The Testimony of the Lord's Prisoner "I am not ashamed"
In a previous message we considered ‘the Testimony of the Chief of Sinners’ and how the apostle Paul could say; ‘I obtained mercy’ (1 Tim 1:12-16). In this message we are considering his testimony as the prisoner of the Lord and how he could say ‘I am not ashamed’.
To understand the significance of Paul’s words we need to know something about his circumstances when he wrote them in this his final letter to his fellow labourer, Timothy. Paul’s situation relates to the burning of Rome in A.D. 64.
In July of that year a fire broke out in shops near the chariot racing stadium known as the Circus Maximus. The fire raged for six nights and seven days. Legend says that the young emperor Nero played his fiddle and sang of the destruction of Troy on a private stage even while Rome burned. He was only 26 but utterly decadent. Hundreds died and thousands were left homeless from a fire that destroyed two thirds of the city. Suspicion that the emperor was responsible arose even while the fire was still burning. To deflect attention from himself he eventually pointed the finger of accusation at a hated minority called Christians and so began Rome’s first brutal and bloody persecution against them. The Roman historian and Senator Tacitus wrote. ‘Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired’ (Was Nero Responsible for the Great Fire of Rome? Sky History).
It was during this time that the apostle Paul was arrested as a prominent leader among the Christians possibly at Nicopolis, south west of Corinth (Titus 3:12) or Troas (2 Tim 4:13) or even Rome itself. By the time he is writing to Timothy he has already been through the first stage of his trial (2 Tim 4:16). According to tradition, Paul was imprisoned in the Tullianum prison in Rome, later known as the Mamertine Prison or if not there perhaps in a cell at the Praetorian Barracks. It is evident from what Paul writes to Timothy that he was awaiting the second stage of his trial and anticipating his execution (2 Tim 4:6-7, 16).
Paul’s circumstances in prison were anything, but comfortable. ‘Romans did not consider imprisonment itself a form of punishment—prisons were used to hold those awaiting trial or the death penalty and often served as places of execution. Prisons were filthy and crowded, and prisoners were treated as little better than dead’ (Faithlife Study Bible Infographics. Logos Bible Software). That’s why Paul mentions a man by the name of Onesiphorus and his appreciation for his care in such a situation. Onesiphorus diligently searched to find Paul’s whereabouts in Rome and when he did refreshed him and was not ashamed of his chain as some were (2 Tim 1:16-17).
Yet despite what Paul had already experienced and was soon to face, he was ‘not ashamed’. He was not embarrassed to belong to Christ, who was so despised by the world then as He is now, nor did Paul feel in any way that His lord whom he served and whose prisoner he considered himself to be (2 Tim 1:8) had in any sense let him down or disappointed him. Not at all. Rather Paul speaks with conviction, confidence and certainty in the midst of his suffering. He says: ‘I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day’ (2 Tim 1:12).
Let’s think about three things from Paul’s powerful testimony:
1. THE CAUSE OF PAUL’S FORTITUDE
Paul says that the cause of his suffering was because he was a preacher, apostle and teacher of the gospel (2 Tim 1:10-11), but what was the cause of his fortitude in the midst of that suffering? Paul ever demonstrated tremendous fortitude as he faced suffering for the sake of Christ throughout his life. It was not that he was a man of ‘iron’ who could withstand all that was ‘thrown’ at him in his own strength or that he was such a zealot and so fanatical about what he believed that nothing could shake or deter him. Not at all. Rather it was the case that Paul endured his sufferings with fortitude because of his unwavering conviction that the one who he believed in and served was absolutely all that He claimed to be. Paul submitted to His will knowing that he was in the hands of his Lord even though facing execution. Paul looked at the future with certainty because he had no doubt in ‘whom he had believed’.
This conviction was wrought deep in the heart of Paul because
→He Knew the Saving Power of God v 9 >The Gospel Purposed in Eternity Paul reminds Timothy; ‘Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began’ (2 Tim 1:9). It is God who saves sinners through Christ by grace and calls them to holiness. According to Paul the gospel in all that it means and does was no afterthought with God, but something He purposed ‘before time began’. God purposed by His grace to have a people for His glory in Christ from among fallen humanity before the world existed and yet in time He fulfills His purpose through the gospel by calling sinners to share in that eternal purpose by repenting and believing in the Lord Jesus. When we encounter statements like this in the Bible that speak of divine purpose before time and the existence of the world are we to think that God has predetermined to save a limited number of people? Certainly not, for as Paul writes elsewhere: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom 10:12) and ‘whoever’ means whoever!
