Come Before Winter

Greek Sailing Ship

In the year 1958 Dr. W.A. Criswell spoke over radio what became a classic sermon. I have updated it only slightly maintaining the writing style, avoiding his discussions about his church, and keeping to the point. 4.23.2018

 

COME BEFORE WINTER

Dr. W.A. Criswell, Dr. Stephen Newdell

2 Timothy 4:5-22

In our Bible study we have come to the fourth chapter of 2 Timothy, and this is the most important message that follows the texts Paul wrote to his young son in the ministry; 2 Timothy 4:

Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

For I am now ready to be offered, the time of my departure is at hand.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.

Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me; for Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world . . . Crescens has departed to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.

Only Luke is with me.  Take Mark, and bring him with thee:  for he is profitable to me in the ministry. Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.

The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.

Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou aware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.

At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.

Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.

And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus abode at Corinth: and Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick.

Do thou diligence to come before winter.

Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.

The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit.  Grace be with you. Amen.

[2 Timothy 4:5-22]

 

In this last and closing hour in the life of the great apostle, there are three friends whom he names, who are standing with him.  The first is the Friend of friends; He that sticketh closer than a brother [Proverbs 18:24]; He who laid down His life for us all  1 John 3:16], “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me” [2 Timothy 4:17]. The Lord was by his side, nearer than breath. 

The second friend was the beloved physician; “Only Luke is with me” [2 Timothy 4:11].  All the others had either already gone to missions in the far flung empire or else had forsaken him as had Demas [2 Timothy 4:10].  But Luke stood by him; “Only Luke is with me” [2 Timothy 4:11]. 

And the third friend is the young son in the ministry to whom he writes these last words and makes his final appeal [2 Timothy 4:913].

This Lycaenian youth who first saw Paul when he came to Lystra where he lived and there heard the apostle preach the gospel of the Son of God, the youth was half Greek, half Hebrew [Acts 16:1-3].  And as he listened to Paul preach, his heart was drawn to God in faith [1 Timothy 1:22 Timothy 1:5], and he was baptized and became a Christian and a member of the church at Lystra [Acts 16:1-5].  As Paul continued his fervent ministry of the message of Christ, at length the populous in riot seized him, dragged him outside of the city and stoned him and left him for dead [Acts 14:19].

Doubtless this young man bent over him, possibly washed the blood away from his face, likely took him to his house where his godly mother Eunice and his pious grandmother Lois lived in the same home together.  And Paul, in an explicable way and for reasons that we do not know, all his life felt bound with cords of steel to this young man; his spiritual son in the ministry.

When this final hour came, he wrote his last letter to that young man who was pastor of the church in distant Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia, on the coast of Turkey. 

Ephesis

Ruins of a main street of ancient Ephesus.  The city eventually was abandoned when its harbor became so clogged with silt it was no longer useful for shipping.

1280px-Ephesus_street_scene.jpg

 

Eustache_Le_Sueur_-_The_Preaching_of_St_Paul_at_Ephesus_-_WGA12613

Eustache_Le_Sueur_-_The_Preaching_of_St_Paul_at_Ephesus

He says to Timothy, Come, and as you come, go by Troas and the coat that I left at the house of Carpus, bring with thee, for the summer is waning and the winter is coming, and it is cold in this dungeon.  And while you are in Troas, be sure to bring to me the books, but especially the parchments, the Old Testament Scriptures.

But most of all, Timothy, come yourself.

Do thy diligence, spoudason to come tacheôs, quickly unto me.      [2 Timothy 4:9-13]

Then he repeats the same thing, spoudason, “do thy diligence, be diligent to come before winter [2 Timothy 4:21]. Come Timothy, soon. For the time of my departure is at hand [2 Timothy 4:6]. I haven’t long.”

So young Timothy, and I can see him, can’t you?  Young Timothy receives the letter, and immediately he makes his way to Troas, and there he picks up the parchments and there the books and there the cloak and begins his journey to Italy [2 Timothy 4:13].

Why so earnestly Paul entreats, “Before winter do thy diligence to come” [2 Timothy 4:21]; before winter, because when winter came, all shipping and all sailing was over in that ancient world.

