1st & 2nd Timothy — Lesson 8
The Christian’s Attitude Toward Death Taught in 1st and 2nd Timothy
1. 2 Timothy 4 contains some of the very last words written by Paul; certainly the last written words that have survived.
1. He is writing perhaps within days, but more likely within weeks of his martyrdom.
2. He knew that this imprisonment would be his final one, from which he would escape only by martyrdom.
1. When Paul was first brought to trial in Rome, none of his fellow believers stood by him. 2 Tim. 4:16.
1. He was the spiritual progenitor, directly or indirectly, of perhaps most of the redeemed souls in the Gentile world.
2. But during his time of greatest personal need, he sat friendless in a dark, filthy prison, facing Nero’s certain sentence of death.
3. He was not bitter, but, like his Lord, prayed that it might not be held against them.
4. 2 Tim. 4: 17-18 – 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
2. It was a difficult time for him in two respects.
1. His own life.
2. The spiritual predicament of so many of the believers for whom he had poured out his heart and life.
3. Yet, despite his troubled heart and deep concerns, his final words reflect the eloquent calmness that comes only from settled confidence in the Lord.
3. For about 30 years without intermission he had labored as an apostle and itinerant evangelist.
4. Truly as he writes here, he has fought a good fight, finished his race, and kept the faith.
1. The end was near and he knew it.
2. Paul, the aged warrior, is laying down his arms that Timothy may take them up.
5. Now he awaits his reward – the crown of righteousness that has been laid up for him in heaven.
6. This is Paul’s legacy to the church.
1. They breathe an atmosphere of great solemnity.
2. It is impossible to read them without being profoundly moved.
2. Paul has already taught us that our salvation is firmly rooted in Christ. 2 Tim. 1:9-10.
1. Abolished death.
1. Death is the one word that summarizes our human predicament as a result of sin.
2. That Christ abolished death clearly does not mean that he removed it from our human experience.
1. Physical death is no longer the ogre to us that it has been and remains for many.
1. Heb. 2:15 – and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
2. 1 Thess 4:15 – But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
3. It has been rendered so innocuous that Jesus said that the believer, though he dies, shall never die. John 11:25-26.
4. It has been rendered so innocuous that it has become one of the things that belongs to us when we are Christ’s. ! Cor. 3:21-23.
2. Spiritual death has given place to eternal life which is communion with God begun on earth and perfected in heaven.
2. Christ brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
1. In order to appreciate the full force of the Christian affirmation, we need to call to mind who it is who is making it, who writes so confidently about life and death, about the abolition of death and the revelation of life.
1. It is one who is facing the imminent prospect of death himself – any day expects to receive the death sentence.
2. Already the final summons is sounding in his ears.
3. In his imagination he can already see the flash of the executioner’s sword.
4. Already the anchor is being weighed, the ropes are being slipped from the pier, and the boat is about to set sail for another shore.
2. And yet in the very presence of death, he can shout, “Christ has abolished death.
1. This is Christian faith triumphant.
2. Paul’s words to the Romans were more than theoretical. Rom. 8:33-39.
3. One of the most searching tests that can be applied to any religion concerns its attitude toward death.
1. Words of dying men are usually stripped of hypocrisy and reflect accurately their true beliefs and feelings.
1. Napoleon – I die before my time; and my body will be give back to earth, to become the food of worms. Such is the fate which so soon awaits the great Napoleon.
2. Gandhi – My days are numbered. I am not likely to live very long – perhaps a year or a little more. For the first time in fifty years I find myself in a slough of despond. All about me is darkness. I am praying for light.
3. Tallyrand, French statesman – Behold, eighty-three years passed away! What cares! What agitation! What anxieties! What ill-will! What sad complications! And all without other results, except great fatigue of mind and body, and a profound sentiment of discouragement with regard to the future, and of disquiet with regard to the past.
2. How different are the words of Paul.
1. Some years previously he had said to the elders at Ephesus, where Timothy was now laboring, “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”
2. Some 30 years after his encounter on the Damascus road, he looks back over his ministry without regret or remorse in every regard that matters.
