Friday, November 19, 2010

Famous Last Words

Second Timothy Chapter 4

A great persons last words are special. A great persons last words are a measure by which we can evaluate their lives. This is the final chapter of the Bible written by the apostle Paul. This final chapter is amazing. When you read this chapter you can see a tone of sadness in the words of Paul. In these words you can hear the feeling of loneliness in his voice. He is in Rome, alone, in a horrible prison. He is cold and asks Timothy to bring his cloak. Because he is lonely and the hours are long, he asks Timothy to bring his books, especially the parchments. In spite of this sadness you can also hear a tone of victory in the apostle’s words. He charges Timothy one last time. He talks about a crown that awaits him on the other side of eternity.

Paul begins this final chapter with a warning. Paul charges Timothy in light of this coming judgment. Since Timothy is going to be judged there are some things he should be busy doing. It was a serious matter that Paul would soon face death, but it was even more serious that he and Timothy were facing judgment. This should be something that we keep in our minds as well. I do not believe that a saved individual will stand before God to determine whether they are worthy of heaven or they will be punished in hell. If this was the case all of us would be deserving of hell. The fact remains that one day each of us will stand before God. Paul mentions in another epistle that when we stand before God, God will reveal the secrets of our heart. Those things that you bury deep down inside, those things that you think no one knows about, those are the things that will be revealed. In light of this coming judgment we should be doing all we can for the glory of God.

The main responsibility that Paul shares with Timothy is to preach the word. This means to proclaim or to give out God’s word. Timothy was to be instant in and out of season. This means that he was to preach the word of God at all times. He was to be diligent and alert to every opportunity to preach the word of God. Did you know that you are a preacher? You say, “Bro. Josh, God has not called me to preach.” While this may be true, you are preaching a sermon every day of your life. You preach to others by the way you live before them.

Paul not only gives the command to preach the word, but he also gives the reason to preach. There was coming a day when people would not endure doctrine. I think we are in this condition today. That day is today. There are very few that will endure sound doctrine. Sure, there are men who have great followings, and churches that are filled beyond capacity. That does not mean that those people are doing a great work for God. It also does not mean that they are not doing a great work for God. I don’t think I’m going out on much a limb however when I say that most of these “mega” churches are “mega” because the man behind the pulpit is tickling the ears of the people, instead of preaching sound doctrine. Everyone likes to be entertained. Everyone wants to know how to “live their best life.” But, according to this chapter there are not going to be many people following a man who stands for truth.

A young preacher once complained to Dr. Spurgeon that he did not have as big a church as he deserved. Dr. Spurgeon asked “How many do you preach to?” They young man answered “Oh, about one hundred.” It is said that Spurgeon solemnly answered “That will be enough to give account for on the Day of Judgment.” A man’s ministry is not based on statistics. A ministry is evaluated by the faithfulness of the worker in the field God has given to them.

Paul’s last words

If we could walk with our minds into the execution room in this Roman prison we would see a terrible sight. This was a bloody place. It would probable make us sick to watch as a prisoner placed their head on the chopping block. A large, brutal Roman soldier lifts his tremendous blade above his head and then in one massive swing severs the head from the body. We would watch as the head drops into a basket on one side of the chopping block, and the body falls limp and trembling on the other side. In these last words Paul lets us know that if what I described is all we see then we are missing something. Paul mentions that he is ready to be offered. The word offering means to be poured out like a drink offering.

A drink offering was interesting in that there were no real instructions given to Israel concerning it. God gave specific instructions for almost every offering, but not this one. The drink offering is mentioned in both the books of Exodus and again in Leviticus. When someone offered a drink offering they would take wine and pour it into the brazen altar. The brazen altar was where burn sacrifices were made and fire was constantly burning. This altar was very hot because of the constant fire. You can imagine as the wine was poured onto the altar a steam would go up from the altar. The steam would just evaporate and disappear.

