In II Timothy 2:3-6 Paul gives three figures which suggest the hard service which is in Christ. The soldier, the athlete, and the husbandman. Paul gives the simile of comparing service to Christ to that of a soldier. The soldier has to go on duty and leave comforts, he must face the hardships of service, and the dangers of the battlefield. Paul points to his own example in saying, “Suffer hardship with me.” Paul did not ask Timothy to submit to that which he was unwilling to do; he suffered for his loyalty to Christ, and he asked Timothy to be willing to accept similar hardship. “No soldier on service entangleth himself in the affairs of this life; that he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier” (II Timothy 2:4). A soldier “on service” is one actually engaged in performing the obligations of a soldier. A soldier on duty must devote himself to the service of him who enrolled him. A soldier, to please his officers, must perform their orders without interference from his ties of home or business affairs. The comparison is that the Christian soldier, engaged in the service of the Lord, must keep himself free from the entangling affairs of the world which would hinder him in performing his duties.
"And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully” (II Timothy 2:5). In this verse the Christian is represented as an athlete. The reference is to an athlete in the ancient games which were so well-known in Greek history. Those who had a part in the games were required to conform to the rules of the game. They had to undergo much training to participate. Paul’s comparison is that Timothy must, therefore, conform to the laws of Christ, and not give up the discipline which would come through training.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible (I Corinthians 9:25).
“The husbandmen that laboreth must be the first to partake of the fruits” (II Timothy 2:6). Here the figure changes to that of a husbandman or farmer. The farmer should be the first to enjoy the fruit of his hands; but, he must first labor to have the fruit. One cannot receive the harvest of the fields if he does not work the crop. The comparison is that Timothy must recognize that for him to receive the fruit of Christian labor, he must engage in work in the Lord’s field.
“Consider what I say; for the Lord shall give thee understanding in all things” (II Timothy 2:7). Paul had used three illustrations to impress upon Timothy the necessity of concentration, endurance, and faithful toil to please the Lord as a preacher and a Christian. These points were drawn from the activity of soldiers, athletes, and farmers. Timothy was to consider these points carefully. If he properly considered these points, he would see that he was a Christian soldier fighting under Christ in a spiritual war with evil, that he was a Christian athlete running for the prize of eternal life, and a Christian farmer sowing the seed of the kingdom and looking to a bountiful harvest in the judgment.
J. Noel Meredith