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

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

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Verses 1-5

Faithfulness in Office.

v. 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:

v. 2. Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.

v. 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;

v. 4. and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables.

v. 5. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

The office with the greatest responsibilities in the world is that of a Christian pastor. It is for that reason that Paul's love for Timothy constrains him to emphasize the need of faithfulness once more: I earnestly adjure thee before God and the Lord Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and dead, and His revelation and His kingdom. On account of the high dignity of the ministerial office the apostle is not satisfied with a mere reminder of its obligations. He solemnly adjures his young coworker in the presence of God and of the Lord Jesus as invisible witnesses, and yet present in person. The great Ruler over all things and He who in a special sense of the word is the Lord and King of His Church are jealously guarding the interests of Christ's kingdom. Purposely the apostle describes Christ as Him that will judge the living and the dead, who is designated as the great Judge at the last day, this power having been imparted to His human nature, to be exercised on the day appointed by God, John 5:22-27. All men will have to appear before the judgment-throne of Christ, both the living and the dead, the dead being raised from their graves and the living being transformed. All this will happen in accordance with the appearance and the kingdom of Christ. While His life, ministry, suffering, and death was according to His humiliation, the exercise of His office as Judge of the world will be in the form of the exalted Son of Man, of the great King of kings and Lord of lords. His work as Judge will thus agree with the majesty which was imparted to His human nature.

Upon the basis of this knowledge the admonition of the apostle could not fail to make an impression upon him: Preach the Word, keep at it in season, out of season; reprove, admonish, rebuke, with all long-suffering and teaching. All other considerations are secondary in comparison with that one great necessity that the Word, the one Word of eternal truth, be preached. Every other method of building up a congregation, of working faith in the hearts of men, is destined to be a failure from the beginning. The preaching of the Word of God's grace must always remain the foremost function of the Christian preacher and pastor. And it makes no difference whether the time seems opportune or not, within the limitations of Matthew 7:6; Matthew 10:16. When the welfare of the souls and the glory of the Lord demands it, when and wherever it is the proper time to apply the Word of God, the minister should do his duty, whether that seems to be fitting or not, opportune or not, to the hearers. The proper spiritual wisdom will tell the pastor when the best time has come, even if the weakness of his human nature is not eager for work of this kind. He should reprove every form of error and sin, both as to doctrine and life; he should rebuke sin in every form, even when it would seem that the transgressors are unwilling to show proper sorrow; he should charge or exhort the parishioners, inspire in them a love for all that is good and well-pleasing to God. All this is not to be done in carnal zeal, but with true patience and long-suffering, with that quiet insistence upon the Word of God which carries conviction with it. It is self-evident, of course, that a pastor will neither deny as much as one tittle of Scriptures for the sake of a false peace, nor will he neglect to make use of all kindness and fairness in dealing even with obstinate cases.

Patience is all the more necessary in the holy office since the future is sure to bring peculiar difficulties: For there will be a time when they will not offer their ears to wholesome doctrine, but according to their own lusts they will accumulate teachers, having an itching hearing. This is certainly a characteristic of the day and age in which we are living. People do not care for wholesome doctrine, for the sound teaching of the Word of God, they are impatient with the "old-time religion. " The doctrine of the vicarious satisfaction through the blood of Jesus Christ is called "blood theology," faithful admonitions and warnings are denounced as antiquated pietism. People of this stamp therefore try to suit their erring fancies, try to please their own desires by heaping up, by accumulating teachers to themselves; not satisfied with one strange preacher, they will be on the lookout for many, as the notion strikes them. They run from one church, from one evangelist, from one exhorter to the other. Instead of doctrinal sermons they want amusement, instead of the wholesome food which their souls need they want the light confectionery that too many religious mountbanks are only too willing to offer them. Their hearing is never satisfied, they are always aching and itching for something new.

