Barclay: As for you, be steady in all things; accept the suffering which will come upon you; do the work of an evangelist; leave no act of your service unfulfilled. (Westminster Press)
BBE: But be self-controlled in all things, do without comfort, go on preaching the good news, completing the work which has been given you to do.
GWT: But you must keep a clear head in everything. Endure suffering. Do the work of a missionary. Devote yourself completely to your work. (GWT)
ICB: But you should control yourself at all times. When troubles come, accept them. Do the work of telling the Good News. Do all the duties of a servant of God. (ICB: Nelson)
KJV: But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
Moffatt: Whatever happens, be self-possessed, flinch from no suffering, do your work as an evangelist, and discharge all your duties as a minister.
NLT: But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at bringing others to Christ. Complete the ministry God has given you. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: Go on steadily preaching the Gospel and carry out to the full the commission that God gave you. (Phillips: Touchstone)
WNT: But as for you, you must exercise habitual self-control, and not live a self-indulgent life, but do the duty of an evangelist and fully discharge the obligations of your office.
Wuest: But as for you, you be constantly in a sober mood, calm, collected, wakeful, alert in all things. Endure hardships. Let your work [as a pastor] be evangelistic in character. Your work of ministering fully perform in every detail (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: And thou -- watch in all things; suffer evil; do the work of one proclaiming good news; of thy ministration make full assurance,
BUT YOU BE SOBER IN ALL THINGS : Su de nephe (2SPAM) en pasin : (Isa 62:6; Jer 6:17; Ezek 3:17; 33:2;33:7 Mk 13:34;37 Lk 12:37; Acts 20:30;31 1Thes 5:6, 5:8; Heb 13:17; 1Pet 1:13, 4:7, 5:8, Rev 3:2)
But you makes the following charge emphatically personal as Paul sets Timothy in contrast to the apostates just mentioned. Once again (2Ti 2:1, 3:10, 14-see notes 2Ti 2:1; 3:10; 3:14) Paul followed the mention of those who were oppositional or wayward with a strong contrasting but you for his young disciple.
Be sober (3525) (nepho [word study]) means literally to abstain from wine and as used metaphorically here means to be free from every form of mental and spiritual ‘drunkenness’, from excess, passion, rashness, confusion, etc. and so to be well-balanced and self-controlled so as to keep a keep a cool, calm, and collected mind.
Nepho - 6x in 6v - 1Th 5:6, 8; 2 Tim 4:5; 1 Pet 1:13; 4:7; 5:8 (and not used in the Septuagint)
The present imperative commands Timothy to make this his standing so that he is continually on alert, yet calm and circumspect regardless of the season. This alert wakefulness and calm assurance would protect him from being surprised and confused when those who professed Christ turned away from the word of Christ and unto myths of men.
Compare this command to a similar command by Jesus to His disciples to "keep (continually) watching and praying" (Mt 26:41, cf 1Cor 10:12, 16:13, 1Pe 5:8-note).
The idea is that Timothy is to be in control of his thought processes and thus not be in danger of irrational thinking ("God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of...discipline [Other translations - "sound mind, self-discipline, self-control, sobriety, sound judgment, self-restraint, wise discretion"]" - 2Ti 1:7-note). In contrast to this verb, the 3 verbs which follow are aorist imperatives (commands) which call for carrying out each action with a sense of urgency. Obviously, these 3 commands are the very areas in which Timothy is to exercise sobriety, calm and self-control at all times.
Rienecker adds that Timothy is
Vine has an interesting note on be sober (nepho) stating that
ENDURE HARDSHIP: kakopatheson (2SAAM) : (2Ti 1:8; 2:3, 2:10; 3:10, 3:11, 3:12)
Endure hardship (kakopatheo cp sugkakopatheo) meant to suffer physical pain, hardship, troubles, problems, difficulties, evils or distress. In secular Greek kakopatheo was frequently used to describe the hardships inherent in military service.
There is no such thing as a faithful ministry that is not costly. A painless ministry is a shallow and fruitless ministry.
Paul had made clear the cost of ministry and had called on Timothy to "join with (him) in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God" (2Ti 1:8-note), to "suffer hardship with (him), as a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2Ti 2:3-note), to remember that although he (Paul) was suffering "hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal...the word of God is not imprisoned" (2Ti 2:9-note), and to realize that "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2Ti 3:12-note).
How did Timothy fare in obeying this difficult command?
