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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 4

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This chapter, 2 Timothy 4:0, comprises the following subjects:

1. A solemn charge to Timothy, to be faithful in preaching the gospel, and in the whole work of the ministry, 2 Timothy 4:1-5. The particular reason given for this charge was, that the time was approaching when men would not endure sound doctrine, but would turn away from the truth. Hence, Timothy is exhorted to be faithful in his work, and to be prepared to endure the trials which, in such circumstances, a faithful minister must be expected to meet.

2. A statement of Paul that his own work was nearly done, and that the hour of his departure drew near; 2 Timothy 4:6-8. This statement, also, seems to be made in order to excite Timothy to increased fidelity in the ministry. His teacher, guide, father, and friend, was about to be withdrawn, and the great work of preaching was to be committed to other hands. Hence, in view of his own departure, Paul exhorts Timothy to fidelity when he himself should be removed.

3. An exhortation to Timothy to come to him as soon as practicable; 2 Timothy 4:9-15. Paul was then in bonds, and was expecting soon to die. He was alone. For various reasons, those who had been with him had left him, and he needed some companion and friend. He, therefore, exhorts Timothy to come to him as soon as possible.

4. Paul refers now to his first trial before the emperor, and to the fact that then no one stood by him; 2 Timothy 4:16-19. The reason of his referring to this seems to be, to induce Timothy to come to him in view of his anticipated second trial. The Lord, he says, then stood by him, and he had confidence that he would continue to do it; yet who is there that does not feel it desirable to have some dear earthly friend to be with him when he dies?

5. The Epistle is closed, in the usual manner, with various salutations, and with the benediction; 2 Timothy 4:19-22.

Verse 1

I charge thee therefore before God - See the notes on 1 Timothy 5:21.

Who shall judge the quick and the dead - That is, the Lord Jesus; for he is to be the judge of men; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Corinthians 5:10. The word “quick” means “living” (See the Acts 10:42 note; Ephesians 2:1 note); and the idea is, that he would be alike the judge of all who were alive when he should come, and of all who had died; see the notes on 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. In view of the fact that all, whether preachers or hearers, must give up their account to the final Judge, Paul charges Timothy to be faithful; and what is there which will more conduce to fidelity in the discharge of duty, than the thought that we must soon give up a solemn account of the manner in which we have performed it?

At his appearing - That is, the judgment shall then take place. This must refer to a judgment yet to take place, for the Lord Jesus has not yet “appeared” the second time to men; and, if this be so, then there is to be a resurrection of the dead. On the meaning of the word rendered “appearing,” see the notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:8. It is there rendered “brighteness”; compare 1Ti 6:14; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 2:13.

And his kingdom - Or, at the setting up of his kingdom. The idea of his reigning, or setting up his kingdom, is not unfrequently associated with the idea of his cominG; see Matthew 16:28. The meaning is, that, at his second advent, the extent and majesty of his kingdom will be fully displayed. It will be seen that he has control over the elements, over the graves of the dead, and over all the living. It will be seen that the earth and the heavens are under his sway, and that all things there acknowledge him as their sovereign Lord. In order to meet the full force of the language used by Paul here, it is not necessary to suppose that he will set up a visible kingdom on the earth, but only that there will be an illustrious display of himself as a king, and of the extent and majesty of the empire over which he presides: compare the Romans 14:11 note; Philippians 2:10 note.

Verse 2

Preach the word - The Word of God; the gospel. This was to be the main business of the life of Timothy, and Paul solemnly charges him in view of the certain coming of the Redeemer to judgment, to be faithful in the performance of it.

Be instant - see the notes at Romans 12:12. The meaning here is, that he should be constant in this duty. Literally, “to stand by, or to stand fast by;” that is, he was to be pressing or urgent in the performance of this work. He was always to be at his post, and was to embrace every opportunity of making known the gospel. What Paul seems to have contemplated was not merely, that he should perform the duty at stated and regular times; but that he should press the matter as one who had the subject much at heart, and never lose an opportunity of making the gospel known.

In season - εὐκαίρως eukairōs. In good time; opportunely; compare Matthew 26:16; Luke 22:6; Mark 14:11. The sense is, when it could be conveniently done; when all things were favorable, and when there were no obstructions or hindrances. It may include the “stated and regular” seasons for public worship, but is not confined to them.

Out of season - ἀκαίρως akairōs. This word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It is the opposite of the former, and means that a minister is to seek opportunities to preach the gospel even at such periods as might be inconvenient to himself, or when there might be hindrances and embarrassments, or when there was no stated appointment for preaching. He is not to confine himself to the appointed times of worship, or to preach only when it will be perfectly convenient for himself, but he is to have such an interest and earnestness in the work, that it will lead him to do it in the face of embarrassments and discouragements, and whenever he can find an opportunity. A man who is greatly intent on an object will seek every opportunity to promote it. He will not confine himself to stated times and places, but will present it everywhere, and at all times. A man, therefore, who merely confines himself to the stated seasons of preaching the gospel, or who merely preaches when it is convenient to himself, should not consider that he has come up to the requirement of the rule laid down by the apostle. He should preach in his private conversation, and in the intervals of his public labors, at the side of the sick bed, and wherever there is a prospect of doing good to any one. If his heart is full of love to the Saviour and to souls, he cannot help doing this.