The result is inevitable: And from the truth indeed they will turn away then ears, but to fables they shall be turned. That is the result of this everlasting itch for something new, of the aversion for the truth of God's Word. Their ears lose the ability to enjoy proper instruction: they are so absolutely lost in the maze of their various errors that they are unable to find their way back to the truth. They forsake the right way which leads to salvation, and seek satisfaction in fables and myths, in various unedifying speculations. It is hard indeed to understand how people that have had the sound spiritual food of evangelical preaching can find any enjoyment in the shallow and insipid material which human wisdom can at best offer, but it seems to be a part of God's judgment upon those that despise His Word: God finally gives them up to the foolishness of their own mind that they can no longer know the truth. See Proverbs 28:9; Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:13.

Over against such foolishness Timothy should maintain his sound common sense in spiritual matters: Thou, however, be vigilant, suffer the evil, perform the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry. Just at the time when the whole world seems to be going mad, when people in general seem to be under the influence of some evil power, some strange intoxication, then the Christians, and especially the true pastors, should maintain their vigilant self-possession; with clearness of view and judgment use all possible caution. At the same time one must be prepared to suffer wrong at such a period, in such a crisis. For every one that refuses to join in the general giddiness must expect enmity and tribulation on account of his stand. The charge against the faithful Christians that they are the enemies of human society is made also in our days. Simply and quietly, therefore, the Christian preacher and teacher will continue in his work as evangelist, he will preach the Gospel, he will make every attempt to spread the message of salvation in Christ Jesus. Thus Timothy, who had for many years been such an evangelist or missionary, thus every pastor will fulfill his ministry, will perform that which the duties of his office lay upon him. There must be no neglect of duties, since the utmost faithfulness is expected of the servant of the Word, such as must be learned daily in the school of the Holy Spirit.

Verses 6-8

Paul's Fight and Victory.

v. 6. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

v. 7. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith;

v. 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.

In this paragraph the apostle gives the reason for making his admonitions to Timothy so comprehensive and explicit. He himself was about to withdraw from the field, and so his successors in the work of the Gospel-ministry should always keep his example in mind: For I am about to be poured out as a drink-offering, and the time of my dissolution is at hand. As in Php_2:17 , the apostle here uses the term for making a drink-offering to designate his approaching death. He knows that he must soon die, that he must seal the testimony of the truth as preached by him with his blood. And still he speaks of his impending martyrdom with all the quiet confidence in God which knows no fear of death. His dissolution, his departure from this world, is at hand; his soul was destined soon to leave the body which had suffered so much in the interest of the Gospel. Death has not even a remnant of horror for him that trusts in Christ's death and resurrection.

A true believer may rather call out with the apostle: The good fight I have fought, my course I have run, faith have I kept. The great warfare for Christ against sin and unbelief had engaged the apostle ever since his conversion. It was a continual, hard, and fierce battle, but he had persevered to the end, he had not given way one inch, he could claim the honor of the victor. The course, furthermore, which had stretched out before him through the long years, like the track before a runner, he had finished; lie had reached the end of his life of faith. No matter whether he had often stumbled by the way, no matter whether he had often been on the brink of losing courage, the Lord had enabled him to endure to the end. He had kept the faith; he had not only been faithful in the work of his ministry, but, through the grace of God, he had held his faith in his Redeemer secure against all attacks, in all persecutions.

