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: In Season and Out of Season
Yesterday, we looked at what Timothy was to do, which was to preach the gospel. Today, we consider how Timothy should preach the gospel.
Jesus had told His disciples that they were going to receive power and that after they had received it they were going to be His witnesses. They were going to begin at Jerusalem, and then they were going to go out from there into all the known world. This is what happened as the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and Peter preached in Jerusalem.
It is interesting to notice what Peter had to say about Jesus. This part of the sermon begins at verse 22, after he has cited the text about Pentecost, and it continues to nearly the end. What is missing in these words, that we might have expected Peter as one who had accompanied Jesus through the three years of his active earthly ministry to have included, is Christ’s teachings. We might have expected Peter to have said, “The Lord Jesus Christ taught this or that or this other thing.” But Peter does not do it. He does not include the teachings.
It is sometimes helpful to compare parallel accounts of Bible stories. This is because parallel accounts are generally not quite identical, and the variations usually throw light on one another or on the meaning of the passage in which each occurs. That is the case with the stories of Paul’s conversion. There are three of these accounts in Acts—in chapters 9, 22 and 26—and Luke, the author, makes different points in each one.
The new birth is a lot like physical birth, and physical birth is used in the Bible as an illustration of what the new birth is like. What happens in physical birth? First of all, new life is created within the womb of the mother. In physical terms, there is a combination of the sperm and the egg. Until that happens there is no life. But once that union takes place, life begins to grow. It grows for nine months. Then the moment of birth comes, the baby cries, and everyone is pleased with the cry because it is a sign of a healthy baby. It is the same spiritually.
Knowledge of spiritual things is based upon the identity of Jesus Christ as God. Why? Because if Jesus is the Son of God, then Jesus is God. God does not err; if Jesus is God, Jesus does not err. Everything Jesus tells us can be trusted. If He tells us God is a certain kind of God, we can believe it because he is God Himself and speaks truthfully. If He tells us, as He does, that the Bible can be trusted—that it comes from God, that heaven and earth will pass away but the Word of God, being divine in nature, will never pass away—then we can trust the Bible.
When Paul had returned from his time in Arabia, “the Jews conspired to kill him” (v. 23). He needed to leave the city, but his enemies were keeping a twenty-four-hour watch on the gates and a normal exit was impossible. Fortunately, the disciples in Damascus were resourceful. They knew of a place—perhaps it was a window in the home of one of them—where there was an opening in the wall. They put Saul in a basket and lowered him down. In this way he escaped by night and so foiled this first plot against his life.
God is never in a hurry. His ways are always perfect. So do not give up. Keep your eyes on the Lord. Learn all you can. And while you are waiting and learning, do not forget that Jesus is still the Son of God and the Messiah. Make sure you tell that to others.
If these men had trouble in their work, we should not be too shocked if we have trouble too. We sometimes talk as if everything in the Christian’s life should go smoothly, that nothing bad should enter. We expect total and unmitigated blessings. But Jesus did not promise us smooth sailing as His disciples. He promised suffering.
Paul’s sermon has an introduction, four main points, and a conclusion. All good sermons have an introduction—some long, some short. This sermon has a brief introduction. It might be the case that Paul actually gave a much longer speech with a longer introduction and that Luke is merely summarizing here. But we have the drift of it.
I said earlier that Paul’s sermon is not only like that of Stephen before the Sanhedrin in its review of Old Testament history. It is also like that of Peter at Pentecost in its citation of Old Testament texts. This is what Paul does in the third part of the sermon, beginning in verse 32.
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