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Thursday, November 30th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 4

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Verse 1

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

charge: This word indicates the heaviness of Paul’s feeling of obligation toward Timothy. Originally, it meant to call gods and men to witness (Thayer 139-2), and that meaning is still apparent in Paul’s list of reasons for his charge. It means to lay responsibility upon, to testify to, or to warn in the most serious way possible. Forms of the word are translated "warn" or "witness" (1 Thessalonians 4:6; Acts 20:23) and "testify" (Acts 2:40). The word is used three times in the letters to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:14; 2 Timothy 4:1). It is stronger than the words translated "charge" in other places in the New Testament, including 1 Timothy 1:3 where he was told to charge some to teach no other doctrine or 1 Timothy 6:17 where the rich were to be charged not to trust in wealth.

quick: This complicated word (Thayer 273-1) is used many times in the Bible. Various forms of the root refer to (1) life in general, (2) the absolute life that is in God and Christ, (3) life imparted to Christians at the resurrection, (4) life imparted to Christians by the Holy Spirit, and other shades of meaning. In this verse, as nearly all translations show, it means simply those humans who are living as opposed to those who have died.

The seriousness of Paul’s charge to Timothy is explained by a series of reasons, each of which could be preceded by the phrase "in view of." These persons and facts stand like witnesses before Timothy of what he must do. In view of God, the absolute Ruler of the Universe; in view of the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead; in view of Jesus’ second coming in glory; and in view of His kingdom, Timothy must preach the word. This construction of the verse replaces the word "at" in "at His appearing" with "and." This change makes "His appearing" another reason for the seriousness of the charge rather than a modifying phrase that explains when Jesus’ judgment will take place. The evidence for this rendition is almost absolute. Of six other translations checked (RSV, NIV, NEB, Wilson’s, Amplified, and Moffatt) all use "and His appearing."

As Ellicott notes, this use at first makes the verse seem more difficult, but it gains strength as one understands it (238). The New English Bible is not my favorite translation overall, but its statement of this verse is concise and beautiful: "Before God, and before Christ Jesus who is to judge men living and dead, I adjure you by his coming appearance and reign." This type of charge was not unfamiliar to Jewish people. In his last will and testament to the Israelites, Moses said, "I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day" (Deuteronomy 4:26).

kingdom: A question is raised by the word "kingdom." What kingdom or reign will Jesus have at his second coming? It will not be his church, which is his kingdom now, for that shall be delivered over to God (1 Corinthians 15:24). There is, however, a reign that Jesus will have after his second coming. Timothy was told in 2 Timothy 2:12 that we shall (future tense) reign with him if we suffer with him. In Revelation 11:15, we are told that Jesus would reign forever and forever when the kingdoms of the world are made the kingdoms of the Lord Christ. Ellicott suggests Christians will rule with the Lord in His perpetual reign (238).

MacKnight suggests that this solemn charge was intended for the benefit of every preacher who would come after Timothy (481).

Verses 1-22


Thayer, Joseph H., D.D. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon. Grand Rapids, Michigan: AP & A, n.d. The page number in Thayer is given and the column on the page follows the dash. For example, page 37-1 means the reference is on page 37 and in column 1.

Clarke, Adam. Commentary and Critical Notes. Vol. 2. New York: Abingdon Press, n.d.

Ellicott, Charles John. Commentary on the Whole Bible. Vol. 8. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1959.

Jamieson, Robert, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown. A Commentary on the Whole Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1961.

Johnson, B.W. People’s New Testament With Notes. Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate, 1951.

MacKnight, James. MacKnight on the Epistles. One-Volume Edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1984.

Thayer, Joseph Henry. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. New York: American Book Co., 1886.

Vine, W.E. A Dictionary of New Testament Words. Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers, 1981.

Verse 2

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

Preach the word: The word "preach," meaning the public proclamation of the gospel (Thayer 342-2), was the first command that came out of Paul’s unusually solemn adjuration. The reason is that under conditions like those that prevailed, public preaching would be the first to attract attention, the most likely to incite persecution, and the one most likely to be curtailed by the faint-hearted. Paul did not mean to minimize the value of private preaching. But he knew that if Timothy would summon the courage to continue the public work of the church, the private ministry would not suffer.

instant: The word "instant," one of the most difficult in the chapter to define specifically, literally means "be prepared" (Thayer 265-1). The King James captures the essence by charging Timothy to be prepared to seize every opportunity to preach the gospel. Ellicott (235) and Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown (1381) say the command is to be earnest and urgent in the whole work of his ministry. The Revised Standard Version and the Amplified Version translate the word as "urgent," the most exact meaning in modern English.

