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What do you think of when you hear the word rescue? Most of us I would imagine have something in mind like the lyrics from Fontella Bass’ 1965 hit “Rescue Me.” The words to the song go on to say that she’s lonely and blue – and just wants her man to take her in his arms and rescue her. To change her circumstances. To be rescued. Maybe that’s the kind of rescue you want too. Which is what makes Paul’s concept of rescue in 2 Timothy 4:1-18 so radically at odds with the worldview we are most familiar with.
What kind of rescue was he talking about? One that only makes sense this side of the Cross. More on that today on Through the Word in 2020 – I’m your host, Reid Ferguson.
Job was certainly crying out for rescue in the book that bears his name. Today we read some of that in Chapters 31-36. In Psalm 119:57-64 David wants rescued from the cords of the wicked that ensnared him. In Luke 12:35–53 Jesus warns that we need rescued from the malaise of the soul which can capture us while we wait for His return. And that gives us some real insight into where Paul was when he declared he would be rescued from every evil deed and brought into Christ’s kingdom.
So what kind of rescue was Paul talking about? One thing is for sure, he wasn’t talking about a change in circumstances. The fact is, despite the confident assertion in vs. 18 that the Lord would rescue him from every evil deed – Paul was most likely martyred a short time after he wrote this. So either he was gravely mistaken, or he had something very different in mind. And I think the context helps us get at what he meant.
This chapter starts with Paul exhorting Timothy to make sure he preaches the Word of God no matter what. When he feels like it, and when he doesn’t. When it’s convenient, and when it’s not. When it’s safe, and when it’s dangerous. And he warns him that people won’t listen. That they will want to hear messages that appeal to them above what they really need. And that only by staying sober-minded – clear-headed, balanced and self-controlled while enduring suffering, can he fulfill his ministry and be a real evangelist. For you see evangelists and evangelism is far more than just declaring the message of the Gospel – it is living out how the Gospel stabilizes you in all of life as you serve Christ and are unmoved by circumstances.
So when we get to vs. 10, we read about a close friend who deserted him, and of others who would have been a comfort, laboring in different places – leaving him alone. In 14, he tells of someone who had really opposed his ministry. And how when he stood up at his first trial, there was no one there to support him. He was all alone. But he was rescued. So, in what sense? vs. 17 – “the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that the message might be fully proclaimed.”
In other words, he remained sober-minded, clear-headed and self-controlled while enduring his suffering. Paul’s idea of “rescue” here isn’t a change in the circumstance, but rescue from being tempted to give up the faith, to lose his trust and rest in Christ in outward trials. He trusts his Savior to keep him steadfast no matter what evil deeds may be perpetrated against him.
Just the kind of rescue we need most today in a world gone mad.
Lord Jesus – rescue me. Rescue us – for the sake of your Gospel.
God willing beloved, we’ll be back tomorrow.