The Latter Epistles -2 Timothy 4

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.  Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.  Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.  I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.  When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.
Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm.  The Lord will repay him for what he has done.  You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.
At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.  May it not be held against them.  But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.  And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.  The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.  To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.  Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus.  Do your best to get here before winter.  Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters.
The Lord be with your spirit.  Grace be with you all.

  • 2 Timothy 4:1-22

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

On ‘Christ Jesus, who will judge’: “The grammatical construction suggests imminency – that Christ is about to judge.  Paul is emphasizing the unique accountability that all believers, and especially ministers of the Word of God, have to Christ as Judge.  Service to Christ is rendered both under His watchful eye and with the knowledge that as Judge He will one day appraise the works of every believer (see 1 Cor. 3:12-15; 4:1-5; 2 Cor. 5:10).  That is not a judgment of condemnation, but one of evaluation.  With regard to salvation, believers have been judged already and declared righteous – they are no longer subject to the condemnation of sin (Rom. 8:1-4).”
On ‘correct, rebuke’: “The negative side of preaching the Word (the ‘reproof’ and ‘correction’; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16).  The Gr. word for ‘convince’ [or correct] refers to correcting behavior or false doctrine by using careful biblical arguments to help a person understand the error of his actions. The Gr. word for ‘rebuke’ deals more with correcting the person’s motives by convincing him of his sin and leading him to repentance.”
On ‘own desires … itching ears’: “Professing Christians, nominal believers in the church follow their own desires and flock to preachers who offer them God’s blessings apart from His forgiveness, and His salvation apart from their repentance.  They have an itch to be entertained by teachings that will produce pleasant sensations and leave them with good feelings about themselves.  Their goal is that men preach ‘according to their own desires.’  Under those conditions, people will dictate what men preach, rather than God dictating it by His Word.”
On ‘an evangelist’: “Used only two other times in the NT (see Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11), this word always refers to a specific office of ministry for the purpose of preaching the gospel to non-Christians.  Based on Eph. 4:11, it is very basic to assume that all churches would have pastor-teachers and evangelists.  But the related verb ‘to preach the gospel’ and the related noun ‘gospel’ are used throughout the NT not only in relation to evangelism, but also to the call for every Christian, especially preachers and teachers, to proclaim the gospel.  Paul did not call Timothy to the office of an evangelist, but to ‘do the work’ of one.”
On ‘fought … finished … kept the faith’: “The form of the three Gr. verbs ‘have fought, have finished, have kept,’ indicate completed action with continuing results.  Paul saw his life as complete – he had been able to accomplish through the Lord’s power all that God called him to do.  He was a soldier (2 Tim. 2:3, 4; 2 Cor. 10:3; 1 Tim. 6:12; Philem. 2), an athlete (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Eph. 6:12), and a guardian (2 Tim. 1:13, 14; 1 Tim. 6:20, 21).”
On ‘the crown of righteousness’: “The Gr. word for ‘crown lit. means ‘surrounding,’ and it was used of the plaited wreaths or garlands placed on the heads of dignitaries and victorious military officers or athletes.  Linguistically, ‘of righteousness’ can mean either that righteousness is the source of the crown, or that righteousness is the nature of the crown.  Like the ‘crown of life’ (1 Cor. 9:25), and the ‘crown of glory’ (1 Pet. 5:4), in which life, rejoicing, imperishability, and glory describe the nature of the crown, the context here seems to indicate that the crown represents eternal righteousness.  Believers receive the imputed righteousness of Christ (justification) at salvation (Rom. 4:6, 11).  The Holy Spirit works practical righteousness (sanctification) in the believer throughout his lifetime of struggle with sin (Rom. 6:13, 19; 8:4; Eph. 5:9; 1 Pet. 2:24).  But only when the struggle is complete will the Christian receive Christ’s righteousness perfected in him (glorification) when he enters heaven (see Gal. 5:5).”
On ‘first defense’: “The Gr. word for ‘defense’ gives us the Eng. Words ‘apology’ and ‘apologetics.’  It referred to a verbal defense used in a court of law.  In the Roman legal system, an accused person received two hearings: the prima actio, much like a contemporary arraignment, establishing the charge and determined if there was a need for a trial.  The secunda actio then established the accused’s guilt or innocence.  The defense Paul referred to was the prima actio.”

  • John MacArthur, One Faithful Life

2 Timothy 4:6 ‘being poured out’: “It is beautiful to observe the way Paul describes his death in this verse.  According to our translation, he speaks of it as an offering.  Now Paul does not venture to call himself an offering; Christ is his offering.  Christ is, so to speak, the sacrifice on the altar.  He compares himself only to that little wine and oil poured out as a supplement, not necessarily to its perfection but tolerated in performing a vow or allowed in connection with a freewill offering.  Paul is resolved to show his thankfulness to Christ, the great sacrifice, and he is willing that his blood should be poured as a drink offering on the altar where his Lord and Master was the great burnt offering.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Timothy 4:13 ‘bring the cloak … and the scrolls’: “Paul had a few books left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them.  Even an apostle must read.  He is inspired, , and yet he needs books.  He had seen the Lord, and yet he needs books.  The apostle says to Timothy, and so he says to every Christian leader, ‘Give yourself to reading.’  The person who never reads will never be read; the one who never quotes will never be quoted; those who will not use thoughts from the brains of others will prove they have no brains of their own.  What is true of ministry leaders is true for all Christians.  We need to read.  We must study as much as possible sound theological works and expositions of the Bible.  We are persuaded the best way to spend leisure time is to be either reading or praying.  We may get much instruction from books that afterward we may use as a true weapon in our Lord and Master’s service.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

