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Message 13, A Discipleship Reformation:

The commitment of the Reformers’ to catechesis, formal education, developing Christian literature, and church planting as faithful methods of discipleship created a cultural infrastructure for biblical teaching to be passed down from one generation to the next. This session discusses how the biblical call to discipleship includes carefully developing and leveraging resources for the church in the West and abroad in order to proclaim the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible both now and in the future.

Message Transcript

You’ve had those conversations maybe with an elder statesman or with an older member of your family. Perhaps you know that the end of their time is near, and you find yourself listening to them, and you lean in. You want to catch the timbre of the voice. You want to hear every syllable. You want to catch the texture of the moment. I feel that way when I open 2 Timothy.

Paul’s an old man when he writes 2 Timothy. He’s in prison. He’s in Rome. Leonardo we brought you to Orlando in March. The winters aren’t terribly harsh in Rome, but they’re worse than Orlando winters.

Paul’s in a prison, perhaps it’s a bit dank, musty, cold. He asks for his cloak. You get a sense of his frailty. You get a sense of the urgency. He says at the end of this book that he is ready. He is ready for that final sacrifice. His whole life has been poured out as a drink offering, as a sacrifice to God in service of Him. Now, he’s ready, as it were, for that final sacrifice. So we have here the final words of the master, Paul, specifically to his disciple, Timothy.

This is a fitting place for us to think about, as my assigned topic is ‘A Discipleship Reformation.’ The Reformers, and they were about many things, but if they were about one thing in particular it was discipleship. We forget that sometimes about the Reformers. We want to stress their courage and their boldness, and rightly so, but we sometimes sort of see them almost as isolated figures, and we forget that there was always a supporting cast around these figures. And we forget that they also significantly invested in the next generation and the next to come. So Luther had his Melanchthon and Calvin had his Beza, so Paul has his Timothy.

I want to draw our attention to two verses in particular. We will be looking at most of chapter 1 of 2 Timothy, but I want to draw our attention to two verses in particular, verses 13 and 14. There is much we can say about discipleship. We can talk about obedience to ethical obligations. We can talk about faith, hope, and the greatest of these is love. Paul in these verses wants to draw our attention to doctrine, and so we will talk about doctrine, and this discipleship Reformation.

So verses 13 and 14. Let’s lean in. Let’s listen to what Paul has to say. “Follow, follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” Let’s pray.

Our Father and our God, we ask for Your blessing upon us. We are grateful for Your work thus far in this conference. We are grateful for the way Your Word has gone forth so clearly and so powerfully. We ask that, again, You would give us Your blessing as we look to Your Word. That You would give us eyes to see and ears to hear, and hearts that are receptive to that which You would teach us. May we not stray from the words of this book, but may You in Your graciousness keep us close. We pray these things in Christ’s name. Amen.

There’s a command here. It’s very simple. “Follow.” It’s repeated in verse 14, “Guard.” These are the two imperatives. Follow and guard. He’s saying the same thing. Paul, as you know, was trained in the Old Testament, and we have this great poetic expression of Hebrew parallelism. If to say it once is a good thing, why not say it twice? That’s even better. And so we find this parallelism consistently in Paul. That’s what we find here. They’re grammatically parallel, versus 13 and 14. There’s the command, “Follow.” Follow what? Follow the pattern of words, but not just any words. Sound words.

And these were the words which you heard from me. Then he repeats this in verse 14. “Guard.” The Latin expression here is ‘custodi,’ to be a custodian, a guardian. Guard what? The deposit. Like ‘words’ in verse 13. It’s the deposit in verse 14. And it’s not just any deposit. It’s the ‘good deposit.’ And just as these were the sound words that you heard from me, this is the good deposit which has been entrusted to you. Do you see the parallelism? Perfect parallelism.

Why do we repeat things? We repeat things for emphasis. Why do we repeat things?