With this blessed assurance in his heart the apostle was able to look forward beyond death and grave into the glorious future of eternity: Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord will deliver to me on that day, the righteous Judge, but not only to me, rather to all whose love was firmly placed in His manifestation. The apostle speaks so confidently, so cheerfully, as though he had death behind him and were even now about to receive the reward which had been promised to him. It is a characteristic of every Christian's faith that it trusts absolutely and implicitly in the promises of God, that the believer is altogether sure of his salvation. Of course, if the redemption of a man's soul depended upon his own works and merit, even in the most infinitesimal degree, this joyful confidence would be out of the question. But the true believer places himself altogether into the hands of the heavenly Father, knowing that no enemy can pluck us out of His hand. The prize and reward of grace is the crown of righteousness, the final declaration of righteousness by God, the final imputation of the righteousness of Jesus, by which we are free from all guilt and condemnation. This assurance is given to us before the throne of God, as the wreath was placed upon the head of the victor in the games of the Greeks. Christ, who will Himself be the Judge on the last day, will be acting in His capacity as just Judge in awarding this prize, not to works, but to faith. Since we shall appear before the judgment-throne of God with a firm reliance upon the imputed righteousness of Christ, it will be a merciful and yet a just judgment which will award to us the crown of righteousness. This is by no means a special privilege of the apostle, but, as he assures us, will be the happy experience of all those that have looked forward to the final revelation of the Lord, to His second advent, with the love that grows out of faith. All true Christians long for the redemption of their body, for the coming of their Lord to take them home. The words of the apostle therefore contain an earnest admonition to the believers of all times to be faithful and patient to the end, since the goal toward which they are striving will repay them a thousand fold for all the misery and tribulation of this short earthly life.

Verses 9-15

A Report Concerning Various Acquaintances and the First Hearing.

Various personal matters:

v. 9. Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me;

v. 10. for Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.

v. 11. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee; for he is profitable to me for the ministry.

v. 12. And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.

v. 13. The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.

v. 14. Alexander, the coppersmith, did me much evil; the Lord reward him according to his works;

v. 15. of whom be thou ware also, for he hath greatly withstood our words.

Having completed the body of his letter, the apostle now adds a few words concerning his personal affairs and concerning men in whom Timothy would naturally be interested. The tone of deep sadness is everywhere apparent, especially in the pleading cry: Do thy best to come to me quickly. It is possible that Tychicus, in passing through Ephesus, had expressed to Timothy the desire of the apostle to see him before the end. Apparently matters were in such a condition as to cause this urgent appeal. He begged Timothy to use all diligence, to do his very best, to make his trip to Rome with all speed.

Some of the reasons for this appeal are given by the apostle: For Demas has deserted me, since he loved this present world, and has departed to Thessalonica, Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. The first words of the apostle express his deep sorrow over his increasing lonesomeness. That very man Demas who, during Paul's first imprisonment, had remained so faithfully at his side, Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24, now yielded to fickleness. The love for this present world, its advantages and lusts, took hold of his heart; he refused to bear the cross which the Lord laid upon him. His deserting the apostle at this time was the first step in his denial of the Lord. Tradition has it that he afterward became priest in a heathen temple in Thessalonica. Thus the love of the world, the desire to enjoy the fruits of this life for a season, has resulted all too often in the denial of the accepted truth and a later enmity against Christ and His Word. The other men mentioned by Paul probably left Rome at his own solicitation. Since his trial took longer than he had anticipated, he very likely urged both Crescens and Titus to continue their work as missionaries; for the work of the Lord must be carried on without intermission. Crescens journeyed to Galatia, undoubtedly the northern part of the province, in order to continue the work of Paul; Titus chose Dalmatia, a province on the Adriatic, the region known at the present time as Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is some basis for the belief that Crescens did missionary work in Gaul, the southern part of what is now France, the word in some manuscripts referring to this province.

Thus, of all the companions of Paul only Luke, the beloved physician, was still with him. No wonder that he desired the companionship of that pupil who had always been nearest to him, and meanwhile wanted at least some other companion for his ministry: Pick up Mark on the way and bring him with thee, for he is of great use to me for service. It seems that John Mark, who on the first missionary journey had deserted the apostle, had meanwhile learned the steadfastness which is so necessary for a servant of the Lord. See Colossians 4:10-11. Paul here expressly states that he was in need of his services, chiefly for work as his secretary and personal representative. Mark could be of great assistance in transmitting the messages of Paul to the congregation at Rome and otherwise aiding in the work of the Gospel. Since Mark was not at Ephesus, Timothy was to pick him up on the way, Paul's intention being that they arrive together.