in season, out of season: The phrases "in season" and "out of season" are opposites. The word for "in season" means "when the opportunity occurs" (Thayer 259-1), or more precisely, when it is convenient and easy. The only other time this word is used in the New Testament is Mark 14:11 where the writer says Judas sought how he "might conveniently betray" Jesus. These two phrases command Timothy to preach the gospel publicly when it is convenient and when it is not convenient, regardless of personal consequences. The thoughts continue the principle of not allowing persecution or any other condition to stop or even affect the proclamation of the good news.

reprove, rebuke: These two words refer to the same general type of action, but the second is a stronger form of that action. The word "reprove" means to correct or censure (Thayer 202-2), and the word "rebuke" means to censure severely or charge one with wrong (Thayer 245-1). This word carries the idea of inhibiting actions motivated by angry emotions and is sometimes translated "restrain." Along with his public preaching, Timothy was instructed to allow nothing to interfere with reproving and rebuking sin.

exhort: The word "exhort" (Thayer 482-2) originally meant "to call to one’s side" much as a mother might call back a child that had strayed too far. But it is a complex word used many times in the New Testament with a variety of meanings. In places, it carries the idea of correction combined with encouragement. For that reason both the Revised Standard Version and Ellicott (239) give it as encouragement.

with all long-suffering and doctrine: This phrase carries the instruction that whatever the level of rebuke or encouragement, it is to be accompanied by patient instruction in the word. The word "doctrine" (Thayer 144-2) can either refer to the act of teaching or to the instructions taught. In this case, it refers to the act or process of teaching. The phrase points out, according to Ellicott (239), that whatever Timothy’s mode of discipline it was to be accompanied with patient instruction.

All of these words about correcting those who are wandering provide needed lessons to preachers and church leaders today. They demonstrate clearly an essential principle in all effective discipline: it should be adjusted to fit the attitude and behavior of the subject. Paul’s instructions to Timothy seem to be that he should encourage whenever possible, correct lightly if needed, or reprimand severely if it be demanded. The preacher must be ready and able to administer all those types of instructions, and he must have the wisdom to know the appropriate situation for each. Often, today, congregations are not prepared to administer discipline as needed. Some ignore wrongs until they no longer can be ignored and then administer discipline so severely that irreparable damage is done; still worse, some congregations find themselves divided over whether any discipline should be administered at all and, thus, send mixed signals to the errant. But Paul’s instructions to Timothy concerning what he should do are clear: reprove, rebuke, exhort. And he complements those instructions with more on how it should be done: with all longsuffering and doctrine. Congregations today would do well to heed this teaching.

Verse 3

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

The reader can further sense the urgency of Paul’s message as he looks at attitudes in that society and warns Timothy of the effect such will have on the church. The picture was not a pleasant one. Conditions were going to get worse rather than better. At that time the society apparently was polarized, with many people hating Christianity and others still willing to accept and defend it. But Paul knew the tide gradually would turn, and history proved him true.

endure: The word "endure" means tolerate. It carries the idea that the people would come to consider the pure doctrine a burden and would no longer be willing to bear it.

sound: "Sound" doctrine means in a state of good health or spiritually uncorrupted with error (Thayer 634-1).

doctrine: The word "doctrine" is a form of the same word that is used in verse two, but here it means the content of what is taught rather than the process of teaching (Thayer 144-2).

lusts: This term is probably one of the most important words in the New Testament for Christians to understand. Its basic meaning is a deep desire or craving (Thayer 238-2). But the ramifications of its meaning go much further. It refers to an emotion-based yearning as opposed to an intellectual conviction. Thus, it is a powerful motivator of human behavior. The word can be used of yearning for good things, as it is of Jesus’ "desire" to eat the Passover with his disciples (Luke 22:15) and of Paul’s desire to depart and be with Christ (Philippians 1:23), or it can be used of a craving for evil things. Examples of the latter usage are seen in James 1:14, where James explains that a man is drawn away of his own lust, 2 Peter 2:10 and Revelation 18:14. When used in a good sense, it usually is translated with the English word "desire" while the word "lust" often is used when the object of the desire is evil.