But, think about
>The Gospel Revealed in Time v 10 The gospel planned in eternity has been revealed in time ‘by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’. By His work on the Cross and glorious resurrection from the dead Jesus disannulled death’s power. He removed its sting and showed to the world how we can have eternal life and immortality because He died and rose again. We do not like wasps! We fear them because of their sting which can hurt and harm us. Well, Christ took the sting out of death. Like all men, each believer will one day die, but death cannot harm, hurt or rob them of what Christ has secured and promised to everyone who believes in Him. If you have eternal life death is but the ‘doorway’ to heaven and the fullness of that life you already possess. Moreover, though we may die, as millions of saints have, the day of resurrection will come when Christ returns for His people and the bodies of the saints who have died will be raised from the corruption of the grave to the incorruption of glory and those alive at His return will never die, but will have their mortal bodies transformed to become immortal. That’s the promise and hope of the gospel secured, I say, by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Another reason why Paul had such fortitude in the midst of his hardships was because
→He Knew the Sustaining Power of God He endured the afflictions that came with being a gospel preacher according to the power of God (2 Tim 1:8). He considered himself an ‘earthen vessel’ or a ‘clay jar’ who carried the ‘treasure’ of the gospel. He and his fellow labourers were fragile, easily broken and disposable clay vessels who should have died under the persecution they experienced and yet they were preserved and sustained by the power of God (2 Cor 4:7-12). When Paul stood before King Agrippa in a hearing called by the Roman governor Festus before sending Paul to Rome at the time of his first Roman imprisonment, he could say: “Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great” (Acts 26:22) and he tells Timothy in this his final letter: ‘At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!’ (2 Tim 4:16-18).
2. THE CONFIDENCE OF PAUL’S FAITH
Paul spoke with confidence. He said when writing from his first imprisonment some years early: ‘For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Phil 1:21). Now as he anticipated his martyrdom he described it like this: ‘For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing’ (2 Tim 4:6-8). As another has said “When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is die”. Here are three reasons why Paul had such assurance:
→Paul’s Confidence was through Knowing a Personal Saviour →Paul’s Confidence was through Knowing an Almighty Saviour →Paul’s Confidence was through Knowing a Faithful Saviour
3. THE CERTAINTY OF PAUL’S FUTURE
Paul says: ‘for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day’. His future was bright, his future was secure.
→Paul’s Deposit He had committed his soul, his life and his service to the safe keeping of Him who he first met on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-9). And finally,
→Paul’s Anticipation There was a day of recompense coming when he would stand before ‘the righteous judge’ who would not only keep all he entrusted to Him safe until that day of review, but who would also vindicate and reward his servant who had been abandoned by friends (2 Tim 1:15), maligned and falsely accused by the world and soon to be unjustly condemned to death in Caesar’s court as an ‘evildoer’. He writes: ‘Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained’ (2 Tim 2:8-9). Paul knew his day of truth would come when Christ would honour His servant who the world rejected as it did Him.
The day of truth will come for all men. For the unsaved what a dreadful day it will be. Truth will stand only on the Day of Judgment and lies, deceit and denial will be swept away. Everything will be seen for what it is and those who have rejected Christ in this life will be rejected by him then.
During the early years of the Great Depression after the crash of the Wall Street Stock Market in October 1929 people lost confidence in financial institutions including banks. ‘Some 650 banks failed in 1929; the number would rise to more than 1,300 the following year’. In the panic of those times ‘bank runs’ were common when large numbers of depositors withdrew their money from the banks in cash often causing the bank to collapse. Some of these ‘bank runs’ were started just by rumour. ‘In December 1930, the New York Times reported that a small merchant in the Bronx went to a branch of the Bank of the United States and asked to sell his stock in the institution. When told the stock was a good investment and advised not to sell, he left the bank and began spreading rumors that the bank had refused to sell his stock. Within hours, a crowd had gathered outside the bank, and that afternoon between 2,500 and 3,500 depositors withdrew a total of $2 million in funds’. (Bank Run, History.com Editors).
Well, there never will be a ‘bank run’ on heaven’s bank! Anyone who has put their trust in Christ and invested in the eternal bank of God will never be disappointed. No one will or would ever want to withdraw their deposit because it’s absolutely sure and safe with Christ and the interest He pays is, well, just out of this world.
Have you made your deposit? “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
I know not why God’s wondrous grace To me He hath made known, Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love Redeemed me for His own.
But “I know Whom I have believed, And am persuaded that He is able To keep that which I’ve committed Unto Him against that day.”