Oh, you’re quick for a Saturday morning. I was concerned that you wouldn’t quite have the RPMs revved up enough.

You’re with me. It is about words, isn’t it? You’ve heard that expression. I love American evangelicalism and her expressions. It’s how you walk the walk, it’s not how you talk the talk. Paul would not even recognize that. Of course it’s how you talk the talk. Of course words matter. And not only words, but sound words. This is one of my favorite Greek words, ‘sound.’ It comes directly into the English as ‘hygienic.’ Paul is a classic germaphobe.

Back here and scattered all around, of course, are the hand sanitizers. And I love you people. I really do. You come from all over, and you also bring your germs with you.

And you want to hug me and you want to shake my hand, and you want to leave a good deposit.

So I was using one of these hand sanitizers out in the back here, and one of the other speakers — I won’t tell you who it was, he’s — I think he’s the President of a Southern Baptist Seminary, but —

I turned to him and I said, “I guess we’re all germaphobes these days,” and he said, “That’s actually the one phobia that can be good for you.”

Clean. Healthy. Free. Free from what? Free from that bad, invisible stuff called bacteria. From parasites that can suck the life out of an organism. Those impure words. There are unhealthy words. There are unsound words.

Just recently I was at an event where Dr. Sproul was speaking, and he was at the beginning of the event, and another speaker was at the end of the event, and in his sermon he gave a seminary lecture as only Dr. Sproul can do on Sola Scriptura, and ended with a rousing and inspiring declaration that the church’s only hope is to proclaim the Word of God, and it should do no other. And at the end of this event, it was followed by a speaker whose whole talk was predicated upon the four revelations that God directly gave him when he was 18 years old.

There’re sound words, and there are unsound words. There are unsound words that made its way — it should not surprise us that we have unsound words today. There were unsound words that made their way into the first century church. The ink is not even dry on these epistles, and unsound words have infiltrated the church. What does Paul say to Corinth? What does Paul say to Galatia? “Oh, you foolish, Galatians. I’m astonished that you’ve allowed this;” unsound words to enter. No, sound words. And Paul is such a great teacher, isn’t he? So vivid. He doesn’t just say, “Follow sound words. Be hygienic, Timothy.” He says, “Follow the pattern.”

This is a fascinating word, pattern. We lived in Amish country for 17 years. This was quilting country. And the intricate design and the thread work and the care, the diligence, and there were these patterns — I don’t understand any of them or what they were, but gifted quilters can identify those patterns that give shape to various quilts. And they follow that pattern. The Greek word is a great word. Since you’re already with me, I can give you this. I know you’re ready to go on a Saturday morning.

Hupo tupo.’ You’ll never forget that. Tupo is the idea of type. We get this from our ‘type.’ Remember the old click-clack typewriter? I miss those. Leaves an exact impression as that type goes up and impacts the paper. Leaves an exact impression. We call that a type. There’s the Gutenberg model. A skilled craftsman carves, etches the letter. The printer arranges the type. The press is prepared. The type is blotted with the ink. The paper is placed upon it.

A big press is turned, and there’s an exact impression when the paper is lifted up. Type. We get that. We know what that means. ‘Hupo tupo.’ This is how young scholars learned to write. The master would write the line on the page, and the pupil, the discipula, would come along and take the quill and get the ink and would follow the pattern. And directly under the line that was written the disciple would imitate and copy, and would learn and would follow the pattern. And it’s a pattern of words. Follow the pattern of sound words.

And then in verse 14 Paul gives us another image. This is an image of an inheritance. And so there is a deposit, a trust, a material thing. And this deposit — and the Greek word here literally means to put it beside you. It denotes the idea of taking care of this thing, of keeping it in close proximity, so that a thief won’t break in at night and take it, or that somehow it will simply disappear.

