The Unchained Word of God
“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am… bound with chains…but the word of God is not bound!” (vv. 8–9).- 2 Timothy 2:8–10
Encouraging Timothy to be willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel, Paul has used three metaphors in 2 Timothy 2:3–7 to convey the reward that comes to those who endure tribulation in their service to Jesus. Just as hard-working soldiers, athletes, and farmers will enjoy the fruit of their labor in the form of a mission accomplished, a trophy, or a bountiful harvest, so too will those who persevere in single-minded devotion to Christ inherit a great prize.
In verses 8–10, the apostle gives Jesus and himself as real-life examples for Timothy to recall so as to encourage him to stand fast in the midst of every trial. Of course, Paul first looks to our Savior, exhorting us to “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David” (v. 8). The reference to Jesus being a descendant of David is likely a way of highlighting His humanity and all the suffering that went along with it, especially His death on the cross, which is the ultimate paradigm of faithfulness to God’s mission when that mission brings pain (Mark 15:16–37; Heb. 5:8). But this suffering was not in vain, as Paul’s reference to the Messiah’s resurrection reminds us. The conclusion we are to draw is that if Jesus’ suffering did not last forever and that if He was rewarded with life and vindication for His loyalty, so too will we be rewarded if we are true to God’s call for us to endure all things for His sake. Matthew Henry comments, “The incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ, heartily believed and rightly considered, will support a Christian under all sufferings in the present life.”
Paul considers himself an example of the faithful sufferer, since he has never called his readers to do anything he would not do himself (he willingly endures chains as a consequence of the gospel ministry, 2 Tim. 2:9–10). The principalities and powers have tried their best to silence the apostle, but the Word of God cannot be bound. In fact, Paul’s chains are somehow serving to advance the gospel, and history bears witness that the gospel often receives its greatest hearing when authorities bear down upon evangelists. Indeed, Matthew Henry says, “Persecuting powers cannot hinder the operation of the word of God on men’s ears and consciences; that cannot be bound by any human force.”
John Calvin comments, “Let us therefore bear cheerfully, or at least patiently, to have both our body and our reputation shut up in prison, provided that the truth of God breaks through those fetters, and is spread far and wide.” Most of us will never have to undergo physical pain as a result of our proclaiming the gospel, but all of us will experience some kind of sacrifice as we fulfill this call. What are you sacrificing for the sake of God’s kingdom?
Passages for Further Study