Delivered from the Lion's Mouth (2 Timothy Sermon 9 of 9)
December 06, 1998 | Andrew Davis
Joy in Suffering, Boldness & Courage, Perseverance
The Story of Boniface
Like to ask that you take your Bibles and turn in them to 2 Timothy 4. I was going to say, for the last time, but I hope it isn't the last time, at least for you personally, but this is our last sermon in 2 Timothy chapter 4. And our series has been entitled Boldness and Faithfulness in the Gospel.
I'd like to begin this morning by telling you a story of boldness from 13 centuries ago. I'm going to bring you to a small clearing, in a forest in Germany, in Hesse. The people who came from that area were called Hessians. They came to be known as some of the most powerful and courageous soldiers in the world. The year is 723 AD and their ancestors were pagan worshippers of the thunder god, Thor. And they believe that the thunder God had with his power inhabited a special sacred oak. And they used to gather around this oak to worship and so that day there was a gathering of pagan oak worshippers. And in the midst of these pagan oak worshippers strode a man with an ax. His name was Boniface. He came from England and he was a missionary for the Lord Jesus Christ. He pushed his way through the crowd, took that ax. And what do you think he did with the ax?
He started chop down that sacred oak tree. Now, I don't know what the pagans did while they watched him begin this chopping, I think they were just stunned that somebody would do something like this. They were amazed at his boldness and his courage, and he continued to chop. Now, recently I bought an ax to do firewood, chop firewood, I can't even imagine how long it would take to chop down a whole oak tree when it takes me so long just to split a log in half. But he was chopping and chopping at that oak tree while the crowd probably yelled in derision, or was shocked into paralysis. Just when he reached the point of exhaustion, now and this is the amazing thing. A wind blew through the woods at just the right angle and knocked the tree down. Isn't that incredible? The power of God knocked that oak tree to the ground and all of a sudden the people's attitude changed from anger and outrage to one of shocked silence at the power of God.
Boniface put that ax down, turned and preached the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to those people. And the demonstration of power which they understood was so effective that many of them came to believe in Jesus Christ. And the next thing they did was they took the oak wood that was laying there on the ground and built a church out of it. Some of those people that were there that day, are up in heaven today praising our Lord Jesus Christ and worshipping Him because of the boldness and the faithfulness of one man, Boniface who took an ax to that sacred oak. Proverbs 28:1 says, "The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion." Are you bold as a lion, in your witness for Jesus Christ?
By the power of the Holy Spirit, you can be. The problem is, there's another lion prowling around in this world, isn't there? It's not just us, there is Satan. 1 Peter 5:8 says, "The devil is like a roaring lion who prowls around seeking someone to devour." So there's a contest going on in this world, lion versus lion. Psalm 91:13 says, "You will tread on the lion and the cobra. You will trample the great lion and the serpent." Look that one up. Psalm 91:13 gives us a promise of victory over the lion, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Boldness of Paul
Now, the Apostle Paul, he knew of this kind of boldness. He lived it every day. Here in the last 14 verses of this chapter, as Paul goes through discussing various people in his ministry, the network of his friends. We're going to see the human side of the Apostle Paul. You remember last week we talked about that powerful epitaph that he gives to his life and his ministry. "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in-store for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord himself, the righteous judge will award to me on that day. And not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." So here's the apostle Paul so bold, so confident in his reward as he is filled with a longing for the second coming of Jesus Christ. And then suddenly we get a little bit of a change and we see perhaps the weaker side of Paul, the human side. The side that's lonely, that's cold, that's needy, perhaps even fearful.
And the amazing power of this, is that it brings Paul and his example right home to us. You see Paul's example can slip away from us like a balloon that slips out of our hands. Have you ever seen that? A string or a ribbon slips out of a child's hand, and it goes higher and higher. And we think we can't attain to Paul boldness. Well, yes you can. And as we're going to read through these 14 verses, we're going to see just how human Paul was. And thus bring that example and that power back to where it belongs, in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ in a simple believer. Starting at verse 9, chapter 4.
