In Paul's second letter to Timothy, we find all sorts of great truth that can guide how we think about the role and practice of teaching (and preaching) today. Here are two passages that I've been marinating in lately:
What you [Timothy] heard from me [Paul], keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you - guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us (1:13-14).
Here's a second passage:
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering...
So how do these words from Paul to Timothy (and us!) shape how I approach teaching? Here are a few brief thoughts:
Our role is preserve the content.
Paul very clearly tells Timothy to keep the pattern of sound teaching that he had heard from Paul. In other words, Timothy wasn't charged to PRODUCE new content, but to PRESERVE and PROCLAIM the content with which he had been entrusted. Broadly, I'd agree that this is any truth that is firmly rooted in God's Word. Most specifically, though, the content Paul seems to have in mind here is the truth of the gospel - the good news of what Jesus has done for us.
One quick note: This "preserving" emphasis doesn't have to be boring. As teachers, preachers, content strategists, or whatever, we do need to consider how we can communicate God's Word well - in a way that communicates the authority of God's Word, captures the attention of those listening and speaks to our lives in the 21st century, and is consistent with the meaning (i.e. "authorial intent") of the passage. Personally, I find it refreshing that I don't have to CREATE the content, but am instead charged with discovering truth from God's Word, communicating it well (yes, even creatively!), and then stepping back and letting the "living and active" Word of God do its work.
Our role is to protect the content.
"GUARD the good deposit," Paul tells Timothy. This warns us that there will be things that threaten the good deposit of the gospel. Some of these threats will be blatant false teachings. Others, though, may be more stealthy, patient, and insiduous. As teachers and preachers, we would do well to consider carefully what our very particular and contextual "threats" to the gospel message are, and actively proclaim the truth and beauty of the the gospel as surpassing any rival claims.
Our role is to promote the content.
Early in chapter 2 of 2 Timothy, Paul tells Timothy to take the message he has been entrusted with, and multiply it by entrusting this SAME MESSAGE to reliable people who can also teach others. In other words, we need to promote the message; we need to make sure we are passing it along to others who can teach others. We need to give others a vision for how they can be faithful proclaimers (and preservers and protectors) of this message in their own contexts. And I just don't mean everyone should be an "up front" teacher and be given a microphone (though there will be some of these, and that's likely what Paul has PRIMARILY in mind here).
I want us to also consider if a broader application might be consistent with this passage. As we faithfully proclaim the truth of the gospel, most of the people who hear this message won't necessarily have lots of "formal" opportunities to teach - in terms of standing in front of a classroom or congregation communicating content. However, they will have many "informal" opportunities to teach - dialoguing over lunch with a co-worker, sharing truth with children before bedtime, communicating gospel-saturated ideas with others in a phone call, etc. So for all of us - whether formally or informally - let's keep on the look-out for ways to promote and multiply the beautiful truth of the gospel.
Our role is to persevere.
In find it interesting that right after Paul encourages Timothy to promote the message by passing it along to other reliable people who are qualified to teach (2:2), he moves into this statement, "Join with me in suffering..." (2:3a). At first blush, these seem like two very disconnected statements. But as I try to follow Paul's train of thought, I wonder if he's reminding Timothy that as he preserves the content, protects the content, and promotes the content of the gospel, there will also be suffering that goes along with that. In parts of the world, obedience to Paul's commands here (to preserve, protect, and promote the gospel) are accompanied by physical persecution. In other parts of the world, obedience in these areas may take the shape of loneliness (i.e., standing against the crowd) or criticism.
Regardless of how suffering may take shape specifically, Paul's words that Timothy "join with me in suffering" remind us that faithfully adhering to the what Paul says here requires perseverance. Thankfully, we are not alone in this. Paul has already given us - even in these few verses we've looked at briefly - resources that can motivate and encourage and support our perseverance through suffering. In 1:13-14 Paul has brought up faith, love in Christ Jesus, and the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. May these things continue to motivate our faithful preservation, protection and promotion of the gospel message and biblical truth.
Be sure and check out these posts as well, for some more related content:
How do Paul's words to Timothy here shape how you think about the role and practice of teaching in the church? Anything you'd add, or maybe something you'd reinforce?
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