Acts – Paul the Apostle/Part 29
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|We are finishing up the life of Paul. We have been following him from Acts 9 all the way through to Acts 28. What are we doing? We are introducing the book of Ephesians. We are about now ready to enter into the study of the book of Ephesians. I hope you have a better idea and better understanding of the author of Ephesians. Obviously the Holy Spirit was the main author, but Paul was the vessel He chose to use to write the wonderful epistle of the book of Ephesians.|
2 Timothy 4:1-8
Paul: The Model – Part 1
Turn with me to 2 Timothy 4:4-8. We are finishing up the life of Paul. We have been following him from Acts 9 all the way through to Acts 28. What are we doing? We are introducing the book of Ephesians. We are about now ready to enter into the study of the book of Ephesians. I hope you have a better idea and better understanding of the author of Ephesians. Obviously the Holy Spirit was the main author, but Paul was the vessel He chose to use to write the wonderful epistle of the book of Ephesians.
So far we have looked at Paul, the Man. Ephesians 1:1 says, “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” He was a man who did not have his own agenda. He was a man who was about God’s agenda. That’s what an apostle is, one sent forth with a message. God stopped him on the Damascus Road, saved him, turned him around, and transformed him. Paul lived as a conduit so God could use him and flow through him for the rest of his life.
We’ve looked at Paul, the Missionary. God gave Paul a special mission. That was taking the Gospel to the Gentile world. Aren’t we glad he did that? As a result of Paul going to Macedonia, we have Christianity in America in the 20th century. Paul was the man God chose to take that message outside of the nation of Israel. We followed him on his journeys: the first, the second, the third, to Macedonia, to Asia Minor, to the Greek islands. We have been with him.
Paul was also a Messenger. God had a message through Paul, not just to the Gentile world, even though that was his ministry. He had a message for his own people in Jerusalem and also in Rome. So we followed as Paul obeyed the Lord. In Acts 19:21 God said, “I want you in Jerusalem. I want you in Rome.” So he did what the Lord told him to do. We followed him there. We saw him deliver a message he probably didn’t expect to deliver. It was more a message of judgment to the Jewish people. They had turned their backs on Jesus being their Messiah, therefore, now the ministry is going to the Gentile world.
Well, now we want to finish the story. Paul, the Man; Paul, the Missionary; Paul, the Messenger; and now Paul, the Model. If there was ever a pattern, an example for us to follow, it is Paul. Some would say, “No. It is the Lord Jesus.” Folks, if you try to be like Jesus, you are walking down a dead-end street. Jesus has got to be Jesus in you. However, when you take a man of like passions, a man who had the same struggles we have, a man who was just like we are, you take Paul. To me, he is the best example and pattern for all of us to look at in the whole New Testament. Paul knew how to live. Therefore, he knew how to face death. That particular subject has baffled philosophers for centuries. Paul summed it up in one verse in Philippians 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ. It is the essence of my being. I live in Him. He’s everything that I am. Therefore, since he is my life, to die is gain.”
What is the gain? I live by faith now because He lives in me. I cannot see Him, but I know He is there. One day I will be able to see Him face to face. That’s the gain of death. I will be transported out of this shell of a body into the presence of the Lord Jesus Himself. Paul had been set free from the bondage to self. He said in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ.” That is in the passive and middle there. Yes, Christ crucified him. He died with Him. Paul had also learned to crucify himself daily. Therefore, he says, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
Again I want to say it; Paul was nothing more than a conduit who allowed the life of Jesus to flow through him. How many people are still trying to perform for God rather than die to self and let God be God in their life? Christianity is not getting us into heaven, it’s getting heaven into us.
As we begin this study, we’ve got to go back to Acts 28. We finished the book of Acts, but I want to remind you of the last two verses. Paul is in Rome. We call this his first imprisonment. It really wasn’t an imprisonment. It was more of a confinement, kind of like it was in Caesarea. They really hadn’t given any charges against him, but they were holding him because he wanted an audience with Caesar. Therefore, he was kept there. It was in rented quarters. Now that’s a little different than a prison cell in which we are going to find him in 2 Timothy.
Verse 30 says, “he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters.” We understand from that it was not by his own choosing. He was there by confinement and consignment, but he was able to entertain people there in his quarters: “and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.”
