Mattia Preti, Liberation of St. Peter Italian, 1650-1660. Vienna,

Mattia Preti, Liberation of St. Peter Italian, 1650-1660. Vienna,

“Paul. An apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved child: Grace to you and peace from God the father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” II Timothy 1:1-2

“In the presence of God and of Jesus Christ, who is the judge of the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message, be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince rebuke and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching…. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that last day, but not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” II Timothy 4:1-2,5-8

Today we begin a series of meditations on Paul’s second letter to Timothy. This is a deeply moving and poignant letter for it is Paul’s last letter from his Roman prison cell written perhaps only weeks or even days before the execution he knew was imminent. It is also very moving because of to whom it is written: “To Timothy, my beloved child”.  It is, in essence, Paul’s passing the torch,  bequeathing his ministry to Timothy, to Timothy’s generation of leaders, and ultimately to the entire church:

”Although it was an intensely personal communication to his young friend Timothy, it was also – and consciously – his last will and testament to the church.( Stott, Guard the Gospel, p18 ).

Filled with pathos, urgency, and beauty, every verse of II Timothy is a reminder to Timothy  that “the precious gospel was now committed to him, and that it was now  his turn to assume responsibility for it, to preach and teach it, to defend it against attack and falsification, and to ensure its accurate transmission to the generations yet to come.” (Stott, 21) And now it is just as urgent a reminder to us, for now the precious gospel is committed to us.

That is the thought I want to keep in my mind throughout our study. That is the conviction that I want to impress on my mind and heart until the day I die: that now is our time, the time when the gospel is committed to our hands, and that Paul and all who came before and are counting on us. Infinitely more important, now is the time the gospel is committed  to our hands and our Lord is counting on us. Someday there will be another generation to whom it is entrusted, but that is not now. Now we are the one’s responsible.

Responsible for what?  We have received a fourfold charge. We are charged:

  1. To guard the gospelGuard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us (1:14)
  2. To suffer for the gospel: Take your share of suffering as a good soldier opf Christ Jesus… Remember Jesus Christ…as preached in my gospel, the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal (2:3,8,9
  3. To continue in the gospel: Evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed… (3:13-14)
  4. To proclaim the gospel: I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…: preach the gospel, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and teaching (4:1,2)*

Throughout our meditations we will think and pray carefully over what each of the charges may mean for each of us. Today it is enough to focus on the great challenge itself: the realization that now is our hour of entrustment, our  day to serve, and that all of heaven and earth are counting on us to be as faithful stewards of the gospel in our day as Paul was in his.

 

 

Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.

*Almost all of today’s post has been inspired by and adapted from John Stott’s  marvelous commentary on II Timothy, Guard The Gospel, which is now found in the Bible Speaks Today series published by IVP. I first read this commentary in 1973. Its insights challenged me mightily then and they continue to do so today.