The Retrospective Feature
I want at this point to return for a few moments to the matter of the boards of the Tabernacle, referred to in our first chapter, when we saw God's provision for reinforcing the corners, the turning-points, with an extra board. Turning-points or angles are always danger spots, and the Lord has always made a special provision for such points in the course of His people's history. It is something to be taken up, if ever you are disposed to do so, in the Bible, and you will see how true it is. I have only to remind you, by way of instance, of the first chapter of the Book of Joshua. You could not have any chapter in the Bible which represents a greater reinforcement of everything, taking up the past to carry it on to the future. That was a big turning-point, from the wilderness into the Land, and it certainly needed strength to turn that corner and negotiate that crisis safely.
In using again this illustration of the Tabernacle, the point that I want afresh to indicate is this: that the corners of the Tabernacle may be taken as a setting forth an arrival at a certain point. That point had, so to speak, a past. Things had moved up to that point, and from that point there was a future, a new phase, a new course in the road. And the reinforcement at the corner was a taking up of what had been up to that point, and saying, 'Now, we must safeguard that, we must conserve that, we must ratify that; we must be quite sure that that does not suffer loss or is allowed any weakness, in order that everything that is yet to be shall take up those values and continue them in strength.' For God does not intend a fundamental change in things, a change in character, a change in nature, at any point: He just means that all that He has done and given shall be carried on safely and in strength up to and through the next phase.
Now, when we come to these letters of Paul to Timothy, we have to recognize that they are the last writings of the Apostle - a fact which in itself represents a corner being turned, one phase closing and another phase coming. It was like that; things changed when Paul went. And it was because Paul himself was conscious of this that he wrote to Timothy as he did. These letters therefore by way of reinforcing the things of God, taking up what has been in the past and confirming and consolidating for the future. That is what God meant by these letters. And so we find in them first of all what we may call a retrospective feature, a look-back to the past. Timothy is taken back, right back to the beginning: to the beginning of Christianity, and to the beginning of his own work and ministry.
"Remember Jesus Christ"
Let us consider the retrospect as to the beginning of Christianity, which is Christ. Paul makes here a very strong and a very comprehensive throw-back to Christ, in two passages - one just a recall, the other a very inclusive statement. The first comes in the second letter, chapter two, verse eight: "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead - of the seed of David, according to my gospel". "Remember Jesus Christ". We have come to a crisis, we have come to a turn, we have come to a point where things are changing. What is our safeguard at this point? "Remember Jesus Christ". It is only a way of saying: 'Bring Him into view again.' That is always God's method at any crisis - bring Jesus Christ into view again. Whether it be a crisis in a church, or a personal crisis in our own spiritual lives - "Remember Jesus Christ." How often the Apostle resorted to that method of dealing with difficult situations! At Philippi, for instance, where there was some trouble, some disagreement, some lack of single-mindedness, Paul resorted to this method: "Have this mind in you, which was ... in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5).
I will not stay to gather up all the material on this point. Let me just remind you of the big turning-point which we find at the beginning of the Book of the Revelation. What a turning-point in the Church's history was there! Remember that the beginning of that book is a re-presentation of Jesus Christ, comprehensively and matchlessly. "Remember Jesus Christ." It is always like that. Suppose you are having a bad time - so bad that it is creating a real crisis for you. "Remember Jesus Christ." It is the greatest help in every such time. Is there some trouble between you and another Christian? "Remember Jesus Christ." Is there trouble in the assembly? "Remember Jesus Christ." The greatest corrective is to remember Jesus Christ.
(continued with # 52 - (Christ the Embodiment of Godliness)