“….be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” — 2 Tim 2:1
Paul knew that Timothy was going to have to endure suffering for Christ, spend his energies preaching, pastoring, and training, and all the while, flee worldly temptations and fleshly desires as he pursues and exemplifies “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” (2 Tim 1:6-14, 2:3; 4:5; 1 Tim 4:11-16; 2 Tim 2:2, 4:1-2; 1 Tim 4:12, 5:11) How in the world could Timothy possibly survive much less succeed?: “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
This was good news for Timothy and it is good news for us as we too are called to endure hardship, fulfill our vocations, and live holy lives. We can’t and don’t have to do it in our own strength, but in the strength that comes “by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” The verb that Paul uses for “be strengthened” is in the imperative (command) and is in the present tense (on going action) and passive voice (happens to you) (Gordon Fee). In other words, Timothy is to be obedient by continually allowing God to strengthen him in the grace that is in Jesus. It is God’s to strengthen; it is Timothy’s to submit. It is God’s to empower; it is Timothy’s to yield. It is God’s to equip; it is Timothy’s to obey.
By constantly submitting, yielding, and obeying Timothy would experience the strengthening of God through the grace that is in Jesus. What is this grace of Jesus that brings the power of God to our lives for suffering, service, and sanctification? Well, for Paul, it is not some abstract notion but is something experienced and enjoyed because of the person and work of the Lord Jesus.
In 2 Corinthians 8:9 Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might beome rich.” God strengthens us as we believe and savor such glorious grace! Jesus, the eternal Son of God and high King of Heaven, took our poverty so that we could receive His riches. By his obedience even unto a cross-death, Jesus took our sin, guilt, shame, and punishment that we might receive his righteousness, joy, acceptance, and life. He was stripped that we may be clothed. He was accussed that we may be exonerated. He was condemned that we may be accepted. He was cast out that we may be brought in. He died that we may live. This gospel is surely strength for the soul for it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).
In Christ we have received grace upon grace. In Him we live in a whole new realm and sphere of grace that gives us standing before our God. “Through [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings….because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:2-5). In Ephesians 2 Paul says that believers have been “seated…with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” In Christ we have an unshakebale standing before God and a seat in the heavenly places that nobody else can fill or remove!
God has revealed these things to us that we may know and keep knowing, believe and keep believing, and consider and keep considering them to be true of us as believers in Jesus. And, as we do (which is obedience to 2 Tim 2:1), God will strengthen us by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.