2 Timothy 4:17 ‘strength from God’: “There are too extremes of poor I-sight.  Self-loving and self-loathing.  We swing from one side to the other.  Promotions and demotions bump us back and forth.  One day too high on self, the next day to hard on self.  Neither is correct.  Self-elevation and self-depreciation are equally inaccurate.  Where is the truth?
”Smack dab in the middle.  Dead center between ‘I can do anything,’ and ‘I can’t do anything’ lies ‘I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength’ (Philippians 4:13).
“Neither omnipotent nor impotent, neither God’s MVP nor God’s mistake.  Not self-secure or insecure, but God-secure – a self-worth based in our identity as children of God.  The proper view of self is in the middle.”

  • Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life

My Thoughts

Both Rev. Spurgeon and Rev. MacArthur allude to Paul writing this letter, seemingly at the same time that the executioner was sharpening his axe.  But there is a lot of difference in 2 Timothy 4:7 and 2 Timothy 4:13.  In 2 Timothy 4:7 where Paul speaks of fighting, finishing, and keeping the faith, Paul is content.  He has completed the tasks that God called him to do.  He is ready for the executioner, but in 2 Timothy 4:13, he has lamented that he has only Luke to stay with him.  He wants Timothy to come and bring Mark with him, and do not forget his books.  It seems to bounce between a firm acceptance of his fate and yet holding out hope of a reprieve and one more mission trip.  Some scholars say that he made it to Spain as planned, while others say that he remained under house arrest until he was executed and Paul’s Spain mission never took place, probably the difference in the time of death estimated either 64AD or 67AD.  Maybe Timothy took the trip to Spain knowing that Paul could not make it.  These verses tell us that Tychicus has gone to Ephesus.  Timothy might then be free to make that journey and thus Timothy’s evangelical trip could explain the growth of the church on the Iberian Peninsula.  Yet, any number of evangelists could have followed Paul, and did just that, people not mentioned in the Scriptures.

In reading Paul’s farewell, it reminded me of the Bonhoeffer biography by Eric Metaxas.  Metaxas describes the days leading up to Bonhoeffer being removed from the prison.  The word had leaked into the prison that the Germans were losing the war and they would get their freedom soon.  Bonhoeffer had made plans to marry his fiancée.  Then, he and a busload of other prisoners, mostly political prisoners, were being prepared to go to a camp where they were to be killed.  Bonhoeffer protested, but an older pastor, another prisoner, suggested that he have a noble end.  From that moment on, Bonhoeffer was like Paul, having fought the good fight.  He had finished the race and kept the faith.  And soon after he was hung, the prison was liberated.  In telling this part of the story, it seemed these prisoners were moved several times before their captors knew that they had enough times to execute them.

In Paul’s case, dying somewhere between 64AD to 67AD, he had no hope of a government overthrow.  These dates correspond to the beginning of the Christian persecution to near the end of it, at least by Nero.  Nero blamed the Christians for the fire that burned much of Rome in 64AD, and Nero died in 68AD.  But, Paul being a Roman citizen, he may have hoped for a stay of execution.

I intend to return to a portion of the MacArthur commentary on “evangelism” in the near future, to expand on what is said above.  I feel that many churches fall far from MacArthur’s “basic” assumption.  But then, MacArthur’s sanctuary (auditorium) can hold 3,000 where most large churches around the country might be lucky to have a seating capacity of 400-500.  Could it be that the church builds based on a lack of a desire for church growth even in their building design?  Yet, the references to “church” in the Bible refer to the people, with no consideration of a building in which could confine its members from future growth.

But back to Paul’s hope of more time before he met his end.  He wanted to read.  He wanted to write more letters.  Otherwise, why would he need Mark to further Paul’s ministry?  Rev. Spurgeon talks of the need for us to study Scripture, as Paul did in 2 Timothy 3.  And even though this is a well framed farewell, Paul was keeping his eyes on Jesus and what Jesus had commissioned him to do.  As long as he had his wits about him and, literally, his head on his shoulders, the Apostle Paul was going to spread the Word to anyone and everyone that he could.  To carry forth with his metaphor of finishing the race, he planned to continue taking victory laps, giving Christ Jesus the victory.

And as he finished the first Timothy epistle, he wishes everyone Grace.  Grace be with you all.

And Grace be with you as well.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“2. What ‘myths’ about Jesus are people buying into ‘these days’?
“3. Since the Bible is central to Christian living, how will you build it into your life?
“1. What do you find in Paul’s sense of hope (in spite of his suffering) that is a particular inspiration to you?  Is there a theme verse that summarizes that point for you?  Memorize it this week.
”2. How do you intend to guard the gospel that has been entrusted to you?  What will you pass along – to whom, in what manner, and by when?
“3. What else will you apply from this study?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

Again, the Serendipity Bible does not break the discussion at the end of the chapter with two questions numbered “2” and two questions numbered “3.”

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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