The writer of Hebrews (probably written shortly after 2 Timothy) says "Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released..." (He 13:23-note) where the word "released" is apoluo which elsewhere refers to releasing a prisoner (e.g., see apoluo in Mt 27:15) all of which suggests that Timothy indeed fully followed Paul in his "teaching, conduct, purpose (preaching Christ)...persecutions, sufferings..." (2Ti 3:10,11)
Like Timothy, we too need to be "strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2:1) so that we are prepared and willing to endure whatever rejection, hostility or persecution that comes from following Christ until the end of our course.
Wuest adds that endure hardship
DO THE WORK OF AN EVANGELIST: ergon poieson (2SAAM) euaggelistou: (Acts 21:8; Ep 4:11;1Ti 4:12 15)
Do the work of a "gospelizer", literally of the "good message teller"! Perform this task with urgency and resolve (aorist imperative), obeying this sharp command given with military snap and curtness.
Do (poieo) means to accomplish and the aorist imperative is issued as a command to be carried out without delay.
Work (2041) (ergon) means a deed or action in contrast to inactivity. It speaks of toil or effort in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something. Works are the result of and never the means of salvation.
Evangelist (euaggelistes from eu = good, well + aggéllo = proclaim, tell) a bringer of good tidings or one who proclaims the good news (the Gospel) and is used only three times in Scripture (also Acts 21:8 Ep 4:11-note) and once in a non-Christian inscription meaning "a proclaimer of an oracle". This does not mean that the minister is to become a traveling or professional evangelist. It means that his work is to be evangelistic — he is to seek to win souls in all that he does (cf 1Pe 3:15-note).
The related verb euaggelizo/euangelizo [word study] meaning to proclaim good news is used 61 times (click here for all uses in NASB) and the noun euaggelion [word study], meaning good news or gospel is found 76 times (click here for all uses in NASB). Clearly preaching the gospel to the lost is a significant message in the NT.
As Hiebert writes
How does one go about this work of proclaiming the gospel?
Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote
We are to have the attitude of Paul who
Spurgeon said we are to "Give the ungodly no rest in their sins".
Edwards adds that
FULFILL YOUR MINISTRY: en diakonian sou plerophoreson (2SAAM): (2Ti 4:4, 2:5, 2:6, Acts 12:25 Jn 4:34, 17:4 Ro 15:19;1Cor 1:17 Col 1:25; 4:17)
I especially like the Darby translation
This final charge summarizes the entirety of 2 Timothy.
Fulfill (4135) (plerophoreo [word study] from pleres = full + phoréo = fill) is literally to fill full and here is a command for Timothy to accomplish his ministry fully and wholeheartedly. Timothy was to carry out his ministry to its end, completing all its demands and requirements. Again the the aorist imperative is a command calling for Timothy to carry out this order with immediacy and effectiveness.
Paul had written a similar exhortation to Archippus to "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill (see word study pleroo) it." (Col 4:17-note) Here we learn that ministry is a gift from God, and we are stewards who one day will give an account of our work (1Pe 4:10, 11-note). It is also interesting that plerophoreo was used in secular Greek describing
Plerophoreo - 6x in 6v - Lk 1:1; Ro 4:21; 14:5; Col 4:12; 2Ti 4:5, 17. NAS = accomplished(1), fulfill(1), fully accomplished(1), fully assured(2), fully convinced(1).
Earlier Paul had commanded Timothy to "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure (Gk = paratheke = deposit, something committed to one's charge) which has been entrusted to you" (2Ti 1:14-note). Now Paul is commanding Timothy to fully satisfy the One Who had entrusted so much to him when He returns (Mt 25:14-30). He will hear "well done" (Mt 25:21) only if he "discharges his ministry to the full" and the same can be said of every believer for all have received this "treasure".
Ministry (1248) (diakonia [word study] > English = "deacon") means the rendering or assistance or help by performing certain duties, often of a humble or menial nature serve, including such mundane activities as waiting on tables or caring for household needs—activities without apparent dignity.
Diakonia is translated 19x as "ministry" and 7x as "service", and specifically referring to a personal ministry done in the service of another, such "service" often being of a humble or menial nature.
Diakonia - 34x in 32v - Luke 10:40; Acts 1:17, 25; 6:1, 4; 11:29; 12:25; 20:24; 21:19; Rom 11:13; 12:7; 15:31; 1 Cor 12:5; 16:15; 2 Cor 3:7ff; 4:1; 5:18; 6:3; 8:4; 9:1, 12f; 11:8; Eph 4:12; Col 4:17; 1 Tim 1:12; 2 Tim 4:5, 11; Heb 1:14; Rev 2:19. NAS = ministries(1), ministry(19), mission(m)(1), preparations(m)(1), relief(m)(1), serve(1),service(7), serving(2), support(m)(1).
