We all know that “last orders supersede all orders,” whether at home, on the job or in scripture. With that in mind lets see what “orders” the apostle to the Gentiles (Paul) gave to the church “which is His body” (Ephesians 1:22-23.) Paul’s last letter was 2 Timothy. The chronology of Paul’s letters are very important due to fact that “last orders supersede all orders.”
In Paul’s fourteen epistles (if you count Hebrews) and I do, he wrote seven epistles before his imprisonment in Rome and seven epistles afterward. From prison he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. He was released from prison and wrote 1 Timothy and Titus. He was imprisoned again for breaking Roman law (2 Timothy 2:9) wrote his second letter to Timothy and died soon after.
Paul’s last seven letters were the last in time, though not last in their placement in the Bible. John is reputed to have written his gospel and Revelation last of all, about 90 A.D. We know that the gospel of John was written before 70 A.D. (John 5:2.) There was no sheep market or pool with five porches after 70 A.D. Since Revelation is obviously a Jewish book, there is no reason to date it after Acts 28:28. Since it is “prophecy” and not history (Revelation 1:3, 11:6, 19:10, 22:7, 10, 18-19,) John could have written the book soon after Christ ascended to heaven. It could have been John of whom Paul was speaking in 2 Corinthians 12:3-4, especially when you compare the verses to Revelation 10:4. To force 2 Corinthians 12:3-4 to be referring to Paul is breaking rules of grammar and using a way of speaking that Paul never used, such as speaking of himself in the third person.
Regardless of the above mentioned dating being correct or incorrect, one thing is for certain; Paul’s last command to us in the last chapter of his last letter is “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5.) Paul had written much to Timothy about being a sound teacher. Over and over again, he mentioned “doctrine.” He mentioned doctrine in his writing to Timothy twelve times; more than all his other writings combined. Up front, Paul stressed good, sound doctrinal teaching, an attribute missing in today’s contemporary churches.
Paul also taught both Timothy and Titus how the local church should be structured and qualifications for offices within the church. He was not slack in his standard of God’s requirements.
Still, with all of these things said, they were not Paul’s last order. His final order was:
“do the work of an evangelist.” 2 Timothy 4:5
What does this mean? We all know what it means. It means we are to emphasize soul winning…leading people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In these “last days” (2 Timothy 3:1) personal soul winning has vanished in most churches. The churches gaining the publicity are providing entertainment, fellowship, marathons, golf tournaments, feeding the starving children, arts and crafts and community projects, but no soul winning. Satan has lied to us as he did to Eve, and we have believed it just like Adam. Satan says that church visitation and personally talking to people about their souls will not work in today’s advanced (?) culture. It is too simple and crude. We are told we need power point presentations, drama, choreographed dancing, wine tasting parties and who knows what else!
Some even excuse themselves by saying God called them just to teach. Who are you going to teach? Some say they have the gift of discipleship, not soul winning. (Let me remind you that soul winning is not a gift, but a command.) Who are you going to disciple? When no one is getting saved there is no one to teach or disciple. The only ministry in which some Christians are involved is to bring confusion to “baby” Christians. This is totally opposite of Paul’s ministry:
“Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation.” Romans 15:20
I dare one pastor, one Christian or one church to pray, study their Bible and talk to people about Jesus Christ as the only Saviour for one calendar year, then come and honestly tell me those three things do not work. Everybody I have heard making excuses about what won’t work are people who won’t work!
Let me add this; these three things work for the glory of God in prison, in jail, in the slums, in the neighborhood, on the job…anywhere you go…not just in church.
Remember the words of Christ:
“Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.” Luke 10:2
Notice the problem. It is not the lack of harvest or outdated reaping equipment that is causing the problem; it is the lack of laborers. There is a shortage of workers. In America today there is a great unemployment problem, but not in this field that needs people who will follow God’s Son into the field.
“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10
Keep Looking Up!