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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 4

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

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Verse 1


The apostle charges Timothy to be diligent, incessant, and

faithful in his preaching; to watch, suffer patiently, and give

full proof of his ministry, 1-5.

He predicts his own approaching death, and expresses the

strongest confidence of being eternally happy, 6-8.

Desires Timothy to come and see him; shows that several had

forsaken him, that others were gone to different districts, and

that he had only Luke with him, 9-12.

Desires him to bring the cloak, book, and parchments, which he

had left at Troas, 13.

Of Alexander the coppersmith's opposition, 14, 15.

Tells Timothy how he was deserted by all when obliged to make

his first defence before Nero; how God supported him, and the

confidence with which he was inspired, 16-18.

Salutations to different persons at Ephesus, and from different

persons at Rome, 19-21.

The apostolical benediction, 22.


Verse 2 Timothy 4:1. I charge thee therefore before God — Whose herald thou art; and before the Lord Jesus Christ, whose salvation thou art to proclaim, and who is coming to judge the world-all that shall be found then alive, and all that have died from the foundation of the world.

Verse 2

Verse 2 Timothy 4:2. Preach the word — Κηρυξον τον λογον· Proclaim the doctrine, the doctrine of Christ crucified, for the sins of the whole world; the doctrine, that the Gentiles are invited to be fellow heirs with the Jews, and that for Jews and Gentiles there is no salvation but by faith in Christ.

Be instant in season, out of season — Επιστηθι ευκαιρως, ακαιρως. Be urgent whether the times be prosperous or adverse, whenever there is an opportunity; and when there is none, strive to make one. The Judge is at the door, and to every man eternity is at hand! Wherever thou meetest a sinner, speak to him the word of reconciliation. Do not be contented with stated times and accustomed places merely; all time and place belong to God, and are proper for his work. Wherever it can be done, there it should be done. Satan will omit neither time nor place where he can destroy. Omit thou none where thou mayest be the instrument of salvation to any.

Reprove — ελεγξον. Confute, the false teacher.

Rebuke — επιτιμησον. Reprove cuttingly and severely those who will not abandon their sins.

Exhort — παρακαλεσον. Comfort the feeble-minded, the diffident and the tempted.

With all long-suffering — In reference to each and all of these cases.

And doctrine. — The different modes of teaching suited to each.

Verse 3

Verse 2 Timothy 4:3. For the time will come — There is a time coming to the Church when men will not hear the practical truths of the Gospel, when they will prefer speculative opinions, which either do no good to the soul, or corrupt and destroy it, to that wholesome doctrine of "deny thyself, take up thy cross and follow me," which Jesus Christ has left in his Church.

But after their own lusts — For these they will follow, and hate those preachers and that doctrine by which they are opposed.

Shall they heap to themselves teachers — They will add one teacher to another, run and gad about after all, to find out those who insist not on the necessity of bearing the cross, of being crucified to the world, and of having the mind that was in Jesus. In this disposition interested men often find their account; they set up for teachers, "and widen and strew with flowers the way, down to eternal ruin," taking care to soothe the passions and flatter the vices of a trifling, superficial people.

Having itching ears — Endless curiosity, an insatiable desire of variety; and they get their ears tickled with the language and accent of the person, abandoning the good and faithful preacher for the fine speaker.

Verse 4

Verse 2 Timothy 4:4. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth — The truth strips them of their vices, sacrifices their idols, darts its lightnings against their easily besetting sins, and absolutely requires a conformity to a crucified Christ; therefore they turn their ears away from it.

And shall be turned unto fables. — Believe any kind of stuff and nonsense; for, as one has justly observed, "Those who reject the truth are abandoned by the just judgment of God to credit the most degrading nonsense." This is remarkably the case with most deists; their creed often exhibits what is grossly absurd.

Verse 5

Verse 5. But watch thou in all things — It is possible to be overtaken in a fault, to neglect one's duty, and to lose one's soul. Watching unto prayer prevents all these evils.

