2 Timothy 2:1-2 Grace It Forward
You may have heard of the expression “pay it forward.” “Pay it forward” is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor. It is a rather old idea.
Pay it forward was used as a key element of a play by Menander, “Dyskolos” (a title which can be translated as “The Grouch”). Dyskolos was a prize-winning play in ancient Athens in 317 BC; however, the text of the play was lost and it was only recovered and republished in 1957.
“I do not pretend to give such a deed; I only lend it to you. When you…meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”1
I want to suggest to you that God wants us to not pay it forward. Instead, He wants us to “grace it forward.” Paul describes how this grace was transmitted to him. It is passed on from one person to another. In other words, the transmission of the Gospel is when I “grace it forward.”
TRANSMISSION OF THE MESSAGE – “GRACING IT FORWARD”
“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2, HCSB)
Ministry always involves transmission. It was transmitted from Jesus to Paul and from Paul to Timothy. Now Timothy is given the responsibility to transmit it to others who in turn will be faithful in continuing the process.2
We have a similar chain of transmission in Revelation 1:1.
“The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave Him to show His slaves what must quickly take place. He sent it and signified it through His angel to His slave John,” (Revelation 1:1, HCSB)
The word of truth comes from God through Christ to John, who, in turn, wrote it down for the benefit of the church.3
So here we see a transmission of grace forward to other people and future generations. I see this transmission a little differently than others. Many look at this transmission and see four relationships: Paul → Timothy → Faithful Men → Others. I see five relationships because Paul heard the message from someone else. If you look in Acts, Paul had a direct revelation from Jesus. Yet when he was blinded, he was discipled my Ananias.
“So Ananias left and entered the house. Then he placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you can regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:17–18, HCSB)
Ananias was there to see Saul regain his sight. Who do you think baptized Saul? It was Ananias. Ananias transmitted the message to Saul and he taught Saul. Paul explains more about his spiritual growth later in Galatians. Yet, his first steps were guided by Ananias. Here is the transmission for Paul:
(1) A PERSON has heard the message and passes it on to (2) PAUL who shares it with (3) TIMOTHY who is told to share it with other (4) FAITHFUL MEN who will be able to share it with (5) OTHERS.
The text talks about a transmission of the Gospel. Yet, I want to share with you two different forms of transmission of the Gospel. In other words, I want to share with you two different ways this text can be applied when it comes to “gracing it forward”. The first is the multiplying disciples model.
1. Multiplying Disciples Model
Here, Paul has been entrusted with the Gospel. He has to take great care in how he shares it. He doesn’t teach false doctrine. Instead, Paul sticks to sharing the power of the Gospel through grace. This isn’t legalism. At the same time, Paul shares the implications of the life-changing nature of the Gospel.
Paul shared this with Timothy in the presence of many witnesses. I believe that Paul is sharing this with an audience.
“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses…” (2 Timothy 2:2, HCSB)
At times, I think Paul instructs Timothy one on one. He’s doing that with this letter. At the same time, Paul teaches Timothy in the presence of others – with other men – perhaps in a one-with-one relationship. So it is possible that we are seeing two forms of evangelism – personal evangelism (one-with-one) and mass evangelism (one-with-many). This is “an endless chain of witness.”4
So if I were take this transmission and personalize it, it would look like this:
(1) A PERSON has heard the message and passes it on to (2) ME who shares it with (3) __________ who is told to share it with other (4) FAITHFUL PEOPLE who will be able to share it with (5) OTHERS.
HOW? Grow strong in grace fundamentals
“You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1, HCSB)
When comes to know Christ, they are like a new-born. They need to be taught by a parent. A parent teaches the fundamentals. Grace is the fundamentals of the Gospel. I believe in teaching people how to be strong in grace. This is why I often speak about the fundamentals: prayer and reading the Word.
Popeye is only as strong as when he eats spinach.
A champion is only as strong as when he eats his Wheaties.
A Christian is only as strong in grace as when he or she is drinking the milk and eating the meat of the Word.
That can only happen when we are reading the Bible and spending time with our Heavenly Father. It takes ten minutes a day to do this. It is a habit of personal spiritual growth. This is a practice for every Christian. But if you want to see leaders develop, then you have “pass on” what you have learned.
