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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
2 Timothy 4

 

 

Verses 1-22

Chapter 4

PAUL'S GROUNDS OF APPEAL (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

4:1-5 I charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead--I charge you by his appearing and by his Kingdom--herald forth the word; be urgent in season and out of season; convict, rebuke, exhort, and do it all with a patience and a teaching which never fail. For there will come a time when men will refuse to listen to sound teaching, but, because they have ears which have to be continually titillated with novelties, they will bury themselves under a mound of teachers, whose teaching suits their own lusts after forbidden things. They will avert their cars from the truth, and they will turn to extravagant tales. As for you, be steady in all things; accept the suffering which will come upon you; do the work of an evangelist; leave no act of your service unfulfilled.

As Paul comes to the end of his letter, he wishes to nerve and to challenge Timothy to his task. To do so he reminds him of three things concerning Jesus.

(i) Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead. Some day Timothy's work will be tested, and that by none other than Jesus himself. A Christian must do every task in such a way that he can offer it to Christ. He is not concerned with either the criticism or the verdict of men. The one thing he covets is the "Well done!" of Jesus Christ. If we all did our work in that spirit, the difference would be incalculable. It would save us from the touchy spirit which is offended by criticism; it would save us from the self-important spirit which is concerned with personal rights and personal prestige; it would save us from the self-centred spirit which demands thanks and praise for its every act; it would even save us from being hurt by men's ingratitude.

(ii) Jesus is the returning conqueror. "I charge you," says Paul, "by his appearing." The word is epiphaneia (Greek #2015). Epiphaneia was used in two special ways. It was used for the manifest intervention of some god; and it was specially used in connection with the Roman Emperor. His accession to the throne was his epiphaneia (Greek #2015); and in particular--and this is the background of Paul's thought here--it was used of his visit to any province or town. Obviously when the Emperor was due to visit any place, everything was put in perfect order. The streets were swept and garnished and all work was brought up-to-date so that the town might be fit for epiphaneia (Greek #2015). So Paul says to Timothy: "You know what happens when any town is expecting the epiphaneia (Greek #2015) of the Emperor; you are expecting the epiphaneia (Greek #2015) of Jesus Christ. Do your work in such a way that all things will be ready whenever he appears." The Christian should so order life that at any moment he is ready for the coming of Christ.

(iii) Jesus is King. Paul urges Timothy to action by the remembrance of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. The day comes when the kingdoms of the world will be the Kingdom of the Lord; and so Paul says to Timothy: "So live and work that you will rank high in the roll of its citizens when the Kingdom comes."

Our work must be such that it will stand the scrutiny of Christ. Our lives must be such that they will welcome the appearance of the King. Our service must be such that it will demonstrate the reality of our citizenship of the Kingdom of God.

THE CHRISTIAN'S DUTY (2 Timothy 4:1-5 continued)

There can be few New Testament passages where the duties of the Christian teacher are more clearly set out than here.

The Christian teacher is to be urgent. The message he brings is literally a matter of life and death. The teachers who really get their message across are those who have the note of earnestness in their voice. Spurgeon had a real admiration for Martineau, who was a Unitarian and therefore denied the divinity of Jesus Christ which Spurgeon believed in with passionate intensity. Someone once said to Spurgeon: "How can you possibly admire Martineau? You don't believe what he preaches." "No," said Spurgeon, "but he does." Any man with the note of urgency in his voice demands, and will receive, a hearing from other men.

The Christian teacher is to be persistent. He is to urge the claims of Christ "in season and out of season." As someone has put it: "Take or make your opportunity." As Theodore of Mospeuestia put it: "The Christian must count every time an opportunity to speak for Christ." It was said of George Morrison of Wellington Church in Glasgow that with him wherever the conversation started, it went straight across country to Christ. This does not mean that we will not choose our time to speak, for there should be courtesy in evangelism as in every other human contact; but it does mean that perhaps we are far too shy in speaking to others about Jesus Christ.

Paul goes on to speak of the effect the Christian witness must produce.

