III. THE CONCLUSION
After greeting Prisca and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus (v. 19), Paul says, “Erastus remained in Corinth, but Trophimus I left at Miletus sick.” Miletus is a city in Asia Minor near Ephesus (Acts 20:15, 17). Why did the apostle leave such an intimate one in sickness without exercising healing prayer for him? Why did he not also execute his healing gift (Acts 19:11-12) to cure Timothy of his stomach illness rather than instruct him to take the natural way for healing (1 Tim. 5:23)? The answer to both questions is that both Paul and his co-workers were under the discipline of the inner life in this time of suffering rather than under the power of the outward gift. The former is of grace in life; the latter of gift in power—miraculous power. In the decline of the church and in suffering for the church, the gift of power is not as much needed as the grace in life.
According to the New Testament, miraculous gifts may have a place when the church is first raised up. But for the church to withstand decline or persecution, miraculous gifts or powers are not very helpful. Only the eternal life on which we are to lay hold is prevailing. By this life we can withstand decline and persecution.
It may appear to some that in caring for Timothy’s ailment and Trophimus’ sickness in a human way Paul acted as if he were an unbeliever. There is no record that he prayed for healing, and he certainly did not exercise the gift of healing. Instead, he encouraged Timothy to take a little wine, and he left Trophimus at Miletus. Paul cared for his co-workers in a very human way. He did not do anything spectacular to make a display. In like manner, in the Lord’s recovery we should not seek to make a show. Our emphasis must be on the eternal life by which we can withstand tests, trials, persecution, attack, and opposition. The firm foundation stands. This standing depends not on miracles, but on the eternal life which is the grace within us.
After charging Timothy to be diligent to come before winter and after sending him the greetings of all the brothers with him, Paul concludes, “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you” (v. 22). Here we see that Paul concludes with two of the main elements of his composition of 2 Timothy: a strong spirit and the grace of God. The book of 2 Timothy, which gives instructions concerning how to confront the degradation of the church, strongly stresses our spirit. In the beginning it emphasizes that a strong, loving, and sound spirit has been given to us by which we can fan the gift of God into flame and suffer evil with the gospel according to the power of God and the Lord’s life-imparting grace (1:6-10). In the conclusion this book blesses us with the emphasis on the Lord’s being with our spirit that we may enjoy Him as grace to stand against the down current of the church’s decline and carry out God’s economy through His indwelling Spirit (1:14) and equipping word (3:16-17).
In the grievous days during the worsening degradation of the church, what is needed is the eternal grace of God, which was given to us in eternity (1:9) and is appropriated by us in this age. This grace, which is in the indestructible life, is nothing less than Christ the Son of God, who is the embodiment of the divine life, dwelling and living in our spirit. We need to exercise this spirit to enjoy the riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8) as the sufficient grace (2 Cor. 12:9). Thus, we may live Him as our godliness (1 Tim. 4:7-8) for the building up of the church as a testimony of Christ, bearing all the divine realities according to God’s economy.
As the saints in the Lord’s recovery, we all must know how to contact the Lord in our spirit, realizing that the grace with us is nothing less than the Triune God processed to be the all-inclusive, life-giving, compound, indwelling Spirit. Now our human spirit is one with the Spirit, one with the ultimate consummation of the processed Triune God. Day by day, we may enjoy such a Spirit in our spirit. As long as we know that the Lord is with our spirit and that the processed Triune God is our grace, and as long as we exercise our spirit to enjoy this grace, we shall have the reality of God’s New Testament economy. Then in the midst of the degradation of today’s Christianity, there will be the testimony of the reality of God’s economy.
According to John 1:14, the Word, which is God Himself, became flesh, full of grace and reality. This indicates that as long as we have grace, we shall also have reality. If we exercise our spirit and enjoy this grace, we shall have reality. Then we shall carry out God’s New Testament economy.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Chapter 20, by Witness Lee)