folks to keep our kids overnight, but we didn’t really have a choice.
But let me be perfectly clear—Tammy and I would have it no other way. There is no greater honor than sharing the word of God, and there is nothing like seeing lives changed through the word of life.
Tammy and I are not the only ones who have sacrificed for the gospel—you’ve done so, too. Some of you had to give up a favorite sin to come to Jesus. Some of you sacrifice every Lord’s Day when you give generously. Some of you sacrifice your time at the Wheelhouse or inviting friends and neighbors to worship. Some of you sacrificed the faith of your childhood—even going against parents—to come to Jesus.
In this morning’s text, Paul was sacrificing for the gospel—he wrote this epistle from a Roman prison where he was awaiting execution. Paul urged Timothy to sacrifice for the gospel, too. But Paul didn’t simply tell Timothy to sacrifice for the gospel; he told Timothy why the gospel is worthy of sacrifice. This morning I want you to understand: “The gospel is worthy of sacrifice.”
Scripture (2 Timothy 1:8-14)
Timothy had no reason to be ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment. In antiquity, imprisonment was a serious cause for shame; instead of a place of punishment, prison was simply a holding place until execution. Furthermore, showing any sympathy toward a prisoner meant you were just as guilty as he, and you could be punished.
Instead of shame, Timothy needed to share in suffering for the gospel by “the power of God.” Paul wasn’t telling Timothy he necessarily needed to be imprisoned and die for the faith. But he couldn’t cower in fear and shame. Timothy should continue to preach, and if he were imprisoned and executed, so be it.
Timothy would be able to share in suffering through God’s power. In the previous paragraph, Paul had reminded Timothy that he had the miraculous gift of the Spirit through the laying on of Paul’s hands (vv 6-7). Timothy would find courage through that miraculous power.
Paul here began to explain why “The gospel is worthy of sacrifice.”
“The gospel is worthy of sacrifice” because of what God has done. He saved us—he removed the penalty of sin and gave us eternal life. He called us to a holy calling—he changed our lives from sin to holiness.
We didn’t earn this salvation and new life; instead, God saved us and gave us new life “because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” It’s God’s will to save man. Because it’s his will, God gave us grace in Christ Jesus from eternity. Jesus has, in other words, been full of grace before this world was ever made.
God’s grace has now been manifested in the coming of Jesus. It was one thing for God to be full of grace since before creation, and it was another thing for Jesus to come and make that grace a reality. Of course, Jesus had to come to earth and manifest his grace. Without Jesus’s coming to earth, there is no death on the cross and no salvation and no holy calling.
Jesus “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
- Jesus abolished death—With his resurrection, death no longer has dominion.
- Jesus brought life to light—With his work, Jesus brings new life.
- Jesus brought immortality to light—With his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus brings eternal life.
For the gospel, Paul was appointed to three positions. The passive tense of “appointed” demonstrates the fact that God uniquely selected and called Paul.
- He was a preacher—a herald, one who announced good news.
- He was an apostle—an eyewitness to Jesus’s resurrection and an authority in the early church.
- He was a teacher—an instructor to help others understand truth.
Because God had appointed him to his service and because the gospel brings salvation and new life, Paul was willing to suffer.
“The gospel is worthy of sacrifice.” Through the gospel:
- You have salvation.
- You have been called to a holy calling.
- Death has been abolished.
- Life has been brought to light.
- Immortality has been brought to light.
Therefore, the gospel is worthy of every sacrifice you make.
What sacrifices do you need to make for the gospel? In reality, you sacrifice your life. Paul was sacrificing his life—He had given up his freedom, and he was about to be beheaded. Timothy would—according to church history—give up his physical life for the gospel; Timothy was in Ephesus where he reproved idolators in AD 97. The people “fell upon [Timothy] with their clubs, and beat him in so dreadful a manner that he expired of the bruises two days later” (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs ).
Jesus calls upon you to give up your life for the gospel. Luke 14:26. In this day and age—in this nation, at least—we’re not called upon to lay down our physical lives for the gospel. Yet, this text shows how you sacrifice your life; you sacrifice your life through:
One: Holy Living.
Because “The gospel is worthy of sacrifice,” you sacrifice the wants and desires of your flesh and live a holy life. God “called us to a holy calling.”
- “Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1).
- “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14).
- 1 Peter 1:15-16.
When you came to Jesus, you pledged to put away your sin—to sacrifice the desires of the flesh and live a holy life. Make a commitment right now that you will be holy.
Take a look at your holiness. Is there a dark place in your heart where unholiness lives? Is that dark place so unholy that no one else knows you dwell on these thoughts—not your spouse or your children or your parents? Do you feast on thoughts you’d be humiliated to be announced from this pulpit?
Whatever unholiness is in your heart you need to get rid of it!
- Confess that unholiness to God.
- Ask God for strength.
- Feed your heart with good—spend time in the word and throw light on the darkness in your heart.
- Spend time with God’s holy people who through their example call you to a holy life.
Two: Holy Leading.
Paul sacrificed his life for the gospel by serving as “a preacher and apostle and teacher.” In other words, the gospel was worthy of Paul’s sacrificing his life to lead people to Jesus. Because Paul sacrificed his life leading people to the gospel, he could say that the gospel had “been proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Col 1:23).
Let me ask you: Has the gospel in all its fullness and truth been proclaimed in all of Deer Park? How many people in this very community don’t know the truth but follow error? How many people in this very community know nothing of Jesus and are marching totally unaware into an eternal hell? Isn’t it time that we start leading Deer Park to Jesus?
Paul said he led people to Jesus as a preacher, apostle, and teacher. Not everyone can fill those roles. No one can be an apostle today. Not everyone has the talents to fulfill the two positions—preacher and teacher—available today.
But you can do something to lead people to Jesus. Think about what you can do this week—invite a friend to worship, invite someone to participate in a correspondence course, take someone a tract or other literature, study with Bible with someone.
Whatever you do, you must be leading people to Jesus. That’s the church’s mission: “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). Brothers and sisters, Deer Park is part of all nations and this church must lead this community to Jesus. What will you do this week to lead Deer Park to Jesus?
But do you need to come to Jesus yourself this morning as we stand and sing?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park,