“I Am Not Ashamed”: Having Boldness in a Day of Tolerance
2 Timothy 1:8-14
It is a privilege to preach in this 195th meeting of the Franklin Baptist Association. This association has a rich history of standing for the truth. Just recently I visited Frankfort Cemetery and just across from Daniel Boone’s grave I found the grave of Silas Mercer Noel who served as moderator of this association during the Campbellite controversy of the 1830s and 1840s. He was valiant for the truth in a day of trouble. The circular letters which he wrote still survive and are a testimony to his faithfulness. Many other courageous pastors and church members have stood for the truth in this community of churches. Today it is more important than ever to stand for the truths which our forefathers in this association believed.
We now live in a postmodern age, where we are told, there is no such thing as absolute truth. In fact that is the one absolute truth of our day: absolutely no absolutes. The last outpost of those who believe in absolute truth are the members of the church of the living God. Those who stand up for absolute truth in our day will be branded as fundamentalists, troublemakers, or worse. In our day, tolerance (which says everyone’s belief system is equally true) is the ultimate virtue. As G. K. Chesterton once said, “Tolerance is a virtue of a man without convictions.” That is where we are today as a nation. The only thing which is not tolerated is intolerance. In fact, one school administrator has said, “It is the mission of public schools not to tolerate intolerances.”
This new found tolerance of postmodernism causes many contradictions in our culture. For example, a few years ago in San Jose, California the city paid to erect a $500,000 statue of an Aztec god, while at the same time less than a hundred miles away, a 103-foot cross in a San Francisco park was determined to be unconstitutional and was slated for destruction. What was the difference that allowed for this apparent inconsistency? The Aztec god represents just one religion among many, while the cross represents the exclusive claims of Jesus and is therefore a symbol of intolerance. (Josh McDowell, The New Tolerance, 45)
How are we to survive as Christians who believe in absolute truth in this atmosphere of tolerance? We need courage. We need boldness. In 2 Timothy 1:8-14 there is a clear emphasis on having boldness. Paul tells Timothy that “God has not given us a spirit of fear.” He tells him “Don’t be ashamed.” and he declares “I am not ashamed.”
In our text Paul gives three reasons for his boldness, which he believed would cause Timothy to have boldness. These same three reasons can produce boldness in each of us in a day of tolerance.
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, (9) who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, (10) and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, (11) for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, (12) which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (13) Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (14) By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. 2 Timothy 1:8-14
I. The Content of the Gospel which We Must Declare, vv. 8-11.
Paul begins verse 8 by challenging Timothy not to be ashamed of either the gospel or of Paul, but to share in the “afflictions of the gospel.” For the Apostle Paul to proclaim the gospel was synonymous for suffering. And yet Paul says “Don’t be ashamed.”
Paul’s challenge to boldness is based on the content of the gospel which he declared. There is an objective content to the gospel. We must never forget this. Paul summarizes this glorious gospel as having begun in eternity past and having been manifested or revealed in human history.
1. Planned by God.
2. Therefore, all of grace.
3. Revealed in Christ.
4. Christ’s victory over death, hell and the grave.
This Gospel was Planned by the Father in Eternity Past, Accomplished by the Son in Human history.
By contrast, theological liberalism, as described by Richard Niebuhr, speaks of: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” This is not the gospel. There is an objective content to the gospel which is absolutely true! There are some non-negotiables.
• Inspiration and Authority of Scripture
• Substitutionary Atonement
• Literal, Bodily Resurrection of Christ
• Personal Return of Christ to Judge the Living and the Dead.
We are united as Baptists because of what we believe, not in spite of it.
II. The Christ of the Gospel in whom We Must Believe, v. 12.
There are many who accuse those who believe in the importance of Biblical doctrine of worshiping creeds and confessions, rather than Christ. In our text Paul’s emphasis on doctrine has not caused him to be confused about the proper locus of his faith. There is no access into heaven except through Jesus Christ. This Jesus who said in John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This Jesus of whom Peter could say in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
I believe the apostle Paul could sing with the most zealous of us tonight:
My hope is built on nothing less / Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, / But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; / All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Guard is a legal term connoting something one places in trust to another’s keeping. It is the idea of money which is entrusted to a bank. Our salvation is safely deposited with the Father and the Son. Jesus said in John 10:27-30:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (28) I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (29) My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (30) I and the Father are one.
