Not Ashamed of Christ

John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., as well as an author, conference speaker and president of The Master’s College and Seminary.

The Epistle of 2 Timothy is the last of the 13 epistles written by the Apostle Paul. He writes this one from a dungeon in Rome to his son in the faith, Timothy, because he wants Timothy to carry on the work. Timothy doesn’t have the strength of character and boldness and courage that Paul, his mentor, had. Paul is a victim of persecution that he knows Timothy will also face. And he wants to be sure that Timothy is strong in the face of that persecution.

Verses 6-18 of chapter 1 deal with attitude. There is an underlying and pervasive attitude that is necessary for one who does what God wants him to do. What is the attitude Paul has in mind in verses 6 to 18? What is the underlying, driving force that keeps us moving ahead in the extension of the Gospel?

It is the attitude of not being ashamed of Christ. It is an attitude of courage, an attitude of boldness. It is an attitude that does not equivocate, the attitude of no compromise, of confrontation in the face of hostility. It is the attitude of saying what ought to be said, no matter who you’re saying it to or what the repercussions might be. In a word, courage—the courage of one’s convictions.

Paul mentions in verse 8 not being ashamed. He mentions it again in verse 12 and mentions it with reference to Onesiphorus in verse 16. Three times, references are made to not being ashamed. And I believe this indicates what Paul’s major message is to Timothy: Timothy is not to be ashamed, not to allow himself to be pressured into vacillating, not to lose heart, not to lose courage, not to be afraid to speak for Christ because it might cost him his life. He is to be courageous.

No matter how gifted you are, no matter how prepared you are, how well trained you are, how biblically literate you are, how astute you are, no matter how much opportunity you are granted and how open spiritual privilege is to you; if you do not have courage, you will not speak. And so, basic to all effective ministry is a spiritual courage that says: “I will live the way God wants me to live, and I will speak the way He wants me to speak, no matter what the consequences might be.”

So Paul calls Timothy to an attitude of courage and boldness that is not ashamed to be identified with Christ, even in a hostile, persecuting and deadly environment.

But how to do that?

Look at verse 6: “For this reason [that is, the reason of your true salvation mentioned in verse 5] I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

Courage rises out of a sense of giftedness. If I know what I’m equipped to do, then I’m going to be bold to do it. If I know God has said, “You are to do this, and I gift you to do it,” then I’m going to do it. In fact, I have nothing else to do. So I’m not going to say to myself, if I preach Christ, I’m liable to die. I’m going to say to myself, if I don’t preach Christ, I might as well die.

The only reason I am here is to do what I’m gifted to do. And that’s where the sense of courage and boldness begins—in understanding who I am. That is the proper kind of self-image, not a psychological one but a charismatic one in the true use of the term charisma, which is the word here for gift. I am who I am by virtue of my gift. Take my gift away and you have basically just me left in my humanness. So courage rises out of a sense of giftedness.

Second, he says consider the resources you have at your disposal. Somebody might say, “Well, if I launch out, how do I know I’m not going to get out there and get cut off from the cords of power? How do I know how long my extension cord is? How far can I go, how aggressive can I be in my ministry, without pulling the plug at the other end?”

Well, verse 7 says: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” Timothy, God did not give you gifts and then equip you with cowardice. You understand that? That’s what the word timidity means, deilia. It’s the only time this word is ever used in the New Testament, and it basically means cowardice, fearfulness, embarrassment, shame, weakness, frailty. He is saying: “God did not give you a gift to be used in the advance of His Kingdom and then give you an accommodating cowardice that would literally negate the gift.” Rather, He gave you power, love and discipline in order that it might operate that gift.

This is a tremendous statement. Any weakness on your part, Timothy, is strictly just not cashing your check because the resources are in your spiritual bank. You’re just not drawing on them. Vacillation and denial and a lack of boldness and being ashamed to speak for the Lord or live for the Lord or serve the Lord simply indicates that you’re not using your spiritual resources. God didn’t give you cowardice; God gave you courage.

And notice these three things: Verse 7 says God has given us (past tense, already in the bank) power, love and discipline. When you became a believer, God gave you power. Why do I say that? Because when you became a believer, you received the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you.”

When you became a believer, you received divine capacity to love because it says in Romans 5:5 that due to the sufficient justifying work of Christ, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. And when you were saved, you received the Holy Spirit, who brings with Him His fruit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and the last one is self-control, or discipline.

In other words, this is something you possess. If you are timid in your ministry, if you are ineffective, weak and failing to be bold and courageous and aggressive in advancing the Kingdom, it is not God who has given you that. You can assume it is sin, because God has given you the resources to do just the opposite.

Now look for a moment at the word powerdunamis. It’s among those words from the root of which we get the word dynamite or dynamic. It has to do with dynamic energy producing results. God has given you a dynamic to produce results. It doesn’t matter what the opposition is, it doesn’t matter how powerful the adversary is. The power of God is there to produce. And you have to know you have that power.

It’s a marvelous thing to live your life in service to Christ and to see that power—to see the power of God operate to change lives and move the Kingdom and exalt the Lord. And you have that power. There is no Christian on the face of the earth who doesn’t have that power. You may not be appropriating it, because it comes to the one who is controlled by the Spirit of God, the one who has set sin aside and is submitting to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. That’s where the power operates. ©1987 Grace to You

Taken by permission from Not Being Ashamed of Christ, Part 2, by John MacArthur, at Scripture quotations are taken by permission from the New American Standard Bible, ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.