How do you stand firm in the truth while living in an evil age?
That’s a question that Paul takes up here in this section of his letter—one of his final letters—to pastor Timothy. In many respects, this letter has the tone of a father giving advice to his son just before he heads out into the world where he will face pressures from all around to bend to the whims of culture. Paul speaks to Timothy with loving urgency.
You can sense this urgency in how Paul shapes his advice to Timothy around three commands. How can Timothy stand firm? Paul commands Timothy to understand, to avoid, and to continue.
What is Timothy to understand? Well, to borrow a phrase from Pastor Fiene—Paul wants Timothy to understand what time it is. In other words, he wants Timothy to understand that the opposition to the truth and to the gospel is not going to stop. And this is true in every age. Until Christ returns, the Church will always be a Church that exists under pressure. There’s no getting around it. But many try. Many think that if they soften the truth, become more relevant—more attractional—that the Church will somehow win the world’s favor. But that’s nothing but foolish thinking.
So what is Timothy to do in the face of such opposition? Paul says to avoid such people. Now, this doesn’t mean that Timothy is to live like a social hermit. Rather, it means that he’s not to get sucked in to their godless way of thinking. He’s not to look at their temporary success and become jealous. He’s to avoid these people like you would avoid a bear trap that was ready to be sprung. To walk carefully so that he himself doesn’t become deceived by their error.
How is Timothy to avoid them? He is to continue. Paul says,“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed…” (2:14) In other words, “Timothy, just keep walking. Remain grounded in the faith that you’ve learned from me and from the Scriptures.” And that’s how we stand firm, as well. We don’t compete for the world’s approval. We don’t get sucked into the world’s deceptions. We walk on. We walk in the light of the truth that has made us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ.”(2:15)