Discipleship – what believers must do: 2 Timothy 2


Today’s reading: 2 Timothy 1-4.

“The one indispensable requirement for producing godly, mature Christians is godly, mature Christians.” ― Kevin DeYoung

There is a growing movement in churches today, an imperative which has been ignored too long. While focusing on numbers and decisions we neglected the thrust of Jesus’ ministry – discipleship. We have built churches which are often devoid of discipleship. If instead we had been disciplers, there would have been no lack of growing churches. Paul summed up the essence of discipleship when he described how it stretched across four generations of believers:

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Timothy 2:2

You (generation two) heard me (generation one) and told reliable men (generation three) who will teach others (generation four). The process involved isn’t limited to witnessing or helping the lost make decisions. Discipling takes a believer, at any stage in his growth, and shepherds him or her through a continuing process of learning and doing until they are qualified to do the same for another believer. Jesus was the master discipler, and his success was shown by the rapid growth of the church. After Jesus’ death there were only 120 believers, but within weeks the number had grown to thousands and it has never looked back. Jesus spent a small amount of time teaching large crowds, but the vast majority of his time was engaged in discipling a small number of people, and three men received even greater attention. This is the pattern that God wants us to follow so that we can maximize our impact on the world.

My pastor, Brandon Ware of Green Street Baptist Church, recently shared Jim Putnam’s definition of a disciple.

  • A disciple is one who knows and follows Christ.
  • A disciple is one who is being changed by Christ.
  • A disciple is one who is on mission with Christ.

Jesus gave the command for discipling in his Great Commission.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Teaching the doctrines of Christianity is a key part of discipleship, but it can’t stop there. That Greek model of teaching creates students full of head knowledge who won’t necessarily live out what they learn. Instead we need the Jewish model which Jesus used. Those who are truly discipled learn by living with their teacher, observing him in action, doing what he does with his assistance, then doing it independently. It is very much like the method we used in medical school to learn procedures. Each student would “see one, do one, then teach one.”

What would it look like in the local church if spiritually mature men and women began doing what Jesus did by finding two or three others and intentionally investing in their life by providing support and accountability?  Spiritually mature men ought to be investing into other men, and spiritually mature women ought to be investing in other women. Through such a relationship, disciples can be taught how to pray, how to study God’s Word, how to share the gospel, how to give, and what it means to follow Jesus.  This is a simple process of how we can make disciples who repeat the process in the lives of others. It was this process that turned the world upside down. – Brandon Ware

In order to fully carry out the command of the Great Commission, we must understand a crucial term in this verse. The King James Version of the Bible renders the Greek word for make disciples as teach. Matthew 28:19 in the King James Version reads, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” Many diligent believers simply read this word and merely teach people about salvation—share the gospel and lead them to a decision for Christ.  This is good and admirable, but it is not enough: more is required to make a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is only one aspect of Jesus’ command. Making disciples requires equipping, training, and investing in believers. So what is discipleship? We could say that it is “intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ.” In other words, a disciple learns what Jesus said and lives out what Jesus did (Matthew 28:19). – Robby Gallaty

Image, “Christ with two disciples,” by Rembrandt


13 thoughts on “Discipleship – what believers must do: 2 Timothy 2

  1. What you are describing is essential what the Church recognizes as Apostolic succession. Paul establishes this relationship with Timothy. Who will carry on the mission of the Church? Of course these men of the first generation were steadfastly concerned with who would follow them. Who will carry on Paul’s ministry? This epistle demonstrates Paul’s concerns regarding this matter.

    “Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.” 2 Timothy 1:13-14

    Paul knows that the Holy Spirit is at work. It has been directing his ministry all these years. He knows it is going to protect and guide the Church, protecting both the written and the unwritten word. Match this with 1 Timothy 3:15 and you can begin to see what God is at work doing here.

    “and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2

    Oral tradition, and Apostolic succession.

    “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiph′orus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me— may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” 2 Timothy 1:16-18

    Easy to overlook, but is Paul praying for a dead man? The Church teaches that prayers for the dead are indeed efficacious, and Paul seems to be demonstrating this here. There is a connectedness between all who follow the Lord, a “cloud of witnesses”. Death is an illusion that does not fully separate us. We are all one body.