The use of the word "lusts" in the phrase "lusts of their own hearts" (Romans 1:24) shows that such desires are emotional yearnings. The word "heart" there means the seat of human passions, desires, and affections (Thayer 325-2). The above passages show that human emotions are subject to training and can be made to yearn for good things or turned over to Satan to make into cravings of the flesh. One could guide his behavior from intellectual convictions alone, but it is the human emotions that supply the urgency for which Paul asked. What sometimes happens is that we train our intellects with sound beliefs and convictions and then, because we are embarrassed at being emotional, leave our emotions out of our religion to become a playground of Satan. The result is a conflict that is the hallmark of our time: a conviction that we ought to serve God but a yearning after the world.

heaping to themselves teachers: Paul says lusts would cause the people to "heap" to themselves false teachers who would tickle their ears--that is, tell them what they want to hear. Clarke says they would "add one teacher to another" (637). One person can proclaim the truth and it will stand, but falsehood needs a multitude to prop it up. Ahab and Jezebel had 850 false prophets who ate at their table and told them what they wanted to hear, but they were enraged because one ragged prophet preached the truth (1 Kings 18:19).

This verse is a prophesy about conditions that would develop in the church. History bears out that such conditions did come to pass, adding to the already abundant proof of the inspiration of Paul’s message. The warning Paul issues, however, is not limited to the people of that age but to ours as well. Such a warning adds to the church’s responsibility to watch for coming changes and to prepare for them.

Verse 4

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth: The word "truth" refers to the truth as taught in the Christian religion about God, His purposes revealed in Jesus, and the duties of man (Thayer 26-2). The phrase "shall be turned unto" speaks of a deliberate turning away from one thing in order to follow another (Thayer 200-2). Having loosed from the anchor of truth, such persons are doomed to credit even the most degrading nonsense as truth (Clarke 637). We have seen that in the history of the ancients, and we see it before our eyes in 20th Century America.

and shall be turned unto fables: Ellicott says that the fables mentioned here and in 1 Timothy 1:4 originated with the Jews who claimed that an "Oral Law" had been given to Moses on Sinai in addition to the Ten Commandments (179). This seminal fable with many later additions and interpretations became the Talmud. Since the Talmud was not completed until after Christ, He probably has reference to early versions of these writings when He reprimands the scribes and Pharisees for "transgress(ing) the commandment of God by your tradition" (Matthew 15:3; Matthew 15:9).

While these are likely the fables Paul has in mind, every society in every age has its fables (fictitious tales or myths) (Thayer 419-1). Such fables are whatever pieces of worldly "wisdom" that are in vogue at the time, some of which may be good human wisdom but none of which can be depended on for salvation. Regardless of the quality of human wisdom, those not anchored in the truth of God are bound to be victims of that wisdom. A devastating fable of our time is the notion that there are no moral absolutes. That fable has allowed people to accept under the name of open-mindedness everything from sexual license to the church of Satan.

Verse 5

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

The word "watch" means to be sober or calm and collected in spirit (Thayer 425-2). Ellicott (239) says the command is "keep thy cool head in all circumstances." For many years I have read scholars who stood in awe of how closely reasoned are Paul’s letters. I never fully understood that fact until now, and this phrase is an example. He has just discussed people who allow their heads to be turned from the truth to fables; from there he moves on to say to Timothy: "Regardless of the circumstance, keep your head straight."

endure affliction: These words are connected to the preceding thought about the things that might turn Timothy’s head. This is the fifth time in this letter alone that Paul has told Timothy to be prepared to suffer (see 2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 2:3; 2 Timothy 2:12; 2 Timothy 3:12), another indication of his concern for his son. In Timothy’s defense, however, it would likely take a great deal of preparation to make most of us willing to suffer as Timothy was going to have to do.

The word "evangelist" means a bringer of good tidings (Thayer 257-2). Although the word is used only three times in the New Testament (Acts 21:8; Ephesians 4:11), the type of work an evangelist was to do apparently was well known to Timothy. Paul sees no need to list the duties involved in the office, probably because he had already done so, at least partially, in verse 2. We know, from the description of another evangelist’s work in Acts 9, somewhat more about its nature. Philip traveled throughout the Palestinian and Phoenician coasts preaching the gospel and establishing churches. Ellicott (239) says that evangelists were assistants to the apostles and missionaries under their direction.

So far as I can observe, the only evangelists in the New Testament who are called by name are Philip and Timothy, although Ephesians 4:11 indicates the office was a common one. However, from the behavior of those two men, we can tell a good deal about the office. It involved traveling to preach the gospel. Timothy traveled approximately twelve years with Paul. Philip covered a rather wide and thickly populated area in Palestine and Phoenicia. But the office may involve staying in a city. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus about two years earlier than the date of the second letter. Acts 9:40 finds Philip ending a preaching tour at Caesarea; and twenty-five years later, in Acts 21:8, we find him still there. (We do not know, of course, whether he left for other evangelistic efforts in the meanwhile.) The length of an evangelist’s stay seems to be dictated by the need of the work.