Endure afflictions — Let no sufferings affright thee; nor let the dread of them either cause thee to abandon the truth, or relax in thy zeal for the salvation of men.

Do the work of an evangelist — That is: Preach Christ crucified for the sins of the whole world; for this, and this alone, is doing the work of an evangelist, or preacher of the glad tidings of peace and salvation by Christ. An angel from God was first sent to do the work of an evangelist, and how did he do it? Behold, said he, I bring you good tidings of great joy; Ιδου γαρ, ευαγγελιζομαι ὑμιν χαραν μεγαλην, ἡτις εσται παντι τῳ λαῳ. Behold, I evangelize unto you great joy, which shall be to all people; to you is born a Saviour. Those who do not proclaim Christ as having tasted death for every man, and who do not implicitly show that every human soul may be saved, do not perform the work of evangelists; they, God help them! limit the Holy One of Israel. Yet, as far as they preach the truth in sincerity, so far God acknowledges and blesses them and their labours; they do a part of the work, but not the whole.

Make full proof of thy ministry. — Push all thy principles to their utmost power of activity; carry them on to all their consequences; and try what God will do for thee, and by thee. Neglect no part of thy sacred function; perform faithfully all the duties of which it is composed; and do God's work in his own way and in his own spirit.

Verse 6

Verse 6. For I am now ready to be offered — ηοηαπενδομαι. I am already poured out as a libation. Philippians 2:17; Philippians 2:17. He considers himself as on the eve of being sacrificed, and looks upon his blood as the libation which was poured on the sacrificial offering. He could not have spoken thus positively had not the sentence of death been already passed upon him.

Verse 7

Verse 7. I have fought a good fight — Every reader will perceive that the apostle, as was his very frequent custom, alludes to the contests at the Grecian games: Τον αγυνα τον καλον ηγωνισμαι· I have wrestled that good wrestling-I have struggled hard, and have over come, in a most honourable cause.

I have finished my course — I have started for the prize, and have come up to the goal, outstripping all my competitors, and have gained this prize also.

I have kept the faith — As the laws of these games must be most diligently observed and kept, (for though a man overcome, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully,) so I have kept the rules of the spiritual combat and race; and thus, having contended lawfully, and conquered in each exercise, I have a right to expect the prize.

Verse 8

Verse 8. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown — This I can claim as my due; but the crown I expect is not one of fading leaves, but a crown of righteousness; the reward which God, in his kindness, has promised to them who are faithful to the grace he has bestowed upon them.

The Lord, the righteous Judge — He alludes here to the brabeus, or umpire in the Grecian games, whose office it was to declare the victor, and to give the crown.

At that day — The day of judgment; the morning of the resurrection from the dead.

Unto all them also that love his appearing. — All who live in expectation of the coming of Christ, who anticipate it with joyfulness, having buried the world and laid up all their hopes above. Here is a reward, but it is a reward not of debt but of grace; for it is by the grace of God that even an apostle is fitted for glory. And this reward is common to the faithful; it is given, not only to apostles, but to all them that love his appearing. This crown is laid up-it is in view, but not in possession. We must die first.

I have several times noted the allusions of St. Paul to the Greek poets, and such as seemed to argue that he quoted immediately from them. There is a passage in the Alcestis of Euripides, in which the very expressions used here by the apostle are found, and spoken on the occasion of a wife laying down her life for her husband, when both his parents had refused to do it.

Ουκ ηθελησας ουδ' ετολμησας θανειν

Του σου προ παιδος· αλλα την δ' ειασατε

Γυναικ' οθνειαν, ἡν εγω και μητερα

Πατερα τε γ' ενδικως αν ἡγοιμην μονην·

Και τοι καλον γ' αν τανδ' αγων' ηγωνισω,

Του σου προ παιδος κατθανων. Alcest. v. 644.

"Thou wouldst not, neither darest thou to die for thy son; but hast suffered this strange woman to do it, whom I justly esteem to be alone my father and mother: thou wouldst have fought a good fight hadst thou died for thy son."