The apostle makes mention of another coworker, saying that he had sent Tychicus to Ephesus, thereby implying that the latter might take the place of Mark, wherever he may have been stationed. But Paul's main concern was this, that Timothy come to him as speedily as possible. On the way he could attend to a little matter for the apostle: The cloak which I left in Troas with Carpus, bring when thou comest, also the books, especially the parchments. It seems that Paul, when he was in Troas last, had left his heavy winter overcoat with one of the members by the name of Carpus, not having need of it during the warm season. At the same time he had deposited some books, some writings on papyrus leaves, as well as some valuable parchments, with his friend. Many commentators think that the last-named documents were the apostle's own copy of the Old Testament canon. This would explain his evident solicitude concerning them and his eager wish to have them as soon as possible. The Christians of our day ought to show just as much love for their Bibles, which they can now carry with them in such handy sizes.

The apostle now sketches his own condition in a few words: Alexander, the smith, has done me much harm; the Lord will reward him according to his works; whom also thou guard against, for too bitterly has he withstood our words. This Alexander, a worker in metal, probably copper, brass, gold, and silver, may have been the same one that is mentioned Acts 19:33. Ever since the Ephesian tumult this man had been filled with hatred against the apostle, making every effort to hinder the work of the Gospel. He may have been summoned as a witness in the trial of Paul and made use of the opportunity thus offered in maligning and harming the apostle in every conceivable manner, probably by testifying in such a manner as to harm the cause of his person especially. But Paul, instead of giving way to vindictiveness, placed the entire matter into the hands of God. To God belongs all vengeance, He will repay at His time. This Paul well knew, Romans 12:19, and therefore did not presume to interfere with the Lord's business. At the same time the apostle's interest in the work of the Church causes him to warn Timothy against the hateful machinations of this man, bidding him be on his guard and not expose himself and the cause to the attack of Alexander, for the latter took advantage of every opportunity to harm the work of Christ with all bitterness. It may be that he had- meanwhile returned to Ephesus and was endeavoring with all his power to harm Paul and the ministry of the Word. The same unusual hatred is often found in the case of such as believe themselves harmed in some manner by the Christians, especially if their business cannot be recommended to people interested in keeping a good conscience. In that case a similar method of procedure must be followed as that here prescribed by Paul.

Verses 16-18

Concerning the first hearing:

v. 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.

v. 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.

v. 18. 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.

Here was another cause for deep sorrow which Paul felt constrained to register here: At my first defense no man stood by me, but all deserted me; may it not be charged to their account! It appears from these words that Paul had had a hearing, he had had one opportunity to refute the charges made against him. It was upon this occasion that he had a bitter experience, one which might have discouraged a Christian with less character. According to Roman law he was entitled to a certain number of witnesses or patrons, whose business it was to assist him. If anyone might have expected loyalty from his friends, surely the great apostle was entitled to this consideration. But the opposite was the case. All the men upon whom he had thought he could depend absolutely had scented danger for their own persons in the proceedings and had deliberately deserted him. They were not strong enough in faith to be equal to the situation. But here also Paul suppresses all resentful and vindictive feelings, rather making intercession for the weakness of those whom he still believed to be Christians at heart, asking that this defection might not be charged to their account.

As for Paul, he had a better advocate than any friend could have furnished him: But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, that through me the preaching might be fulfilled and all the heathen might hear; and I was delivered from the mouth of the lion. When he was forsaken by men, the Lord Himself was his Patron, whose support was worth more than all the assistance of men. He it was also, Christ the Lord, that granted to His servant strength in richest measure, thus enabling him to bear also this affliction with fortitude. And what is more, He gave him the courage to proclaim the Gospel-message in the very midst of his enemies. His defense of his cause, at the first hearing, had at least this effect, that he was given some respite, thus being enabled to gain time for a very necessary piece of work, namely, that of completing arrangements to have the Gospel sent out into all the countries of the known world. The mission of Crescens in Galatia or Gaul and that of Titus in Dalmatia were but a beginning for the carrying out of plans by which all nations should hear the glorious news of their salvation through Jesus Christ. Thus Paul can joyfully record that he had been torn out of the lion's mouth, that he had escaped, for the time being, from all the perils with which his enemies planned to overwhelm him. It does not seem, from the entire context, that Paul had actually been condemned to be thrown to the lions, and this would not seem very probable.