But you keep it nearby. To put it beside you. That is what the Greek word literally means. And the Latin word is depositum, and it comes into the English as ‘deposit.’ This is not just any deposit. This is the good deposit. And guard it as if you were wealthy and you had an estate, and you had the essence of that estate, and you would hire a guard, custodians, so that your deposit would be safe. That’s what you are, Timothy. You are a guardian, and you are a guardian of the good deposit.

Paul is outlining for us here what discipleship is. Discipleship is following. Discipleship is guarding. And it’s not in being innovative. Calvin says when Paul tells Timothy to guard this pattern of sound words, he is saying, “Don’t simply hold fast to the broad strokes of my ministry.” Now, Paul talks about Jesus. I’ll talk about Jesus. Paul talks about salvation, I’ll — No. This is what Calvin says, “The very form of expression.” Do not deviate, not one iota. Not just in the broad strokes. The very form of expression. Do not deviate from that.

Follow that brush stroke, that stylus mark of the master, and imitate what has been written. This was Timothy’s charge. These are hard words for this young man. He’s in a challenging environment, isn’t he? He’s got challenges without. This is a Greco-Roman culture. Everything about it is opposed to biblical doctrine and a biblical ethic. This is a fledgling church, susceptible to syncretism. Susceptible to error.

There’s the challenges of Timothy’s age. There’s the challenges of Timothy learning how to communicate and become articulate in a culture where rhetoric was everything. And let’s not forget the fact that Timothy’s following Paul, by any estimation a genius, Paul. And they didn’t use the expression 24/7 in the first century, but we’ll say 24/6 because Dr. Godfrey is here somewhere reminding us of the Sabbath.

That Paul was a 24/6 guy, wasn’t he? Motivated, driven, smart. There was a lot pressure on Timothy. And Paul says to him, “This has been entrusted to you,” not just, “Here’s something. Take it.” It’s, “I have this thing. It’s precious. It’s, priceless. It’s value is inestimable. And I’m giving it to you. And now you take this, and you imitate it, and you guard it.” Paul doesn’t just command. He also demonstrates what those sound words are. There’s a content to these sound words. There’s a content to our faith. In fact, if you go back up in the preceding verses we see it.

Let’s take a look at verses 8-12. Everywhere in Paul we see the content. Paul says in verse 8, “Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.” That’s content. A testimony of our Lord. “Nor of me as prisoner,” this is the occasion. Paul’s in Rome. “But share in suffering” — I’m going to come back to that. Anytime Jesus talks about discipleship, doesn’t He talk about suffering? Share in suffering for what? The gospel. There’s the content. The gospel. The gospel, the gospel, the gospel.

Timothy, how many times have I told you the gospel? I’m going to tell you one more time.” Verse 9. This is the gospel, “God saved us.” God saved us. I heard this recently. Jesus died on the cross, and it is said by Him, “It is finished.” Jesus’ work is done. But if we don’t do our part, everything Jesus did is useless. That’s not the gospel. Those are unsound words. God saved us.

Right off the bat, everywhere Paul makes us passive in this act of salvation. That is always the gospel. Do not deviate. It’s a calling. We were called. And not only is it a calling, not only has God called us, God saved us. God called us. It’s a holy calling. Now we have a great sound word, don’t we? Holy. A holy calling. Not because of our works. Justification by faith alone. Justification by faith alone. Justification by faith alone. That’s the gospel. And without it, it’s not the gospel. It’s another gospel, a different gospel, which Paul says is no gospel, Galatians chapter 1. Not by works alone, but because of His own purpose. Now, we’re getting into some sound words more, aren’t we?

Predestination. Election. The good pleasure of His will. God is working all things for good, and that good is His pleasure, the fulfillment of His will. Let it be on earth as it already is in heaven. These are sound words. These are sound doctrines. How many times has Timothy heard the gospel from the apostle Paul? Apparently Paul said, “I want to say it one more time.” And then this wonderful sound word, isn’t it? We are saved not by our own works. We are saved by the purpose of His will and His grace. Sola Gratia. The grace of God alone.

