Paul declared in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have kept the faith”. No sweeter words could ever be said about anyone who has ever lived than these. What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Let us pick up on that word “hope.” “Hope” is desire plus expectation. Studying the examples given in Hebrews 11, we find every one of them greatly desired and fully expected the fulfilment of God’s promises and rewards. This was the function of their faith, their personal faith. Paul had this kind of faith, but that is not the faith of our text.
The “faith” of our text refers to that system of faith which was designed by the Almighty, that which produces personal faith, the gospel of Christ. Paul had been true to this faith through all the conflicts and dangers to which he was exposed. He confessed it even in the face of death, and he never corrupted it to meet the views of Jews or Gentiles.
Having introduced those thoughts we now ask — what did Paul do that enabled him to say, “I have kept the faith”?
He Became a Christian
The process by which this was accomplished is plainly set forth in Acts 9:1-6 cf; 22:16. He had some wonderful traits, but these did not make him a Christian. So, how, when, and where did he become a Christian? Have you ever noticed in reading this example of conversion, that Paul did not determine any of these? His question was, “What will you have me to do?” The how was up to God and he was ready to follow his instructions, the when was immediately, and the where was right there in the city.
For the first eight or nine years Christianity had rather an easy sailing, but now Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, and people alike became most violent in their treatment of the Christians. In the midst of all this madness, we have the first reference to Paul (Acts 7:58). From this point, events moved rather rapidly that led to his conversion. His undelayed obedience is the beginning of his, “I have kept the faith.”
He Was Immediately Recognized as a Christian
There was to be no secret. He boldly went to work for the Lord. The record of those first events are found in part in Acts 9:19-28 and Galatians 1:16-17. He did not wait until he got back home. He was so zealous and so effective that when he got ready to leave the city, he had to be let down by a basket over the wall in order to escape with his life. This was just another experience attributed to his, “I have kept the faith.”
He Preached the Gospel to Others
Paul was no pacifist — he told it just like it was and like it had to be. He began his preaching in the city of Damascus shortly after his baptism. He was to bear the name of the Lord before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15); and, later he says, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:18-19). Acts 13 through 28 is almost filled with his efforts to preach the gospel to others, and his fourteen epistles offer further proof of his determination to preach this message to all. He declared, “The gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12). All these efforts were part and parcel of his, “I have kept the faith.”
He Lived By the Gospel
Romans 1:9 asserts his intent, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son.” He practiced what he preached!
Many today are willing to serve — if they can determine for themselves how, when, where, and by what standard they shall serve. The “bring us back again at the next appointed time” that we so often hear in closing prayers, is a worthy request. But how is God going to do that? Shall he take hold of our hands, lead us to our cars, and point our nose in the right direction? NO! He shall do so by, and only by, the written instructions which he has given to guide us. Our respect for those instructions will lead us to do what God says. We must listen! No doubt, this, too, was part of Paul’s “I have kept the faith.”
He Suffered For Others
Listen to him, “Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours; but you: . . . and I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Cor. 12:14-15). What an attitude! What a man! Here, again, “I have kept the faith” is borne out.
He Was Faithful to the Lord
In Acts 23:1, he says, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” How could this be true if he was not faithful to the Lord? Paul never regretted his decision to follow the Lord, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Tim. 1:12). Just one verse before our text, Paul said, “I am ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” The Lord laid nothing to his charge; thus, he could say, “I have kept the faith.”
Going back to our text for a moment and giving a literal translation, it reads, “The good struggle I have struggled, the course I have finished, the faith I have kept; for the rest that is laid up for me . . .” Going again to Hebrews 11, we read verses 39-40, “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise. God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” Yes, these ancients also kept the faith, and along with them, Paul was expecting to obtain that “house not made with hands.”
“I have kept the faith” is the only way for one’s life to end and end up with a heavenly reward. Whatever charges God places upon us, whatever burdens we have to bear, whatever sacrifices we must make, we must be able to say in the end, “I have kept the faith.” How sad it will be for those who cannot honestly and accurately make this statement!