He must convict. He must make the sinner aware of his sin. Walter Bagehot once said: "The road to perfection lies through a series of disgusts." Somehow or other the sinner must be made to feel disgusted with his sin. Epictetus draws a contrast between the false philosopher, who is out for popularity, and the real philosopher, whose one aim is the good of his hearers. The false philosopher deals in flattery and panders to self-esteem. The real philosopher says: "Come and be told that you are in a bad way." "The philosopher's lecture," he said, "is a surgery; when you go away you ought to have felt not pleasure, but pain." It was Alcibiades, the brilliant but spoiled darling of Athens, who used to say to Socrates: "Socrates, I hate you, because every time I meet you, you make me see what I am." The first essential is to compel a man to see himself as he is.

He must rebuke. In the great days of the Church there was an utter fearlessness in its voice; and because of that things happened. E. F. Brown tells of an incident from India. A certain young nobleman in the Viceroy's suite in Calcutta became notorious for his profligacy. Bishop Wilson one day put on his robes, drove to Government House, and said to the Viceroy: "Your excellency, if Lord ______ does not leave Calcutta before next Sunday, I shall denounce him from the pulpit in the Cathedral." Before Sunday came that young man was gone.

Ambrose of Milan was one of the great figures of the early Church. He was an intimate friend of Theodosius, the Emperor, who was a Christian, but a man of violent temper. Ambrose never hesitated to tell the Emperor the truth. "Who," he demanded, "will dare to tell you the truth if a priest does not dare?" Theodosius had appointed one of his close friends, Botherich, as governor of Thessalonica. Botherich, a good governor, had occasion to imprison a famous charioteer for infamous conduct. The popularity of these charioteers was incredible and the populace rose in a riot and murdered Botherich. Theodosius was mad with anger. Ambrose pled with him for discrimination in punishment, but Rufinus, his minister of state, deliberately inflamed his anger and Theodosius sent out orders for a massacre of vengeance. Later he countermanded the order, but too late for the new order to reach Thessalonica in time. The theatre was crammed to capacity with the doors shut, and the soldiers of Theodosius went to and fro slaughtering men, women and children for three hours. More than seven thousand people were killed. News of the massacre came back to Milan and when Theodosius presented himself at the Church service the next Sunday, Ambrose refused him admission. The Emperor pled for pardon. Eight months passed and again he came to Church. Again Ambrose refused him entry. In the end the Emperor of Rome had to lie prostrate on the ground with the penitents before he was allowed to worship with the Church again. In its great days the Church was fearless in rebuke.

In our personal relationships a word of warning and rebuke would often save a brother from sin and shipwreck. But, as someone has said, that word must always be spoken as "brother setting brother right." It must be spoken with a consciousness of our common guilt. It is not our place to set ourselves up as moral judges of anyone; nonetheless it is our duty to speak that warning word when it needs to be spoken.

He must exhort. Here is the other side of the matter. No rebuke should ever be such that it drives a man to despair and takes the heart and the hope out of him. Not only must men be rebuked, they must also be encouraged.

Further, the Christian duty of conviction, of rebuke and of encouragement, must be carried out with unwearied patience. The word is makrothumia (Greek #3115), and it describes the spirit which never grows irritated, never despairs and never regards any man as beyond salvation. The Christian patiently believes in men because he unconquerably believes in the changing power of Christ.

FOOLISH LISTENERS (2 Timothy 4:1-5 continued)

Paul goes on to describe the foolish listeners. He warns Timothy that the day is coming when men will refuse to listen to sound teaching and will collect teachers who will titillate their ears with precisely the easy-going, comfortable things they want to hear.

In Timothy's day it was tragically easy to find such teachers. They were called sophists (compare Greek #4680) and wandered from city to city, offering to teach anything for pay. Isocrates said of them: "They try to attract pupils by low fees and big promises." They were prepared to teach the whole of virtue or L15 or L20. They would teach a man to argue subtly and to use words cleverly until he could make the worse appear the better reason. Plato described them savagely: "Hunters after young men of wealth and position, with sham education as their bait, and a fee for their object, making money by a scientific use of quibbles in private conversation, while quite aware that what they are teaching is wrong."

They competed for customers. Dio Chrysostom wrote of them: "You might hear many poor wretches of sophists shouting and abusing one another, and their disciples, as they call them, squabbling, and many writers of books reading their stupid compositions, and many poets singing their poems, and many jugglers exhibiting their marvels, and many soothsayers giving the meaning of prodigies, and ten thousand rhetoricians twisting lawsuits, and no small number of traders driving their several trades."

