Truth for the Last Days.

2 Timothy 2:15-26.

(Revised notes of an address.)

In this second epistle to Timothy, the Apostle Paul, at the beginning of chapter 3, warns us of the "difficult times" of the "last days," but at the commencement of the epistle he calls our attention to the "promise of life, the life which is in Christ Jesus." If the church breaks down, and what is committed to men falls into ruin in their hands, every thing that belongs to God is safe in the hands of Christ Jesus. The promise of life is in Him, and God's purpose is in Him, as is also the grace that God has given to us.

This heavenly grace, given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages of time, has been made manifest by the appearance of the Lord Jesus in this world, and has been ministered to us through the great work accomplished on the cross. Having entered into death's dark domain, He came out triumphant in resurrection, having annulled death, and now He has "brought to light life and incorruptibility by the glad tidings" (2 Tim. 1:10). This gives us to see the condition in which the saints will soon be in heavenly glory with Christ, in a scene where there will be nothing connected with man after the flesh. Now we bear the features of Adam; all these will go when Christ comes. How blessed it is to know that the triumph of God will be manifested in this age, just before we are taken up to be with Christ for ever; those who have already passed through death will be raised, and united with those who are alive and changed, and together in company with Christ all shall enter with Him the Father's House for evermore.

The truth that Paul was called to minister, Timothy, as strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, was to entrust to faithful men, such as were competent to instruct others also. This precious legacy of truth has come down to us. For long centuries, the special truths committed to Paul were unknown to the church, but last century, in the goodness of God, they were again brought before the saints of God, so that they might walk in the light of them until the end.

Occupation with Paul's doctrine would involve Timothy in conflict, so that he is exhorted to take his share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Paul had endured much in suffering for the testimony the Lord had given him, and even now, while writing, was in prison and about to suffer martyrdom for Christ's sake. But he endured all for the "sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Tim. 2:10). Are we prepared to suffer for the maintenance of the truth of God? It is not likely that we shall be called to suffer unto bonds, as Paul suffered, or as Timothy suffered; but we may be called upon to suffer the loss of friendships, and to be evil spoken of, if we really value, and are prepared to stand for the truth.

When we come to the first verse read, we have "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." The Apostle exhorts Timothy in that which he practised himself as witnessed in his epistles, and in the discourses recorded for us in the Acts. If the word of God is not cut in a straight line there will be confusion, and the saints will be led astray. All around in Christendom we see the truth of God undermined, nor is there the fear of God as in earlier days.

Departure from sound doctrine leads to teachings that the Apostle calls "profane vain babblings," with which is connected "greater impiety." How very necessary sound teaching is if we would live godly lives. These two things are inseparably bound together. The names of two prominent teachers of false doctrine are given by the Apostle, as is also the special doctrine that marked their departure from the truth. They did not deny the doctrine of the resurrection, but in saying that it had taken place already they falsified the heavenly character of Christianity, and overthrew the faith of some.

Amidst all the present departure from the truth how blessed for us are the words, "Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure." This foundation is the settled purpose of God, what was in God's mind before time began; and all is being worked out through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Of old it had been written, "As I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand" (Isaiah 14:24). What God has purposed for the pleasure of His heart and for the glory of Christ will assuredly be accomplished; nothing will turn Him from it, it standeth sure. God's purpose is unfolded for us through Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians.

And how blessed it is that it can be said, "The Lord knoweth them that are His." No matter how feeble in faith the believer may be, he is known to the Lord. We ought to know all the true believers that we meet, but in the mixed conditions that prevail today it is sometimes difficult to know whether a person is a real believer or not. But the Lord knows all His own, no matter where they are. He knows "The rest (remnant) in Thyatira," who are true to Him, although surrounded by false doctrines and idolatry; He knows the "Few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments," and delights to commend them, saying, "They shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy."

If the Lord knows His own, there is an obligation on their part to walk in consistency with the holiness of His Name; therefore we read, "Let every one who names the Name of the Lord withdraw from iniquity." How could any one who valued the Name of the Lord go on with such men as Hymenaeus and Philetus, or with such as held their pernicious teachings? To name the Name of the Lord is to profess fidelity to Him, and true fidelity is shown by a walk and actions consistent with our profession.