Reprove - Or “convince;” See the notes at 2 Timothy 3:16. The meaning is that he was to use such arguments as would “convince” men of the truth of religion, and of their own need of it.

Rebuke - Rebuke offenders; Titus 2:15; see the use of the word in Matthew 8:26; Matthew 12:16, (rendered “charged”); Matthew 16:22; Matthew 17:18; Matthew 19:13; Matthew 20:31; Luke 4:35, Luke 4:39; Luke 17:13; Luke 18:15; Jude 1:9. In the New Testament the word is used to express a judgment of what is wrong or contrary to one’s will, and hence, to admonish or reprove. It implies our conviction that there is something evil, or some fault in him who is rebuked. The word in this verse rendered “reprove,” does not imply this, but merely that one may be in error, and needs to have arguments presented to convince him of the truth. That word also implies no superior authority in him who does it. He presents “reasons, or argues” the case, for the purpose of convincing. The word here rendered rebuke, implies authority or superiority, and means merely that we may say that a thing is wrong, and administer a rebuke for it, as if there were no doubt that it was wrong. The propriety of the rebuke rests on our authority for doing it, not on the arguments which we present. This is based on the presumption that men often Know that they are doing wrong, and need no arguments to convince them of it. The idea is, that the minister is not merely to reason about sin, and convince men that it is wrong, but he may solemnly admonish them not to do it, and warn them of the consequences.

Exhort - See the notes at Romans 12:8.

With all long-suffering - That is, with a patient and persevering spirit if you are opposed; see the notes on 2 Timothy 2:25; compare the notes on Romans 2:4; compare Romans 9:22; 2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 1:11; Colossians 3:12; 1 Timothy 1:16.

And doctrine - Teaching, or patient instruction.

Verse 3

For the time will come ... - Probably referring to the time mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:1, following.

When they will not endure sound doctrine - Greek, “healthful doctrine;” i. e., doctrine contributing to the health of the soul, or to salvation. At that time they would seek a kind of instruction more conformable to their wishes and feelings.

But after their own lusts - They will seek such kind of preaching as will accord with their carnal desires; or such as will palliate their evil propensities, and deal gently with their vices; compare Isaiah 30:10. “Speak unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits.”

Shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears - The word rendered “heap” - ἐπισωρεύω episōreuō - does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means “to heap up upon, to accumulate;” and here “to multiply.” The word rendered “itching” - κνήθω knēthō - also occurs only in this place in the New Testament. It means “to rub, to scratch;” and then “to tickle,” and here to feel an “itching” for something pleasing or gratifying. The image is derived from the desire which we have when there is an itching sensation, to have it rubbed or scratched. Such an uneasiness would these persons have to have some kind of instruction that would allay their restless and uneasy desires, or would gratify them. In explanation of this passage we may observe,

(1) That there will be always religious teachers of some kind, and that in proportion as error and sin abound, they will be multiplied. The apostle here says, that by turning away from Timothy, and from sound instruction, they would not abandon all religious teachers, but would rather increase and multiply them. People often declaim much against a regular ministry, and call it “priest-craft;” and yet, if they were to get rid of such a ministry, they would by no means escape from all kinds of religious teachers. The deeper the darkness, and the more gross the errors, and the more prevalent the wickedness of men, the more will a certain kind of religious teachers abound, and the more it will cost to support them. Italy and Spain swarm with priests, and in every pagan nation they constitute a very numerous class of the population. The cheapest ministry on the earth is a well-educated Protestant clergy, and if society wishes to free itself from swarms of preachers, and prophets, and exhorters, it should secure the regular services of an educated and pious ministry.

(2) In such classes of persons as the apostle here refers to, there is a restless, uneasy desire to have some kind of preachers. They have “itching ears.” They will be ready to run after all kinds of public instructors. They will be little pleased with any, and this will be one reason why they will have so many. They are fickle, and unsettled, and never satisfied. A desire to hear the truth, and to learn the way of salvation, is a good desire. But this can be better gratified by far under the patient and intelligent labor of a single religious teacher, than by running after many teachers, or than by frequent changes. How much would a child learn if he was constantly running from one school to another?

(3) Such persons would have teachers according to “their own lusts;” that is, their own tastes, or wishes. They would have those who would coincide with their whims; who would foster every vagary which might enter their imagination; who would countenance every wild project for doing good; who would be the advocates of the errors which they held; and who would be afraid to rebuke their faults. These are the principles on which many persons choose their religious teachers. The true principle should be, to select those who will faithfully declare the truth, and who will not shrink from exposing and denouncing sin, wherever it may be found.

Verse 4

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth - That is, the people themselves will turn away from the truth. It does not mean that the teachers would turn them away by the influence of their instructions.

