AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH July 11, 2010
A Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
II Timothy 4
CHARGE AT THE CROSS-ROADS
The Charge and the Challenge 4:1-5
Paul to Timothy, in the Second Epistle, is speaking from prison with vast conviction, enormous zeal and unambiguous zest. "I charge you ..., " he declares, "before God and the Lord Jesus Christ," avowing that it is He who "will judge the living and the dead," and stating WHEN, namely "at His appearing and His kingdom". What does the apostle, perhaps even there facing death (it was his last epistle), so charge ? It is what is vital, operationally necessary, a huge responsibility for young Timothy.
"Be ready to preach the word!" that is simple and clear. But is this to occur in some formal or even formalistic way only ? NOT at all. It is to be done "in season and out of season", for unlike certain fruit, this is ripe already, and its season is always. It is not some hollow sound, but far from this, it is to be with the object to CONVINCE, if necessary, to REBUKE (it is not a cough syrup spiritual aid work), EXHORT. It resembles in some ways a class for a professional examination: it is no kindness to be slack, to wink at error or evil, but mere irresponsibility.
Yet this is to be done "with all longsuffering and teaching." Just as it must be done, so it must be done in a continuance which does not fly off like a fly at the coming shadow of a hand (their mechanisms for this are amazingly brilliant and being studied for human adaptations in engineering), but suffers long. The subject may be scattery, emotional, abrupt, but the servant of the Lord has to continue as any good teacher should, except if there is manifest irregularity and folly, when rebuke may be necessary. Further, there must be a concerted effort to teach, to reach with reasoned presentation and aid to memory, with impact and thoughtful care.
Further, there is a mounting necessity for this. In due course, says the apostle, a certain pathology will press its evil wares. THEN (and it is of course now as in Matthew 24:24, II Peter 2), there will come a sort of fever, just as perhaps some cannot ABIDE certain food or drink. People will commonly then come to find sound doctrine detesable, odious, unthinkable, a base from which to vary. They "will not endure" this sound spiritual food. Instead, desire and not duty, enterprise in innovation while not caring to prize what Christ has done, and who He is who saves, these will flourish like weeds, aggressive, invasive, or like a mouse plague in the heart. They will want to hear something different: their very ears will 'itch' for error! It is rather like a bad case of spiritual adolescence, but these include old hands attached to hardened hearts.
They will be on the look-out. Of high value will be teachers who can co-operate in roaming from redemption by free grace (II Timothy 1:8ff., Titus 3:3-7), so that they will hire MANY such, heap them up, making multiple ripples in the waters of culture, like stones flung in by idle youth. Their task is to turn the ears of their hirers from the truth, make it even seem plausible if possible; and these will sing the lullaby of fables, dressed up as sound reality, such as secret plates not now visible, special works to compete with those of Christ's as the ground of salvation, or to add to them, special understanding as wise as fairy-stories, as if everything made itself and salvation itself could be made by thought, as if a grass-hopper were to stamp its foot and consider it possible a universe would arrive, itself first given, gratis! Fables for doctrine, that is to be the way of it; and it is.
THEREFORE, Timothy is charged to be watchful in his ministry. It is not a thing of rote, but of reality; and there is a war on, as people used sometimes in grave humour, to remind themselves during World War II. The gravity however surpassed the humour; for it was manifestly true, as here.
The Choice and the Crown 4:5-8
Paul for his part is close to his final run. He feels like a drink-offering being poured out, a free-will grant of his life for the glory of God: hence "my departure is at hand." For his part, "I have finished the race, I have kept the faith," and for him a "crown of righteousness awaits". Indeed, it is "laid up", kept and preserved like a sports trophy, available before its presentation. It is a crown of appreciation (Well done!), then of declaration (as in Romans 5:17) of a fact, and of appropriation (that he has taken the offer and so abiding, has been moved to victory - I John 5:1ff.), that of faith. Yet this is not only for star performers, as if most will fail who so run; but on the contrary, it is for "all who have loved His appearing."
The Greek is "have loved". It refers to those who as in I John 5, have the Son, for "he who has the Son has life, and "he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." It is for all who take Him by faith, seeing that the God of heaven has loved man on earth,
so much that He has sent His eternal Word in human form to APPEAR and SHOW His nature,
so that Jew or Gentile, we may KNOW who He is, what He wants and what He gives,
both in OFFERING eternal life personally (I John 1:1-4, 6:50ff., 5:24),
and in demonstrating the power of God,
not only in masses of extraordinary healings and in raising the dead,
but in His own bodily resurrection (Acts 2, I Cor. 15).
Have YOU loved His appearing ? Does it fill the void in your life ? Is there one recognised, is there need felt, is He invited to fill it, as one who knocks on the door ? for be sure that only if His grace has found you out, will you hear! But if it is your desire, then receive Him, for this is to love His appearing; for who would FAIL to do so whose yearning is for this, whose heart longs for it and whose burden is met only thereby! What a grace is that of God, that it is not of our works, of will or heart or mind, on which we rest, but on HIS, and these, they are already DONE (as in Hebrews 9:12- 10:14), ONCE in ONE offering ONCE made, when He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
The Collapse, the Company and the Christ 4:9-16
As often happens to the believer, Paul is deserted. Athanasius, after whom a famous Church creed is named, had to suffer in this way five times, before his true teaching was seen to put down the evil error of Arius. What is a wind tunnel for except to find defects; and what is opportunity for except to avoid these and show forth the true function! We are all who believe in the Lord's Christ (Luke 2:36), given scope, and sometimes we least suspect it, when it is there, facing us.