Men in the days of Timothy were beset by false teachers hawking round sham knowledge. Their deliberate policy was to find arguments whereby a man could justify himself for doing what he wanted to do. Any teacher, to this day, whose teaching tends to make men think less of sin is a menace to Christianity and to mankind.

In contradistinction to that, certain duties are to be laid on Timothy.

He is to be steady in all things. The word (nephein, Greek #3525) means that he is to be sober and self-contained, like an athlete who has his passions and his appetites and his nerves well under control. Hort says that the word describes "a mental state free from all perturbations or stupefactions...every faculty at full command, to look all facts and all considerations deliberately in the face." The Christian is not to be the victim of crazes; stability is his badge in an unbalanced and often insane world.

He is to accept whatever suffering comes upon him. Christianity will cost something, and the Christian is to pay the price of it without grumbling and without regret.

He is to do the work of an evangelist. In spite of the conviction and the rebuke the Christian is essentially the bringer of good news. If he insists on discipline and self-denial, it is that an even greater happiness may be attained than ever cheap pleasures can bring.

He is to leave no act of service unfulfilled. The Christian should have only one ambition--to be of use to the Church of which he is a part and the society in which he lives. The chance he dare not miss is not that of a cheap profit but that of being of service to his God, his Church and his fellow-men.

PAUL COMES TO THE END (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

4:6-8 For my life has reached the point when it must be sacrificed, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight: I have completed the course: I have kept the faith. As for what remains, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which on that day the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me--and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing.

For Paul the end is very near and he knows it. When Erasmus was growing old, he said: "I am a veteran, and have earned my discharge, and must leave the fighting to younger men." Paul, the aged warrior, is laying down his arms that Timothy may take them up.

No passage in the New Testament is more full of vivid pictures than this.

"My life," says Paul, "has reached the point where it must be sacrificed." The word he uses for sacrifice is the verb spendesthai (Greek #4689) which literally means to pour out as a libation to the gods. Every Roman meal ended with a kind of sacrifice. A cup of wine was taken and was poured out (spendesthai, Greek #4689) to the gods. It is as if Paul were saying: "The day is ended; it is time to rise and go; and my life must be poured out as a sacrifice to God." He did not think of himself as going to be executed; he thought of himself as going to offer his life to God. Ever since his conversion, he had offered everything to God--his money, his scholarship, his time, the vigour of his body, the acuteness of his mind, the devotion of his heart. Only life itself was left to offer, and gladly he was going to lay it down.

He goes on to say: "The time of my departure is at hand." The word (analusis, Greek #359) he uses for departure is a vivid one. It has many a picture in it and each tells us something about leaving this life. (a) It is the word for unyoking an animal from the shafts of the cart or the plough. Death to Paul was rest from toil. As Spenser had it, ease after toil, port after stormy seas, death after life, are lovely things. (b) It is the word for loosening bonds or fetters. Death for Paul was a release. He was to exchange the confines of a Roman prison for the glorious liberty of the courts of heaven. (c) It is the word for loosening the ropes of a tent. For Paul it was time to strike camp again. Many a journey he had made across the roads of Asia Minor and of Europe. Now he was setting out on his last and greatest journey; he was taking the road that led to God. (d) It is the word for loosening the mooring-ropes of a ship. Many a time Paul had felt his ship leave the harbour for the deep waters. Now he is to launch out into the greatest deep of all, setting sail to cross the waters of death to arrive in the haven of eternity.

So then, for the Christian, death is laying down the burden in order to rest; it is laying aside the shackles in order to be free; it is striking camp in order to take up residence in the heavenly places; it is casting off the ropes which bind us to this world in order to set sail on the voyage which ends in the presence of God. Who then shall fear it?

THE JOY OF THE WELL-FOUGHT CONTEST (2 Timothy 4:6-8 continued)

Paul goes on, still speaking in these vivid pictures of which he was such a master: "I have fought the good fight: I have completed the race: I have kept the faith." It is likely that he is not using different pictures from three different spheres of life, but one picture from the games.

(i) "I have fought the good fight." The word he uses for fight is agon (Greek #73), which is the word for a contest in the arena. When an athlete can really say that he has done his best, then, win or lose, there is a deep satisfaction in his heart. Paul has come to the end, and he knows that he has put up a good show. When his mother died, Barrie made a great claim. "I can look back," he said, "and I cannot see the smallest thing undone." There is no satisfaction in all the world like knowing that we have done our best.