In the first epistle to Timothy the Apostle speaks to his son in the faith of "The house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:15). Now he speaks of "A great house" with "not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour" (2 Tim. 3:20). How very solemn it is that God's house should be likened to a great house of this description! There are those who profess the Name of Christ, but they are earthly-minded, and do not truly know Christ as Saviour; they are vessels to dishonour. "If a man therefore purge himself from these he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 Tim. 3:21). Is it not blessed that every one who in this way answers to the mind of the Lord is a vessel to honour? Such are set apart to be for the service of the Lord in any way He pleases; vessels in which the life of the Lord Jesus can be displayed by the Holy Spirit for God's pleasure.

Having separated from the vessels of dishonour, we are to "Flee also youthful lusts" and "to follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Tim. 3:22). We have to be constantly in self-judgment, refusing all that would naturally attract our poor hearts, and we are to be marked by practical righteousness, and to pursue this and the other things spoken of, with those who truly call upon the Lord; those who are real Christians, and seek to be for His pleasure and glory amidst the awful conditions portrayed in this epistle.

On every hand today we find "Foolish and unlearned questions" which "gender strifes," and these have to be avoided (2 Tim. 3:23). Servants of the Lord are not to strive as worldly men do; they are to be like Christ, "Gentle unto all;" and are to be marked by patience and are to be "apt to teach." With the word of God the true servant meets all who are opposed, and also all in need of divine instruction. Some are slow to learn, hence the need of patience in teaching. How much we need to be marked by the Spirit of Christ in all that we do in service for the Lord. This is the Spirit that marked His devoted servant Paul, and Paul desires that Timothy should be like him in this way.

When we find men opposing the truth of God, let us ever remember that it does not lie in our power to put them right. God may be pleased to use us for their blessing, but it is God Who gives them repentance. We are to endeavour to instruct such from the word of God in the spirit of meekness, and to count upon God to use the word spoken. Those who oppose have been ensnared by Satan, little though they realise it, but God can use His word, spoken in meekness, to recover them, so that they may be no longer for Satan, but for the will of God.

No. 2.

2 Timothy 3:10-17; 2 Timothy 4:1-8, 16, 18.

At the beginning of chapter 3 the Apostle Paul forewarns Timothy, and ourselves, of the difficult times that lay ahead; men would be lovers of their own selves, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. They would have the form of godliness, which shows that the Apostle is speaking of the religious world. Such would deny the power of true piety, and as natural men would only have themselves before them, being occupied with lust and pleasure. From such, true believers were to turn away, and to walk in the path of God's will. Who can doubt that we are now in the days spoken of in this solemn Scripture? We are living in the closing days of the church's sojourn on earth, and the Lord is about to come.

In 2 Tim. 3:10 the beloved Apostle points out what would preserve us in these last days. To him had been given a wonderful revelation of the glory of the Person of the Son of God, and of the counsels and purpose of God, and this he had been called to minister; and it is the knowledge of this ministry that will keep us in the mind of God until the end. Therefore Paul says to Timothy, "Thou hast fully known my doctrine." Timothy had been linked up very early in life with the Apostle, and in close association with him was thoroughly acquainted with the whole range of the Apostle's teaching. We cannot do without Paul's doctrine if we would be loyal to Christ. John was privileged to write of the revelation of the Father in the Person of the Son, what came out in the Son here upon earth; but Paul's teaching was in relation to the Son of God in His present place at God's right hand, and in regard to the place He will have in the coming day, according to the mystery of God's will.

Timothy was also acquainted with Paul's manner of life which was in keeping with the truth he ministered; what he said and did was the verification of his ministry. He walked in the light of the judgment seat of Christ, exercising himself always so as to have a good conscience before God and men. His purpose was to go right on to the end with the ministry that God had committed to him; his eye resting on the Son of God in heaven, for he lived by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved him, and gave Himself for him. Longsuffering, love and endurance had marked him in all the persecutions and sufferings he had been subjected to, and much of this Timothy had seen. No one can read 2nd Corinthians 11 without feeling the truth of what is written here. Paul could not have endured all these privations and sufferings without the help of Christ; it was the Lord Who had delivered him out of all, preserving him in His great power and mercy.

