Sunday June 28, 2020
Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy during his final imprisonment in Rome. At that time Timothy was a leader in the church at Ephesus. As Paul wrote this letter he knew his death was near (2 Timothy 4:6). In that, he took this time to encourage his spiritual son to find his approval as a soldier of Christ with God and not man. This is the last of Paul’s letters…and the final thoughts of his heart.
Just what does it mean to be “approved”? The Greek word for approved is dokimos which means “to be acceptable.” That seems pretty reasonable and easy, right? But dokimos comes from a root word that means “to be tried and tested.” Uh oh. So we are to present ourselves to God tested and tried? That sounds much harder than just seeking God’s approval. It means that we must allow ourselves to be proven and “assayed” for the Lord.
Now some translations of this verse will include or emphasize being a “hard worker” or as in the Amplified translation “tested and tried” as ways we can earn God’s approval. Paul wasn’t telling Timothy he needed to work harder or suffer tests and trials to show or to prove to God he was worthy of His approval.
Paul tells Timothy to study the scriptures to show “yourself” that you are approved of God! He wanted him to see from God’s Word that because of what Jesus did, he was already approved of God. Our approval rests simply in handling His Word with honor and faith.
But as we have been (notice it is past tense) approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. (1 Thess.2:4)
This is the hallmark of an approved life…and it is a honorable motive. Imagine…being trusted by the Word Himself to be His witnesses and carriers of the gospel on this earth! Paul tells Timothy that this is the highest calling he could ever have. Paul indicates that he had been approved by God to be a steward of the gospel, meaning God had entrusted the gospel to Paul’s care. Paul’s many trials as a herald of the gospel demonstrated his genuineness as a guardian of the gospel. As someone entrusted by God to spread the gospel, Paul did not speak to please humans, but to honor God. He was aware that God examines a person’s motives. (See WORD WISDOM for a deeper study of gospel)
The Gospel of Christ never pleases natural or sinful man. He considers it folly and foolishness (1 Cor.1:18). But to the believer, the Word of God is precious and in need of sacred handling. Hallelujah! We have been given the great and awesome privilege of being a vessel for His Word. And with that, I am not seeking the approval of any one on this earth. I am not out to impress anyone.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal.1:10-12)
Paul goes on to say, “a workman that needs not to be ashamed.” When you don’t know if God approves of you or not, you will feel ashamed. It shows in your lack of confidence in God.
Once we have been accepted as approved by the Lord, there is a sweet reward even beyond that approval. In our perseverance, under trial and testing, God bestows upon us a crown! There is a wonderful promise tucked away in the book of James.
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (Jas.1:12)
There is nothing more worthy of hope and wonder than knowing that one day we will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Because of that, His approval of our lives should be paramount to everything else. We should live to please Him…long to honor Him…and yearn to serve Him. What’s your approval rating?