(ii) "I have finished the race." It is easy to begin but hard to finish. The one thing necessary for life is staying-power, and that is what so many people lack. It was suggested to a certain very famous man that his biography should be written while he was still alive. He absolutely refused to give permission, and his reason was: "I have seen so many men fall out on the last lap." It is easy to wreck a noble life or a fine record by some closing folly. But it was Paul's claim that he had finished the race. There is a deep satisfaction in reaching the goal.

Perhaps the world's most famous race is the marathon. The Battle of Marathon was one of the decisive battles of the world. In it the Greeks met the Persians, and, if the Persians had conquered, the glory that was Greece would never have flowered upon the world. Against fearful odds the Greeks won the victory, and, after the battle, a Greek soldier ran all the way, day and night, to Athens with the news. Straight to the magistrates he ran. "Rejoice," he gasped, "we have conquered," and even as he delivered his message he fell dead. He had completed his course and done his work, and there is no finer way for any man to die.

(iii) "I have kept the faith." This phrase can have more than one meaning. If we are to keep the background of the games, it is this. The great games in Greece were the Olympics. To these came all the greatest athletes in the world. On the day before the games all the competitors met and took a solemn oath before the gods that they had done not less than ten months training and that they would not resort to any trickery to win. So Paul may be saying: "I have kept the rules: I have played the game." It would be a great thing to die knowing that we had never transgressed the rules of honour in the race of life.

But this phrase may have other meanings. It is also a business phrase. It was the regular Greek for: "I have kept the conditions of the contract; I have been true to my engagement." If Paul used it in that way, he meant that he had engaged himself to serve Christ and had stood by that engagement and never let his Master down. Further, it could mean: "I have kept my faith: I have never lost my confidence and my hope." If Paul used it in that way, he meant that through thick and thin, in freedom and in imprisonment, in all his perils by land and sea, and now in the very face of death, he had never lost his trust in Jesus Christ.

Paul goes on to say there is laid up for him the crown. In the games the greatest prize was the laurel wreath. With it the victor was crowned; and to wear it was the greatest honour which could come to any athlete. But this crown in a few short days would wither. Paul knew that there awaited him a crown which would never fade.

In this moment Paul is turning from the verdict of men to the verdict of God. He knew that in a very short time he would stand before the Roman judgment seat and that his trial could have only one end. He knew what Nero's verdict would be, but he also knew what God's verdict would be. The man whose life is dedicated to Christ is indifferent to the verdict of men. He cares not if they condemn him so long as he hears his Master's "Well done!"

Paul sounds still another note--this crown awaits not only him but all who wait with expectation for the coming of the King. It is as if he said to the young Timothy: "Timothy, my end is near: and I know that I go to my reward. If you follow in my steps, you will feel the same confidence and the same joy when the end comes to you." The joy of Paul is open to every man who also fights that fight and finishes the race and keeps the faith.

A ROLL OF HONOUR AND DISHONOUR (2 Timothy 4:9-15)

4:9-15 Do your best to come and see me soon. Demas has deserted me, because he loved this present world, and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Take Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful in service. I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus.

When you come bring with you the cloak which I left behind at Troas at Corpus' house, and bring the books, especially the parchments.

Alexander, the coppersmith, did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will reward him according to his deeds. You yourself must be on your guard against him, for he hotly opposed our words.

Paul draws up a roll of honour and of dishonour of his friends. Some are only names to us; of some, as we read the Acts and the Epistles, we get little revealing glimpses. Some of the stories, if we are allowed to use our imagination, we can reconstruct.

The Spiritual Pilgrimage Of Demas

First on the list comes Demas. There are three mentions of him in Paul's letters; and it may well be that they hake in them the story of a tragedy. (i) In Philemon 1:24 he is listed amongst a group of men whom Paul calls his fellow-labourers. (ii) In Colossians 4:14 he is mentioned without any comment at all. (iii) Here he has forsaken Paul because he loved this present world. First, Demas the fellow-labourer, then, just Demas, and, finally, Demas the deserter who loved the world. Here is the history of a spiritual degeneration. Bit by bit the fellow-labourer has become the deserter; the title of honour has become the name of shame.

