Sermon: The Apostle’s Last Words
Scripture: 2 Timothy 4:1-22
In this week’s study, we consider Paul’s final words to Timothy, and learn valuable lessons for our own life and ministry.
Theme: Faithful to the End
As we consider Paul’s circumstances at this point in his life, we can see a notable contrast between what we find here and what we sometimes observed earlier when Paul was surrounded by his friends. I think of Acts 19, where we are told that some of Paul’s friends were chief men in the province of Asia. But then you come to this last chapter of 2 Timothy, and Paul is no longer moving about freely with his co-laborers in the gospel. And even though Paul’s situation is very different from those great days of ministry that were now gone and would not be repeated, he rejoices in the fact that by the grace of God he has persevered in the work the Lord Jesus Christ appointed him to do. No matter how the world lives, no matter what it thinks about us as Christians, God will see our lives as a success if we follow the example of Paul in focusing on what really is the most important thing, and then acting upon it no matter the cost. We need to resist every temptation to water down the gospel message, or to alter it to fit the changing fads of the culture around us. Rather, we need to guard the gospel and make it known to others, because only that will lead to the salvation of those to whom we preach.
In his own study of these verses, Harry Ironside tells of a train wreck that had happened a number of years earlier in his ministry. A train that was carrying schoolchildren and others had stopped at a particular part of a track because of damage to the track ahead. Another train was coming, so they sent a flagman back to wave the approaching train behind them. The man went some distance down the track and he waved his flag, but the train went right through the warning flag and crashed into the parked train. Many people were killed.
The engineer of the speeding train survived because he had jumped off the train at the last minute before the crash. They had a trial, and the engineer was charged with the dereliction of his duty. The question was asked whether he had seen the flagman waving the flag to stop the engineer’s train. The engineer answered that he had seen the man waving the flag, but he said that it was a yellow flag, which is the color that means to keep going. But the flagman testified that it was not a yellow flag he had been waving, but a red one, which means that the train was to stop. So the facts of the accident were established, except the important matter of the color of the flag. Their next step was to actually look at the flag that was used. When they did so, everyone understood what had happened, and the problem of the color of the flag was quickly resolved. The flag had been red, but it had been lying around in the sun, which bleached it yellow.
A lot of people you know are going around with a bleached gospel today that’s not saving anybody. What we need is a gospel that is blood red. We need the gospel—the only gospel—that finds its saving power in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who died for our sins upon the cross, rose again, and who is coming to judge the quick and the dead. May God give you grace to hold that gospel up before a world that desperately needs it. May God bless your efforts according to his own wisdom, and his own perfect plan, and his grace through Jesus Christ.
Describe the contrast that is mentioned between earlier days of Paul’s ministry and his situation at this moment as he is writing to Timothy.
Dr. Boice refers to people who have a “bleached gospel.” What does he mean by that?
Application: How can you make an impact in the lives of other Christians as they serve the Lord, just as Paul did for Timothy?