2 Timothy 2:8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, 9 for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.
The apostle Paul is instructing his young protege Timothy who emerged as a key leader of the early church. Paul is an apostle, which is the English translation of the Greek word “ἀπόστολος” (apostolos) which means “sent one”. He’s not just sent, but he’s sent with a purpose, to proclaim the message of hope in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
It’s the last sentence above which gets my attention this morning, “But the word of God is not chained”. Paul was often jailed, imprisoned, held in chains. But the message he carried could not be chained. In fact, rather than stopping his ministry, Paul’s imprisonment often drew more attention to Paul – and therefore to the gospel he proclaimed.
Chains actually made Paul more effective, not less.
When we understand the “word of God” as more than the written word, lots of things become possible. Remember it was the “word” which God spoke in the beginning to create the heavens and earth. That same word came to life in a new way via Jesus Christ, who was the “word made flesh” (John 1:14). The miracles he performed were evidence of God’s creative/generative word embodied in Jesus. When we come together for worship we hear this word spoken, read, sung. The word of God is let loose among God’s people, bringing us strength, hope, peace, and more. God does this work via the word, not us. Our job is simply to let the word of God loose in our reading, speaking, singing, and so on. God does the rest.
Paul understood this, which is why he gave thanks to God as he was bound in chains and called upon to defend himself to the authorities. Each time he did so the word of God was loosed again, penetrating the hearts and minds of those whom God had prepared to hear the message of the gospel. And though Paul was eventually put to death in the city of Rome, the word of God let loose through him lived on. In Paul’s day there were a relative handful of Christians. Today it’s estimated there are 2.8 billion Christians in the world.
“But the word of God is not chained.”