Well Done: Stewarding the Work of the Kingdom

Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy who was his spiritual son and co-laborer in the work of the kingdom. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses nine through twenty-two of the fourth chapter. When we come to this final portion of this second epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy we find the conclusion of what would not only be the second epistle to this young bishop of the Ephesian church, but also the final epistle and final writing of the apostle Paul. If the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts marks the final words and farewell to the Ephesian elders knowing they would never see his face again, then this letter—together and along with the words contained therein—are essentially a final farewell. Undoubtedly when writing the words which are contained within this epistle the apostle Paul knew and understood that his time on the earth had drawn to a close and he was nearing that money when he would once and for all meet the One who had encountered him all those years earlier on the road to Damascus. As you read the words which the apostle Paul writes in this final epistle you notice the language of finality and conclusion—particularly and especially when you read his words declaring that he has fought a good fight and has finished his course. You cannot read the words of the apostle Paul in this particular epistle and not be keenly and acutely aware of the reality that the apostle Paul knew that he was about to exit this world, go the way of his fathers, and most importantly, meet the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. The time of the departure for the apostle Paul had drawn to a close, and he knew that he would soon be no more for this world, and would pass from the realm of time and space into eternity.

If you continue reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in this epistle, and especially that which doesn’t have a chapter or verse number next to it, you will find that this letter was written by the apostle Paul while he was in prison in Rome. This is actually a far cry from that which we read in the first epistle, for the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy was written from Laodicea. In each cases the apostle Paul found himself in bonds and chains for the sake and preaching of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. The conclusion of this particular epistle brings us face to face with the reality that the apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome while he waited trial and audience with Nero a second time. It’s actually quite interesting to consider the fact that the apostle Paul knew and understood that the time of his departure from this earth was at hand, and that he would soon pass through the veil and curtain where he would encounter the Lord Jesus Christ. I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for the apostle Paul to know that he was about to pass from the realm of time and space and enter the realm of the eternal. When the apostle Paul came to the end of his life he felt and believed so deeply within his heart that he had indeed and had in fact fought the good fight, and had indeed finished the course. This language is the same language which is and was found in the third chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the philippian saints. You will recall in this particular chapter within this epistle the apostle Paul wrote and spoke of pressing forward toward the mark of the prize of the high calling which was in Christ Jesus. For the apostle Paul there was never any means of desire to retreat and to turn back or abandon his faith and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. For the apostle Paul, the words “onward Christian soldier” were not only his anthem, but also his credo and manifesto in the earth, for the apostle Paul spent the latter part of his life living for something and Someone who was higher and greater than himself.

I have to admit that I absolutely love this final epistle which was written by the apostle Paul, for with this particular epistle the apostle Paul was issuing his final words and his final goodbye to Timothy who was his spiritual son in the faith. It is actually quite amazing and quite astounding that when the apostle Paul came to the end of his life he chose to write one final letter—a letter, however, that was not written unto a church, but a letter that was written unto a specific person and individual. When the apostle Paul was preparing to enter into the realm of eternity he felt it absolutely necessary and imperative to write a final, personal and intimate letter unto that one who was perhaps the closest to him than anyone else. Oh, what a tremendous journey and progression the apostle Paul and Timothy has been on since that first time the two encountered each other in Lystra and Derbe. Throughout the years Timothy has become well acquainted with the doctrine, the manner of life, the faith, the confidence, and the gospel of the apostle Paul. For a number of years Timothy had perhaps experienced the greatest connection, the greatest communion, the greatest intimacy, the greatest friendship and relationship with the apostle Paul than anyone else. When the apostle Paul wrote these final words he was writing unto Timothy who was ordained and appointed as the first bishop of the Ephesian church and congregation. This church which the apostle Paul helped establish and found would now be led by young Timothy after having been appointed by the apostle Paul and the elders of the church itself. I can’t imagine what it was like for young Timothy to be ordained and appointed by the apostle Paul as the first bishop of the church of the Ephesians knowing this was one of the churches the apostle Paul himself helped establish and found. When the apostle Paul wrote these final words unto Timothy, they were in all reality final words of instruction, and essentially one final voice into young Timothy’s life before the apostle Paul would be no more within this earth.

