Paul's Last Testimony
James Smith, 1861
"But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet out of them all, the Lord delivered me!" 2 Timothy 3:10-11
However rough the Christian's journey may be — it is but short. However heavy his burden — he has not far to carry it. However severe his trials — they will soon be over. The Apostle Paul had as rough a journey, as heavy a burden, and as severe trials as any — but the Lord was with him in them all, and at length he bore this testimony, "Out of them all, the Lord delivered me!" Such will be our case soon — let us anticipate it, and now notice,
The Painful Review.He had been PERSECUTED. Violently persecuted. Often persecuted. Persecuted both by Jews and Gentiles.
He was persecuted for Christ's sake. To serve Christ, was his delight. To make known Christ, was his great object. Wherever he went, he preached a personal Christ. A Christ who was a Jew. A Jew hated by his countrymen, and at length crucified. This Christ he preached as the only Savior, and everywhere affirmed, that there could be no salvation for anyone — but through him. This enraged the rabble, and grievously offended the polite. He was therefore persecuted and considered unfit to live!
He was persecuted for the truth's sake, for he everywhere proclaimed the unity and spirituality of the Divine nature — in opposition to the prevailing idolatry. He preached salvation by Christ alone — in opposition to the ceremonies, sacrifices, and services of priests and people.
He refers also to afflictions. His persecutions
were from man, but many of his afflictions came from God. He was afflicted
in body, and suffered much; therefore he said, "We who are in this
tabernacle do groan being burdened." He was afflicted in mind, and
complained, "Without were fightings, and within were fears." He was tried by
good men, and he was tried by bad ones. Everywhere, and from
all quarters — afflictions, troubles, and trials, flowed in upon him; and he
was at times pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that he
despaired even of life. But now mark:
His Honorable Testimony."Out of them all, the Lord delivered me." The Lord supported him in them, and his strength was made perfect in his servant's weakness. He brought him through them. The fires were not extinguished, nor were the rivers drained — but step by step he was led on, until he could say, "We went through fire and through water, but you brought us out into a wealthy place." He benefitted him by them. They did him good, for they deepened his sanctification, led him to prayer, and exercised his trust and confidence in God. They made him more useful in his ministry, for they qualified him to speak a word in season to those who were weary.
They tended to his honor, exercising his courage and valor as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. They found work for all his graces, and taught him the value of his spiritual armor. The Lord delivered him out of them all. The last trial came, and he endured it. The last cross was laid upon him, and he manfully carried it after Jesus. The last foe came up, and he conquered him in the strength of the Lord. The call of his Master was heard, and he replied, "I am ready!" He laid down his life for Christ on earth, and then went to reign with Christ in Heaven. His deliverance was full, perfect, and eternal. Long since has he rested from his labors, long has he been reaping in glory — what he sowed in grace; and gathering in Heaven — what he scattered on earth.
If we endure, we shall also be delivered.
The cross always comes before the crown;
the wilderness always comes before the promised land;
and weariness always comes before rest.
We must suffer with Christ — if we would reign with him.
The fierce and fiery persecutions endured by the apostles, we may not be called upon to pass through; but some measure, awaits most of the Lord's people.
Our afflictions may not be as numerous, or as heavy as his — but they will be heavy enough sometimes. We may not be pressed beyond strength — but like our Master, we may just have strength enough — but none to spare. If we suffer now, we shall also testify soon. The bitter is before the sweet. The storms and frosts of winter, are before the flowers and fruits of summer.
If we suffer for Christ — we suffer with
Christ; for he never leaves his people to suffer alone. If we suffer for
Christ — we shall be sustained and supported by him. The time is not far
distant when we shall be able to say . . .
of all our griefs and woes,
of all our trials and troubles,
of all our persecutions and afflictions,
"Out of them all, the Lord delivered me!"
But such a time will never come in the experience of the unconverted sinner — for him there is no deliverer, for him there will be no deliverance. The sufferings of earth — will only conduct him to the more terrible sufferings of Hell! And the troubles of time — will introduce the torments of eternity! O sinner, let your present troubles, lead you to seek the Savior! Let your sufferings now, induce you to flee to Jesus, that you may not suffer forever.
The design of your present afflictions may be to lead you to reflection, to produce conviction, and to urge you to cry for mercy, while mercy may be found. There is a deliverer now — he can deliver you, apply to him, and he will. Neglect to do so — and you perish. "Consider this, you that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver." These are his own words — are they not alarming? Are they not solemn?