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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 4

Lipscomb's Commentary on Selected New Testament BooksLipscomb's Commentary on Selected NT Books

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Verse 1

2 Timothy 4:1

I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus,—Because of the all-sufficiency of the word of God to make the man of God perfect and to thoroughly furnish him for every good work, he gave him this solemn charge before God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

who shall judge the living and the dead,—Paul reminds Timothy of this judgment to be executed by Jesus Christ to warn him of the fearful responsibility resting on him to preach the word of God, for he would be held accountable for fidelity in this at the last day.

and by his appearing and his kingdom:—[This solemn charge was not because he suspected him of any unfaithful­ness, but to show his own extreme solicitude for the preserva­tion of the pure and unadulterated word of the Lord, and of the peace and prosperity of the church; and to leave in the divine record to proclaimers of the word in the succeeding ages a desire to be faithful and diligent in all their work.]

Verse 2

2 Timothy 4:2

preach the word;—He was to preach the word that would make the man of God perfect, and that would thoroughly fur­nish him unto every good work. He was to preach this word as all-sufficient. It is a fearful thing to add to it or take from it or in any way to mutilate or change that word.

be urgent in season,—Be ready on every favorable occasion to teach, exhort, and admonish; be urgent generally in the whole work of his ministry.

out of season;—Do not await favorable moments, but create them, to teach the word even under unfavorable circumstances. Eternal ruin is facing the world—await not for favorable cir­cumstances to warn them of the terrible danger. [This, how­ever, only touches a portion of the thought of Paul, who urges on God’s faithful servants sleepless earnestness, which strug­gles on in the Lords work regardless of bodily weakness and discouragement in face of dangers and bitterest opposition.]

reprove,—For wrong teaching with the idea of bringing the fault home to the offender.

rebuke,—For sins and wrongs persisted in. [A sharper and more severe word than reprove, generally with the idea of bringing the fault home to the offender.]

exhort,—Kindly encourage to greater fidelity those who are weak, disheartened, and ready to give up.

with all long-suffering and teaching.—Do this in a kind, for­bearing, long-suffering spirit, striving to instruct and lead into the right paths while applying the word to the different con­ditions.

Verse 3

2 Timothy 4:3

For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine;—Paul urges that this be done the more ear­nestly while it may do good, for the time will come when these professed Christians will not endure the sound doctrine. Er­rors now just apparent, he must remember, would attain more formidable dimensions. The thirst for novelties in doctrine, the desire for a teaching which, while offering peace to a trou­bled conscience, yet allow the old self-indulgent life to go on, as before, would increase. In full view of this develop­ment of vicious error, in sure expectation of a future full of anxious care, Timothy and his fellow laborers must indeed be watchful and earnest in their teachings and ministrations.

but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts;—They will serve teachers who will gratify their own desires by teaching the things that please their own fancy, that gratify the itching of their own ears. The prophet describes them in the following terse words: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I also will forget thy children. As they were multiplied, so they sinned against me: I will change their glory into shame. They feed on the sin of my people, and set their heart on their iniquity. And it shall be, like people, like priest; and I will punish them for their ways, and will requite them their doings. And they shall eat, and not have enough; they shall play the harlot, and shall not increase; because they have left off taking heed to Jehovah.” (Hosea 4:6-10.) That is, teachers can always be found who will teach what the people wish to be taught. As they are catered to, they grow more and more de­praved in appetite, and in hearing they will wax worse and worse. When we leave the truth of God, there is no stopping place.

Verse 4

2 Timothy 4:4

and will turn away their ears from the truth,—They turn away their ears wholly from the truth, and will give up wholly to fables. A man begins to leave the plain and simple truth of God and to turn from it and ends in wholly rejecting it. Hence, the necessity of holding fast the form of sound words.

and turn aside unto fables.—These fables were no doubt purely rabbinical. It was said in the Jewish schools that an oral law had been given on Mount Sinai, and that this law a succession of teachers, from the time of Moses, had handed down. This “law that is upon the lip,” as it was termed, was further illustrated and enlarged by the sayings and comments of the more famous Jewish rabbis, and in the time of the Lord Jesus Christ constituted a supplement to the written law of Moses. For centuries this supplementary code was pre­served by memory or in sacred rolls and doubtless was con­stantly receiving additions. It contained, along with many wild and improbable legendary histories, some wise teachings. This strange collection of tradition and comment was com­mitted to writing in the second century by Rabbi Jehuda under the general name of the Mishna or “repetition of the

law.” Round this compilation a complement of discussionsthe Gemara—was gradually formed and was completed at Babylon somewhere about the end of the fifth century A.D. These worksMishna and the Gemara together with a second Gemara formed somewhat earlier in Palestineare generally known to us as the Talmud. The influence of these traditions is alluded to by the Lord. (Matthew 15:3.)