See Sophocles and AEschylus, quoted 1 Timothy 6:15.

The καλοςαγων, good fight, was used among the Greeks to express a contest of the most honourable kind, and in this sense the apostle uses it.

Verse 9

Verse 9. Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me — He appears to have wished Timothy to be present at his death, that he might have his faith confirmed by seeing how a Christian could die; and, as he had but a short time to live, he begs Timothy to hasten his visit, and particularly so as he had scarcely now any companions.

Verse 10

Verse 10. Demas hath forsaken me — This is another proof of the posteriority of this epistle: for Demas was with the apostle in his first imprisonment, and joins in the salutations, see Colossians 4:14, which were written when Paul was a prisoner at Rome for the first time.

Having loved this present world — Αγαπησας τον νυν αιωνα Having preferred Judaism to Christianity; or having loved the Jews, and having sought their welfare in preference to that of the Gentiles.

The עולם הזה words olam hazzeh, which answer to the Greek τον νυν αιωνα, are generally to be understood as signifying, either the Jewish people, or the system of Judaism. It was now become doubly dangerous to be a Christian; and those who had not religion enough to enable them to burn, or in any other way to expose life for it, took refuge in that religion which was exposed to no persecution. This is a light in which the conduct of Demas may be viewed. It could not have been the love of secular gain which had induced Demas to abandon St. Paul; he must have counted this cost before he became a Christian. See below.

Crescens to Galatia — Whether the departure of Crescens was similar to that of Demas, as intimated above, or whether he went on an evangelical embassy, we know not. Charity would hope the latter; for we can hardly suppose that Titus, who is here said to have departed to Dalmatia, had abandoned his Cretan Churches, his apostolical office, and especially his aged father and friend, now about to seal the truth with his blood! It is probable that both these persons had gone on sacred missions, and perhaps had been gone some time before the apostle was brought into such imminent danger. Even for Demas, as standing in this connection, something might be said. It is not intimated that he had denied the faith, but simply that he had left the apostle and gone into Thessalonica; for which this reason is given, that he loved the present world. Now, if αγαπησας, having loved, can be applied to a desire to save the souls of the Jews, and that he went into Thessalonica, where they abounded, for this very purpose, then we shall find all three-Demas, Crescens, and Titus, one at Thessalonica, another at Galatia, and the third at Dalmatia, doing the work of evangelists, visiting the Churches, and converting both Jews and Gentiles. This interpretation I leave to the charitable reader, and must own that, with all the presumptive evidences against it, it has some fair show of probability. Demas has received little justice from interpreters and preachers in general. It is even fashionable to hunt him down.

Verse 11

Verse 11. Only Luke is with me. — This was Luke the evangelist, and writer of the Acts of the Apostles, who was always much attached to St. Paul, and it is supposed continued with him even to his martyrdom.

Take Mark, and bring him with thee — This was John Mark, the sister's son of Barnabas, who, after having wavered a little at first, became a steady, zealous, and useful man; his name and conduct have been often before the reader. See the parallel passages.

For he is profitable to me for the ministry. — εις διακονιαν. For service; that is, he would be very useful to the apostle, to minister to him in his present close confinement. Some think that the apostle means his preaching the Gospel; but at this time, I should suppose, there was very little, if any, public preaching at Rome.

Verse 12

Verse 12. Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. — For this person, see Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7. It is rather strange that the apostle should say, I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus, if Timothy was at Ephesus at this time; but it is probable that Tychicus had been sent to Ephesus some time before this, and therefore the apostle might say, though writing now to Ephesus, Tychicus have I sent, &c.

Verse 13

Verse 13. The cloak that I left at Troas — τον φελονην is by several translated bag or portmanteau; and it is most likely that it was something of this kind, in which he might carry his clothes, books, and travelling necessaries. What the books were we cannot tell, it is most likely they were his own writings; and as to the parchments, they were probably the Jewish Scriptures and a copy of the Septuagint. These he must have had at hand at all times. The books and parchments now sent for could not be for the apostle's own use, as he was now on the eve of his martyrdom. He had probably intended to bequeath them to the faithful, that they might be preserved for the use of the Church.