He is guarding that which we’ve entrusted to him, namely our eternal destinies.
III. The Command of the Gospel which We Must Obey, vv. 13-14.
Here there is a contrast between what God is committed to keeping and what we are commanded to keep. It is an interesting play on words. But first, what is Timothy told to guard?
The word pattern means an “architect’s sketch.” It was an outline sketch of the doctrines which were believed. There was a definite outline of doctrine in the early church, a standard by which teaching was tested. An early example of this survives in the Apostle’s Creed which says:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen
It’s not enough to just say you believe the Bible. Every heretic has his or her verse. The vital question is “What do you believe the Bible teaches?” That’s why confessions of faith are indispensable for the health of the church. It was the Campbellites who cried out “No creed but the Bible,” but it was not the Baptist, and more importantly, as we see here, it is not biblical! Instead of being divisive as some charge, confessions of faith actually demonstrate where true unity exists. In 1826 Silas M. Noel wrote in his “Circular Letter” to the churches of this association on the importance of confessions of faith. He asked a series of rhetorical questions to demonstrate the necessity of a confession of faith to “preserve the unity”:
Are we to admit members into the church and into office, are we to license and ordain preachers without enquiring for their creed? Shall we ask them no question in regard to principles or doctrines? Shall we receive license and ordain candidates, upon a general profession of faith in Christ requiring of them this only, that they agree to take the Bible for their guide? Can we do this and still expect to preserve the unity, purity and peace of the church?
The obvious answer to Noel’s questions is “No!” Confessions of faith are necessary to “preserve the unity, purity and peace of the church.”
Paul here urges Timothy to “guard the deposit” (see also 1 Timothy 6:20). Again the idea is that of money deposited in a bank. It’s as if Paul is saying to Timothy: “I know that God is going to be faithful with what I have committed to Him (namely my faith), but will you, Timothy, keep that which I’ve committed to you?”
Paul was faithful (see 2 Timothy 4:7), Timothy was faithful. The question is will you and I be faithful? The history of the Christianity can be described as a long line of men and women who were faithful to the truth.
Polycarp (155) – The proconsul who presided at his trial tried to persuade him, urging him to think about his advanced age and worship the emperor. When Polycarp responded by pointing at the crowd around him and saying: “Yes. Out with the atheists!” Again the judge insisted, promising that if he would swear by the emperor an curse Christ he would be free to go. But Polycarp replied: “For eighty-six years I have served him, and he has done me no evil. How could I curse my king, who saved me?” (Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1, 45)
Polycarp was faithful. Nearly 1,500 years later Martin Luther was called before an imperial council and asked to recant his writings against the Roman Catholic system of indulgences. Note Luther’s heroic response:
Martin Luther (1521) – “Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason . . . my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” (Roland Bainton, Here I Stand, 185)
Fox’s Book of Martyrs tells story after story of Christians who were willing to lay down their lives for the truth of the gospel. As Charles Haddon Spurgeon declared about the debt which we owe to those who have gone before us in a sermon preached in 1888:
Note what we owe them, and let us pay to our sons the debt we owe our fathers. It is today as it was in the Reformers’ days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man, where is the man for the day? We who have had the gospel passed to us by martyr hands dare not trifle with it, nor sit by and hear it denied by traitors, who pretend to love it, but inwardly abhor every line of it. (C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 34, 83)
We have received the gospel passed to us through prison bars, and from out of the flames of martyrs. The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit. I want to run all the way with the flame of my torch still lit for the truth of Jesus Christ.
Will we be faithful? Will we guard the good deposit that has been entrusted to us? We will stand firm for the truth of the gospel?
May God grant it to be so. Amen.