And shall be turned unto fables; - See the notes at 1 Timothy 1:4.

Verse 5

But watch thou in all things - Be vigilant against error and against sin, and faithful in the performance of duty; See the Matthew 25:13 note; 1 Corinthians 16:13 note.

Endure afflictions - See the notes at 2 Timothy 2:3. The Greek word here is the same which is there rendered “endure hardness.”

Do the work of an evangelist - On the word “evangelist,” see the notes on Acts 21:8. The phrase here means, “do the work of preaching the gospel,” or of one appointed to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation. This is the proper business of all ministers, whatever other rank they may maintain. Whether it was ever regarded as the proper duty of a separate class of men to do this, see the notes on Ephesians 4:11.

Make full proof of thy ministry - Margin, “fulfill;” compare the notes at Romans 14:5. The word here used denotes, properly, to bear or bring fully; then to persuade fully; and then to make fully assured of, to give full proof of. The meaning here seems to be, “to furnish full evidence of what is the design of the Christian ministry, and of what it is adapted to accomplish,” by the faithful performance of all its duties. Timothy was so to discharge the duties of his office as to furnish “a fair illustration” of what the ministry could do, and thus to show the wisdom of the Saviour in its institution. This should be the aim of all the ministers of the gospel. Each one should resolve, by the blessing of God, that the ministry, in his hands, shall be allowed, “by a fair trial,” to show to the utmost what it is adapted to do for the welfare of mankind.

Verse 6

For I am now ready to be offered - This conviction of the apostle that he was about to die, is urged as a reason why Timothy should be laborious and faithful in the performance of the duties of his office. His own work was nearly done. He was soon to be withdrawn from the earth, and whatever benefit the world might have derived from his experience or active exertions, it was now to be deprived of it. He was about to leave a work which he much loved, and to which he had devoted the vigor of his life, and he was anxious that they who were to succeed him should carry on the work with all the energy and zeal in their power. This expresses the common feeling of aged ministers as death draws near. The word “ready” in the phrase “ready to be offered,” conveys an idea which is not in the original. It implies a willingness to depart, which, whether true or not, is not the idea conveyed by the apostle.

His statement is merely of “the fact” that he was “about” to die, or that his work “was” drawing to a close. No doubt he was ready, in the sense of being willing and prepared, but this is not the idea in the Greek. The single Greek word rendered “I am ready to be offered” - σπένδομαι spendomai - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in Philippians 2:17, where it is translated “if I be offered;” see it explained in the notes on that place. The allusion here, says Burder (in Rosenmuller’s A. u. n. Morgenland), is to the custom which prevailed among the pagan generally, of pouring wine and oil on the head of a victim when it was about to be offered in sacrifice. The idea of the apostle then is, that he was in the condition of the victim on whose head the wine and oil had been already poured, and which was just about to be put to death; that is, he was about to die. Every preparation had been made, and he only awaited the blow which was to strike him down.

The meaning is not that he was to be a sacrifice; it is that his death was about to occur. Nothing more remained to be done but to die. The victim was all ready, and he was sure that the blow would soon fall. What was the ground of his expectation, he has not told us. Probably there were events occurring in Rome which made it morally certain that though he had once been acquitted, he could not now escape. At all events, it is interesting to contemplate an aged and experienced Christian on the borders of the grave, and to learn what were his feelings in the prospect of his departure to the eternal world. Happily, Paul has in more places than one (compare Philippians 1:23), stated his views in such circumstances, and we know that his religion then did not fail him. He found it to be in the prospect of death what he had found it to be through all his life - the source of unspeakable consolation - and he was enabled to look calmly onward to the hour which should summon him into the presence of his Judge.

And the time of my departure is at hand - Greek: “dissolving, or dissolution.” So we speak of the “dissolution” of the soul and body. The verb from which the noun (ἀνάλυσις analusis), is derived (ἀναλύω analuō), means to loosen again; to undo. It is applied to the act of unloosing or casting off the fastenings of a ship, preparatory to a departure. The proper idea in the use of the word would be, that he had been bound to the present world, like a ship to its moorings, and that death would be a release. He would now spread his sails on the broad ocean of eternity. The true idea of death is that of loosening the bands that confine us to the present world; of setting us free, and permitting the soul to go forth, as with expanded sails, on its eternal voyage. With such a view of death, why should a Christian fear to die?

Verse 7

I have fought a good fight - The Christian life is often represented as a conflict, or warfare; see the notes on 1 Timothy 6:12. That noble conflict with sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil, Paul now says he had been able to maintain.

I have finished my course - The Christian life, too, is often represented as a “race” to be run; compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:24-26.

I have kept the faith - I have steadfastly maintained the faith of the gospel; or, have lived a life of fidelity to my Master. Probably the expression means that he had kept his plighted faith to the Redeemer, or had spent a life in faithfully endeavoring to serve his Lord.

