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-Jesus, Peter And Paul Say Farewell

Parting words can inspire us to follow the path of these servants of God.

Jesus, Peter And Paul Say Farewell

Parting words can inspire us to follow the path of these servants of God.


Picture Frame As I left his bedside in the hospital ward I waved goodbye from the doorway. I knew it was the final time we’d see each other. “Keep running the race,” he said. Three days later the Lord called him home. Although this took place more than ten years ago, this scene and the words spoken are still clear in my mind. I had been in the presence of a faithful servant of the Lord. I never want to forget his exhortation on that September day.

Perhaps you have had a similar experience. You may have been with somebody as they passed from this life, and their final words still echo in your mind. Or you may have in your possession the final letter written by a parent, child, or dear friend. You treasure their last words.

Parting words can be powerful. It is reported that before passing away, the famous evangelist John Wesley said: “The best of all is that God is with us.” Puritan Richard Baxter said before he died: “I have pain, but I have peace.” At the end of his life, Augustus Toplady, who wrote the hymn “Rock of Ages” said, “I enjoy heaven already in my soul. My prayers are all converted into praises.”

Such words encourage us and can inspire us to follow the path of these servants of God. Let’s consider the parting words of three people from the New Testament: Jesus, Peter and Paul.

Jesus’ Farewell
Before looking at the parting words of those honored servants Peter and Paul, we must begin by turning our attention to their Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. When Moses and Elijah had disappeared from the scene of the Transfiguration and “Jesus was found alone,” God the Father spoke from heaven and said, “This is My beloved Son: hear Him” (Lk. 9:35-36 KJV). What were His last words?

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all conclude their accounts of the life of our Lord with the commission that He gave to His disciples. Before ascending to His Father in heaven, Jesus reminded them of the authority given to Him. He then instructed them: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:18-20 NKJV). This is His blueprint for world evangelism, and it is still relevant for us today.

Many would-be missionaries have been inspired by these words and have taken the message of salvation to the lost in other lands. Mission societies have been born as a result of these words. From all the nations of the earth, the Lord seeks disciples. We must therefore proclaim to them “repentance and remission of sins” through the Lord Jesus Christ (Lk. 24:47). Those who believe are to be baptized and taught “all things” that He has commanded.

As His ambassadors we go in His authority, not our own. As we go out, perhaps fearfully, we know that we are not alone. Though unseen, our Lord stands right beside us. He has promised to those who obey His mandate, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). How wonderful! These stirring words should motivate us. Touched by Christ’s love for us personally, we ought to respond readily to His commission.

The four gospels are not the only books to contain words spoken by our Lord. Revelation, the last book in the Bible, also records the actual words of Jesus. In the closing chapter we find His final promise to His people: “Surely I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:20). Three times in this chapter the Lord gives the personal assurance of His return, and tells us that if we obey and are faithful, He will reward us (Rev. 22:7,12). Linking the promise of His return with the Great Commission, it is clear that we must proclaim the gospel while we can. Although the promise of His return is comforting, our task is challenging and calls for commitment.

Peter’s Farewell
During our Lord’s earthly life Peter was a somewhat impulsive character, but with the passing of time he mellowed. His final words, found in his second epistle, are the writings of a much older man. In the first chapter he looks back and assures us of the certainty of the things that we believe. We have not been deceived! Peter himself was an eyewitness of Christ’s majesty, for he was “with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Pet. 1:16-18). Given insight by the Holy Spirit, however, Peter could foresee the rise of false teachers. Denying the promise of Christ’s return, and forgetting God’s past intervention when He brought judgment upon an ungodly world, they would scoff at the suggestion of a future judgment.

