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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

2 Timothy 4

Verse 1

IV.

(1) I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ.—The parchment, or papyrus, in the prison room of St. Paul on which, probably, Luke (2 Timothy 4:11), the faithful friend, was writing to the Apostle’s dictation, was nearly filled up. What has still to be said to the chief presbyter of the Church of Ephesus must be brief. But St. Paul would have the last words introduced by a most impressive preface. So before he sums up his directions and exhortations, he appeals to him in these stately and solemn words. The Greek word rendered “I charge (thee),” is more accurately translated by, I solemnly charge (thee), before those divine witnesses, the Eternal Father and the Blessed Son, present with me in this prison of mine in Rome, present equally with you in study-chamber or church in Asia.

Who shall judge the quick and the dead.—These words must have sounded with strange power in the ears of men like Timothy, and must have impressed them with an intense feeling of responsibility. The Apostle in his divine wisdom was charging these teachers of the Church to be faithful and zealous in their work, by the thought, which must be ever present, that they—either alive on the day of the Coming of the Lord, or, if they had tasted death already, raised from the dead incorruptible (comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:17)—must stand before the Judge and give an account of their stewardship; on that awful morning must every man and woman render up, before the Judge who knows all and sees all, a strict account of the deeds done in the body. The looking forward to the judgment morning must surely be a spur to any faint-hearted, dispirited servant of the Lord disposed to temporise, or reluctant to face the dangers which threaten a faithful discharge of duties.

At his appearing and his kingdom.—The older authorities here—instead of the preposition “at”—read “and.” The rendering then would be: “I charge thee in the sight of God and Jesus Christ, who will judge quick and dead (I charge thee) by His appearing (epiphany) and by His kingdom,” the construction in Greek being the usual accusative of adjuration, as in Mark 5:7; Acts 19:13. So, too, Deuteronomy 4:26 (LXX.): “I solemnly charge you to-day by heaven and earth.” The passage, by this restoration of the ancient, and, at first sight, more difficult reading, gains, as we shall see, immeasurably in strength and power. “By his appearing,” or by His manifestation or epiphany, refers, of course, to the Lord’s coming a second time to judge the earth in the glory of the Father with His angels. (Matthew 16:27; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.) “And by His kingdom:” His kingdom, that kingdom is here meant which, in the words of the Nicene Creed, “shall have no end.” This glorious sovereignty of Christ is to succeed what Pearson (Creed, Article VI., p. 529, Chevallier’s edit.) calls “the modificated eternity of His mediatorship,” which will end when all His enemies shall have been subdued, and He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father. The “kingdom” here spoken of is to commence at Christ’s glorious epiphany or manifestation, when “the kingdoms of the world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). Timothy was conjured by the “appearing” of Christ when he would have to stand before Him and be judged; he was conjured, too, by “His kingdom,” in which glorious state Timothy hoped to share, for was it not promised that His own should reign with Him? (2 Timothy 2:12.) There seems in this solemn ringing adjuration something which reminds us of “a faithful saying.” The germs at least of one of the ancient creeds are apparent here, where allusion is made to God (the Father) and to Jesus Christ, the judge of quick and dead, to His coming again with glory and then to His kingdom.

Verse 2

(2) Preach the word.—The language of the original here is abrupt and emphatic, written evidently under strong emotion and with intense earnestness. St. Paul charged his friend and successor with awful solemnity, as we have seen, “preach,” or proclaim. loudly and publicly, as a herald would announce the accession of his king. The exact opposite to what St. Paul would urge on Timothy is described by Isa. (Isaiah 56:10), when he speaks of God’s watchmen as “dumb dogs, who cannot bark, sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.”

Be instant in season, out of season.—Some difference exists between commentators respecting the exact meaning to be given to the Greek word translated “be instant.” Some would give it the sense of drawing nigh to, and as it is not specified in the text to whom Timothy should draw nigh, they supply from the context “the brethren,” those to whom the word is preached: “draw near to Christian assemblies.” It seems, however, best to understand this rather difficult word as an injunction to Timothy to be earnest and urgent generally in the whole work of his ministry: “Press on, in season, out of season.”

In season, out of season.—In other words, “For thy work, set apart no definite and fixed hours, no appointed times. Thy work must be done at all hours, at all times. Thy work has to be done not only when thou art in church, not merely in times of security and peace, but it must be carried on, in the midst of dangers, even if thou art a prisoner and in chains, even if death threaten thee.”

