The next major section of 2 Timothy deals with faithful teaching. (After all, we’ve just spent the first half of the chapter talking about unfaithful teachers.) Here, Paul reMinds Timothy of his Model in teaching, so that Timothy can iMitate it. (See the introductory post if you’re wondering why the weird capital Ms.)
Teach by example2 Timothy 3:10-13 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Paul has been Timothy’s teacher. And clearly Paul’s role as a teacher has been about more than just passing on information. Timothy has seen Paul’s way of life. And how his teaching has been embodied in the way he goes about things. His purpose. His faith. The patience and love with which he treats others. The way he’s endured hardship and persecution for the sake of the gospel. Paul’s whole life has been a lesson for Timothy.
And it’s not just this verse we get it from. In the first century in general, teachers and philosophers were expected to embody their teaching. Their words had to be matched by their behaviour and character, or no one would take them seriously. And Paul was no exception, offering himself up as a model to those he teaches. To the point where he can say, in 1 Cor 11, “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”.
If you’re a Christian teacher – whether it be a pastor, a teacher in a school, a youth leader, a Sunday School teacher, a parent – you’re never off duty. You’re always modelling to others what it means to be a follower of Jesus. You teach with your life, and then with your words.
At the college I teach at, we often have the privilege of hosting famous bible scholars and speakers. And because they’re often staying with us for a few days, we get to know them. Observe their way of life, rather than just hear their words.
A few years back, we had a couple of leading NT scholars visit us within the space of a few years. I won’t name either of them, but both are well known in their field, although probably only one of them would be a name you’ve heard of. The more famous one – he spoke well, as always. But in person he was quite aloof. Sometimes a bit rude and dismissive of people and their questions. A person who made you feel nervous and judged when you spoke with him.
The other one is an equally accomplished scholar, although most of you probably haven’t heard of him. In person he was warm and caring. Very humble. Just “hung out” with everyone, and graciously answered even the most naïve of questions. Now I’ve read many of his books. But I think I’ve learned just as much about following Jesus from how he interacted with people, as I have from his books. (And as it happens, I’ll have stayed with him the last couple of days on my whirlwind trip through south-eastern USA. If I didn’t get lost driving from Nashville…)
Faithful teachers teach, firstly, by example.
Teach confidence in the truth
Secondly, we teach confidence in what we believe; that what Scripture says is true. This is what Paul tells Timothy, starting from verse 14:3:14-15 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Paul encourages Timothy to remain confident in the message, even as he passes it on to others. To this end, Paul reminds him of his family heritage. How he’d been brought up by his mother and grandmother to know God. To trust the Hebrew Scriptures. And I’m sure quite a number of you have been brought up in this way by your families – to know God and to trust his word.
But Paul also hints at something else. The fact that Timothy has “become convinced” of it. It’s not just the religion of his family; he’s appropriated it for himself. More than that, Paul says he “knows” those from whom he learned it. From Paul himself, and from the other eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. We can be confident in the gospel message because there is eyewitness evidence that’s been reliably passed down to us. History testifies to a resurrected Jesus.
As teachers of children, this is important. Many of those you teach might be like Timothy – children of believers. They turn up each week because it’s their parents’ religion; the faith of their family. Yet at some point they’ll start asking the questions: is it really true?
My younger son started asking these questions when he was only eight. Wanting to know why, if so many people believed different things – why we knew we were right about God. I pointed him to Jesus’ resurrection as the evidence that he is who he claimed to be. Then every few nights he’d come downstairs with the next logical question: how do we know Jesus existed? Then, maybe Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, he just passed out? And then, what if someone else stole the body from the tomb?
Each time, I’d take him through the historical evidence that Jesus did exist. That he was dead when he was placed in the tomb. And that there’s no other plausible explanation for the missing body. As hard as it is – explaining this to an eight year old – it was exciting. Because he was checking it out for himself. Making the faith of his family his own.
As faithful teachers, we need to be confident in the truth of the gospel. And we need to know why we can be confident. We need to be able to explain to those we teach the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. How it demonstrates who he is, and his power to rescue us. We teach confidence in the truth.