The Reinforcement of Spirituality (continued)
Imminent Departure of Paul
Now take the fragments in their setting, and they acquire new meaning, new significance. You will understand why Paul is so serious - his appeals, his exhortations; his repeated "O man of God", "O man of God" (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 3:17). Was there a crisis on? Well, there are plenty of proofs in the letters themselves of that fact. You can pick out some of the indications. First of all, be reminded that these were the last writings of the Apostle. The second letter was probably the last thing that Paul ever wrote, and he wrote it within perhaps hours of his execution. Paul is going, Paul is passing from this scene; Paul's personal ministry, in word and in writing is coming to a close. There is going to be a real loss and a real gap, tremendous loss to the Church. It is a crisis. If God takes away any servant of His through whom He has met His people in some rich, full way, there is always a great gap, and that gap does not become smaller as time goes on. You are always wishing that that servant of God were back to help; you are always saying, "Now what would he say, what would he do?" I do not exaggerate the point. This letter contains this. Paul says: "I am already being offered up" (2 Timothy 4:6). Is that a crisis? Well, if it is - and it is - we need something, Paul, from the Lord to meet this situation. The Lord must reinforce us at this turn in the road.
Secession From Paul
And these letters do that! You see that, as we go on. Ah, but not only so - the letters reveal a secession from Paul. He cries: "all that are in Asia turned away from me" (1 Timothy 1:15). And, although we know that some did leave him because it was too costly to stay with him, and that the peril of his death was overshadowing any association, it is difficult, in looking into this matter, not to conclude that the turning from Paul by those in Asia was on doctrinal grounds. You say, "Where have you the evidence for that?" The evidence is abundant, and will be brought forward presently. There is a secession from Paul because of his teachings, his line of things; because of the standard that he has raised, because of the level that he has insisted upon. They cannot go on with Paul, and that is a crisis. Anticipating somewhat, we may go further, and say that the outcome of that secession from Paul may be seen in the first chapters of the Book of the Revelation. The condition of the very churches in Asia that Paul had been used to bring into being, beginning with Ephesus, of which Timothy was the overseer - the condition of those churches in the first chapters of the Revelation is seen to be resultant upon their turning from the man whom God had used to bring them into being. It is a very critical thing to let go something that God has done, to lower your standard. We shall come back later to consider how terribly the standard was lowered. It is most dangerous, it represents a tremendous crisis, to weaken on anything that the Lord has shown to be His will. So, they were leaving Paul.
(continued with # 41 - (Spiritual Decline)