So Chrysostom—who also uses St. Paul’s words here as an urgent call to ministers to labour on in spite of discouragement and apparent failure—telling them in his own bright, eloquent way, how fountains still flow on, though no one goes to them to draw water, and rivers still run on, though no one drinks at them.
Augustine asks and answers the question to whom “in season” and to whom “out of season” refers: “in season” to those willing, “out of season” to the unwilling. This, however, only touches a portion of the thought of St. Paul, who urges on God’s true servants a restless, sleepless earnestness, which struggles on with the Master’s work in spite of bodily weakness and discouragement, in face of dangers and the bitterest opposition.

Reprove.—Not merely those erring in doctrine, but generally those who are blameworthy: “Was tadelnswerthist.”

Rebuke.—A sharper and more severe word than the preceding. It is used by St. Jude 1:9, in his report of the words addressed by St. Michael to the devil: “The Lord rebuke thee.” It frequently occurs in the Gospels. (See, for instance, Matthew 17:18, “And Jesus rebuked the devil.”)

Exhort.—Not only is he to remember ceaselessly to watch over the flock, and to reprove and rebuke the erring and sinners, but also with no less diligence to speak comfortable words of encouragement and hope to all, especially the dispirited and sad-hearted.

With all longsuffering and doctrine.—The word translated “doctrine” signifies, rather, teaching. He must reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all gentleness and patience; and in all this he must take care that “teaching”—the teaching which is right, and true, and full of hope—accompanies his rebuke and his words of comfort.

Verse 3

(3) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.—Timothy must bear in mind that things in the Church of Christ on earth will not change for the better. The great drag-net of the Church, in its wide sweep, would keep drawing into its meshes something of every kind. Errors now just apparent, he must remember, would attain more formidable dimensions. The thirst for novelties in doctrine, the desire for a teaching which, while offering peace to a troubled conscience, would yet allow the old self-indulgent life to go on as before, would increase. In full view of this development of error, in sure expectation of a future full of anxious care, Timothy and his brother teachers must indeed be wakeful, watchful, and earnest in their preaching and ministrations. And the thought that more and ever more of the so-called Christians would dislike the preaching of the “sound doctrine,” as taught by the Apostle, the very knowledge of this growing unpopularity, must serve as an incentive to greater labour, more interest, and more loving activity on the part of Timothy and his companions.

But after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers.—“Their own lusts:” this expression gives us some insight into the reason which led to this future apostasy of so many, concerning which St. Paul warned Timothy. “Their own lusts,” which, at all risks, they would gratify, would serve to alienate them from that severe and strictly moral school of Apostolic teaching, in which the sternest morality was bound up with purity of doctrine, to which school St. Paul’s pupils—men like Timothy and the presbyters of Ephesus—belonged. These worldly ones to whom St. Paul referred, reluctant to part with the hope Christianity taught, and unwilling to live the life which St. Paul and Timothy insisted upon as necessary to be lived by all those who would share in that glorious hope, sought out for themselves more indulgent teachers, who would flatter and gratify their hearers with novelties in doctrine, and would, at the same time, lay comparatively little stress on the pure and saintly life.

Verse 4

(4) And they shall turn away their ears from the truth.—This was the punishment of those who would only listen to what was pleasing to them, and which flattered instead of reproved their way of life. They became involved in the many various errors in doctrine which were then taught in the schools of the heretics, and they ended by turning away from every Christian truth. On the “fables” which they substituted for those great and eternal truths, see 1 Timothy 1:4.

Verse 5

(5) But watch thou in all things.—“But do thou,” continued St. Paul, “do thou be watchful.” The Greek word translated “watch thou,” signifies literally, be sober. It has been well paraphrased, “Keep thy coolness and presence of mind, that thou be not entrapped into forgetfulness, but as one ever wakeful and ready, be on the watch.” The word, as it were, sums up all those last directions of St. Paul, from 2 Timothy 2:14, in which St. Paul charged Timothy to abstain from vain arguments and confine himself to the simple word of truth, to avoid discussions which would be likely to lead to strife, and to be patient and gentle with all—to separate himself from merely nominal Christians, and to keep steadily to the old paths in which the Apostles had walked. He was to be ever watchful in all these things.

Endure afflictions.—And in his watch must Timothy be ready to suffer. He would remember what had been said before respecting a true Christian suffering (2 Timothy 2:3-12), and what was the high reward purposed for such brave endurance. He would remember, too, the hard and faithful life of his master, St. Paul (2 Timothy 3:10-12).