All who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus will have to pass through something of what Paul endured. Persecution today may take a different form; it may be refined, and without physical violence, and may come from sources least expected, but it will be none the less real. There is the danger today of being surprised at opposition and persecution for the truth's sake; we need to keep in mind the word of Peter, "Beloved take not (as) strange the fire (of persecution) which has taken place amongst you for (your) trial, as if a strange thing was happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12). The Apostle experienced the deliverance of the Lord throughout his long life of devoted service, and those who live godly in Christ Jesus can also count upon the Lord's deliverance. To live in the life of Christ, as manifesting His features, and as counting upon His grace will mean that we do not rely upon anything of the flesh for our protection or deliverance. As He was dependent upon the Father while here below, so we shall rely upon Him.

We cannot look for improvement in the last days, for the word before us is, "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Tim. 3:13). This is not in heathendom, but in Christendom, and especially among those who profess to be religious. The evil spoken of is not the gross immorality that marked many of the clergy before the reformation, but deception. Souls are being deceived with fair words; they are lulled into a false sense of security with the form of piety that denies its power. Those who thus deceive are themselves deceived, being the tools of Satan.

The divine safeguard against this deception for the saint of God is what Paul writes, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them" (2 Tim. 3:14). Timothy was to go on in the great truths he had learned from Paul. He had learned Paul's doctrine, and had been assured of its divine character, knowing Paul as a true servant of the Lord. We have Paul's doctrine on the page of inspiration, and know it to be the revelation of God for us. Have we, like Timothy, been "fully persuaded" regarding these precious and wonderful divine communications? Do we really feel in our hearts that Paul's gospel, and the counsels of God have been given to direct us in all our ways and associations while passing through this world? It is not enough for us to have accepted this heavenly light; we are to continue in it, seeking to walk according to it at all times, and in all circumstances.

But Timothy had also the knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures from his childhood, which would also protect him against the deceptions of evil men and seducers, and make him wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15). How valuable is the Old Testament to us as leading us to Christ. In the 24th of Luke we see the Lord Jesus expounding from the Old Testament to the two on the way to Emmaus the things concerning Himself; and later, in the same chapter, He opened "their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45). How blessed it is to read the Old Testament and to find in the types, shadows and prophecies the things that have come out in this blessed Person. We see this exemplified in Psalm 45 which describes in a wonderful way the beauty of Jesus, God's king, the One Who is "fairer than the children of men."

But we have all Scripture to guide us: Paul's epistles; the Old Testament writings; the Gospels and the other New Testament writings. All these have been given by divine inspiration, and all is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). In the inspired writings, the Old and New Testaments, God has set forth His mind and will; that which makes known His thoughts regarding Himself, that which tells us of His ways with men, that which unfolds His purposes and counsels, and which presents His Son as the One in Whom there has been the perfect and full revelation of Himself; and that which marks out the path for the saints of God at all times. We need the Spirit of God to give us understanding in relation to these things, but we have not the mind and will of God for us apart from "All Scripture" which is "given by inspiration of God." When upon earth, the Lord Jesus met the enemy with "It is written;" He used the Scriptures. We need no other words to guide us, for through the Scriptures "The man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:17).

In the opening of chapter 4 the Apostle charges Timothy before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His Kingdom, to preach the word. All the service that we have done for the Lord will come out in its true light and worth in the day when Christ is publicly manifested in His Kingdom, and when we shall have our part with Him in the display of His glory. This day of glory will be ushered in by divine judgment; the living on earth will be gathered before Him before He reigns in the Millennium; the dead will be judged after His millennial reign is over. Christ will reign until He puts down all authority, and all rule; and after all is done He will hand back the kingdom to God the Father so that God may become all in all. When all is accomplished, there will be no trace of sin or death: and God will rest for ever in the company of His own throughout the eternal day.

With all this before him, the man of God is to "preach the word." We have to continue with God's word in the Gospel right on to the end, for it is by "the word" that God reaches the hearts and consciences of men. There is to be no slackness, but ever the sense of urgency, and no opportunity is to be missed. The sound teaching that Timothy had learned was to characterize his ministry, whether in convicting, rebuking or encouraging, and in all he was to be marked by longsuffering. The same things should mark, and will mark, the faithful servant today; he will bring the word of God to bear upon the hearts and consciences of men, and ever have before him the coming day of Christ's kingdom and glory.