3. With an economy of words known only to the Holy Spirit inspired writer, he not only affirms his own spiritual triumph, but also offers forceful motivation for every believer to live a life of faithful service to Christ.
3. In these beautifully moving words, he reveals the Christian attitude toward death.
BODY: WHAT DOES THIS GREAT APOSTLE TEACH US ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN’S ATTITUDE TOWARD DEATH.
1. Paul describes his life as a sacrifice.
1. The word refers to pouring out a libation to the Gods.
1. Every Roman meal ended with a kind of sacrifice – a cup of wine was taken and was poured out to the gods.
2. Numbers 15:1-10 –Paul was already making his final offering, just has he had offered his life. Rom. 12:1-2.
2. It was as if Paul was saying, “The day is ended; its time to rise and go; and my life must be poured out as a sacrifice to God.
1. He did not think of himself as going to be executed.
2. He thought of himself as going to offer his life to God.
3. Ever since his conversion he had offered everything to God – money, scholarship, time, physical vigor, acuteness of mind, the devotion of his heart.
4. Only life was left to offer, and gladly he was going to lay it down.
3. His departure was at hand.
1. The word departure is a vivid one.
2. It has many a picture in it and each tells us something about leaving this life.
1. It is the word for unyoking an animal from the shafts of the plow.
1. Death to Paul was rest from labor.
2. Spenser said, “Ease after toil, port after stormy seas, death after life, are lovely things.”
2. It is the word for loosening bonds and fetters.
1. Death for Paul was a release.
2. He was to exchange the confines of a Roman prison for the glorious liberty of the courts of heaven. Phil. 1:21 – For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
3. As the Lord commanded, Paul had taken up his cross and had never laid it down, in the certain knowledge that – 53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Cor. 15:53-55.
3. It is the word for loosening the ropes of a tent.
1. For Paul it was time to strike camp again.
2. Many a journey he had made across the roads of Asia Minor and Europe.
3. Now he was setting out on his last and greatest journey; he was taking the road that led to God.
4. Paul faced his departure with no feeling of futility or hopelessness, or despair, but with the divine assurance that his real life was only about to begin.
5. Just as he had faced life without fear, he faced death without fear.
4. It is the word for loosening the mooring ropes of a ship.
1. Many a time Paul had felt his ship leave the harbor for deeper waters.
2. Now he launches into the greatest deep of all, setting sail to cross the waters of death to arrive in the haven of eternity.
2. He describes life as a well fought contest.
1. Argon – the word for a fight in the arena.
1. When an athlete can honestly say that he has done his best, there is deep satisfaction in the heart.
1. Paul comes to the end and knows that he has done his best.
2. There is no greater satisfaction.
2. It is the word used in:
1. Luke 13:24 – 24 Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
2. Col. 1:29 – 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
3. Col. 4:1 – Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.
4. 1 Tim. 4:10 – For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
2. Battle scars are the mark of a faithful soldier, and Paul had them in abundance.
1. 2 Cor. 11:23-28.
2. It had been a fight against Satan; against the principalities and powers, the world-rulers of this darkness in the heavenlies; against Jewish and pagan vice and violence; against Judaism among the Galatians; against fanaticism among the Thessalonians; against contention, fornication, and litigation among the Corinthians; against incipient Gnosticism among the Ephesians and Colossians; against fightings without and fears within; and last but not least, against the law of sin and death operating within his own heart.
3. The supreme mark of a faithful soldier is to give his life in battle, and that mark the apostle was now willingly prepared to receive.
1. He was not like those who “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 2:21.
2. To the contrary, “4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Phil. 3:4-8.
3. I have finished the race (course).
1. Marathon – world’s most famous race.
1. It takes its name from the Battle of Marathon, one of the world’s most decisive battles.
2. In it the Greek met the Persians; if the Persians had won the battle the glory that was Greece would never had flowered upon the world.