Do the work of an evangelist.—The “evangelists” of the early Church seem to have been preachers of the Gospel: in the first place, assistants to the Apostles and missionaries under their direction. The especial functions of a preacher and public teacher seem always to have been allotted to Timothy, and, no doubt, a peculiar persuasive power of oratory was one of the chief gifts conferred on this eminent follower of St. Paul. In the midst of the many grave and absorbing duties of his charge of the Ephesian Church, he must be mindful not to neglect this great power which he possessed. It is here especially termed “the work of an evangelist,” to remind him that to perform rightly this duty, needed zeal, close work, much study, thought, and prayer; and it was by worthily performing the duties of an evangelist that the many who were turning from the truth to fables, would be best won back, by hearing the great facts of the Gospel placed side by side with the tables of the false teachers.

Make full proof of thy ministry.—In other words, “Fully carry out the many duties imposed upon thee by thy great office.” The office of Timothy, it should be remembered, in Ephesus, included far more than merely those of a preacher or evangelist. He was the presiding presbyter of the Church, to whom its government was intrusted: in fact, the many-sided life of St. Paul was now to be lived by Timothy.

Verse 6

(6) For I am now ready to be offered.—What, in the Philippian Epistle (Philippians 2:17), was alluded to as a contingency likely enough to happen here is spoken of as something which was then absolutely taking place. In his first imprisonment at Rome St. Paul looked on to a martyr’s death as probable. In his second captivity at Rome he writes of the martyrdom as already beginning. The more accurate, as well as the more forcible, translation would be, For I am already being offered. The Greek word rendered “I am being offered,” points to the drink offering of wine which, among the Jews, accompanied the sacrifice. Among the heathen this wine was commonly poured upon the burning victims—the allusion here is to St. Paul’s bloody death. So convinced was he that the dread moment for him was at hand, that as he thus speaks he feels as though it was even then taking place, and sees—in his present suffering, in his harsh treatment—the beginning of that martyrdom in which his life-blood would be poured out. But he would not allow Timothy or the many Christians who revered and loved him to be dismayed by his sufferings or shocked at his painful death. He would show them, by his calm, triumphant language, that to him death was no terror, but only the appointed passage to glory. So he speaks of his life-blood being shed, under the well-known peaceful image of the wine poured out over the sacrifice, the drink offering, the sweet savour unto the Lord. (See Numbers 15:1-10; compare John 12:24, where the Master of St. Paul, too, speaks of His approaching death of agony and shame also under a quiet, homely image.)

And the time of my departure is at hand.—“My departure:” that is. “from life,” from this world to another. The moment of my death, so long looked for, is now close at hand, is all but here. The Greek word rendered “departure,” among other meanings, signifies the raising of the ship’s anchor and the loosing of the cables by which the vessel was hindered from proceeding on her destined voyage.

Verse 7

(7) I have fought a good fight.—More accurately, more forcibly rendered, the good fight. St. Paul changes the metaphor, and adopts his old favourite one, so familiar to all Gentile readers, of the athlete contending in the games. First, he speaks generally of the combatant, the charioteer, and the runner. “I have fought the good fight,” leaving it undetermined what description of strife or contest was referred to. The tense of the Greek verb—the perfect—“I have fought,” is remarkable. The struggle had been bravely sustained in the past, and was now being equally bravely sustained to the end. His claim to the crown (2 Timothy 4:8) was established.

I have finished my course.—Or “race,” for here the image of the stadium, the Olympic race-course, was occupying the Apostle’s thoughts. Again the perfect is used: “I have finished my course.” How, asks, Chrysostom, “had he finished his course?” and answers rather rhetorically by replying that he had made the circuit of the world. The question is better answered in St. Paul’s own words (Acts 20:24), where he explains “his course,” which he would finish with joy, as the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus.

I have kept the faith.—Here, again, the metaphor is changed, and St. Paul looks back on his lived life as on one long, painful struggle to guard the treasure of the Catholic faith inviolate and untarnished (see 1 Timothy 6:20). And now the struggle was over, and he handed on the sacred deposit, safe. It is well to compare this passage with the words of the same Apostle in the Epistle to the Philippians (2 Timothy 3:12, and following verses). The same metaphors were in the Apostle’s mind on both occasions; but in the first instance (in the Philippian Epistle) they were used by the anxious, care worn servant of the Lord, hoping and, at the same time, fearing what the future had in store for him and his Church; in the second (in the Epistle to Timothy) they were the expression of the triumphant conviction of the dying follower of Christ, who had so followed his loved Master in life, that he now shrank not from following the same Master in death.

Verse 8

(8) A crown of righteousness.—More accurately rendered, the crown of righteousness. St. Paul, after speaking calmly of death, the bitterness of which he was already tasting, looks on beyond death, and speaks of the crown which awaited him. The crown was the victory prize which the “good fight” of 2 Timothy 4:7 had won. It is called “the crown of righteousness,” it being the crown to which righteousness can lay claim—that is, the crown awarded to righteousness.

