It is generally believed by all students of the Word of God that Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy was his last written message. In our dated Bibles the year of that final message was 66 A.D. It is believed by some that Paul was in prison in Rome the second time, having been once freed. However, all Christians are not certain as to this fact. But all Christians do believe that Paul reached Rome before 63 A.D., or about four or five years before he died. Paul was taken to Rome as a prisoner, having been delivered to the Roman Government by the Jews who caught him in the temple in Jerusalem, about the year 60 A. D. Acts 21:27. He had just written his Epistle to the Romans. Romans 16:24 and 25. Acts 19:21. Before Paul wrote to the Romans he had written to the Thessalonians, to the Corinthians, and to the Galatians
After his arrest in Jerusalem he did not write again until after he had reached Rome. Then, according to our dated Bibles, in the year 64 A.D., he wrote to the Ephesians; in the year 64 A.D., he wrote to the Philippians; in the year 64 A.D., he wrote to the Colossians; in the year 64 A.D., he wrote to Philemon; in the year 65 A.D., he wrote to Titus; in the year 64 A.D., he wrote to Hebrews (neither date nor authorship fully established); in the year 65 A.D., he wrote to Timothy (his First Epistle); and finally in the year 66 A.D., he wrote his Second Epistle to Timothy.
According to Acts 19:22, Timothy ministered unto Paul and was with him, when “all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus both Jews and Greeks.” Acts 19:10. Paul’s mighty work, by the Holy Spirit, “was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus.” Acts 19:17. So it will prove profitable to read together Paul’s Epistles to Timothy with his Epistle to Ephesus. Timothy, who made his headquarters at Ephesus, could well understand the words of Paul, recorded in II Timothy 1:15, “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” Timothy knew why they had turned away from Paul.
The Galatians had turned away from Paul. To them he said, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth,” Galatians 4:16. The Corinthians, who had received such rich blessings through Paul’s ministry afterward questioned his apostleship. They could not understand his twofold ministry. This he explained in the ninth chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians. And then he wrote to them, “be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” I Corinthians 11:1.
In Paul’s last message he is instructing his son Timothy concerning the things which Timothy has heard of him. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of (by) me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” II Timothy 2:1 and 2.
After we have diligently studied all of this Epistle, we can better understand this commission of Paul to Timothy. In the Epistle we learn that Paul used the words “I,” “me” and “my” more than fifty times. Does he speak with Divine authority? Were his orders to Timothy the Lord’s orders; or was he simply expressing some of his own ideas and opinions? If Paul’s mind in that farewell message was not the mind of the Lord, he was more than egotistical or presumptuous. He was deluded.
When Christ was on earth, God was speaking in His Son. Hebrews 1:2. Therefore, the Father said, “Hear ye Him.” Matthew 17:5. Why did not Paul say to Timothy “the things that thou has heard of the Lord?” Many Christians delight to give special emphasis to the words spoken by Jesus of Nazareth on earth; so they purchase a “Red-letter” New Testament. And they join in the song, “I would like to have been here when He was here among men.” But they perhaps have forgotten to read several of the Saviour’s “Red-lettered” statements: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”; “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs”; “Go not in the way of the Gentiles.” Matthew 15:24 and 26 and 10:5.
Would it not he better to turn to the Lord’s messages through Paul? It seems as though Gentiles would prefer to turn to Paul’s Epistles and in none of them is the Lord’s messages to the Gentiles more clearly stated than in Paul’s Epistles to Timothy, wherein we read: “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher and an apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity”; and again “Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.”
The first reference is I Timothy 2:7, and immediately follows the statement, concerning Christ, “Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” The due time for the Gentiles was not while God was speaking in His Son, but after the Son went back to heaven. And even then the Gentiles had to wait. It was when Paul went out from Antioch of Syria and after some months returned that we read: “And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” Acts 14:27. As Gentiles, we should not place our “due time” back in the days of Jesus of Nazareth or in the early ministry of the twelve apostles in the Book of Acts.
And concerning the second reference, II Timothy 1:11, let us carefully study the verses immediately preceding: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” For his faithful, uncompromising, proclamation of that message to the Gentiles Paul was the prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. II Timothy 1:8 and Ephesians 3:1.