Verse 5

2 Timothy 4:5

But be thou sober in all things,—Those who are under the power and error of sin are mentally and spiritually living under the passions of drunkenness, while only such as are under the power of the truth and holiness are sober with clear vision and well-balanced mind. The word sums up all Paul’s direc­tions from 2:14, in which he charged Timothy to abstain from striving about words to no profit, to the subverting of them that hear, and to confine himself to the simple word of truth, to avoid discussion which would lead to strife, and to be patient and gentle with all, and to keep steadily in the old paths in which the apostle had walked. He was to be ever watchful in all these things.

suffer hardship,—Bear persecutions that come for fidelity to the truth, which must be preached at any risk, and is thor­oughly deserving of the greatest sacrifice.

do the work of an evangelist,—This includes all the teaching needed to make the gospel effective in the salvation of men. There was originally a distinction in the meanings of the words preach, evangelize, and teach. But the same person was called to all to such an extent that the words greatly lost their distinction and are used almost indiscriminately to refer to all the preaching and teaching to save men.

fulfil thy ministry.—This was to be done by devotion, zeal, and fidelity. He was to do the work faithfully, zealously, and courageously. Thus he would show his efficiency as a min­ister of Christ by doing the full work to which he had been called.

Verse 6

2 Timothy 4:6

For I am already being offered,—[In his first Roman im­prisonment he thought a martyr’s death was probable. At the time he now writes he says: “I am already being offered,” which points to the drink offering of wine, which among the Jews accompanied the sacrifice. The allusion here is to Pauls bloody death. So certain was he that the time for his death was at hand that as he speaks he feels as though it was even then taking place. And he sees in his present suffering in the harsh treatment the beginning of that mar­tyrdom in which his blood would be poured out. But he would not allow Timothy or the many Christians who loved him to be dismayed by his sufferings or tragic death. He would show them by his calm, triumphant courage that to him death was no terror, but only the appointed passage out of the body into the presence of the Lord as he said: “We are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8.) So he speaks of his lifeblood being shed under the well-known peaceful image of the wine poured out over the sacrifice, the drink offering, the sweet savor unto the Lord. (Numbers 15:1-10.)]

and the time of my departure is come.—Paul’s work was nearly over. He was soon to die for the cause of the Lord. His trial was near or past and he realized that he must soon die, hence the appeal to Timothy. As the old men fall out of the ranks, the young men must press forward to carry on the Lords work and be watchful and faithful to the truth.

Verse 7

2 Timothy 4:7

I have fought the good fight,—It was for the good of man to save him from sin and its fearful consequences. It was for the glory and the honor of God. [The struggle had been bravely sustained in the past, and was now being equally bravely sustained to the end. His claim to the crown was established.]

I have finished the course,—It was to do his duty as a con­scientious and noble hero of faith. He had fought it to a good end. [How had he finished the course? The question is answered in Paul’s own words, in which he explains his own course with joy as the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus. He says: “But I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. . . . Where­fore I testify unto you this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:24-27.)]

I have kept the faith:—He had been true to the faith through all the difficulties, conflicts, dangers, and temptations. He had not shrunk from confessing it when death stared him in the face; he had not corrupted it to meet the views of Jews or Gentiles. With courage and resolution and perseverance he had kept it to the end. To be faithful to God to the end is to succeed. That is the only true success.

Verse 8

2 Timothy 4:8

henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteous­ness,—[Paul, after speaking calmly of death, the bitterness of which he was already tasting, looks on beyond death and speaks of the crown which awaited him.]

which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.—It is a crown that comes as a reward of the righteous life that he had lived. Such a crown was not only for Paul, but a similar one awaits all that have loved his ap­pearing. The appearing of Jesus Christ will be the destruc­tion of sin and the vindication of the righteous. It will be the establishment of the rule of right, justice, and mercy. All who are faithful and will look for his coming will desire it, will love it. For such the crown of righteousness is ready and waiting.