Which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me.—As a righteous judge will the Lord award him the crown, recognising him as one who had the prize of victory. Not improbably, the expression “the righteous judge” was written in strong contrast to that unrighteous judge who had condemned Paul, and in accordance with whose unjust sentence he would presently suffer a painful death.

At that day.—This is the third time the words “that day” are used in this Epistle (see 2 Timothy 1:12-18). The day of judgment is, of course, signified, the day when the Lord shall come again with glory.

And not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.—Then St. Paul, instead of concluding this section of his letter with the glorious words telling of his serene courage and of his confidence in a crowned and immortal life, adds a gentle reminder to Timothy: he, too, with any others who really look for the Second Coming of the Lord, might win the same glorious crown—the sure guerdon of righteousness. The Apostle specifies here exactly the persons for whom “the crown” was reserved—those who in this life have indeed longed for the appearance of the Lord in judgment. None here could in very truth desire “His appearing,” save His own, who love Him and struggle to live His life. Calvin well remarks: “(St. Paul) excludes from the number of the faithful those to whom Christ’s coming is a source of terror.”

Verse 9

(9) Do thy diligence to come shortly.—Such a request as this would—had we no other arguments—tell us that no forger ever wrote this Epistle. Who would ever have dreamed of putting into the letter such a request as this, after those solemn expressions of the last few verses, in which the Apostle spoke of himself as even then tasting the bitterness of death? He had been writing as though the martyr’s death was so imminent that the preparations were already being made for it. This request to Timothy to come to him, after he had written such thoughts down, is at first sight strange, and one certainly which no forger would have appended to the writing. But though the forger would never have thought of such a summons, St. Paul might. He still lived, and the thought of life and the hope of life even in that brave Christ-loving heart still burned; after all, the martyrdom which seemed so close at hand might be delayed. Days, months, might drag on their slow, weary length, and still find the old man languishing and solitary in his chains in that dreary prison. He longed to see some of his faithful companions once more, and for the last time to bid them with his own mouth to be faithful and brave. So, as it were, hoping against hope, he dictates on the last pages of the letter, “Do thy diligence,” or better, “earnestly endeavour to come shortly to me.” His loving wish to see Timothy again appears from the words of 2 Timothy 1:4 : “greatly desiring to see thee;” and again from 2 Timothy 4:21. “Do thy diligence to come before winter.” And some have seen in the expression, “being mindful of thy tears,” in 2 Timothy 1:4 (to which we have given, however, a different interpretation), a reciprocal anxiety on the part of Timothy to see and speak again with his old master. But St. Paul, though he begged him to hasten his journey as much as possible, and still, though all seemed so dark around him, hoped to see him again, framed the charge of the last letter in such a way that Timothy, if when he reached Rome, should find that all was over, might know what were his master’s last wishes and directions. On the natural human longing for sympathy in the supreme hour, compare our blessed Lord’s words to Peter, James, and John (Matthew 26:38): “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me.

Verse 10

(10) For Demas hath forsaken me.—This once faithful companion of St. Paul had been with him during the first imprisonment of the Apostle at Rome (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24); but now, terrified by the greater severity and the threatened fatal ending of the second imprisonment, had forsaken his old master.

Having loved this present world.—Chrysostom paraphrases as follows: “Having loved ease and safety, chose rather to live daintily at home than to suffer affliction, than to endure hardship, with me, and with me to bear these present dangers.” The tradition, however, which relates that he became in after days an idol priest at Thessalonica is baseless. Demas is a shorter form, probably, for the well-known and now common Grecian name of Demetrius.

The present world (aiôna): that is, the present (evil) course of things.

Is departed unto Thessalonica.—From Chrysostom’s words above quoted, Thessalonica was apparently the “home” of Demas. It has been supposed, however, by some, that Thessalonica was chosen by Demas as his abode when he left St. Paul because it was a great mercantile centre, and his business connections were there, and he preferred them, the rich and prosperous friends, to St. Paul, the condemned and dying prisoner. Thessalonica was, at this time, one of the great cities of the empire. It was the most populous of the Macedonian cities, and had been chosen to be the metropolis of that great province. Before the founding of Constantinople, it was evidently the capital of Greece and Illyricum, as well as of Macedonia. It was famous throughout the Middle Ages, and is celebrated by the early German poets under the abbreviated name of “Salneck,” which as become the Saloniki of the Levant of our days. It is singular that the name of its patron saint, “Demetrius,” martyred about A.D. 290 (identified above with Demas), whose local glory (comp. Conybeare and Howson’s St. Paul, chap. 9) has even eclipsed that of St. Paul, the founder of the Church, should be identical with that of the “forsaker” of St. Paul.

