Last Sunday the adult Bible study class finished our discussion of 2 Timothy with a close look at the last recorded words of the apostle Paul – the fourth and last chapter of 2 Timothy, the last of his known letters before his martyrdom during the persecution of Emperor Nero. He begins by giving Timothy this solemn charge:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Timothy 4:1-2
The charge to preach God’s Word, the gospel of Jesus Christ, is the heart of a pastor’s job description. Timothy and all pastors are charged before the throne of God with preaching his gospel above all other things. The rest of us have the responsibility of helping them do that job – listening to the Word, telling others about Christ or inviting them to church, and doing all the tasks that help a church function effectively, including keeping the lights on, the phones answered, the altar set, the finances in order, the needy cared for…
We are not all pastors, but we are disciples of Christ and part of the priesthood of all believers. Working together and in the Holy Spirit, the church is able to do God’s work on earth, which no man alone could do.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
As Paul passes the torch to Timothy and prepares for his own death, his confident exultation, his holy joy, is evident as he writes,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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. 2 Timothy 4:7-8
Paul is confident in the Lord’s promises to him – the gospel promise that guarantees salvation to all who believe in Christ. Although he has fought the good fight, it is not on his own merits that he bases his confidence, but on God’s grace and forgiveness in Christ. Although he expects to be executed soon, he then writes,
The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 2 Timothy 4:18
The rescue he hopes for is not an earthly deliverance, but his deliverance from earth to heaven. It is fitting that in his last recorded words, Paul once again breaks forth in praise to God – as if he is just so full of the joy of the gospel that he cannot help but interrupt himself to speak it yet again. His final words are a blessing to Timothy and to the church:
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all. 2 Timothy 4:22
In the first sentence, the “your” is singular – he singles Timothy out for a blessing, just as the chapter began with Paul singling Timothy out with his solemn charge to preach the Word. In the second, he blesses the whole church, who would have heard the letter read publicly. As the church continues to study his words today, we hear his final blessings, first on pastors and then on all believers.
Our pastoral epistles study will continue with a discussion of Titus chapter 1 next Sunday, April 7. To review our recent Pastoral Epistles studies, please use the links below.