The phrase "make full proof" is a single word in the Greek that means "to cause a thing to be shown to the full" (Thayer 517-1). It suggests that Timothy’s ministry had not been fully unfurled. I wonder how many evangelists of the 20th Century would have been considered "fully proved" by Paul.

Verse 6

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

Paul, by following the command to Timothy to prove his ministry fully with an announcement of his own death, seems to suggest that the mantle of Paul’s work, like that of Elijah on Elisha, was now falling on Timothy. The phrase, "I am now ready to be offered" means "I am now about to be poured out like a drink offering." Paul uses the same image of the drink offering in regard to himself in Philippians 2:17, suggesting that Paul had known for some time that he must die in order "to complete the sacrifice of the Gentile’s faith" (MacKnight 481).

The calmness with which Paul faces death is remarkable. We know that he possessed little fear for himself. On two occasions (2 Corinthians 5:2 and Philippians 1:23), he stated a desire to depart and be with Christ. His worry was over the state of the church after his death.

Verse 7

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

Almost all translations (RSV, NIV, Wilson’s, and Amplified) add the definite article "the" with all of these nouns, rendering them "the good fight," "the course," and "the faith." These translations are correct. There are not many good fights. There is "the good fight" that all Christians must wage, and "the course" that all must finish in order to lay hold on the prize, just as there is one faith that must be kept by all.

The good fight Paul waged is the one he called Timothy to in 1 Timothy 6:12. There he described it as "the good fight of faith." It is a fight of faith because it is made in defense of the faith to protect it from the corrupting influences of false doctrine and worldly practices (Ellicott 212). But it is also a fight of faith because faith is the force that motivates one to do it.

finished my course: Recalling the Olympic races, Paul knows no winner gives up before he reaches the finish line. One is reminded here of those Galatians who started so well but began to mix Christianity with Judaism. Paul says, "You did run well; who did hinder you that you should not obey the truth" (Galatians 5:7).

kept the faith: Paul means he had held onto the doctrine that was delivered to him by revelation (Galatians 1:11-12)--the one that was "once for all delivered to the saints" (Judges 1:3, RSV)--and that he had taught that doctrine "everywhere in every church" (1 Corinthians 4:17). Any change or perversion of that faith would have made him a false teacher no better than those about whom he was warning Timothy. And so it makes any such teacher today.

Verse 8

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.

Henceforth: This word means the same in the Greek as it does in the English (Thayer 352-1). It is a compound of two words, the first of which signifies "because of preceding facts or circumstances." "Forth" means "from this point on." In this context, the word explains that because of what is described in verse 7, what is stated in verse 8 will happen. If any believer has doubts about the conditions on which eternal salvation is predicated, the positioning of this word between the two verses should settle it. Because he had fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith, there would be a crown of righteousness reserved for Paul from a certain point onward.

The point at which this laying up would take place was Paul’s death. He had spoken of it in verse 6 as already taking place; thus, he can speak of the crown as already won.

laid up: This expression means "reserved" (Thayer 63-1). It is as if it has Paul’s name on it. He uses the same word to the Colossians (1:5); but since the Colossians were not dying, it was their "hope" that was reserved in heaven. Peter uses a different word but the same idea when he says the Lord knows how "to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished" (2 Peter 2:9). These passages make abundantly clear that for both the righteous and the wicked, rewards will be given at the judgment day.

at that day: This phrase is used many times in the New Testament to mean the day Jesus returns to judge the world (Thayer 277-2).

crown of righteousness: The reward that had Paul’s name upon it was this "crown of righteousness." He has brought into the mental view of his readers the Olympic games by the imagery of the race course in verse 7. Now, building on that image without actually naming it, he compares his heavenly crown to the garland of flowers given to Olympic winners. Paul explains to the Corinthian Christians that these athletic contestants "do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible" (1 Corinthians 9:25). The crown of righteousness was what James (1:12) calls the "crown of life," and Peter refers to as a "crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:4). In these instances, too, the crown was given for faithful service. It is called a crown of righteousness, as Ellicott points out, because it was righteousness that allowed him to lay claim to it (241).