Here was another divine delay in Paul’s life. You know, God’s delays are not denials. God always does something powerful when He delays us. He’s got something better in mind. While he was in those two years of confinement in Rome, he wrote the four most precious books I believe in the New Testament: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians.
After those two years of confinement in Rome, we really don’t know a lot about what happened to Paul. Church history tells us some things. There are many speculations. To boil it all down, we just don’t know. Some people think he was in prison around 59-61 AD. Some people have moved it up to 61-63. There is about a four year span of years that nobody can really nail down. However, most people believe it was either 67 AD or 68 AD when Paul finally met his martyrdom there in a real prison in Rome.
Be that as it may, there is a period of time which we just don’t know what happened in Paul’s life. Knowing the man that he was, he was serving the Lord somewhere. Some people believe he had a ministry in Spain and other areas. We can’t really document that. The point is, you’ve got to see Paul from the time God saved him to the time God finished with him and allowed them to martyr him and kill him and take him on to be with Himself. You’ve got to see the whole picture. The whole picture ends when Paul makes a statement in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 that I believe we need to look at. This is the man God chose to write the book of Ephesians that we are going to be studying. No wonder he can talk about the richness of what God has given us in Christ Jesus. He lived in it. He understood it. It transformed his whole life. At the very end of his life we are going to find him in prison. He had been ridiculed, falsely accused, beaten on numerous occasions, in and out of most of the jails that were in existence at that time, and shipwrecked. People had tried to assassinate him, and yet, at the end of his life, in a prison, looking back, he makes the statement that is found here in 2 Timothy 4:6-8.
Let’s read it. He says, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up 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 loved His appearing.” What Paul says is this, “When I look back over my life, I have no regrets, whatsoever. When I look ahead to what’s in the future, I am excited about what God has done and will do in my life.”
The prisons in Rome were not very pretty. They were dirt cells, rat infested cells. They were something you would not want to stay in. As a matter of fact, in 2 Timothy 1:17 Onesiphorus came to find Paul and had to look for him all over Rome. He was in an isolated, remote place. Not only that, we find the apostle Paul in the last days of his life, lonely, cold and a little bored. Look with me in 4:9-13. He says in verse 9, speaking to Timothy, “Make every effort to come to me soon.” You have to understand the heartbeat here. “I am lonely. Will you come to me, Timothy?” Timothy was his son in the faith. “For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me.”
Then he tells him to pick up Mark, and what another story that is. What a beautiful love story of how unconditional love works in people’s lives. He had been on the outs with Mark, but there in his last days, he says, “Bring Mark with you.” It is amazing how differences dissolve in the end days of your life.
He goes on and says in verse 13, “When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus.” “I’m cold, Timothy. I’m lonely, Timothy.” Then he said something that just touches me. He said, “and the books, especially the parchments.” The most intelligent man in the New Testament, a writer, a speaker, a man God had used in such a brilliant way, was in a cell. The world would look at that man and laugh their heads off at him. “What a failure! The man doesn’t have a house. He doesn’t have a car. He doesn’t have nice clothes. All he’s got is what’s on his back.” He is in a rat-infested, dirt cell in nothing but darkness. He is lonely. He is cold. He is bored, but he says, “I have no regrets when I look back over my life.”
Our choir sings a song entitled, “We’ve won.” We’ve won! I tell you what, folks, if you don’t understand that, you haven’t got a clue what the Christian life is all about. We are of a better covenant. The old covenant out of the Old Testament, which was all about lands, riches, and wealth, was not a good covenant. That was just good for them. We are of a better covenant. It is internal, and it’s eternal. No matter what happens in this world, we have already won.
Paul looked at nothing, and yet he was a man who had everything. When he looked back, he said, “I have no regrets whatsoever.” That’s the man who wrote Ephesians. I want you to hear his heartbeat.
I want you to see some statements Paul makes in these three verses in 2 Timothy. I want to apply them to how it was he had no regrets in his life. First of all, Paul takes an inward look. Here he is in a rat-infested, dirty, dark cell, and he looks back over his life and looks at his motives. He looks inward. He says in verse 6, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” The significance to me here is to understand what it means to be poured out as a drink offering? In the Greek there is only one word there. It’s the word spendo, which means “to be poured out” or “to make a libation.” A libation is a drink offering. It means “to pour out one’s life, to pour out one’s blood.”
