The Good News
2 Timothy 1:1-14
By Rev Dr Abi T. Ngunga, 2nd October 2016
I am deeply grateful to the Lord and many thanks to our friend and chaplain – the Rev Dr Donald MacEwan – for giving me both the privilege and the responsibility to stand before you this morning and bring to you God’s message.
There one thing I would like to say to you at the beginning. When I received the invitation to preach in this magnificent chapel today, I told my congregation back in Ayr that I was reminded “that sermons should be about 15 minutes in length,” to which news the entire congregation busted in laughter. They laughed because they know that Abi can’t do a 15 minutes sermon! So, I hope you brought your pack lunch this morning because I am going to preach longer than the normal time given for a sermon on a Sunday morning service here in this chapel! I’m just kidding! The truth is that I am able to preach for 15 minutes or less! But, I am on a mission to help churches in our land, particularly in our Church of Scotland, once again to value more the Word of God by giving more time to listen to it either being read or being preached! This is even so in a service like this that is held in the university ground when one compares between the time allocated to the sermon and the reasonable time given to a guest speaker to give a paper or a lecturer, for instance!
Having said that, let me introduce my talk by saying that there are two kinds of people in this life, one may say. There are those who are quiet and those who, like me, are talkative. Now, here in Scotland, whether you are in the former category or in the latter, there is one thing we all like talking. It is the “weather”! It is one of our daily topics, so to speak!
One man in the Bible, called Paul, had a few rich subjects that he enjoyed talking about in great length. One of the many practical ways to identify them is in his use of one long single sentence in the original language. For instance, we see this when he speaks of “Praise” in Ephesians 1:3-14 or “Prayer” in the same epistle (1:15-23; 3:14-19). All the verses in each of these sections respectively are one long sentence! When you read each sentence, you cannot help but see how captivated or passionate he is on the subject at hand and how his thoughts keep moving to new heights.
In our Bible Reading before us today, there is one long sentence (vv.8-12) where he talks about “the Good News” (or the old English word the “Gospel”), a word which, 3/4 of its appearances in the NT, is found in his letters. This long sentence is our focus today. Commenting on this text, William Barclay wrote: “here Paul sets out the gospel [i.e. the Good News] in all its glory.”
It is worth mentioning that Paul writes about this topic of Good News here at his death bed so to speak to his beloved son Timothy. The fact that this text, being part of his last words, highlights even the more significance of this subject. There were very important words to his son Timothy then and remain most applicable or relevant words for us today.
If we were to read again the sentence (I mean those five verses –i.e. vv. 8-12), we will note that Paul first refers to the topic of the Good News briefly as he urges his son Timothy, saying: “join with me in suffering for the good news” (v.8) and then he moves on to describe it (vv.9-10) before telling us what this good news has done/and does (v.10). So you can already guest I am a bit of an old fashion preacher with a three points sermon! Let me start then with the middle point one! And I would encourage you to follow me through the text.
It is the Good News of Salvation (vv.9-10)
In his book, Simply Good News, Professor Tom Wright says that the Good News is “a message about something that happened, as a result of which everything is now different”. Here in these verses, Paul speaks of the Good News as the “Good News of Salvation” (v.9 “God… saved us”) or “Good News of our Saviour, Christ Jesus” (v.10). He speaks of salvation NOT as something which we achieve, BUT as something given to us. He says “God …saved us …not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (v.9). In the words of the reformers, we are saved by God in Christ Jesus “by Grace Alone! It is the salvation of grace from first to last (see Ephesians 2:5,8).
- It is in Christ Jesus that God’s grace (i.e. God’s undeserved favour or God’s free unmerited love towards mankind) was given to us before the beginning of time, i.e. before we did any good works, before we were born and could do any good work, before history, before time, in eternity!
- It is in Christ Jesus, at his first appearance (as a historical and public event) – epiphaneia – a word which the Jews repeatedly used of the great saving manifestations of God in their terrible days when their enemies were deliberately seeking to eliminate them) that that God’s undeserved favour/His free unmerited love was manifested or revealed as Christ went on to destroy death (as the result of sin) by dying on the Cross for our sins and rising from the death (i.e. resurrection). It is not needless to say that Christ’s death on the Cross was an amazing historical event that changed the world for the best ever! For by his death and resurrection, he destroyed death (or “him who holds the power of death, i.e. the devil) and free all those humanity that was held in slavery by the fear of death” (Heb. 2:14-15)
Thus far, the point being emphasised by the greatest of the Christian missionaries—Paul—is that Christianity is essentially Good News of Salvation. It is:
- A salvation planned by God long before the beginning of time – thus giving anyone who embraces it a deep peace and blessed assurance!