Diakonia speaks of Christian work in general, every mode of Christian service and does not have the "specialized" meaning which the English word "ministry" conveys. This is not referring to a group of professional, seminary trained individuals. In the first letter Paul wrote
This verse clearly teaches that ministry (or "service") is not just something we do for God but is something we have received from God, Who does His work through us. Our attitude in this service is to be wholehearted as was Paul's who wrote that
You may be saying "but I'm not a "minister". Then read these next few verses to see how the NT describes the purpose of believers.
Peter reminds of our calling as
And thus clearly each of us has a ministry to proclaim Christ.
Finally, Paul reminds us that "we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God". (2Co 5:20) and thus every believer has been given the privilege of "the ministry of reconciliation" (2Cor 5:18).
William James once wrote,
I don't know if James was a Christian but nevertheless describes a goal every disciple should pursue, the laying up for themselves of
It is only as we spend our lives in "fully discharging" our divinely-appointed ministry that we realize the greatest use of this fleeting life. Like Christ, we should strive with every fiber of our being to be able to say at the end of our life,
Or like Paul we should be willing to say
Clearly not every minister completes his ministry... to the brim... does everything Christ wants Him to do... undertakes every ministry that God desires for him... fills every ministry he undertakes to the brim. And so the urgent charge to each believer:
Fulfill your ministry!
In Our Daily Bread we read a devotional entitled "Not Satisfied"...
We are to do what we can,
BBE: For I am even now being offered, and my end is near.
GWT: My life is coming to an end, and it is now time for me to be poured out as a sacrifice to God. (GWT)
KJV: For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
Moffatt: The last drops of my own sacrifice are falling; my time to go has come.
Phillips: As for me, I feel that the last drops of my life are being poured out for God. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: as for myself, my life’s blood is already being poured out as a libation, and the strategic time of my departure is already present. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: for I am already being poured out, and the time of my release hath arrived;
|FOR I AM ALREADY BEING POURED OUT AS A DRINK OFFERING: Ego gar ede spendomai (1SPPI): (Php 2:17-note)
Other translations - I am now ready to be offered (KJV), The last drops of my own sacrifice are falling (Moffatt), time for me to be poured out as a sacrifice to God (GWT), I feel that the last drops of my life are being poured out for God (Phillips)
For (gar) - This term of explanation answers the question "Why" Timothy needed to be sober and fulfill his ministry. Paul has accomplished the work God had assigned him and was on his last lap and must soon pass the the baton on to Timothy. This would also motivate Timothy to remain faithful for as Edwards notes
Note that the "I" is emphatic (in contrast to the emphatic "you" of 4:5): The courage and comfort of dying saints and ministers, and especially dying martyrs, are a great confirmation of the truth of Christianity, and a great encouragement to living saints and ministers in their work. Faith in the furnace (our actions & reactions to affliction, etc) sounds forth louder than our words (1Th 1:6, 7, 8, 9-see notes 1Th 1:6; 1:7; 1:8; 1:9).
Libation refers to the practice of pouring out wine or some other liquid as a drink offering. After placing a sacrificial animal on the altar, the priests would take wine (or sometimes water or honey) and pour it either on the burning sacrifice or on the ground in front of the altar. That act symbolized the rising of the sacrifice into the nostrils of the deity to whom it was being offered.
Wuest adds that spendo was
Among the Greeks and Romans this practice was an essential part of solemn sacrifices. The offerer poured wine either in front of or on top of the burning animal and the wine would be vaporized producing steam which symbolically ascended as an offering to the deity for whom the sacrifice was made (cf. 2Ki 16:13; Jer 7:18 Hos 9:4).
Figuratively, which is the manner of use in this verse, spendo means to pour out oneself, as one’s blood and to offer up one’s strength and life to God. Note however that Paul did not pour himself out but was poured out (passive voice). The tense is present which pictures a continuous process, one which culminates in his physical death.
Spendo - 19x in the Septuagint = LXX - Gen 35:14; Ex 25:29; 30:9; 37:16; Num 4:7; 28:7; 2 Sam 23:16; 1 Chr 11:18; Jer 7:18; 19:13; 32:29; 44:17, 19, 25; Ezek 20:28; Dan 2:46; Hos 9:4. Compared to only 2 uses in the NT, 2Ti 4:6 & Php 2:17.
Moulton and Milligan have a statement that the putting to death of a prophet (of the false deity Apollo), who remained true to his "god", was described as "spendo".
We have a similar use in the English language, when we say that a man sacrifices himself for his friends, family or country.