What happened to Demas? That we cannot tell for sure, but we can guess.

(i) It may be that he had begun to follow Christ without first counting the cost; and it may be that he was not altogether to blame. There is a kind of evangelism which proclaims: "Accept Christ and you will have rest and peace and joy." There is a sense, the deepest of all senses, in which that is profoundly and blessedly true. But it is also true that when we accept Christ our troubles begin. Up to this time we have lived in conformity with the world and its standards. Because of that life was easy, because we followed the line of least resistance and went with the crowd. But once a man accepts Christ, he accepts an entirely new set of standards and is committed to an entirely new kind of life at his work, in his personal relationships, in his pleasures, and there are bound to be collisions. It may be that Demas was swept into the Church in a moment of emotion without ever thinking things out; and then when unpopularity, persecution, the necessity of sacrifice, loneliness, imprisonment came, he quit because he had never bargained for anything like that. When a man undertakes to follow Christ, the first essential is that he should know what he is doing.

(ii) It may be that there came to Demas the inevitable weariness of the years. They have a way of taking our ideals away, of lowering our standards, of accustoming us to defeat.

Halliday Sutherland tells how he felt when he first qualified as a doctor. If on the street or in any company there came the call: "Is there a doctor here?" he thrilled to it, proud and eager to step forward and help. But as the years went on, a request like that became a nuisance. The thrill was gone.

W. H. Davies, the tramp who was also one of the greatest poets, has a revealing passage about himself. He had walked to see Tintern Abbey which he had last seen twenty-seven years ago. He says: "As I stood there now, twenty-seven years after, and compared that young boy's enthusiasm with my present lukewarm feelings, I was not very well pleased with myself. For instance, at that time I would sacrifice both food and sleep to see anything wonderful; but now in my prime I did not go seeking things of beauty, and only sang of things that came my way by chance."

Dean Inge had a sermon on Psalms 91:6 --"the destruction that wastes at noonday," which he called "The Peril of Middle Age." There is no threat so dangerous as the threat of the years to a man's ideals; and it can be kept at bay only by living constantly in the presence of Jesus Christ.

(iii) Paul said of Demas that "he loved this present world." His trouble may have been quite simple, and yet very terrible. It may simply be that he loved comfort more than he loved Christ, that he loved the easy way more than he loved the way which led first to a cross and then to the stars.

We think of Demas, not to condemn, but to sympathize, for so many of us are like him.

It is just possible that this is neither the beginning nor the end of the story of Demas. The name Demas is a shortened and familiar form of Demetrius and twice we come upon a Demetrius in the New Testament story. There was a Demetrius who led the riot of the silversmiths at Ephesus and wished to lynch Paul because he had taken their temple trade away (Acts 19:25). There was a Demetrius of whom John wrote that he had a good report of all and of the truth itself, a fact to which John bore willing and decisive witness (3 John 1:12 ). May this be the beginning and the end of the story? Did Demetrius the silversmith find something about Paul and Christ which twined itself round his heart? Did the hostile leader of the riot become the convert to Christ? Did he for a time fall away from the Christian way and become Demas, the deserter, who loved this present world? And did the grace of God lay hands on him again, and bring him back, and make him the Demetrius of Ephesus of whom John wrote that he was a servant of the truth of whom all spoke well? That we will never know, but it is a lovely thing to think that the charge of being a deserter may not have been the final verdict on the life of Demas.

A ROLL OF HONOUR AND DISHONOUR (2 Timothy 4:9-15 continued)

The Gentile Of Whom All Spoke Well

After Paul has spoken of the man who was the deserter, he goes on to speak of the man who was faithful unto death. "Luke alone is with me," he says. We know very little about Luke, and yet even from that little he emerges as one of the loveliest characters in the New Testament.

(i) One thing we know by implication--Luke accompanied Paul on his last journey to Rome and to prison. He was the writer of the Book of Acts. Now there are certain passages of Acts which are written in the first person plural and we can be quite sure that Luke is here describing occasions on which he himself was actually present. Acts 27:1-44 describes Paul setting out under arrest for Rome and the story is told in the first person. Therefore we can be sure that Luke was there. From that we deduce something else. It is thought that when an arrested prisoner was on his way to trial at Rome, he was allowed to be accompanied by only two slaves, and it is therefore probable that Luke enrolled himself as Paul's slave in order to be allowed to accompany him to Rome and to prison. Little wonder that Paul speaks of him with love in his voice. Surely devotion could go no farther.