Verse 8

Henceforth there is laid up for me - At the end of my race, as there was a crown in reserve for those who had successfully striven in the Grecian games; compare the notes on 1 Corinthians 9:25. The word “henceforth” - λοιπὸν loipon - means “what remains, or as to the rest;” and the idea is, that that was what remained of the whole career. The race had been run; the conflict had been waged; and all which was now necessary to complete the whole transaction, was merely that the crown be bestowed.

A crown of righteousness - That is, a crown won in the cause of righteousness, and conferred as the reward of his conflicts and efforts in the cause of holiness. It was not the crown of ambition; it was not a garland won in struggles for earthly distinction; it was that which was the appropriate reward of his efforts to be personally holy, and to spread the principles of holiness as far as possible through the world.

Which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me - The Lord Jesus, appointed to judge the world, and to dispense the rewards of eternity. It will be seen in the last day that the rewards of heaven are not conferred in an arbitrary manner, but that they are bestowed because they ought to be, or that God is righteous and just in doing it. No man will be admitted to heaven who ought not, under all the circumstances of the case, to be admitted there; no one will be excluded who ought to have been saved.

At that day - That is, the time when he will come to judge the world; Matthew 25:0.

And not to me only - “Though my life has been spent in laboriously endeavoring to spread his religion; though I have suffered much, and labored long; though I have struggled hard to win the prize, and now have it full in view, yet I do not suppose that it is to be conferred on me alone. It is not like the wreath of olive, laurel, pine, or parsley (See the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:25), which could be conferred only on one victor (See the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:24); but here every one may obtain the crown who strives for it. The struggle is not between me and a competitor in such a sense that, if ‘I’ obtain the crown, ‘he’ must be excluded; but it is a crown which ‘he” can obtain as well as ‘I.’ As many as run - as many as fight the good fight - as many as keep the faith - as many as love his appearing, may win the crown as well as I.” Such is religion, and such is the manner in which its rewards differ from all others.

At the Grecian games, but one could obtain the prize; 1 Corinthians 9:24. All the rest who contended in those games, no matter how numerous they were, or how skilfully they contended, or how much effort they made, were of course subjected to the mortification of a failure, and to all the ill-feeling and envy to which such a failure might give rise. So it is in respect to all the prizes which this world can bestow. In a lottery, but one can obtain the highest prize; in a class in college, but one can secure the highest honor; in the scramble for office, no matter how numerous the competitors may be, or what may be their merits, but one can obtain it. All the rest are liable to the disappointments and mortifications of defeat. Not so in religion. No matter how numerous the competitors, or how worthy any one of them may be, or how pre-eminent above his brethren, yet all may obtain the prize; all may be crowned with a diadem of life, of equal brilliancy. No one is excluded because another is successful; no one fails of the reward because another obtains it. Who, then, would not make an effort to win the immortal crown?

Unto all them also that love his appearing - That is, unto all who desire his second coming. To believe in the second advent of the Lord Jesus to judge the world, and to desire his return, became a kind of a criterion by which Christians were known. No others but true Christians were supposed to believe in that, and no others truly desired it; compare Revelation 1:7; Revelation 22:20. It is so now. It is one of the characteristics of a true Christian that he sincerely desires the return of his Saviour, and would weLcome his appearing in the clouds of heaven.

Verse 9

Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me - As soon as possible. Timothy had been Paul’s traveling companion, and was his intimate friend. The apostle was now nearly forsaken, and was about to pass through severe trials. It is not certainly known for what purpose he wished him to come to him, but perhaps he desired to give him some parting counsels; perhaps he wished him to be near him when he died. It is evident from this that he did not regard him as the prelatical “bishop of the church of the Ephesians,” or consider that he was so confined to that place in his labors, that he was not also to go to other places if he was called in the providence of God. It is probable that Timothy would obey such a summons, and there is no reason to believe that he ever returned to Ephseus.

Verse 10

For Demas hath forsaken me - Demas is honorably mentioned in Colossians 4:14; but nothing more is known of him than what can be gathered from that place and this - that he was at first a friend and fellow-laborer of Paul, but that, under the influence of a desire to live, he afterward forsook him, even in circumstances where he greatly needed the presence of a friend.

Having loved this present world - This does not mean, necessarily, that he was an avaricious man, or that, in itself, he loved the honors or wealth of this world; but it means that he desired to live. He was not willing to stay with Paul, and subject himself to the probabilities of martyrdom; and, in order to secure his life, he departed to a place of safety. The Greek is, ἀγαπὴσας τὸν νὺν αἰῶνα agapēsas ton nun aiōna - having loved the world that now is; that is, this world as it is, with all its cares, and troubles, and comforts; having desired to remain in this world, rather than to go to the other. There is, perhaps, a slight censure here in the language of Paul - “the censure of grief;” but there is no reason why Demas should be held up as an example of a worldly man. That he desired to live longer; that he was unwilling to remain and risk the loss of life, is indeed clear. That Paul was pained by his departure, and that he felt lonely and sad, is quite apparent; but I see no evidence that Demas was influenced by what are commonly called worldly feelings, or that he was led to this course by the desire of wealth, or fame, or pleasure.

