both teachers and learners bear the responsibility to “be the link” to the next convert, the next generation, or the next area (John Lathrop)
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 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. 2 Timothy 2:1-2 (TNIV).
In this portion of Scripture the apostle Paul gives, Timothy, his colleague, some instructions. The first instruction is of a more personal nature, he urges his young friend to be strong in the grace that is found in Christ Jesus. The second instruction concerns Timothy’s teaching ministry in the church in Ephesus. In this brief article I would like to direct your attention to the second instruction.
As we begin our consideration of this text one thing that we can say with certainty is that Paul’s words to Timothy were not a suggestion. Paul was not offering helpful advice; he was giving a clear directive. However, in view of the relationship between these two men I doubt that this instruction was in any way given, or received, as a word uttered in a dictatorial tone.
I think that Paul wrote as he did for a couple of reasons. First, because he had been inspired by God to do so and second, because of what was at stake. The issue at hand was truth; Paul was very interested in preserving the truth.
Let us now turn our attention to the content that Timothy was instructed to communicate. A brief look at the text shows us that Paul did not elaborate on all that he wanted Timothy to teach. That is, he did not give Timothy a list of doctrines or topics that he wanted him to cover. He said only “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses” (2 Tim. 2:2, TNIV).
We don’t know all that this phase referred to; however, Timothy would have known what was meant because he had heard Paul speak many times. The significance of teaching the things that Paul taught publicly is two-fold. First, what Paul taught was apostolic, thus authoritative. Second, the things that were spoken publicly means that the teachings were well-known and important.
We know from other texts that Timothy was to teach the entire congregation in Ephesus. However, in the verses that we are considering he was instructed to teach a smaller group of people, in fact, people of a particular caliber. He was told to teach reliable people. These reliable people were to be those who could also teach others.
Not everyone is a good communicator. The people Paul wanted Timothy to teach had to be good communicators. It was not enough that these people could grasp the truth for themselves; they had to be able to convey it to others. There is a reason that Paul mentions this qualification.
The reason Paul set down this qualification was because Paul was interested in perpetuating the truth. He wanted the truth to endure and spread. One of the ways that truth is preserved and passed on is through people.
Ephesians 4:11, which was also written by Paul, tells us that teachers are gifted people that God gives to the church. Only some are teachers, not all Christians have this gifting. However, if a person does have this gifting they need to make sure that they are faithful in the exercise of their ministry. They must also be on the lookout for others who can carry on the torch of truth, who can help preserve and spread the faith even further.
If we are the ones being taught in this mentoring process we need to understand that we are being taught so that we can in turn teach others. In our text both teachers and learners bear the responsibility to “be the link” to the next convert, the next generation, or the next area. This is part of God’s plan for the future. The fact that the church has continued for all of these centuries is evidence that this verse has, at least in some measure, been obeyed. May we in the contemporary church continue to obey this apostolic instruction!
John P. Lathrop - United States
John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, Zion Bible Institute, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). He is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and has twenty years of pastoral experience.