In contrast to the false teachers, Paul lists his own suffering as an example of what will happen to anyone that wants to live a godly life (vv. 10-12). This is somewhat surprising for contemporary Christians who are fed a steady diet of “health and wealth” gospel: if you are really spiritual and doing everything God requires, you will be blessed, you will be happy, healthy and wealthy. That teaching is the exact opposite of Paul’s point in this passage. Paul knows that his Gospel is the truth because he has suffered physically as a result of his preaching of Jesus.
It might seem odd, but Paul recalls his first missionary journey as an example of his suffering. He specifically has in mind the persecution he faced in Asia Minor (Acts 14). In Antioch, Paul is opposed by Jews from the Synagogue, who follow him to Iconium to harass him. Paul was attacked in Lystra, stoned and left for dead (Acts 14). Perhaps these persecutions were chosen because he was “left for dead,” or perhaps this period continued to haunt him in his ministry for some time.
While that physical attack was important, Paul has in mind the constant treat from the Jewish community throughout that first journey as well as the threats to his churches reflected in the book of Galatians. The attack on Paul’s character reflected in Paul’s early letters may have been more painful than the physical pain he faced in Lystra. It appears that some of Paul’s opponents described him as unqualified to preach the gospel (Gal 1) or worse, as a charlatan (1 Thess 2, for example).
A potential problem with this review of Paul’s ministry is that it all occurred on the first missionary journey, before Timothy began to travel with Paul (Acts 15). This is used to argue the letter of 2 Timothy is a pious forgery. The writer introduced a historical error by saying Timothy witnessed these events himself. On the other hand, Timothy was from Lystra himself and joined Paul mission with the full knowledge that Paul is often persecuted physically and opposed by very powerful people where ever he preaches the Gospel!
Paul states very clearly everyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. This is a common theme throughout the New Testament: Jesus was persecuted and so too will his followers face similar trials. Galatians 5:11 indicates that Paul was persecuted because he was preaching that the Gentiles were not under the Law. The immediate background is his troubles in Asia Minor to which he alludes here in 2 Timothy (cf. Rom 8:35, 1 Cor 4:12, 2 Cor 4:9, 12:10, Gal 4:29, 5:11, 2 Thess 1:4).
If Timothy’s desire is to live a godly life, he will in fact face some sort of trial or persecution. Paul knows that Timothy is at the moment facing a difficult time because of the false teachers in Ephesus, even if that has not developed into a physical persecution at this point. This text is clear that the one who is “in Christ” will suffer like Christ. Perhaps this is an indication that the opponents in Ephesus are not really “in Christ,” they simply do not suffer!
Imagine what would happen in Evangelical Christianity if people really believed they should suffer for Jesus rather than expecting to be wealthy because of their faith. When was the last time you took a rock to the head because of your faith in Jesus?
2 thoughts on “2 Timothy 3:10-12 – Why did Paul Suffer?”
Most people know Pauls story of being the persecutor and then becoming the persecuted for teaching the Good News. Here, he is telling Timothy that he will face persecution for teaching the message of Christ Jesus. Timothy probably knew of the sufferings that Paul had experienced on his first missionary journey as he was from Lystra (ESVSB, p. 1623). Paul is simply encouraging Timothy to hold firm, as they both know what will come as he sets off to “live a godly life in Christ Jesus” (3:12). It is important to note that persecution can mean a variety of things, ranging from simply having people spreads lies about you, to ultimate persecution that Jesus Christ endured and overcame. Paul reminds Timothy of how “the Lord rescued him from them all (3:11)” (Longenecker, p. 287). Even if you are killed for your Faith, you still have fulfilled Christ’ mission.
Today, in America, at least, we are not killed for our Faith, but we are certainly put in a box and stereotyped. Today, stereotypes include being all Republicans, “better than the rest”, judgmental, hypocrites, no fun and close minded. That is a lot and sadly there is some truth in that. As Christians today, we need to be like Paul and learn about the different cultures before we are quick to judge them for their beliefs. I am not saying we change for them, but we can learn their roots and from those roots we can pray for them and simply show them the love of Christ. We do not have to force the Gospel message on them, if it is the will of God, they will see Christ in you and have the desire to change.
Paul’s adversaries didn’t believe he was qualified enough and a lot of time many people don’t believe that they are qualified to do something. Paul, however, didn’t care what other people thought of him for he knew he was doing the Lords work and it was working. People were stoning him and persecuting him for professing his faith in Jesus Christ. But how is this success if he is the one that is taking the blame and beatings for Christ? Well first of all we must realize that Christ took the blame for us when he died on the cross, carrying all of our sin and shame, and through that we were able to begin a new life in His name (John 15:18). Second, Paul tells us in verse 12 that we will be persecuted when living our life out for Jesus, this is just an expected portion of the Christian lifestyle. Now just because you accept Christ and profess your faith in him your life instantly becomes more difficult, but it also doesn’t mean that it will be running through fields of sunflowers for “the one who is in Christ, will also suffer like Christ” (Long). If people knew what it was really like to have to stand firm in their faith, I believe that people wouldn’t take up the cross as often as they do especially people living in western civilization. People in America make get picked on for what they believe or bullied but not to the point where you must hide when doing a bible study or the risk of losing your life for carrying a bible. Paul lived his life on the edge for God, risking everything for His glory. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil 1:21). Paul knew what he believed in and knew that he was going to face hardships especially ones that put his life in danger yet still followed Christ. Paul’s gospel is, without a doubt, why I should be able to live out my life for Christ without complaining.