1. Against fearful odds, the Greeks won the victory and, after the battle, a Greek soldier ran all the way to Athens with the news.
2. Straight to the magistrates he ran and gasped, “Rejoice, we have conquered.”
3. He fell dead even as he delivered his message.
4. He had completed his course; he had done his work.
5. There is no finer way for any man to die.
2. Our modern marathon derives its distance from the approximate distance that the Greek soldier ran.
4. I have kept the faith.
1. Two possible meanings.
1. It is taken from the background of the games (Olympics).
1. On the day before the games all athletes met and took a solemn oath before the gods that they had done not less than the 10 months training and that they would not resort to any trickery to win.
2. Paul may be saying, I have played the game; I have kept the rules.
3. Rosie Ruiz and the Boston Marathon.
4. He had not transgressed the rules in the race of life.
2. It is a business phrase take from the background of the market place.
1. It is the regular Greek phrase for “I have kept the conditions of the contract; I have been true to my engagement.”
2. He had engaged himself to serve Christ and he had stood by that engagement and never let his Master down.
3. “I have kept by faith; I have never lost my confidence and hope.
4. In thick of thin, freedom or imprisonment, in perils of land and sea, and now in the face of death, he had never lost his trust in Jesus Christ.
2. Unlike Schubert, Paul left no unfinished symphony.
5. There is a crown of righteousness laid up for me.
1. Laid up.
1. Matt. 6:19-20 – Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
2. Heb. 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
2. In the games the greatest prize was the laurel wreath.
1. With it the victor was crowned, and to wear it was the greatest honor that could come to any athlete.
2. One historian wrote that many a little town in those days took down a piece of its wall in order that its son, crowned with the crown of the isthmus or of Olympia, might enter by a gate unused before.
3. But was great as it was, in a few days it would wither.
4. Paul knew the crown awaiting him, described as righteousness, would never fade.
1. 1 Co. 9:24-27 – Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
2. Jas 1:12 – Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
3. 1 Pet. 5:4 – And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
5. In that moment Paul turned from the verdict of men to the verdict of God.
1. He knew that in a very short time he would stand before the Roman judgment seat and that his trial could have only one end.
1. He knew what Nero’s verdict would be.
2. He also knew what God’s verdict would be.
2. The man whose life is dedicated to God is indifferent to the verdicts of men.
3. He cares not if they condemn him so long as he hears his Master’s well done.
6. It is easy to begin and hard to finish. (Cut across in 440 in intramurals in college).
7. The one thing necessary in life is staying power.
8. Many a fine life has been wrecked by some closing failure.
9. It was Paul’s claim that he had finished the course (race) – there is deep satisfaction in reaching the goal.
1. It is also reserved for all who love his appearing.
1. All who wait with expectation for the coming of the King may share.
2. It is as if he said, “Timothy, my end is near, and I know that I go to my reward. If you follow in my steps, you will feel the same confidence and the same joy when the end comes to you.”
3. The joy of Paul is open to every person who fights that fight, finishes that race, and keeps the faith.
2. Who loves his appearing?
1. Those who recognize that we are in a spiritual struggle (fought a good fight).
2. Recognize that the cause for which we fight is a noble cause (good fight).
1. Thus we do not seek our own things. Phil. 2:21 – For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.
2. Phil. 3:4-10 – although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
3. Acts 20:24 – But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.
3. Recognize the need to avoid to avoid wandering (finish the course).
1. Must assert self discipline to say on the appointed course until the finish line.
2. Prov. 4:25-27 – Let your eyes look directly ahead And let you gaze be fixed straight in front of you. 26 Watch the path of your feet And all your ways will be established. 27 Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your foot from evil.
3. Hebrews 12:1-2 – Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
4. Recognize the need to treasure time. Eph. 5:15-16 – Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
5. Recognize and be faithful to the sacred trust given to us regarding the word of God (kept the faith).
1. Eph. 4:3-6 – being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
2. 1 Tim. 6:20-21 – O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”— 21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.
3. 2 Tim. 1:14 – Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)