No vessel dared to brave the open sea.  When winter set in, the danger of even approaching a sailing date when winter came is illustrated in the tempestuous storm of which we just read in the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Acts.  Paul said, “Dare not move out to sea. The fast has passed, that is the Day of Atonement in the autumn, and it is dangerous, and we ought to winter here” [Acts 27:9-10].  No ship sailed when winter came.

It meant that if Timothy delayed until winter, he couldn’t come until the following spring.  That meant Paul would never see his face and speak to him a last and closing address, and pray with him one more time, and bid him be true to the faith and exhort him in his ministry.  “For the time of my departure is at hand [2 Timothy 4:6], come, Timothy, before winter [2 Timothy 4:21]. For if you delay until winter, it means I will never see you again. Come.”

In reality it’s a difficult scene. Who knows when the letter finally arrived and in what condition. What money did Timothy have for such a trip?

We prefer to imagine that Timothy immediately makes his way to Troas and there finding passage sails past Samothrace, lands at Neapolis, goes through Macedonia along the Ignatian Way.  On the Adriatic Sea finds passage again crossing to Brundisium, there in Brundisium picks up the road and up the Ostian Way, he hastens to the side of the apostle Paul in prison.

I can see him as he sits down with the apostle and reads to him out of the books, but especially the parchments [2 Timothy 4:13], the Old Testament, the scroll of the Prophets, of the Psalms, of the law of Moses.  And I can see Timothy when the final hour comes as he walks by the side of the aged apostle down the Appian Way just beyond the pyramid of Cestius, and there, he beholds as the great preacher of Christ receives his crown of glory.

“Come before winter” [2 Timothy 4:21].  There are some things which, if we do not do before winter, we can never do.  For the season passes, the golden gate that is open now is closed forever.  The tide that is running high today will ebb tomorrow. Voices that speak now are forever stilled after winter. 

 The autumn time when it comes brings to us so pointedly the passing of the days, the fleeting of time.  When that pool is troubled with the angel visitation, then is the time in the troubling of the water to step in and be healed [John 5:4].  “Come, come, come, Timothy,” says the apostle Paul, “come. Do thy diligence to come before winter, for to delay is never to come at all [2 Timothy 4:21].

I want to use a supposition and imagination.  Just suppose, that Timothy delayed. When he received the letter and the earnest admonition and appeal of the apostle, he doesn’t go immediately.  There’s work to do at Ephesus. In that Asian capital, there are so many matters of the church, and beside that he has a mission to Miletus, and besides that he must go to Colosse, and beside that the church at Philadelphia and at Smyrna, churches of Asia, need his ministry so earnestly. And he delays. 

These things are important.  These calls are vital.  And Timothy goes to Miletus, and he goes to Smyrna, and he goes to Philadelphia, and he go to Colosse, and he is done finally with the heavy burdens at Ephesus.   And then he makes his way to Troas to find passage across the sea. Is there a ship that sails to Macedonia, or better, is there a ship that would sail around Greece into the open Mediterranean and go to Italy?  And he is greeted there with the solemn announcement.  The day of sailing is past.  No more ships for Italy until April, winter has set in.  And no ship sails, not till the spring.  Heavy hearted, the young pastor returns to his charge at Ephesus.

And all that winter, all the dreary days and weeks and months of that winter, he’s anxious about the aged apostle.  How did he fare?  How was that final trial?  And he reproaches himself for the delay.  When spring comes, the first one down at the port at Troas is this young pastor.  The first ship that sails, he’s on it.  And when it lands at Brundisium, he hastens up Appian Way.  He arrives at the place where Paul has been a prisoner and he asks if he’s there, only to be greeted by a curse from the guard, “Miserable fool Christians, Away with ye!” and to be repulsed by him.

Then I can see Timothy as he makes his way hastily to the house of Andronicus, or to the house of Claudia, or to the house of Narcissus, or to the house of Amplias, or to the house of Julia, and he knocks at the door and he says, “Where, where, where is the apostle Paul? 

And they look at him and say, “The apostle Paul?  Oh, you!  And you must be Timothy.  You’ve arrived too late. The Apostle Paul was beheaded last December.

