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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 4

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

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Verses 1-22



1. The last charge (2 Timothy 4:1-5 )

2. His last testimony (2 Timothy 4:6-8 )

3. The last personal messages (2 Timothy 4:9-22 )

2 Timothy 4:1-5

This last chapter is a most impressive one. It is the farewell of this great man of God. joy and sorrow, confidence and love breathe in his final charge and message. “The sorrow that he might have in his soul was only for those he was leaving, and even that is almost swallowed up in the joyful consciousness of the thought with whom he was leaving them.” And so he delivers one more charge, and that solemnly before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is about to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom. He is as a servant to keep the coming of the Lord, His appearing and His kingdom before his heart.

“The apostle urges this upon Timothy as what would, amid all the difficulties of the way, be his strength and assurance. It is always according to Scripture, ‘yet, but a little while, and He that will come shall come, and shall not tarry.’ We look back and see how long it has been, and we take this to make the distance behind us put distance into that which is before us. The apostle’s way for us would be rather that we should say, ‘The night is far spent, and the day is at hand.’ We may, after all, go to the Lord before He comes to us, but we shall not have missed the good of having been in the meanwhile ‘like unto men that wait for their Lord.’ The whole character of our Christianity will be affected by our ‘holding fast,’ or practically losing sight of His coming, as our constant expectation” (Numerical Bible).

With the thought of the coming of the Lord before his soul, Timothy is charged to preach the Word at all times. The blessed hope gives energy to continue in the ministry of the Word. Preach the Word! The Word, all the Word of God, the gospel and dispensational truth, is needed in the days when sound doctrine is no longer endured. And how all has come to pass! As the Apostle testified even so it is today. Sound doctrine no longer endured, “after their own lusts they heap to themselves teachers, having an itching ear.” They care nothing for the message of God, but have man’s person in admiration (Jude). They admire the teacher, his great swelling words (Jude). And the teachers and preachers are men-pleasers. And as a result of this their ears are turned away from the truth and are turned to fables, such as evolution, higher criticism, Christian Science and other delusions. In the midst of all this departure from the truth of God, the Lord still maintains His testimony through those who keep His Word and who do not deny His Name (Revelation 3:8 ).

2 Timothy 4:6-8

The martyr’s death now looms up, and he pens the never-to-be-forgotten words of faithfulness and assurance of the crown of righteousness. “For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not only to me, but also to all that love His appearing.” Upon the incorrect translation of the Authorized Version “I am now ready to be offered” has been founded that strange theory that the apostle was now ready to die, and had at last the assurance that he was worthy of being a participant in the first resurrection. (See annotations on Philemon 1:3 .) The apostle from the moment he had trusted in Christ had the fullest assurance that he belonged to Christ and was His co-heir; and so every believer knows that he is fitted for glory, not by what he does, or what he has suffered, but through grace alone. To teach that the Apostle Paul received his assurance that he would share the glory of Christ in resurrection, after, and as the result, of, his prolonged suffering, is pernicious, inasmuch as it denies all the great revelations in his Epistles concerning the standing of the believer in Christ. But he did not say he was ready; his words are, “For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come.” Knowing the time of his departure, in which he would have fellowship with His sufferings and be made conformable unto His death (Philippians 3:10 ), his heart contemplated in joyful expectation the moment when he would depart to be with Christ. In this sense he was being already offered, having his heart set upon the early departure to be with His Lord. He had fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith. He had been faithful in all things and resisted the attacks of the enemy.

And now he looks forward to the reward. He knew that there is laid up for him the crown of righteousness. He does not say that this crown would be bestowed upon him immediately after he left the earthly tabernacle. He will receive it from the righteous judge in that day, and that day has not yet come. At the same time “all that love His appearing” will receive the rewards. The Lord will come for His saints, as it is promised in the Word of God, and take them to Himself, and the kingdom which follows the rewards for faithful service will be enjoyed. To be in that glory with the Lord, in the Father’s house is the blessed destiny of all who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ, and who are accepted in the Beloved. No service can secure that destiny. The grace of God puts it on our side. Faithful service will be rewarded in the kingdom. How great the reward that awaits the Apostle Paul in that day! May it be an incentive to all His people to labor on, to spend and be spent.