Crescens to Galatia.—Nothing is known of this friend of St. Paul. One tradition speaks of him as a preacher in Galatia, and another of his having founded the Church of Vienne in Gaul. There is a curious variation in some of the older authorities here, “Gallia” being read instead of Galatia. Whether Crescens, on his leaving St. Paul, went to Galatia or Gaul is, therefore, uncertain.

Titus unto Dalmatia.—Dalmatia was a province of Roman Illyricum, lying along the Adriatic. Nothing is known respecting this journey of Titus. It was, most probably, made with the Apostle’s sanction.

Verse 11

(11) Only Luke is with me.—The “writer” of the Third Gospel, the Gospel which, as has been stated above, was very possibly the work of St. Paul—“my Gospel.” Luke, “the beloved physician” of Colossians 4:14, of all St. Paul’s companions, seems to have been most closely associated with the Apostle. Most likely this close intimacy and long-continued association was owing to the Apostle’s weak and infirm health—to that dying body—the noble Paul ever bore about with him. Luke was with St. Paul, we know, in his second missionary journey, and again in his third missionary journey; he accompanied him to Asia, and then to Jerusalem; was with him during the captivity time of Cæsarea, and subsequently of Rome, the first time St. Paul was imprisoned in the capital (Acts 18:0). After St. Paul’s death, Epiphanius speaks of him as preaching chiefly in Gaul; a very general tradition includes him among the martyrs of the first age of the Church. The name is probably a contraction of Lucanus. (See Introduction to the Acts of the Apostles.)

Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.—“But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them . . . and went not with them to the work” (Acts 15:38). There is something strangely touching in this message of the aged master to Timothy to bring with him on that last solemn journey one whom, some quarter of a century before, St. Paul had judged so severely, and on whose account he had separated from his old loved friend, Barnabas the Apostle. Since that hour when the young missionary’s heart had failed him in Pamphylia, Mark had, by steady, earnest work, won back his place in St. Paul’s heart. Barnabas, we know, when his brother Apostle rejected him, took him with him to Cyprus. After some twelve years, we find him, during the first imprisonment, with St. Paul at Rome (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24). He is mentioned (1 Peter 5:13) by the endearing term of “my son,” and the unanimous traditions of the ancient Christian writers represent him as the secretary or amanuensis of St. Peter. It was his office to commit to writing the orally delivered instructions and narrations of his master. These, in some revised and arranged form, probably under the direction of Peter himself, were given to the Church under the title of St. Mark’s Gospel. A later and uncertain tradition says he subsequently became first Bishop of Alexandria, and there suffered martyrdom.

For he is profitable to me for the ministry.—Profitable, according to the suggestion of Grotius, owing to Mark’s knowledge of the Latin tongue. This is possible; but it is more likely that he was profitable or serviceable as an assistant who was well acquainted with the details of St. Paul’s many sided work.

Verse 12

(12) And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.—Instead of “and,” the Greek particle here should be rendered “but Tychicus.” “This ‘but’ appears to refer to a suppressed thought, suggested by the concluding portion of the last (11th) verse: bring Mark. I need one who is profitable (or serviceable) for the ministry. I had one in Tychicus, but he is gone” (Ellicott). Neither the period of Tychicus’ journey nor its object is alluded to here. It probably took place some time, however, before the sending of this Epistle to Timothy. Tychicus was evidently one of the trusted companions of St. Paul. He had been with him, we know, on his third missionary journey, and had, during St. Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, some six or seven years before, been charged with a mission by his master to Ephesus. In Ephesians 6:21 he is called a beloved brother and a faithful minister in the Lord. (See, too, Colossians 4:7, where he is spoken of in similar terms.) On the city of Ephesus, see Note on 1 Timothy 1:3. It has been, with considerable probability, suggested that Tychicus had been the bearer of the first Epistle to Timothy. Between the writing of these two letters, we know, no great interval could have elapsed.