(ii) There are only two other definite references to Luke in the New Testament. In Colossians 4:14 he is described as the beloved physician. Paul owed much to Luke. All his life he had the torturing thorn in his flesh; and Luke must have been the man who used his skill to ease his pain and enable him to go on. Luke was essentially a man who was kind. He does not seem to have been a great evangelist; he was the man who made his contribution in terms of personal service. God had given him healing skill in his hands, and Luke gave back that skill to God. Kindness is the quality which lifts a man out of the luck of ordinary men. Eloquence will be forgotten; mental cleverness may live on the printed page; but kindness lives on enthroned in the hearts of men.

Dr. Johnson had certain contacts with a young man called Harry Hervey. Hervey was rich and more than something of a rake. But he had a London house where Johnson was always welcome. Years later Harry Hervey was being unkindly discussed. Johnson said seriously: "He was a vicious man, but very kind to me. If you call a dog Hervey, I shall love him." Kindness covered a multitude of sins.

Luke was loyal and Luke was kind.

(iii) The other definite reference to Luke is in Philemon 1:24 ; where Paul calls him his fellow-labourer. Luke was not content only to write nor to confine himself to his job as a doctor; he set his hand to the work. The Church is full of talkers and of people who are there more for what they can get than for what they can give; Luke was one of these priceless people--the workers of the Church.

(iv) There is one other possible reference to Luke in the New Testament. 2 Corinthians 8:18 speaks of "the brother who is famous among all the Churches." From the earliest times that brother has been identified with Luke. He was the man of whom all men spoke well. He was the man who was loyal unto death; he was the man who was essentially kind; he was the man who was dedicated to the work. Such a man will always be one of whom all speak well.

A ROLL OF HONOUR AND DISHONOUR (2 Timothy 4:9-15 continued)

There is still another name with an untold, yet thrilling, story behind it in this roll.

The Man Who Redeemed Himself

Paul urges Timothy to bring Mark with him "for he is profitable to me for the ministry." The word ministry is not used in its narrower sense of the ministry of the Church but in its wider sense of service. "Bring Mark," says Paul, "for he is very useful in service." As E. F. Scott puts it; "Bring Mark, for he can turn his hand to anything." Or, as we might put it in our own everyday language: "Bring Mark, for he is a useful man to have about the place."

Mark had a curiously chequered career. He was very young when the Church began, but he lived at the very centre of its life. It was to the house of Mary, Mark's mother, that Peter turned his steps when he escaped from prison, and we may take it that this house was the central meeting place of the Jerusalem Church (Acts 12:12).

When Paul and Barnabas set out on their first missionary journey they took Mark with them--John Mark was his full name--to be their assistant (Acts 13:5). It looked as if he was earmarked for a great career in the company of Paul and in the service of the Church. Then something happened. When Paul and Barnabas left Pamphylia and struck inland on the hard and dangerous road that led to the central plateau of Asia Minor, Mark left them and went home (Acts 13:13). His nerve failed him, and he turned back.

Paul took that defection very hard. When he set out with Barnabas on their second missionary journey, Barnabas--he was related to Mark (Colossians 4:10) --planned to take Mark with them again. But Paul absolutely refused to have the quitter a second time, and so fierce was the argument and so acute the difference that Paul and Barnabas split company and never, so far as we know, worked together again (Acts 15:36-40). So then, there was a time when Paul had no use for Mark, when he looked on him as a spineless deserter and completely refused to have him on his staff.

What happened to Mark after that we do not know. Tradition has it that he went to Egypt and that he was the founder of the Christian Church in that country. But, whatever he did, he certainly redeemed himself. When Paul comes to write Colossians from his Roman prison, Mark is with him, and Paul commends him to the Colossian Church and charges them to receive him. And now, when the end is near, the one man Paul wants, besides his beloved Timothy, is Mark, for he is a useful man to have about. The quitter has become the man who can turn his hand to anything in the service of Paul and of the gospel.

