2 Timothy 2:8-10 “This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”
Paul was being treated like a criminal. He wasn’t in prison because he had been caught abusing children, or stealing church donations, like so many of the clergy scandals you hear about. His “crime” was preaching the gospel about Jesus Christ who died and rose again. He was promoting a God other than the gods the government wanted you to believe. He was teaching a standard of right and wrong that opposed the moral values of the communities in which he worked. His gospel promoted grace and forgiveness, and that rubbed people wrong for two reasons.
First, it suggested to people who wanted to believe they were already good that there was something wrong with them. “What do you mean I have been forgiven? Why should I need forgiveness?”
Then, it worried the authorities who feared that too much talk about grace and forgiveness might give people the idea they had a license to behave badly.
So they locked Paul up. Eventually they amputated his head to shut him up. Do you know how well their plan worked? “God’s word is not chained.” The gospel kept spreading. If anything, it spread faster than before.
The world has often thought that persecution, even execution, could stop the gospel. They think they are pouring water on the fire, and the fire is going to go out. But trying to intimidate Christians with threats, imprisonment, and even death is more like pouring water on a grease fire. You know what happens when you pour water on a grease fire, right? The grease floats on the water. It spreads all over. Soon you have fire everywhere.
Paul knew that they could kill him, just like they killed Jesus, but that they couldn’t kill his gospel. “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” God has his elect, the people he has chosen. You can’t stop the gospel from reaching them. Salvation in Jesus Christ is waiting for them, and us, with eternal glory, so why do we need to be afraid?
Our times are different from the times in which Paul lived. Maybe we fear similar times are coming upon us again. Our government seems less and less friendly to the things biblically faithful Christians believe. Our culture has mostly adopted a different set of morals. It has become acceptable to ridicule our Savior openly. I once saw a sticker on a car urging: “It’s been 2000 years since Jesus died. He’s not coming back. Get over it.” In parts of our world, beheading has come back into favor for getting rid of Christians.
Remember Jesus Christ. Even when they killed him, they couldn’t keep him dead. Since he has risen from the dead he has unleashed his gospel on even the remotest corners of the planet. He still has his elect, the people he has chosen. He will let nothing stand in the way of even one of these dear children hearing the gospel and embracing his forgiving grace. Salvation and eternal glory are still prizes he promises to all of us at the end. He is not dead. His word is not chained. His salvation cannot be undone.
That is our confidence for the mission he gives us today.