Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 22, 1962
NUMBER 45, PAGE 9,13b

Paul's Confidence In Death

Tommy McClure, Eldorado, Arkansas

When Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, was approaching the end of his earthly pilgrimage, he said, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

Paul was and is one of the most influential men of the Christian era. (1) Numerous conversions took place and many congregations were established as a result of his labors. Truly, he bore the Lord's name "before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel," as the Lord to Ananias had predicted. (Acts 9:15) (2) Paul wrote at least 13 of the 27 New Testament books. If he is the author of Hebrews, as all reliable evidence indicates, he wrote 14, more than half of these books. (3) His writings are, in all probability, quoted more than those of any other Bible writer. (4) Paul himself tells us that by the grace of God he laboured more abundantly than the other apostles (1 Cor. 15:10)

When we consider the great confidence of this great man (expressed in 2 Tim. 4:8 and quoted above) two questions naturally arise. (1) Why was he so confident? Or what was the basis of his hope? (2) Is it possible for us (our influence is nothing in comparison to Paul's) to have the same hope and enjoy the same confidence?

I. Paul Was Confident In Death Because Christ Had Died For Him.

The apostle said, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:6-8)

By the death of Christ, God's love for man was shown. This love had been demonstrated many times before (See Gen. 1:28; Ex. 3:7, 8; Deut. 8:4), but the death of Christ marked the greatest and clearest manifestation of it. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) It is no wonder that John said, "Behold, what manner of love the Father bath bestowed upon us...." (1 John 3:1)

Also, man's reconciliation was made possible by the death of Christ. (Rom 5:10) Iniquity on the part of man had separated him from God (Isa. 59:2); before reconciliation could take place, sin had to be removed. It was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats, offered under the law of Moses, to take away sins (Heb. 10:4), but Christ, God's only begotten Son, "....died for our sins according to the scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:3) His blood was, "....shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matt. 26:28) Speaking to people who had appropriated to themselves the benefits of Christ's death, John referred to Christ as the one "...that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood." (Rev. 1:5) To the same class of people, John declared, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) So, by virtue of the death of Christ, man, having no hope and without God in the world, can now in Christ Jesus be made nigh by the blood of Christ — be reconciled unto God by the cross of Christ. (Eph. 2:12, 13, 16)

Apart from Christ's death, physical death would have meant eternal doom for Paul — and it would mean the same for us. Paul had sinned! In fact, he referred to himself as chief of sinners. (I Tim. 1:15) We, too, have sinned! Paul said, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23) According to Solomon, there is no man that sinneth not. (1 Kings 8:46; Eccl. 7:201 Apart from the death of Christ, there is no pardon; without pardon, eternal doom is inevitable!

However, the death of Christ was not the only factor which contributed to Paul's great confidence in death.

II. Paul Had Appropriated To Himself The Accomplishments Of That Death.

In Heb. 2:9 the writer says, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should TASTE DEATH FOR EVERY MAN." So, Christ died for all, making it possible for all to be saved, but that is no proof that all will be saved. Only a few will enjoy salvation in comparison to the many who will suffer destruction. Jesus said, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matt. 7:13, 14) Like water, salvation is free, but in order to receive any benefit whatsoever, and must partake of it. Christ died for all, but His death profits those only who appropriate to themselves its benefits.

This very fact was affirmed by Paul himself in Eph. 3. Speaking of the mystery which by revelation was made known unto him, he said, "Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." (verse 6) (1) We are to partake; God will not force his promise upon us! (2) The promise is justification from sin and relates to the promise which God made to Abraham. Paul said, "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." (Gal. 3:8) Only through Christ (the promised seed of Abraham, Gal. 3:16) is justification possible. (Acts 13:38, 39) (3) We are to partake of this promise in Christ; out of Christ there is no hope for any man. Paul was baptized into Christ. (Rom. 6:3) (4) We are to partake of his promise in Christ through the gospel. It is no wonder, then, that the gospel is said to be God's power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16) and that whereby we are called unto salvation. (2 Thess. 2:14)

Paul partook of his promise in Christ through the gospel by faith. He said, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:1) The faith by which Paul was justified was a living, active faith — one which worked by love. (Gal. 5:6; cf. Jas. 2:20) This faith moved him to be baptized into Christ at which time he reached the benefits of Christ's death. (Rom. 6:3) Had not thus Paul appropriated to himself those gracious benefits, he could have had no genuine confidence in death. Physical death will spell eternal doom for every person who fails to do so. Dear reader, have you — by a living, active, obedient faith — become a partaker of his promise in Christ by the gospel? If not, please read carefully 2 Thess. 1:7-9.

The death of Christ and Paul's appropriating its benefits to himself were important factors in his confidence, but there was another which must not be overlooked.

III. Paul Did Not Draw Back Unto Perdition, But Was Faithful Unto The End.

He said, "But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." (Heb. 10:39)

This included: the buffeting (controlling) of his body (1 Cor. 9:27; cf. Rom. 8:13); magnifying Christ in his body (Phil. 1:20); worshipping in truth (Acts 24:14); integrity of conscience (Acts 24:16); faithfully declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20, 26, 27); and fighting a good fight, finishing his course and keeping the faith. (2 Tim. 4:7)

Without faithfulness on the part of Paul, his latter end would have been worse than the first; he would have resembled the dog which returns to its own vomit again, and the washed sow which returns to her wallowing in the mire! (2 Peter 2:20)

Having considered the basis of Paul's hope, let us turn our attention to the question: Is it possible for US to have the same confidence?

Paul answers the question in the latter part of 2 Tim. 4:8. "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." Christ died for us as well as for Paul (Heb. 2:9); the same gospel to which he had access is designed for and offered to us (Mk. 16:15); like Paul, we can be faithful to the Lord instead of drawing back unto perdition, for God will provide a way of escape every time we are tempted. (1 Cor. 10:13)

Let us all appropriate to ourselves the accomplishments of Christ's death and so live in him that we can die with confidence! John said, "I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." (Rev. 14:13)