Fosdick has a sermon with the great and uplifting title, "No man need stay the way he is." Mark is proof of that. He is our encouragement and our inspiration, for he was the man who failed and yet made good. Still to this day Jesus Christ can make the coward spirit brave and nerve the feeble arm for fight. He can release the sleeping hero in the soul of every man. He can turn the shame of failure into the joy of triumphant service.

A ROLL OF HONOUR AND DISHONOUR (2 Timothy 4:9-15 continued)

Helpers And A Hinderer And A Last Request

So the list of names goes on. Of Crescens we know nothing at all. Titus was another of Paul's most faithful lieutenants. "My true child," Paul calls him (Titus 1:4). When the trouble with the Church at Corinth had been worrying him, Titus had been one of Paul's emissaries in the struggle to mend things (2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 7:13; 2 Corinthians 12:18). Tychicus had been entrusted with the delivery of the letter to the Colossians (Colossians 4:7), and of the letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:21). The little group of helpers was being dispersed throughout the Church, for even if Paul was in prison the work had still to go on, and Paul must go lonely that his scattered people might be strengthened and guided and comforted.

Then comes the mention of a man who had hindered instead of helping: "Alexander the coppersmith did me a great deal of harm." We do not know what Alexander had done; but perhaps we can deduce it. The word that Paul uses for did me much evil is the Greek endeiknumi (Greek #1731). That verb literally means to display, and was in fact often used for the laying of information against a man. Informers were one of the great curses of Rome at this time. And it may well be that Alexander was a renegade Christian, who went to the magistrates with false information against Paul, seeking to ruin him in the most dishonourable way.

Paul has certain personal requests to make. He wants the cloak he had left behind at the house of Carpus in Troas. The cloak (phainole) was a great circular rug-like garment. It had a hole for the head in the middle and it covered a man like a little tent, reaching right down to the ground. It was a garment for the winter time and no doubt Paul was feeling his Roman prison cold.

He wants the books; the word is biblia (Greek #975), which literally means papyrus rolls; and it may well be that these rolls contained the earliest forms of the gospels. He wanted the parchments. They could be one of two things. They might be Paul's necessary legal documents, especially his certificate of Roman citizenship; but more likely they were copies of the Hebrew Scriptures, for the Hebrews wrote their sacred books on parchment made from the skins of animals. It was the word of Jesus and the word of God that Paul wanted most of all, when he lay in prison awaiting death.

Sometimes history has a strange way of repeating itself. Fifteen hundred years later William Tyndale was lying in prison in Vilvorde, waiting for death because he had dared to give the people the Bible in their own language. It is a cold damp winter, and he writes to a friend: "Send me, for Jesus' sake, a warmer cap, something to patch my leggings, a woollen shirt, and above all my Hebrew Bible." When they were up against it and the chill breath of death was on them, the great ones wanted more than anything else the word of God to put strength and courage into their souls.

LAST WORDS AND GREETINGS (2 Timothy 4:16-22)

4:16-22 At my first defense no one was there to stand by me, but all forsook me. May it not be reckoned against them! But the Lord stood beside me, and he strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation of the gospel was fully made so that the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the mouth of the lion. The Lord will rescue me from every evil, and will save me for his heavenly kingdom. Glory be to him for ever and ever. Amen.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the family of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth. I left Trophimus at Miletus. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens, Linus and Claudia, and all the brothers.

The Lord be with your spirit.

Grace be with you.

A Roman trial began with a preliminary examination to formulate the precise charge against the prisoner. When Paul was brought to that preliminary examination, not one of his friends stood by him. It was too dangerous to proclaim oneself the friend of a man on trial for his life.

One of the curious things about this passage is the number of reminiscences of Psalms 22:1-31 . "Why hast thou forsaken me?--all forsook me." "There is none to help--no one was there to stand by me." "Save me from the mouth of the lion--I was rescued from the mouth of the lion." "All the ends of the earth shall turn to the Lord--that the Gentiles might hear it." "Dominion belongs to the Lord--The Lord will save me for his heavenly kingdom." It seems certain that the words of this psalm were running in Paul's mind. And the lovely thing is that this was the psalm which was in the mind of Jesus when he hung upon his Cross. As Paul faced death, he encouraged his heart with the same psalm as his Lord used in the same circumstances.

Three things brought Paul courage in that lonely hour.

