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Paul, Being Dead, Yet Speaks!

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

2 Timothy 4:6-16

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 9 Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. 12 And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.13 Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. 16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.

The Apostle Paul’s departure was at hand.He was about to be “poured out as a drink offering,” giving his life as a sacrificial offering to the Lord of his life.

The same illustration (used in Philippians 2:17) was a reference to the libation of wine that was poured in connection with the daily burnt offering in the Old Testament (Exodus 29, Numbers 28). Paul knew that it was by the grace of God that he was what he was—a believer in Christ as well as a minister of Christ. He knew that of himself he could do nothing, but that in Christ he could do all things (Philippians 4:13).

Throughout his ministry Paul kept his eyes on the goal, and now it was within reach. His post-conversion life and ministry were witnesses to the power of the Spirit who worked mightily in him: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:7). “Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day…” (4:8).

Paul was confident in faith that he would don the crown of righteousness, the gift of God who “justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). The same crown awaits all who endure the fight and reach the heavenly goal, for Paul adds, “and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

May God be merciful, giving us the faith, the strength, the commitment, and the focus to hold fast to the crown that awaits us at the end of our earthly sojourn in this present evil world!

As we observe Paul’s ministry and are privileged to read his final testament, we learn we can be confessional and yet evangelical. We can be firm and unyielding in the faith and still compassionate. We can be polemical—a nasty word to many—yet personable and loving toward others. Paul was all of these!

We are told that when our Lord Jesus was in the upper room with His disciples and knowing that His hour had come to depart this world to the Father—“having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). The apostle Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5).

A Pastoral Heart!

As a man of God Paul lived what he preached, as is evident from his last will and testament in the 4th chapter of Philippians. Paul recognized that his ministry was drawing to a close and that, like the Savior whose servant he was, he was about to go to the Father. Yet he was a no-nonsense preacher. He maintained a human tenderness as well as a pastoral heart. He lamented the departure of Demas who “has forsaken me, having loved this present world” (4:10) and of Alexander who in some fashion had done much harm to Paul.

One with a pastoral heart grieves over those who have forsaken the faith and fallen in with the world. It hurts, not as an indictment against one’s ministry but as a concern for the spiritual and eternal welfare of the fallen. Paul prayed for the forgiveness of those who had forsaken him (may it not be charged against them), and thus he reflected the heart of Christ (4:16).

At the same time Paul yearned for the companionship of friends in his circumstance. In a very personal way he urged Timothy to come to Him. Twice he said with a sense of urgency, “Come to me soon,” (4:9), and “Come before winter” (4:21). The latter exhortation may have been out of personal necessity, “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come” (4:13). It was cold in the cell where Paul was imprisoned for the gospel’s sake.

Since Timothy might not arrive before Paul’s demise, the apostle wrote what he still hoped he could convey in person. “Preach the Word…the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (4:2-5).

Those among us who observe the conditions in the world as
well as in the church today will listen attentively to Paul’s final will and testament to his beloved friend, spiritual son, and hereafter torchbearer. We can say it no better than this: “Paul bids Timothy preserve the apostolic gospel pure and unchanged, guard it against the increasingly vicious attacks of false teachers, train men to transmit it faithfully, and be ready to take his own share of
suffering in the propagation and defense of it”
(M. Franzmann, Concordia Bible with Notes, p. 416).

“Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the Word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (Hebrews 13:7).

Paul, being dead, yet speaks!