The crown will be awarded by the "Lord the righteous judge." As noted in the Introduction, this expression is a subtle reference to the crooked Roman judge whom Paul knew would soon wrongly condemn him to death. It implies that the Roman official ruled over the pettiest of courts and that his sentence of death immediately will be reversed in the Supreme Court of all the Universe by a Judge who is infinite in righteousness. Christians of all ages have suffered many types of wrongs, confident in the knowledge that sentences here can always be overturned in the real court of last resort.

and not to me only: Paul closes this splendid passage by pointing out that the crown that awaits him is not his alone. In fact, like the phrases in verse 7, "a crown" is better translated as "the crown." There is one type of crown all faithful disciples shall receive, just as all faithful workers in His vineyard were promised "a penny." And as the reward is the same for all, so are the conditions of its receipt.

love his appearing: Paul concludes this portion of his discourse by suggesting that the motivating force that produces the type of life that earns the crown is love.

Verse 9

Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:

With the opening of verse 9, it is as if a paragraph marker had been inserted so that from the heavy doctrinal and moral issues he has been discussing, Paul turns to personal matters. But the change is more apparent than real. As noted above, there are personal implications in the doctrinal instructions and there are doctrinal inferences in the personal notations and requests.

Do thy diligence: "Diligence" means to endeavor earnestly. In verse 21, Paul repeats this request, asking Timothy to come "before winter," thus defining what Paul means here by "shortly." It is true, as Clarke points out, that sailing in that part of the world was difficult in winter (640). (See Acts 27:12 and Titus 3:12.) But I suspect the real reason, also noted by Clarke, is the amount of time Paul felt he had before his next trial and execution. He probably had a reasonably good idea of how events were shaping up for his second court appearance, and he was convinced that his execution would be certain and quick.

Although Paul may have thought that his urgency could be better conveyed to Timothy in person, it seems more natural to think the request is made out of loneliness. Jesus wanted his disciples to watch with him as his death approached (Matthew 26:38). Many dying persons have commented on the terrible loneliness they feel when they are not quite out of one world or into the next. There is no reason that emotions should not be allowed to motivate behavior if that behavior, such as this request for Timothy’s presence, is appropriate in itself.

Verse 10

For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.

The word "forsaken," which describes Demas’ actions, means "to abandon or desert in a helpless condition" (Thayer 166-1). It is a poignant word that helps to explain Paul’s great loneliness. Being alone does not necessarily bring loneliness, but desertion by an intimate companion will. Paul’s careful choice of words shows that he was alone at Rome, except for Luke, because of three types of separations from companions: (1) Demas "forsook," (2) Crescens and Titus "departed," suggesting that Paul did not consider their leaving a desertion, although he probably did not actively send them to Galatia and Dalmatia, and (3) Tychicus was "sent" by the Apostle Paul (verse 12), meaning he left on Paul’s instructions.

Demas’ desertion because of his love for the "present world" stands in opposition with the next world where the crown of righteousness for Paul and all Christians is laid up. Clarke thinks that Demas went back to the practice of Judaism because the phrase is often used to mean the Jewish scheme of things (638). But it seems more likely that Demas was frightened for his safety (Ellicott 241). Hot or cold persons do not generally go to another religion when they leave the truth. Instead they feel guilty, depressed, or cynical and quit altogether.

Verse 11

Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.

When Paul says only Luke was with him, he probably means of the group of disciples and servants who usually traveled with him. There were still Christians in Rome, as Paul, himself, names in verse 21. MacKnight suggests that Paul was probably allowed to have some social intercourse with these disciples (482). But it may also have been true that, even if it were allowed, the Christians were not eager to avail themselves of the opportunity.

Luke is "the beloved physician." Ellicott claims that Luke had traveled with Paul for many years and that he had done so in order to minister to Paul because of his poor health (241). There is evidence of Paul’s physical infirmity (Galatians 4:13-15); but whether this is the reason, or even a part of it, that Luke was Paul’s companion is not truly known.

Paul’s instruction to bring Mark is of great interest. This brother is the John Mark whose faint-heartedness (Acts 13:13) frustrated Paul so intensely that when he later wanted to travel with them (Acts 15:38), Paul refused. There is indication that, at that time, Paul considered him of no use to the ministry. Disagreement over Mark was so strong between Paul and his old friend Barnabas, who was Mark’s uncle, that the two parted company. But it is now twenty-five years later; and Mark, despite his faltering start, has won Paul’s respect. His use of the word "profitable," which means "easy to make use of" (Thayer 264-1), seems deliberately to hark back to the time Paul had argued that Mark was useless. Some writers seem to think it wonderful that Paul could be big enough not just to acknowledge Mark’s usefulness but to make use of him personally. Instead, it seems to me that no student of Paul’s personality should be surprised. His total being was dedicated to the propagation of the gospel. Anyone or anything that hindered was put aside, but anyone who helped was enthusiastically welcomed. A man who "could wish himself accursed from Christ" in order to save his brethren (Romans 9:3) would surely not allow pride to cause him to reject a true yokefellow.