(i) All men had forsaken him but the Lord was with him. Jesus had said that he would never leave his own or forsake them and that he would be with them to the end of the world. Paul is a witness that Jesus kept his promise. If to do the right means to be alone, as Joan of Arc said, "It is better to be alone with God."

(ii) Paul would use even a Roman court to proclaim the message of Christ. He obeyed his own commandment; in season and out of season he pressed the claims of Christ on men. He was so busy thinking of the task of preaching that he forgot the danger. A man who is immersed in his task has conquered fear.

(iii) He was quite certain of the ultimate rescue. In time he might seem to be the victim of circumstances and a criminal condemned at the bar of Roman justice; but Paul saw beyond time and knew that his eternal safety was assured. It is always better to be in danger for a moment and safe for eternity, than to be safe for a moment and jeopardize eternity.

A HIDDEN ROMANCE? (2 Timothy 4:16-22 continued)

Finally there come greetings sent and given. There is a greeting to Priscilla and Aquila, that husband and wife whose home was ever a church, wherever it might be, and who had at some time risked their lives for Paul's sake (Acts 18:2; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19). There is a greeting to the gallant Onesiphorus, who had sought out Paul in prison in Rome (2 Timothy 1:16) and who, it may be, had paid for his loyalty with his life. There is a greeting to Erastus, whom once Paul sent as his emissary to Macedonia (Acts 19:22), and who, it may be, was afterwards within the Church at Rome (Romans 16:23). There is a greeting to Trophimus, whom Paul had been accused of bringing into the Temple precincts in Jerusalem, although a Gentile, an incident for which Paul's last imprisonment began (Acts 20:4; Acts 21:29). Finally there are greetings from Linus, Pudens and Claudia. In the later lists Linus stands as the first bishop of Rome.

Around the names of Pudens and Claudia a romance has been woven. The story may be impossible, or at least improbable, but it is too interesting not to quote. Martial was a famous Roman poet, a writer of epigrams, who flourished from A.D. 66 to A.D. 100. Two of his epigrams celebrate the marriage of a highborn and distinguished Roman called Pudens to a lady called Claudia. In the second of them Claudia is called a stranger in Rome, and it is said that she came from Britain. Now Tacitus tells us that in A.D. 52, in the reign of the Emperor Claudius, certain territories in south-east Britain were given to a British king called Cogidubnus, for his loyalty to Rome; and in 1723 a marble tablet was dug up in Chichester which commemorates the erection of a heathen temple by Cogidubnus, the king, and by Pudens, his son. In the inscription the full name of the king is given and, no doubt in honour of the Roman Emperor, we find that the British king had taken the name of Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus. If that king had a daughter her name must have been Claudia, for that is the name that she would take from her father. We can carry the story further. It may be that Cogidubnus would send his daughter Claudia to stay in Rome. That he should do so would be almost certain, for when a foreign king entered into an alliance with Rome, as Cogidubnus had done, some members of his family were always sent to Rome as pledges of keeping the agreement. If Claudia went to Rome, she would certainly stay in the house of a Roman called Aulus Plautius, who had been the governor in Britain from A.D. 43-52, and to whom Cogidubnus had rendered his faithful service. The wife of Aulus Plautius was a lady called Pomponia, and we learn from Tacitus that she had been arraigned before the Roman courts in A.D. 57 because she was "tainted with a foreign superstition." That "foreign superstition" may well have been Christianity. Pomponia may have been a Christian, and from her Claudia, the British princess, may have learned of Jesus also.

We cannot say whether the guesses in that story are true. But it would be wonderful to think that this Claudia was actually a British princess who had come to stay in Rome and become a Christian, and that Pudens was her husband.

Paul comes to the end by commending his friends to the presence and the Spirit of his Lord and theirs, and, as always, his last word is grace.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

FURTHER READING

Timothy

D. Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles (TC E)

W. Lock, The Pastoral Epistles (ICC G)

E. F. Scott, The Pastoral Epistles (MC E)

E. K. Simpson, The Pastoral Epistles

Abbreviations

CGT: Cambridge Greek Testament

ICC: International Critical Commentary

MC: Moffatt Commentary

TC: Tyndale Commentary

E: English Text

G: Greek Text

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/2-timothy-4.html. 1956-1959.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, June 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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