Paul’s patient love for Mark compels us to ponder the breadth and depth of our love for brethren. Paul had not always considered Mark useful (good and profitable) for the service of the gospel. About 20 years earlier, John Mark had joined Paul and Barnabas on a preaching journey into Gentile regions, only to leave them and return to Jerusalem shortly after it began (Acts 13:4-5, 13). This failure to continue with them caused Paul to insist Mark would not be on his next preaching trip despite disagreeing with Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). We should note that Paul did not “write off” Barnabas or Mark as unworthy Christians who did not love the Lord. The rest of the story makes this apparent. Paul was associated with Mark during his first Roman imprisonment (AD 60-62), sending greetings from him to the Colossian church and instructing them to welcome Mark if he came to them (Col. 4:10). Now, during his final days of life, Paul asked for Mark. The man he had refused to take with him roughly two decades earlier was now useful for the gospel’s service (2 Tim. 4:11). A great lesson of love’s patient endurance is staring us in the face (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Mark’s faith had matured, and Paul respected that. Paul loved Mark. Indeed, “love suffers long and is kind” as it rejoices in the truth. Love keeps on bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things, both in our attitudes and treatment of others. Love did not fail Paul and Mark. It will not fail us, either.
3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. (2 Timothy 1:3–5, NKJV)
Tears and joy. Timothy shed tears as his beloved father in the faith was imprisoned in Rome. Death was near (2 Tim. 4:6, 17-18). Would Timothy arrive in time to see Paul one last time (2 Tim. 4:9)? We do not know. Yet, Paul did not dwell on his departure except to say it was near, he was ready, and the Lord would deliver him (2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18). He focused on the joy of seeing Timothy’s face again and on the deep faith that sustained his companion, brother, and friend. Comforted by knowing Paul prayed continually for him, we are sure Timothy went to Rome as quickly as possible (2 Tim. 4:9, 21). Life brings times of sadness, pain, loss, and sorrow. Prayers and memories of lives lived faithfully see us through the vale of tears and sustain us with a joy no one can take from us (Jno. 16:22). Remembering the faith of Timothy, Eunice, and Lois comforted Paul. No doubt, Timothy remembered Paul’s pure conscience and faithful service. So it is between fellow-Christians when life fades and eternity’s light grows brighter. Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 with tears and joy. “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psa. 126:5). As when God restored the captivity of Zion, so it will be when He gathers His faithful ones to glory (Psa. 126:1-4). Tears will be replaced with joy forevermore.
22 Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22–23, NKJV)
Christ came for the whole world (Jews and Gentiles). The apostles of Jesus testified what Moses and the prophets said would occur concerning the Christ was fulfilled in Jesus. Paul takes note of some primary things Moses and the prophets said about the Christ: 1) He would suffer (read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53). Peter said of Jesus, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). 2) He would rise from the dead (read Psalm 16:8-11). The resurrection of Jesus fulfilled this psalm (Acts 2:29-31). Jesus was the first – the beginning of the resurrection of all the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-22). 3) He would proclaim light to Jews and Gentiles (read Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:6). Through His gospel, Jesus lights the way of salvation for every soul on earth (Matt. 28:19; Acts 10:34-35). God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to suffer death for our sins, to be raised to exaltation for our salvation, and to light our way to eternal glory.
3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” 5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:3–6, NKJV)
The islanders showed them unusual kindness when Paul and the other 275 souls were shipwrecked on Malta (Acts 27:37; 28:1-2). How they reacted to Paul’s snake bite reminds us how important it is not to jump to conclusions before being adequately informed. Things are not always as they seem. They drew the false conclusion that Paul was evil and divine justice had overtaken him. In truth, bad things happen to good people, and to judge a person blameworthy because of a present trouble is very wrong (cf. Job; Jno. 9:1-3). When Paul did not die they concluded he was a deity. They swung the pendulum too far the other way. Jesus had promised such signs to confirm the gospel when it was preached, and it happened on this occasion (Mk. 16:15-20). When we yield to the temptation to make rash judgments we expose our own folly and shame (Prov. 18:13). Rendering righteous judgments that are guided by truth must be our constant endeavor (Jno. 7:24).