Verse 14

Verse 14. Alexander the coppersmith — We are not to understand this of any tradesman, but of some rabbin; for it was not unusual for the Jews to apply the name of some trade as an epithet to their rabbins and literary men. He is, in all probability, the very same mentioned Acts 19:33, where see the note; and it is not unlikely that he may have been the same whom the apostle was obliged to excommunicate, 1 Timothy 1:20.

The Lord reward him — Αποδῳη αυτῳ ὁ Κυριος· But instead of αποδωη, which has here the power of a solemn imprecation, αποδωσει, he will reward, is the reading of the very best MSS., several of the versions, and some of the chief Greek fathers. This makes the sentence declaratory: The Lord WILL reward him according to his works. This reading is most like the spirit and temper of this heavenly man. See 2 Timothy 4:16.

Verse 15

Verse 15. Of whom be thou ware also — It seems that this rabbin travelled about from place to place for the purpose of opposing the Gospel, the Jews putting him forward, as it is said, Acts 19:33.

He hath greatly withstood our words. — Has been a constant opposer of the Christian doctrines.

Verse 16

Verse 16. At my first answer — Εν τῃ τρωτῃ μου απολογιᾳ· At my first apology; this word properly signifies a defence or vindication. To his is the meaning of what we call the apologies of the primitive fathers; they were vindications or defences of Christianity. It is generally allowed that, when St. Paul had been taken this second time by the Romans, he was examined immediately, and required to account for his conduct; and that, so odious was Christianity through the tyranny of Nero, he could procure no person to plead for him. Nero, who had himself set fire to Rome, charged it on the Christians, and they were in consequence persecuted in the most cruel manner; he caused them to be wrapped up in pitched clothes, and then, chaining them to a stake, he ordered them to be set on fire to give light in the streets after night! Tormenti genus! To this Juvenal appears to allude. Sat. i. v. 155.

Pone Tigellinum, taeda lucebis in illa,

Qua stantes ardent, qui fixo gulture fumant.

"If into rogues omnipotent you rake,

Death is your doom, impaled upon a stake;

Smear'd o'er with wax, and set on blaze to light

The streets, and make a dreadful fire by night."


I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. — How much more simple, elegant, and expressive are the apostle's own words: μη αυτοις λογισθειη. let it not be placed to their account! Let them not have to reckon for it with the supreme Judge at the great day!

Verse 17

Verse 17. The Lord stood with me — When all human help failed, God, in a more remarkable manner, interposed; and thus the excellency plainly appeared to be of God, and not of man.

That by me the preaching might be fully known — When called on to make his defence he took occasion to preach the Gospel, and to show that the great God of heaven and earth had designed to illuminate the Gentile world with the rays of his light and glory. This must have endeared him to some, while others might consider him an opposer of their gods, and be the more incensed against him.

I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. — I escaped the imminent danger at that time. Probably he was seized in a tumultuous manner, and expected to be torn to pieces. The words εκ στοματος or εκ βρυγμου λεοντος ῥυεσθαι, to be rescued from the mouth or jaws of the lion, are a proverbial form of speech for deliverance from the most imminent danger. Several writers think Nero to be intended by the lion, because of his rage and oppressive cruelty. But Helius Caesarinus was at this time prefect of the city; Nero being in Greece. He was a bloody tyrant, and Nero had given him the power of life and death in his absence. The apostle may mean him, if the words be not proverbial.

Verse 18

Verse 18. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work — None of the evil designs formed against me to make me unfaithful or unsteady, to cause me to save my life at the expense of faith and a good conscience, shall succeed; my life may go, but he will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom. A continuance on earth the apostle expects not; but he has glory full in view, and therefore he gives God glory for what he had done, and for what he had promised to do.

Verse 19

Verse 19. Salute Prisca and Aquila — Several MSS., versions, and fathers have Priscilla instead of Prisca: they are probably the same as those mentioned Acts 18:18; Acts 18:26.