Every time the jailer put the key in the door of his cell, he thought you were coming.  The last message that he left was for you. He said, ‘Give my love to my son in the ministry. Remember me to my beloved son, Timothy. Tell him to be true to the faith.’”

“Come before winter” [2 Timothy 4:21]. Oh, just to think of it is a heartache and a heartbreak.  And yet I do not think that there is any incident in human life that more sorrowfully recurs, and recurs, and recurs than just that possibility.  And it’s too late.  And we’ve let the opportunity slip through our fingers.  And it’s too late.  And we should have done it then, and we ought to do it now, but at some more convenient time, we are busy, we have tasks, there are responsibilities, we are engrossed, and the day passes, and the winter comes.  Tomorrow is too late.

And Jesus came to His sleeping disciples [Matthew 26:40-43], and after the third time said, “Sleep on now, and take your rest” [Matthew 26:44-45].  Why, the great opportunity to watch by the Savior was forever gone; “Sleep on now, and take your rest” [Matthew 26:45].

James, one of the three, was the first to meet a martyr’s death, of the twelve, James [Acts 12:1-2].   John, the second of the three, knew what it was to suffer for the Lord on lonely Patmos [Revelation 1:9], and Peter gave his life crucified [John 21:18-19].  But never again did those disciples have opportunity to watch in the hour of agony at Gethsemane of our Savior.  Sleep on now, and take your rest.

“What? What? You mean he is gone?  Why, it was only yesterday that I saw him at the corner of Ervay and Commerce streets.  And you say he is gone?  I, I cannot believe it. I can’t realize it.”

The fleeting of time, the passing of days; “Come before winter” [2 Timothy 4:21].  

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation [2 Corinthians 6:2]. Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart” [Hebrews 3:7-8].  “Come before winter.  Do thy diligence, come before winter” [2 Timothy 4:21].

Why is there such urgency and immediacy of the appeal of the Holy Spirit of God to you?  One, because of the uncertainty of life; in the last interview between David and Jonathan, David said to his best loved friend, “Jonathan, as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death” [1 Samuel 20:3].  All of us have those experiences.

My best friend in Baylor was a year ahead of me.  We were always together there. And when he was graduated, he entered the employment of a great oil company and was with the company in Oklahoma.  We were boys reared in the far northwestern part of the Panhandle of Texas.  And in school coming from the same place, it sort of bound us together.

On the summer, in the summer after he had graduated, he came to Amarillo where I was then and stayed all night with me.  We had a wonderful visit together.  I went down with him, put him on the train, and he went back to his place in Oklahoma.  Why, we had such dreams. I was going to be a pastor and preacher, and he was going to make a million dollars, he said, and give it to me for the work of the Lord.  What things young fellows can dream of; a million dollars. And he was going to do it in oil, he said, and he was going to give it to me for me to use in the work of the Lord.

I never saw him again.  When I went to Oklahoma to be pastor out of the seminary to my first pastorate, I went to a certain lake in Oklahoma and stood there by the side of that lake.  Just had a little quiet devotional, a remembrance, a solemnity, just to be there, for that’s where he was drowned.

Oh, these things come before winter!  The old rabbi in Talmud said, “Repent the day before you die.”  But someone asked the old rabbi, “How shall I know when the day comes before I die?”  And the rabbi replied, “Then repent today”; the uncertainty of life.

Again, the changing of the disposition of the heart. I suppose every minister around the world could speak of the times when men have almost come to Christ, almost given their hearts to Jesus, and then never be moved toward God again.

Old salesmen know, people fear loss and desire gain. They may fear loss of their earthly freedom. They do not recognize the tremendous gain they make by giving their lives to The Christ, and receiving The Holy Spirit! They will gain eternal life in His family, to become one of his sisters or brothers! How terrible indeed is their loss! 

The offer falls upon dry rocky soil and cannot take root. Do they weep for the death of their chances toward eternal life? Do they weep at the terror they might know in eternal condemnation? I know only that they remain standing, gripping the pew back in front of them, the tears roll off their cheeks like light showers of rain. They grasp the pew in front of them as a child afraid to set into the oceans light rippling waters. 

