Multiplying Disciples: Reflections on the “how” from 2 Timothy

While crafting our new vision statement at SEND North Council’s retreat in November, 2 Timothy 2:2 frequently came up in the discussion. In writing to Timothy, Paul gives a pattern of making disciples who in turn make other disciples.

and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. -2 Timothy 2: 2 ESV

As I thought about this verse and our discussion on multiplying disciples, I wondered whether Paul gave any instruction to Timothy on how to do this. So I read through 2 Timothy a number of times with that question in mind. I am not going to write an exposition on this theme but merely point you to some passages for you to reflect on as we think about multiplying disciples.

The immediate context (2 Timothy 2:1-7) points out that multiplying disciples is empowered by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Furthermore, it is characterized by three metaphors: the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer.

In chapter 1:8-12, Paul commands Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel. Even if proclaiming the gospel brings suffering, God is able to guard us throughout our life. The early church prayed for boldness in proclaiming the gospel (Acts 2:29) and Paul requested prayer for boldness (Ephesians 6:29,30). The book of Acts is testimony to these prayers answered. Multiplying disciples requires boldness supplied by the Holy Spirit.

The “pattern of sound words”(2 Timothy 1:13) received from Paul is the heart of multiplying disciples. This is emphasized by Paul throughout this letter. Timothy is to “remember Jesus Christ” (2:8). Remind the faithful men about these things (2:14). He is to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2:15). This is not a cold storing of information; instead it expresses itself in “pursuing righteousness, faith, love and peace” (2:22). Timothy’s teaching is to be characterized by kindness, patience, correcting in gentleness (2:24,25). The “sacred writings” are able to make us wise for salvation (3:15). They are “breathed out by God” (2:16) so that the disciple can “be competent” (2:17). The Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (3:16).

What Paul passes on to Timothy included his whole life. Paul writes,

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings… 2 Timothy 3:10,11 ESV

If we are to multiply disciples we must not only pass on biblical teaching but must also share our lives with them. Our conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, persecutions, and sufferings will exemplify and confirm our teaching.

I hope this stimulates your thinking and reflection on multiplying disciples. There is much more to entrusting the message to faithful men, who will in turn be able to teach others also. It starts with confidence and commitment to the gospel and Scripture in word and a lifestyle empowered by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. It involves authentic sharing our life with others, pointing them to the sacred writings that will make them wise for salvation. It will include reproving, rebuking, exhorting with complete patience, and teaching (4:2).

We should expect the same kind of opposition that both Paul and Timothy experienced and heed Paul’s exhortation to Timothy:

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. -2 Timothy 4:5 ESV

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