"Do your best to come to me quickly. For Demas, because he loved this world has deserted me and is gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you because he is helpful in my ministry. I send Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls especially the parchments. Alexander the metal worker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him because he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. The Lord be with you."
The Human Side of Paul
As we look at these final 14 verses and we see Paul running through the list of the people that he knew, we see the human side of this great apostle. We see just how needy he was and it begins right there at verse 9, he says to Timothy, "Do your best to come quickly." Now, we saw in chapter 1 how much Paul loved Timothy and how he longed to see him. How they had separated with tears, how they loved one another and their separation came with tears. And now he says, "Do your best to come to me quickly." But do you realize how impossible this would have been? You see the Apostle Paul was about to die. He says, "I'm already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure." He knows that he's in between two trials and that Roman justice once it started to move, moved quickly.
And so he probably would not survive very long. And yet he's writing a letter which he will hand probably to Luke and Luke will take it out. And it could take weeks or even months to reach Timothy. And even if Timothy were to drop everything and come immediately on the next ship toward Rome, it could take weeks or even months for him to arrive at Rome. Timothy was at least four or six months away. Do you see the loneliness, the humanness of Paul? He knows he's about to die, and yet he's asking Timothy to come as soon as he can. And why was it? And he says the same thing in verse 21, "Do your best to get here before winter." He wants Timothy to come. At winter the navigation would be difficult, it would be hard for him to reach him. And so he says, "Please come." Why this sad, almost pathetic appeal for someone to come and he knows he's not going to make it in time.
Some have Defected
I think it's because of the situation with Demas. In verse 10 he says that, Demas because he loved this world has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Now, I thought a lot about Demas this week. Because God throughout this letter has been challenging the church to boldness and faithfulness, in preaching the Gospel. But I think that the American church today is full of people like Demas. People who have come to love this present world, age, that's a better way to translate it. Demas loved this present world system, the way it's set up. It's the very thing that the Apostle John said that we should never love. When he said, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life, comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires will pass away. But the man who does the will of God lives forever." John said, Don't love the world.
But Demas did love the world. And he turned his back on the Apostle Paul and all the more he turned his back on Jesus. And why? Because he loved this world. He was afraid of losing his life, or he was afraid of losing his possessions or something precious to him in this world. Jesus said, What good would it be for a man if he gains the whole world and he had forfeits his soul. But what did Demas trade it all for? For Thessalonica. What was there in Thessalonica that attracted Demas so much that he turned his back on Jesus Christ. I guess we'll never know. I hope today that I'm not speaking to anyone like Demas. I hope I'm speaking to people who have not turned their back on their responsibility to be bold and faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ. Who have not so fallen in love with this present world system that you haven't opened your mouth to say anything about Jesus in the last year or two or five.
Some Have Moved on For Fruitful Gospel Ministry
I hope I'm not talking to people like that. But Demas, his example was so discouraging to Paul that he said, "Timothy please come because Demas has left me." Well, he also says Crescens has left, and so has Titus and Tychicus and a various groups of other people. These are various co-workers of Paul. There's no sense of their defection. They're just doing their ministry. They're gone to various places. Do you ever wonder where Dalmatia is? You ever heard of the 101 Dalmatians? Well Dalamatia is the ancient word for what we call now Yugoslavia or Bosnia. And so Crescens got sent there or Titus got sent there, and Crescens to continue the work in Galatia. And then in verse 12 he says, "I send Tychicus to Ephesus."
Paul with his apostolic authority is orchestrating this whole thing, he's sending these people out to continue the preaching of the Gospel. But he's leaving himself lonely. Do you see his selflessness? He's sending all of these people who could have stood by his side out so that they could continue to do the work. He said only Luke is with me. Now, Luke of course, was the one who wrote the Book of Acts who knew Paul so well that he was able to travel with him and there he was in the prison cell. God had not left Paul completely alone. But Luke stayed with him. And as I said, it was probably Luke that carried this letter for the first out, maybe he was the first one who ever copied it. Praise be to God for Luke. And so therefore, we can go through this and study it. But then we look at verse 11 at someone else, and this is the flip side of Demas.
