Like most families, I have some valuable keepsake sorts of items that I would like to see safely passed down through successive generations. People and families desire to pass on to their progeny those items that they value, be they items of wealth, real estate or whatever.
There is nothing more valuable than the gospel. And it needs to be passed down generationally both with organic and church families. It is the obligation particularly of church leaders (like Timothy) to be particularly cognizant of this responsibility, though everyone who truly knows and understands the Good News needs to play a part in disseminating it to successive generations.
In the Protestant/Evangelical tradition, this Scriptural truth and gospel message is what we inherit from the Apostles and pass on to those trusting in Christ who come behind us. The idea of “apostolic succession” is a part of the Roman Catholic tradition, being defined as, “the uninterrupted transmission of spiritual authority from the Apostles through successive popes and bishops.”
Here today in 2 Timothy 2, we see that Paul identifies THE STUFF – the apostolic succession – that is to be passed on as the teaching that came from him in both formal and informal discipleship that transpired in association with Timothy …
2:1 – You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
What does it mean to “entrust” this message with others? This is a word that would be used for making a deposit or entrusting something of value with another person … not to be kept and enjoyed, but to be the custodian of for the benefit of another. The word was also used to picture setting food on a table, or of setting forth an explanation or teaching. So it involves taking something of value and presenting if for the benefit of others.
Paul continues with three illustrations as to how Timothy should discharge this responsibility …
3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
Paul illustrates the way Timothy (and mature believers) should handle the obligation to be faithful in communicating the gospel. Being a soldier, or an athlete, or a farmer has multiple similar qualities. Each role involves disciplined commitment and hardships but leads to rewards when faithfully executed.
A soldier has to be focused and cannot be thinking about the folks at home when in combat. I understand that military training has a goal to break down the self-preservation sort of natural response in a crisis, so as to be only thinking about immediate obedience to an order. Jesus said to “Preach the gospel…”
An athlete cannot just go out and be a champion on Day 1. It takes a long time and great effort and discipline.
A farmer gets to be the first to benefit from what he grows, but the process is long and grueling. Most of my family ancestors were farmers, and the hours they kept were crazy.
There is no shortcut to communicating and teaching the gospel and the depths of Scripture. It is work to learn it and to pass it along to others who will pass it along to others … yep … who will pass it along to others. We’re all in the process somewhere, sometimes maybe both learning more and communicating more. There is no place for the passive.