No other man in the history of the church has left such an imprint on the life of so many as the Apostle Paul. His impression was left upon the young and the old, the rich and the poor, upon kings and peasants. No one who was touched by this man was ever the same again.
An example of this (as well as one of the most touching and interesting verses in the apostle’s letters) is found in Philippians 4:22: “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.” Though imprisoned in Rome this did not stop this man from reaching others with the Gospel. Even the household of the man who had him bound felt the influence of this man’s life.
Paul’s conversation was attended with the unordinary just as his life was to be later. Meeting the Lord on the road to Damascus, he was blinded with the glory of a heavenly light. He remained blind for three days until Ananias came to pray for him that he might receive his sight.
Some feel from Paul’s words to the Galatians (1:18) that he then shut himself away for some three years to be instructed of the lord concerning the church and God’s will for his life. He came forth with zeal to spread the Gospel message that never died in his heart until the day he was stilled in death by Nero.
Only heaven can reveal how many lives were directed to the light of truth through this man’s great ministry.
Paul’s missionary endeavors carried him hundreds of miles into other countries. It would no doubt be shocking to know what this man could have accomplished if he had been able to travel by automobile and jet!
Some tell us he was a man of small stature and poor health. If this is true of his physical condition, it certainly is not true of his spiritual condition. For in the eyes of those privileged to know him, he must have stood out as a giant in the work of God.
He stated in his letter to Corinth, “for necessity is laid upon me; woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1Corinthians 9:16). In his heart burned a fire that would not die, and this same fire emanated from this great man to others whom he encountered. He stirred sinners to repentance. He convinced religious men to the need of being re-baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and to be filled with the Holy Ghost. He stirred communities and left behind him established churches. He stood before governors and kings and spoke with that same fire burning in his heart and left them trembling with conviction.
Nothing could quench the torch of truth that Paul held high before the first century world. He was “Thrice beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck. In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often.” Such were some of the things endured by this man of faith, yet nothing could put out the fire that burned in his heart. Nothing would make him lay his torch down. Nothing could bring him to turn down the brightness of that light a little.
The Torch Passed To Another
It must have been an honor as well as a thrilling experience to travel with this great man on his many journeys. On one such trip Paul was attracted to a young man at Lystra named Timotheus. Paul took this young man with him when he left to accompany him in his work. It is probable that Timothy was a close companion of Paul for several years after this. During these years Paul must have been grooming Timothy for the day when he would be called upon to continue Paul’s work.
Paul later devoted two letters to Timothy in the last years of his life. The first one was possibly written shortly before Paul’s last journey to Jerusalem. It is in this first epistle that Paul passes the torch to Timothy with his words, “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy” (1Timothy 1:18). These letters are very touching as the apostle exposes his heart to this young man who has walked in his footsteps now for several years. Paul, knowing that his ministry would soon be hindered by imprisonment and then closed by death, encouraged Timothy to continue the work that he had started.
It seems evident that the men who followed the apostles have done a good job in continuing the work of God, as the church continues to this day with the same message that was preached at Pentecost. There were some in the following centuries who would be influenced by philosophers and paganistic customs, who would err from the message of the apostles, but through it all God has always had a church and a people who would not bow their knee to paganism.
The Torch To Be Passed On
The second letter to Timothy is a touching letter from Paul. This was evidently written shortly before Paul’s death (2Timothy 4:6–8) and would be the last communication between Paul and the young man whom he loved as his “son.” In this last letter Paul’s last charge to Timothy is to “Preach the word.” Paul’s voice would soon be silenced, but he wanted Timothy to carry this message if he was able.
Not only did Paul want Timothy to continue the message of Christ, he also wanted Timothy to commit the same charge he had received from Paul to other able men who would in turn continue carrying it.
In chapter two Paul instructs Timothy to “be strong” in the word and work of God and to also “commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
The fire that started burning at Pentecost was not to be permitted to burn out. It was to continue through the ensuing centuries until Jesus comes. “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out” (Leviticus 6:13).
The responsibility of Timothy was not only to continue the message he received from Paul, but also to pass the same message on to the succeeding generation. With the death of the apostles and those who were taught by them, men began to drift from the apostle’s doctrine. Men whose religious experience was affected by philosophy and opinions of men were given to rationalizing their religious convictions. In the first half of the fourth century we find the acceptance of the pagan idea of the trinity into the religious circle. The power of Rome began to be felt then as men were made to bow to the demands of Rome regarding their religious beliefs. These were dark days for the church, yet I believe that even in that dark hour God had a people who loved Him and believed His word. While the torch may not have seemed to shine as bright in these Middle Ages, it was still present in the land. Scattered throughout the pages of history we glean reports of those who were filled with the Holy Ghost.
The Torch Still Burns
Paul warned that the day would come when men “will not endure sound doctrine.” He also spoke of the time when men “shall depart from the faith, giving over to seducing spirits.” With other statements Paul, as well as other New Testament writers, spoke of the day in which we find ourselves living, a time of permissiveness, a time when men no longer love the truth, a time when truth is “fallen in the streets.”
The apostle’s message is not popular in many circles. It does not appeal to the majority. We have been ushered into an age of an ecumenical spirit in which everybody is right, and nobody is lost if they are religious.
The responsibility of the first century rested heavily upon the shoulders of the ministry. They were responsible for getting the message established in the land during those trying years after Pentecost. They were faced with much opposition from those who did not want to accept a new doctrine. Through many tears and even blood the message was established through the then known world. Churches sprung up wherever the ministers traveled with the message. They were faithful to their responsibility.
Now we of the twenty-first century find ourselves faced with a great responsibility also. We are not responsible for getting the message of the church established, our responsibility lies in continuing that which has been handed down to us by the apostles faithfully to the end of this church age. We have been given the torch of truth, now we must bring it to a faithful conclusion at the end of this age.
Some seem to have traded the torch for a few matches, but what we need is the light of the same Gospel message that was preached by the apostles to shine forth in a world that continues to darken more with each passing year.
If there were ever a time when men need to preach the truth, it is in this age of compromise. Too many love prestige instead of truth. Too many are power hungry instead of hungry for truth. Too many aspire to be seen and recognized of men instead of loving truth.
When Jesus returns, what will He find in your hand? Will it be the torch of truth or the matches of opinions? “Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
The coming of the Lord is too near for us to become carried away with the cares of this world. It is too near for us to become wrapped up in anything except the work of God.
I believe we are the final torchbearers. I do not believe we shall be committing this truth to a succeeding generation. Much depends upon how we handle what has been committed into our hands. This is the time of the end. We shall be the last to publish the truth to this world. There will be no others after us to continue the message. We must bring the message of God to its faithful conclusion.
God help us.