How should we respond to such a warning? At the end of his letter, Peter tells us “to be diligent to be found by Him in peace” (2 Pet. 3:14). Evidently, he has in mind the coming of the Lord. To be preserved from error we must learn more of our Savior and be grounded in the truth of His Word. Peter therefore exhorts us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Let us never think that we have gone far enough. Spiritual growth can continue to the very end of our lives. Before finally laying down his pen, Peter’s love for his Master made him think again of the debt he owed Him. In praise of the Savior he wrote, “To Him be the glory both now and forever” (2 Pet. 3:18).

Peter is such a human and true-to-life character. Yet, in his parting words it is as though he says, “Don’t remember me; do remember Jesus. He is worthy of all the glory.”

Paul’s Farewell
Peter and Paul have a number of similarities. Indeed, Peter mentions Paul towards the end of his second epistle (2 Pet. 3:15). Both Peter and Paul anticipated martyrdom, and both wrote of a coming apostasy (2 Pet. 1:14; 2 Tim. 4:6; 2 Pet. 2:1-2; 2 Tim. 3:1-8). Unlike Peter who addressed the people of God, however, Paul’s final letter was written to an individual. Timothy received two personal letters from Paul, and the second epistle contains the last words we have on record from Paul.

How Timothy must have treasured that letter after Paul’s departure! He had no doubt about Paul’s affection for him and knew that Paul was longing to see him (2 Tim. 1:2-4). The apostle was well-acquainted with him and his family. Using the language of athletics, Paul’s own “race” was over and he was about to leave the track. He was ready to meet “the righteous Judge” and receive His reward, “the crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

As Timothy read and re-read this letter he could not mistake the apostle’s meaning. Some associates had continued in the Lord’s business; other fair-weather friends had forsaken him. Paul was alone. Would Timothy forsake him too in his hour of need? Would he risk the journey to bring the cloak, books, parchments to that lonely servant of God? (2 Tim. 4:13). But what about later? When Paul departed from this life, would Timothy faithfully carry on?

Paul had already passed on the truth to Timothy, and now he wanted him to pass it to “faithful men” who would “be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1-2). As a good soldier, Timothy must be prepared for hardship, and persecution would be the price to pay for a godly life (2 Tim 2:3; 3:12). How challenging is the charge given by Paul in the presence of God and the Lord! “Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Men will no longer wish to listen to sound teaching, but will pick entertaining communicators who will give them the very diet of unedifying froth that they desire (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

Where would Timothy stand in all this? Would he also become a people-pleaser, or would he stand faithful to God’s Word? Reading the precious letter through again, he would be confronted by this challenge: “But continue thou …” (2 Tim. 3:14). Surely, by God’s grace he would!

Some would remember Paul’s parting words on another occasion. The elders in the Ephesian church had been called to Miletus to meet Paul for the last time. They listened as he reminded them of his steadfast service and of how, like the Lord, he had held nothing back. Faithfully he had declared to them “the whole counsel of God.” Warning them of coming dangers when “savage wolves” would attack the flock and false teachers would arise, Paul commended them for their safe-keeping “to God and to the word of His grace.” Paul had wept much in his service, and now the elders wept as they listened to him – sorrowing most of all because he had told them that they would see his face no more (Acts 20:17-38).

Will We Fare Well?
These parting words, expressed on different occasions, possess one unifying feature. The theme of responsibility is common to each. We miss those who have gone on from this life, but we have been left here to continue the work. Will we be faithful? Will we “take up the mantle” that others have left behind and continue their work for the Lord?

Each person we have considered not only bade farewell but also had the desire that those who followed on would themselves “fare well.” There is only one thing that can keep us faithful, and that is the grace of God. Interestingly, we find grace mentioned in the parting words of each one.

Paul commended both the elders at Ephesus and Timothy to the grace of God (Acts 20:32; 2 Tim. 4:22). Peter reminds us of the need to grow in that same grace (2 Pet. 3:18). And “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” follows our Lord’s own final words in Revelation 22:21.

By His grace, may these parting words stir us in our devotion and in our discipleship that we too may be faithful until He comes.

By Martin Girard

With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org

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