While Jesus was on earth, with Israel under the Old Covenant, His message was concerning the Abrahamic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, the New Covenant, in which Covenants God had guaranteed to Israel a King, a Kingdom and a Land. That ministry and message was confirmed to Israel by the twelve apostles, after the Lord Jesus had shed His precious blood that sinners might be saved. Hebrews 2:2 to 4. The Apostle Paul, in his early ministry, joined with the Twelve in the confirmation of that message. But Paul came to the “place where he had to say to that Nation, “your blood be upon your own heads: I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” Acts 18:6. That was about 20 years after the death of Christ. Shortly, thereafter the Lord, through Paul, pronounced his judgment upon that Nation; blindness. Israel was temporarily set aside. Acts 28:25 to 28. Romans 11:11 . . . Romans 11:25 to 30. Gentiles then obtained mercy through Israel’s unbelief. Romans 11:28 to 31.
After this pronouncement Paul’s ministry and message was concerning the Dispensation of the Grace of God. Ephesians 3:2. He then preached the unsearchable (untraceable) riches of Christ. Ephesians 3:8. To whom? Among the Gentiles. He then proclaimed the mystery among the Gentiles, Christ within, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27. “That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs of the same Body.” Ephesians 3:6. This Mystery differed in some respects from the message and blessings of the Covenants. Paul’s new message was received from the risen Christ by revelation. The Gospel that he preached was received by revelation. Galatians 1:11 and 12. The Mystery that he proclaimed, the unsearchable riches of Christ, was by revelation. This had been hid in God, not made known before to the sons of men. It was hid in God from the beginning of the world. Ephesians 3:9. Colossians 1:26. In connection with this new message Paul wrote that the members of the Body were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:3.
In writing to his son Timothy, Paul referred to the Mystery, preached unto the Gentiles. I Timothy 3:16. In Ephesians 3:3, Paul stated that the Mystery was made known “to me:” In Ephesians 3:5, Paul stated. “it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” In II Timothy 1:14, Paul thus instructed Timothy; “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us.”
By reading two or three verses of Scripture one might be led to believe that Paul was not the only apostle or prophet to whom the Mystery was made known by revelation. But after reading Paul’s final message, II Timothy, and noting the more than fifty times he used “I,” “Me” and “My,” we must come to the conclusion that the revelation of the Mystery to others must have been through Paul. Others certainly learned by communication of Paul’s Gospel. Galatians 2:1 to 5. We cannot think of Paul as having been proud, or egotistical, even though he had the right to be exalted above measure because of the abundance of the revelations from Christ. II Corinthians 12:1 to 12. His thorn was there to keep him humble; but it did not keep him from referring to “my doctrine,” “my gospel,” “my hands” in connection with “my chains,” in writing to “my son.” II Timothy 3:10 . . . II Timothy 2:8 . . . II Timothy 1:6 . . . II Timothy 1:16. “My chain” was because of “my doctrine.” Colossians 4:3. Ephesians 6:19 and 20. Paul was in bonds. But God’s Word, by Paul, was not bound. II Timothy 2:9.
Note the closing words of the Apostle, who was born out of due season, who magnified his office as Apostle to the Gentiles: “The Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully, known, and all the Gentiles might hear.” II Timothy 4:17. I Corinthians 15:8 . . . Romans 11:13. Nearly twenty years before Paul wrote these closing words he went up to Jerusalem, by revelation, Galatians 2:1 to 6. He went up, by revelation, to communicate unto the apostles and teachers to the Jews at Jerusalem the Gospel that he had received from Christ, by revelation. Galatians 1:11 and 12. As the result of that conference, Peter and his associates agreed to confine their ministry, their gospel-preaching, to the circumcision; and leave with Paul the responsibility of evangelizing the Gentiles. Galatians 2:7 and 9. Acts 22:17 to 22. After that conference Peter’s name was not again mentioned in the Book of Acts. After the fifteenth chapter of Acts, Paul was the chief human actor in that Book But strange to say the Book of Acts closed before Paul’s ministry closed, the close of the Book of Acts dividing his ministry. And for this reason Paul instructed Timothy to rightly divide the Word of truth. Paul’s divided ministry divided brethren in his day; and it will continue to divide them in this day, even more and more as the Lord shall endeavor to recover for the members of His Body that truth revealed through His prisoner for the Gentile, the Mystery and the glorious Gospel of the blessed God. I Timothy 1:11.
It is significant that it was in this farewell message that Paul’s son was told to rightly divide the Word of truth. In the light of the context we may be sure that Paul meant that the student of the Word of God who did not know the difference between the Mystery and all other truth would be a workman that needeth to be ashamed. And how many such Christians there are today!