Tremble they do, moved under the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit of God, but then never weep again;  Never tremble again. Their hearts have become cold stone, their souls become rusted iron.

If the bricks in your church walls and their stones could cry out and the beams of that great house answer, how many stories could it tell of women and men who were almost persuaded and said, “No, not now; some other time; some other day; some more convenient season, I have to think about it?”  But the heart turns to stone, and the soul to rusted iron, and their lives turn to bronze, and they are never moved again!

“Come before winter,” before the snow falls on the upland; before the meadow brook is frozen with ice.  Come before the heart turns to marble and desire fails.  Come before your life has ended, before the Devil takes your head from your shoulders as he did to Apostle Paul.

Come before winter

I think the immediacy and the urgency of that appeal is marked by the passing day of grace.  Today, this moment, now, and tomorrow forever, forever drawn, taken away.  “My Spirit,” says God, “shall not always strive with men” [Genesis 6:3].   “And Esau found no place for repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” [Hebrews 12:16-17].  

He that sins against the Holy Spirit sins an eternal sin [Matthew 12:31-32].

I think Pastor Chuck Smith said it rightly when he said years ago, The Only unforgivable sin is to refuse the gift of salvation, refuse to receive Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

There is a time, I know not when,

A place, I know not where,

That marks the destiny of men

To glory or despair.

There is a line by us unseen

That crosses every path;

The hidden boundary between

God’s patience and God’s wrath.

[from “The Doomed Man,” Joseph Addison Alexander, 1837]

And God Himself shut the door [Genesis 7:15-16], and the antediluvians cried, beat on that ark and called the name of Noah, but God shut that door! 

And the five foolish virgins knocked at the door saying, open, open, but God shut that door [Matthew 25:1-12].  I cannot enter into the mysteries of the human soul.  I just know that there is a day for a man to be saved.  There is a time for a man to give his life to God.

When the day is past and the time is gone, he never again responds.  I cannot enter into its mystery, and it is not for me to say.  I just behold it in sorrow, in tears, in heartache.  “Come before winter” [2 Timothy 4:21].

This last observation; come before winter for these generations themselves pass away so rapidly, so speedily.  If we don’t come before winter, we never come at all.  And if we don’t do it now, it is never done for the generation soon passes away.

The years pass. Another child “comes along,” Daddy has to work on Sunday to pay all the bills. He doesn’t visit church any more. He never hears God call again. And then one day, when his temples have gone gray, there is pain down his left arm, his breath is short and painful, an elephant sits on his chest, and suddenly he is gone. Winter came. The ships remained in port. He missed his chance to Come Before Winter!

I speak of it with regard to our children.  What we’re going to do for these little children, we must do now.  Whatever we may plan and pray to do for their salvation, must be done now!

Come!  Come you now! Come to join God’s family!

The whole mission world repeats the refrain, FIRST YOU. You must be saved. Then you will feel the courage to speak to others and given time, if moved by God you might reach out to others further from home. Fear nothing, for God knows what is best for you and knows how to help you feel prepared for your place in the grand eternal plan. Fear only Satan who will turn your feet onto his smooth broad highway, gently sloping down, down. There is no rush. You have all the time you’d like. Just continue walking until the crowd behind you bunches up. There, the crowd realizes they’re penned in. There’s no way to turn back. Their only direct is to go forward under that gate, under that sign that says, “Give up hope all ye who enter here.”

“Come.  Come before winter.  

Tomorrow is too late.”  “Do thy diligence to come before winter” [2 Timothy 4:21].  Oh, how solemn these thoughts!  How soul searching, our lives, “Lord, what ought I to do?  What should I do?”

“That invitation, this appeal, this call, this work, this opportunity, this wide open door, Lord, help me do it now, for tomorrow is too late.” 

Help us, O Lord, as a people to do it now, for tomorrow is too late.  Is there a soul to be won?  Win it now.  Is there a life to be touched?  Visit now.  Is there a task God hath called us to do?  Do it now, before winter, for tomorrow is too late.

