Some Final Words from Paul

By Wayne Jackson

Second Timothy was the final epistle Paul penned before his “appointment” with death was realized (cf. Hebrews 9:27). As he set to parchment his concluding instructions to Timothy, his faithful friend, he could almost hear the executioner sharpening his sword. He wrote: “For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come” (4:6). The Bible student, therefore ought to “hang on” every word of this precious document.

In the earlier portion of his epistle, the apostle gives this admonition:

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel: wherein I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a malefactor; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2:8-10).

This passage is so brimming with meaning that it scarcely can be exhausted.

“Remember Jesus Christ. . . "

Surely Paul does not think Timothy is in danger of actually forgetting the Lord. What then, is the significance of this imperative. The Greek verb means to “keep in mind, to think of,” and the present tense form stresses the constant mental vigilance that one must give to the command. It is as if Paul said, “Always keep the Lord burning brightly in your heart.” This is “remembering” in the practical sense.

“Risen from the Dead. . . "

This expression is interesting indeed. First, it alludes to the foundational proposition of the Christian movement. If Jesus was not raised from the grave bodily, then Christianity is a hoax and we are wasting our time following the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:13-19). The term “risen” in the Greek text is a perfect tense form, which not only affirms Christ’s resurrection from Joseph’s tomb, it asserts the abiding nature of it — he stayed raised, and he is the “alive-forevermore” Savior (Revelation 1:18; cf. Romans 6:9).

Thomas Arnold, a professor of history at Oxford, once said concerning Jesus’ resurrection: "no one fact in the history of mankind. . . is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort. . . " How very silly, then, was the effort of one Suzanne Olsson, a New York-based researcher, who, in Kashmir, searched for the body of Jesus — upon which she hoped to do DNA testing!

“Of the Seed of David. . . "

Timothy is reminded that Jesus was out of the lineage of David. The prophet Nathan had told the shepherd-king that, after his death, God would raise up an offspring from his body. Jehovah would establish a kingdom on behalf of this Seed, who would build a house to the Lord’s honor. Moreover, his reign would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13). The New Testament makes it clear that these prophecies focused upon Jesus (cf. Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:30).

One of the most powerful evidences for the reality that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament is by a comparison of those more-than-300 O.T. prophecies regarding the Promised One (cf. Romans 1:2-3), with the historical facts relative to Jesus. This was the precise method employed by Paul following his conversion, when he confounded the Jews of Damascus by “proving” (sumbihazo – to join together) Jesus to be the Messiah (Acts 9:22).

“According to My Gospel. . . "

Since the Scriptures refer to the “gospel” as God’s (1 Peter 4:17), and Christ’s (Mark 1:1), why would the apostle refer to the gospel as his (cf. Romans 2:16; 16:25; 1 Thessalonians 1:5)? Several thoughts come to mind. First, Paul had not received the gospel message through any human conduit; it had come directly from the Lord (Galatians 1:11-12), and the apostle viewed it as a personal sacred trust to be guarded (cf. 2 Timothy 1:12 – ESV).

Second, perhaps it was designated “my gospel” because of Paul’s personal consciousness of the need to share it with others. He felt under heavy obligation to reach the lost (Romans 1:14; cf. 9:3). In this sense, his gospel becomes ours as well (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3).

“Wherein I Suffer Hardship unto Bonds, as a Malefactor. . . "

Paul’s life, as a disciple of Christ, was rugged indeed. From the commencement of his ministry, many of the Jews were determined to see him dead (cf. Acts 9:23ff). The inspired description of some of his sufferings as recorded in his second Corinthian epistle reads like a catalog of human abuse.

One hundred and ninety-five scars from the brutal lash disfigured his back (cf. Galatians 6:17). Three times he was beaten with rods. He had been stoned at Lystra (Acts 14:19). In his 12,000 miles of travel on behalf of Christ, he had been shipwrecked three times — not counting the later incident en route to Rome (Acts 27:1ff). He had known hunger, thirst, and nakedness; peril had been his constant companion (2 Corinthians 11:24ff). This sustained difficulty is reflected in the present tense verb that is rendered “suffer hardship” (2 Timothy 2:9; cf. 2:3; 4:5).

Yes, he had known “bonds,” (cf. “chains,” Ephesians 6:20). He spent two years in prison at Caesarea (Acts 24:27), another two under house attest in Rome (Acts 28:16,30), and now, at the time he writes this final letter to Timothy, he again is in prison in Rome (cf. 2 Timothy 1:8; 2:9).

The apostle describes himself as being treated like a “malefactor,” a term used only of the rankest criminals (cf. Luke 23:32ff). It highlights the depth of shame to which God’s servant was subjected.

“But the Word of God Is Not Bound. . . "

There is an old saying: “Homer must be handled with care.” The writings of the blind poet (the Illiad and the Oddessy) have ever been treasured across the centuries, yet they have, in large measure, slipped away from humanity’s grasp into the shadows of antiquity. Only a few copies remain, and they are separated from the original sources by many centuries.

