A variety of helps
I. Some clear imperatives (v. 1-7)
1. Be strong, in grace (v. 1).
2. Train successors (v. 2).
3. Endure hardness (v. 3).
4. Remain unentangled (v. 4).
5. Keep the rules (v. 5).
6. Labour hard (v. 6).
7. Give consideration to sound advice (v. 7).
II. Some salutary reminders (verses 8-10)
1. Christ is alive (v. 8).
2. The Word is not chained (RSV), as I am (v. 9).
3. There is a special glory to be obtained (v. 10).
III. Some faithful saying (dependable facts) (verses 11-13)
1. Death with Christ is the gateway to glory (v. 11).
2. Suffering leads to reigning (v. 12a).
3. Disloyalty leads to shame (v. 12b).
4. Our Christ is ever true (v. 13).
IV. Some experienced advice (verses 14-16)
1. Discourage wordy arguments (v. 14) (also 16-18, 23).
2. Covet God’s approval (v. 15a).
3. Handle God’s Word carefully and accurately (v. 15b).
4. Count on God’s standing principles (v. 19).
5. Seek highest usefulness in God’s house (purged from all falsehood) (v. 20, 21).
6. Learn to flee and follow (as may be appropriate) (v. 22a).
7. Practice fellowship (with the pure and prayerful) (v. 22b).
8. Always be gentle (v. 24).
9. Meekly instruct when opposed (looking to God alone) (v. 25).
10. Expect to see real deliverances (v. 26).
In this chapter, three different figures are used to describe the Christian. He is at once a soldier (v. 3, 4), an athlete (v. 5) and a farmer (v. 6). Each of these, of course is dedicated to the achieving of its own particular objective, be it the defeating of an enemy, the winning of a race, or the production of a harvest. The point for us to notice, however, is that the secret of success is the same in each case: self-denial or, shall we say, true selflessness. The sole must disentangle himself from that which quite legitimately would claim his heart and occupy his time. The athlete must not sidestep the rules and thereby gain some advantage over others. The farmer for his part, must press on with his labours even when body and soul cry out for needed rest. Clearly, it is self that must be set aside in each case!
This, we know, applies very deeply to the Christian, for the Bible teaches us that true selflessness is the essential secret behind all vital testimony. Christ Himself said that we must lose our lives if we would find them; we must die if we would live (Math. 10:39; 16;25; etc.). And He made it plain in John 12:24 that if we refuse the grave the result will be continuing aloneness and pitiable smallness; certainly no multiplication or glory. This surely is a solemn and inescapable principle.
Reverting to the figures employed in this chapter, there were of course very desirable rewards for having laid down the self-life. For the athlete there would be the garland of victory and for the farmer the abundant harvest. We note, however, that in the case of the soldier the only reward that is explicitly stated is that of pleasing the One who chose him (v. 4). For the Christian that is the reward above all others.
All this is related to the phrase in verse 10 about obtaining the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. Be it the soldier, the athlete, or the farmer, there would still be degrees of reward, and this determined by the measure of dedication, etc., in each case. That will be true of the Christian also, and we are all urged to seek a full reward (2 Jn. 8).
We must emphasise again, however, that this matter of rewards cannot be disassociated from the principle of God’s grace (see Rom. 5:17; etc.). The ultimate question is simply this: Who will be humble and broken enough to accept most of this grace? In that way, it will still be the Lord who gets all the glory. And rightly so.