After Jesus Christ I admire the Apostle Paul more than any other man. In fact I love him. I am sometimes moved to tears by the agonies of his life. I soar when he skywrites the glories of Christ. One time I spent six years trying to understand 10 of his sentences.
This morning (Monday) I have lingered long over some magnificent and heart-breaking words. He is in custody in Rome. So far as we know he was not released. His last letter comes to an end like this (2 Timothy 4:16-18):
At my first defense no one took my part; all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Consider and be astounded!
1. He is deserted. An old man. A loyal servant. In a foreign city, far from home. Surrounded by enemies. In danger of death. Why?
2. Answer: So he could write this precious sentence for our souls: “But the Lord stood by me!” O how I love those words! When you are deserted by close friends, do you cry out against God? Is your God really the people in your life?
Or do you take courage in this magnificent truth: “I will be with you to the end of the age!”? Do you strengthen your heart with his inexorable oath: “I will never leave you nor forsake you!”? Then let us say, “The Lord stood by me!”
3. Question: What was threatened in verse 18? Answer: that Paul might not attain the Lord's heavenly kingdom! “The Lord will . . . save me for his heavenly kingdom.”
Question: How was Paul's attaining the heavenly kingdom threatened? Answer: “Evil work.” “The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and save me for his heavenly kingdom.”
Question: How could an evil work threaten Paul's attaining the heavenly kingdom? Answer: by tempting him to forsake his allegiance to Christ through disobedience.
Question: Was this temptation the “lion's mouth” from which he was rescued? Answer: Yes. “Your adversary the devil prowls like the roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him firm in your faith.”
Question: So who gets the glory that Paul did not yield to this temptation but endured to the end in faith and obedience? Answer: “To him [the Lord] be glory for ever and ever.”
Question: Why? Wasn't it Paul who stood firm? Answer: “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength!”