When Luther preached his last sermon at Wittenberg, he did not know it was going to be his last sermon. He preached that Sunday. He goes back into his home there at the black cloister, and he’s in his study and he writes a letter. He says, “I’m a tired old man. I’m worn out, sick, half blind.” My personal opinion is, I think he had cataracts. He complains of his sight quite a bit at the end of his life. One eye blind.

He calls himself the great Martin Luther, a one-eyed old man. “I’m tired,” he says, “And I just want to be left at peace,” but he has to make a trip back to his hometown at Eisleben. There’s a dispute that breaks out among the town counsel. Luther never comes back alive. He dies there. The town of his birth. His body is brought back in its coffin and buried there in the church at Wittenberg.

But before he made the trip to Eisleban, he preaches his last sermon at Wittenberg. He didn’t know it was going to be his last sermon, but it ends up providentially being his last sermon, and he chastised his congregation. He chastised them because he saw them already turning their back on the gospel. “You’ve done it already,” he’s says. “You’re off to Aachen to see Joseph’s pants. They’re relics.

These things that before the Reformation this was all you had, and this false church and this false gospel held these things out to you, and you couldn’t see Christ. You couldn’t see the gospel for all the distortion. And the Reformers cleared the deck literally and removed all that stuff, so there would be a clear-eyed view from you to Jesus, without the saints and without the relics and without the tradition. And we’re not even out of the first generation. These are people who listened to Martin Luther preach every week, and were susceptible.

Maybe Luther’s right. Let’s cover our bases. It’s been a while since we’ve been on a pilgrimage. Let’s go to Aachen. Just in case. Let’s go to Aachen. Let’s see Joseph’s pants. Oh you foolish Wittenbergians.

It’s a false gospel. This is what Paul’s telling Timothy. Hold fast to this. These sound words. There is a content to the faith. Why do we talk about the solas? Because that’s the content of the faith. Why do we talk about the church fathers and the Nicene Creed and the Caledonian Creed? Because that’s the content of the faith. Why do we talk about the Reformers and their confessions and their catechisms? Because this is the content of the faith. This is the whole counsel of God. This is what we have been entrusted with. This is the good deposit.

And we are so susceptible to error. We are so susceptible to fall away. If it happened to Paul’s congregations and it happened to Luther’s congregations, why would we ever think we are immune to it? And why would we ever think we’ve got that covered, now let’s move on? No, Timothy. I have written as clearly as I can. And I’ve written as many times as I can. And would you please take your stylus and would you please follow after me.

Paul’s a consummate teacher. He not only gives the command, he gives the content. He also gives examples. In fact, we see one right in verse 15. Phygelus and Hermogenes, these who are in Asian, who have turned away from me. Apparently Timothy knew of them, either by reputation or had met them. They were known in the church. Paul singles those two names out. There were others. It’s a vivid example of those who did not follow the pattern and those who did not guard the deposit. But Paul’s confident of better things with Timothy. And so he gives a positive example.

Look at chapter 2, versus 1-2. “You then, my child, be strengthened by the graces in Christ Jesus and what you have heard from me.” Same expression from verse 13. “In the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach other’s also.” This is God’s truth succession plan. God’s truth succession plan has one agenda item. Has one criteria. And it is fidelity. To not waiver, to not be innovative, to not think somehow in this generation we know better. Faithful men. Fidelity. That is the secret to God’s truth succession plan. And He sets it before Timothy. And we see it in church history, don’t we? This faithfulness.

You know, not only is there a command, and not only is there a content, and not only is there a negative example and a positive example, there’s something else in discipleship. In fact, if we were to look to what Jesus had to say about discipleship we would see this word everywhere. It’s this word ‘cost.’ See, I couldn’t quite bring myself to be Steve Lawson this morning. I don’t have all ‘Cs.’ I threw it off with examples.