Verse 13

(13) The cloke that I left at Troas.—The apparently trivial nature of this request in an Epistle containing such weighty matter, and also the fact of such a wish on the part of one expecting death being made at all, is at first a little puzzling. To explain this seemingly strange request, some have wished to understand by “the cloke” some garment St. Paul was in the habit of wearing when performing certain sacred functions: in other words, as a vestment; but such a supposition would be in the highest degree precarious, for nowhere in the New Testament is the slightest hint given us that any such vestment was ever used in the primitive Christian Church. It is much better to understand the words as simply requesting Timothy, on his way, to bring with him a thick cloak, or mantle, which St. Paul had left with a certain Carpus at Troas. Probably, when he left it, it was summer, and he was disinclined to burden himself in his hurried journey with any superfluous things. Winter was now coming on, and the poor aged prisoner in the cold damp prison, with few friends and scant resources, remembered and wished for his cloak. It is just such a request which the master would make of his disciple, who, knowing well the old man’s frail, shattered health, would never be surprised at such a request even in an Epistle so solemn. Then too St. Paul, by his very wish here expressed, to see Timothy, as above discussed, hopes against hope that still a little while for work in the coming winter months was still before him, though he felt death was for him very near; no forger of the Epistle had dreamed of putting down such a request.

And the books.—The books were, most likely, a few choice works, some bearing on Jewish sacred history, partly exegetical and explanatory of the mysterious senses veiled under the letter of the law and the prophets, and partly historical. Others were probably heathen writings, of which we know, from his many references in his Epistles, St. Paul was a diligent student. These few choice books, it has been suggested, with high probability, St. Paul “had made a shift to get and preserve,” and these, if God spared his life yet a few short months, he would have with him for reference in his prison room.

But especially the parchments.—These precious papers, above all, would St. Paul have with him. These were, most likely, common-place books, in which the Apostle—evidently always a diligent student—had written what he had observed as worthy of especial notice in the reading of either of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, or the other books bearing on Jewish or Pagan literature and history. These precious notes were probably the result of many years’ reading and study. He would have them with him as long as life remained to him. (Compare on this strange but interesting verse Bp. Bull’s learned and exhaustive sermon: Works, vol. i. p. 240, Oxford Edition, 1846.) Erasmus remarks on this request of St. Paul: “Behold the Apostle’s goods or movables: a poor cloke to keep him from the weather, and a few books!”

A suggestion has been made that the words translated “Much learning doth make thee mad” (Acts 26:24) should be rendered, Thy many rolls of parchment are turning thy brain, and that these rolls of parchment referred to by Festus as the companions of St. Paul’s captivity at Cæsarea were identical with those parchments left with Carpus. The Greek words, however, are not the same in the two passages. Of this Carpus nothing is known.

Verse 14

(14) Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil.—Most probably, the same Alexander, mentioned in the First Epistle (1 Timothy 1:20) “as delivered to Satan,” and not improbably identical with the Alexander “the Jew” put forward by the Jews in the Ephesian tumult. (Acts 19:33-34).

It has been suggested that this Alexander, an influential Ephesian Jew, had done much injury to the cause of the Christians generally, and to St. Paul personally, with the imperial authorities at Rome.

The Lord reward him according to his works.—The older authorities read, “shall reward him . . .” The works referred to were the bitter injuries he had done to the cause of Christ, rather than to the Apostle himself.

Verse 15

(15) Of whom be thou ware also.—This Alexander was evidently then at Ephesus. That he had been at Rome, and had given evidence against St. Paul, and had argued against the defence of the Apostle, is probable. “Our words” some understand as especially referring to St. Paul’s defence before the imperial tribunal. If we identify him with the Alexander of Acts 19:33-34, then he was a Jew, one of those bitter, life-long antagonists of the Gentile Apostle who crossed his path at every step, and not improbably brought about, in the end, his death. It is an interesting suggestion which refers the connection between St. Paul and Alexander back to those days when Saul and Alexander were both reckoned as belonging to the strictest Pharisee party, determined foes to the “Nazarenes.” Saul—if we adopt this supposition—became the Apostle St. Paul of the Gentiles; Alexander remained a fanatic Jew—hence the enmity.

