“And the things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Tim 2:2
My NIV Inclusive Version refers to ‘reliable people’ who are ‘qualified’ to teach others. The long and the short of it is, part of Paul’s instruction to Timothy is to pass the message on. In Paul’s case, and possibly Timothy’s, they did not know how long they had before they would be martyred for their faith. Paul was possibly going to be bumped off by the sicarii (see Acts 23), Jewish extremists who carried daggers under their cloaks. He knew that the church needed to be self-reproducing.
And if the power of the gospel had only been in Paul’s personality, the church would not be here today. The message itself is capable of reproducing. It contains power. Paul makes it clear that Timothy did not hear these things in a closed room, but in a public space, and many others gave a good report of the gospel that Paul preached. The word for ‘commit’ is the same word in 1:14. In that verse, the emphasis was on the Holy Spirit ‘keeping’ the treasure, the good thing. But here Timothy is being told to pass on the treasure, to entrust it to others.
Mentoring involves an element of risk. You are investing valuable time and expertise in another person. It’s not totally different to parenting. It assumes that you have something worthwhile to give. A lot of Christians fall at this early hurdle. It’s not that the gospel is not effective. It’s that they feel others can convey the gospel more successfully.
But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:20 that “the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” And it is the power of God, and nothing in us. So we need to take those risky steps, and start to build bridges with those we know God is calling us to train. In the same chapter in 1 Corinthians, Paul laments “though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers”. Who is most suited to mentor a new Christian through into maturity? The person who brought them through. That isn’t always possible, however, and it’s vital that a new Christian is not made to depend on one Christian for their guidance.
Before this verse, Paul has been exhorting Timothy to be strong in Jesus, and then after it, he reminds him that the walk is going to be a challenge, and to be a soldier and to endure. The implication is, therefore, that in this verse what he is urging Timothy to do is both important and difficult. Perhaps it is difficult to find faithful people able to teach others, perhaps it is hard to deposit those teachings with the faithful men. It requires force of character and godliness.
Let’s just look at some related verses to develop the idea of transmitting the gospel, not simply for the sake of those people, but that the gospel might spread even further. 2 Tim 3:10 shows that Timothy has himself been mentored by Paul: “you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance”. The idea of being faithful in the small things has often held me back or propelled me forward in a Spirit-led way: “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” Luke 16:10. This is in the context of the parable of the unjust steward. If we have accepted a degree of accountability for someone else’s life, we cannot keep our silence if they are involved in questionable behaviour.
“For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth”. Mal 2:7. We are all reconcilers, called to play our part in bringing others to Christ. Are you such a one who other people approach to find the law; to understand knowledge? Pray that you enter into that ministry. And finally Matt 13:52 speaks of the scribe who brings out of his treasure things new and old. I find this very helpful. We should never be backward in bringing out the old gospel truths. Sinfulness, conviction, repentance: accepting Christ as Saviour and Lord. You can’t get very far without this. But this does not mean that we do not also bring out new truths: the fruit of our daily walk and the testimony of Christ at work in our lives today.
Who is going to believe a herald who does not actually give the message he was entrusted with? And who also is going to believe a herald who will not give their personal credentials? If we faithfully do this with as many as we can, we will soon find ourselves engaged in mentoring relationships, where we are obeying Paul’s instruction to Timothy. We ought to ensure that we spend most time with those who the Holy Spirit has guided us to, who will become gifted mentors in their own right.