So many people seem to be satisfied with what this world has to offer until something catastrophic happens to them or their loved ones. They cannot endure to know the truth about the controversy between good and evil that is raging behind the scenes, so they usually turn away with disdain and often anger from anyone who dares to speak about it. There has never been a time in history when the situation was different.
From the judgment hall of the Roman Caesar, Paul was returned again to the Mamertine Prison, knowing that he had gained for himself only a brief respite. He knew that his enemies would not rest until they had secured his death, but he knew also that the truth had triumphed for the time. He was content in the very fact that he had proclaimed a crucified and risen Saviour before that vast throng who had listened to his words. That, in itself, was a victory for the gospel.
A work had begun that day which would increase and prosper and which the emperor of Rome, with all of his pomp and power, would seek in vain to destroy or hinder. The apostle’s speech had gained for him many friends and he was visited by some persons of rank. There were some people who accepted the gospel that day as a result of his speech. But there was one friend that the apostle Paul wanted to see more than anybody else during these final days of his life, and that friend was Timothy. To Timothy had been committed the care of the church at Ephesus, and because of this he had not been with Paul when Paul had made his final voyage to Rome.
There was great affection between this youthful laborer and the apostle Paul. Timothy’s conversion had occurred earlier through the labors of the apostle Paul, and the apostle decided that he was going to write a letter to Timothy and ask him to come as soon as possible to Rome.
Paul said to be diligent in coming quickly and not delay. However, in case Timothy did not arrive in time, the apostle decided that he must not delay writing his dying testimony which is recorded in 2 Timothy 4:6–8.
He says, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all those who have loved His appearing.”
In addition to his dying testimony, Paul desired one last time to counsel this young minister and give him the charge that is still repeated today when ministers are ordained in Christian churches. That charge is found in 2 Timothy 4:1–5. It says, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Paul predicted that the time would come when Christians will not endure the truth, sound doctrine, and they would get for themselves teachers who would turn away their ears from the truth and be turned aside to fables. It is the duty of a Christian minister to hate and reprove sin and at the same time to manifest pity and tenderness for the sinner. That is a difficult attainment.
While we must be careful that we do not have undue severity toward a wrong doer, at the same time, we need to understand the exceeding sinfulness of sin. We need to have Christlike patience and love toward the erring, but at the same time there is danger of manifesting so great tolerance for error that eventually the person who is living in sin will consider himself undeserving of reproof and will reject it as an uncalled-for hardness.
We need to be careful that toleration of the sinner does not degenerate into toleration of sin. Godliness leads to brotherly kindness, and those who do not cherish the one will surely lack the other. If a person blunts his moral perceptions so that he becomes sinfully lenient towards those whom God condemns, the time will come when he will commit a greater sin by using severity and harshness toward those whom God commends. Paul says that the time is going to come when Christians will not endure sound doctrine. Here he is not talking about people who are atheists, or agnostics, or openly irreligious; he’s talking about professed Christians who have indulged inclination until they are enslaved by their own ungoverned passions and led away with various kinds of cravings or lusts (see 2 Timothy 3).
In His ten holy precepts, God has given a rule for man’s life, a law in which, Jesus said, not even part of a letter would be changed as long as heaven and earth should last. Jesus said in Luke 16:17, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle [a part of a letter] of the law to fail.” That law is still the Christian believer’s rule of life. That law is still, today, the sinner’s condemnation. That law is that which Isaiah says the Messiah would come to make honorable and magnify, and Jesus did magnify the law. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), Jesus showed that the law of God is based on the broad foundation of love to God and love to man. Jesus showed that obedience to the precepts of that law comprises the whole duty of man. In His own life, Jesus gave a perfect example of obedience to the law of God.
Jesus showed that the requirements of the law extend beyond outward acts. The law takes countenance of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:27–30).
God’s law involves not only the actions of the body, but also the thoughts and intents of the heart. Today, we are living in a world where the enemy of all righteousness has taken almost the entire world captive. And he has led those who call themselves Christians to make void the law of God and excuse sin. The popular belief of millions of Christians today is that because we are carnal, we can’t help but sin, so we will sin and confess, sin and confess until Jesus comes.
