For an introduction to this series, click here.
October 25, 2007
This is Paul's last epistle. It is not the last in order in our Bibles, but it was the last one he wrote. This epistle is more somber and at the same time more urgent, because Paul knows he is facing death.
You can really feel Paul's love for Timothy in the opening passage:
"I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (1:3-7)
I like that Paul is telling Timothy not to be afraid. As we talked about earlier, Timothy seems to have had issues with fear and doubt. Meanwhile Paul is staring death in the face, and yet he doesn't change. He is more concerned about encouraging others than he is worried about himself. There are very subtle clues in this epistle that this was his last. Paul certainly didn't tell us that in his letter. He didn't gripe or complain about his situation or despair that this was the end.
"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me." (1:8-12)
Paul's motive for writing is purely encouragement of Timothy. And the reason both he and we can be confident in Christ is the fact that we were given "a holy calling...before the ages began." Salvation isn't our doing, it is the Lord's. We can be confident in our salvation because God is the one who chose us. If we could do anything to change God's saving purpose in our lives, none of us would have any hope of salvation. Our salvation originated with God and He is the one who keeps us until that great Day.
This epistle is intensely personal, almost as personal as Philemon:
"Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me— may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus." (1:13-18, ESV)
How shameful it would have been to hear your name in one of Paul's letters as turning away from him. I cannot imagine. On the other hand, it would be wonderful to hear your name read as one of Paul's dear friends and supporters. I wonder if Phygelus and Hermogenes knew how much they had hurt Paul. A lot of times we (or at least I) go through our lives and we are so focused on ourselves that we don't pay attention to others. It's not that we don't love or appreciate others, we are just too busy. If we are too busy to encourage others, we are too busy. We need to slow down and give more of our time to others. Or maybe that is just something I need to do.