“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7
With these words the great Apostle Paul gives his last instructions to his beloved disciple Timothy. Paul had experienced an immense amount of persecution (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul summarizes his life as a Christian by calling it a “grand fight,” the underlying symbolism likely being a wrestling-match, boxing-bout, or some other similar contest (1 Tim. 4:7b, 8; 6:12).
The Apostle Paul’s life was a fight, indeed. He fought against Satan, against the principalities and powers, against the world-rulers of this present darkness in the heavenlies, against Jewish and pagan vice and violence, against Judaizing among the Galatians, against fanaticism among the Thessalonians, against contention, fornication, and litigation among the Corinthians, against incipient Gnosticism among the Ephesians and Colossians, against fighting without and fears within, and last but not least, against the law of sin and death operating within his own heart. But Paul was still able to triumphantly profess, “I have fought the good fight.” And when the Apostle adds, “I have finished the race”— an obstacle race, indeed! — he stressed the fact that in his life as a believer he had fully accomplished that ministry to which the Lord had called him (Acts 20:24). His eye, like that of a skilled runner, was riveted at all times upon the finishing post for the glory of God by means of the salvation of sinners (Gal. 2:2; 5:7;Phil. 2:16; Heb. 12:1-2).
In summarizing the past, Paul finally drops every metaphor and writes, “I have kept the faith.” Here, as in 1 Timothy 6:12, the meaning is not “I have kept the pledge” nor “I have maintained the true doctrine,” but in harmony with the present context it should be taken to mean, “I have retained my personal trust in God, my confidence in all his Christ-centered promises. In the spiritual arena of life I have not only fought hard and run well but I have also been sustained to the end by the deeply rooted conviction that I shall receive the prize the glorious reward.”
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A LIFE OF WAR. PAUL’S LIFE DEMONSTRATES THIS FOR US.
As we have noted, he experienced a great deal of persecution and yet stood fast in the Gospel. Paul’s life modeled in both word and deed the Gospel he proclaimed. This Gospel had pierced his heart and transformed his life through and through. Paul’s life was spent for the Gospel. And here at the end of his life Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:7 is telling young Timothy, “Look. I’ve fought the good fight, I’ve finished the race, I have kept the faith and now you do the same by the grace of God.” Paul had given his life for the Gospel. He had experienced a tremendous amount of difficulty and opposition in preaching the Word of God so that churches could be planted, people might be saved, and individuals like Timothy would be equipped to proclaim the glories of the Gospel to the people of God.
HOW ARE YOU BEING SPENT FOR THE GOSPEL?
Do you think that all of this sounds great but isn’t applicable to your own life? The Christian walk is a worldview based on the Word and grounded in the Gospel of Jesus. The Word of God propelled Paul’s heart and life, and the Gospel provided the fuel for his fire. The twin tandem of the Word of God and the Gospel transformed Paul’s life and the Mediterranean world. It is the same today.
Only by having a proper view of God, one that fears Him, that trembles at His Word, that speaks only what He has spoken in His Word, that bathes heart, mind and soul in the ocean of God’s grace in the Gospel will we make a difference. Christianity is a life-view from beginning to end with Christ at the center and the Holy Spirit convicting, empowering, and making much of Jesus. It involves ordinary people that make much of the sufficiency of Jesus from the Word of God to non-Christians and to the people of God.
ARE YOU READY TO BE SPENT FOR THE GOSPEL?
Then prepare yourself by grounding your life in the world of the Bible. Saturate your heart, mind and life in the Gospel. Get involved in your local church, taking care to not idolize your ministry but rather use it as means for your sanctification. Ministry is all about knowing and making Jesus known. Be spent for the Gospel because your heart and mind have been gripped by a vision of the majesty of God who sent forth His Son to bleed, die, and rise again to serve as our Mediator, Intercessor, and High Priest. Be spent for that vision and not for any other vision.
Paul was spent for the Gospel because he knew that Jesus was coming back. The vision of Jesus’ soon return gave him impetus for why was spent for the Gospel, and it will give us the same drive. Paul notes in 2 Timothy 4:8, “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” Be spent for the Gospel. Give your whole life to the cause of the Gospel and watch as God uses ordinary you in powerful ways to expand His kingdom to the glory of God.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and is the Host for the Equipping You in Grace Podcast. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021) and The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.