logo
search site

CHRISTIAN LIFE: Powerful Parting Words

From Three Who Were Ready To Depart…..

 

As I left his bedside in the hospital ward I said goodbye and waved to him from the doorway. I knew it was the final time that we would see one another. “Keep running the race,” he said to me. Three days later the Lord called him home. Although this took place back in 1991, the scene is still clear in my mind and the words spoken to me on that occasion live on. I had been in the presence of a faithful servant of the Lord. I never want to forget his exhortation that September day.

Perhaps you have had a similar experience. You may have been present with somebody as they passed from this life, and their final words spoken to you before lapsing into unconsciousness still echo in your mind. Alternatively, you may have in your possession the final letter written to you by a parent, a child, or a dear friend. You treasure that letter because it is your last contact with that person.

 

Parting words can be powerful. It is reported that before passing away, John Wesley the famous evangelist said: “The best of all is – God is with us.”  Richard Baxter, the Puritan, said before he died: “I have pain, but I have peace.” At the end of his life Augustus Toplady who wrote the well-known hymn Rock of Ages said, “I enjoy heaven already in my soul. My prayers are all converted into praises.” Such words encourage us and can inspire us to follow in the path of these servants of God. In this article we are going to consider the parting words of three people from the New Testament – Peter, Paul, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

JESUS, OUR SAVIOUR                          

Before looking at the parting words of such honoured servants of God as Peter and Paul, we should begin by turning our attention to their Master, the Lord Jesus Christ – the Son of God. When Moses and Elijah had disappeared from the scene of the Transfiguration and “Jesus was found alone”, God the Father spoke from heaven and said, “This is My beloved Son: hear Him,” (Lk.9:35-36, KJV). What were His last words?

 

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all conclude their accounts of the life of our Lord with the commission that He gave to His disciples. Before ascending to His Father in heaven, Jesus reminded them of the authority given to Him. He then instructed them: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you,” (Mt.28:18-20, NKJV). This is His blueprint for world evangelization, and it is still relevant today.

 

Many would-be missionaries have been inspired by these words and have taken the message of salvation to the lost in other lands. Missionsocieties have been born as a result of these words. From all the nations of the earth, the Lord seeks disciples. We must therefore proclaim to them “repentance and remission of sins” through the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, (Lk.24:47 KJV). Those who believe are to be baptized and, as His new followers, are to be taught “all things” that He has commanded. As His ambassadors we go in His authority – not our own. As we go, perhaps fearfully, we know that we are not alone. Though unseen, our Lord stands right beside us. He has promised to those who obey His mandate, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Mt.28:20 NKJV). How wonderful! These words are stirring and should motivate us. Touched by Christ’s love for us personally, we ought to respond readily to His commission.   

 

The four gospels are not the only books to contain words spoken by our Lord. Revelation, the last book in the Bible, also records the actual words of the Lord Jesus. In the closing chapter we find the Saviour’s final promise to His people, “Surely I come quickly,” (Rev.22:20 KJV). Three times in this chapter the Lord Jesus gives the personal assurance of His return and tells us that if we obey Him and are faithful, He will reward us. (1)  Linking the promise of His return with the Great Commission, it is clear that we must proclaim the message of the gospel while we can. Although the promise of His return is comforting, the task entrusted to us is challenging and calls for commitment.

 

 

PETER’S FAREWELL                                

During our Lord’s earthly life Peter appears to have been a somewhat impulsive character, but with the passing of time Peter mellowed. His final words, found in his second epistle, are the writings of a much older man. In the first chapter Peter looks back and assures us of the certainty of the things that we believe. We have not been deceived! Peter himself was an eyewitness of Christ’s majesty, for he was with Him on “the holy mount,” (2 Pet.1:16-18). Given insight by the Spirit of God, however, Peter could look ahead and foresee the rise of false teachers who would deceive many. Denying the promise of Christ’s return, and forgetting God’s past intervention in the affairs of men when He brought judgment upon an ungodly world, they would scoff at the suggestion of a future judgment.

 

How should we respond to such a warning? Peter tells us, at the end of his letter, to “be diligent” that we may “be found of Him in peace,” (2 Pet.3:14). Evidently in these words he has in mind the coming of the Lord. To be preserved from error we must learn more of our Saviour and be grounded in the truth of His Word. Peter therefore exhorts us to “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” (2 Pet.3:18). Let us never think that we have gone on far enough. Spiritual growth can continue to the very end of our lives here on earth. Before finally laying down his pen, Peter’s love for his Master made him think again of the debt that he owed to the Lord Jesus. In praise of the Saviour he wrote: “To Him be glory both now and forever” (2 Pet.3:18).

