A Legacy from Paul – yes Timothy, it was all worth it
Introduction: For anyone – Christian or not – it is fair to ask if following Jesus Christ with all the attendant problems this seems to bring (especially in our society today) is really worth it. Paul’s last letter addresses this very question to Timothy, a young man whom Paul has mentored. We all can come to ask the same question when the going gets tough, so let’s see what Paul has to say;
2Tim 4:4:6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
4:6 drink offering. Paul views his approaching death as the pouring out of his life as an offering to Christ, and practices what he wrote in Phil 2:14-18 “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life, in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” It is worth the effort given 2Cor 4:8-12 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
Paul then looks back over 30 years of labor as an apostle (36-66 AD), and gives us his thoughts;
- The Christian life is a fight (an active struggle), but it is a good fight (worth the effort) and Paul was actively involved – a participant, not a bystander. Note Eph 6:10-13 Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
- The Christian life is also like an long distance race (e.g. a marathon vs a sprint) requiring endurance rather than speed, and Paul finished. Note, Paul does not say he won – winners, if relevant, are for God to decide – but he finished; lasted and stayed to the end. Note Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In this passage, the writer suggests an athletic contest in a great amphitheater where the witnesses are the past heroes of the faith – not spectators but inspiring examples.
The Greek word here translated “witnesses” is the origin of the English word “martyr” and could just as well be translated as “testifiers.” They bear testimony to the power of faith and to God’s faithfulness. The writer to the Hebrews pictures the Christian life as a long distance race rather than a short sprint. Some Hebrew Christians were tempted to drop out of the contest because of persecution. Just as a runner concentrates on the finish line, we should concentrate on Jesus. He is the goal and objective of our faith which not only has its beginning in him, but is also completed in him; he is both the start and the end of the race. He is also the supreme witness who has already run the race and overcome.
- Paul had “kept the faith”. He carefully observed and played by the rules (teachings) of the Christian faith (note 2Tim 2:5, Paul’s Call to Endurance…… “if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.”); no compromise. A contemporary example is a football game which is regulated by a large body of strictly enforced rules and played during sixty exact minutes. Without this discipline, the game would be meaningless. Here, “the faith” refers to sound Christian doctrine which Paul preached and practiced, and therefore kept (guarded) it. He would not allow it to be distorted for any reason, and echoes this in 1Cor 2:1-5 “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
Paul may have been tempted to add to or embellish the Gospel to make it (in his mind at least) more readily acceptable and more easily received. But no – he “resolved” to play by the rules and let God’s word stand as it is – he played by the rules as laid down by Christ in His Gospel!!
Further, consider just a few of Paul’s troubles and challenges which he shares
with the church at Corinth:
2Cor 11:24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
11:24-25 lashes . . . rods. Eight floggings are mentioned here, five at the hands of the Jews (Dt 25:1-3) and three at the hands of the Roman authorities, who used rods on these occasions (Ac 16:22-23). The three beatings with rods took place despite the fact that Paul, being a Roman citizen, was legally protected from such punishment (Ac 16:37-39; 22:25-29)
11:25 stoned. A traditional manner of Jewish execution ( Ac 14:19-20). shipwrecked. Only one shipwreck is recorded in Acts, but it took place after the writing of this letter (Ac 27:39-44). The three shipwrecks referred to here could have taken place during the voyages mentioned in Ac 9:30; 11:25-26; 13:4, 13; 14:25-26; 16:11; 17:14; 18:18-19, 21-22. a night and a day in the open sea. Probably as a result of one of the shipwrecks. 26 in danger. Apart from the specific incidents referred to in the preceding verses, Paul constantly faced situations of danger as well as labors and hardships (Ac 14:24).
Also, Paul writes to the Corinthians..…
2Cor 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.
4:7 this treasure. The gospel (Col 1:27). jars of clay. It was customary to conceal treasure in clay jars, which had little value or beauty and did not attract attention to themselves and their precious contents. Here they represent Paul’s human frailty and unworthiness. all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. The idea that the absolute insufficiency of man reveals the total sufficiency of God pervades this letter.
4:10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus. The frailty of the “clay jar” of Paul’s humanity (v. 7) is plainly seen in the constant hardships and persecutions with which he is buffeted for the sake of the gospel and through which he shares in Christ’s suffering (see 1:5; Ro 8:17; Php 3:10; Col 1:24).
4:11 that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. The reference is to Christ’s resurrection life and power. Once again (see note on v7), human weakness provides the occasion for the triumph of divine power, and daily “dying” magnifies the wonder of daily resurrection life (see 1:9).
Given all the pains, problems, and troubles that beset Paul and his ministry, a
fair question as you in following Jesus Christ is “Was the Gospel worth it??”
For Paul, the answer was an emphatic YES!!!
What will be your answer??