In Genesis we see
In Exodus the drink offering of wine was poured on the burning bronze altar along with a lamb each morning and evening. (Ex 29:40)
In Numbers 3 times wine is specified for "the libation" (Nu 15:1-10) and was meant to give a pleasing aroma for God. What a picture of what our lives daily are to be unto our God!
In Isaiah's prophecy we see Messiah's penultimate "libation", God declaring
In sum, this practice of pouring out liquid on the sacrifice is a picture of the total sacrifice of one's life to the will of God. Just as Paul exhorted each believer to present himself or herself to the Lord as “a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God” (Ro 12:1-note), he continuously offered himself to the Lord. Paul says that his life is continuously being offered to God which would soon culminate in one last act — the act of death. What a view of death! Seeing death as an offering and sacrifice being presented to God.
Using this same verb, spendo, for pouring out a libation, Paul reminded the saints at Philippi that
John MacArthur makes the point that here in Philippians, Paul was not speaking so much of his eventual martyrdom for spendo is in
Paul regarded his own life as a sacrifice in the interests of the spiritual advancement of the Philippian believers.
Marvin Vincent, commenting on (Php 2:17), adds that
Wiersbe has an interesting comment that
As the contemporary martyr, Jim Elliot, once wrote
Hiebert says Paul's
Oswald Chambers asks "Are you ready to be offered?"...
Today in the Word (Moody Bible Institute) describes sacrifice
AND THE TIME OF MY DEPARTURE HAS COME: kai o kairos tes analuseos mou ephesteken (3SRAI): (Ge 48:21; 50:24; Nu 27:12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17; Dt 31:14; Josh 23:14; Php 1:23; 2Pe 1:14 15)
Other translations - the time of my release (Young's Literal); the strategic time of my departure is already present (Wuest)
Time (2540) (kairos [word study]) refers to a fixed and definite time, the time when things are brought to crisis. This is the final time period of Paul's life. Paul is in a race and he is saying this is the last lap. Like the sands in an hourglass Paul's "last sands" were dropping, and he was soon to traverse the way of all flesh. The time has come for me to "hoist anchor", to "pull up my tent stakes", to loosen the bonds that tie me to earth, to be unyoked from the toil of ministry.
Departure (369) (analusis from ana = again + luo = to loose) means to unloose, undo again, break up and then to depart and was a common metaphor for death and was used in military circles of loosening the tent ropes with the subsequent departure of the army which reminds one of a similar metaphor using tent" to picture our earthly body in (2Cor 5:1).
Paul used the verb form analuo in a similar way writing "I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart (analuo) and be with Christ." (Php 1:23-note) clearly referring to death as his entrance into the presence of his Lord.
Barclay as an informative comment on "Departure" (analusis) writing that
Barnes has a similar comment on analusis:
Has come is in the perfect tense indicating that his it is at hand, standing by, simply awaiting its time. The clouds of death had come were hovering over Paul and he was well aware. The servant of the Lord is immortal until his work is done. A clear example of this truth is found in the "two witnesses" of whom John wrote:
Matthew Henry notes
The final words of most dying men are stripped of hypocrisy and reflect accurately their true beliefs and feelings. Contrast Paul's glorious last words with those of Gandhi not long before he died:
Tragically Gandhi's foolish heart was darkened. (Ro 1:21-note). As an aside regarding Gandhi, he wrote in his autobiography that in his student days he was truly interested in the Bible. Deeply touched by reading the Gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert, since Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. One Sunday he went to a nearby church. He decided to see the minister and ask for instruction in the way of salvation and enlightenment on other doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people! Woe to those ushers! Gandhi left and never came back. He reasoned that...
On his deathbed, Napoleon said,
Nineteenth century French statesman Talleyrand wrote on a piece of paper on a nightstand near his bed
How different the words of these unsaved men. Talleyrand a woeful lament, to which Solomon would add...
And so Paul declares not defeat but victory, for death is not his dread but his departure into delights indescribable.
George Whitefield, the revivalist of the 1700's had these words from his deathbed
The great American missionary to Burma, Adoniram Judson, penned these words shortly before his death:
Paul was ready to go home. How about you...as you grow older do you find you think more of going home? Here's a devotional from Our Daily Bread that speaks this issue...
When, by the gift of His infinite grace,
PAUL’S long day’s work is nearly done. He is a prisoner in Rome, all but forsaken by his friends, in hourly expectation of another summons before Nero. To appear before him was, he says, like putting his head into ‘the mouth of the lion.’ His horizon was darkened by sad anticipations of decaying faith and growing corruptions in the Church. What a road he had travelled since that day when, on the way to Damascus, he saw the living Christ, and heard the words of His mouth!