I have the command, the content, the examples, the cost, Dr. Lawson, the better man, would have come up with some C-word for examples. I know he would have.

Do you see what Paul says? He says it twice. He says it in verse 8 of chapter 1. “Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me, His prisoner, but share in His suffering.” Share in His suffering. Don’t share in His suffering because you’re obnoxious. Don’t share in His suffering because you’re lawless. Share in His suffering for the gospel. The gospel is the offense.

The gospel is the offense. Paul endeavored to be winsome. Paul endeavored to be winsome, but never at the sake of compromising the gospel, but clearly recognizing that it’s the gospel that is the offense. And fidelity to the gospel means suffering. Fidelity to the gospel means suffering of some kind.

He says it again, doesn’t he? Down in verse 11, “For which I was appointed a preacher of this gospel. I was appointed a preacher of the gospel. I was an apostle of the gospel, and I am a teacher of the gospel.” That’s who Paul is. He’s a preacher, he is an apostle, he is a teacher. And then verse 12, “Which is why I suffer as I do.”

True discipleship is a cost. We’re seeing it currently in our moment culturally. You know, if you look just at American evangelicalism, in the 1980s and in the 1990s, we were at the cool table. Do you remember the cool table in junior high where all the athletes sat, and you wanted to sit at the cool table? I was always over at the nerd table. That longed to be where Mr. Larson sat at the cool table. Little known fact, a surfer in his teenage years. Little known fact. Now not so little known.

In the ‘80s and the ‘90s, you know what? We had a seat at the cool table. Dr. Mohler was talking about this very thing. It was advantageous for one to be a member in good standing of a church, culturally. In many cases, we’re not at the cool table anymore, and that hurts some people. They don’t like being marginalized. They don’t like being out of it. They liked the cool table, and they want back. And if admission is compromise, punch the ticket.

If admission to the cool table is compromised, they’re willing to say, “Punch the ticket.” Yes, the Bible may say this about gender or it may say this about — but you have to understand cultural conditioning of this text. You have to understand the context in which Paul wrote. We know differently now. We know better now. These are self-confessing evangelicals. Compromise.

Timothy learned something from watching Paul. It’s what Jesus tells us discipleship is ultimately about. It’s a cost. It’s a cost. It’s going to cost something — the more we say Jesus Christ is the exclusive way to God and apart from Him there is no salvation, that’s going to continue to cost us culturally. It’s the gospel for which we suffer. It’s a cost to discipleship.

You know, when Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his book ‘Discipleship’ in German, it only had a single word title: ‘Nachfolge.’ Discipleship. It was the American printer, Harper, who gave it the title ‘The Cost of Discipleship.’ Do you want to know why Bonhoeffer did not title it ‘The Cost of Discipleship?’ Because it goes without saying. It’s a redundancy. To add the cost of. Save yourself three words.

You can perceive of no other discipleship because of what Jesus said. Because of what Paul said. Not all suffering is of the same kind. Not all suffering is physical. Not all suffering is even political. Some of you, many of you I would imagine, suffer the alienation of your family in coming to Christ. And that’s a real suffering. That’s a real cost. One of you I spoke with is ministering in another country where there’s a real risk of being blacklisted, and penalties, censures come with it. That’s a real cost. But not all suffering is equal, but if you take a stand for the gospel, if you are a disciple, be prepared. There will be a cost.

We have the command, we have the content, we have the examples, we have the cost. The final element to discipleship is simply this word ‘conviction.’ You know, as I look at the Reformers, I think what is it that draws us in? Why are we talking about the Reformation? Why is it 500 years later this moment and these people mean so much to us? And certainly it has to do with content.

Please hear me when I saw that. It’s sola Scriptura. It’s the authority of the Word of God. We can spare everything, Luther says, except the Word. It’s never a luxury. It’s never a let’s try this, let’s go down this road of techniques, let’s do this to be attractive. Meanwhile, where is the Word? The disappearance of the Word?

