Sunday, 25 March 2018
…for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 2 Timothy 2:9
The words, “for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer” are referring to Paul’s proclamation of the gospel. For speaking of the only message that can free humanity from the bondage of imprisonment and slavery to sin, Paul is himself held as a prisoner. His pen brings forth the irony of the situation. Although translator’s preference allows any of various words to be selected for a given original word, the use of “evildoer” is not a great choice. A person can do wrong without actually doing evil. Paul is held by the Romans for supposed wrongdoing according to their law. Thus, a word such as “criminal” would be a better choice of translation to form the proper analogy. The meaning here is technical rather than moral.
It is as a criminal that he is held, “even to the point of chains.” This is not a unique occurrence in Paul’s life. In Ephesians 6, he asked for prayers from those at Ephesus by saying, “that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:19, 20). Paul was bound because of the gospel. It inhibited his ability to get out and speak, but even in his chains, he still proclaimed the word to whoever was around. He also continued to write letters, encouraging the churches he had ministered to, and providing doctrine for their continued growth. And so he next says that even though he was chained, “the word of God is not chained.”
At times while chained, Paul was able to speak forth the words of salvation to others, even to kings and governors. This is seen, for example, in Acts 26 –
“And Paul said, ‘I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.’” Acts 26:29
He repeats the sentiment in his letter to those at Philippi –
“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:13, 14
Paul found that every possible cunning attempt, by devil and by man, was made to silence the gospel, but yet it continued to go forth. His unselfish attitude towards his Lord, and towards the message of salvation found in Christ Jesus, kept the word going. His letters did so as well, and they continue to do so 2000 years later. And based on this precious book called the Bible, which includes these letters, people are willing to follow in Paul’s example and speak boldly of Christ Jesus, even to chains or death.
Life application: How important to you is the message of salvation found in Christ Jesus? Are you willing to proclaim it, even at the expense of your freedom? What about at the expense of your life? Is that which is of infinite value worth your finite, temporary proclamation?
Lord God, how willing are we to proclaim the gospel message of Jesus Christ? This good news, which is of infinite value, often doesn’t seem as important to us as a temporary sports game, or a Hollywood movie. We put more care and attention in keeping our car clean than we do in telling others about the only way to find peace with You. Where are our priorities? Help us to set them straight, and to honor You with the lives You have redeemed by telling others of this good news. Amen.