It had been but a failure of a life, if judged by ordinary standards. He had suffered the loss of all things, had thrown away position and prospects, had exposed himself to sorrows and toils, had been all his days a poor man and solitary, had been hunted, despised, laughed at by Jew and Gentile, worried and badgered even by so-called brethren, loved the less, the more he loved. And now the end is near. A prison-and the-headsman’s sword are the world’s wages to its best teacher. When Nero is on the throne, the only possible place for Paul is a dungeon opening on to the scaffold. Better to be the martyr than the Caesar!
These familiar words of our text bring before us a very sweet and wonderful picture of the prisoner, so near his end. How beautifully they show his calm waiting for the last hour and the bright forms which lightened for him the darkness of his cell! Many since have gone to their rest with their hearts stayed On the same thoughts, though their lips could not speak them to our listening ears. Let us be thankful for them, and pray that for ourselves, when we come to that hour, the same quiet heroism and the same sober hope mounting to calm certainty may be ours.
These words refer to the past, the present, the future. ‘I have fought — the time of my departure is come — henceforth there is laid up.’
I. So we notice, first, the quiet courage which looks death full in the face without a tremor.
The language implies that Paul knows his death hour is all but here. As the Revised Version more accurately gives it, ‘I am already
being offered’ — the process is begun, his sufferings at the moment are, as it were, the initial steps of his sacrifice — ‘and the time of my departure is come.’ The tone in which he tells Timothy this is very noticeable. There is no sign of excitement, no tremor of emotion, no affectation of stoicism in the simple sentences. He is not playing up to a part, nor pretending to be anything which he is not. If ever language sounded perfectly simple and genuine, this does.
And the occasion of the .whole section is as remarkable as the tone. He is led to speak about himself at all, only in order to enforce his exhortation to Timothy to put his shoulder to the wheel, and do his work for Christ with all his might. All he wishes to say is simply, do your work with all your might, for I am going off the field. But having begun on that line of thought, he is carried on to say more than was needed for his immediate purpose, and thus inartificially to let us see what was filling his mind.
And the subject into which he subsides after these lofty thoughts is as remarkable as either tone or occasion. Minute directions about such small matters as books and parchments, and perhaps a warm cloak for winter, and homely details about the movements of the little group of his friends immediately follow. All this shows with what a perfectly unforced courage Paul fronted his fate, and looked death in the eyes. The anticipation did not dull his interest in God’s work in the world, as witness the warnings and exhortations of the context. It did not withdraw his sympathies from his companions. It did not hinder him from pursuing his studies and pursuits, nor from providing for small matters of daily convenience. If ever a man was free from any taint of fanaticism or morbid enthusiasm, it was this man waiting so calmly in his prison for his death.
There is great beauty and force in the expressions which he uses for death here. He will not soil his lips with its ugly name, but calls it an offering and a departure. There is a widespread unwillingness to say the word ‘ Death.’ It falls on men’s hearts like clods on a coffin. So all people and languages have adopted euphemisms for it, fair names which wrap silk round its dart and somewhat hide its face. But there are two opposite reasons for their use — terror and confidence. Some men dare not speak of death because they dread it so much, and try to put some kind of shield between themselves and the very thought of it, by calling it something less dreadful to them than itself. Some men, on the other hand, are familiar with the thought, and though it is solemn, it is not altogether repellent to them.
Gazing on death with the thoughts and feelings which Jesus Christ has given them concerning it, they see it in new aspects, which take away much of its blackness. And so they do not feel inclined to use the ugly old name, but had rather call it by some which reflect the gentler aspect that it now wears to them. So ‘sleep,’ and ‘rest’ and the like are the names which have almost driven the other out of the New Testament — witness of the fact that in inmost reality Jesus Christ ‘has abolished death,’ however the physical portion of it may still remain master of our bodies.
But looking for a moment at the specific metaphors used here, we have first, that of an offering, or more particularly of a drink offering, or libation, ‘I am already being poured out.’ No doubt the special reason for the selection of this figure here is Paul’s anticipation of a violent death. The shedding of his blood was to be an offering poured out like some costly wine upon the altar, but the power of the figure reaches far beyond that special application of it. We may all make our deaths a sacrifice, an offering to God, for we may yield up our will to God’s will, and so turn that last struggle into an act of worship and self surrender. When we recognise His hand, when we submit our wills to His purposes, when ‘we live unto the Lord,’ if we live, and ‘die unto Him,’ if we die, then Death will lose all its terror and most of its pain, and will become for us what it was to Paul, a true offering up of self in thankful worship. Nay, we may even say, that so we shall in a certain subordinate sense be ‘made conformable unto His death’ who committed His spirit into His Father’s hands, and laid down His life, of His own will. The essential character and far-reaching effects of this sacrifice we cannot imitate, but we can so yield up our wills to God and leave life so willingly and trustfully as that death shall make our sacrifice complete.