The Restoration of Mark
In verse 11, it says, "Get Mark and bring him with you because he is helpful to me in my ministry." Now, that's just one line, isn't it? But there's a world behind it. Mark whose full name is John Mark, was Barnabas' cousin, and he and Barnabas joined Saul of Tarsus, or Paul on their first missionary journey. The three of them were a team. The problem was that the persecution got a little too difficult for Mark. And he cut out in the middle of the ministry. He abandoned Paul, turned his back on him and went back to Jerusalem. He failed, he deserted his post. And when the time came for the second missionary journey, Barnabas whose name means son of encouragement, put his arm around Mark and said, "I think you're ready. I think that you've realized your mistake, you've come back to Jesus and you're ready now to continue serving Jesus. Let's go back and talk to Paul. So they went back and talked to Paul and said, 'Okay, we're ready for our second missionary journey, here's John Mark, let's take him along again.'" What do you think Paul said? "Oh, great, I'm so glad to see you've been fully restored to the ministry." No, that's not what he said at all. He said, "No way. You take him and you get him out of my sight. He failed us once he's not going to fail us again." And he was stubborn and he would not listen to Barnabas. Barnabas said, "Paul, I understand your attitude, but he has repented, he wants to come back.
He wants to be part of an evangelistic ministry, he wants to share his faith again. Yes, he failed in the past. But he's ready to be restored, won't you accept him?" But he wouldn't do it. Turned his back. Now, the apostle Paul was a human being. And he made mistakes, and this was one of his mistakes, he was wrong. And he admits he was wrong, not in so many words, but here he says, "Get Mark and bring him with you because he is helpful in my ministry." He can help me here. That's an admission of a mistake on his part. Now, it's one thing to be a bold zealous leader for God, but you can often trample people. And in that case, that's what happened.
Now. I may be talking, not to some Demas's today, but to some Marks. Some people who know that they need to be witnesses for Jesus Christ but just have not been able to do it through various reasons, just through habit, through a lack of training, through fear. You have not shared your faith in the last year or two or five. You've not invited anyone to church, but you want to. Then Mark is your guiding star. He's the one you look to. And you say, if Mark can do it, I can be restored too. Jesus is ready, willing, and able to accept someone back like me. Oh, we read the second gospel, the Gospel of Mark as the fruit of that restoration, don't we? There's so much fruit that comes from that, and God is ready and willing to accept people back who are not or have not been up to this point, bold and faithful witnesses for Jesus Christ. Maybe you're not ready to take an ax and walk into the midst of a bunch of tree worshippers and chop it down.
But you may be ready to speak to your waitress and invite her to church or to bring some food over to a neighbor and share the gospel with them. You may be ready to take the next step of boldness. I challenge you to do so. Mark is a good example for you. In verse 13, it says, "When you come bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas." Now, what is this cloak and why does he make this request? Again, the human side of Paul. He was cold, he was cold.
And he wanted the cloak to keep him warm. Winter was coming. And I can assure you that Roman prison was not heated. But what's sad about this, is that there is a group of Christians right there in the Rome... Area of Rome who could have fulfilled this request, but who didn't. At the end of the letter, look what he says in verse 21, "Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you. And so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers." Who are these? These are Roman Christians.
Didn't one of them have a cloak to spare? Probably they did. But why didn't they bring them to Paul? Because they were afraid. If they brought a cloak to Paul, maybe they'd get arrested and they'd be in prison too. The human side. And so he says, "Bring me a cloak, because I'm cold." Do you think he ever saw that cloak? Probably not. He continued being cold and he also tells him to bring the scrolls and parchments. Reading material in ancient language, they had scrolls and parchments. That's what they read. Probably this is Paul's copy of the Old Testament. He wanted to keep his mind fresh. Can you imagine the mind-numbing hours in a dark roman prison with nothing to do? He prayed and he worshipped God in his mind and brought to his memory, a scripture memory verses as best he could, but he wanted something to read. The human side of Paul.
