A good servant of Jesus. 4:6-18
Paul concludes his second letter to Timothy with a confession, some personal requests, a warning about Alexander the metalworker, a note on the events at his first court hearing and then back to his confession again. His confession serves as the centerpiece of this passage; it is a triumphant statement of faith. In the midst of all his troubles, Paul has "fought the good fight" and now awaits the "crown of righteousness."
v6. Paul's situation is desperate, but he is ready to lose his life. Some translations say he is "ready to be offered", but the sense is of something already taking place. The imagery is of sacrifice; Paul's life is being poured out as a libation.
v7. In three clear statements, Paul affirms his end. He has fought the battle and won. The battle is of course a spiritual one. Second, he has run the race. This is an excellent image of discipleship because the focus is not on winning, or even finishing, but running the race. Third, he has kept the faith. In Paul's earlier letters "faith" invariably means reliance on Christ, but in his pastoral letters "the faith" often means "the deposit", the substance of Christian belief.
v8. Paul's struggle will culminate in glory. The reward stored up for Paul and all believers is the "crown of righteousness". This image is often understood in the sense of the laurel-wreath given to the righteous man for his virtuous life. Yet, it is more in keeping with Paul's doctrine of grace to see the wreath as righteousness itself, that right-standing in the sight of God which belongs to those who are united to Christ through faith.
v9. Clearly, the end is near for Paul and so he asks Timothy to come quickly to him. Such a trip would take about two months.
v10. Demas, who is mentioned in Colossians 4:14, is a friend of Paul, but he has obviously considered his own security and abandoned him. Little is known of Crescens. Titus was originally working in Crete, but obviously is on the move.
v11. Luke, the "beloved physician", Col.4:14, and the writer of Luke and Acts, remains with Paul and continues to support him. Timothy is asked to bring Mark. Obviously Mark is back in favor after abandoning Paul during his first missionary journey.
v12. Tychicus is referred to a number of times in Paul's letters. Paul may be sending him to Ephesus to replace Timothy.
v13-15. Paul asks Timothy to bring some incidentals when he comes and makes note of Alexander the metalworker who has caused him harm by aggressively opposing his teachings.
v16-17. At the preliminary investigation before his trial, Paul was left alone to defend himself. Yet, the situation was not a complete failure. In Paul's defense the gospel was proclaimed in the strength that the Lord supplies.
v18. In the attack of the powers of darkness, Paul was able to make a good defense. Faced with the wonder of the age to come, Paul concludes with a doxology.
The way of a disciple|
It is often said that there is no gain without pain; no glory without sacrifice. So how do we balance the business of living and dying, of self and sacrifice?
The substance of God's grace is found in v8 of our passage for study. I know that "there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day." In the day of glory, when we stand before the Ancient of Days, the righteousness of Christ will shield us from his piercing stare. Unworthy, though we are, God will bestow on us the eternal reward that belongs to a faithful servant, that servant being Christ.
Our present state does not reflect the righteousness which is eternally ours. The way we are now is imperfect, selfish, sinful. If Jesus were to ask us, as he did the rich young ruler, to give all that we owned to the poor, then we too would go away sad. Like the rich young ruler, we know we are bound by the things of this world. Rightly Jesus' disciples responded at the time, "who then can be saved?" Jesus replied, "with man it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible."
When it comes to committing our resources in service to Jesus, we can only do what we can. The more we stretch ourselves, the more we realize the kingdom in our midst, the more we are prepared for eternity, the more we can be trusted with even greater resources here and in eternity. So, the message is, do what you can. See how Paul puts it in verse 7:
i] Fight the good fight. Wrestle daily against the powers of darkness, against evil influence without and temptation within.
ii] Run the race. The Christian life, discipleship, is a pathway to follow, a race to be run. We run the race as best we can, and in running we receive the crown.
iii] Keep the faith. Know the truth, preserve the truth and see that the truth gets passed on.
So, do the best you can.
1. What do the images "drink offering" and "departure" refer to?
2. What is the "crown of righteousness" which will be given to us?
3. Discuss the three aspects of the Christian life presented in v7.
Print-friendly: Sermon Notes. and Technical Notes: 4:6-8, 16-18.
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