    • Eric, you tend to force your meaning onto verses. Paul isn’t describing apostolic succession but discipleship. This method of passing the faith from generation to generation isn’t intended solely for church leaders – it is the responsibility of every believer, including yourself. Taking up the med school analogy again, you didn’t “see one, do one, teach one” to educate medical school professors alone. You did it to train every med student to be a practicing doctor. If you and I aren’t doing discipleship we are failing to carry out the Great Commission.

      • Well, it isn’t my meaning I am forcing onto verses, it is the Church’s meaning. But I hear what you are saying. What I am pointing out are the verses in scripture that support the Church’s understanding of the faith. Every priest that is living today has had the hands of a bishop laid upon him at his ordination, just as Paul did to Timothy. And that bishop by a bishop before him. And in that miraculous way the present is connected to the past. This is the charism of the Holy Spirit being passed down from generation to generation to safeguard the Church ( “guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us”.) Just because it makes good sense for Paul to do and preach this certainly does not mean it is not also something as amazing and powerful as Apostolic Succession. Imagine being directly connected to Paul, Augustine, Aquinas. While other ecclesiastic communities have and continue to preach false doctrine (reference TEC and homosex), the Catholic Church continues to hold fast to the truth. You may not agree with Her version of the truth, but I think you can agree She is standing Her ground as the world shifts around her. I think this transfer of Grace from priest to priest via the Holy Spirit is directly related to the exclusion of doctrinal error.

        Paul knows he will be passing the baton. This second letter to Timothy is like a letter from a father to a son, preparing him to carry on the family name. We all have different gifts, and you are right, we all have a charge to pass along the Gospel. Priests just have this added grace, and we know it because Paul tells us. You just happen to see it in one light, the Church sees it in a very different light.

        List to what Protestant historian J. N. D. Kelly says about this, “[W]here in practice was [the] apostolic testimony or tradition to be found? . . . The most obvious answer was that the apostles had committed it orally to the Church, where it had been handed down from generation to generation. . . . Unlike the alleged secret tradition of the Gnostics, it was entirely public and open, having been entrusted by the apostles to their successors, and by these in turn to those who followed them, and was visible in the Church for all who cared to look for it” (Early Christian Doctrines, 37).

        It was actually a visible tool to safeguard the Church against the introduction of heresy, which was being attempted constantly. They even went so far as to make records and write down the order of succession at times to verify the authenticity of the teaching.

        More than arguing a point, I am just referencing where in scripture the teachings of the Church are supported. I am not suggesting you have to believe it, but often I hear people say about the Catholic Church, “Now where is that in scripture?”

        A lot of people would say you should not pray for the dead. Paul, here, would seem to disagree.

      • The verses in today’s post from Titus deal with succession. The verses in Timothy, applied as you are applying them, would make every believer – from Paul, Peter, and the other apostles on down – part of the apostolic succession. Is that what you intend?

  2. The succession is only for those who are given the sacrament of holy orders. Not for the laity.

    This brings up the interesting question of how one determines the proper interpretation of scripture, and how one goes about settling disputes. Catholics believe this should be done within the Church who is guided by the Holy Spirit, through the teaching arm of the Church, which as we have read is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth.” How do the Baptists settle their doctrinal disputes? Who gets to say which interpretation of scripture is right?

    • “Now these (the Bereans) were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” I’d say that’s how it is done most often, though there has also been a struggle over doctrinal purity that goes on in the seminaries. Aren’t you glad you have a copy of the Bible to read for yourself?

      • I am indeed glad I have one. I am thankful for all those monks who copied the texts over and over so that they could be preserved for us. And I love that the Church reads the Bible aloud cover to cover (expect for a few boring bits, I’m told) at every mass every day over a three year cycle.

        But who settles doctrinal disputes in the Baptist church. Who gets to decide? And on what basis do they make a decision? I am asking because I have no idea what process they use.

    • The succession is only for those who are given the sacrament of holy orders. Not for the laity.

      Why? That certainly isn’t present in what Paul has to say to Timothy.