Verse 9

2 Timothy 4:9

Give diligence to come shortly unto me:—Paul, having given this exhortation to Timothy, asks him to use all dili­gence to soon come to him. He wished to see his son in the gospel, with whom he had been so much in his labors and sufferings, once more before he left this world. It is natural to suppose that Timothy was equally desirous to see him once more in the flesh.

Verse 10

2 Timothy 4:10

for Demas forsook me, having loved this present world, and went to Thessalonica;—Demas was once a faithful worker with Paul in Rome during Paul’s first imprisonment there, and united with Paul in sending salutations from Rome to the Colossians and to Philemon. (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24.) He is here described as having forsaken Paul when he was awaiting his trial before Nero. How sadly Paul now says that he “loved this present world, and went to Thessalonica.” This is a sad statement.

Crescens to Galatia,—It is not likely that he had turned from following the Lord. He had possibly gone on a gospel mission.

Titus to Dalmatia.—Dalmatia was a province of Roman Illyricum, lying along the Adriatic Sea. Nothing is known respecting this journey of Titus. It was most likely with Paul’s sanction, for we can hardly conceive of one who had been a trusted and honored companion of Paul and a Christian preacher as he had been had turned from following the Lord.

Verse 11

2 Timothy 4:11

Only Luke is with me.—"Luke, the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14), of all Paul’s companions, seems to have been most closely associated with Paul. He was with him, we know, in his second missionary journey. Among Biblical scholars it is generally agreed that Luke was the author of the third gospel and Acts, both of which were certainly written by the same hand. (Acts 1:1.) Accordingly we learn more of him in Acts in which he intimates his presence with Paul by the use of the pronouns “we” and “us.” From these passages it is certain that Luke joined Paul at Troas and accompanied him to Macedonia (Acts 16:10) and was with him in Philippi when Lydia and her household were baptized (Acts 16:11-17); joined him again at Troas (Acts 20:5); and thence accompanied him on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:13-14; Acts 21:1-17), and accompanied him to Rome (Acts 27:1 to Acts 28:16), and remained with him till he was released as is shown by references made to him by Paul written during that time (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24). While these items seem relatively unimportant, they show that Luke’s fidelity to Paul kept him at his side through the first imprisonment, and the verse before discloses him as with the apostle at the end of the second imprisonment.

Take Mark, and bring him with thee;—Mark was the son of the sister of Barnabas, over whom Barnabas and Paul disagreed and separated. (Acts 15:36-41.) Paul then thought him unwilling to endure hardness and danger. [Since that time Mark had, by steady, earnest work, won back his place in Paul’s heart. After some twelve years we find him during the first imprisonment with Paul at Rome. (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24.)]

for he is useful to me for ministering.—Paul seems now to appreciate him so highly that he is now summoned in his hour of supreme danger, and in circumstances from which other friends were ready to flee.

Verse 12

2 Timothy 4:12

But Tychicus I sent to Ephesus.—Tychicus was with Paul in his journey through Macedonia. (Acts 20:4.) It is not known how he came to Rome when Paul was a prisoner. Paul sent him to report his condition to the churches and to comfort them. (Ephesians 6:21.) He carried the letters to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:21) and to the Colossians (Colossians 4:7). [He is mentioned also in Acts (20:4) and Titus (3:12) so that he too was one of the few found faithful to the end.]

Verse 13

2 Timothy 4:13

The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, bring when thou comest,—Paul in passing through Troas at some time, left a cloak with Carpus. Winter was now coming on and Paul in the cold damp prison, with few friends and scant resources, remembered and wished for his cloak. (4:21.)

and the books, especially the parchments,—We know not what books he had. The parchments were probably some of

his own writings. The writing was then done on parchments—dressed skins.