Paul was enabled by the Spirit of God to look forward to the time when men would "not endure sound doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:3); the signs of such departure were already in evidence. Today, this departure is fully manifested, for the professing church will not have the sound teaching of the Apostles, given by the Spirit of God; they have, after their own natural tastes and desires, chosen their own teachers, with ears itching after novelties and all kinds of philosophies and human traditions. We need to be on our guard, taking the whole armour of God, so as to stand fast for Christ in this evil day.

How watchful God's servant must be: he must watch "in all things," for the enemy is watchful for any occasion to mar the testimony rendered to Christ. Afflictions are not sent to turn us aside, but to be endured. Timothy was not only to hand on the truths that he had learned from Paul, but he was to do evangelical work as well; thus making full proof of the special ministry that had been entrusted to him, and for which the gift of Christ had fitted him. God's Gospel is to be preached until the end; and if a servant of God cannot call himself an Evangelist, he can, according to the measure of his gift, do the work of an evangelist, and make full proof of his ministry, whatever the state of things in the church.

Now, in verse 6, the aged Apostle tells Timothy that he is about to be offered up; he was about to lay down his life for the truth of God, in service for the saints, and as the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had earlier spoken of his impending departure to be with Christ to the Philippians, saying, "Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all" (Phil. 2:17). He was there content to be, in his death, as it were, a drink offering, offered upon the sacrifice that they had made for Christ in providing for his needs. Again the thought of his being an offering is before him; he was already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of his release was come. How blessed for him to be released from all his tribulations, and to enter into the joy of Christ's presence.

Since Christ had first called him, Paul had "fought a good fight;" in the conflict of good against evil he had remained true to Christ, even although he had suffered the loss of all things, and was about to seal his testimony with his blood. He had not sought to be relieved from the trials of the conflict, or of the race, but having finished the race, and having kept the faith, he could rejoice that the time of his release had come. By Christ's grace he had triumphed over every difficulty, and had remained true to His beloved Lord and Master until the end. Living "by the faith of the Son of God," he could say at the very close, "I have kept the faith."

Thinking now of what lay ahead, Paul can say, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness." Soon there will be Christ's reign in righteousness, and then shall the faithful wear the crown of righteousness, given by the righteous judge to all who have loved His appearing. Have we the confidence of Paul in relation to the coming kingdom? Are we living now in view of Christ's appearing? There are those, like Demas (2 Tim. 4:10), who love the present age; whose eyes are not upon the day of Christ's glory; they are engaged with what gives them pleasure at the present time. Paul knew that the crown of righteousness would be his; it would be right for the Lord to acknowledge in this way his life for Him; but lest we should think that this would be for himself alone he adds, "And not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing." At the rapture we shall be taken away from our present circumstances and conformed to Christ's image; at the appearing everything done for Christ will come out in manifestation.

In the 16th verse we learn that no one stood by the Apostle in his defence before the emperor; indeed, all deserted him, but in grace he desired that it might not be imputed to them. If others fail, we must seek grace to continue in faithfulness to the Lord. Like Paul, we can count upon the unfailing support of the Lord in every circumstance in which we are found for Him. What a privilege it was to stand all alone, conscious of the support of Christ, the truth of the Gospel being fully set forth before the leaders of this world in his faithful defence.

The Lord was pleased to deliver him out of the lion's mouth at his first defence, but Paul knew that at his next appearance before Nero he would not be spared. Yet death itself would be the means used by the Lord to deliver him "from every evil work." What else could the forces of evil do after having slain him? And their worst act towards him would but send him into the presence of his Lord, where the Lord would preserve him for His heavenly kingdom. How blessed is the thought of the heavenly kingdom! From the heavenly side of the kingdom, where we shall enjoy all with the Son of the Father's love, the saints shall shine forth in the light of Christ. All the glory is ascribed to the Lord, and not only for the millennial day, but "for ever and ever." As His glory shines out, the whole earth as well as the heavens, will be jubilant with song; "They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done this" (Psalm 22:31). The Man of Calvary is the Man Who is going to bring in everything for the glory and honour of God. In the light of this eternal glory we can well say with the Apostle — "Amen."
R. Duncanson.

Should we to gain the world's applause,
Or to escape its harmless frown,
Refuse to countenance Thy cause,
And make Thy people's lot our own,
What shame would fill us in that day,
When Thou Thy glory wilt display!