And is departed unto Thessalonica - Perhaps his native place. “Calmet.”

Crescens - Nothing more is known of Crescens than is here mentioned. “He is thought by Eusebius and others to have preached in Gaul, and to have founded the church in Vienne, in Dauphiny” - Calmet.

To Galatia - See Intro. to the Epistle to the Galatians, Section 1. It is not known to what part of Galatia he had gone, or why he went there.

Titus into Dalmatia - Dalmatia was a part of Illyricum, on the gulf of Venice, or the Adriatic sea. On the situation of Illyricum, see the notes on Romans 15:19. Paul does not mention the reason why Titus had gone there; but it is not improbable that he had gone to preach the gospel, or to visit the churches which Paul had planted in that region. The apostle does not suggest that he was deserving of blame for having gone, and it can hardly be supposed that “Titus” would have left him at this time without his concurrence. Perhaps, when he permitted him to go, he did not know how soon events would come to a crisis with him; and as a letter would more readily reach Timothy at Ephesus, than Titus in Dalmatia, he requested him to come to him, instead of directing Titus to return.

Verse 11

Only Luke is with me - Luke, the author of the gospel which bears his name, and of the Acts of the Apostles. For a considerable part of the ministry of Paul, he was his traveling companion (compare the notes on Acts 16:10), and we know that he went with him to Rome; Acts 27:1.

Take Mark - John Mark, see the notes at Acts 15:37. He was the son of a sister of Barnabas, and had been the traveling companion of Barnabas and Paul. There had been a temporary alienation between Paul and him Acts 15:38; but this passage proves that that had been removed, and that Paul was reconciled to him.

For he is profitable to me for the ministry - In what way he would be profitable, he does not say; nor is it known why Mark was at that time with Timothy. It may be observed, however, that this is such language as Paul might be expected to use of Mark, after what had occurred, as recorded in Acts 15:38. He felt that he was now about to die. If he suspected that there was on the part of Mark any lingering apprehension that the great apostle was not entirely reconciled to him, or retained a recollection of what had formerly occurred, nothing would be more natural than that, at this trying time of his life, Paul should summon him to his side, and express toward him the kindest emotions. It would soothe any lingering irritation in the mind of Mark, to receive such a message.

Verse 12

And Tychicus - See Acts 20:4. In Ephesians 6:21, Paul calls him “a beloved brother, and faithful minister in the Lord.” But it may be asked why he did not retain him with him, or why should he have sent him away, and then call Timothy to him? The probability is, that he had sent him before he had seen reason to apprehend that he would be put to death; and now, feeling the need of a friend to be with him, he sent to Timothy, rather than to him, because Tychicus had been employed to perform some service which he could not well leave, and because Paul wished to give some some special instructions to Timothy before he died.

Have I sent to Ephesus - Why, is not certainly known; compare Intro. Section 2.

Verse 13

The cloak that I left at Troas - On the situation of Troas, see the notes on Acts 16:8. It was not on the most direct route from Ephesus to Rome, but was a route frequently taken. See also the introduction, section 2. In regard to what the “cloak” here mentioned was, there has been considerable difference of opinion. The Greek word used (φελόνης phelonēs, - variously written φαιλόνης phailonēs, φελόνης phelonēs, and φελώνης phelōnēs), occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is supposed to be used for a similar Greek word (φαινόλης phainolēs) to denote a cloak, or great-coat, with a hood, used chiefly on journeys, or in the army: Latin, “penula.” It is described by Eschenberg (Man. Class. Lit., p. 209) as a “cloak without sleeves, for cold or rainy weather.” See the uses of it in the quotations made by Wetstein, in loc.

Others, however, have supposed that the word means a traveling-case for books, etc. So Hesychius understands it. Bloomfield endeavors to unite the two opinions by suggesting that it may mean a “cloak-bag,” and that he had left his books and parchments in it. It is impossible to settle the precise meaning of the word here, and it is not material. The common opinion that it was a wrapper or traveling-cloak, is the most probable; and such a garment would not be undesirable for a prisoner. It should be remembered, also, that winter was approaching 2 Timothy 4:21, and such a cloak would be particularly needed. He had probably passed through Troas in summer, and, not needing the cloak, and not choosing to encumber himself with it, had left it at the house of a friend. On the meaning of the word, see Wetstein, Robinson, Lex., and Schleusner, Lexicon. Compare, also, Suic. Thes ii. 1422. The doubt in regard to what is here meant, is as old as Chrysostom. He says (Homily x. on this Epistle), that the word φελόνην phelonēn denotes a garment - τὸ ἱματίον to himation. But some understood by it a capsula, or bag - γλωσσόκομον glōssokomon,” (compare the notes on John 12:6), “in which books, etc. were carried.”

With Carpus - Carpus is not elsewhere mentioned. He was evidently a friend of the apostle, and it would seem probable that Paul had made his house his home when he was in Troas.

