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Sketches From The Life of Paul

by Ellen G. White

Chapter 31: Paul's Last Letter.

Contents  ...  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  ...

From the judgment-hall of Caesar, Paul returned to his prison-house, knowing that he had gained for himself only a brief respite; his [p. 319] enemies would not rest until they had secured his death. Yet he knew that truth had triumphed for the time, and that to have proclaimed a crucified and risen Saviour before the vast throng who had listened to his words, was in itself a victory. A work had that day begun which would increase and prosper, and which the emperor of Rome, with all his pomp and power, would seek in vain to destroy or hinder.

The apostle's speech had gained him many friends, and he was visited by some persons of rank, who accounted his blessing of greater value than the favor of the emperor of the world. But there was one friend for whose sympathy and companionship he longed in those last trying days. That friend was Timothy, to whom he had committed the care of the church at Ephesus, and who had therefore been left behind when he made his last voyage to Rome. The affection between this youthful laborer and the apostle began with Timothy's conversion through the labors of Paul; and the tie had strengthened as they had shared together the hopes and perils and toils of missionary life, until they seemed to be as one. The disparity in their age and the difference in their character made their interest and love for each other more earnest and sacred. The ardent, zealous, indomitable spirit of Paul found repose and comfort in the mild, yielding, retiring character of Timothy. The faithful ministration and tender love of this tried companion had brightened many a dark hour of the apostle's life. All that Melancthon was to Luther, all that a son could be to a loved and honored father, that was the youthful Timothy to the tried and lonely Paul. [p. 320]

And now, sitting day after day in his gloomy cell, knowing that at a word or nod from the tyrant Nero his life may be sacrificed, Paul thinks of Timothy, and determines to send for him. Under the most favorable circumstances, several months must elapse before Timothy can reach Rome from Asia Minor. Paul knows that his own life, for even a single day, is uncertain, and he fears that Timothy may arrive too late, or may hesitate through fear of the dangers to be encountered. He has important counsel and instruction for the young man to whom so great responsibility is intrusted, and while urging him to come without delay, he dictates the dying testimony which he may not be spared to utter. His soul is filled with loving solicitude for his son in the gospel, and for the church under his care, and he earnestly seeks to impress upon him the importance of fidelity to his sacred trust.

The words of Paul to Timothy apply with equal force to all the ministers of Christ, to the close of time: "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine."

This solemn charge to one so zealous and faithful as was Timothy, is an emphatic testimony to the great importance and responsibility of the gospel ministry. The apostle summons Timothy, as it were, before the bar of infinite justice, and in the most impressive manner charges him to preach the word; not the customs or sayings of men, but the word of God; to preach it as one in earnest,—"instant in season, out of season,"— [p. 321] whenever an opportunity was presented; at stated times and occasionally; to large congregations, to private circles; by the way, at the fireside; before friends and enemies; to one as well as to many; whether he could speak with safety or would be exposed to hardship and peril, reproach and loss.

Timothy suffered from physical infirmities, and the apostle, tender and compassionate as he was, felt it necessary to warn him to neglect no duty on this account. And fearing that his mild, yielding disposition might lead him to shun an essential part of his work, Paul exhorts him to be faithful in reproving sin, and even to rebuke with sharpness those who were guilty of gross evils. Yet he is to do this "with all long-suffering and doctrine;" he must manifest the patience and love of Christ, and must explain and enforce his reproofs and exhortations by the word of God.

To hate and reprove sin, and at the same time to manifest pity and tenderness for the sinner, is a difficult attainment. The more earnest our own efforts to attain to holiness of heart and life, the more acute will be our perception of sin, and the more decided our disapproval of any deviation from right. We must guard against undue severity toward the wrong-doer. But while we should seek to encourage him in every effort to correct his errors, we must be careful not to lose sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. While there is need of Christlike patience and love toward the erring, there is constant danger of manifesting so great toleration for his error that he will consider himself undeserving of reproof, and will reject it as uncalled-for and unjust. [p. 322]

Contents  ...  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  ...


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