Paul’s statement about Mark is of more interest to me as it relates to Mark’s personality and to anyone who finds himself lacking courage. It could not have been a small matter to have faced the disdain of the greatest leader in the Christian world at the time. Mark’s life should stand as a testimony to all who, through their own fault or others, face semi-disgrace. Through patient work, they can overcome it and even rise to greater heights. And what heights! Peter calls Mark his son (1 Peter 5:13) and, according to Ellicott, tutored him in writing the gospel that bears Mark’s name (242). Of course, Paul’s feelings toward Mark were changed long before this writing. He is mentioned in Philemon 1:24 as Paul’s fellowlaborer and in Colossians 4:10 as a faithful assistant of Paul.

Verse 12

And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.

We know little of Tychicus except that in Acts 20:4 he was one of Paul’s companions who was said to be of Asia, probably Ephesus. Ellicott says the name, which means fortunate, suggests he was a freed slave (242). We also read of him one other time (Ephesians 6:21), where Paul calls him a "beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord." What a wonderful example of the leveling influence of Christianity, a place where the rich can rejoice that they are "made low" and brothers of "low degree" because they are exalted (James 1:9). MacKnight thinks Tychicus was sent to Ephesus to take Timothy’s place when Timothy came to Paul (482).

Verse 13

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

There is controversy over the meaning of the word "cloak." Clarke says it means a traveling bag used much as we use a suitcase (639). Wilson’s translation renders it "bag." Even so, the evidence is clearly in favor of the word "cloak." Thayer acknowledges the controversy and argues they are wrong who want to make it a travel bag. It means, he says, a cloak normally used for traveling in stormy weather (647-1). No clue is given as to what the content of the books were. Parchments were rolls of paper that could have been inscribed, like books, but were also used for scholars’ own notes. Ellicott believes these were notes that Paul had taken through the years and wished either to review or enlarge (242). The New English Bible translates the word "notebooks."

We can only speculate about the uses Paul wished to make of these items. I think we are safer to assume they were for his own use since he does not indicate otherwise. We know he was conscious of winter coming on--verse 21--and it seems natural that a lonely old man, living in a dungeon would wish for a heavy coat. A scholar all his life, it seems equally natural that he would want some of his books. In times of stress, one always reverts for comfort to the habits that have been the most basic parts of his life, as reading and writing were for Paul. We know that Paul’s human learning was of the highest quality because, among many other reasons, Festus in his ignorance argued that Paul’s "great learning" had made him insane (Acts 26:24).

Several writers comment on the collection of the great apostle’s wealth at the end of his career: a coat, some books, and parchments. He truly had, as he said to the Philippians (3:8), "suffered the loss of all things" to win Christ. What exquisite testimony to the real value of that "crown of righteousness."

Verse 14

Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:

Alexander the coppersmith: Precisely who Alexander was and the nature of the evil he did to Paul are not known. Ellicott, MacKnight, and Clarke all believe he was the same Alexander put forward by the Jews to oppose Paul and his companions in the uproar at Ephesus (Acts 19:33) and the one excommunicated by Paul in 1 Timothy 1:20. If this be true, then he was probably a Christian who became one of those Judaizing teachers who plagued Paul in many places.

did me much evil: If Alexander were disfellowshipped by Paul, that would explain the fanatical zeal with which he pursued Paul’s hurt. The phrase "did me much evil" means with great energy and effectiveness. MacKnight thinks Paul’s notation (2 Timothy 2:8-9) concerning why he was imprisoned helps to explain this verse (468). In that passage, Paul said he had suffered trouble and bonds for preaching that Jesus was the seed of David and that he was raised from the dead. That fact and the related facts of the gospel, such as that the Gentiles could be saved without obeying the law of Moses and that Jesus was the true Lord of the Gentiles, would anger Jews and Romans alike. Alexander may have become like a traveling prosecutor of Paul, appearing in Rome to testify against him at his trial.

MacKnight believes that Alexander was the chief witness against Paul at Rome, using his knowledge of Christianity to pervert Paul’s teaching and convince the court that he was an enemy of the state. It is true that "apostates" from any movement are often convincing witnesses to outsiders. People credit them as knowing the truth about the movement because they have been there. The trouble with them as witnesses is that they, like Alexander, have axes to grind and are often neither objective nor truthful.

the Lord reward him: In the King James Version, this phrase sounds as if Paul is calling a curse on Alexander. It should be taken instead as a simple statement of fact. Numerous other translations render the phrase "the Lord will" reward him according to his works.