Barbara Bancroft shares in her book Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry:
We need to be strengthened by the grace we find in Christ. His grace keeps us from running away from the brokenness we encounter or from being overwhelmed by it. His grace strengthens our faith so that we can believe that we are accepted by God and encourage others in their believing. His grace brings hope. His grace opens us to the love of God. The grace of Christ brings with it the full weight of all he has done for us. The despair that brokenness brings loses its power when we stand in the grace of Christ. We no longer find our identity in our brokenness, but rather in our redemption. Filled with the grace of Christ, we are able to believe God’s promises to us. Now we are strong enough to offer Christ to others in their brokenness. 5
2. Multiplying Leaders Model
HOW? Grow up new leaders
“And what you have heard from me…commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2, HCSB)
I have learned that I can continue to make disciples. I am adding to the kingdom. However, I become more effective for the kingdom when I add leaders. Growing leaders multiplies the kingdom. So I take these two verses and I apply it differently.
I take Paul’s principle here and apply it to leadership. In this letter, Paul is teaching Timothy not just as a disciple, but as a new leader. I think that Paul is teaching a model about grace and leadership. I believe that some leaders are born, but that most leaders are made. That means leadership can be taught. One can make a disciple by teaching them about Jesus and His ways. One can also teach people to lead. The reason I want to concentrate on leaders is because that is what the church needs the most today. We need people will lead. People will follow good leaders. Great churches grow with great leaders at the helm.
(1) A LEADER has grown in grace and passes it on to (2) ME who shares it with (3) A YOUNG MAN WHO BECOMES A LEADER who is told to share it with other (4) FAITHFUL MEN WHO BECOME LEADERS who will be able to share it with (5) OTHER men and women who become LEADERS.
So we learn to “grace it forward” when we share the message with other people. This is growing God’s kingdom by addition. The other way to “grace it forward” is to multiply God’s kingdom by growing leaders. As a church, we don’t just add members, we grow leaders. People who can lead others, and people who we send off on mission. As your pastor, we have seen this happen over the past years and many men who are pastors today became pastors under our discipleship. We have “graced it forward” by letting them lead and then leave to lead elsewhere.
Just as in making disciples, leadership is a combination of growth through the Bible, and growth by personal experience. You need someone to come alongside you and help you grow. The same is true with leadership. You need leaders to come alongside you and help you grow.
This is one of the functions of the pastor.
“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–12, HCSB)
Notice that the pastor (as well as the other officers in the church) are doing forms of leadership: training and encouraging. The pastor can’t spend all his time doing the ministry. The ministry of the pastor is leadership training. Whether that is casting a vision, helping equip people, helping correct people, or helping let people go into leadership, the pastor works as a parent. He teaches grace in the role of leadership.
Let me tell you, the more you are in the pastorate, the more that you learn that most of your job is spent encouraging people. Some people you want to just slap around and tell them the right way to do it. But you can’t do that. You have to gently encourage them. And you have to let them do the ministry their way. They may follow the pastor, but they come with their own experience as well. The hardest part of keeping people “on the same page.”
Yet the pastor is not the only one who develops leaders. You can too.
As David Mathis notes in the book Finishing the Mission: Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and the Unengaged, “gracing it forward” begins in the home. He says:
It begins with being intentional and relational in caring for and leading our wife and being concerned for her spiritual growth and well-being, and in exercising the discipler’s mindset toward our children. I do believe God is calling us here in 2 Timothy 2:2 to intentional and relational investment, a kind of spiritual parenting, in a few specific others outside our homes. But don’t think for a minute that it ever means anything less than disciple making in our own homes—or to the detriment of disciple making in our homes. Disciple Making 101 is caring for and nurturing and growing—discipling—our families.
Note elsewhere in 2 Timothy how Paul acknowledges that Timothy’s own discipleship started in the home. In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul says that Timothy’s faith “dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice,” and he notes in 3:15 “how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” And it’s not the only thing included in disciple making. God also calls us to invest ourselves in the lives of spiritual children, outside our home. But it starts in the home, as it did for Timothy.6
So I leave you with the following two questions: Who are you “gracing it forward?” as a disciple of Christ? Are there people whom you are building relationships with? Are you spending time helping someone else grow in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ? The second question is this: Who are are mentoring to “grace it forward” as a leader for Christ? Are there people whom are training in righteousness so that they may be equipped to lead?
My challenge for you this year is to “grace it forward.” Seek out new relationships and build them up for the kingdom of God.
2 Gary W. Demarest and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, 1, 2 Thessalonians / 1, 2 Timothy / Titus, vol. 32, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1984), 258.
3 Peter Williams, Opening up 2 Timothy, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2007), 39.
4 W. C. Fields, “2 Timothy,” in The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, ed. H. Franklin Paschall and Herschel H. Hobbs (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1972), 767.
5 Barbara Bancroft, Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2014).