I would like to reread portions of Paul’s words that we heard from 2 Timothy this morning, at least the last part of it:
This is Paul speaking of himself!
2 Timothy 4:7, 8
I HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, I HAVE FINISHED THE RACE, I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH. FINALLY, THERE IS LAID UP FOR ME THE CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, WHICH THE LORD, THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE, WILL GIVE TO ME ON THAT DAY, AND NOT TO ME ONLY BUT ALSO TO ALL WHO HAVE LOVED HIS APPEARING.
2 Timothy 4:18
AND THE LORD WILL DELIVER ME FROM EVERY EVIL WORK AND PRESERVE ME FOR HIS HEAVENLY KINGDOM. TO HIM BE GLORY FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN!
The Apostle Paul is looking back, and looking ahead. He is looking back on his ministry and is looking ahead for that Crown of Righteousness that has been laid up for him, to be presented to him ON THAT DAY.
But before Paul departs this life to receive that crown he has some final work to do. The essence of this work has to do with the very reason Paul had written this, his second letter to Timothy. So let’s look at what Paul had to say to Timothy. This was actually stated in last weeks scripture reading from Timothy. Listen:
2 Timothy 4:2-4
PREACH THE WORD! BE READY IN SEASON AND OUT OF SEASON. CONVINCE, REBUKE, EXHORT, WITH ALL LONGSUFFERING AND TEACHING. FOR THE TIME WILL COME WHEN THEY WILL NOT ENDURE SOUND DOCTRIN, BUT ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN DESIRES, BECAUSE THEY HAVE ITCHING EARS, THEY WILL HEAP UP FOR THEMSELVES TEACHERS, AND THEY WILL TURN THEIR EARS FROM THE TRUTH AND BE TURNED ASIDE FROM THE TRUTH, AND BE TURNED ASIDE TO FABLES.
Now taken separately all off these scriptures I have read have valid, thought provoking content. But to understand what Paul’s letter to Timothy is really all about we need to consider several things. First of all we note that Paul is instructing Timothy to PREACH THE Word. He also tells him to be URGENT ABOUT IT. Paul also instructs Timothy to CONVINCE AND REBUKE. Paul also had this to say about the word of God to reaffirm for Timothy the value of the scriptures:
2 Timothy 3:16
ALL SCRIPTURE IS GIVEN BY THE INSPIRATION OF GOD, AND IS PROFITABLE FOR DOCTRIN, FOR REPROOF, FOR CORRECTION, FOR INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, THAT THE MAN OF GOD MAY BE COMPLETE.
Finally we hear Paul speaking of the fact that he has fought the good fight, and that he has finished the race. All of these words are for a specific purpose. It all has to do with the conditions that existed at the time of Paul’s writing. This was actually the Apostle Paul’s last writing. He had written to churches, he had written to individuals, but now his second letter to Timothy would be his last. You see, Paul is in prison. He does not expect to be released, as a matter of fact he truly believes he will be executed. Looking back on his call to serve as an Apostle he now realizes he has kept the faith, he has been long suffering, he has fought the good fight, and now looks forward to that Crown of Righteousness that Christ Himself will present to him.
But there remains a problem. People are not going to accept the sound doctrine Paul has been preaching and teaching and instructing for so long. They are going to make up their own doctrines to suit their own needs. Not too much different than what we see today. Sound doctrine has been abandoned in favor of doing what people want to do and justifying it by saying scripture is old fashioned.
In addition to false doctrine, this relatively new Christianity is under extreme persecution from Nero. This is why Paul is in prison, soon to become a martyr. And in the face of all of this, Paul is still concerned about the word of God and how to preserve it and continue it.
So he writes to Timothy who has been with him for some time. Who also is well instructed in doctrine. But perhaps needs some encouragement. After all, Paul is in prison awaiting execution. Why would anyone be anxious about following a martyr. Besides, who is he going to preach to if nearly everyone is in hiding, fearing the extreme persecution going on under Nero.
But Paul realizes the urgency of continuing the message of the cross and Christ’s sacrifice for us. He does not simply tell Timothy to PREACH THE WORD. He is far more emphatic than that. His actual words were: I CHARGE YOU THEREFORE BEFORE GOD AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, WHO WILL JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD AT HIS APPEARING AND HIS KINGDOM – PREACH THE WORD!
Paul has placed a tremendous responsibility upon Timothy which has the consequences of actually being judged by Jesus Himself. How can you deny such a charge? So it is with all who are called by Christ to serve Him.
Paul understood the value and the need to administer the word of God. Even now when false doctrine, false belief, unspiritual attitudes were invading the truth of God’s word and drifting from what the word of God was calling people to do and to believe, He felt that he never strayed from that truth and therefore had fought the good fight. He completed the race – and he won. Satan did not influence nor allow him to turn from the basic foundation of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. He wants Timothy to do same. So he writes to him a letter.
One final note regarding Paul’s words to Timothy. Paul says, I HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT. When he says this it is really interesting to note just exactly what he meant by good FIGHT. You see in the Greek language the word we translate as FIGHT actually means a CONTEST. Being a Christian was not just a word to describe what one believed but shows it to be a contest which Christians must ENDURE. It is action and belief and doing and not doing, and wanting to follow an established doctrine and follow the example and teaching of the disciples and Apostles and Jesus Himself. It is a DESIRE for all of this and a will to accomplish it so that we too can say, “I HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, I have finished the race.”