Verse 16

(16) At my first answer no man stood with me . . .—And then, after the mention of what his enemy had done out of hatred to the cause of Christ, the old man passed on to speak of the conduct of his own familiar friends at that great public trial before—most probably—the city præfect: Præfectus Urbi, a nominee of the Emperor Nero. No one friend stood by him; no “advocate” pleaded his cause; no “procurator” (an official who performed the functions of the attorney in an English court) helped him in arranging and sifting the evidence; no “patronus” of any noble or powerful house gave him his countenance and support. The position of a well-known Christian leader accused in the year 66-67 was a critical one, and the friend who dared to stand by him would himself be in great danger. After the great fire of Rome, in A.D. 64, the Christians were looked upon as the enemies of the state, and were charged as the authors of that terrible disaster. Nero, to avert suspicion from himself, allowed the Christians to be accused and condemned as incendiaries. A great persecution, in which, as Tacitus tells, a very great multitude of the followers of Jesus perished, was the immediate result of the hateful charge. It is most probable that St. Paul, as a famous Nazarene leader, was eventually arrested as implicated in this crime, and brought to Rome. His implacable enemies among the Jews might well have been the agents who brought this about, and Alexander of the last verse was possibly principally concerned in this matter. But St. Paul, conscious of his own great peril, knew well that to stand by him now, implicated as he was in this net-work of false accusations, would be a service of the greatest danger; so he pleads for them, these weak, unnerved friends of his, who, through no ill-will to the cause, but solely from timidity, had deserted him, remembering, no doubt, his own Master, who, too, in His hour of deadly peril, had been forsaken. (See John 16:32, “Behold the hour cometh, yea is now come, that ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and ye shall leave Me alone.”) But like his own Master, who proceeded to say, “Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me,” so St. Paul went on to tell Timothy neither was he alone, for One greater than any friend on earth stood by him.

Verse 17

(17) Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me.—Though men deserted him, yet One—even his Lord (Christ), who could do more for him than any friend, or advocate, or protector of earth—stood by him, and strengthened him by giving him courage and readiness.

That by me the preaching might be fully known.—More accurately rendered, might be fully performed: “impleatur,” as the Vulgate gives it. The strength and courage which the felt presence of his Lord gave him, enabled him on that occasion, when alone, friendless, accused of a hateful crime before the highest earthly tribunal in the capital city of the world, to plead not only for himself but for that great cause with which he was identified. He spoke possibly for the last time publicly [we know nothing of the final trial, when he was condemned] the glad tidings of which he was the chosen herald to the Gentile world. It is probable that this great trial took place in the Forum, in one of the Pauline Basilicas—so called after L. Æmilius Paulus. It is certain it was in the presence of a crowded audience. St. Paul evidently intimates this when he tells us how he spoke “that all the Gentiles might hear.” This was apparently the culminating point of St. Paul’s labours—the last stone of the laborious edifice of his life’s work. Had the courage of the Apostle of the Gentiles failed him on this most momentous occasion, the spirit of the sorely-tried Church of Rome had surely sunk, and that marvellous and rapid progress of the gospel in the West—which, in a little more than a hundred years, would make its influence felt in well-nigh every city and village of the empire—had been arrested.

And that all the Gentiles might hear.—Here alluding primarily to the crowded audience which had listened on this solemn occasion to St. Paul’s Apologia pro Christo; but there is another and deeper reference to those uncounted peoples in the isles of the Gentiles, who, by St. Paul’s work and words, would come to the saving knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus.

And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.—Expositors have, in all ages, dwelt much on the question, “Who was to be understood under the figure of the lion?” The fathers mostly believe the Emperor Nero was here alluded to. Others have suggested that St. Paul was referring to the “lions” of the amphitheatre, from whom, at all events for the time, he had been delivered. It is, however, best to understand the expression as a figurative expression for extreme danger. His Master on that dread occasion stood by him, and gave him strength and wisdom over man to speak the words of life, and delivered him for the moment out of the imminent peril threatening him, allowing him, not only to speak his Master’s words there, but also thus to write this solemn farewell charge to Timothy and the Church. That such figurative language was not unusual, compare the Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans, iii.:8, in which writing the prisoner describes his journey from Syria to Rome as one long “fight with wild beasts,” and speaks of himself as “bound to ten leopards,” thus designating his soldier guards.

Verse 18

(18) And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work . . .—Many commentators have explained these words as the expression of St. Paul’s confidence that the Lord not only had, in the late trial, strengthened His servant, and given him courage to endure, but that He would watch over him in the future which still lay before him, and would preserve him from every danger of faint-heartedness, from every risk of doing dishonour to his Master; but such an interpretation seems foreign to the spirit in which St. Paul was writing to Timothy. In the whole Epistle there is not one note of fear—nothing which should lead us to suspect that the martyr Apostle was fearful for himself. It reads—does this last letter of the great Gentile teacher—in many places like a triumphant song of death. It, therefore, appears unnatural to introduce into the closing words of the Epistle the thought of the Lord’s help in the event of the Apostle’s losing heart. Far better is it to supply after “every evil work” the words “of the enemies,” and to understand the deliverance which the Lord will accomplish for him, not as a deliverance from any shrinking or timidity unworthy of an apostle of the Lord, not even as a deliverance from the martyr-death, which he knew lay before him, but that through this very death, the Lord Jesus would deliver him from all weariness and toil, and would bring him safe into His heavenly kingdom. (See Psalms 23:4.) St. Paul before (Philippians 1:23 had expressed a longing to come to Christ through death. He then bursts into an ascription of praise to that Lord Jesus Christ whom he had loved so long and so well, and who, in all his troubles and perplexities, had never left him friendless. For a similar ascription of glory to the Second Person of the ever blessed Trinity, see Hebrews 13:21. (Comp. also Romans 9:5.)

