Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Pauls Journey Into The Heart of Christ

One of the most revealing writings concerning Saint Paul is contained in his own Second Epistle to Timothy, especially in the 4th chapter of that epistle. When we read Second Timothy, we read the Apostle to the Gentiles being fatherly in his advice and warnings to Timothy whom he calls “my dearly beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2). In the first chapter he advises him to “stir up the Grace of God” in him through his ordination by Paul, to hold fast to the Gospel, and not to be discouraged in his sufferings.

In the second chapter, Paul encourages Timothy to be diligent in his office, and once again, to be patient in his sufferings. He also warns Timothy of the danger of the delusions of the heretics: “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they grow much towards ungodliness. And their speech spreadeth like a canker: of whom are Hymeneus and Philetus: Who have erred from the truth, saying, that the resurrection is past already, and have subverted the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:16-18).

In the third chapter, Paul speaks of the character of the heretics in the last days (this chapter is very worth the reading) and exhorts Timothy to steadfastness. He also encourages him in the reading of, and exhorts the value in the Scriptures: “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17).

In 2 Timothy 4, we are given a glimpse into the human nature of Paul, probably more so than any other apostle with the exception of Saint Peter. He begins by warning Timothy again about the heretics in the last days and charging Timothy before God and Jesus Christ to: “Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. But be thou vigilant, labor in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry. Be sober” (2 Timothy 4: 2-5).

Then begins in verse 6, what I find to be one of the most touching and poignant aspects of Paul’s final epistle. For starting here and ending with verse 22 we see a Paul who is downcast, yet strong. We see a man who has been abandoned by all of his friends, with the exception of Luke. He has been imprisoned in Rome for the second and last time, and he knows it is the last time he will ever be imprisoned and that this time, his only freedom will be in his death. He mentions how some friends have left for other parts of the Roman Empire, how some do not want to be associated with a criminal to be tried before Rome, and you can sense his hurt at being left, being abandoned, yet he holds no animosity or anger towards them. He speaks of no one standing with him at his trial, yet he was strengthened by God, and saw in his trial the opportunity of preaching the Gospel to those who had not heard it. He asks Timothy to bring Mark with him when he comes to Paul (Mark being the same John Mark, the author of The Gospel According to Saint Mark), and to bring him his cloak and his books and parchments, probably his scrolls of Scripture. You can almost sense his sadness, and probably his bewilderment also, at having been left by those whom he had worked with, he had lived with, he had eaten with, and he had suffered with. Yet he also knows that what awaits him is a “crown of justice”, for he had “fought the good fight”. One cannot help but feel the hurt for this man of God who was abandoned by man. Yet, even in those dark days for Saint Paul, he still clung to, and had faith in, the hope that is Christ Jesus.

Verses 6-22 of 2 Timothy 4 follow:

For I am even now ready to be sacrificed: and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming. Make haste to come to me quickly. For Demas hath left me, loving this world, and is gone to Thessalonica: Crescens into Galatia, Titus into Dalmatia.

Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. The cloak that I left at Troas, with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith hath done me much evil: the Lord will reward him according to his works: Whom do thou also avoid, for he hath greatly withstood our words.

At my first answer no man stood with me, but all forsook me: may it not be laid to their charge. But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me, that by me the preaching may be accomplished, and that all the Gentiles may hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. The Lord hath delivered me from every evil work: and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth. And Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.

Make haste to come before winter Eubulus and Pudens, and Linus and Claudia, and all the brethren, salute thee. The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.

Copyright © 2006 Steve Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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