In order to understand the weight and significance of that which is found in the final verses—not only of this chapter, but of the epistle itself—it’s absolutely necessary to pay close attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote in verses six through eight of this chapter concerning his departure from the earth. What’s more, is that we must understand that which he wrote in these particular verses to be directly linked and connected to the words which he wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi in the third chapter of the epistle which was sent unto them. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in this final chapter beginning with the sixth verse: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8). With these words the apostle Paul not only declares his readiness to finally be poured out as a drink offering unto the Lord within the earth, but he also declared unto Timothy that the time of his departure is at hand. The apostle Paul knew that the time for his departure from this earth was at hand, and that he was about to leave this world and enter into the next. What’s more, is the apostle Paul would go on to declare unto Timothy that he had indeed and had in fact fought the good fight, and had indeed finished his course. What’s more, is the apostle Paul would go on to declare unto Timothy that he had kept the faith. In addition to fighting a good fight, and in addition to finishing his course, he also kept the faith and did not deny or forsake that faith. Because the apostle Paul fought a good fight, because the apostle Paul finished the course which was before him, and because he kept the faith, he knew there was laid up for him a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge would give him on that day. In all reality, it is safe to say the apostle Paul lived for those words which Jesus Himself spoke of and declared while He yet walked and talked upon this earth.

I can’t help but be reminded of the parable which Jesus told His disciples when He proceeded to explain to them the signs concerning the Last Days and the end times. If you turn and direct your attention to the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew—particularly and especially beginning with the fourteenth verse of this chapter thou will find Jesus speaking in a single parable which speaks directly to the realm of responsibility and stewardship here upon the earth. As you come to the fourteenth verse of the twenty-fifth chapter of the gospel according to Matthew you will find a powerful parable and illustration concerning the demand for faithfulness and responsibility with that which we have been entrusted with. This particular parable was one that was directly intended to bring the disciples face to face with the reality of carrying out the work of the master while he was away and unable to carry out the work himself. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand about this particular parable, it’s that it was designed and intended to bring the disciples face to face with the tremendous responsibility that lie before them in His absence. What’s more, is that when you read the New Testament book of Acts you will find that this entire book is essentially the words which Jesus Christ spoke in a parable unto His disciples being fleshed out. The entire book of Acts is centered upon the reality of the disciples wanting to continue and carry out the work and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ having been empowered and accompanied by the very Spirit of Christ within the earth. We must recognize and understand the fact that the entire New Testament book of Acts is a powerful description of the saints, the servants, and the body of Christ continuing and carrying out the work of the Master while He indeed went away on a long journey. We would like to read the book of Acts and get caught up in all the signs, all the wonders, and all the miracles, and yet we fail to understand that the book of Acts is essentially a powerful book and account of accountability and stewardship. If the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John provided us with the description of the life, the ministry and the work of Jesus Christ upon the earth, then the book of Acts provides us with a description of that same work and ministry being carried out by the saints and followers of Jesus Christ in His absence. Consider if you will the words of this parable, which Jesus spoke unto His disciples immediately after describing the landscape and atmosphere of those last days:

“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and his his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:14-30).