In Philippians 2:17 he says almost the same thing, but it gives us a little clearer picture. “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” Now, I want to keep from confusing you. In the Old Testament a drink offering is spoken of in Exodus and in other places. It was a liquid that was poured upon a sacrifice that was placed upon the altar. It was usually wine. It was poured on it, and it quickly evaporated. Once it evaporated, it left a soothing or sweet aroma to that sacrifice that was being offered. So we see that picture of what a drink offering was.
Let’s go a step further. Paul gives us a little clearer picture of how that relates to you and me and what that drink offering is in our life. Using Philippians 2:17, when Paul says “I am being poured out as a drink offering” he spoke of his suffering. This was during the time of Acts 28 when he was in Rome under confinement. He was a prisoner. He was simply saying, “My act of service, my act of suffering, is for your sake to bring a sweet aroma to what Christ has already done, to bring a sweet aroma to that which God is using you to do a greater work there in Philippi.”
Let me say it this way. For a man to suffer like Paul did, selflessly, as an act of service to God and an act of service to men, that sweetened the aroma of what Christ did on the cross to those who heard about it. When people see the realness in our lives, when we are willing to be what we say we are, when we live what we say we are, when we are literally poured out for His sake and for the sake of others, people say, “You know what, I need to listen to what he is saying. There is something to what Christ did on the cross to make a man live that way.” It sweetens the message. It soothes the heart that hears the message of the cross.
Not only that, it sweetens the testimony of believers elsewhere who are seeking to live like God wants them to live, poured out for His sake. A while back some tragic things happened in the world of Christianity. You know the people. Some are in prison, and others have lost their ministries. Their immoralities struck our whole nation and were made into nationwide news. During that time I went to Romania. Under Ceausescu, the Romanians got no news whatsoever. They could not have known this by watching CNN. It wasn’t there at that time. There wasn’t any news. As a matter of fact, if you turned on a Romanian television set all you saw was Ceausescu talking about how good he was to the people. That’s all you ever saw. He was always lying to the people about what they didn’t have as far as grain and produce and things like that.
When I got up in a remote part of Romania, up in the mountainous part, a man asked me a question that stunned me. He said, “Tell me about,” and he mentioned the man’s name and the scandal that had struck our country. I said, “How could you hear about that?” He said, “The whole country has heard about it. It has done a lot of damage to the cause of Christ. It has set us back 50 years in the cause of evangelical Christianity in this country.” I don’t know if he was an authority on that or if that is an accurate statement. What I am trying to say is, when people live like they ought to live, it doesn’t set people back. It sweetens the aroma of the message and the integrity of what we speak and live before others.
Paul looked at his inward look. “I am being poured out.” Why is he being poured out as a drink offering as he mentions in Philippians? For the sake of Christ and for the sake of others. Why do you do what you do? What motivates you? Are you trying to please men or are you trying to please God? There is a big difference. A big difference. A lot of people come to church because they are afraid their parents will get mad at them. A lot of people do what they do because they want to prove something or please somebody else other than the Lord Jesus in their life. When your motives are impure that way, what’s going to happen is, one day you are going to come to the end your life, look back and your life is going to be filled with regrets because when you were being poured out it was not for the purest of reasons. It did not bring a sweet aroma to the testimony and integrity of what Christianity is all about.
You say, “How can I know if I am living it the right way? Is there a way in scripture I can know that? How can I know day by day that I am being poured out as a drink offering?” I think that is a practical question, and I think we ought to be asking it. Look with me in 2 Corinthians 4:15-16. I think there might be a clue here. Paul says something that I’ve preached on before, but it came to my mind afresh as I was studying this. In this chapter Paul has just talked about what has happened to him as an earthen vessel with a heavenly treasure within. He has been distressed. He has been persecuted, etc. In verse 15 he is summing it up. “For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” He is saying, “All of this I am going through, including the hardships, is for you!” That’s what he is saying in Philippians. That is what he is saying in 2 Timothy: “I did what I did for the sake of Christ and for the sake of others.” He doesn’t mind it when it’s for the purest of motives.
Then he says in verse 16, “Therefore we do not lose heart.” What does it mean to lose heart? It means to faint. It means to throw in the towel. It means to give up. It means to quit. How do you know when you’ve lost heart? It’s so easy for that to happen. All of a sudden everybody else is wrong, and you are the only person that is right. That’s when you’ve lost heart. That’s when it is not worth it any more. Nobody seems to live up to a standard. Nobody does it like I do it. The church, all of a sudden, becomes the object of all your battering and your criticism. That’s when you know you’ve lost heart. It’s amazing what happens when a person loses heart, when he is no longer letting God do what He wants to do in his life, when his motives become self-serving rather than the purest of motives being poured out for the sake of Christ. There’s a big difference. Christians all of a sudden are all wrong. You become critical of your brother, judgmental of your brother.
