He had fought the good fight . . . he had finished the race . . . he had kept the faith. His earthly life was soon to be over, but even this he viewed as but “being poured out as a drink offering.” Offering his body as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1) wasn’t just some eloquent oratory penned to inspire others to live for God, it’s how Paul did life. If Jesus had been the lamb offered upon the altar for the sin of the world (John 1:29), then Paul viewed his life as but the accompanying drink offering . . . vaporized over the sacrifice-accepting flames as a pleasing aroma to His King (Number 15:7).
But before his departure, Paul had a final charge for his son in the faith, Timothy. And what captures me this morning is what drives the passion behind this final and urgent exhortation. Two words. Two words that bookend Paul’s charge. Two words that provided the motivation for following in the footsteps of “the foremost of sinners” (1Tim. 1:15). Two words that can fuel a holy determination to fight the good fight, run the good race, and keep the good faith. Those two words?
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. . . . Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2Timothy 4:1-2, 8 ESV)
“What a friend we have in Jesus.” True. Love the hymn. In awe that we have been brought into such intimate relationship with Him who created all things and holds all things together. He is the friend of sinners. But what a powerful friend.
It is Jesus who will judge the living and the dead. Jesus who will bring in His kingdom. Jesus, the righteous arbiter, who will assess and reward the work of His people.
When? At His appearing.
He came once. The Scriptures prophesied of it . . . history attests to it. He’s coming again. He said He would and He will.
And this morning I’m reminded that I am to live in the shadow of the surety of His imminent return. Perhaps today! But if not, the charge is clear.
In light of His appearing . . . in preparation for the kingdom . . . because He is laying up crowns of righteousness for all who love His appearing and live in light of His appearing . . . followers of Jesus are to discharge the ministry He has given them. Timothy’s ministry was to preach the word and do the work of an evangelist (4:2, 5). Ours may be different. Each of us has been called . . . not only to salvation and the inheritance of heaven, but to service and the work of the kingdom.
And the great motivator for figuring out our ministry and doing it? His appearing.
Love His appearing, O you saints. Live in light of His coming. By His grace, seek first the kingdom of God. Because of grace, anticipate the crown.
To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2Timothy 4:18b ESV)