And the books - It is impossible to determine what books are meant here. They may have been portions of the Old Testament, or classic writings, or books written by other Christians, or by himself. It is worthy of remark that even Paul did not travel without books, and that he found them in some way necessary for the work of the ministry.

Especially the parchments - The word here used (μεμβράνας membranas, whence our word “membrane”), occurs only in this place in the New Testament, and means skin, membrane, or parchment. Dressed skins were among the earliest materials for writing, and were in common use before the art of making paper from rags was discovered. These “parchments” seem to have been something different from “books,” and probably refer to some of his own writings. They may have contained notes, memorandums, journals, or unfinished letters. It is, of course, impossible now to determine what they were. Benson supposes they were letters which he had received from the churches; Macknight, that they were the originals of the letters which he had written; Dr. Bull, that they were a kind of common-place book, in which he inserted hints and extracts of the most remarkable passages in the authors which he read. All this, however, is mere conjecture.

Verse 14

Alexander the coppersmith - Or, rather, “the brazier” - ὁ χαλκεύς ho chalkeus. The word is used, however, to denote a worker in any kind of metals. This is probably the same person who is mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20, and perhaps the same as the one mentioned in Acts 19:33; see the notes on 1 Timothy 1:20.

Did me much evil - In what way this was done, is not mentioned. If this is the same person who is referred to in 1 Timothy 1:20, it is probable that it was not evil to Paul personally, so much as embarrassment to the cause of religion which he advocated; compare 2 Timothy 2:17-18.

The Lord reward him according to his works; - compare the notes at 1 Timothy 1:20. This need not be regarded as an expression of private feeling; still less should it be understood as expressing a desire of revenge. It is the language of one who wished that God would treat him exactly as he ought to be treated, and might be in accordance with the highest benevolence of any heart. It is the aim of every just government that every one should be treated exactly as he deserves; and every good citizen should desire and pray that exact justice may be done to all. It is the business of a police officer to ferret out the guilty, to bring them to trial, to secure a just sentence; and any police officer might “pray,” with the utmost propriety, that God would assist him in his endeavors, and enable him to perform his duty. This might be done with no malevolent feeling toward any human being, but with the purest love of country, and the most earnest desire for the welfare of all.

if such a police officer, or if a judge, or a juryman, were heard thus to pray, who would dare to accuse him of having a vindictive spirit, or a malevolent heart? And why should Paul be so charged, when his prayer amounts to no more than this? For it remains yet to be proved that he refers to any private wrong which Alexander had done him, or that he was actuated by any other desire than that the sacred interests of truth should be guarded, and equal justice done to all. Why is it wrong to desire or to pray that universal justice may be done, and that every man may be treated as, under all the circumstances of the case, he ought to be treated? On the subject of the “Imprecations in the Scriptures,” the reader may consult an article in the Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 1, pp. 97-110. It should be added here, that some manuscripts, instead of ἀποδῴη apodōē, “may the Lord reward,” read it in the future - ἀποδώσει apodōsei, “will reward.” See Wetstein. The future is also found in the Vulgate, Coptic, and in Augustine, Theodoret, and Chrysostom. Augustine says (on the Sermon on the Mount), “He does not say, may he reward (reddat); but, he will reward (reddet), which is a verb of prophecy, not of imprecation. The authority, however, is not sufficient to justify a change in the present reading. These variations have doubtless arisen from a belief that the common reading expresses a sentiment inconsistent with the true spirit of a Christian, and a desire to find a better. But there is no reason for “desiring” a change in the text.

Verse 15

Of whom be thou ware also - It would seem from this that Alexander was still a public teacher, and that his discourses were plausible and artful. The best and the wisest of men need to be on their guard against the efforts of the advocates of error.

For he hath greatly withstood our words - Margin, “preachings.” The Greek is, “words;” but the reference is doubtless to the public teachings of Paul. This verse makes it clear that it was no private wrong that Paul referred to, but the injury which he was doing to the cause of truth as a professed public teacher.

Verse 16

At my first answer - Greek, “apology (ἀπολογία apologia), plea, or defense.” This evidently refers to some trial which he had had before the Roman emperor. He speaks of a first trial of this kind; but whether it was on some former occasion, and he had been released and permitted again to go abroad, or whether it was a trial which he had already had during his second imprisonment, it is not easy to determine. The former is the most natural supposition; for, if he had had a trial during his present imprisonment, it is difficult to see why he was still held as a prisoner. See this point examined in the introduction, section 1.

No man stood with me - Paul had many friends in Rome (2 Timothy 4:21; compare Romans 16:0); but it seems that they did not wish to appear as such when he was put on trial for his life. They were doubtless afraid that they would be identified with him, and would endanger their own lives. It should be said that some of the friends of the apostle, mentioned in Romans 16:0, and who were there when that Epistle was written, may have died before the apostle arrived there, or, in the trials and persecutions to which they were exposed, may have left the city. Still, it is remarkable that those who were there should have all left him on so trying an occasion. But to forsake a friend in the day of calamity is not uncommon, and Paul experienced what thousands before him and since have done. Thus, Job was forsaken by friends and kindred in the day of his trials; see his pathetic description in Job 19:13-17;

He hath put my brethren far from me,

And mine acquaintance verily are estranged from me.