“From a child,” Timothy had known the Scriptures. II Timothy 3:15. Those Scriptures were able to make Timothy wise unto salvation. But they were not able to make him wise unto the Mystery, which was not once named in the Scriptures with which Timothy was familiar, to which he had had access Timothy’s knowledge of the Word and will of God was from two different sources; namely, “The Scriptures,” and “the things that thou hast heard of me.” II Timothy 2:2. Timothy had not received the things by inspiration or by revelation or by Bible study. He had heard “the things” from Paul. He could not have heard them from Peter and the Eleven, for although they were commissioned by Christ, with Divine authority, with the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, they were not the custodians of Body truth. Timothy was instructed to commit Paul’s “my doctrine” and “my gospel” to faithful men, “who shall be able to teach others also.” II Timothy 2:2.
This brings us to this question, “are teachers of the Word of God today to recognize the authority of Peter, and his keys, and perpetuate the message given forth by the Twelve during the Book of Acts period; or should they not recognize the boundary-line of the Dispensation of the Grace of God and the Mystery revealed through the Apostle to the Gentiles and labour under the final commission of Paul to Timothy?” Sorely there is a difference between discipling all nations, teaching them to observe that which God spoke in His Son, and making a New Man out of Jew and Gentile, according to the Mystery of Ephesians. Ephesians 2:11 to 19.
However there is no higher standard of “Christ” living than in Paul’s prison Epistles. Surely there is a difference between the declaration of Peter and James, taking believers out of the Gentiles, according to the Prophet Amos, as recorded in Acts 15:14 to 17, and the Gentiles being made fellowheirs of the same Body, about which Amos knew nothing.” Ephesians 3:3 to 3:9.
Unless we divide Paul’s ministry before and after the revelation of the Mystery, we might not understand why Paul, in writing to Timothy, instructed him to use wine for his sickness, when Timothy knew full well that Paul had healed men, who had far less faith than he, without the use of wine or medicine. Timothy was with Paul in Ephesus. II Timothy 1:18. Compare I Timothy 5:23 and Acts 19:11 and 12. Timothy, if he was the bishop of the Assembly at Ephesus, would have been most inconsistent, had he instructed the members of the Assembly to trust the Lord for healing, while he was taking wine. And we are not to be surprised that Paul did not include baptism in his commission to Timothy, be cause “Christ sent Paul not to baptize.” I Corinthians 1:17. Moreover, with the revelation of the Mystery came the revelation of one baptism. This fact was written by Paul to Timothy’s Assembly, if he was bishop of the Church at Ephesus. Ephesians 3:3 to 9. Ephesians 4:1 to 7.
The Lord’s purpose in giving to Paul that marvelous revelation, that message wholly unknown to all apostles and prophets before him, was “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.” Ephesians 3:9. If it had been hid in God, all men could not have seen it before God’s appointed time. Paul was the first to see it. Now God wants every believer, including you, to see it. This Mystery has reference to the Christ and the Church in the heavenlies, to be made known by the Church, and is “according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 3:10 and 11. That this glorious truth might be known the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened.” Ephesians 1:17 and 18. Have the eyes of your understanding been enlightened? You are one of the all whom the Lord would have to see the fellowship of the Mystery; that is, if you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. Have you been redeemed by God’s grace; by Christ’s blood? Any man who has not been born from above, cannot see the Kingdom of God, to say nothing of this Mystery. Surely the Lord would have every member of the Body of Christ know the difference between the Kingdom promised since the world began and the Grace and purpose given us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, long before God made covenants with men.
Established creeds and doctrinal platforms have been largely responsible for the comparatively few Christians who have seen that glorious truth which God has wanted His children to see all down through the years since the risen Christ revealed it to Paul. Denominational leaders will excommunicate Christians for seeing it. Religion was responsible for the terrible persecution which Paul endured for proclaiming the Mystery in his days. Religious leaders today will scoff at this truth; will antagonize, boycott and persecute those who endeavor to recover this blessed and glorious truth. The Lord could truly say to them, “having eyes ye see not.” Sad to say, the most determined and aggressive opponents of this truth, which the Lord would have all men to see, are the leaders and teachers of Fundamental Church-organizations and Bible-Schools, where men and women are preparing to be preachers and teachers. They are such persecutors that many members of the Body of Christ who see the Mystery, or Secret, keep the fact a secret, instead of remembering the words of Paul expressed in Galatians 2:5 and 6. Read those words, and if you see, lead some other brother out of his blindness, suffering the persecution with Paul, for the sake of Christ and His truth.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.