The words which we find in this particular chapter of the gospel according to Matthew describes in parable form the journey which Jesus Christ was about to take as He would return to His Father. Upon His departure, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that even though He departed and returned unto His Father who was in heaven, He did not do so without equipping and preparing us for the work and responsibility which lie before and ahead of us. In chapters fourteen through sixteen of the New Testament gospel of John we find that in His absence He would send us the promise of the Father, which was in fact the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s worth noting and understanding that in spite of the fact that Jesus Christ would no longer be present within and upon the earth, the work of the ministry which He began on the earth must be carried out and continued. In fact, there were specific instructions Jesus gave His disciples concerning the work which must continue in spite of His absence. The first is found in the final three verses of the twenty-eighth and final chapter of the New Testament gospel according to Matthew. Consider if you will the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples within these final few verses: “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped Him: but som doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:16-20). There in the place where they were first appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ these eleven disciples were essentially re-commissioned and re-appointed by the Lord to continue and carry out the work which He began within and upon the earth. What’s more, is that they were to take the work further than even He did while on the earth, for unto them was given instruction and command to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. For the disciples and apostles, they were given very specific instruction to continue and carry out the work of the ministry of the kingdom which was first introduced by Jesus Christ, and which would be continued and carried out by them within the earth.

If you turn and direct your attention to the twenty-fourth and final chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find additional commentary of Jesus’ final words spoken unto His disciples prior to His departure. Prior to His death and crucifixion Jesus warned, cautioned and prepared His disciples for such an event, but now we find Him—not preparing His disciples for His death, nor even for His resurrection, but for His departure from the earth, and His return to the right hand of His Father who was in heaven. As you begin reading with and from the forty-fourth verse of the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find the following account of Jesus speaking and interacting with His disciples: “And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:44-49). With these words Jesus emphatically declared unto His disciples that they were indeed witnesses of all those things which they saw and heard while He walked upon the earth, and that that witness would be partnered together with the promise of the Father which would come upon them. What’s more, is that they were given very specific instruction to wait in the city of Jerusalem until they be endued with power from on high. What I so love about this reality is that even though the work of the ministry of the kingdom which began with Christ needed to continued and be carried out, it would not do so without and apart from the presence and power of the Holy Spirit—the promise of the Father, which Jesus would send in His name. The work must continue—despite the fact that He would depart from this earth and return unto His Father who was in heaven. How absolutely wonderful and incredible it is to consider the fact that even though Jesus would depart from this earth and return unto His Father who was in heaven, the work which He began would continue through the lives of His disciples, and the early church. It is both necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that this work would not only be continued and carried out by His disciples and apostles, but also by the body of Christ, which was the church itself.

As you come to the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find additional commentary concerning Jesus’ final moments with His disciples and followers before He ascended to the right hand of His Father who was in heaven. In fact, beginning with the first verse of the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find the beloved physician Luke writing unto Theophilus concerning all those things which Jesus began to do and teach, but even more than this, of the extension of that ministry through the early church as witnessed by the apostles, by Stephen, and by others whom the Lord used in a mighty and powerful way. Consider if you will the words which Luke wrote in the first chapter of this second accounting of the work of the ministry of the kingdom—one that would be continued and carried out by His disciples and the body of Christ upon the earth:

“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen: to whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

The entire New Testament book of Acts is essentially a continuation of that which we find in the four gospels, and is essentially a sequel to the previous treatise which Luke wrote unto Theophilus concerning that which Jesus Christ did. If the four gospels were an account of the life and ministry which Jesus carried out and performed while upon the earth, then the New Testament book of Acts was an account of the work which Jesus began being carried out and continued by His disciples and apostles. On the day of Pentecost ten days after Jesus ascended unto the right hand of His Father in heaven, the promise of the Father—the Holy Ghost—was sent unto and upon all those who were present within the upper room, and the church was born and established in the earth. What we find and what we read in the rest of this New Testament book are words which perfectly and powerful describe that which Jesus spoke unto His disciples in parable concerning the master which went away on a long journey, but prior to his departure gave unto each of his servants according to their own unique and individual ability. What we find in the account of the first two servants who both heard those words “Well done, good and faithful servant” is a powerful commentary concerning that which the apostles, that which the early church strove to position themselves to hear when they encountered and met the Lord Jesus Christ on that day when they stand before Him. If we are being honest, that which should govern the entire course of our lives should be that one single moment in eternity when we stand before the Son of God seek to hear those tremendous words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” In all reality, these words were that for which the apostle Paul built the entire latter part of his life after encountering Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. That encounter on the road to Damascus forever transformed and radically shaped his life, and from that moment on he would live his life for one single purpose—to please the Master, and to faithfully continue and carry out the work which was set before Him. When you come to the final epistle of the apostle Paul you will find him emphatically declaring unto Timothy who he had fought a good fight, how he had finished his course, and how he had kept the faith. I have written how these words are built upon those words which he wrote unto the Philippian congregation in the third chapter, but I am also convinced that these words are directly connected to those which the author of the epistle of the Hebrews wrote in the twelfth chapter of that particular epistle. Consider first, if you will, the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi, and then those words which the author of the epistle of Hebrews wrote unto their audience:

