II Timothy 2. The Teacher.
Key Notes: The teacher as soldier, athlete, farmer, workman, pot, and servant. Levels of teaching.
At the end of IITim.1, Paul says "Follow the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me...." (IITim.1:13). We are also reminded that Timothy was at Ephesus, in the middle of the Asiatic defection. Paul does not talk about damage-control, but simply going on with the work. He represents the teacher by an interesting set of analogies.
2:1 Timothy must be strong(er) in Christ's grace.
2:2 He must be the transmitter of what Paul has entrusted to him, to the faithful who will be able to teach others. Each of the apostles presumably had a group of trainees to whom they would hand on their knowledge, with the hope that each of these would develop their own groups. In ITim.3, Timothy's mandate was to train himself. In IITim.2 Paul shifts the focus from input to output.
2:3–4 The teacher as soldier: he is prepared to endure suffering. The soldier concentrates intensely; his focus is sharp. There is only one thing on his mind: he wants to please his commander.
Good teaching requires a touch of fanatic devotion. I knew one professor of medieval English literature who would be physically sick before starting to teach each semester's group of students, so obsessed was he with doing a good job and being accepted by his audience.
2:5 The teacher as athlete: The success of the competition depends on playing by the rules. Breaking the rules disqualifies even the most skilful. The prize is the laurel wreath. Greek participants in the Games swore on oath that they had trained intensively for ten months. The good teacher trains for the work, and is accountable to the leaders of the discipline to say it right. We have the mental image of the fathers of our profession leaning over our shoulders checking our documentation and illustrations.
2:6–7 The teacher as farmer: Home-work is drudgery, hard and unglamorous. There is no one to applaud. But the farmer gets the first fruits of the work; he gets fed even if no one else does. The teacher benefits first from the work because one must master all the material before teaching any part of it. The ratio of work input to output is about 20:1. It takes 20 hours to prepare a lesson and an hour to deliver it. And the student is only alert half of the time the lecture is delivered.
This is something for Timothy to think over. Paul previously had used all three of these analogies in I Corinthians: ICor.9:7—soldier; 9:10—farmer; 9:24—athlete.
2:8 The teacher as a Christ-one. Remember Jesus Christ.
*Remember Him risen from the dead, "...designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of Holiness by His resurrection from the dead". (Rom.1:3)
*Remember him descended from David, "...descended from David according to the flesh...." (Rom.1:3)
By these two brief phrases, Paul emphasizes Christ's deity (Son of God) and His humanity (son of David), the Incarnation, the mystery of our faith.
2:9 The teacher's other model is Paul himself: for this Gospel Paul wears the chain like a criminal. The Word of God is not fettered. Paul can talk, and teach with it on his wrist, and all his students / helpers are at work throughout the Empire.
2:10 Paul endures all for the elect, that they may obtain salvation. Then he cites what may be a hymn of the first century.
"If we died with Him (Rom.6:1–5), we shall also live with Him.
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him, He will also deny us. (Matt.10:33)
If we are faithless, he remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself".
The last phrase has led some to think that His faithfulness will cancel our unfaithfulness, but if we deny Him, He will deny us; that is not reversed. His faithfulness means that He will do what He says. It is a warning to Timothy and all of us not to turn tail and run away from the fight. On the other hand, we know that Jesus forgave Peter for denying Him, a testimony to God's faithfulness--and Peter's repentance. Not all denial is permanent or irreversible. So the statement is ambiguous: a warning and a comfort.
2:14–18 The teacher's bad models are Hymenaeus and Philetus who taught that the resurrection has passed (or is passe?). They may have been saying that your new life in Christ is your resurrection. Or you will live on in the lives of your offspring. Both are true, but neither takes away from the resurrection of the body when Christ returns in power.
2:15 The teacher as workman. Cutting the Word straight is like cutting stones for building. Stone-cutters of New Testament times were amazingly accurate. The huge foundation stones of Herod's Temple Mount in Jerusalem are wonderfully finished and set.
There are endless ways to mishandle the Truth. Only one way is straight and we work hard to find it and stay with it. It is the task of the Christian student and thinker to examine the past, learn its truths and errors, and speak the Truth correctly and with clarity if not beauty. Ideally, what we teach should be clear, rich with information, and beautiful.
2:19 The seal on God's foundation, the foundation of the Church, paradoxically, has two sides.
One is internal, secret, eternal and secure: "The Lord knows those who are His."
The second is external, visible, temporal, and variable: "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity."
2:20 The teacher as a pot. In every household there are clean and beautiful vessels for valuable contents, a honey or perfume bottle, for instance, as well as other containers for junk and garbage. We should purify ourselves to contain good material. Would we not love to be filled to overflowing with the Spirit of God, a well-spring of living water? Jesus said "He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.' Now this he said about the Spirit...." (Jn.7:38–39)
So we should run away from youthful passions and aim at righteousness, as do others who call upon the Lord from a pure heart.
2:23–24 The teacher as servant. Don't get involved in useless controversies. The job is not to quarrel but to teach kindly, patiently, correcting error gently.
Many teachers think of themselves as masters. They may have a Master's degree. They can be arbitrary and even cruel. American universities remind us occasionally that it is the students who are paying the bill, and we are employed to help them learn. Coaches, orchestra conductors, pastors and political leaders may think of themselves as powers, not realizing that they are to be facilitators and organizers, paid to help people accomplish things they cannot do by themselves.
2:25–26 The Ultimate Teacher is God. May He grant repentance and knowledge of the truth so that the unbeliever may escape the snare of Satan.
We can transmit the message, but we cannot make the crucial transaction: trust and saving faith. Faith is a gift from God. Eph.2:8–9
Transmission is the base level of teaching. It is simply telling what you know. Anyone can do that, and all of us do. We can all recite a verse or give a testimony or tell a Bible story.
Explanation is the next level, helping to make sense of what we have said. Most of us can explain salvation, Scripture, Christ's incarnation and say something about the Trinity.
Inspiration is the next level, giving the learner a sense of excitement and challenge. This is the hardest part of teaching and depends on some native or immediate gift of the teacher. It may be a powerful illustration that is remembered for decades.
Exploration is the fourth level, where the learner has the opportunity to put the material into practice and to extend the learning as an individual. This is the field-trip, the experimental lab, the music recital. We are just beginning to think about this level in church teaching.
Modeling is the highest level. Here what we are shines out of what we do. Some of the things people will remember about us are actions that we were not aware of doing. We can only pray that God gives us wisdom to do His will even when we are not thinking about it.