Verse 15

Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.

Of whom be thou ware also: Those who wish to destroy an organization wisely go for its leaders. Paul, the strongest and most visible leader of Christianity in the Gentile world, was their main target. But since Paul appears to be anointing Timothy as his successor, then after Paul’s death Timothy would likely become the focus of these fanatics.

for he hath greatly withstood our words: The expression "greatly withstood" implies again the unusual zeal with which Alexander pursued his cause of hatred. As noted above, human emotions are great motivators of behavior. In these two men, we have exquisite examples. Paul, spurred on by love for all mankind, passionately pursued salvation for the Gentiles. Alexander, filled with hatred, was driven to death and destruction. The source of one of these emotions is God, for "God is love" (1 John 4:8). The fountain of the other is the devil. What powerful instructions to Christians to eschew one and cultivate the other.

Verse 16

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.

At my first answer: Paul here means "at my first trial." The word "answer" signifies a verbal defense (Thayer 65-2). Ellicott thinks the conduct of his enemies at his trial, mentioned in the preceding verse, had reminded Paul of the conduct of his friends.

forsook: "Forsook" is the same root word as the word "forsaken" in verse 10. The verse implies that the reason the friends forsook him was the same as prompted Demas’ desertion. They feared for their lives. The city apparently was so inflamed against Christians that to be identified publicly as a disciple put one in great danger.

Verse 17

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.

Friends and enemies may forsake, but there is one who is always faithful. The first phrase of this passage suggests the great stress Paul was under. He had been on trial many times before, and each time had spoken in his own defense. Those occasions had not required special strengthening of the Lord, but this time was different. He probably had been mistreated physically and, thus, may have been physically weak. It is certain he was friendless.

Although these dangers would have been stress enough, Paul seems to have worried more about having the strength to take advantage of the opportunity of his trial to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. He probably knew this would be his last public sermon because, thanks to Nero, it was a public trial of the leader of a now hated group; and it would be attended by a multitude. Then, too, whatever was said in this capital court would fly to the far reaches of the Roman world. If Paul could preach Jesus convincingly as the Messiah of the Gentiles, it would likely infuriate the cynical among both Jews and Romans and hasten his death. Jews would see him as a further traitor to their cause, and Romans would consider him as condemning their pagan gods. But honest Gentiles would truly know what Paul had spent his life to tell them: Jesus was their Savior, too.

Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me: The Lord stood by Paul and "empowered" him sufficiently for his purpose.

that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all Gentiles might hear: Paul seemed to know, when his sermon was finished, that the flag of his ministry was now completely unfurled. The phrase "might be fully known" literally means "carried under full sail," or, in passages such as this, "to be fully and boldly declared" (MacKnight 483). Paul’s hint to the Philippians (2:17) that he might be sacrificed to the Gentile’s faith is now a reality. Additionally, the fight is over and the guerdon won. There remains nothing now except to wait for the executioner’s hand to free his spirit to go and claim the prize.

delivered out of the mouth of the lion: This phrase probably does not mean, as many ancient writers supposed, that Paul was delivered from Nero, because he was still under Nero’s hand. Nor was it the lions in the Roman amphitheater to which Christians were sometimes fed. They, too, were still there. Since Paul was worried about finishing his ministry to the Gentiles, not about his life, the danger was likely something that would interfere with his sermon. Thus, the hate-filled crowd may have tried to seize Paul as he preached, as crowds had tried to do before; but Paul was delivered from them and the trial and the sermon proceeded to their conclusion. That phrase was a proverb used generally of being delivered from imminent danger (Clarke 640). (See Psalms 22:21.)

Verse 18

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.

every evil work: The real question of this verse is the meaning of the "every evil work" from which God would preserve Paul. It was surely not physical death. He has indicated he knows that is certain. Nor was it, as some have supposed, a delivery from any future temptation and possible sin. He wrote earlier that he controlled his person in the same way other Christians do (1 Corinthians 9:27). Ellicott may be right when he suggests that the "evil works" are the punishment and imprisonments that Paul has suffered for so long (244). The deliverance is that martyr’s death that will be the means of bringing him to the heavenly kingdom. It was not unusual then, nor is it now, for persons in misery to see death as deliverance. Of it, Job says, "there the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary be at rest" (Job 3:17).

Verse 19

Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.