Paul’s life would soon be poured out like this drink offering. As Paul’s life went down into the place of death his spirit would rise from the altar and disappear, just as the drink offering evaporated off the brazen altar. Paul was pouring out the remainder of his life. Paul had been pouring out his life for many years, and now he would finish it.

Paul summarized his life in three ways.
  • Soldier – “I have fought a good fight.” There were battles to fight and victories to win. Paul had defended the word of God, stood for the truths of the Bible and fought against the powers of darkness.
  • Runner – “I have finished my course.” Life is not just a battle it is also a race. Paul, as an athlete ran to win the prize. To finish his course means that he touched all the bases, he completed every task God planned for him.
  • Good steward – “I have kept the faith.” What an amazing thing to say. Paul could honestly say that he had not veered off course. Paul stayed true to the doctrines and truths of God’s word.

With this in mind Paul says that the time of his departure is at hand. The word translated “departure” is the same word used to describe the departure of the church in I Thessalonians 4. The church will soon depart from this world. Paul was doing this same thing, except Paul was going to depart through a different door. Paul will go through the doorway of death.

Paul is looking forward to the future. He is expecting a crown of righteousness. A crown is a reward. This crown of righteousness is obviously a crown won for living a righteous life. Paul is not saying that just because you believe in the return of Christ you will receive a reward. Paul is saying that those who love his appearing will win a reward. To love his appearing means that you love Him.

In these last days Paul is lonely and he knows his days are few, so he wants Timothy to come quickly. It is touching to see that in his last days Paul wanted his “son in the faith” by his side. Demas has left Paul and went to Thessalonica which was a good distance from Rome. Demas is mentioned three times in the New Testament. The three times he is mentioned tell the story of his life. In Philemon his is listed as a “fellow laborer” along with Mark and Luke. In Colossians he is just named. Lastly in this verse is said to have forsaken the work of God and returned to the world. Little by little Demas went back to the world. This is the same way it happens in the church today. People don’t just wake up one morning and decide they are going back to the world. Satan gets them to take one small step in the wrong direction. One step leads to another. Then before they realize what is happening they are completely separated from God, many times they don’t even realize what they have become.

Luke was faithful, standing by Paul until the very end. Luke is the physician that wrote the book named “Luke” and the book of “Acts.”  Mark has come a long way since the time he left Paul on his first missionary journey. It is wonderful that Paul pens these words. If he had not written these words then we would not have known how Mark has grown and that things had been mended between the two of them. It also shows that one mistake in Christian services does not make your whole life a failure.

Tychicus was to pastor in Ephesus. He could not stay in Rome forever, there was work to do. It is believed that this man actually worked as a personal servant to Paul while he was in Rome. Carpus lived in Troas and had given hospitality to Paul. Paul obviously had to leave this man in a hurry and left some of his belongings with him. This man would be faithful to guard it until it could be retrieved.

Paul wants Timothy to come before winter. If Timothy waited until winter the ships would be harbored and he would not be able to travel. Paul did not want to risk Timothy not being there before he is killed. Paul asks for his cloak. This reveals a little of Paul’s suffering. I have read that this prison was cold in May and June so it must be cold now. Paul is physically in need. Paul wanted his books. He needed something to keep his mind occupied.

Although many other men forsook Paul, God stood by him. When Paul was discouraged in Corinth the Lord visited him. After he had been arrested in Jerusalem the Lord appeared to him again to encourage him. On a boat in a terrible storm the Lord stood by Paul and told him all would be O.K. Now in a horrible Roman prison the Lord was standing by his servant. You and I may not be in prison, but in all circumstances the Lord will stand by us just like He did Paul.

The Bible does not record for us the final days of Paul. Tradition tells us that he was found guilty and sentenced to die. He was taken outside the city and beheaded. We should thank God for men like Paul. We should thank God for men like Timothy who carry on the work. John Wesley once said “God buries His workmen, but His work goes on.” You and I must be faithful so that future generations may hear the gospel of our Lord, and have the same opportunity to be saved that we had.

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