When you are serving out of your own motives, you can criticize anybody. It is funny. When you start serving out of a pure motive, you see them in a whole different light. Ben Haden told a story one time. He said a lawyer came to him and asked him, “Ben, why am I so cynical?” I loved his answer. He said, “You are cynical when you discover original sin in your brother.” Oh, that hit me. Not in you, in your brother. “You stop being cynical when you start seeing original sin in you. It’s no different than in your brother.”
You see, we have a lot of people who say they understand truth. Oh, they understand it for somebody else, but they have never understood it for themselves, because they have never been changed by it. They have lost heart. They are frustrated. The church is wrong. Christians are wrong, so they throw in the towel. It’s just not worth it. If your motives are not pure you are that way. I know it, because my motives have been impure too many times in the past. However, if you will come back and get that motive straight before God, God will cleanse you.
I tell you, you don’t want to know me when I am not filled with the Spirit of God, or when God is not using me. I can be the most critical person. The first thing I notice is what comes out of my mouth about a brother. Friend, that’s when you’ve lost heart. That’s when your motives are no longer pure. Evidently it must be your ministry. Evidently it must be your work for God. Nobody else seems to measure up. I think that is a very clear picture of when a person’s motives are impure. If you live that kind of lifestyle, always seeing sin in someone else, you will have a life full of regrets. The song is beautiful that says, “Not my brother, not my sister, but me, oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.” When you live that way, at the end of your life you are going to look back and you are going to have no regrets because you have been poured out for the sake of Christ and for the sake of others.
Paul takes an inward look and found his motives are pure. He has no regrets. That doesn’t mean he was perfect, but he purely could say, “Though I did things that were wrong, I came back and confessed them. My whole heartbeat was to do them right. I wanted to serve Christ.”
Secondly, he takes a backward look. He simply looks back over his ministry. I put some words in here to make it helpful to remember. Paul took a backward look, and there he found his ministry had been profitable. Now what do I mean by that? I’m not talking about numbers. I’m not talking about those kinds of things. His ministry had God’s touch on it. Now how do we know that? By what he says. That’s how we know that. Look at verse 7. He says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” You can trust the fact that God had profited that man because of the attitude that he has had during the process of ministry that God was using him.
Let me go over that because I think it is very helpful here. He mentions three things. First of all he says, “I have fought the good fight.” I love this. It makes me love Paul. If I could get him down here, I’d kiss him on the forehead. It just makes me identify with him. The word for “fight” is the word agon. We get the word “agony” from it. You could translate it, “I have struggled the good struggle.” Let me ask you, do you ever think Paul struggled? Scripture doesn’t talk about it a whole lot, and yet this nails it. Thank you, Lord, for putting that in there. You mean Paul struggled? Buddy, did he ever! His flesh was no better than our flesh. It was just as wicked as our flesh was. He had to deal with it just like we have to deal with it. It was a struggle every day of his life. That never changes until you come to the end. Then you can look forward to being delivered from this earthly tent where we don’t have to fight those fights anymore.
“I have fought the good fight.” Every time you find the word agon, it seems to be in the area in the context of the fight over the flesh and the spirit, the battle of the flesh and the spirit. That’s the battle of letting God do it His way rather than me doing it my way. First of all the fight occurs in the area of your walk. If you’ll look at Philippians 1:27-30, you will find that word used there. The train of thought there has to do with a person’s choices in his walk, walking worthy of Christ. We see that phrase in Colossians and Ephesians, too. This was one of the struggles Paul had, but he won the battle. He is instructing the Philippians. “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents —which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.” Verse 29 continues, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing [in that suffering] the same conflict [there’s the word agon, struggle, fight] which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”
That’s the struggle to let the Lord Jesus control you in every area of your life, the struggle to walk worthy of Christ. Do you think that’s easy? No, it’s not easy. Next year is going to have the same struggles this year had. Paul struggled. We struggle. You have got to learn to win that struggle by saying “yes” to Jesus. When you say “yes” to Him, you say “no” to the old flesh. That’s the way you win it. You learn that one word is the key in the Christian life. “Yes, yes, yes. Whatever, God, you want, yes.” Period. That settles it. You’ve won it right there. The flesh can no longer control you when you are at the cross. Sin’s power is diminished when you are kneeling, dead to self, at the cross. The struggle in your walk is to live a godly life.