- A salvation that is totally non-contributory gift from us. As in his book on Nature, Man and God, William Temple (in the 30’s), put it: “All is of God; the only thing of my very own which I can contribute to my own redemption is the sin from which I need to be redeemed.” (p. 401). That is to say that the Good News of Salvation is a message that strips anyone listening to it naked and declares him/her bankrupt before God. One of the implications of this truth is that all our boastings in ourselves to which we are all inclined to do (be it our education, our possessions, our success, our achievements, our reputation, our upbringing, our place of origin, etc. even our piety) are totally excluded. For none of them can help us achieve or earn our salvation. Instead, the Good News of Salvation not only inspires humility and gratitude, but also invites us to boast only in the Cross of Jesus (cf. Galatians 6:14). This takes already takes us to my second and short point of the sermon.
What this Good News brings (v.10)
In v. 10, Paul says that “our Saviour, Christ Jesus … brought life and immortality to light through the gospel [The Good News]”. What this tells us is that there is eternal life in Christ Jesus (cf. v.1). Through the preaching of the Good News, what Christ has done and his offer of the life and immortality, which he has won for mankind, is being revealed. At one time, Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).
This phrase “our Saviour, Christ Jesus …brought life and immortality to light through the good news” (v.10) implicitly invites us (I mean each one of us personally) to believe in Christ for becoming beneficiary of this wonderful blessing of life and immortality! For without faith this Good News is of no value to those like us who are either hearing it being preached or reading the sermon about it as the writer to the Hebrews says: “the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith” (Heb 4:2).
- Paul himself believed in Christ Jesus as we hear him saying: “I know whom I have believed” (v.12) and so, even though he was facing imminent physical death, he knew that he possessed life and immortality in Christ Jesus.
Faith in Christ Jesus is as it was for Paul the best Life Insurance that anyone could have in this life. I remember a friend of mine from Africa (where most people do not have Life Insurance!) who came to study in one of the most prestigious universities in England. As he arrived at the registration desk at the University for his registration, the person who welcomed him there asked him a few questions. One of them was: “Do you have a life insurance?” To this, my friend responded: “Yes! Jesus!” Then the person went on immediately to ask: “Is Jesus the name of the company?” To this second question, my friend replied: “No! He is my heart and therefore I am safely insured!” Faith in Christ is the best Life Insurance that anyone should have.
At this point, let me ask you a personal question. Have you believed in Christ Jesus? Friends, faith in Christ, is strictly speaking, the only good work that God expect from repentant sinners. God calls upon the sinner to respond to His grace (unserved or unmerited favour) simply by exercising faith. Faith on our part introduces us into a life and immortality in Christ.
It is the Good News of Service (vv. 11-12 and v.8)
The third and last point is that this Good News is of Service. In v. 11, Paul says: “…of this good news I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher”. And then he goes on in verse 12 to say: “That is why I am suffering as I am” (see also the thought of suffering in verse 8 where he invites Timothy as he writes: “…join with me in suffering for the good news”).
In all these verse here, Paul speaks of our responsibility in relation to the Good News. According to him, anyone who has embraced the Good News (who has been saved in Christ by grace through faith) has the duty towards this Good News. So, it is a Good News worth communicating (v.11) and worth suffering for (vv.8, 12). The glory of the Good News with its present and benefits outweighs any present suffering. One of the great encouragement that can be detected in this text is that any suffering which is involved in our duty towards the Good News is to be carried in the power of God.
Friends, we have a Good News to proclaim, a wonderful story to tell to the Nations. It is a wonderful news! A news of something has been happened as a result of which things are now different. It is a Good News of a great salvation, planned from eternity in Christ Jesus, secured by Him in time, offered by Him to underserved people and which is to be received by faith.
Therefore, let us NOT be like The New York Times Magazine, which, in 1903, said nothing the next day after The Wright Brothers flew a historical event that changed the world!
Instead let us be like the four men with leprosy who say to each other, “we’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. …. Let’s go at once and report this…” (2 Kings 7:9)
Let us suffer for it bravely whenever suffering occurs in our journey as we testify about our Lord or associate with his followers.
Let us remember that long time ago, the prophet Isaiah said:
“How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”