In contrast, the Scriptures have been the most despised and abused collection of documents in the history of mankind. Both pagan and apostate have attempted to destroy them, but they endure (cf. Matthew 24:35; John 10:35; 1 Peter 1:24-25). They roll from the presses by the millions and new translations make their debut frequently. The Bible is that “anvil” that pounds puny “hammers” into oblivion. Paul, though imprisoned, still exerted a significant influence (cf. Philippians 1:12-14). He does so even yet!

“Therefore I Endure All Things for the Elect’s Sake. . . "

Because the crucified Christ stands risen, because prophetic history demonstrates him to be David’s regal seed, because of the indestructible nature of the word of God, Paul is happy to “endure” all things. Note the “therefore” that introduces this passage. The “all things” are the collective trials catalogued earlier. They had been many and severe, but such did not matter in view of the reward pending. As the apostle had written earlier, the sufferings of this present time cannot begin to compare with the glory that awaits the faithful (Romans 8:18).

There is an amazing thing here revealed about Paul. The man was utterly selfless. He was willing to endure whatever he must “for the elect’s sake.” To trace his footsteps in the book of Acts is to confirm the truth of this claim. Aside from the precious Lord himself, this apostle is the greatest example of servitude that graces the pages of the N.T.

The term “elect” is of considerable interest. It has a range of uses in Scripture. The English “elect” derives from a compound Greek term, eklektos (ek – “out of,” and lego — “to gather”). It suggests the idea of being selected or chosen. It is used in several senses in the Bible.

  1. The nation of Israel was elected by God to be the instrument through which Christ would come to earth (Deuteronomy 7:6; Isaiah 45:4).
  2. Jesus was God’s chosen for the implementation of the plan of redemption (1 Peter 2:4,6) — but not contrary to his own will.
  3. Angels are elect in the sense that they are used by God for certain roles in the providential scheme of things, and especially on behalf of the Lord’s people (Matthew 18:10; 1 Timothy 5:21; Hebrews 1:14).

Also, though, Christians frequently are referred to as God’s elect or chosen (Matthew 24:22; Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; 2 Timothy 2:10). This does not mean that each child of God was specifically chosen “before the foundation of the world” for salvation, while others were predestined arbitrarily for condemnation — as the dogma of John Calvin contends. How absurd it is to argue that God commissioned the gospel to be preached to “every creature” (Mark 16:15), when a vast number had already been chosen for eternal damnation, and stand helpless beyond the pale of redemption!

The truth is, God chose a type of person, the one who is obedient in disposition; the one who himself would determine to enter the “in Christ” relationship (see Ephesians 1:4, “chose us in him”) by his obedience to the truth (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27). These are the elect to whom the apostle refers in this marvelous exhortation to Timothy.

Personal acceptance of the gospel, or thrusting it away, determines who the elect are. A person “judges” himself worthy, or unworthy, of eternal life (see Acts 13:46).

“That They Also May Obtain the Salvation. . . "

There are several intriguing things in this phrase. The first has to do with the purpose of suffering. Paul acknowledges that there is a moral goal in God’s tolerance of human hardship. If death is the termination of man’s existence, why would one ever be inclined to suffer on behalf of another. There must be an ultimate reality beyond this life.

Second, the connective “also” reveals Paul’s confidence in his own redemption. He harbors no haunting doubts relative to his salvation (cf. 1:12); he does not tremble with uncertainty. He simply wants others to obtain the same.

Third, there is that contingency in the verb “may obtain.” It is one thing to become an “elect” person, through obedience to the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17); it is quite another to remain faithful to the end so as to embrace the final reward. But are we not saved now? Yes, from past sins (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21), but there is a salvation yet to be received as well (cf. Romans 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 1:14).

“Which Is in Christ Jesus with Eternal Glory.”

One of the central New Testament truths is that salvation is to be accessed by means of the “in Christ” relationship. This theme, in particular, is emphasized in the book of Ephesians, where the preposition “in” (Grk. en) is found 120 times (cf. 1:1,3ff).

The entrance into union with the Lord is consummated at the point of immersion in water (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 2:26-27). There is no salvation apart from this relationship with the Savior (Acts 4:11-12), and the fact that so many clerics today, who profess an association with Christianity, equivocate on this point, is distressing indeed.

“Glory” is that which intrinsically is characteristic of God (Psalm 19:1; Isaiah 6:3; 1 Peter 5:10). There is a measure of divine glory that we now enjoy by virtue of our redemption through Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Peter 5:1). God is also in the process of calling us into his glory and kingdom (1 Thessalonians 2:12). But the glory we now have, does not compare to that eternal glory that is yet to be revealed (Romans 8:18), and in which we will share (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:14; Philippians 3:21). This is not to affirm, however, that we will become “gods” — as some allege. How precious is this affirmation of God’s apostle!

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.