My kinsfolk have failed,

And my familiar friends have forgotten me.

They that dwell in my house, and my maids,

Count me for a stranger.

I am an alien in their sight.

I called my servant, and he gave me no answer; I entreated him with my mouth.

My breath is strange to my wife.

Though I entreated for the children’s sake of mine own body.

Thus, the Psalmist was forsaken by his friends in the time of calamity; Psalms 35:12-16; Psalms 38:2; Psalms 41:9; Psalms 55:12. And thus the Saviour was forsaken in his trials; Matthew 26:56; compare, for illustration, Zechariah 13:6. The world is full of instances in which those who have been overtaken by overwhelming calamities, have been forsaken by professed friends, and have been left to suffer alone. This has arisen, partly from the circumstance that many sincere friends are timid, and their courage fails them when their attachment for another would expose them to peril; but more commonly from the circumstance that there is much professed friendship in the world which is false, and that calamity becomes a test of it which it cannot abide. There is professed friendship which is caused by wealth Proverbs 14:20; Proverbs 19:4; there is that which is cherished for those in elevated and fashionable circles; there is that which is formed for beauty of person, or graceful manners, rather than for the solid virtues of the heart; there is that which is created in the sunshine of life - the affection of those “swallow friends; who retire in the winter, and return in the spring.” Compare the concluding remarks on the book of Job. Such friendship is always tested by calamity; and when affliction comes, they who in the days of prosperity were surrounded by many flatterers and admirers, are surprised to find how few there were among them who truly loved them.

“In the wind and tempest of his frown,

Distinction, with a broad and powerful fan,

Puffing at all, winnows the light away;

And what hath mass or matter by itself,

Lies, rich in virtue and unmingled.”

Troilus and Cressida.

So common has this been - so little confidence can be placed in professed friends in time of adversity, that we are sometimes disposed to believe that there is more truth than fancy in the representation of the poet when he says:

“And what is friendship but a name,

A charm that lulls to sleep;

A shade that follows wealth or fame.

But leaves the wretch to weep?”

Yet there is true friendship in the world. It existed between Damon and Pythias, and its power and beauty were still more strikingly illustrated in the warm affection of David and Jonathan. In the trials of David - though raised from the condition of a shepherd boy - and though having no powerful friends at court, the son of Saul never forsook him, and never gave him occasion to suspect the sincerity or the depth of his affection. With what exquisite beauty he sang of that attachment when Jonathan was dead!

“I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan.

Very pleasant hast thou been unto me:

Thy love to me was wonderful,

Passing the love of women.”

2 Samuel 1:26

True friendship, founded on sincere love, so rare, so difficult to be found, so little known among the gay and the great, is one of the richest of Heaven’s blessings to man, and when enjoyed, should be regarded as more than a compensation for all of show, and splendor, and flattery that wealth can obtain.

“Though choice of follies fasten on the great,

None clings more obstinate, than fancy fond.

That sacred friendship is their easy prey;

Caught by the wafture of a golden lure,

Or fascination of a high-born smile.

Their smiles, the great, and the coquette, throw out.

For other’s hearts, tenacious of their own,

And we no less of ours, when such the bait,

Ye fortune’s cofferers? ye powers of wealth!

Can gold gain friendship! Impudence of hope!

As well mere man an angel might beget.

Love, and love only, is the loan for love.

Lorenzo! pride repress; nor hope to find.

A friend, but what has found a friend in thee.

All like the purchase; few the price will pay,

And this makes friends such miracles below.

A friend is worth all hazards we can run.

Poor is the friendless master of a world;

A world in purchase of a friend is gain.”

Night Thoughts, Night 2

I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge - That it may not be “reckoned,” or imputed to them - λογισθείῃ logistheiē. On the meaning of this word, see the notes on Romans 4:3, and Philemon 1:18. The prayer of the apostle here breathes the very spirit of Christ; see the notes on Luke 23:34; compare Acts 7:60.

Verse 17

Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me - Though all “men” forsook me, yet “God” did not. This expresses a universal truth in regard to the faithfulness of God; see Psalms 27:10; compare Job 5:17-19; Isaiah 14:1-2.

That by me the preaching might be fully known - The word “preaching,” here probably means “the gospel as preached by him.” The word rendered “might be fully known” - πληροφορηθῃ plērophorē̄thē - means “might obtain full credence;” that is, might be fully confirmed, so that others might be assured of its truth. The apostle doubtless means that on his trial, though forsaken by all men, he was enabled to be so steadfast in his profession of the truth, and so calm in the prospect of death, that all who witnessed his trial saw that there was a reality in religion, and that the gospel was founded in truth. He had maintained as a preacher that the gospel was able to support the soul in trial, and he was now able to illustrate its power in his own case. He had proclaimed the gospel as the true system of religion, and he was now able to bear testimony to it with the prospect of approaching martyrdom.

