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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 4

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-22

2 Timothy 4:1-2 . I charge thee therefore before God preach the word. Paul speaks here as a dying man, soon to appear before the throne of God and the Lamb. Soldiers must not sleep in war without a watch, nor must labourers be negligent in the time of harvest. A man of living faith and ardent charity cannot see souls perish, without using all the requisite means for their salvation. His sermons will be fervent in public worship; and out of season he will preach like Paul, in schools and in markets; or like the Saviour at the well, or Philip in the desert; and a minister may sometimes do more good out of the pulpit than in it. He may there reprove, rebuke, with all longsuffering and doctrine, and make immediate replies to palliations and excuses of sinners.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 . The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine. The days of worldly wealth and glory, when they will ask for philosophical lectures, instead of a gospel which commends itself to every man’s conscience by a fair stroke at every vice, and by aiming at holiness of heart and life. This is a reference to what he had said to Timothy before of the departure of many from the faith, and also to the Thessalonians.

2 Timothy 4:5-6 . But watch thou in all things. The whole world is at war with the truth of God, and resents the light which shames their sins, and the alarms which trouble their consciences. Therefore build up the churches of Asia, now left principally to thy care; for I am now ready to be offered up a victim for the cause, and the time of my departure is at hand. My life, σπενδομαι , my blood is ready to be poured out as a sacrifice for the faith, attesting the truth of what I have preached to others. Paul by the spirit of prophecy seemed to know that he should die by decapitation, and not otherwise, as was the case with many in Rome.

2 Timothy 4:7 . I have fought a good fight, with jews and gentiles, with beasts at Ephesus, with courts and kings. I have finished my course. A wide one it has been, beginning at Damascus, and Arabia; and thence extending through all proconsular Asia, Crete, and the isles of Greece. Once and again I journeyed to Jerusalem, went throughout Macedonia, Thessalia, and Achaia; passed on to Rome, and to the utmost boundaries of the west. But now, though the wheels are clogged with a heavy chain, and the strong walls of a prison, this is my glory and my joy, that I have kept the faith. I durst not dissemble the truth to the jewish nation and council, that God would send me far hence to the gentiles. I durst not flatter the avarice of Felix, nor destroy the souls of others to save a mortal life. In all those fights I have been more than conqueror through him that hath loved me.

2 Timothy 4:8 . Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown, which the Redeemer will confer, not on me only, but on all who love his appearing; the crown of righteousness which is prepared by his own hands; a crown, the consummation of the gifts of righteousness by faith. This apostle tells the Thessalonians, that they were his crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus; his converts, numerous as the pearly drops of dew on the lawn, should be the gems which bestudded his crown.

2 Timothy 4:9-11 . Do thy diligence to come shortly. Proof indubitable that Timothy was not fixed as a bishop for life in Ephesus; and equally a proof that Paul speaks as a presiding bishop of Rome; for Luke alone was with him.

2 Timothy 4:13 . Bring the books, especially the parchments. The latter probably intend the holy scriptures, which were engrossed for public reading. An anecdote related of the celebrated John Bunyan may serve as a comment upon this passage. Walking out one day with a large staff in his hand, to preach in some of the villages, according to his usual custom, he was met on the road by the bishop of Peterborough, travelling in his carriage. The bishop, on being informed who he was, stopped and spoke to him out of the carriage window. Mr. Bunyan, said he, I am told that you can explain difficult passages of scripture. Pray then what did Paul mean by desiring Timothy to bring with him the cloak, the books, and the parchments which he had left at Troas. My lord, said Bunyan, I see no difficulty in the text at all. Paul was a travelling preacher; Timothy was called a bishop; and it was common in those days for bishops to wait upon the apostles. Paul therefore having left his baggage at Troas, requests Timothy to bring it with him. Nowadays, as things are altered, itinerant preachers go on foot, and bishops ride in carriages. The bishop immediately drew up the window, threw himself back in the carriage, and ordered the coachman to drive on. See also Acts 21:15.

2 Timothy 4:16 . At my first answer no man stood with me, being afraid of the lion, a figure of speech borrowed from the frequent exposures of men to the wild beasts. Helius was now the chief judge in Rome, Nero being absent, which accounts for what Clement states to the Corinthians, that Paul suffered under the judges. Nero however confirmed the sentence.

2 Timothy 4:17-18 . Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me and will preserve me to his heavenly kingdom. He who had delivered Paul six times out of prison, and from deaths oft, was now about to grant him the great salvation, by delivering him out of the miseries of this present world.

2 Timothy 4:19 . Salute Prisca and Aquila, elders of the church, and the household of Onesiphorus. The father was probably dead, but the children were prosperous, and filled his place in the church.

2 Timothy 4:21 . Come before winter. A voyage amidst islands, rocks, shoals, and capes, might be dangerous to his health, and to his person, in a dark and dreary winter. So mindful was Paul of the safety and comfort of his beloved friend.

Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, a Roman senator, as Erasmus notes. And Linus, a presbyter, who after the martyrdom of Peter, succeeded says Eusebius, to the bishopric of Rome. Hist. Ecclesiastes lib. 3. cap. 4. And Claudia, a name used both for men and women.

2 Timothy 4:22 . The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen. Laconic words, but a prison did not admit of more. They demonstrate, nevertheless, that Paul died in the faith, fully believing that Christ, in the bosom of the Father, was the true God and eternal Life, able to bless and preserve his people.


How welcome must this letter have been to Timothy. How he would read it, and attentively weigh the words. How sweet, how tender would be the recollections. How the tears would trickle down his cheeks, on learning the situation and the sufferings of a beloved father. All comments would have been obtrusive here. Why, oh my soul, shouldst thou not read it, in some sort, with the same interest, and the same affection?

Paul reminds Timothy of his calling as high and holy, and connected with the promise of eternal life, the highest boon of heaven that can be presented to the human mind. And for a pattern he likewise reminds him of the sufferings of Christ, and that if we suffer with him we shall also reign with him. In addressing the persecuted church of Jerusalem, he in like manner directs them to be looking unto Jesus, the author, until he become the finisher, of faith. Learn of me, said the Saviour, and ye shall find rest to your souls.

The moral state of the jewish sects and congregations is here painted in nine shades of deplorable vice. Paul knew them well; for thirty years and upwards they had pursued him with calumnies, stones, and bonds. Their state bears the closest resemblance to that of their fathers, as described by Jeremiah, anterior to the Babylonian captivity. Most assuredly God did not visit that nation out of time, and beyond measure. Let the christian church read and tremble. The last days are come upon us, when men are lovers of themselves, apostates from the faith, and will not bear sound doctrine.

How sublime and majestic are the pastoral charges which Paul gives to Timothy. He bids him to watch in those evil times, to fight the good fight of faith, nor cease from all those energies till he had laid hold on the eternal life promised afore in Christ Jesus. He leaves not his exhortations in the form of running words, flowing in the course of thought, but gives them the final form of a charge from a dying father to a surviving son. Forgetful of himself, having left his case with God, his solicitude was, that the cause might live; that Elijah’s mantle might fall on Elisha in a double portion of the Spirit; and that Paul, the father, might still subsist in Timothy, the son.

Farewel, oh Paul, the greatest and best of men. Thou forgettest thyself, caring for others, but thy children shall never forget thee. Thy works shall praise thee in the gate, thy writings shall record thy fame, wide as the world, and lasting as the ages. Angels have taken thee in charge, the choral bands are preparing the hymns of triumph. Farewel, blessed Paul, farewel. We shall meet again at the glorious appearing of the great God, who shall judge both the quick and the dead.

Oh what groups of christians do we see going out of Rome on the appian way, and surrounding thy grave with tears, with sighs, and ejaculations. They cry in succession, hail, hail, oh Paul. Thy chains are all broken now, heavy bonds can no longer gall thy feet and hands, strong walls could never confine thine expansive soul, the soul which glowed with celestial fire, and with ardour to gain the house not made with hands. The jews now can make no more insurrections in Rome; neither can the priests, profane as their temples, invoke the lions. The Roman sword has proved thy liberator. The wicked cease to trouble thee, and thy weary limbs find repose.

Hail, all hail, the prince of prophets, the first of preachers, and the best of men. Thy dust alone lies undistinguished, but thy name shall never die. Thy thousand temples, built with living stones, shall subsist when the proud monuments of idolatry decay. Thy writings shall illuminate the church, till the Light himself shall shine. Thou hast taught a new language to preachers, and rekindled the altar with a purer flame. Posterity shall recount thy fame, and the sanctuary glory to rehearse the words of Paul. The seeds thou has sown shall live again, and the Roman world shall embrace the faith.

Thy life was long pursued by demons, and by sinful men, but pursued in vain. God had said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; as thou hast borne witness of me in Jerusalem, thou must also bear witness of me in Rome.” Now, thy race is run, the battle is fought, the work complete; the crown is fairly thine. Thou art no longer needed on earth; thy children will be so many Pauls in miniature; they will build as thou hast planned, and carry the cross in triumph over all temples. Go, blessed conqueror, with all the laurels that can follow a prophet to his God; go and prostrate at the feet of Him who met thee in the way. The churches shall be thy crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord. Go, go, more than conquerer, through him that hath loved thee.

But you, oh Romans, prepare to follow. Your judgment shall be revised in heaven. At that tribunal, dungeons await you, darker than those which Paul has left, and chains heavier than those which fell from his hands. Your day is deferred awhile, till the infant church shall acquire vigour; then God will give you blood to drink in the civil wars. The Gauls shall overthrow your empire, and break your image in pieces.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/2-timothy-4.html. 1835.
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