There is also a struggle in the area of his work. Look at Colossians 2:1. Paul was deeply burdened over a church. Remember, what I am going to share about this is not inerrant. You take it and think about it. I may be wrong. Tell me if you disagree. That’s fine with me. I am going to show you what I think about it. Paul has been struggling for this little church. He has never met the people, yet he is burdened for them. Why is he burdened? They have their eyes off of Jesus. That’s why. They’ve gone down other dead end streets of religion, and he is trying to call them back to the fact that they are complete in Christ. Look at what he says. “For I want you to know how great a struggle [agon] I have on your behalf, and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face.” If you go on and study chapter 2, Paul gets into a discussion about false teachers and vain philosophies and how the Colossians have gotten off of the doctrine that Christ is their life.
The struggle that Paul has is over them. I sense that a lot in my church. When Ian Thomas came to our church the first time, I remember my wife coming home and saying, “You know what? That’s neat. We don’t live our life for Christ. Christ lives it in and through us.” I remember looking at her and saying something like this, “Where have you been for seven years? That’s what I’ve been preaching!” Do you know what I discovered? The struggle comes when you understand the truth and you want others to see that truth. The burden or the struggle is part of the turf.
Folks, you are going to have that struggle and I am going to have that struggle until the day we die. The way to win is not trying to fix it in your flesh. You can’t do it, and I can’t do it. That’s something God has been trying to show me. Part of my problem is that I can’t stand it when somebody can’t see that Christ is their life. I can’t stand it. It’s a struggle.
It’s such a struggle. It’s agony. How do you accomplish it? Well, the war of the flesh is not won by the flesh rising up and doing it’s thing. It’s won by saying, “God, I can’t, and You never said I could. You can, and You always said You would.” You win by Him overcoming you. You preach and do what He tells you to do. You become a vessel that God can use. As far as that goes, that’s it. God has got to turn it on for people. We cannot take that responsibility ourselves. Paul said, “I struggle on your behalf.” What is he doing to accomplish it? He is writing them. Why? Because the Holy Spirit told him to write them. He is telling them everything he knows, but the bottom line is, it’s only going to be won as the Holy Spirit opens their minds.
Thirdly, we see it in the area of his witness. Look in 1 Thessalonians 2:1. Boy, don’t you love Thessalonians? Here we find another area of struggle where that word is used. Now remember, when Paul went to Thessalonica, he had just come out of Philippi. Do you remember what happened at Philippi? He was arrested and thrown in jail. He was a Roman citizen, and this embarrassed all the magistrates. They asked him to leave. He left and came to Thessalonica. He has had nothing but trouble in Macedonia. Here he comes to Thessalonica. He said in verse 1, “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain [he is writing them back], but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.” There’s our word, opposition, agony, struggle. In other words, “I came out of one struggle and into another.”
What was the real struggle? The conflict was, “Do I really want to keep on doing this?” Have you ever tried to witness to somebody and they threw it right back in your face? Often God gives you another opportunity right after that rejection. After a while you are thinking, “Come on, man.” I’m getting tired of this thing. I am weary. Part of the struggle in our witness is when we don’t want to share because we have been hurt so badly when sharing before. Paul’s struggle was in the area of his walk, in the area of his work, but also in the area of his witness. Do you know why that blesses me? He struggled. That is the thing that really blessed me. It’s wonderful he won, but the fact that he struggled really blessed me.
When I was growing up I thought all these men in the scriptures were divine and inerrant and inspired and all these other things. We are dealing with men with feet of clay. They had hearts of iron, but feet of clay. They struggled just like you struggle, and they struggle just like I struggle. I know his ministry was profitable because he said, “I have fought the good fight.” It’s a good fight. It’s not something you self-initiate. “Good” means inherently good of itself. It is part of it. You don’t come to Christ and not expect a fight. You are not coming to a party, you are coming to a battle. When you get in that battle, the struggle starts. Paul said at the end of his life, “I look back, and I can say truthfully, even with the defeats in mind, I’ve won the battle over myself. I have fought the good fight.” Can you say that?
