2 Timothy 4:6-8. 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Do you have any last words?
This is the question that is asked of those who are about to be executed. For Paul, his “famous last words” come here in 2 Timothy 4. This is the last chapter of the last letter written by Paul.
If you were going to “depart” today what would your last words be? Would your final words be full of regret and disappointment? Guilt and shame? Or could they be a declaration of a life well lived for Christ and from Christ? Would you be able to say with Paul, I have fought the good fight? I have finished the race? I have kept the faith?
You might be thinking that these three “death bed” confessions sound a bit prideful. “I have…I have…I have…” Is Paul being self-centered? And, of course, if anyone is allowed to be self-centered it’s Paul, right? Not me. And probably not you.
But self-righteousness is not what Paul has in mind here at all. He’s not priding himself on his own abilities, or looking forward to a reward that he has somehow earned or deserved. How do we know? How do we know that here at the end of his life Paul hasn’t suddenly forgotten God’s grace? Because of what he calls himself in verse 6 – a poured out drink offering. When the Old Testament priest poured out the cup of wine onto the ground before the Lord, or when one of King David’s mighty men secured for him a cup of water from behind enemy lines, and then David poured it out before the Lord, these offerings did nothing to earn or deserve this holy distinction. They didn’t out perform the other cups of wine or water. They were chosen by grace, held by grace, and poured out by grace.
In verse 8 we see even more of Paul’s view toward grace. We will receive the crown of Christ’s righteousness awarded by the Lord to each of us who love his appearing. Not those who try harder, or do better, or live better. But those who simply love Christ’s appearing.
So do you simply love the appearing of Christ? Do you love that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men in Jesus? Do you love that he incarnated into our world of pain, and suffering, and sin? Do you love that he lived and died for you? Do you love that he rose from the dead and appeared to hundreds of people in resurrected glory? Do you love and long for his second appearing? His return? His coming in the clouds with great power and glory?
Here’s the grace Paul is proclaiming – Do you want Jesus? Then you will receive him.
Now we can look at Paul’s confession in verse 7 for the unmerited favor it truly is. Not self-righteous pride. Just faith in God’s grace. What Paul is actually saying is “Praise God, I get a participation trophy. Just like every other Christian.”
I have fought the good fight – This is a sports metaphor. Literally “I have contested in the good contest.” Or, I was in the good race. By God’s grace he let me enter into the marathon of the good life in Christ.
I have finished the race – Notice Paul doesn’t say how fast he ran the marathon, or what position he finished in, or who he outran, just “God let me into the race and I ran all the way until the end.” Whether running, walking, crawling, or being carried across the finish line, did you die with your faith in Christ still in place? That’s what matters.
I have kept the faith – This was a common phrase in Paul’s day. A runner that “kept the faith” played by the rules. He was faithful in the contest. He didn’t cheat or cut corners. Paul never diverted his faith from the work of Christ alone, the gospel of grace. He participated in Christ’s gracious life until the end of his own life. And now he can look forward with all hope to receiving the crown of Christ’s righteous life. A life spent with his Savior Jesus. A life filled with perfect love and peace, and poured out in perfect love and praise.
“To Live is Christ” is a marathon. A grace race that we faithfully run ’til the end. By grace we are in the race, by grace we run the race, and by grace we will finish the race. Will you keep the faith in God’s amazing grace until the final day? I pray you will.
What do you imagine your last words will be?
You in Christ
How does knowing we are in Christ allow us to keep running the grace race?
Christ in you
Where do you need to stop comparing yourself to others today and just love the appearing of Christ instead?
Playlist: Christ’s Appearing