February 10, 2017- 2 Timothy 4:1-8 Itching Ears and the Crown of Righteousness




In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. 2 Timothy 4:1-4 (NRSV) 

The time is already here where people won’t listen to sound doctrine, though now as always, there are plenty of teachers and preachers out there catering to the itching ear crowd.  There is a place for teaching on judgment, but it’s not to “scare people saved” with the threat of hellfire.  However, fear of hell doesn’t save- only the grace of God in Christ does.

This being said, a Christian pastor who is doing his job isn’t always going to be popular, and the sermon should make you squirm from time to time.  The point is not to blindly agree with everything that comes down from the pulpit, especially when it challenges my understanding of orthodoxy, but to be challenged- to think, to pray and to invite discourse with fellow believers.  The pastor’s job is to preach, teach and challenge us.

What he is saying should inspire serious prayer, study and reflection- and more often than not get us right where we live.    “Christian” is not a synonym for “nice.”  We learn and grow by facing those not so nice areas in our life and conduct and letting the Holy Spirit work in and through us to make those things the way God intends for them to be.

Sometimes being nice is seemingly un-Christian, especially when it is necessary to tell that truth or give that wake-up call.


I pray that the Holy Spirit will give us the discernment to accept right teaching even when it seems contrary to convention, even when it’s not comfortable, because it calls us out on our own sin, and to remind us that we are people of integrity and fortitude. We don’t need our ears scratched.  We need the truth, even when it hits us where we live.  Even when it offends.

“As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:4-8 (NRSV)


At first I had to wonder what Paul was getting at, but looking a little bit deeper we can see throughout Paul’s letters that he insists that righteousness is something that:
a.) Does not come from observing the law or by our own good works.
Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law.But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Galatians 3:21-22 (NRSV)
b.) Is found only in the mercy and the grace of God in Christ.
“Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11 (NRSV)
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 (NRSV)
So the good works that we do are merely the good works that God created us to do and that God gave us the resources to do.
“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (NRSV)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 (NRSV)
God is in control.  Even when we are not.  Even when running the race is difficult for us. Which is good news!

2 thoughts on “February 10, 2017- 2 Timothy 4:1-8 Itching Ears and the Crown of Righteousness

  1. This Sunday’s message is on Matthew 6 and the Lord’s prayer. In Luke 11, Jesus starts out with the Lords prayer, but later he talks about “woes” of the Pharisees. In verse 42 he talks about them doing orthodox things like giving a 10th of certain spices, (which he supported) but that then they miss the whole concept of “justice and the love of God “. I’m sure the Pharisees thought Jesus was very unorthodox. I have seen the Spirit leave churches die that focus on orthodoxy and not the message & mission of grace. That is my belief, but only the Spirit knows. Lutherans talk about “Law and Gospel.” which may help here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Timothy was focusing not as much on orthodoxy as on sound teaching. It’s not loving to teach people that they can do whatever they want, or to sidestep the truth, when we know that certain behaviors lead to harm. On the same hand, I agree it is deadly to a Christian community to focus so much on orthodoxy and tradition that the heart of the community is torn apart over issues that really don’t matter. Jesus taught that the primary law is love- Love God, then love your neighbor as yourself. Pastor Doug from Peace always preached to love God then do what you want…because if you truly love God the Holy Spirit will change your heart so your heart corresponds with God’s will. Law and Gospel is where it’s at,in balance, because they are meant to be synergistic. The Law is God’s boundaries- safeguards He put in place out of love for our own protection. God knows when we break His laws we hurt ourselves and others. He also knows we are human and we will break His laws- which is why He sent us Jesus and why we are sent to preach and live out His message of grace. We need both Law (to show us right boundaries) and Gospel (to show us the way of love and grace.)


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