      The problem here is that the verse simply won’t bear the weight you’re resting on it. What do we actually see in this passage? We see Paul training Timothy. We see Paul exhort Timothy to imitate him, and to teach others to do likewise. We see Paul refer to himself as an apostle.

      But there’s no discussion of Timothy’s status as an apostle. There’s no discussion of holy orders, or of sacraments. There’s no indication, indeed, that Timothy is anything other than a brother in Christ whom Paul loves dearly.

      Actually, let me put the question to you: is there anything in this passage that couldn’t be said to all believers? Anything that necessitates the presence of an apostolic status, or that’s only applicable to clergy given a special sacrament?

      Because lacking these things, you can’t appeal to this verse to support your position. You can say that it fails to contradict your position, as you do here…

      Just because it makes good sense for Paul to do and preach this certainly does not mean it is not also something as amazing and powerful as Apostolic Succession.

      … but this is no defense at all! I could as easily say, “I believe Paul donated a kidney to Timothy before writing this letter. Just because he’s writing about discipleship doesn’t mean he isn’t also urging Timothy on as the bearer of his kidney!” And that might be true – but I can’t claim the verse supports my theory, just because it doesn’t deny it.

      And that seems to be the problem throughout, here: These aren’t passages that support the Catholic reading; they’re passages that, at best, fail to be inconsistent with the Catholic doctrine. They aren’t evidence on their own: for that, you have to appeal back to councils and decrees and tradition.

      Again: how much of your argument can you defend only on the basis of what’s written in the actual passage? If you can – if you can show apostolic succession purely from what’s written to Timothy, with no need of future commentary – then great! Show it.

      If you can’t, then the support for Magisterial authority that you’re citing isn’t Scripture – it’s the things the Magisterium has to say about itself. And that’s circular reasoning in the extreme.

      • There is also the laying on of hands, contined to this day, which Paul mentions. But to address your questions, no, the entire doctrine of Holy Orders is not written down in scripture. John tells us a great deal is not written down in scripture, even events of the life of our Lord are omitted, “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” So no, not everything is wrttien. And don’t we sometimes find ourselves wishing there was more direct teaching? How about an explicit commandment against abortion? The Hippocratic Oath has one, why not the Bible?

        Rather than everything being in the Bible, it often seems like there is just enough. For what is missing we have prayer, study, the Church. Sometimes what we find in scripture is more like a seed of an idea or practice, rather than the fully developed plant. So what do we know now about Timothy that we do not know from scripture? We know that he became the Bishop of Ephesus, and that he may have died near the end of the first century AD. So now we can appreciate that Paul wasn’t just training anyone, but a bishop. And from examples like this, and countless others, the Church began to carefully work out Her understanding of the sacrament of Holy Orders.

        I do not know if you believe in the Holy Trinity, or in the incarnation, as neither of these are named in scripture. The Church teaches that the idea for each can be constructed from scripture, though they are not explicitly named.

        It was a small group that gathered on the day of Pentacost. It’s a rather large group that gathers now. Imposters have attempted to insert themselves into the works from the beginning. The Sacrament of Holy Orders is one way the Holy Spirit has worked to maintain an authentic Church for 2000 years.

      • There is also the laying on of hands, contined to this day, which Paul mentions. But to address your questions, no, the entire doctrine of Holy Orders is not written down in scripture.

        Then, I would argue, you can’t appeal to Scripture as your support for it – nor for any meaning you give the laying on of hands beyond what Paul actually says about it.

        It seems to me that all the rest of your argument here amounts to the statement, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an authoritative source other than Scripture?” And you’re right! It would be very convenient – but its convenience does not imply its existence.

        It’s certainly reasonable to argue for additional sources, or to try to prove their worthiness. Indeed, it seems to me that having that argument is the only way we’d ever reach any sort of resolution – though, again, this doesn’t seem like the right locale for it. But it seems unfair to me to argue that a verse supports a particular claim when the actual text of the verse is only neutral to the claim.

  3. One can appeal for support, to the extent that it exists. Fortunately God has not left us in a vacuum, but has entrusted the Church to guide us through the ages, and scripture does support that.

  4. Pingback: Bible Daily Devotional – Discipleship – what believers must do: 2 Timothy 2 | ChristianBlessings

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