Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, by Witness Lee


In verse 3 Paul continues, “Take your share in suffering evil as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” The apostles considered their ministry a warfare for Christ, just as the priestly service was considered a military service, a warfare, in Numbers 4:23, 30, 35 (lit.). Whenever we minister Christ to others, we find ourselves in a battle. Hence, we should not only be teachers committing the deposit to others, but we should also be soldiers fighting for God’s interests.

Verse 4 says, “No one serving as a soldier entangles himself with the affairs of life, that he may please the one who enlisted him.” The word for life here in Greek is bios, indicating the physical life in this age. To fight a good fight (4:7) for the Lord’s interests on this earth we must be cleared of any earthly entanglement. The matters of our material, physical life should not entangle us as we are endeavoring to minister Christ to others. This ministry is a fighting, and the fighting requires that we be free from entanglement. On the one hand, the priestly service is a ministry to God; on the other hand, it is a warfare against God’s enemies. As the priests were bearing the ark of testimony, they had to be prepared to fight against those who might attack this testimony.


In verse 5 Paul likens Timothy to an athlete contending in the games: “And if also anyone contends in the games, he is not crowned unless he contends lawfully.” At the same time Timothy was to be a teacher and a soldier, he was also to be an athlete. A soldier must fight to win the victory, whereas an athlete must contend lawfully to receive the crown.

It is important for a runner in a race to run fast. That is not the time for him to exercise patience. In a foregoing message I encouraged you to wait and pray. But when it comes to running the race to win the crown, we should not wait. On the contrary, we should run to reach the goal.


Verse 6 continues, “The laboring husbandman must be the first to partake of the fruits.” Here Paul likens Timothy to a husbandman, a farmer. Just as a soldier must win the victory and an athlete must receive the crown, so a husbandman must partake of the fruits, the food. This requires patience. As athletes we should be quick, but as farmers we need to be patient. If out of impatience a farmer would pluck up the tiny sprouts, his crop would be ruined. Likewise, if he drives his cattle too much, he may hurt them. With both crops and livestock, farmers must learn to have patience.

Verses 7 through 14 are related to Paul’s charge to Timothy that he be a husbandman. After telling Timothy to consider what he says and that the Lord will give him understanding in all things (v. 7), Paul goes on to say, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from among the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel.” The word “raised” in verse 8 indicates Christ’s victory over death by His divine life with its resurrection power. The expression “seed of David” indicates Christ’s dignified human nature exalted and glorified along with His divine nature. The words “my gospel” indicate that Paul’s gospel was the glad tidings of the living Person of Christ, who possesses both the divine and human nature, who was incarnated to be the Son of Man and resurrected to be the Son of God, as indicated in the parallel portion, Romans 1:1-4.

Paul says that he suffered evil “unto bonds as a criminal,” but that “the word of God is not bound” (v. 9). In spite of all the opposition by human efforts that were instigated by the enemy, Satan, the bonds of the apostle released the word of God, giving it free course and making it more prevailing.

In verse 10 Paul continues, “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the chosen ones, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” The “chosen ones” denotes the believers in Christ, who were chosen by God the Father before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and selected from mankind for salvation. The apostle endured all sufferings for our sake that we also may obtain salvation as he did.

In verse 10 Paul does not speak of salvation and eternal glory, but of salvation with eternal glory. Eternal glory is the ultimate goal of God’s salvation (Rom. 8:21). God’s salvation leads us into His glory (Heb. 2:10). This encourages us to endure sufferings for the gospel (Rom. 8:17).

Immediately after charging Timothy to be a husbandman, Paul speaks of suffering. This indicates that a husbandman must be one who is able to suffer and endure. As a farmer, he must learn not only to suffer, but also to die.

In these verses Paul not only speaks of his own sufferings, but he also presents the Lord Jesus as a pattern of one who suffered, died, and was resurrected. Verses 11 through 13 may have been a hymn. This passage corresponds to Romans 6:8 and 8:17. Verse 11 says, “Faithful is the word: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.” The expression “died with Him” is related to Christ’s crucifixion, as symbolized by baptism (Rom. 6:3-8). Likewise, the words “live with Him” mean to live Christ in His resurrection (Rom. 6:5, 8; John 14:19).

Verse 12 says, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us.” Enduring is related to life in this age, and reigning with Christ, to the coming age. If we deny Him, He will deny us; that is, He will not acknowledge us (Matt. 10:33; Luke 9:26).

Verse 13 continues, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” The word faithful in this verse refers to the Lord’s faithfulness to His own word. If we are faithless, the Lord will remain faithful, for He is not able to deny Himself. If we become faithless to Him, although He remains faithful, He cannot accept us as faithful by making Himself unfaithful, that is, by denying Himself, by denying His nature and His being.

In verse 14 Paul says, “Remind them of these things, solemnly charging them before the Lord not to have contentions of words, which are profitable for nothing, to the ruin of those who hear.” By “these things” Paul refers to the charge that faithful, competent men, to whom the good deposit has been committed, should be not only teachers, but also soldiers, athletes, and husbandmen. Like the Lord Jesus during His life on earth, they need to be patient and have endurance. The Lord suffered with patience, and He endured. After He was put to death, He was resurrected. Based on this, Paul says that if we die with Him, we shall live and that if we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him.

(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Chapter 15, by Witness Lee)