Once more the apostle voices his firm trust in the power of his Lord: The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. This is putting the Seventh Petition into the form of a definite statement, which shows the nature of faith. From every evil work, from all the cunning, trickery, and power of Satan, from all the wickedness and persecution of the children of the world, out of all these evils the Lord will deliver and rescue His servant, so that, in the end, his enemies will be put to shame. Where the faith of Christ's servants is rooted and grounded in the Word of God, in the power of the Lord, there all the attempts of their enemies to harm them must come to naught. And if temporal death seems to have gained the victory and separates the soul from the body, the believers again are the gainers, for their inheritance in heaven is thereby given to them, they are kept by the power of Jesus Christ, their Lord, unto salvation. And therefore they gladly join in the doxology of St. Paul and give all honor and glory to Christ, who is God with the Father and the Holy Ghost, world without end. As often as a Christian thinks of the immeasurable blessings which have been imparted to him in Christ, he cannot refrain from voicing his thoughts in joyful thanksgiving to his Lord.

Verses 19-22

Concluding Remarks and Greeting.

v. 19. Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.

v. 20. Erastus abode at Corinth; but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.

v. 21. Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.

v. 22. The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.

According to his custom Paul closes his letter with greetings. Prisca, or Priscilla, and Aquila, his hosts at Corinth and later his coworkers in Ephesus, were among his most faithful friends. Acts 18:2-18. Both of them were always deeply interested in the spread of the Gospel and were leading members of the congregations, but the woman, who elsewhere also is named first ( Romans 16:3; Acts 18:18), seems to have been the more aggressive and energetic of the two. Women are by no means excluded from the work of the Lord; under circumstances they may do very much for the message of salvation. For the family and household of Onesiphorus Paul has a special greeting on account of the kindness which he had experienced at the hands of the head of this family, 2 Timothy 1:16-18.

Of a certain Erastus, who may be identical with the city treasurer of Corinth, Romans 16:23, or with the assistant mentioned Acts 19:22, Paul reports that he stayed at Corinth, that there had been no reason for his leaving the city. Trophimus had been a traveling companion of the apostle for some time, Acts 20:4; Acts 21:29, the innocent cause of the riot at Jerusalem. He had accompanied Paul on his missionary trip at the end of the first Roman imprisonment and had been taken severely ill at Miletus in Caria, and Paul had finally been obliged to leave him there to rejoin him after his recovery. Note: Paul did not heal this young coworker of his; his power to perform miracles was not his to use as he pleased, but only as the Lord wished.

Since Timothy himself was not too robust physically, the apostle adds the urgent entreaty: Do thy best to come before winter. It was not only his pupil's state of health that caused him to write thus, however, but the fear that the first storms of winter might interrupt shipping for a matter of five months and deprive him for that much longer time of Timothy's company and comfort.

There were several Christians in Rome that sent their greetings personally: Linus, of whom tradition says that he was the first bishop of the congregation; Claudia, either his mother or his wife. But the entire congregation joined them in sending their greetings to the distant, but highly esteemed brother. The apostle's wish for his pupil is that the Lord Jesus Christ may be with his spirit, fill him with His gifts and keep him in His grace. The second blessing is that of the apostle to all the brethren in the Ephesian congregation, that the grace of the Father, as revealed through the Son, might be with them all, for with this blessing in their possession they would be safe against all dangers forever.

Summary. The apostle admonishes Timothy to faithfulness in his ministry, also with a reference to his own fight and victory; he gives him a short account of various mutual acquaintances and a report of his first hearing; he concludes with several personal remarks and a greeting.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/2-timothy-4.html. 1921-23.
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