The household of Onesiphorus. — See 2 Timothy 1:16. Onesiphorus was probably at this time dead: his family still remained at Ephesus.

Verse 20

Verse 20. Erastus abode at Corinth — He was treasurer of that city, as we learn from Romans 16:23. See the note there. The apostle had sent him and Timothy on a mission to Macedonia, Acts 19:22, whence it is probable he returned to Corinth, and there became finally settled.

Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. — Even the apostles could not work miracles when they pleased; that power was but rarely given, and that for very special purposes. Trophimus was an Ephesian. See Acts 20:4, and the note there.

Miletus was a maritime town of Ionia, not far from Ephesus; but there was another Miletus, in Crete, which some learned men think to be intended here. It appears that St. Paul went from Macedonia to Corinth, where he left Erastus; from Corinth he proceeded to Troas, where he lodged with Carpus: from Troas he went to Ephesus, where he visited Timothy; from Ephesus he went to Miletus, where he left Trophimus sick; and having embarked at Miletus, he went by sea to Rome. See Calmet. It is most likely, therefore, that the Miletus of Ionia is the place intended.

Verse 21

Verse 21. Come before winter.

1. Because the apostle's time was short and uncertain.

2. Because sailing in those seas was very dangerous in winter. Whether Timothy saw the apostle before he was martyred is not known.

Eubulus — This person is nowhere else mentioned in the New Testament.

Pudens — Of this person we have traditions and legends, but nothing certain. The Catholics make him bishop of Rome.

Linus — He also is made, by the same persons, bishop of Rome; but there is no sufficient ground for these pretensions.

Claudia — Supposed to be the wife of Pudens. Some think she was a British lady, converted by St. Paul; and that she was the first that brought the Gospel to Britain.

All the brethren. — All the Christians, of whom there were many at Rome; though of Paul's companions in travel, only Luke remained there.

Verse 22

Verse 2 Timothy 4:22. The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. — This is a prayer addressed to Christ by one of the most eminent of his apostles; another proof of the untruth of the assertion, that prayer is never offered to Christ in the New Testament. He prays that Christ may be with his spirit, enlightening, strengthening, and confirming it to the end.

Grace be with you. — These words show that the epistle was addressed to the whole Church, and that it is not to be considered of a private nature.

Amen. — Omitted by ACFG and some others. See the note on this word at the end of the preceding epistle. The principal subscriptions, both in the versions and MSS., are the following: -

The Second Epistle to Timothy was written from Rome. - SYRIAC.

To the man Timothy. - AETHIOPIC,

Nothing in the VULGATE.

End of the epistle; it was written from the city of Rome when Timothy had been constituted bishop over Ephesus; and when Paul had stood the second time in the presence of Nero Caesar, the Roman emperor. Praise to the Lord of glory, perpetual, perennial, and eternal! Amen, Amen, Amen. - ARABIC.

The Second Epistle to Timothy is ended, who was the first bishop of the Church of Ephesus. It was written from Rome when Paul had stood the second time before Nero, the Roman emperor. - PHILOXENIAN SYRIAC.

Written from Rome, and sent by Onesimus. - COPTIC.

The MSS. are also various: -

The Second Epistle to Timothy is finished; that to Titus begins.

The second to Timothy, written from Laodicea. - CODEX ALEXANDRINUS.

The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy, ordained the first bishop of the Church of the Ephesians, was written from Rome when Paul was brought the second time before Nero Caesar. - COMMON GREEK TEXT.

There are other slighter differences in the MSS., but they are unworthy of note.

That the epistle was written from Rome, about the year 65 or 66, and a little before St. Paul's martyrdom, is the general opinion of learned men. See the preface.

The reader has already been apprized that this is most probably the last epistle the apostle ever wrote; and it is impossible to see him in a more advantageous point of view than he now appears, standing on the verge of eternity, full of God, and strongly anticipating an eternity of glory. For farther observations, see the conclusion of the first epistle.