Therefore says Paul, be READY. He himself had been forsaken in his imperial trial in Rome, he reveals, one Demas, apparently finding that when it comes to potential death, it is time to change horses: Christianity was for service of man, not of God, or at least had to include this, and the man in question was himself! Dear old Dr Luke stayed with Paul however, and he called for Mark, who after all, was "profitable for the ministry", a case of growth in the one and acknowledgement in the other (cf. Acts 15:36ff.).
Noted is Alexander the coppersmith who used the trial to aggravate the danger to Paul, flaming with vehemence against him, and Paul had to stand alone in the appointed trial at this point. However the Lord himself, always with him and directing his ways (cf. Acts 13:1ff., 18:9ff.), stood with him, that invisible and empowering source. Well does one remember this in Sydney's trial, at a New Zealand Presbytery and Assembly, when having to stand, and enabled to triumph in the Lord, whatever the people did: in one case triumphing in the result, in the other being left by one vote, as the Presbytery charged on its way to evil ruin.
In Christ's company ( I Peter 1:5-8, Ephesians 1:11, John 10:9,27-28), we find firstly,
the ineffaceable presence, then,
the impenetrable protection and thirdly,
the important preservation:
that is provided in His life and truth.
Now comes the statement for the ages, of the apostle's conviction. The purpose of enabling Paul's ministry to the Gentiles to be completed (whether through his valour at this point and transmission to others, such as Timothy in good order, or through some remaining time allotted), being fulfilled, Paul can state that He "was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." He did not fail in speech, in demeanour, in reply, in testimony, in forthright and triumphant power, whatever the physical result. The Lord, he cried, who DID deliver him then, would so act for ever, for He "will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever, Amen!"
As Paul wrought and taught for heaven, so to heaven he goes: THIS is the environment and heredity which counts; for as born again, this is Paul's heredity (adopted as a child of God as in Ephesians 1:4), and this is through His being predestinated, which in faith, he attests for one as for all (II Timothy 1:8ff.). Again, with "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27), acting within, that is likewise his final and conclusive environment in which he lives and serves, one over-arching all others in power and impact. Blessed are those so placed, in whom Christ is so placed, for whom His written word is a decree from heaven, and from whom their calling comes. Yet it is He who calls to ALL, crying, "Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart."
While the flame of war may disguise it, as if rats should seek to destroy a farm, yet the peace of the place and its godly endeavours are so not removed: merely tested. Blessed the farm by Christ invested! From every evil work God will preserve. "The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be to you. Amen," Paul concludes.
Yet let us note this, that he had a strong request to make of Timothy to "get Mark and bring him with you." Things were to be brought. Thus we are reminded to be AGILE in meeting perceived godly need. We are to seek to be consistent in our love, reliable. Likewise we are to avoid deceptive foxes, wolves in sheep's clothing and spiritual frauds (4:14 cf. the "savage wolves" of Acts 20: 28-29). From Demas we learn to avoid worldliness which as a spirit can be the very Delilah of tragedy!
Indeed, Paul declares with the incandescence which being purified, burns for none other but the Lord Himself, "I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day." Thus you are prepared for action against you, by having as your barrister in charge, none other than the Lord Jesus Christ (I John 2:1ff.), who has given Himself that He might be "Lord both of the dead and the living" (I Corinthians 14:9); and that, it is indeed help in high places, for His name is above every name that can be named, as One indeed of the Trinity (Philippians 2). In Him, we do not deal with deceitful servants but with Him whose very name is Faithful (Revelation 19:11), yes Faithful and True.
In this world I have found few who are faithful and true, but this One has the very NAME of this, for His faithfulness is from ever to ever, forward, upward, backward, surrounding, and His truth impels all generations, and finding some, brings them to its lair of love, where creation first abounded. This creation has now stopped, except in one vital regard: that of the new-born, redeemed from among mankind, and brought at last to the knowledge of God, while the sunset lasts, and the lasts rays of this Age show themselves before the darkness of final revolt (Revelation 19), meets the light which exposes (II Thessalonians 1), and for that which has made of itself flammable material, burns.
The alternative does not ache, but blesses. It does not wilt, but arises like a Spring in full season (John 4, 7:37-38); its death is to folly, its crucifixion is of life astray, its strength is in its source, its delight in His majesty. While His light at last withers those who leave Him, ,like the sun where there is no shade, or where that is ignored, yet for His own, their shelter is in Him who made them, and their recourse lies in His redemption. Like the shadow of a Mighty Rock, He hides them. Thus theirr testimony with Paul is rather this: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain," as in Philippians 1:21, which with 1:20 provides such a bugle to arms, His spiritual arms, from the apostle Paul.
Be therefore armed with your faith in Him, and in Him rest; for the wrestling is only to reveal the rest, when the realisation is done (Hebrews 4).