By Barnabas Piper
One of the most magnificent aspects of Christianity is the legacy we share, the way the faith is passed down from generation to generation. Not only is the faith passed down, but leadership and care for the church are passed on as well, with older shepherds handing off responsibility to younger shepherds. As 2 Timothy comes to an end, what we see is older shepherd Paul handing off the baton of leadership to a younger shepherd, Timothy.
For Western Christians, it’s easy to have the mindset of finishing our course and then resting on our laurels, spending our final years in ease and comfort. So it is striking how Paul does it: there is no coasting to the finish line. He reminds Timothy of His responsibility—self-control, endurance, evangelism—and urges him to fulfill his calling (2Timothy 4:5). This is the passing of the baton.
Then Paul says these iconic words: “The time for my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (vv.6–7). He persevered to the end, using the days God had given Him, even to the point of asking for scrolls and parchment so He could continue his ministry of writing to churches. Paul concludes by saying, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that I might fully preach the word and all the Gentiles might hear it” (v.17). He persevered because of the Lord’s help and finished the ministry He was given to do by God. So he not only handed off ministry to Timothy, he exemplified how to do it faithfully to the end.
Paul says something else amid His encouragement to Timothy—he points to the reward for faithfulness, the crown of righteousness reserved for all who eagerly await the coming of Christ (v.8). To urge perseverance and faithfulness without a promise would be to call for exhaustion. But that is never what God calls His people to. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” 1 John 3:2 describes how “when He appears, we will be like Him.”
This is the legacy of Christianity, passed from one generation to the next: keeping the faith and passing it on. One generation shows the next how to persevere and fight the good fight as we look ahead with joy and eagerness to the coming of Jesus so that we can be transformed to be like Him and receive the crown of glory as we sit at His side.
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