Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, November 8, 2021

Encouragement for Exhausted Pastors (2 Tim 1:10)

Adverbial participles are flexible little critters with a wide swatch of possible meanings. Usually their meaning is relatively clear, sometime very clear, but other times not so much.

In 2 Timothy 1 Paul is encouraging a discouraged Timothy. When I teach this chapter, I ask the students to discover every way Paul encourages Timothy. It’s a good exercise, and one that everyone in authority should practice. There is at least one unique encouragement in every verse.

In v 8 he calls on Timothy to not be ashamed of the gospel but instead share in suffering for its sake. But rather than merely “girding up his loins,” so to speak, Timothy is reminded that he should not be ashamed and should suffer for the gospel not by his own power by the power God supplies. Encouragement #1.

Encouragement #2: it is God who saved (τοῦ σώσαντος) and called (τοῦ … καλέσαντος) Timothy. Ministry wasn’t Timothy’s idea (v 9a), and God has already done the hard work.

Encouragement #3: Timothy’s call was not based on his own abilities but on God’s purposes and grace, God’s goodness extended to those in need (v 9b).

Encouragement #3: God’s grace has already been given (τὴν δοθεῖσαν) to Timothy through Jesus Christ. In fact, from where God sits, this happened in “time eternal” (v 9c), but has now been made known (τὴν .. φανερωθεῖσαν) in Jesus Christ.

Encouragement #4: Timothy’s ministry is the proclamation of Christ Jesus, who is our savior (v 10a).

And now we get to our adverbial participles modifying “Christ Jesus” (Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ). Up to this point the participles have been articular, but now they are anarthrous, “abolishing death” (καταργήσαντος) and “bring to light” (φωτίσαντος) “life and immortality ... through the gospel.”

All translations treat them as adjectival. Jesus, “who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (NIV), and that is certainly possible. And yet they are anarthrous, which initially suggests they are adverbial, in which case they could be indicating the purpose for which Jesus came, “in order to abolish death and, on the other, to bring to light life and immortality through the gospel.” It may have been safer to go with the majority, but why does Paul switch to anarthrous if not to signal some change?

(By the way, both καλέσαντος and φανερωθεῖσαν may appear to be anarthrous, but both are controlled by the preceding article τήν with the parallel participles.)

For those in gospel ministry, we need to be continually reminded of these truths. The power comes from God. Our call to ministry was due to God’s purposes and grace. His decision was made before time but actualized in the saving work of Jesus. From the pulpit, we are to proclaim not our own ideas but the victory of Christ over death and the possibility of immortality.

Not only should these truths empower and encourage us — and they make me miss pulpit ministry almost every day — but they will enable the gospel to go forward. In these difficult days of ministry where numbers are dwindling, every person who stands beyond the pulpit needs to ask themself, am I preaching the gospel or my own ideas?

Everyone in leadership needs to ask themself, am I encouraging those who lead or am I discouraging them?

And everyone in the pews (or chairs), am I encouraging my leaders so they can do their work “with joy, and not with groaning” (Heb 13:17)? Or are you splitting the church over masks?

The wonderful gospel message is that through God’s power and grace, in accordance with his plans and the work already done by Jesus, we can proclaim the abolishment of death and the possibility of immortality! This is why Jesus came! Why would anybody want to preach their own ideas or simply entertain?