ON 2 Timothy 4:16 I have mentioned the apologies of the primitive fathers, or their vindications of Christianity against the aspersions and calumnies of the Gentiles. Several of these writings are still extant; of the whole I shall here give a short account in chronological order.

1. QUADRATUS. St. Jerome relates that this man was contemporary with the apostles, and one also of their disciples. There is only a fragment of his apology extant; it is preserved by Eusebius, in Hist. Eccles, lib. iv. c. 3, and was addressed to the Emperor Adrian about A. D. 126, on whom it is said to have had a good effect.

2. ARISTIDES, according to Eusebius, was an Athenian philosopher, and contemporary with Quadratus; he wrote his apology for the Christians about the same time, (A. D. 126,) and addressed it to the same emperor. St. Jerome gives some remarkable particulars of him in his book Of Illustrious Men. "He was," says he, "a most eloquent philosopher, and after his conversion he continued to wear his former habit." His apology was extant in the days of St. Jerome, but is now utterly lost.

3. JUSTIN MARTYR flourished about A. D. 140, and presented his first apology for Christianity to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and the Roman senate, about A. D. 150; and his second apology was presented to Marcus Antoninus about A. D. 162 or 166. These two very important apologies are come down to us nearly entire, and are exceedingly useful and important.

4. ATHENAGORAS wrote his apology for the Christians about the year 178. He is said to have sat down to write AGAINST the Christians; and that he might the better confute them he read over the Scriptures, and was so thoroughly converted by what he read, that he immediately wrote an apology FOR them, instead of an invective against them. This piece is still extant.

5. TERTULLIAN, who flourished about A. D. 200, was the earliest, and one of the chief of the Latin fathers: he was born in Carthage, and was a presbyter of the Church in that city. His apology was written about A. D. 198, or, according to some, 200. It appears to have been addressed to the governors of provinces, and is allowed to be a work of extraordinary eminence, and a master piece of its kind. It is still extant.

6. MARCUS MINUCIUS FELIX flourished towards the end of the reign of Septimius Severus, about A. D. 210. His apology for the Christian religion is written in the form of a dialogue between Caecilius Natalis, a heathen, and Octavius Januarius, a Christian, in which Minucius sits as judge. "This work," says Dr. Lardner, "is a monument of the author's ingenuity, learning, and eloquence; and the conversion of a man of his great natural and acquired abilities to the Christian religion, and his public and courageous defence of it, notwithstanding the many worldly temptations to the contrary, which he must have met with at that time, as they give an advantageous idea of his virtue, so they likewise afford a very agreeable argument in favour of the truth of our religion." WORKS, vol. ii., p. 367.

To the above, who are properly the Christian apologists for the first 200 years, several add Tatian's book against the Gentiles; Clemens Alexandrinus' Exhortation to the Gentiles; Origen's eight books against Celsus; Cyprian Of the Vanity of Idols; Arnobius' seven books against the Gentiles; the Institutions of Lactantius, and Julius Fermicus Maturnus Of the Errors of Profane Religion. All these works contain much important information, and are well worthy the attention of the studious reader. The principal part of these writings I have analyzed in my Succession of Sacred Literature, and to this they who cannot conveniently consult the originals may refer.

As the word apology generally signifies now an excuse for a fault, or "something spoken rather in extenuation of guilt than to prove innocence," it is seldom used in its primitive sense; and for some hundreds of years no defence of Christianity has borne this title till that by the late bishop of Llandaff, entitled, An Apology for the BIBLE, in a Series of Letters addressed to THOMAS PAINE. This is a very masterly work, and a complete refutation of Paine's "Age of Reason," and of any thing that has yet appeared, or can appear, under the same form. Ever since the days of St. Paul, God has raised up able apologists for the truth of Christianity, when it has been attacked by the most powerful partisans of the kingdom of darkness; and each attack and apology has been a new triumph for the religion of Christ.

Finished correcting for a new edition, Dec. 23, 1831.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/2-timothy-4.html. 1832.
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