“Preach the Word!”
Those three words inform us that there is something concrete, not open to conjecture or emendation, comprising the Christian message. It’s not the only text. In other texts Paul refers to that body of teaching as “the truth” (Romans 1:18,25; 2:8) and elsewhere refers to a teaching that can be perverted and defended. It is also called “the gospel,” a message comprising much more than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus but covering also how Christians ought to conduct their lives (Philippians 1:27).
It is that message, with the hope it offers mankind, that has occupied the bulk of Paul’s life and for which now, at the end of this letter, he is suffering so much. He senses the end is at hand – and he will be right. It has been a difficult road, but I think the disappointments he has faced will be nothing compared to the one awaiting him if Timothy, for whom he cares like no one else on earth, abandons the faith.
It is a real possibility.
And yet, no matter the disappointments – as bad as they are and will be – it has all been worth it. A crown of righteousness and the heavenly kingdom await.
This last letter of Paul’s is a reminder that no matter what happens here, the story is not over. God will have the last word, and our hope extends to that day when he will say: “well done.”