II Timothy and the
Significance of the Doctrines of Grace
Rev. Angus Stewart
The enemies of the
doctrines of grace are Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism,
Synergism, Arminianism, Amyraldianism, etc. But there is
another enemy ... apathy. There are those who may
grant that these doctrines are true but they have no
heart for them. The doctrines of grace are not
essential, they say, and their importance in preaching
and catechizing is questioned. Can we not just preach the
Confession and Catechisms are, of course, of a
different mind, as are the Three Forms of Unity,
especially the Canons of Dordt. God's sovereign grace
was the reason the Reformers seceded from the apostate Roman
Church. The pre-Reformers, Wycliffe and Hus, proclaimed God
as the sovereign Saviour. In the ninth century, Gottschalk
rotted in prison for nearly twenty years for the truth of
double predestination. Before this, Augustine in the fifth
century steadfastly taught the mighty grace of God.
This teaching of
God's sovereignty is taken, of course, from the Holy
Scriptures. It is taught from Genesis to Revelation, with
the apostle Paul being preeminently, as Augustine puts it,
"the preacher of grace."
In his letters, he inculcates these doctrines in the
churches (particularly Romans, Ephesians and I
Thessalonians) and Paul's second canonical epistle to Timothy
is also instructive in this regard.
The apostle is imprisoned in a Roman cell (1:8) and
fettered as a criminal (1:16; 2:9). Evidently he is cold and
short of good reading material (4:13). He is under no
illusions; he knows he will be executed: "I am now ready to be
offered, and the time of my departure is at hand" (4:6). He
has no soul-torturing regrets: "I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (4:7). For
him, to live had been Christ and so now to die would be
gain: "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of
righteousness, which the lord, the righteous judge, shall
give me at that day" (4:8).
Paul was a man of
foresight and vision. He, the apostle and teacher of the
Gentiles (1:12), was to pass into another world. As a wise
master builder, he would use his last letters to guard
against the intrusion of wood, hay and stubble upon the
foundation of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 3:11-12). At stake was
the preservation of the church of Christ and the
continuation of the gospel in this wicked world. There had
already been apostasy in Asia (present day Turkey) and
heretics had arisen (II Tim. 1:15; 2:17-18). Paul knew that the
messianic kingdom did not preclude the power of evil in this
present age (3:1-13). In Christian congregations, the time
will come, he told Timothy, when they will no longer endure
sound doctrine but will, after their own lusts, heap to
themselves teachers, having itching ears (4:3-4).
Paul wrote to
Timothy, to gird him with strength for the battle (2:3) and
urge him to steadfast perseverance in the gospel (1:13-14;
3:14). The struggle would be great, the truth would be
assailed and all the godly would be persecuted (3:12).
There would be temptation to "trim" the gospel, to knock off
its rough edges, in order to gain it more acceptance but
"the form of sound words" must be held fast (1:13). Timothy
had spent much time with Paul, and Paul, of course, knew
that Timothy was convicted of the truth of the gospel. In his last letter, the
inspired apostle would underscore these things to Timothy
and the whole Christian church.
Paul greets his
younger brother in the faith with great affection in
Christ, assuring him of his prayers and desire to see him
(1:1-5). He stirs him up to zeal for the gospel
(1:6f.). God's salvation has its fountain in His eternal
purpose (1:9), is manifested in the incarnation and
victorious resurrection of Christ (1:10), and is preached to
the nations (1:11). Christ's atonement and the church's
preaching are efficacious and powerful (1:8) to those
eternally loved in Him. Our salvation and calling are
according to God's gracious purpose "before the world began"
(1:9). God's decree to save is effected by means of Christ's
cross (1:9-10). This was the message the apostle preached
and taught the Gentiles (1:11). The elect heard the
preaching and were saved "through faith which is in Christ
Jesus" (3:15). This salvation was wholly of God, who
"saved us, and called us with a holy calling."
To make all misconception impossible, Paul added,
"not according to our works" (1:9). It is no wonder that the
apostle was not ashamed (1:12) and Timothy must not be
either (1:8). To those eternally chosen in Christ, God
gives His grace and Holy Spirit (1:6-7, 9).
This gospel, "the form of sound words," in all
its riches and in all its parts,
must be held fast (1:13). However, this gospel also brings
affliction and can only be kept in faith and love, by the
Holy Ghost, the power of God, who dwells in us (1:7, 13-14).
He is the One who works Christ's salvation in us, and He is
the One who must preserve His word in our hearts. Phygellus
and Hermogenes were (inwardly) strangers to this grace and
apostatized (1:15), but God had been faithful in Timothy's
covenant line (1:5) and has always preserved His church
This gospel was to be maintained by Timothy:
"Therefore, my son, be strong in the grace which is in
Christ Jesus" (2:1). Paul was also concerned for the future
church. The generations to come must hear the pure gospel:
"the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses,
the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to
teach others also" (2:2). This is the true apostolic
The apostle preached
his "Calvinism" (to use an anachronism); he did not merely
say that he held these truths.
Moreover, his "Calvinism" influenced and governed how he
worked. Thus, in his suffering, he was comforted in the
knowledge that His gracious Father, who was sovereign over
all things, had ordained them as a means of saving His elect
Likewise, God's sovereignty in salvation was his
consolation and anchor when professing Christians erred in
doctrine. Hymenaeus and Philetus taught a heretical view of
the resurrection and some had followed them (2:17-18). The
apostle knew that in all this God would preserve His people
for "the foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this
seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his" (2:19).
course, did not lead to a sinful slackness in Paul, for he
immediately exhorts, "Let everyone that nameth the name of
Christ depart from iniquity" (2:19), before giving several
other commands (2:20-23) and explaining how to instruct
those entrenched in error (2:24-26). The apostle urges the
Christian minister, as "the servant of the Lord," to
gentleness, patience and meekness, in keeping with the
doctrines of grace (2:24-25). The "opponent" is to be viewed
as primarily opposing himself rather than the pastor
(2:25), for he is ensnared by the devil (2:26). His
"repentance to the knowledge of the truth" is totally
dependent upon the will of the Almighty (2:25).
The doctrines of the bondage
of the will (2:26) and God's sovereignty in salvation
(2:25), instead of being a hindrance to true evangelism, are rather
God's sovereign grace and man's accountability and responsibility to obey
the living and true God are interwoven in II Timothy. The truth
of God's grace must be maintained, confessed and preached in
Paul commanded Timothy and, indeed, all Christian
ministers: "I charge thee
therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall
judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his
kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of
season; reprove, rebuke exhort with all longsuffering and
Just as he opened his
letter to Timothy with grace (1:2), Paul closed by writing,
"The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with
you. Amen" (4:22).
The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love (Chicago,
Henry Regnery Company, 1961), xxxii; p. 39.
the three occurrences of the word, "gospel," in II
Timothy, are all linked to suffering: "be thou partaker
of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power
of God" (1:8); "the gospel: whereunto I am
appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of
the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these
things" (1:10-12); "according to my gospel:
wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto
the apostle is an example of all gospel ministers.
Augustine, that faithful follower of Christ, "was often
charged with preaching the doctrine of predestination
too freely" (John Calvin, Institutes 3.21.4).
at the depravity of man, outside the grace of God, in
the next chapter (3:1-9, 13), we see that, but for
efficacious grace, none would ever be saved.
13-14; 2:1-3, 14-16, 23-26; 3:14-17; 4:1-5.