Verse 14

2 Timothy 4:14

Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil:—He may have been a professed Christian who was a Judaizing teacher turned against Paul and made shipwreck of his faith. [Three men named Alexander are mentioned in connection with Paul’s work, and we cannot positively decide which one is here denounced. They are: (1) Alexander of Ephesus, who was brought “out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward” (Acts 19:33) to defend them. The purpose of this was most likely to save the Jews from being mixed up with the Christians in the vengeance of the people. He may or may not have been the same as Alexander the coppersmith. (2) Alexander the coppersmith, of whom it is said he did Paul “much evil” (2 Timothy 4:14). (3) Alexander, an early Christian who “made shipwreck concerning the faith” (1 Timothy 1:19-20), who did Paul “much evil” (2 Timothy 4:14). Many attempts have been made to identify these men, but identification is simply a matter of conjecture.]

the Lord will render to him according to his works:—Paul leaves him with God to reward him according to his deeds, refraining from personal judgment, leaves him to the certain and holy judgment of God, assured that it will be according to his works.

Verse 15

2 Timothy 4:15

of whom do thou also beware;—The opposition to the gospel which led him to withstand Paul would lead him also to oppose Timothy, and he gives this warning against him as a man not to be trusted. He was to be watched and avoided.

for he greatly withstood our words.—He violently opposed the teaching of Paul. Evidently he was an enemy of the gospel, and yet seemingly one who was disguised, for Timothy is put upon his guard against him.

Verse 16

2 Timothy 4:16

At my first defence no one took my part,—At this first reply to the charges made against him in his trial, none stood firmly by him. [Accustomed to refer to his high spiritual privileges, he speaks but little, and never in details of the outward incidents of his life. They did not belong to the world’s passing show, to the things which were seen and rapidly passing away. Two vivid touches alone reveal to us the nature of the occasion. One is the shameful fact that not a single friend had the courage to stand by his side. He had to defend himself singlehanded. No advocate would plead his case or speak a word in his favor.]

but all forsook me:—[The position of Paul, a well-known leader of the Christians in the year A.D. 66-67, was a critical one, and the friend who dared to stand by him would be in great danger. After the great fire in Rome (A.D. 64), the Christians were looked upon as the enemies of the state, and were charged as the authors of the terrible disaster. Nero, to avert suspicion from himself, accused the Christians of the awful deed. And as a consequence a very great multitude of Christians were subjected to terrible sufferings and death. It is possible that Paul was eventually accused and arrested as implicated in this crime and brought to Rome. But Paul, conscious of his own great peril, knew well that to stand by him now, implicated as he was in this network of false accu­sations, would be a service of the greatest danger to the Christians.]

may it not be laid to their account.—So he pleads for these weak, unnerved Christians, who, through no ill will to the cause of Christ, but solely from timidity, had deserted him, remembering, no doubt, the Lord Jesus, who, too, in his hour of deadly peril, had been forsaken, said: “Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone.” (John 16:32.) But like the Master who proceeded to say, “I am not alone, because the Father is with me,” so Paul said to Timothy.

Verse 17

2 Timothy 4:17

But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me;—Not­withstanding the fact that his friends and brethren had for­saken him, the Lord stood by him and enabled him, now old and feeble, to speak with clearness and force before the highest earthly tribunal in the capital city of the world filled with a power that lifted him above fear and clothed him with a divine energy which his enemies could not resist. The following words of the Lord Jesus supported him on this trying occa­sion: “But when they deliver you up, be not anxious how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10:19-20.) And the great promise was fulfilled: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20.)

that through me the message might be fully proclaimed,—The strength and courage which the felt presence of the Lord gave him enabled him on that momentous occasion, when alone, friendless, accused of an awful crime before the highest earthly court in the capital city of the world, to plead not only for himself, but for the cause for which his Lord and Master died on the cross. The great trial probably took place in the Forum and in the presence of a great concourse of people gathered from all parts of the empire.

and that all the Gentiles might hear:—This was apparently the culminating point in Paul’s life-work alluding primarily to the vast audience which had listened to him on this solemn occasion; but there is another and deeper reference to those unnumbered peoples in the isles of the Gentiles (Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 24:15; Isaiah 51:5), who, by Paul’s work and teachings, would come to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus and be saved.

and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.—It was thought that the result of the trial would be that he would be cast to the lions in the amphitheatre. In all his trials in Jerusalem and Caesarea his defense was that the gospel is true. He preached that Jesus was raised from the dead as the vindication of his course. Many attended the trial of Paul, and by his defense on that occasion his preaching be­came fully known. All the Gentiles heard the truth and God delivered him from the lion’s mouth. The trial so resulted and his preaching so affected the people and the judges that he was not thrown to the lions. The customs of the country, the fate of the Christians condemned, and the surroundings seem to require this meaning.