And then we see in verse 14-15, "Alexander, the metal worker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him because he strongly opposed our message." Here's Alexander not the metal worker, but the persecutor. Now, a metal worker was somebody that took a cup or some kind of metal, and pounded it around an anvil with a hammer until it was in the shape that the person wanted. But how much worse was the hammer of persecution in the hand of this man Alexander, as he pounded the Lord's disciples. Now, Paul understands that he himself was hurt by this. He was damaged by it. It could be, we don't know, but it could be that it was Alexander that betrayed Paul to the Roman authorities and got him into this final difficulty that he was in. We don't really know. But he commits that whole situation to God. He says, "The Lord will repay him for what he has done."
This is in line with what Paul taught in Romans 12, He says, "Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for the wrath of God. For it is written, "It is mine to avenge. I will repay" says God. And God has a special repayment for anyone who rejecting the Gospel instead stands firm against it, and fights against it. Like Alexander the persecutor did. The Lord remembers it all, and He will defend his people. Just not yet. But secondly, he warns Timothy to be careful of him. The real issue is not that he attacked me, but that he opposes the Gospel. And Timothy when you bring that same gospel, you're going to come under the same persecution. Stay away from Alexander and be careful. So in all of these things, we see the human side of Paul. Don't we?
Loneliness at the End
We see his loneliness where he says, "Come before winter" to Timothy. We see his physical coldness, he needs a cloak. His isolation, nobody will even bring him the cloak. His boredom and that he needs some books. All of this sets the stage for what I think is his greatest triumph, his greatest triumph. In verses 16-18, it's described.
"At my first defense no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them." Again, we see Paul's openness as he's standing alone. Now, what is he talking about here? The first defense in a Roman trial work this way. The accused was brought before the judge. In this case who was the judge? It was the Emperor Nero. He had appealed to Caesar, to the emperor, and to Caesar he went. And now he's got an audience in front of the Emperor. And at the first defense the charges are read, and then witnesses for the defense are called to see if the case can be thrown out of court. Why waste the court's time? Right? So if there's some reason to dismiss the case the witnesses are heard. So the case was called against Paul, the charges were read and Paul stood there and waited for his defenders humanly speaking, to come up and defend Paul.
And no one came, he stood alone. Can you imagine how embarrassing that was, and how scary? Because they would go on with the next part of the trial and once you got into the next part of that trial, you're a dead man. So Paul stood there alone. But that wasn't really what was on Paul's mind. Paul had something else on his mind. And that was the completion of his ministry. You see Paul's greatest concern was finishing the ministry that God had given him. Turn in your Bibles, put your finger in 2 Timothy 4, and turn in your Bibles to Acts chapter 9. Fascinating verse in Acts chapter 9, in which Paul's entire ministry is prophesied to Ananias. In Acts 9:15 The Lord says to Ananias, "Go, this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings." Can underline that. "And their kings and before the people of Israel", verse 16, "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
Proclamation Before Caesar
Now, Paul was prophesied, it was prophesied about Paul that he would carry the Gospel to the Gentiles and their kings. Who was the most powerful king of all the Gentiles? Without question it was Caesar. It was the Emperor, who in this case was Nero. It was prophesied that Paul would carry the gospel right into Nero's ears, into his mind. That he would stand before Nero and give a defense for Christianity. Now, why did God want this done? I don't know. Do you think that Nero converted? No. But it was a witness, the first clear witness of Jesus right to the emperor of Rome, and God wanted it done. In verse 16, of chapter 9, there he says, "I'll show him how much he must suffer for my name." It's not going to be a triumphant proclamation in which Nero takes off his robes and becomes a Christian. It's going to be a proclamation of suffering, but the proclamation is going to be made.
So Paul had a ministry, and the ministry had a finish line. And what was that finish line? That he would stand before the emperor and preach the gospel to him. And that was his desire, but he had an obstacle. What was his greatest obstacle? It was his own weakness. You think that Paul's not weak? You think he's some kind of powerful apostolic superman who can do anything all the time without fear? Well read 1 Corinthians 2:3. He says there, "I came to you in weakness, and fear and in much trembling." Doesn't that sound human? Have you ever been in weakness, in fear and in much trembling to share the Gospel with someone. I know I have. You see boldness is not an absence of those things. It's the power to press through those things to do what you should do anyway. God is not going to take away those butterfly feelings you get in your stomach when you go to witness to your neighbor.
