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2 Timothy 1:15-18 Study Guide: God's Grace When Friends Depart

Community Group Study Guide — God’s Grace When Friends Depart from the Faith
2 Timothy 1:15-18

Study Information:
If you have been a Christian for some time you’ve probably experienced having friends or people you’ve served with distance themselves from you or even depart from following Christ. It is a painful experience for all parties and there are many factors from doctrinal drift to a break down in community that cause people to leave a church or leave the faith altogether. We’re currently in the biggest religious shift in our country’s history; sociologist are calling it "the Great De-churching.” Since 2020 more than 40 million Americans who used to attend church no longer attend. There are a variety of reasons from moving, to political polarization to changing religious beliefs. However, just let that sink in more than 12% of Americans who used to attend church no longer do. This means that most of us know someone who fits into that statistic, making it a personal hardship or burden. 

2 Timothy 1 deals with the concept of people being ashamed of two categories in 2 Timothy 1:8. Paul warns  his readers to first, not be ashamed of the testimony of Jesus Christ (Gospel Doctrine) and second, do not be ashamed of “me his prisoner” (Gospel Community). 2 Timothy 1:9-14 gives us a clear breakdown of gospel doctrine and how God has worked to save and restore his people through Jesus. In 2 Timothy 1:15-18 Paul covers the second category by giving us two examples. The first example is of two people who turned their backs on Paul and the church because of the shame associated with Paul’s imprisonment and the second example of someone who was not ashamed of what happened to Paul. This study guide will walk through the reality that some will turn away, but we can find hope in faithful friends in the gospel. 

When Everyone Has Turned Away
2 Timothy 1:15
Paul reminded Timothy of an event that would have been familiar to both of them, “you are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me…” The region of Asia in the New Testament is located in modern day Turkey and not the continent of Asia. There were churches in that region with most prominent one being in Ephesus (2 Tim 1:18). Paul had a pretty deep history with Ephesus; it was a region he preached the gospel in which resulted in the forming of a church and then on his final missionary journey of Acts he spent over 2.5 years with them training, evangelizing and pastoring the church. At some point in time Paul was arrested by Rome a second time and it appears that Phygelus and Hermogenes had a public desertion from Paul and the work of God over it. When we read “do not be ashamed” we often think about synonyms like embarrassment but the word “ashamed” here has more of a connotation with weakness and/or cowardice. It appears that Phygelus and Hermogenes were ashamed of associating with Paul because of his chains since that meant he was on the “losing team.” By disassociating with Paul they were opposing God’s work and not walking in Gospel Community. Jesus, in Matthew 25, told his disciples that caring for the Christian who was in prison was actually caring for him and Hebrews 10:34 implores us to have compassion on those imprison. This turning away meant to “reject or forsake.” This was not a couple guys who just did not want to help Paul, but likely two leaders who saw this as an opportunity to publicly separate from him. There were likely fears of persecution, as well as seeing Paul’s weakness and not wanting to associate with that. 

People turn away from other Christians, the church and the gospel for a variety of reasons including believing false things about God (doctrinal error) but also because of breakdowns in Gospel Community. Phygelus and Hermogenes did not want to associate with the lowly. But, we also see people turning away in the Bible and in our modern day for other relational reasons like strife (intense conflict between people) and abuse (people in power using their power to harm others). Often there is not just one reason and doctrinal confusion can cause errors in relationship and relational breakdown can lead to theological confusion. 

If you have experienced something like what Paul experienced, where do you find hope and comfort? Well, there was someone who was not ashamed of Paul and that is where Paul turned. 

Faithful Friendship and Gospel Community
2 Timothy 1:16-18
The word “ashamed” pops up in Chapter 1 three times: 1:8, 1:12 and 1:16. A man named Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s chains (2 Tim 1:16). Rather than separating himself from Paul he embraced Gospel Community as a faithful friend to Paul and through his actions we see three ways we can help weak and suffering Christians rather than distancing from them or departing from the faith because things got too difficult for us to bear. 

First, Gospel Community is intentional. Onesiphorus traveled to Rome without knowing where Paul was. He sought him out to be able to care for Paul in his time of need. Rather than distancing himself or thinking someone else would step in, Onesiphorus’s example teaches us that caring for one another requires being interruptible and purposeful. 

Second, Gospel Community is refreshing. Onesiphorus was not trying to benefit from Paul or gain something from him instead he was humble and wanted to build Paul up in his hardship. Paul was alone in prison but he was not alone in the gospel and Onesiphorus’s selfless actions refreshed Paul. 

Finally, Gospel Community associates with the lowly. None of us think that we’re in that category of “the lowly” but when the Scripture talks about the work of Jesus, trust me, that is a category you want to be in! Isaiah 57:15 talks about how God associates with the contrite and lowly in spirit. Likewise, Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus humbled himself and became like us, in the form of a servant. We all go through hard times where our physical strength or our faith is weak. Gospel Community is not afraid to associate with people who are suffering or whom the world has looked down on. Paul experienced rejection from “all who were in Asia,” yet one man and his household gives us an example of Jesus’s own care for those do not have much to offer in return.

We cannot control whether or not people reject us or depart from the faith, but we can show love and hospitality to every Christian and person who comes to the church. And if you faith is struggling because of relational breakdown, being rejected or people rejoicing in your suffering you can find hope and comfort in the Onesiphoruses of the world. Who are the faithful friends God has brought into your life and how does their love and grace show you Christ? 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read 2 Timothy 1:15-18

What does Paul mean by “do not be ashamed?” What specifically is he warning us to not be ashamed of (1:8), how was he not ashamed (1:12) and how do Phygelus, Hermogenes and Onesiphorus give us examples of people who were ashamed or not ashamed of Paul?

Why would people view Paul’s imprisonment as weakness? 

This study guide noted how Gospel Community is intentional, refreshing and unafraid to associate with the lowly. How have you experienced Gospel Community in the church? Has it been helpful for you to endure in the faith? 

What are one or two ways you can draw near to someone who is suffering or struggling this week?