The Good Fight.

In the first part of 2 Timothy 4 (up to the 8th verse) the apostle speaks as one who had fought the good fight, and as being anxious that Timothy should continue, to the very end of his course, in a life of active service to the Lord. Paul had no rest nor truce with the enemy from the very beginning of his career, and as the well-known hero who, in drawing his sword in a righteous cause, flung away the scabbard, so did the apostle begin the fight. The end of it is described here, and the passage is solemn.

The charge is given before God, and before the Lord Jesus Christ as Judge; His appearing and kingdom are the great term of all responsible service. It is not merely a magnificent struggle before thousands of spectators, such as the Roman world used to delight to behold, but the standing for God and actively proclaiming His grace when all the weight of the trials of "the last days" are pressing upon the servant, and all the power of the enemy is laid out against him. Hence the command, "Preach the Word." It is not merely to go on preaching, but the Word is the word of God - the full revelation given to us of His mind. There must be more activity than ever; in season and out of season seizing every opportunity to set the grand truths of Christianity before souls. There is the assiduous ministry of the man of God - "Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." It is not a theologian pronouncing dogmas ex cathedra, but the patient application of the word of God to the need of souls.

And the result? Timothy would never be a popular preacher. The time would come when sound doctrine would no longer be endured, but men should have a fatal desire to hear new and flattering sermons, and should heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts. Certainly the market is overstocked with preachers now, but not with those who preach the Word. It is one thing to preach about the Word, and another to preach the Word itself; and there is surely a great danger of trying to please the popular ear. The people's ear is about as false as its voice is uncertain. Happy the man of God who shall go on preaching the Word to the end, when the mass have turned away and given heed to fables.

Then sobriety and endurance are needed. It is not every one who is so free of exciting influences that he has really sound views and a clear judgment. Endurance - active work in seeking souls (the work of an evangelist), full proof to be made of the ministry. It is a wonderful career, to be finished with energy and vigour supplied by the Lord through the Spirit.

It is now that Paul speaks of the end of his own course, and we may contemplate the man who had fought the good fight.

Paul was about to serve as a libation; a precious ending to a devoted life, and a wonderful privilege. The close of his earthly history had come, and before leaving the arena whence his very life went up to God in sacrifice he could say that he had fought the good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith. He had received his commission from the Lord of glory, and had fulfilled it. The struggle had been severe, and all Asia Minor had been turned upside down during part of the conflict. Now the term approached when he should rest from his labours, and the very sword of Nero should give him repose. It is a wonderful passage, and should wake us up to ask if each one of us is finishing his course according to the Lord's mind. I mean not merely "finishing one's time" as an exile in a Siberian mine, but finishing one's course, in which the active love of God works in the vessel upon earth, and the result is true devotedness and fidelity.

Of course the apostle had a special service, and that belonged to him alone; but I think that the fact of each one of us being upon earth for the Lord of glory will not be denied, and it is just as this place is taken in faith that the fight begins, and will go on to the very end. The danger in these days is for saints to be tired of warfare, and of what may seem to be a hopeless struggle if faith be not in exercise, and for them to hang up the sword upon the wall and wait in ignoble ease till the battle be over. But this is wrong; and, through the Lord's grace, there are some who are fighting the good fight.

Paul had kept the faith: the great and precious responsibility confided to him of the Lord (involving the glory of His blessed person and the effects of His present position in heaven) had been kept to the end, notwithstanding all the attacks of the enemy and his attempts to corrupt.

This passage should stir us up to more diligence, for the apostle in speaking of the Lord's appreciation of his faithfulness associates us with himself. The crown of righteousness should be given not only to him, but to all who love the Lord's appearing.

It is a happy thing for us that we have a righteous Judge. He makes no mistakes in the administration of justice, whether to saints or sinners. We have seen so much injustice that it is rather difficult to imagine a just judge. But the righteous Judge shall give a crown of righteousness to Paul, and to all those that love His appearing. The setting up of that kingdom, when the glorified saints shall reign with Jesus, is looked at as the end or term of the warfare; and all who are for Him, and who have been fighting loyally for Him during His absence, shall receive the honour and glory due to their fidelity in that day. It is thus that a true Christian loves the appearing of Christ. As being associated with Him, he looks forward to the moment when He, with all His saints in light, shall take His great power and reign.

It will be as a grand and magnificent spectacle after the battle when the Lord comes to reign with His saints gloriously, and when the sun shall be ashamed and the moon confounded before His majesty. The very thought of His appearing fills us with courage to fight the good fight until the end. It is not that the days will improve or the difficulties be less, but that He is sufficient for us, and takes notice of every attempt even to be faithful to His blessed name.

The battle is still raging, and there is as yet no command to cease firing; and all that we have to do is to continue in our position before the enemy, looking to the Lord Himself to sustain us and to keep us so under the power of His grace by the Holy Spirit, that we may in our measure finish our course with joy, and resist to the very last the pretentious attacks of the enemy. E. L. Bevir.

The written, or spoken word, if true, is a revelation of that which is true of Christ, and of Christ Himself; so that while it is the divine power of the Spirit by which we are quickened, it is the revelation of Christ to the soul which is objectively that which quickens me, what the Spirit brings to my soul; so that it is faith, faith in the "report," which is the outward means, while it is the thing contained in the word which is life, Christ. The word in itself is merely the outward means or instrument, and by itself, though all truth be in it, produces nothing - unless to leave us without excuse. J. N. Darby.