Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles wrote several of his epistles from a Roman prison. Second Timothy is the last he wrote that we know of. Written to Timotheus, a relatively young protégé of his and written with his own demise rapidly approaching, we could certainly call this Paul’s farewell address to Timothy. However, though it was indeed a very personal epistle to one who apparently meant much to him, a brief statement by Paul in this farewell address can certainly be considered germane to our own spiritual welfare. Paul stated, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Tim. 4:6-8). Give consideration to the following.
Paul said, “The time of my departure is at hand.” Tradition says that Paul was executed not long after these words were penned. Yet, the application for us is the same, the time of our departure may well be at hand. We could be as close to death at this moment as the apostle Paul was when he penned those words. James tells us, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). The wise man Solomon said, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). The time of our departure from this present life could very well be at hand. In the account of the rich man who put great stock in all the riches he had laid up was told, “…Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20). Hezekiah was told by God through the prophet Isaiah concerning his sickness, “Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live” (II Kings 20:1). In addition to brevity of life, we know not when the Lord may return for the judgment (Matt. 24:36; I Thess. 5:2). Concerning this departure, Paul said that he was ready to be offered. First of all, he was ready in the sense of having made the proper preparation to face God in the judgment. As Isaiah had told Hezekiah, “Set thine house in order”, the house of Paul was in order. But also, Paul was ready in the sense that he was looking forward to the departure from this earthly life. Paul had told the Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. 1:21, 23). Peter said that we should be “…looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God…” (II Pet. 3:12). As already noted, the reason Paul was so ready was that he was so prepared. Note a few areas in which he was prepared.
Paul said that he had fought a good fight. This alludes to warfare of which he had told Timothy in his first epistle to him, “Fight the good fight of faith…” (I Tim. 6:12). He had told the Ephesians that they needed to put on the whole armour of God (Eph. 6:10-18). He had already told Timothy in this second epistle to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” and to strive lawfully (II Tim. 2:3-5). The fight that Paul spoke of was not a physical one with the physical weapons of the world, but a spiritual one against a spiritual enemy (Eph. 6:12). Thus, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (II Cor. 10:4). Jesus had told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world, but that “if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews…” (John 18:36). But the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17) is powerful indeed (Heb. 4:12).
Paul said that he had finished his course. In other words, Paul had followed the instructions that God had given him to their end. God had sent him to take the gospel to the Gentiles as it had gone to the Jews, and this Paul had seen done in his life (Mark 16:15; Col. 1:23). Paul knew the course and we too can know the course that God has laid out for us for it is written in the inspired word of God. Paul knew his course and had striven to complete it as we must if we are to follow in his footsteps.
Paul also said that he had kept the faith. He did not waver, but faithfully followed the route laid out by God to the end, through trial, tribulation and temptation. No one has ever claimed that Paul was perfect and sinless, but he was faithful to the end. The faith he had kept was the one faith that equates with the whole of the system of Christianity (Jude 3; Eph. 4:5). We too must keep the faith.
Finally in closing note that Paul said, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness”. Paul confidently expected to receive the crown of victory for his efforts. And, he stated that there are enough crowns that we too can have one. Strive to reach yours! (Send any questions or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.