But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of … (2 Tim. 3.14).
Chapter 3 is part of a larger section (2.14-3.9) that deals with the false teaching faced by Timothy and the church he pastored. Paul instructed Timothy (and us) to “mark” (3.1) the terrible times in which he lives. He should not expect for things to be easy. The evidence for this, he tells Timothy, is to simply look around and take note of the increasingly evil lifestyle and teaching of those who oppose the truth. Paul presents a list of eighteen characteristics of those “who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected” (3.8b). By watching how people treat one another and God, it will be clear who to avoid.
Verses 10-17 cause us to focus in on an idea we all need to hear. Simply put, it is a word to be loyal to the truth of the gospel when things are difficult. Disloyalty to God’s truth characterizes our own day — from the business world, to the political scene, to life in our families and ultimately to the way we seem to relate to one another. Commitment is rare because “people will be lovers of themselves” (3.1). Paul gives Timothy (and us) two reasons why loyalty to the truth of the gospel matters. First, Timothy could trust those who had passed on to him this truth (“because you know those from whom you learned it …”). Since Timothy has been rooted and grounded in the truth of God’s word by people he knows and loves, he himself must continue to pass on this legacy to others. The second reason to remain loyal to the truth of the gospel is that it has the power to make one wise for salvation (3.15), (contra the false teachers and those who listened to them). As the Scriptures influence the mind and heart, they give the ability to apply the truth of the gospel to life and point us to the life found in Christ. Wisdom is knowledge applied. As a result, the truth will completely enable or “equip” Timothy for every good work (3.16).
Back during the days of World War Two, Hitler once imprisoned a German pastor, Martin Niemoeller, for eight years. Niemoeller spent some time in prisons and concentration camps, including Dachau. At that time, Hitler realized that if Niemoeller, a First World War hero, could be persuaded to join his cause, then much opposition would collapse. Hitler, therefore, sent a former friend of Niemoeller to visit him — a friend who now supported the Nazis. Seeing Niemoeller in his cell, the one time friend is reported as saying, “Martin, Martin! Why are you here?” To which he received from Niemoeller the response, “My friend! Why are you not here?”
Sometimes we may feel everyone and everything is against us in our attempts to follow God. Life is hard. And it would be easier just to give in, give up, and go along to get along. But loyalty to the gospel is our opposition to the darkness of our day. “Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of … (2 Tim. 3.14).
“Loyalty means nothing, unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of sacrifice.”