 

Peter, so human and true to life, is an endearing character. Yet, in his parting words, it is as though he says, “Don’t remember me – remember Jesus. He is worthy of all the glory.”

 

 

PAUL’S FINAL WORDS

Peter and Paul have a number of similarities. Indeed, Peter mentions Paul towards the end of his second epistle. (2)  Both Peter and Paul anticipated martyrdom, and both wrote of a coming apostasy. (3)  Unlike Peter who addressed the people of God, however, Paul’s final letter was written to an individual. Timothy received two personal letters from Paul, and the second epistle contains the last words we have on record from Paul.

 

How Timothy must have treasured that letter after Paul’s departure! He had no doubt about Paul’s affection for him and knew that Paul was longing to see him. (4) The apostle was well-acquainted with him and his family. Using the language of athletics, Paul’s own “race” was over and he was about to leave the track. He was ready to meet “the righteous Judge” and receive his reward – “the crown of righteousness,” (2 Tim.4:7-8). As Timothy read and re-read this letter he could not mistake the apostle’s meaning. Some associates had departed on the Lord’s business; other fair-weather friends had forsaken him. Paul was alone. Would Timothy forsake him too in his hour of need? The cloak, the books, the parchments – would he risk the journey and bring them to that lonely servant of God? (5)  But what about later? When Paul had left this life behind, would Timothy be there to faithfully carry on with the task?

 

Already Paul had passed on the truth to Timothy, and now he wanted him to hand it to “faithful men” who would “be able to teach others also,” (2 Tim.2:1-2). As a good soldier Timothy must be prepared for hardship, and persecution would be the price to pay for a godly life. (6)  How challenging is the solemn charge given by Paul in the presence of God and the Lord Jesus Christ! “Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Tim.4:1-2, KJV). The skies will become darker. Men will no longer wish to listen to sound teaching but will hand-pick skilful and entertaining communicators who will give them the very diet of unedifying froth that they desire. (7)  Where would Timothy stand in all this? Would he also become a people-pleaser or would he dare to stand alone and be faithful to God’s Word? Reading the precious letter through again, he would be confronted by the challenge: “But continue thou…” (2 Tim.3:14). Surely, by God’s grace he would!

 

Some would remember Paul’s parting words on another occasion. The elders in the church atEphesushad been called toMiletusto meet Paul for the last time. They listened as Paul reminded them of his steadfast service and of how, like the Lord Jesus, he had held nothing back. Faithfully he had declared to them the whole counsel of God. Warning them of coming dangers when savage wolves would attack the flock and false teachers would arise, Paul commended them for their safe-keeping “to God, and to the word of His grace”. Paul had wept much in his service, and now the elders wept as they listened to him – sorrowing most of all because he had told them that they would see his face no more. (See Acts 20:17-38)

 

 

How to “Fare Well”

Do these parting words, expressed on different occasions, possess any unifying feature? Yes, they do. The theme of responsibility is common to each. We miss those who have gone on from this life, but we have been left here to continue the work. Will we be faithful? Will we “take up the mantle” that others have left behind and continue the work that they were doing for the Lord?

 

Each person we have considered not only bade farewell but also had the desire that those who followed on would themselves “fare well”. There is only one thing that can keep us faithful – and that is the grace of God. Interestingly, we find that grace mentioned in the parting words of each one. Paul commended both the elders atEphesus and Timothy to the grace of God. Peter reminds us of the need to grow in that same grace, and “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” follows our Lord’s own final words in Revelation 22:21. (8) 

 

By His grace, may these parting words stir us in our devotion and in our discipleship that we may be faithful until He comes.              

 

 

END NOTES:-  (1)See Rev.22:7 & 12.   (2)2 Pet.3:15.   (3)Compare 2 Pet.1:14 with 2 Tim.4:6, and 2 Pet.2:1-2 with 2 Tim.3:1-8.   (4)2 Tim.1:2-4.   (5)2 Tim.4:13.   (6)2 Tim.2:3 & 3:12.   (7)2 Tim.4:3-4.   (8)See Acts 20:32, 2 Tim.4:22 & 2 Pet.3:18.