By Dr Dominic Kuek
I have lost track of how many Christian friends of mine have stopped believing in the gospel. And it wasn’t just the ‘flaky’ ones. Many of them grew up in church with me, served in various committees, came for prayer meetings regularly, and taught Bible studies. One of them was even considering full-time ministry. None of them would have thought that they would ever give Jesus up, but one by one, they did.
In our pride and naivety, we are often complacent about the continued survival of the gospel in the world today. We not only assume that we would always be Christians, but we also assume the same for our peers and children. We take for granted that the gospel will always take root in the lives of our succeeding generations, all the way until the day Jesus returns. And yet, how very, very wrong we are.
In 2 Timothy, the situation could not have been any more urgent. At the time of writing, Paul says that “everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me” (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:16). These were people Paul spent decades preaching the gospel to and nurturing, and yet it didn’t take long for them to abandon him. He specifically identifies Phygelus, Hermogenes, and Demas (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:10) as examples, and for Paul to single them out, it can be assumed that they used to be important people in the church. Demas could have even been Paul’s ex-gospel worker (Philem. 1:24). Yet they too abandoned him. Even Timothy—Paul’s most trusted worker, who previously accompanied Paul in all his persecutions—was wavering, and had to now be encouraged to not be afraid and ashamed of the gospel (2 Tim. 1:7-8). With so many turning away, there was a genuine threat of the gospel being extinguished in the region.
2 Timothy ought to be a harsh reminder to us that the gospel is always in danger of becoming extinct, even 2000 years later. The sobering reality is that there will be many amongst us—even elders and pastors—who will one day desert the gospel, choosing comfort over suffering for Jesus, just as many did in Paul’s day. And if just one generation of Christians does so, the gospel will become extinct. As a church, we cannot grow complacent to this danger! We need to ensure that we are raising disciples who will unashamedly suffer for the gospel. We need to hand down the gospel faithfully to the next generation, to faithful men and women who will in turn pass it on. Here in ORPC, we need to guard the good deposit entrusted to us.