Becoming Useful to the Master

A Bible Exposition Of 2 Timothy 2:20-22

Our text today is in 2 Timothy. We will take a few minutes to set this letter up before we get into our passage.

This letter was written by the Apostle Paul to his trusted son in the faith, Timothy. The letter is directed to Timothy as an individual more than a broad letter to the church. Paul addresses it not to the believers or all the saints at Ephesus in 1:2, but to Timothy, my beloved son… Paul closes out the letter by saying in 4:22, The Lord be with your [singular] spirit... there is a plural form (ya’ll) but Paul uses the singular.

It is a personal letter. From a spiritual father to his spiritual son.

And this is a so-called prison epistle. Means a letter written from prison. Paul is in Rome right now in chains (1:16, 2:9). This is not the house arrest he was experiencing when he wrote Philippians. He is sitting in squalor in a dungeon that was likely underground, dark, overcrowded, full of filth and cold (4:9-13).

He’s about to die. In 4:6 he will say the time of my departure has come. Beautiful poetry. My ship is about to set sail. My ministry is ending. 

These are Paul’s dying words to a faithful friend. Context is huge. These words have some profound gravitas behind them. At the end of life you have winnowed away the chaff and focused on what matters most. You see through the fluff.

Timothy is probably mid-thirties right now. He is 15 years into ministry and likely began his tutelage under Paul when he was twenty. He is well equipped for the work he is called to. He is about as spiritually robust as they come.

Timothy has a sincere faith (2 Timothy 1:5) 

Timothy is exceptional from the many servants Paul worked alongside in his selfless devotion to the interests of Christ and others (Philippians 2:20-22)

Timothy is called a fellow-worker by Paul (Romans 16:21)

Paul entrusted a vital ministry to him in Ephesus. And yet ministry has begun to wear on him. It is taking its toll on this pastor. There are significant issues going on in Ephesus right now. 

For all of his spiritual fortitude Timothy has human weaknesses. Clay feet we like to say.

He is still younger than many of the men whom he faces opposition with…

He is prone to illness and physical ailments (1 Tim. 5:23 “frequent”), 

He is probably somewhat timid by natural disposition

Opposition has brought weariness and discouragement. Possibly even a shrinking back from ministry altogether. Hymenaeus appears in both letters (1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:17). He won’t go away. And has others with him.

And so Paul has to encourage this pastor in his mid-thirties in the midst of his discouragement to rekindle the romance… kindle afresh the gift of God (1:6). Remember the high calling you have received and whom it is who has called you.

This is the first of 25 commands that Paul gives Timothy in this letter. Listen as I read a few of them to give you the flavor of what’s happening in Timothy’s heart and mind:

Don’t be ashamed (1:8)

Join in suffering (1:8)

Retain the pattern (1:13)

Guard the treasure (1:14)

Be strong in the grace of Christ (2:1)

Entrust these truths to others (2:2)

Suffer hardship (2:3)

Remember Jesus Christ (2:8)

Remind them of salvation in Christ and not to wrangle about words (2:14)

Be diligent to handle the word rightly (2:15)

Avoid empty talk (2:16)

Preach the word in season and out of season (4:2)

Combined with a reminder in 1:7 that the Spirit of God grants great power and love and discipline and boldness it is obvious. Timothy is in his younger years, facing an onslaught of opposition to faithfulness, and his spiritual father is trying to encourage him.

He has fears about his effectiveness. There is a perhaps a temptation to throw in the towel.

And the fact that Paul is nearing death ups the ante. Final instructions carry a profound weight. Give me a faithful saint nearing the end of this life’s mission and I’m all ears.

Primary context is related to pastors, but there are broad implications for all of us here. 

The thrust of what Paul is going to tell Timothy today is to focus on devoting Himself to Christ. Timothy, you keep your life set apart, and let God worry about how He uses you.

Paul wants to breathe life into his protégé. Focus on character and let God worry about your influence. Paul is encouraging him by giving metaphors of what it looks like to serve God faithfully:

The Dedicated Soldier (verses 3, 4)

The Law-Abiding Athlete (verse 5)

The Hardworking Farmer (verse 6)

The Unashamed Workman (verses 14–19)

The Clean Vessel (verses 20–22)

3 Lessons in Becoming Useful to the Master

     1.The illustration: two alternative lifestyles (20)

     2.The implication: spiritual usefulness comes from sanctification (21) 

     3.The instruction: pursue the Lord from a pure heart (22)