The sentiment of this passage then is, that the truth of the gospel is made known, or that men may become fully assured of it, by the testimony which is borne to it by its friends in the near prospect of death. One of the most important means of establishing the truth of the gospel in the world has been the testimony borne to it by martyrs, and the spirit of unwavering confidence in God which they have evinced. And now, one of the most important methods of keeping up the knowledge of the value of religion in the world, and of convincing men of the truth of Christianity, is the spirit evinced by its friends when they are about to die. Men judge much, and justly, of the value of a system of religion by its power to comfort in the day of calamity, and to sustain the soul when about to enter on an untried state of being. That system is of little value to mankind which leaves us in the day of trial; that is of inestimable worth which will enable us to die with the firm hope of a brighter and better world. A Christian, having served his God faithfully in life, may, therefore, be eminently useful when he comes to die.

And that all the Gentiles might hear - Paul was at this time in Rome. His trial was before a pagan tribunal, and he was surrounded by Pagans. Rome, too, was then the center of the world, and at all times there was a great conflux of strangers there. His trial, therefore, gave him an opportunity of testifying to the truth of Christianity before Gentile rulers, and in such circumstances that the knowledge of his sufferings, and of the religion for which he suffered, might be conveyed by the strangers who witnessed it to the ends of the world. His main object in life was to make the gospel known to the Gentiles, and he had thus an opportunity of furthering that great cause, even on what he supposed might be the trial which would determine with him the question of life or death; compare the notes on Romans 1:10.

And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion - This may either mean that he was delivered from Nero, compared with a lion, or literally that he was saved from being thrown to lions in the amphitheater, as was common in Rome; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 15:32.

It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to compare tyrants and persecutors with ravenous wild beasts; compare Psalms 22:13, Psalms 22:21; Jeremiah 2:30. Nero is called a “lion” by Seneca, and it was usual among pagan writers to apply the term in various senses to princes and warriors; see Grotius, in loc. The common interpretation here has been, that this refers to Nero, and there is no improbability in the interpretation. Still, it is quite as natural to suppose that the punishment which had been appointed for him, or to which he would have been subjected, was to be thrown to lions, and that in some way, now unknown to us, he had been delivered from it. Paul attributes his deliverance entirely to the Lord - but what instrumental agency there may have been, he does not specify. It seems probable that it was his own defense; that he was enabled to plead his own cause with so much ability that he found favor even with the Roman emperor, and was discharged. If it had been through the help of a friend at court, it is hardly to be supposed that he would not have mentioned the name of him to whom he owed his deliverance.

Verse 18

And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work - He does not say from “death,” for he expected now to die; see 2 Timothy 4:6. But he was assured that God would keep him from shrinking from death when the hour approached; from apostasy, and from the manifestation of an improper spirit when he came to die.

And will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom - So keep me from evil that I shall reach his heavenly kingdom; see 2 Timothy 4:8.

To whom be glory forever and ever - Paul was accustomed to introduce a doxology in his writings when his heart was full (compare Romans 9:5), and in no place could it be more appropriate than here, when he had the fullest confidence that he was soon to be brought to heaven. If man is ever disposed to ascribe glory to God, it is on such an occasion.

Verse 19

Salute Prisca and Aquila - Prisca, or Priscilla, was the wife of Aquila, though her name is sometimes mentioned first. In regard to their history, see the notes at Romans 16:3. They were at Rome when Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, but afterward went into Asia Minor, which was the native place of Aquila Acts 18:2, and where they probably died.

And the household of Onesiphorus; - see the notes on 2 Timothy 1:16.

Verse 20

Erastus - see the notes on Romans 16:23.

Abode at Corinth - This was his home, where he filled an important office; see the notes at Romans 16:23. It would seem that when Paul went to Rome, there was some expectation that he would accompany him, but that reasons had occurred for his remaining in Corinth. His doing so is referred to without blame.

But Trophimus - see Acts 20:4. He was a native of Asia Minor.

Have I left at Miletum sick - Probably he designed to accompany him to Rome, as he had been often with him in his journeys. On the situation of Miletus, or Miletum, see the notes on Acts 20:15.

Verse 21

Do thy diligence; - 2 Timothy 4:9.

To come before winter - Probably because of the dangers of the navigation then, and because the circumstances of the apostle were such as to demand the presence of a friend.

Eubulus, ... - These names are of common occurrence in the works of the classic writers, but of the persons here referred to we know nothing.

Verse 22

The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit; - see Galatians 6:18; Romans 15:20. The subscription to this Epistle was not added by Paul himself, nor is there any evidence that it was by an inspired man, and it is of no authority. There is not the slightest evidence that Timothy was “ordained the first bishop of the church of the Ephesians,” or that he was a “bishop” there at all. There is no reason to believe that he was even a “pastor” there, in the technical sense; see the notes on 1 Timothy 1:3. Compare the remarks on the subscriptions to the Epistle to the Romans, 1 Corinthians, and especially Titus.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/2-timothy-4.html. 1870.
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