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made comfortable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:7-16).

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

In the third chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Philippian congregation we find the apostle Paul speaking of pressing toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, while unto the Hebrews we find this particular author writing concerning running with patience the race that is set before us as we look unto Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. These words are absolutely incredible to consider, for when we come to the end of the life of the apostle Paul we find him emphatically declaring how he had fought a good fight, how he had finished his course, and how he kept the faith. The apostle Paul knew that there was laid up for him a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge would give him at that day. What’s more, is that this crown of righteousness would be available to all those who love His appearing and continued and carried out His work within and upon the earth. This final epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy would be parting words as he prepared for his life to come to an end, and as he prepared to enter into eternity and see the One whom he had believed and preached for so many years. I can’t help but wonder the tremendous anticipation and expectation that must have filled the heart of the apostle, for although he knew that he would undoubtedly die at the hands of sinners, he would encounter Jesus who was the Christ—this same Jesus who stood with Him and strengthened Him that He would not grow weary or lose heart. In fact, even in these final verses the apostle Paul wrote how at his first answer no man stood with him, but all men forsook him. With that being said, however, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that even though all men forsook him, the Lord stood with him, and strengthened him, in order that by him the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul would go on to declare that he himself was delivered out of the mouth of the lion, and that the Lord was continually there to strengthen and uphold him within and throughout the entire course of his life and ministry. Oh, it is absolutely imperative that we recognize and pay close attention to this, for the apostle Paul was not only delivered out of the mouth of the lion, but the apostle Paul believed the Lord would deliver him out of every evil work, and would preserve him unto his heavenly kingdom. With these final words the apostle Paul prepared to depart from this world and to pass on to the realm of eternity where he would meet and encounter that one who had stood with him throughout the various trials he experienced, and that one who continually strengthened him. Oh that we would read these words and would understand that which the apostle Paul sought to convey to this young protégé at Ephesus.

With these final fourteen verses the writings of the apostle Paul draw to a close—this, despite the fact that there are still two epistles left in the New Testament which were also written by him. When he came to the end of his life the apostle Paul sought to deliver final parting words of instruction unto Timothy, as well as words of warning and caution. I am convinced that with both of these epistles the apostle Paul sought to encourage this young bishop in the work of the ministry, as well as to prepare him for that which was to come in the Last Days. The apostle Paul knew that his time here on the earth had drawn to a close, and although there were those times men would forsake him, the Lord continually stood with and continually stood by Him to strengthen and uphold him. When he came to the end of his life he recounted and remembered the faithfulness of the Lord in his life, and how the Lord had never abandoned, neglected or forsaken him. The apostle Paul sought to provide tremendous encouragement to this young bishop knowing the struggles and conflict he had and would experience in that ministry. With this final epistle we are brought face to face with the departing words of the apostle as he sought to encourage the next generation in the work is the ministry which was before then in the earth. These words should bring us face to face with the reality of the fact that even with departures, the work of the ministry and of the kingdom must still go on within the earth and must be carried out by faithful servants of the living God.

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