Verse 18

2 Timothy 4:18

The Lord will deliver me from every evil work,—The evil design of casting Paul to the lions had been thwarted and God would deliver him from all evil works. This does not imply that God would save him from a violent death, but that he would be with him and not allow any evil attempt against him to succeed.

and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom:—[The issue, so far as Paul was concerned, would be his entrance into Christ’s everlasting kingdom. This would be granted unto him after and through death. The safe placing of Paul in Christs eternal kingdom is meant on the one side (2 Peter 1:11) removal from the sphere of evil, and on the other side coming under the highest conditions of happiness in the en­joyment of Christ (Philippians 1:21-23; 2 Corinthians 5:8-9).]

to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.—[Doxology is an accompaniment of the highest spiritual mood. It is offered here to the Son of God as elsewhere to the Father. For it was the Son’s assistance that he had enjoyed and still expected and into whose kingdom in heaven he was by the same assistance to be safely brought. It will take the ages of ages to declare all that Christ had been and was still to be to him.]

Verse 19

2 Timothy 4:19

Salute Prisca and Aquila,—These were two of Paul’s earliest friends after he had entered into his great work in the service of the Lord Jesus. They were originally of Pontus (Acts 18:2); they had taken up their abode in Rome, where Aquila exercised his trade as a tent-maker (Acts 18:2-3). They were driven from Rome by the decree of Claudius, which banished the Jews from Rome; they came to Corinth, where Paul became acquainted with them; they evidently were Christians when Paul first met them; they were with Paul at Corinth, at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19), and Paul sends greetings to them at Rome (Romans 16:3). They evidently were among the many active and zealous teachers in the early days of the church. That they were able and zealous is evident from the fact that it was they who taught the learned Apollos the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:26.) In this place and in others Prisca is named before her husband. This seems to indicate that in this case the woman was the principal worker in the cause of the Lord Jesus.

and the house of Onesiphorus.—Onesiphorus had been with Paul in Rome (1:17) and was now likely teaching or preach­ing, but whose family was at Ephesus. Paul evidently intends to compliment the family for its worth and holiness.

Verse 20

2 Timothy 4:20

Erastus remained at Corinth:—Erastus had been a teach­ing companion of Paul and Timothy. He and Timothy were sent by Paul into Macedonia, while Paul remained in Asia. (Acts 19:22.) After teaching with Paul and Timothy for a time, he settled down at Corinth. Paul tells this as interest­ing to Timothy.

but Trophimus I left at Miletus sick.—Trophimus went with Paul to Jerusalem, was a Greek of Ephesus, and Paul was accused of leading him into the temple and profaning it, which brought on the tumult against him. He seems to have been sent as a messenger between the churches and Paul. [That he was left there in a state of sickness shows that Paul’s gift of healing was not permitted by God to be employed for private needs, even for the purpose of securing to him the services of his closest friends, but was only to be used when there was some clear intimation of the Spirit that it was fitting.]

Verse 21

2 Timothy 4:21

Give diligence to come before winter.—Paul’s life was near to the end. Sailing and traveling were dangerous and uncertain in winter. If he did not come before winter, he might be delayed another season.

Eubulus saluteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.—Nothing is known of Eubulus and of the others whose names are mentioned here. They all send greetings to Timothy. He had been with them and this was a kindly remembrance.

Verse 22

2 Timothy 4:22

The Lord be with thy spirit. Grace be with you.—It is a peculiarity of the salutation that it is doubled—one to Timo­thy personally, the other to the church at Ephesus. [Thus closes our last authentic account of this great apostle. These are, perhaps, the last words of him who wrought a greater change in the condition of mankind by his writings and speech than any other man who ever lived. All honor to his blessed memory.]

Bibliographical Information
Lipscomb, David. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". "Lipscomb's Commentary on Selected New Testament Books". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dlc/2-timothy-4.html.
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