Paul foresaw that people would turn away from the plain, searching truths of God’s word and that they would have itching ears and heap to themselves teachers that would present to them the fables that they desire, an easier gospel. These teachers would trample under their feet the fourth commandment and end up trampling the whole moral law.
The Creator of the world is insulted by those who claim to be His children while they transgress His law and Satan laughs at the success of his plot against the human race. We are living in a time when there is a growing contempt for God’s holy law. There is an increasing distaste for religion. There is an increase of pride and love of pleasure. Children are disobedient to parents, contrary to the fifth commandment. People are self-indulgent. The thinking people who are watching what is going on in the world are alarmed, asking what can be done to arrest the evils in society.
Paul told Timothy to preach the word whether people will hear or whether they will not, because a transcript of the will of God is contained in the Bible. It reveals the only safe principles of action to reform or to save society. It is an expression of divine wisdom and opens to the reader’s understanding how to solve the great problem of life. Those who listen to it will be directed in the right way.
It is absolute madness and insanity for men to attempt to change or even question that which has come out of the mouth of God. After infinite wisdom has spoken, how could we have any doubtful questions to settle? How can we have any wavering probabilities to adjust if we’re interested in eternal life? The only thing to do is ask, “What has God said, and how can I obey?” Obedience is the highest dictate of reason as well as of conscience. But there are millions of people today listening to other voices and willing to follow other guides whose messages have been turned unto fables, and they trust them.
Sadly, on that final day, those who have trusted in fables will meet with infinite loss. How is it with you? Is your life being organized and lived according to the word of God, or are you trusting in popular fables? We are living in a time when fatal errors like deadly poison have so tainted the morals of a large part of the human race that they have no certain hope of eternal life. Can you hear the voice of duty?
In his last letter to Timothy in Ephesus, Paul predicted what would happen in the last days of this earth’s history, the time in which we are now living. He said, “Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away” (2 Timothy 3:1–5)!
Paul said there would still be religion and people would have a form of godliness, profess to be Christians and go to church in the end times. Looking at them from the outside, people of the world will believe that they are Christians, but Paul said that while they do seem to have a form of godliness, they deny its power.
What is the power of godliness? Paul explains this clearly in his letter to the Romans. He said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’ ” (Romans 1:16, 17).
If a person is living by faith after receiving the gospel, his life will change. “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3, 4). You will know if you are walking according to the flesh or according to the Spirit by the life that you are living. To walk according to the Spirit is to have your life in harmony with the law of God.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal [unconverted] mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (verses 5–7). It is impossible for the unconverted person to obey the law of God.
Never argue with somebody who says they cannot obey the law of God, for they are right. But what happens if a person is converted? Paul says, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (verses 8, 9).
Those who are converted and walk in the Spirit will have the power to obey the law of God. That’s what the new birth is all about and it can happen in your life. (See Romans 8 or Romans 6.)
Paul was concerned that there were people in his day who perverted the gospel. He wrote to the Galatians: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6, 7). And then to the Corinthian church, he wrote, “If he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it” (2 Corinthians 11:4)!
The different gospel is the gospel that allows people to live according to the flesh, and still think that they are going to be saved. He said, “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness [licentiousness], idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:17–21).
Those who practice such things, Paul said, will not inherit the kingdom of God. Those who are living like that are not yet converted and have not been born again and do not display the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, but rather the fruit of the flesh.
O, friend, how is it with you? There are millions of Christians today who have a false hope of salvation. They think that they can live in sin, and as long as they just confess their sins in the moment of their death, somehow everything will turn out all right. This was not the teaching of Jesus or His apostles.
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–11).
O, friend, have you been washed? Have you been forgiven for your sins and been justified by the Lord Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit? Are you being sanctified and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in your life so you can be ready to meet the Lord when He comes back to this earth? Don’t accept any other gospel that teaches you that you can live in sin, and yet go to the kingdom of heaven. You must choose to renounce sin in all its forms, repent of it, confess it and forsake it if you want to be in God’s kingdom. Nothing that defiles will be inside the city (Revelation 21:27).
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.