Another more familiar and equally striking figure is next used, when Paul speaks of the time of his ‘departure.’ The thought is found in most tongues. Death is a going away, or, as Peter calls it (with a glance, possibly, at the special meaning of the word in the Old Testament, as well as at its use in the solemn statement of the theme of converse on the Mountain of Transfiguration), an Exodus. But the well-worn image receives new depth and sharpness of outline in Christianity. To those who have learned the meaning of Christ’s resurrection, and feed their souls on the hopes which it warrants, Death is merely a change of place or state, an accident affecting locality, and little more. We have had plenty of changes before. Life has been one long series of departures. This is different from the others mainly in that it is the last, and that to go away from this visible and fleeting show, where we wander aliens among things which have no true kindred with us, is to go home, where there will be no more pulling up the tent-pegs, and toiling across the deserts in monotonous change. How strong is the conviction, spoken in this name for death, that the essential life lasts on quite unaltered through it all! How slight the else formidable thing is made! We may change climates, and for the stormy bleakness of life may have the long still days of heaven, but we do not change ourselves. We lose nothing worth keeping when we leave behind the body, as a dress not fitted for home, where we are going. We but travel one more stage, though it be the last, and part of it be in pitchy darkness. Some pass over it as in a fiery chariot, like Paul and many a martyr. Some have to toil through it with slow steps and bleeding feet and fainting heart; but all may have a Brother with them, and, holding His hand, may find that the journey is not so hard as they feared, and the home from which they shall remove no more, better than they hoped when they hoped the most.
II. We have here, too, the peaceful look backwards.
There is something very noteworthy in the threefold aspect under which his past life presents itself to the Apostle who is so soon to leave it. He thinks of it as a contest, as a race, as a stewardship. The first image suggests the tension of a long struggle with opposing wrestlers who have tried to throw him, but in vain. The world, both of men and things, has had to be grappled with and mastered. His own sinful nature and especially his animal nature has had to be kept under by sheer force, and every moment has been resistance to subtle omnipresent forces that have sought to thwart his aspirations and hamper his performances. His successes have had to be fought for, and everything that he has done has been done after a struggle. So is it with all noble life; so will it be to the end.
He thinks of life as a race. That speaks of continuous advance in one direction, and more emphatically still, of effort that sets the lungs panting and strains every muscle to the utmost. He thinks of it as a stewardship. He has kept the faith (whether by that word we are to understand the body of truth believed or the act of believing) as a sacred deposit committed to him, of which he has been a good steward, and which he is now ready to return to his Lord. There is much in these letters to Timothy about keeping treasures entrusted to one’s care. Timothy is bid to ‘keep that good thing which is committed to thee,’ as Paul here declares that he has done. Nor is such guarding of a precious deposit confined to us stewards on earth, but the Apostle is sure that his loving Lord, to whom he has entrusted himself, will with like tenderness and carefulness ‘keep that which he has committed unto Him against that day.’ The confidence in that faithful Keeper made it possible for Paul to be faithful to his trust, and as a steward who was bound by all ties to his Lord, to guard His possessions and administer His affairs. Life was full of voices urging him to give up the faith. Bribes and threats, and his own sense-bound nature, and the constant whispers of the world had tempted him all along the road to fling it away as a worthless thing, but he had kept it safe; and now, nearing the end and the account, he can put his hand on the secret place near his heart where it lies, and feel that it is there, ready to be restored to his Lord, with the thankful confession, ‘Thy pound hath gained ten pounds.’
So life looks to this man in his retrospect as mainly a field for struggle, effort, and fidelity. This world is not to be for us an enchanted garden of delights, any more than it should appear a dreary desert of disappointment and woe. But it should be to us mainly a palaestra, or gymnasium and exercising ground. You cannot expect many flowers or much grass in the place where men wrestle and run. We need not much mind though it be bare, if we can only stand firm on the hard earth, nor lament that there are so few delights to stay our eyes from the goal. We are here for serious work; let us not be too eager for pleasures that may hinder our efforts and weaken our vigour, but be content to lap up a hasty draught from the brooks by the way, and then on again to the fight.
Such a view of life makes it radiant and fair while it lasts, and makes the heart calm when the hour comes to leave it all behind. So thinking of the past, there may be a sense of not unwelcome lightening from a load of responsibility when we have got all the stress and strain of the conflict behind us, and have at any rate not been altogether beaten. We may feel like a captain who has brought his ship safe across the Atlantic, through foul weather and past many an iceberg, and gives a great sigh of relief as he hands over the charge to the pilot, who will take her across the harbour bar and bring her to her anchorage in the landlocked bay where no tempests rave any more forever.
