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Suffering by God’s Power

“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” (v. 8).

- 2 Timothy 1:8–9

Those who are blinded by sin always find the gospel to be a shameful message. After all, conventional wisdom does say that it is foolish to proclaim as Lord a man who died the most shameful way imaginable to first-century Jews and Romans — by crucifixion. Moreover, such foolishness is compounded in the willingness of Jesus’ followers to suffer for Him since, in the eyes of the world, His death means that His ministry was a failure.

It would indeed be foolish to commit one’s life into the hands of a dead man. Yet those who have been given eyes to see the evidence and faith to believe the apostolic witness know that Jesus is not dead — He is alive. In this apparent foolishness that is, paradoxically, marvelous and wise, God has defeated death through the death of His only begotten Son. Having thrown everything it could at Him, death could not keep Christ in the grave. And this was the Father’s plan from before the foundation of the world — to send the Lamb that was slain to slay death itself (Isa. 53:1–11; John 1:29).

All of this is wrapped up in Paul’s exhortation for Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel or of the apostle who was in prison on account of the gospel (2 Tim. 1:8–9). The Holy Spirit has given to Timothy, and to all believers for that matter, power to find honor in the shame of the cross and to resist those who would have us see His crucifixion as dishonorable (v. 7). We who follow the risen Christ will, by the enabling of His Spirit, finally overcome the pressure to deny or downplay the centrality of the cross. John Calvin writes, “He who is armed with the power of God will not tremble at the noise raised by the world, but will reckon it honorable that wicked men mark them with disgrace.”

Timothy was not necessarily ashamed of the gospel when he received this second epistle from Paul, but even he needed to be reminded continually that the divine foolishness of the cross makes the Christian subject to the wisest sage of all. For in His grace, God has saved us from death through the death of Jesus, not our own works (v. 9), and this message gives us the hope needed to endure the very worst the world can do to us.

Coram Deo

Paul’s exhortation to Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel is something that we need to hear each day. With all of the voices out there calling us to be ashamed about biblical Christianity, it can be difficult to stand firm for the honor of Jesus. Let us be about the business of encouraging one another not to be ashamed of the gospel and of exhorting one another to share the gospel when God gives us an opportunity to do so.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 25:1–3
Isaiah 45:15–17
Romans 1:16–17
Colossians 2:13–15

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.