2 Timothy 4:9-22

And now the last message of the apostle. How he would have loved to have his beloved Timothy at his side and look into his face once more! “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me.” And once more at the close of the letter he writes, “Do thy diligence to come before winter.” It was the cry of deepest affection of one who was deserted by others and yet not a lonely man, for the Lord was with him. Demas, a fellow worker and with Paul in his first imprisonment (Philemon 1:24 ; Colossians 4:14 ), perhaps a Thessalonian, had forsaken the prisoner of the Lord. It is a mournful record, “having loved the present age, and is departed unto Thessalonica.” It is wrong to conclude from this that Demas ceased to be a Christian and had renounced the name of the Lord. He, with love for the present age in his soul, would avoid the cross and its shame, and therefore abandoned Paul. What became of Demas? What was his after-history? The Lord alone knows this.

And Crescens had also gone away to Galatia. We know nothing else of him. Titus went to Dalmatia. It is supposed that Titus joined Paul at Nicopolis (Titus 3:12 ) and accompanied him to Rome, and then went to Dalmatia to preach the gospel there. Only Luke, the beloved physician, remained with him, and no doubt he ministered in every way to the comfort of Paul. Then Mark is mentioned. It is the same John Mark mentioned in Acts 13:5 ; Acts 15:36-41 . For a time after his failure in service Mark was unprofitable. His restoration had taken place, accomplished by the grace of God, and therefore the apostle desires to have him again at his side, “for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” And this John Mark became the chosen instrument to write the gospel record which bears his name, in which the Spirit of God describes so blessedly the Servant of all, who never failed.

Tychicus he had sent to Ephesus. Winter approaching he feels the need of the cloak which he had left with Carpus in Troas. We see that he paid attention even to so small a matter, and that as to his earthly possessions he was poor. He also wants the books, but especially the parchments. He had opportunity as a prisoner to read and study. We do not know what these books and parchments were.

And then the sad record of Alexander the coppersmith. He warns Timothy against him, for he had done him much evil. It must be the same Alexander mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20 . It may be possible that this man became incited against Paul on account of having mentioned his name in the first Epistle, and that he persecuted him for it. “The Lord will reward him according to his works.” This is according to God’s righteousness. At the time of the apostle’s first defence no one took his part, by standing by him; all forsook him. They left him alone and had not the courage to defend him. Beautiful is his prayer, “that it may not be laid to their charge.”

But while all men had forsaken him, one had not forsaken His faithful servant. True to His promise, “I will not leave nor forsake thee,” He had stood with Paul and strengthened him. And when he stood before the Roman authorities the Lord had given him another opportunity to proclaim the Gospel he loved so well, “that through me the preaching might be fully known, and all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.”

And then in simple confidence he counted on the help of the Lord to the end. “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

He sends his last greetings to his dearest friends and old companions, Prisca and Aquila and to the house of Onesiphorus. Erastus had remained in Corinth, where he was treasurer (Romans 16:23 ). The Ephesian brother Trophimus (Acts 20:4 ; Acts 21:29 ) he had left sick in Miletus. Then the final greetings and the last works of his inspired pen, “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you.”

“It is evident that this Epistle was written when the apostle thought his departure near at hand, and when the faith of Christians had grievously declined, which was proved by their having forsaken the apostle. His faith was sustained by grace. He did not hide from himself that all was going wrong: his heart felt it--was broken by it; he saw that it would grow worse and worse. But his own testimony stood firm; he was strong for the Lord through grace. The strength of the Lord was with him to confess Christ, and to exhort Timothy to so much the more diligent and devoted an exercise of his ministry, because the days were evil.

“This is very important. If we love the Lord, if we feel what He is to the assembly, we feel that in the latter all is in ruin. Personal courage is not weakened, for the Lord remains ever the same, faithful, and using His power for us: if not in the assembly which rejects it, it is in those who stand fast that He will exercise His power according to the individual need created by this state of things” (Synopsis of the Bible).

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/2-timothy-4.html. 1913-1922.
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