Prosaic theologians have sometimes wondered at the estimate which Paul here makes of his past services and faithfulness, but the wonder is surely unnecessary. It is very striking to notice the difference between his judgment of himself while he was still in the thick of the conflict, and now when he is nearing the end. Then one main hope which animated all his toils and nerved him for the sacrifice of life itself was ‘that I might finish my course with joy.’ Now in the quiet of his dungeon, that hope is fulfilled, and triumphant thoughts, like shining angels, keep him company in his solitude. Then he struggled, and wrestled, touched by the haunting fear lest after that he has preached to others he himself should be rejected. Now the dread has passed, and a meek hope stands by his side.
What is this change of feeling but an instance of what, thank God, we so often see, that at the end the heart, which has been bowed with fears and self-depreciation, is filled with peace? They who tremble most during the conflict are most likely to look back with solid satisfaction, while they who never knew a fear all along the course will often have them surging in upon their souls too late, and will see the past in a new lurid light, when they are powerless to change it. Blessed is the man who thus feareth always. At the end he will have hope. The past struggles are joyful in memory, as the mountain ranges, which were all black reek and white snow while we toiled up their inhospitable steeps, lie purple in the mellowing distance, and burn like fire as the sunset strikes their peaks. Many a wild winter’s day has a fair, cloudless close, and lingering opal hues diffused through all the quiet sky. ‘At eventide it shall be light.’ Though we go all Our lives mourning and timid, there may yet be granted us ere the end some vision of the true significance of these lives, and some humble hope that they have not been wholly in vain.
Such an estimate has nothing in common with self-complacency. It coexists with a profound consciousness of many a sin, many a defeat, and much unfaithfulness. It belongs only to a man who, conscious of these, is ‘looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life,’ and is the direct result, not the antagonist, of lowly self-abasement, and contrite faith in Him by whom alone our stained selves and poor broken services can ever be acceptable. Let us learn too that the only life that bears being looked back upon is a life of Christian devotion and effort. It shows fairer when seen in the strange cross lights that come when we stand on the boundary of two worlds, with the white radiance of eternity beginning to master the vulgar oil lamps of earth, than when seen by these alone. All others have their shabbiness and their selfishness disclosed then. I remember ones seeing a mob of revelers streaming out from a masked ball in a London theatre in the early morning sunlight; draggled and heavy- eyed, the rouge showing on the cheeks, and the shabby tawdriness of the foolish costumes pitilessly revealed by the pure light. So will many a life look when the day dawns, and the wild riot ends in its unwelcome beams. The one question for us all, then, will be, Have I lived for Christ, and by Him? Let it be the one question for us now, and let it be answered, Yes. Then we shall have at the last a calm confidence, equally far removed from presumption and from dread, which will let us look back on life with peace, though it be full of failures and sins, and forward with humble hope of the reward which we shall receive from His mercy.
III. The climax of all is the triumphant look forward. ‘Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.’ In harmony with the images of the conflict and the race, the crown here is not the emblem of sovereignty, but of victory, as indeed is almost without exception the case in the New Testament. The idea of the royal dignity of Christians in the future is set forth rather under the emblem of association with Christ on His throne, while the wreath on their brows is the coronal of laurel, ‘meed of mighty conquerors,’ or the twine of leaves given to him who, panting, touched the goal. The reward, then, which is meant by the emblem, whatever be its essence, comes through effort and conflict. ‘A man is not crowned, except he strive.’
That crown, according to other words of Scripture, consists of ‘life,’ or ‘glory’ — that is to say, the issue and outcome of believing service and faithful stewardship here is the possession of the true life, which stands in union with God, in measure so great, and in quality so wondrous that it lies on the pure locks of the victors like a flashing diadem, all ablaze with light in a hundred jewels. The completion and exaltation of our nature and characters by the elapse of ‘life’ so sovereign and transcendent that it is ‘glory’ is the consequence of all Christian effort here in the lower levels, where the natural life is always weakness and sometimes shame, and the spiritual life is at the best but a hidden glory and a struggling spark. There is no profit in seeking to gaze into that light of glory so as to discern the shapes of those who walk in it, or the elements of its lambent flames. Enough that in its gracious beauty transfigured souls move as in their native atmosphere. Enough that even our dim vision can see that they have for their companion ‘One like unto the Son of Man.’ It is Christ’s own life which they share; it is Christ’s own glory which irradiates them.
