Paul, as he writes this epistle, is in prison and he knows that he could be executed at any moment. We can only imagine what thoughts were going through his head as he awaited his imminent death. However, we do have some concrete ideas because he recorded them in his epistle. He was obviously thinking about his present precarious situation, but he was also reflecting on his past life and ministry. His mind also went to the future as he thought about the reward he would receive from the Lord when he entered into heaven. We look at what he recorded.
Paul’s Thoughts About His PRESENT Situation. Verse 6
6 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. “ It seems that Paul was looking at his imminent death as being a sacrifice of his life to God. He was reminded of the drink offering in Numbers 28 in which two lambs were sacrificed each day as an offering to God. When the first lamb was slain in the morning there was also a drink offering offered to God, ”Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb. In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the LORD.” Numbers 28:7. Paul saw his imminent death as being like a drink offering which was acceptable to God.
Paul also likened his death to being a “departure” where the word used is
[analysis; ἀνάλυσις] which can mean being unloosed from that which presently holds it, such as a ship being loosed from its moorings. His sacrificial death would be followed by a departure into a new life with God.
Paul’s Thoughts About His PAST. Verse 7
Paul’s mind also went back to the past, to his life and ministry. It is interesting how Paul described his previous ministry. He uses 3 verbs in the perfect tense to do so. The perfect tense is used to describe a past completed act with a present abiding result. This is how Paul expressed his life and ministry in verse 7.
“I have fought the good fight”, where both ‘fought” and “fight” have the same origin. “Fought” is the perfect tense of the verb [agōnizomai; ἀγωνίζομα] and “fight” is the noun [agōn; ἀγών ] meaning a conflict, a contest, a fight or a race. Paul had finished the contest in which he was involved, which he describes elsewhere as the fight of fight, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12.
“I have finished the race.” “Finished” is the perfect tense of [teleō; τελέω] meaning to complete. Paul’s presence in prison meant that his ministry had perhaps come to an end. He was still in the race, though physically restricted.
“I have kept the faith.“ “Kept,” also in the perfect tense indicated that Paul had kept and was still keeping the faith. He had been faithful throughout his ministry.
What a great way for any servant of God to sum up their ministry as their life draws to a close!
Paul’s Thoughts About His FUTURE. Verse 8
8 “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.” There is coming a “day” when Christ returns when He will reward His followers. Paul expects to receive the crown of righteousness which will be awarded to all those who loved His appearing. “Appearing” seems to be a reference to His appearing at His first coming. All those who trusted in Jesus for salvation will be accepted by God as righteous in His sight and will live with Him forever.
Paul’s Thoughts About GOD’S FAITHFULNESS. Verse 16-18
Paul’s thoughts then centre on God Himself. It is true that at Paul’s first trial, he was deserted by his friends, “At my first defence no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! “ 16. But the Lord did not desert him, “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. “ 17. God overruled so that Paul was able to exercise his ministry especially as the apostle to the Gentiles. He saw that, as being “rescued from the lion’s mouth.” Many times during his ministry Paul had faced death but God had rescued him each time.
But would he ever be free again? Paul had an answer for that as well, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” 18. Humans might be plotting to have Paul killed [an evil deed] but God would rescue him again. This time to take him safely into His heavenly kingdom. That was Paul’s confidence during his final days in prison.
Samuel Johnson once wrote what many others have observed, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” [Samuel Johnson, The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. Vol 3].
We are grateful to God that St Paul was able to express his thoughts in this epistle to Timothy shortly before his death. We see how a seasoned warrior for God was able to reflect on his present circumstances, to recall his past and to express his confidence in God for the future.
It is encouraging for those of us who are nearing the end of our lives to read these words in this passage. Like St Paul we can think about our present situations in which we know the Lord’s goodness and can look back at His grace being poured out on us throughout our Christian experience. How many were the answers we saw to our prayers. How often did His presence in difficult times lighten our load and enable us to carry on serving Him. How often did His love envelop us through the love of fellow believers. How often did we preach beseeching the Lord to open our hearers’ ears to understand the gospel and to accept the Christ of the gospel into their lives. And then to witness with joy, their growing in His grace and love.
And the future? That is in the Lord’s hands! But we know as St Paul wrote in our passage, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” No wonder St Paul could say, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21.
Posted on Saturday 27 August 2022.