So far in 2 Timothy, Paul has reminded Timothy to follow his example and get on with his calling – fanning into flame his gift. He’s been given God’s power to carry out the mission, so he shouldn’t be ashamed of anything – whether it be the gospel itself, or Paul’s imprisonment for the sake of it.
Today, Paul reminds Timothy that just as he’s been equipped by God to do the work, he’s also been given a great motivation for the work: God’s grace.
2 Timothy 1:9-10 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
There’s a connection between being saved and being called to a particular way of living. Literally, it’s “called us to a holy calling” – but that makes awkward-sounding English. But it makes it difficult to tell whether the calling is holy (because of the Holy One who calls) or the life to which it calls us is holy (set apart in service of a Holy God). Either way, I think we end up in the same place: we’re saved in order to live in a way that’s different, reflecting the character and values of the one who saved us.
This process was not of our own doing, but the free act (or “grace”) of God. And it’s not just something God came up with recently – a hastily assembled rescue plan after things went so horribly wrong with his creation – but it was his plan and purpose right from the start.
This plan, however, has only been revealed to us at this point in history: the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus. The word “appearing” (Greek: epiphaneia) was a term used for a “royal visit” of a king or the Emperor (the visit of the Magi is traditionally called “Epiphany”). Paul often uses the rhetoric of the Emperor – who also styled himself “saviour” of the world, because he brought peace – and applies it to Jesus. (We also see it in e.g. Titus 3:4-5 and Philippians 3:20.) Because Jesus has done so much more than just bring temporary peace at the point of a spear; he destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel! (Take that, you toga-wearing upstart!)
That’s the motivation to fan our gift into flame: the incredible, history-changing actions of our God and Saviour, who has brought his rescue plan to light by destroying death and offering us immortality!2 Timothy 1:11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.
(Interesting nerd-note: This description is similar to how Epictetus (Discourses 3.22.70) describes the role of a philosopher – as “a messenger, scout, and herald of the gods.” In a letter styled after Greek moral instruction, Paul may be borrowing this concept to portray himself as the messenger of a new “philosophy” which supersedes all others.)
At the end of his majestic description of God’s great plan of salvation, he reminds Timothy that this, now, is his job to announce it.
A herald usually announced good news – like a military victory, or a royal birth, a coronation, etc. Here, the good news is (given the context) Jesus’ victory over death and the announcement of his royal visit!
An apostle is simply “one who is sent with a message.” Although there were capital-A Apostles who were specially commissioned with a role to start God’s Church, at some level we’re all apostles – “sent ones” – whose calling it is to proclaim the message. And to be teachers of this new way of life that is the result of this message. (Remember the Great Commission: Go – make disciples – baptising and teaching them to obey Jesus’ commandments.)
Paul fulfilled his calling as a herald, apostle, and teacher. He implicitly urged Timothy to follow his example, and do the same.
To think about
How are you going to fulfil your calling as a herald, apostle, and teacher?
- God has appointed you as a herald, whose job it is to announce the good news of Jesus’ victory over death to everyone you come across.
- God has appointed you as an apostle, who’s been sent with the message that the King has visited us, and will one day visit us again.
- And God has appointed you as a teacher, to show the world (in words, but primarily in action) what it means to live a life worthy of this King.