That crown is ‘a crown of righteousness’ in another sense from that in which it is ‘a crown of life.’ The latter expression indicates the material, if we may say so, of which it is woven, but the former rather points to the character to which it belongs or is given. Righteousness alone can receive that reward. It is not the struggle or the conflict which wins it, but the character evolved in the struggle, not the works of strenuous service, but the moral nature expressed in these. There is such a congruity between righteousness and the crown of life, that it can be laid on none other head but that of a righteous man, and if it could, all its amaranthine flowers would shrivel and fall when they touched an impure brow. It is, then, the crown of righteousness, as belonging by its very nature to such characters alone.
But whatever is the essential congruity between the character and the crown, we have to remember too that, according to this Apostle’s constant teaching, the righteousness which clothes us in fair raiment, and has a natural right to the wreath of victory, is a gift, as truly as the crown itself, and is given to us all on condition of our simple trust in Jesus Christ, If we are to be ‘found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless,’ we must be ‘found in Him, not having our own righteousness, but that which is ours through faith in Christ.’ Toil and conflict and anxious desire to be true to our responsibilities will do much for a man, but they will not bring him that righteousness which brings down on the head the crown of life. We must trust to Christ to give us the righteousness in which we are justified, and to give us the righteousness by the working out of which in our life and character we are fitted for that great reward. He crowns our works and selves with exuberant and unmerited honours, but what he crowns is His Own gift to us, and His great love must bestow both the righteousness and
The crown is given at a time called — by Paul ‘at that day,’ which is not the near day of his martyrdom, but that of His Lord’s appearing. He does not speak of the fulness of the reward as being ready for him at death, but as being ‘henceforth laid up for him in heaven.’ So he looks forward beyond the grave. The immediate future after death was to his view a period of blessedness indeed, but not yet full. The state of the dead in Christ was a state of consciousness, a state of rest, a state of felicity, hut also a state of expectation- To the full height of their present capacity they who sleep in Jesus are blessed, being still in His embrace, and their spirits pillowed on His heart, nor so sleeping that, like drowsy infants, they know not where they lie so safe, but only sleeping in so much as they rest from weariness, and have closed their eyes to the ceaseless turmoil of this fleeting world, and are lapped about for ever with the sweet, unbroken consciousness that they are ‘present with the Lord.’ What perfect repose, perfect fruition of all desires, perfect union with the perfect End and Object of all their being, perfect exemption from all sorrow, tumult, and sin can bring of blessedness, that they possess in over measure unfailingly. And, in addition, they still know the joy of hope, and have carried that jewel with them into another world, for they wait for ‘the redemption of the body,’ in the reception of which, ‘at that day,’ their life will be filled up to a yet fuller measure, and gleam with a more lustrous ‘glory.’ Now they rest and wait. Then shall they be crowned.
Nor must self-absorbed thoughts be allowed to bound our anticipations of that future. It is no solitary blessedness to which Paul looked forward Alone in his dungeon, alone before his judge when ‘no man stood by’ him, soon to be alone in his martyrdom, he leaps up in spirit at the thought of the mighty crowd among whom he will stand in that day, on every head a crown, in every heart the same love to the Lord whose life is in them all and makes them all one. So we may cherish the hope of a social heaven. Man’s course begins in a garden, but it ends in a city. The final condition will be the perfection of human society. There all who love Christ will be drawn together, and old ties, broken for a little while here, be reknit in yet holier form, never to be sundered more.
Ah, friends, the all-important question for each of us is how may we have such a hope, like a great sunset light shining into the western windows of our souls? There is but one answer — Trust Christ. That is enough. Nothing else is. Is your life built on Jesus Christ? Are you trusting your salvation to Him? Are you giving Him your love and service? Does your life bear looking at to-day? Will it bear looking at in death? Will it bear His looking at in Judgment?
If you can humbly say,
To me to live is Christ,
then is it well Living by Him we may fight and conquer, may win and obtain. Living by Him, we may be ready quietly to lie down when the time comes, and may have all the future filled with the blaze of a great hope that glows brighter as the darkness thickens. That peaceful hope will not leave us till consciousness fails, and then, when it has ceased to guide us, Christ Himself will lead us, scarcely knowing where we are, through the waters, and when we open our half- bewildered eyes in brief wonder, the first thing we see will be his welcoming smile, and His voice will say, as a tender surgeon might to a little Child waking after an operation, ‘It is all over.’ We lift our hands wondering and find wreaths on our poor brows. We lift our eyes, and lo! all about us a crowned crowd of conquerors,
‘And with the morn those angel faces smile
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