In Paul’s final letter we read “the time of my departure” from this life “has come” (4:6). Since his dramatic conversion Paul’s life had been filled with doing a great many works in carrying his saviour’s name to many places. But his salvation will not be because of this! We cannot ‘earn’ salvation through works – rather we are “working together with him” (2 Corinthians 6:1) “for”, as Paul told the Philippians, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”.
Our works should be the result of our love for Christ, a result of realizing that this life is simply a preparation for the eternal life that is to come. There are burdens today, and Paul experienced these, but “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17,18).
Paul reminds Timothy in his last letter of the ‘spirit’ of mind they shared together in serving Christ. We should absorb into our own thinking the point he makes, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (verse 7). This is the result of developing a relationship with God, sensing that “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
With this wonderful relationship we are motivated to work in His vineyard, Paul being an outstanding example of this. And yet as Paul tells Timothy (verse 9) it is “not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus …”. It is a challenge for us to comprehend how Paul had become so conscious of the eternal nature of the Creator for which men use the word ‘omniscience’. Paul perceives that this “holy calling” was given “us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” but “has now has been manifested through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (verses 9,10). It is God alone who “knows the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). In Revelation 21:5,6, the one on the throne says, he is “the beginning and the end”. So He already knows death will be abolished.
We are now in the realms of the infinite nature of the Creator we serve. Let us join with Paul in saying, “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (verse 12). May we use our minds to “follow the pattern of the sound words” (verse 13) that can only be found in the scriptures “which (are) at work in you believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) – but only if we continue to feed our minds on them every day.