2 Timothy 2:1, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
“Be strengthened” is a command, but it’s passive. Timothy isn’t commanded to do something to himself, but to let something happen to him. He can’t strengthen himself; God must do it. That’s good news, and it’s typically what we might hear mentioned about this verse.
But we can’t stop there. We need to know what this looks like. And Paul tells us: “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” The “grace” here is not just another way of saying that God is the one who strengthens us. He’s not just saying, “Be strengthened by God, which is a gracious thing.” That would still leave us without knowing how God strengthens us. And that’s often where we’re left in the Christian life. We might say, “Ask God to help you,” or “Let the Holy Spirit change you.” That’s important. But it’s not enough.
Being strengthened by grace refers to the specific means that God uses to strengthen us. The particular means by which God strengthens us is “by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” In other words, God strengthens us by the grace of the gospel. What we need when we feel weak is certainly not just a command to strengthen ourselves and “man up.” Nor is it enough to simply be reminded that God is the one who must strengthen us. We need to be reminded of the gospel. Our hearts need to be lifted by hearing, once again, that there is a strong God who saves weak sinners. That’s what it means to be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Romans 16:25 confirms this. Paul concludes the entire letter with, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.” That’s what the whole book of Romans is supposed to do to us. It is supposed to lift the heavy hearts of weak Christians and give them strength “according to” the gospel of Jesus.
We should have expected this from the beginning of the letter. In 1:15-16, Paul was eager to preach the gospel to the Christians in Rome because it is the power of God for salvation. “Salvation” doesn’t just refer to the initial moment of conversion; it often refers to the whole of the Christian life. Even in Romans, “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (13:11).
God saved us, is saving us, and will save us by the power of the Gospel. The gospel is the saving and strengthening power of God.
So, Romans begins and ends with the same point: the gospel is the power of God to save and strengthen. And in between these bookends, the letter is filled with this saving, strengthening gospel. Which is why the book of Romans, and the gospel itself, is not just for non-Christians, but for Christians, too. Really, the gospel is for people. If you’re a person, and you’re living after Genesis 3, and your name is not Jesus Christ, then you need the gospel. Always. Over and over again.
Be strengthened, renewed, refreshed, and revived by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.