Don’t play the scared little boy making ridiculous excuses, “I’m so tired. I don’t want to.” Just pick your feet up, one following the other and move forward. Help someone somehow every day. But first come to God for salvation!

Jesus called to a man who answered, “Let me first bury my father*” and Jesus answered “Let the dead bury the dead.” What did it all mean? The man’s father was likely well and would live many more years. He was lying to Jesus saying he would procrastinate and come to preach and teach later. Jesus saw right through it, of course. He answered, Let the SPIRITUALLY DEAD bury the SPIRITUALLY DEAD. But you, if you seek to be spiritually alive now and alive in future, leave the comforts of your farm and follow me. Work a season and have eternity with me!

We don’t have time to wait and especially now in what appears to be the final few years before Christ returns to us. Do all you can for Him now so that your reward in Heaven may be great.

Christ Stands at the Door

In the end, it is Christ who calls to us and it is exclusively Jesus the Christ who can save us. He speaks to us today. He stands and knocks at the door of your heart. Will you open the door and let him in?

He says, Come unto me. Come now. Do not delay.

The Bible says, “Behold, now is the day of salvation.” The sweetest word and the most solemn word of salvation is the little word “today.”

Jesus said to Zaccheus, “Come down out of that sycamore tree. I’m going to your house today.” Today is the day of salvation. Tomorrow may never come.

If you can find one place where the Bible says, “Come to Christ tomorrow,” then good men will come down from the pulpit and never preach again. But the Bible always says today—not tomorrow. Come to Christ while you have the opportunity and while you have the desire. Consider these words by Henry Twells:

When as a child I laughed and wept, time crept. 
When as a youth I waxed more bold, time strolled. 
When I became a full-grown man, time ran. 
When older still I daily grew, time flew. 
Soon I shall find, in passing on, time gone. 
O Christ! wilt Thou have saved me then?

For some who read these words, Jesus is standing at the door of your heart, knocking, knocking, knocking. Will you open the door and let him in? If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

Hunt's painting

Some years ago Holman Hunt painted a classic picture entitled, “Christ Standing at the Door.” It depicts Jesus at the door of a lovely English cottage. Everything seems normal until you study the picture closely and discover that there is no doorknob on the outside.

Why not? Because the door to the heart must be opened from the inside. The painting is true to life and true to the Bible. If you hear the Lord knocking at your heart’s door, do not delay, go now and open the door and trust Christ Savior and Lord. Don’t wait a second longer. Do it now.

Never in the Bible will you read the Holy Spirit saying, “Tomorrow, some other day, some other time, some more convenient season.” [Acts 24:25].   Wait, think about it. Talk to your dog about it. Wait a little while longer. Men become children when faced with a decision. But those excuses can be made no longer. Decide now, this moment. Jesus Christ suffered YOUR terrible punishment and then left an empty grave as a final sign of His truth, to you.

Always God says, now, today, this hour [2 Corinthians 6:2]. Another sunset is coming. Another harsh winter is coming. Wait no longer. Come now. Visit your pastor. If not him, then fall on your knees alone, before God. Come to God for only Jesus our Christ can save you!

Come and admit to your sins, request salvation, and decide to do more and more to follow God’s holy ways.

Come You Now, Come Before Winter!

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  • For your reference you may consider these. I expect to write another article using this and other information.

Luke 9:59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he … – Bible Hub

biblehub.com/luke/9-59.htm

Verse (Click for Chapter). New International Version He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” New Living Translation He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” English Standard Version

Matthew 8:21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and …

biblehub.com/matthew/8-21.htm

Matthew 8:20. Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Matthew 8:22. But Jesus told him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Treasury of Scripture. And another of his disciples said to him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

Luke 9:61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go …

biblehub.com/luke/9-61.htm

And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home atmy house. … And another also said, ‘I will follow thee, sir, but first permit me to take leave of those inmy house;’. Study Bible. The Cost of Discipleship …60But Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You …

What did Jesus mean when He said “Let the dead bury the dead …

https://www.gotquestions.org/let-dead-bury-dead.html

Answer: Jesus said, “Let the dead bury the dead,” in response to a disciple who wanted to spend time at home before committing himself to the Lord. Jesus said, “’Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the …