In finishing The Other Country, a book that walks through all the shorter Pauline epistles, I tried to imagine Paul, after finishing the words of 2 Timothy, being led off to his trial before Nero and, then, to his death. From there, I became captivated by the scene that might've occurred had Paul been given a funeral by his friends...
Here's the ending of The Other Country, utilizing the Apostle Paul's own words as a eulogy.
Let’s imagine for a moment that we are present at Paul’s funeral, a non-flashy, hastily-arranged memorial service, but one attended by all of the Twelve still living, as well as, of course, Timothy, Titus and so many people from all the churches all over the Roman world that Paul had either planted or watered.
Not unexpectedly, it’s Timothy who walks to the front to deliver the eulogy and, again not unexpectedly, he won’t be delivering his own words. He has in hand an address that Paul himself has written. As always, Paul will have the last word…
My friends, my brothers and sisters, how grateful I am that you would be here today. As I have gone to be with Him, the Living One, may I offer some final thoughts along the lines of everything you’ve ever heard from me:
“For you have certainly heard of my past career in the Jewish religion, how I persecuted the Church of God with fanatical zeal and, in fact, did my best to destroy it. I was ahead of most of my contemporaries in the Jewish religion, and had a greater enthusiasm for the old traditions. But then the time came for God (who had chosen me from the moment of my birth, and then called me by his grace) to reveal his Son within me so that I might proclaim him to the non-Jewish world…
“Oh, I am deeply grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ (to whom I owe all that I have accomplished) for trusting me enough to appoint me his minister, despite the fact that I had previously blasphemed his name, persecuted his Church and damaged his cause. I believe he was merciful to me because what I did was done in the ignorance of a man without faith, and then he poured out his grace upon me, giving me tremendous faith in, and love for, himself.
“And I was made a minister of that Gospel by the grace he gave me, and by the power with which he equipped me. Yes, to me, less than the least of all Christians, has God given this grace, to enable me to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of Christ, and to make plain to all men the meaning of that secret which he who created everything in Christ has kept hidden from the creation until now. The purpose is that all the angelic powers should now see the complex wisdom of God’s plan being worked out through the Church, in conformity to that timeless purpose which he centered in Jesus, our Lord. It is in this same Jesus, because we have faith in him, that we dare, even with confidence, to approach God.
“And I am not ashamed of the Gospel. I see it as the very power of God working for the salvation of everyone who believes it, both Jew and Greek. I see in it God’s plan for imparting righteousness to men, a process begun and continued by their faith. For, as the scripture says: ‘The just shall live by faith.’
“Since then it is by faith that you are justified, may you grasp the fact that you have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys — we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles.
“And God forbid that I should have boasted about anything or anybody except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, which meant that the world was a dead thing to me and I was a dead man to the world.
“You are those to whom God has now planned to give a vision of the full wonder and splendor of his secret plan for the sons of men. And the secret is simply this: Christ in you! Yes, Christ in you bringing with him the hope of all glorious things to come.
“I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God’s whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord!
“I wish you could see how all this is working out for your benefit, and how the more grace God gives, the more thanksgiving will redound to his glory. This is the reason why we must never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for you a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to your pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.
“When I was a little child I talked and felt and thought like a little child. Now that I am a man my childish speech and feeling and thought have no further significance for me. At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all you know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when you shall know it as fully as God now knows you! In this life we have three great lasting qualities — faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love.
“For you, my friends, are citizens of Heaven; your outlook goes beyond this world to the hopeful expectation of the savior who will come from Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will re-make these wretched bodies of ours to resemble his own glorious body, by that power of his which makes him the master of everything that is.
“As for me, I know now that the last drops of my life have been poured out for God. The glorious fight that God gave me I have fought. The course that I was set I have finished, and I have kept the faith. The present for me now holds the crown of righteousness which God, the true judge, will give to those who have loved what they have seen of him.”
My friends, at the center of everything… Jesus. May He conform you to His image and may we meet again someday in the glories of His wonderful Presence.
Until then, and with my great love,