Prisca and Aquila: Paul had known and loved this couple for fifteen years. He met them in Corinth where they apparently came after being driven, with all Jews, from Rome by Claudius (Acts 18:2). They became Paul’s co-workers in Corinth and supported his work and preached on their own in a number of cities on the Mediterranean coast. They apparently returned to Rome after the death of Claudius and before Paul came, for in Paul’s Roman letter, written about four years before his first imprisonment, he greeted them (Romans 16:3). Now they have gone--whether at Paul’s direction we do not know--to Ephesus.

the household of Onesiphorus: This greeting to the "household" of Onesiphorus may imply that Paul’s dear friend, who had sought him diligently in Rome (2 Timothy 1:16), is now dead.

Verse 20

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

Erastus: A Christian by the name of Erastus is mentioned in Romans (16:23) as the chamberlain or treasurer of the city and in Acts (19:22) as a companion of Paul and Timothy.

Trophimus: Trophimus is said to be an Ephesian in Acts 21:29, and the Trophimus Paul mentions here is probably the same one. It was he whom the Jews thought Paul had brought into the temple, polluting it according to their law. The uproar that ensued eventually led to Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome.

Verse 21

Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.

Of these persons we know very little. We are safe to assume, I believe, that they were among the Christians in the church in Rome. Although they did not stand with Paul in his first trial, they apparently did visit with him occasionally. Otherwise, they would not have known Paul was writing to Timothy and asked to send greetings.

Verse 22

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

And so closes what is surely one of the world’s most poignant letters. The reader is made to feel even more emotion when realizing that Paul did not get his wish to see Timothy before his death. B.W. Johnson says that shortly after this letter was penned, Paul was hastily summoned to a second hearing, summarily condemned, and led outside the city to a place called Three Fountains where he was beheaded. From a human standpoint, it could seem unfair that this great man who gave so much and asked so little, did not get even that. But Paul would be the last to think in such a manner. I am certain that he would feel fulfilled in knowing that his purpose with Timothy was successful. History notes that he became just the disciple that Paul urged him to be, even to suffering a martyr’s death in the footsteps of the beloved apostle.

Present-Day Application

Since we have characterized this chapter as Paul’s "Last Will and Testament," it would seem that few current applications could be made from it. Actually, there are many. Several will be discussed briefly in the following paragraphs.

1. The need for urgency in preaching the gospel is a main theme of the chapter. Some of the conditions in Rome that created a need for urgency are similar to conditions in modern America. Others, such as the physical danger to Christians, are not. But the need for urgency is always present.

a. I believe that one of the greatest failings of the church is the lack of zeal with which we preach the good news. There are exceptions; but most of us, evangelists and regular Christians alike, might more nearly qualify for being "at ease in Zion."

2. Paul said the time is coming when they will not endure sound doctrine. In making this statement, he enunciates a universal principle of individuals and societies. The time is always coming when people will be less tolerant of God’s law. Societies, like individuals (see Ecclesiastes 12:1), are more prone to respect God when they are young. As a society develops and human knowledge increases, it becomes more cynical about divine things. Individuals, too, usually become harder with advancing age. The situation is analogous to the fact that one will never be younger than he is now. He can only grow older. Thus, there is never a better time to convert people or a better time for an individual to become a Christian. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).

3. Paul asked Christians to see the changes in society and prepare for them. Jesus taught (Matthew 24) that one is wise to read the signs of the times. These people probably wanted more specific signs than Jesus was willing to give. But his and Paul’s teachings suggest that we can see signs of change in society. And we should be able to predict and prepare for the impact of those changes on the church. Such preparation is more important now than ever because society is changing more rapidly than at any time in the past. Authorities agree that our world has changed more in the last 50 years than in all of recorded history. If we had predicted the rapid breakdown of the family, the rise of the drug culture, and the sexual revolution, we would not have been able to stop them; but we might have been able to lessen their impact on the church.

4. Paul’s warnings about giving heed to worldly wisdom are especially needed today. When society was agrarian, the people were dependent on, and the rhythms of their lives were regulated by, God. Seed time and harvest, sunshine and rain and similar rhythms of the earth were etched into soul and psyche of their existence. The things they feared most were acts of nature--storms, floods, droughts. Now, few people live close to nature and, anyway, human engineering seems to have all but conquered it. If crops are spoiled by drought, we import food from afar. If the sun is hot, we switch on air conditioning. In such a society, it is easy for people to lose their trust in God and replace it with trust in human wisdom. But there is one area, the most important of all, in which human wisdom is utterly useless, that is, in answering the question "What must I do to be saved?"

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/2-timothy-4.html. 1993-2022.
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