He's just going to give you the power to do what's right anyway. So his greatest obstacle was his own weakness. And in Ephesians 6, listen to this. He says, "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me, so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should." Why did Paul ask the Ephesians to pray for his own boldness? Because he knew that he needed that prayer. That he could give in to weakness and fear and trembling. Paul was human just like you. So what was it that gave him the strength and the courage and the power to stand firm? It was Jesus Christ and He would need Christ' strength and his power.
He said, "The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the gospel might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it." Who is all the Gentiles? He's including the insane Emperor, Nero. He heard the Gospel through my mouth, and I was delivered from the lion's mouth. You see the deliverance from the lion's mouth is not that he doesn't get executed, he knows he's going to be executed. In verse 18, he said, "The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom." That's called death my friends. The attack is not a matter of physical death. It's that he would, in the common way of speaking, wimp out at that key moment and not preach the gospel to the emperor. You can imagine the Emperor had the Roman soldiers around there with their swords out.
He wanted Paul's renunciation of Christianity, he wanted Paul to turn his back on Christ. And say, "Well I had been saying something about Jesus, but I don't really have anything to say anymore. I'm not a Christian. What a triumph that would have been for the lion, Satan. "But I was delivered from the lion's mouth," says Paul. I preached the Gospel boldly and "the Lord will rescue me from every evil attack." Do you see what a triumph this was over weakness? Do you see brothers and sisters how the same power at work in Jesus Christ is at work in you too if you're truly a Christian? To free you from weakness and trembling, and to be bold and faithful in the preaching of the gospel for Jesus Christ.
In this series, we've seen a consistent call, an appeal to Christians, not just to Timothy, but to all Christians, to be bold and faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ. I know it's all Christians. Verse 22 says, "The Lord be with your spirit." The "your" in Greek is singular. And then it says, "Grace be with you" or as you would say, "Grace be with you all", how's that? That means with everybody, all of you. It's too bad the English can't differentiate between singular and plural. Paul had in mind the whole church when he wrote this. He wants us all to have the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ standing with us so that we can be bold and faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ.
Recently one of you, I don't know who it is, gave me a book by Hugh Hewitt entitled "The Embarrassed Believer." Powerful book. Hugh Hewitt is a PBS announcer in the Los Angeles Syndicate. And he has written this book about the embarrassed believer. To challenge Christians to not be ashamed of Jesus Christ, but to testify boldly that they are Christians. Do you know what he put on the cover? I feel like Oprah. I never watched Oprah, but I've heard that she's always plugging books. I plug this book today. The embarrassed believer. What's on the cover? Can you see it? It's a bushel, upside down. Why do you think that he puts a bushel upside down on the cover? No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel. Instead he puts it up on a stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. You, says Jesus, are the light of the world. I didn't light you to hide you under a bushel. Is there a bushel over you today?
If there's a bushel over you, what put it there? Is it your own lack of Bible knowledge? Did you not study the Bible carefully, so you could give a good defense for your faith? Is it some sin pattern that Satan's trapped you into? Is it fear? Is it that you're focused too much on this world and you've forgotten the world to come. Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit can rip off that bushel and make you a bold and faithful witness to Jesus Christ. Maybe someday there'll be a number of ax-bearing First Baptist church members dragging that ax and finding whatever sacred oak there is in our popular culture today.
Oh, I pray for that day. Be bold and faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ. We have a gospel to preach to the nations. We have a gospel to preach here in Durham and we're going to preach it here in this church and outside the walls of this church. May it never be that these four walls become a bushel and the light gets hid inside this building, however beautiful it may be. It is my desire that anyone who comes into this building hears the Gospel preached. And I hope that I'm speaking to someone today who's never given their life to Jesus Christ. If so, today could be the day of salvation. At Christmas time, we celebrate that Jesus came to the earth as a human baby. But do you know why he had that body? So that it could get nailed to the cross as a sacrifice for your sin.