Look at 1 Timothy 6:10-12. Paul tells Timothy that there are some hard choices in this kind of thing. If I am going to win this battle over self it’s going to involve some tough choices. In verse 10 he says, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.” Paul warns Timothy about pursuing the ministry for money. The moment you put money in there, you are going to have regrets that will come back to you at the end of your ministry.
In verse 11 he says, “But flee from these things [Now you can run away from something, but you need to run to something] you man of God; and pursue righteousness.” This new theology that says confess your righteousness is not biblical. Nowhere in Scripture does it say confess it. It says pursue it. There is a big difference. By choice I pursue it. Paul tells Timothy, “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” Look at verse 12. “Fight the good fight of faith.” At the very end of his life Paul writes Timothy and tells him what he needs to do. Why? Because Paul has done it. He looks back over his life and says, “You know, I have fought the good fight in my walk, in my work, and in my witness. I have won the battle over myself.”
The beautiful thing about salvation is not that it gets you into heaven. It gets heaven into you, and God overcomes you. That’s the beautiful thing. What am I delivered from? Hell. Yes, that’s true, but not just eternal hell. We are also delivered from the hell of living without Christ in this world, bound to my own deceitful self. God comes in to deliver me so I can walk in the newness of life. What a great, great victory.
Well, the second phrase he uses here is, “I have finished the course.” This has to do with the fact that he persevered all the way to the end. You see, God is not so much concerned with how you start. Yes, that’s important. He is more concerned with how you finish.
Paul said, “I have finished the course.” The Greek word teleo is the word used there for “finished.” It means to accomplish a goal. It means to see something carried all the way through to the end. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God to the very, very end. Paul is saying, “I never backed off. I let God do what He started in me all the way to the end.” And as an old man, he looks back and says, “You know, I haven’t got a regret in my body because I see a ministry that is profitable. It wasn’t because I made it profitable, but because I fought the good fight. I finished the course.”
Thirdly he says, “I kept the faith.” What does it mean to keep the faith? Well, is “the faith” the gospel? Certainly that is included. Because the definite article is used there it is very specific. I think what he is talking about the Word of God, the counsel of the Word of God. “They didn’t have all of the Word of God in Paul’s day!” I know that, but what he did have and what he did know, he kept. He never failed to keep the Word, to protect the Word, to guard the Word. The word “keep” tells us how. It has two meanings. One carries the sense of observing something. What does it mean by observing? To obey. How did he keep the faith? He obeyed it. I love the Old Testament scripture that says, “I want to learn thy law. I want to do thy law. Then I want to teach thy law.” Before I ever teach it, I want to know it. Before I ever teach it, I want to live it. Then I want to teach the Word of God. How do you keep the faith? You obey what it says.
Then secondly, it has the meaning of preserving. First is observing, then it is preserving. How do you preserve something? He preserved it by proclaiming it and never watering it down. He kept saying to Timothy, “You know what you have learned from me.” He told others, “You know the gospel that I taught to you.” He never changed it. He was known to be very clear as to what the Word of God said. His message was not what Paul wanted, but what God had to say in His Word.
Somebody else did that in Timothy’s life. Look in chapter 3. You don’t have to be an apostle or a preacher to do this. It needs to be all of us. Paul talks about Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice. He says in verse 14, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them [not only did Paul teach Timothy, but somebody else did also] and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” You see, we expect Paul to observe it, but here it was a grandmother and a mother, Lois and Eunice, who preserved it for Timothy. That is why Timothy was what he was in the day this was written.
We have waded through a lot of scripture, haven’t we? Paul is looking back over his life and saying, “I have finished the course, I have fought the good fight and now I am looking forward to this great ministry of reward of what God is going to give to us.” You know, I was thinking about this and I was thinking. Paul has gone on. Do you know what I got to thinking? Who is going to follow after them? You see, Paul is writing this to Timothy, and he is saying, “I’m finished, I’m finished. I’m going home. It’s your turn. You take the baton and go with it.” Now I want to ask you a question. Do you want to live a life without regrets? Are you willing to pick that baton up and say, “I’ll be next in line; I’ll live a life with motives that are pure so I can have a ministry that is profitable.” In the next study we are going to look at a mandate that is priceless. No price on earth could ever match what God’s reward is going to be in heaven one day for living as He has told you to live. Could you be the next person?