I was invited to preach somewhere at a church. Kid you not, I was told sermon: 11 minutes. I think if it was Dr. Lawson, he would never even have showed up. I don’t even think he gets past his introduction in 11 minutes.

All this stuff. And this is it, as far as I could tell, no evening service, no midweek service. What kind of a diet is it? Eleven minutes a week of being taught the Word of God. It’s a weak one. It’s a very weak one. They were about content. They were about the content of sola Scriptura. And let’s not just assume that that’s always in place. Oh, we need the Reformers of every generation, and the church of every generation needs a Reformation to be reminded that our temptation is to think we know better than this Word.

 Or that if we just simply preach the Word that’s not enough. Or somehow we have to be more attractive. It’s the Word of God alone. Sola Scriptura. And then it’s the gospel. Isn’t really justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, isn’t it all saying the same thing? The gospel. This is the gospel. Reformers were always about content, and those two pieces of content are the pillars for the church, to hold up the Word of God and to proclaim the gospel faithfully and clearly and compellingly and winsomely.

But there’s a third element to the Reformers, and this is — I think this is why we love them so much. They had courage. They not only proclaimed sola Scriptura and sola fide, they did so with confidence, they did so with boldness, and they did so with courage. This is ‘contra mundum.’ Against the world. This is Luther at the Diet of Worms, against empire and church. A single solitary monk standing against the emperor, the papal legates, the bishops, the nobles. ‘Contra mundum,’ here I stand.

You know, before Calvin got to Geneva, Guillaume Farel — the French say his name Fareh. Which I grew up in Central Pennsylvania, so I can’t pronounce French at all.

So we’ll just call him William. Comes to the city of Geneva, preaches the gospel. They kick him out. Goes back into the city of Geneva, preaches the gospel again — beat him up, kick him out, four times. Four times. Four times that happened. That’s courage. That’s confidence. Remember what Luther says, in the mighty fortress is our God. “Did we in our own strength confide?” Did you ever stop and think about that? Luther was thinking in terms of salvation, merits, works, our own ability.

If we put our confidence in that, our striving would be losing, but what a great statement it is, isn’t it? Why were the Reformers so courageous and so bold? Because they had no confidence in their own devices. They had no confidence in their own strength. They had no confidence in their techniques. They had no confidence in their rhetoric. They had no confidence in their ability to string two sentences together.

They had confidence in one little word. That Word which is above all earthly powers. And that’s what we need. Do you see what Paul says? He says it, twice. Verse 8, “Therefore, do not be ashamed.” Rome valued power. Rome valued strength. Paul’s in prison. The leader, the default leader of this church, Paul, is in prison. What is this Christianity thing? No, Timothy, don’t be ashamed. Have we come to grips with how much we are despised? Have we come to grips with how much the gospel is despised? But don’t be ashamed. Oh, no. And he says it again, doesn’t he?

Down in verse 12. “I suffer, but I am not ashamed.” And why is he not ashamed? Because I’m going to figure a way out of this. I’m smart. I’ll talk my way out of this imprisonment. If only I could stand in front of Nero. No. For I know whom I have believed this one little word, this word above all earthly powers. Not only do I know whom I’ve believed, I am convinced.

Discipleship is about conviction. It’s not just standing on the gospel, it’s standing on the gospel with conviction. What made the Reformation was not just the content. What made the Reformation was the boldness and the courage and the confidence with which those Reformers proclaimed the doctrines of the Reformation. And they turned a world upside down. And some of that turning of the world upside down was through their martyrdoms. We are called to follow a pattern. We are called to guard a good deposit. And we are called to do so with conviction.

There was a phrase I left out. I left it out of verse 14. By the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. God has not left us to our own devices to be His faithful disciples. He has given us His Spirit and that Spirit indwells us, and it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that someday God in His graciousness will say to us, “Well done, you good and faithful servants.” Amen.