The Fourth Contrast

 

The second contrast is seen in the faithlessness of man and the faithfulness of God. Whereas the previously mentioned believers had abandoned the Apostle, in verses 17 and 18 Paul testifies to the faithfulness of God who stood with and strengthened him.

Lastly, we noted the contrast between the Apostle’s own view of death and that which we see in the world today. He faced it with no regret, no fear, no dread. To him to live was Christ, and to die was gain. That is a contrast to the perspective of death held by this world.

Three contrasts in the closing words of this rich epistle. But I noted a fourth, and I thought it worth mentioning here, though I did not include it in that message. I believe it is a contrast that is very relevant and pertinent given the times in which we live today. It is the contrast between what we see in the Word of God and what is claimed today. It is, I believe, a good evidence for holding to the Cessationist view of scripture.

This view holds to the fact that much of the miracles and powers that we see being enacted by the Apostles and Christians in the book of Acts were specific to a transitional time. Because the church age was being ushered in, many signs and powers were given the early Christians so that they might authenticate the fact that they were empowered by God. Today, however, with the church being firmly established, many of those sign gifts have ceased. This is the Cessationist view.

The Continuationist would hold that these gifts continue today, and we see healing services and supposedly anointed men and women with this ‘gift’ who claim to heal the sick and lame. I would assert that these are either themselves deceived, or worse still and probably a whole lot more common, they purposely set out to deceive others. And we see a contrast to this view in the closing words of II Timothy. In the third to last verse Paul says

Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.

II Timothy 4:20

Perhaps you are inclined to pass over this statement and simply regard it as some final and personal remarks. It certainly is that much, but there is something interesting to be noted here if we consider it a little.

In the book of Acts we find such miraculous healings as the Apostle Paul surviving a bite from a deadly serpent. Even the locals, who possessed expert knowledge of the toxicity of this snake looked intently expecting the Apostle to any minute keel over and die. But miraculously the Apostle merely shakes off the deadly predator attached to him by its venomous fangs and carries on with his business undeterred (Acts 28:3-6).

We also know that on the occasion of an exceptionally long sermon, a fellow by the name of Eutychus fell asleep whilst sitting in a window and fell to his death (Acts 20:9-10). The Apostle quickly ran to him and miraculously healed him. Without a doubt the Apostles held miraculous gifts and powers to heal and even raise the dead.

Yet here, at the close of Paul’s ministry, as the church is becoming established, we see that Paul leaves his friend Trophimus at Miletum sick. Why did he not heal him, this one who survives and defeats the deadly toxin of serpents and raises fallen fellows from the dead? Though we do not know the specifics of this man’s illness, surely it was a little thing for one such as the Apostle Paul to heal?

But in this we see that the window of the sign gifts was closing or was closed, and remains that way today. Even toward the end of the Apostle’s life his powers of healing and miraculous signs was diminishing. His power was being transferred to the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.

Now that is a contrasting viewpoint for many of today’s supposed healers and miracle workers. And it is certainly worth some careful contemplation.

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