Larry E. Wilson
When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he was in a Roman jail, expecting to be put to death. He could have listed compelling reasons to throw in the towel. Do they sound familiar? The church was in trouble. Persecution was rearing its ugly head. False teachers were chipping away at the gospel. Seemingly strong believerseven leaderswere turning away. God's people seemed all too ready to allow themselves to get derailed. Would the church survive? Will the church survive today?
But, by the grace of Christ, Paul never lost hopenot for himself and not for the church. In the face of such discouragements, the apostle exhorted his son in the faith to stay faithful. Stay faithful to the church! Stay faithful to the gospel! Stay faithful to Jesus Christ!
How? Through Paul's exhortation to Timothy, the Holy Spirit encourages us to look beyond ourselves, to look beyond our circumstances. He urges us to consciously shift our hope back to the exalted Christ, to the One who can make us more than conquerors. "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David" (2 Tim. 2:8).
First, "remember Jesus Christ...descended from David." Remember your incarnate Savior! Jesus of Nazareth, descended from David, born of Mary, was a flesh-and-blood human beingthe Word made flesh.
Note that this text does not say, "Remember things about Jesus Christ." It won't ever do just to know biblical truths and assent to theological verities. It is not sufficient merely to know the facts about Jesus. Lay hold of Jesus himself! Cling to his person and work!
Remember Jesus Christ! Richard Lenski suggests that "Paul puts 'Jesus' first and 'Christ' second in order to indicate that the Jesus who lived on earth was the Christ." The Jesus who lived on earth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. God has anointed him to be our prophet, priest, and king! So keep clinging to Jesus as your prophet! Keep clinging to Jesus as your priest! Keep clinging to Jesus as your king!
Moreover, "remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead." Remember your crucified Savior! He really did die. And he died the accursed death of crucifixion. What does his death mean?
For one thing, his death was voluntary. Jesus didn't have to die. He himself said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). He also said, "I lay down my life.... No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:17-18). Why did he lay down his life? Because of sovereign love! As Paul reminds us, "The Son of God...loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
Further, Christ's death was vicarious. When Jesus died on the accursed cross, he died as our substitute. He took our place. He bore our sin, enduring our suffering, accepting our punishment, paying our penalty. God's Word is clear about this. "Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom. 5:6); "Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8); "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21); "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13); "he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24).
Christ's death was also victorious! He really did accomplish what he set out to do. Therefore, "God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him" (Acts 2:24).
And this raises a third point: "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead." Remember your living Savior!
Because he rose again from the dead, we know that the Jesus who died on the cross is the Son of God. We know that he is the Christ, the Messiah, God's Anointed Oneour prophet, priest, and king.
Because he rose again from the dead, we know that Jesus paid it all. We know that his perfect death has entirely satisfied God's justice and blotted out all our guilt. We know that he has secured everlasting life for us.
Because he rose again from the dead, we know that his cross is the power of God unto salvation. We know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. We know that he is the resurrection and the life. There's no possibility in heaven or earth or hell that even one of Christ's elect, blood-bought sheep will ever be lost.
Fourth, "remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David." Remember that he is Lord of all! Remember your exalted, ruling Savior!
The Holy Spirit, speaking through Scripture, especially highlights the kingship of the risen Christ as our source of encouragement. After his resurrection victory, God seated great David's greater Son on his throne and gave him the promised kingdom. He made him Head over all things for the sake of his church! He gave him all authority in heaven and on earth. He made him King of kings and Lord of lords, and gave him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord! As B. B. Warfield wrote (in "The Risen Jesus," in The Saviour of the World, p. 143):
...in the resurrection of Christ we have the assurance that He is the Lord of heaven and earth whose right it is to rule and in whose hands are gathered the reins of the universe. Without it we could believe in His love: He died for us. We could believe in His continued life beyond the tomb: who does not live after death? It might even be possible that we should believe in His victory over evil: for it might be conceived that one should be holy, and yet involved in the working of a universal law. But had He not risen, could we believe Him enthroned in heaven, Lord of all? Himself subject to death; Himself the helpless prisoner of the grave; does He differ in kind from that endless procession of the slaves of death journeying like Him through the world to the one inevitable end? If it is fundamental to Christianity that Jesus should be Lord of all; that God should have highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess Him Lord: then it is fundamental to Christianity that death too should be subject to Him and it should not be possible for Him to see corruption. This last enemy too He must needs, as Paul asserts, put under His feet; and it is because He has put this last enemy under His feet that we can say with such energy of conviction that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,not even death itself: and that nothing can harm us and nothing take away our peace.
Finally, then, "remember Jesus Christ." Hang on for dear life to your living, exalted Savior! He indwells you by his Spirit. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He never forgets you.
Therefore, never forget him! What tempts us to forget? Sacrifice and suffering, setbacks and humiliation, and, above all, sin and self-centered pride. Sadly, our indwelling sin is so powerful that we find it all too easy to forget Jesus Christ. In fact, as John Stott points out in his book Guard the Gospel: The Message of 2 Timothy (p. 61), "the church has often forgotten Jesus Christ, absorbing itself instead now in barren theological debate, now in purely humanitarian activity, now in its own petty, parochial business." But you, don't forget Jesus Christ! Never forget Jesus Christ!
No. Remember Jesus Christ! Work hard to keep him at the center of your life. Continually remember Jesus Christ! And how do you do that? Walk in fellowship with him, day by day. Diligently use the means of gracethe Word, the sacraments, and prayer. Day by day, cultivate and maintain faithful habits of private (individual and family) and public worship. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Abide in Christ, and he will abide in you.
So, people of God, take courage and hang in there! Jesus is the Christ! He died for your sins! He rose victorious from the dead! He has been exalted as Head over all things! And he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet! And when he returns, he'll consummate his kingdom, deliver you from every sin and all the effects of sin, and welcome you into his glory for ever and ever.
Whenever your heart fails youwhenever your hope faltersencourage yourself and encourage one another with this blessed plea: Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David!
Mr. Wilson is the pastor of Grace OPC in Columbus, Ohio. Reprinted from New Horizons, April 2000.