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7–9, NKJV)
We miss the point of this passage if we conclude God sent an ailment upon Paul to restrain his arrogance (John 9:1-3). His physical limitation was an opportunity for the grace of God to be magnified. Paul admitted he had been arrogant before his conversion, but also that he had been humbled by the mercy of God he received in Christ (1 Timothy 1:13-17). His thorn in the flesh was an occasion for the power of Christ to be glorified in him. And so, Paul trusted the Lord instead of his wisdom, strength, and accomplishments (Philippians 3:1-11). Most of us will face ailments and illnesses at some point in life. These are chronic for some and short-lived for others. But every one of them is our opportunity to learn to live with our limitations and to be strengthened in the Lord. His grace is sufficient for us to endure life’s temporary trials so we may live eternally with Him (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. (Acts 20:17, NKJV)
The church in Ephesus was much beloved by the apostle Paul. He had spent three years there, “serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials” (Acts 20:19). The 30-mile journey from Ephesus to Miletus would have involved at least a day of travel each way (probably more), plus the time the elders spent with the apostle. It would mean leaving their families and jobs to go to Miletus to meet Paul. He could have sent them a written message, but it was important for them to have a face-to-face meeting. Naturally, they made the journey to meet Paul without hesitation. In this age of text messaging we are tempted to forget the value of personal contact. Personal interaction establishes relationships, strengthens trust, enhances respect for others, and increases our ability to work well with others. God wants Christians to talk with each other – to teach, to encourage, to warn, to form and to strengthen the bonds of unity and commonality in Christ. We must not isolate ourselves from each other. We must make ourselves accessible to one another and responsive to the communication that is an essential part of our common faith, common hope, and common salvation. By doing so we are better able to help each other serve the Lord faithfully.
12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12–14, NKJV)
What begins as a trial may become the very moment of great blessings. Divine providence turns trials into opportunities and burdens into boldness. Paul had been imprisoned for more than four years for preaching the gospel (two years in Caesarea and two years in Rome, Acts 24:27; 28:30). Threats from his countrymen, injustice from rulers and shipwreck in the deep were among the obstacles he faced on his journey to Rome. Yet, these things turned out as a great opportunity for the gospel to spread and for fellow-Christians to be emboldened with confidence to courageously speak the word of God. When you are faced with a burden, a trial, or even persecution for your faith, do not lose heart. God is giving you an opportunity to rely on His power instead of your own. His spiritual provisions will sustain you while His gospel strengthens and saves others. So, keep fighting the good fight of faith and see the possibilities rather than the hindrances (1 Timothy 6:12).
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, 2 To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:1–2, NKJV)
Does it get your attention when an apostle of Jesus Christ speaks? It should. They spoke and wrote with the authority of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:37). People of faith listen to and follow their teachings, for by doing so, they follow Jesus (John 13:20). You see, Paul was made an apostle by God’s commandment (Acts 26:15-17; Galatians 1:15-16). He did not appoint himself an apostle. Neither was Paul ordained by men to be worthy to preach the gospel (only after completing the educational requirements they stipulate, cf. Galatians 1:11-12). True children in the faith, like Timothy, respect and submit to apostolic authority. It is by doing so that Christians have a living hope in Christ, and stand in the grace, mercy and peace of God. Listen carefully to the writings of the apostles of Christ. They lead you to Christ and keep you in Christ – when you trust and obey (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17).
16 “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” (2 Timothy 4:16–17, NKJV)
Paul’s faith did not waver as he faced impending death at the hands of lawless men (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Forsaken by friend and foe, he was not forsaken by the Lord (2 Timothy 4:10, 14). Nor did Paul expect Timothy to turn away from him, as he urged him to “Be diligent to come to me quickly” (2 Timothy 4:9). Paul paid a great price as an apostle of Christ. Truly, the Lord showed “him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). Yet even now, surrounded by enemies and facing eminent death, Paul knew his mission, and was not deterred from fully preaching the gospel. Even so, we are faithful to the Lord, knowing He promises not to abandon us in our time of need. We may take courage from the faithful example of Paul, assured that the Lord “Himself has said, ’I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say; ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 14:37, NKJV)
Jesus sent His apostles into all the world to preach His gospel to everyone (Mk. 16:15; Matt. 28:19). Before His death, Jesus told His apostles, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Jno. 13:20). Later, Jesus appeared to Paul (Saul of Tarsus), appointed him to be an apostle, and sent him to preach the gospel, too (Acts 26:16-20). We rightly conclude that there is absolutely no way one can receive Jesus, yet reject His apostles. Truly, the first Christians were commended precisely because “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). Instead of unsuccessfully trying to separate the teachings of Paul, Peter, John and the other apostles from Christ, cherish and hold fast all they spoke and wrote. By doing so, you are cherishing the Son and the Father (who sent Jesus to the world). To do less is not only a rejection of the apostles, but also of the Father and the Son. The spiritual acknowledge this. Indeed, one is not “spiritual” when he refuses to receive the apostles’ teachings as “the commandments of the Lord.” We need all of the New Testament. All of it is from God (2 Tim. 3:16-17).