Verse 19

(19) Salute Prisca and Aquila.—These were two of St. Paul’s earliest friends after he had begun his great work for his Master. Originally of Pontus, they had taken up their abode at Rome, where Aquila exercised his trade of a tent-maker.

Driven out of Rome by the decree of Claudius, which banished the Jews from the capital, they came to Corinth, where St. Paul became acquainted with them. But they were evidently Christians when St. Paul first met them, about A.D. 51-2. We hear of them in company with St. Paul at Corinth, about A.D. 52-3 (Acts 18:2); at Ephesus, about A.D. 55 (1 Corinthians 16:19); and in the year A.D. 58 St. Paul sends greetings to them at Rome (Romans 16:3).

They were, evidently, among the many active and zealous teachers of the first days of the faith. That they possessed great ability as well as zeal is evident from the fact that it was from them that the eloquent and trained Alexandrian master, Apollos, learnt to be a Christian (Acts 18:26). In this place, and in several other passages, Prisca (or Priscilla) is named before her husband, Aquila. This would seem to hint that in this case the woman was the principal worker of the two in the cause of Christ. She, in fact, was one of that band of devoted holy women which the preaching of Christ and His disciples had called into existence: a representative of the great class of noble female workers which had no existence before Christ told the world what was the true position of women—until the same divine Master taught them that they, too, as well as men, had a work to work for Him here.

And the household of Onesiphorus.—St. Paul may have been aware that Onesiphorus was absent then from Ephesus; but this peculiar greeting, taken together with the words of 2 Timothy 1:16, leads us irresistibly to the conclusion that this friend of St. Paul’s was dead when the Epistle was written. (See Notes on 2 Timothy 1:16.)

Verse 20

(20) Erastus abode at Corinth.—Better rendered, remained at Corinth. An Erastus is mentioned in Romans 16:23, the “chamberlain” of Corinth, one of the Christian congregation of that city. This man was probably identical with him.

Another “Eastus” appears among those who ministered to St. Paul at Ephesus (Acts 19:22). Him St. Paul sent on missionary work into Macedonia. There were, therefore, among St. Paul’s friends two men of this name: the one a resident official personage at Corinth; the other one of that band who journeyed hither and thither for the propagation of the faith.

But Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.—Trophimus, a Gentile Christian, who was with St. Paul on his third missionary journey, and whom the Apostle was accused of taking into the Temple at Jerusalem. It was this accusation on the part of the Jews which led to St. Paul’s arrest which preceded his first long imprisonment. The event here alluded to must have taken place some time after the Apostle’s release from the first imprisonment, A.D. 63, and, probably, in the course of his last journey, shortly before his second arrest and imprisonment at Rome, about A.D. 66.

Miletus (not “Miletum”), a seaport of Caria, about thirty miles from Ephesus, once a city of great renown, whence, it is said, eighty colonies had proceeded; but in the days of St. Paul its glories were already on the wane. It is now famous only for its vast ruined theatre. (See Acts 20:15.)

It has been suggested that this mention of Trophimus was intended to clear him of any neglect. “Erastus,” wrote the Apostle, “remained at Corinth; but Trophimus’ reason for not coming to Rome was his sickness.”

Verse 21

(21) Do thy diligence to come before winter. Probably this was added to hasten his coming. If he delayed, the season of the year would put off, perhaps hinder altogether, his voyage.

Eubulus greeteth thee.—Of this Eubulus nothing is known.

And Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia.—Of these, Linus was, no doubt, the first of the long line of Bishops of Rome. The date of his consecration corresponds with the year of St. Paul’s martyrdom, A.D. 66. We know, from this greeting, he was one of the few “faithful” to his old master.

It is, perhaps, fair to assume, though of course there is no certainty of this, that the consecration of Linus to the government of the Roman Church as its first Bishop was one of the dying acts done by the Apostle Paul.
Some commentators identify the other two with “Pudens and Claudia” mentioned by Martial (Epigrams, iv. 13; xi. 54). Pudens was the son of a Roman senator; to Claudia, Martial gives the name of Rufina, and states she was a Briton. The dates of the Epigrams in question would agree with the identification. It is, however, only a supposition.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/2-timothy-4.html. 1905.