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Bible Commentaries

Grant's Commentary on the Bible

2 Timothy 4

Verses 1-22

The apostle writes this last chapter with a deepening sense in his soul of the nearness of his martyrdom; and it is most precious to observe how the solemnity of his charge to Timothy is mingled with a vibrant, untarnished joy, such as the Lord Jesus urged upon His disciples in Luke 10:20: "But rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." No shadow of fear or of disappointment passes over his soul, no matter how sad has been the havoc wrought in the testimony of the assembly. Yet he does not minimize this at all, but prophetically exposes the dreadfulness of the eventual tide that would turn men from the truth; and therefore earnestly charges Timothy to "Preach the Word, be urgent in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."

This charge is before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, He who is about to judge the living and the dead at His appearing and kingdom. Let our energies and zeal be directed consistently with that perfectly righteous and discerning judgment, rather than to allow ourselves to be identified with that which will then merit such stern judgment at His hands. The living will be judged at His appearing, as the Tribulation comes to an end: the dead of course one thousand years later, at the Great White Throne, the Son of Man reigning in His kingdom, bringing every enemy into subjection before delivering up the kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).

Timothy was to be urgent "in season, out of season," whether men felt it to be timely or not: when dreadful danger is imminent, it is no time to be waiting on mere formality. The same Word that has reproved him he is to use for the reproof of others. Reproof seems more properly personal, while a rebuke may very likely be public (1 Timothy 5:20) and more sharp. But with this, Timothy was also to "encourage," and "with all longsuffering," not allowing impatience to hinder his effectiveness; and with "doctrine," always using the sound basis of Scripture teaching to produce results, not by any means resorting to substitutes of human reasoning and rationalization. But the encouraging here follows reproof and rebuke; for if one were willing to take to heart the former two, then to pour in the encouragement of the Word would be most essential. In a day when many voices unite in strong efforts to discourage souls from any path of real devotedness to God, how vital is this matter of encouraging, and indeed so much the more as we see the Day approaching.

In this way Timothy was to act to protect souls in view of dangers threatening, which the apostle knew would develop in apostasy. Today the time has come when "they will not endure sound doctrine," but with itching ears heap to themselves teachers of any kind except those sober and solid. Even Christians are deceived by new, sensational things that leave out the sound doctrine of the Word. But let us notice that it is really because "their own lusts" are involved: it is what the flesh desires. And they become as those infatuated with a diet of wine and pastry, so that the healthy, solid food of the Word is turned from. "Fables," mere empty fascinations of the imagination, take the place of truth. How great the need for an epistle of this kind today!

Whatever others might do, Timothy was to watch in all things; and a watchman must be prepared for danger from any direction. And passive, patient endurance of afflictions was to be accompanied by the active doing of the work of an evangelist. No doubt the pressures of work among the saints, and the many demands this might make upon his time, would tend to hinder the carrying of the message of grace to the perishing; and this urgent reminder was necessary for him, and for us. Though he was possibly not gifted particularly as an evangelist, yet as he saw the need, he could do as much good work in this way as he was able. Is it not a message for every believer? He ought to fully prove in experience for the sake of others, the value of the ministry God had given him. A similar exhortation is found in Colossians 4:17: "And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it."

But there is more urgent occasion for Paul's so exhorting Timothy: Paul himself was remaining no longer on earth to do such work. Verse 6 is more correctly translated, "For I am already being poured out, and the time of my departure is come" (Numerical Bible of F. W. Grant). It was as though he was a drink offering, poured out upon the infinitely greater offering of his Lord, signifying his joy in this One who was the true meal offering, whose perfection and beauty shine so brightly even in suffering and martyrdom. For the drink offering was evidently poured out upon the meal offering (Exodus 29:40-41).

There is no hint of disappointment or regret in prospect of his death, but fresh, vibrant joy. He had "fought the good fight," not "a good fight," as though drawing special attention to his own fighting; but the fight in which all Christianity is engaged, as against evil and for the glory of God: his fighting in this engagement was about to conclude. He had finished the course, he had kept the faith. He is not saying how well he had fought, nor how well he had run in the racecourse, nor how well he had kept the faith: these things God would estimate. But there was no other good fight, no other proper course, no other true faith except Christianity. In this he had continued to the finish.

A crown of righteousness awaited him therefore: he could lay down his life in calm assurance of this, that the Lord, the righteous Judge, would give this to him at that day. It is the day of His appearing, of course, when He will take His rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords. It is evident too that this crown is not for outstanding accomplishments in the fight or the race, for it is given not only to Paul, but to all them also who love the appearing of the Lord. The anticipation of such a crown however will be more precious to one whose undivided object on earth is to honor the Lord Jesus. It would seem the crown of righteousness would compare withPhilippians 3:9; Philippians 3:9: "The righteousness which is of God by faith." Certainly also every true believer loves the appearing of the Lord, however little he may understand about any distinction between the rapture of saints before the Tribulation and the appearing in glory with the saints. Similarly, Hebrews 9:28 tells us that "Unto them who look for him shall he appear the second time." It is certainly for all saints that this is true, for all look for Him, however little they may understand about His coming.

Verse 9 shows that Paul evidently longed for the company of his beloved child Timothy before he was taken from the earth: of course in Chapter 1:4 he had said so. For Demas had forsaken him, having loved this present world. How sad an observation! We cannot conclude that Demas had turned from Christianity, for he had gone to Thessalonica, where was a thriving gospel witness; but he was avoiding suffering with the apostle, and sought a more pleasant life in the world. The meaning of his name is "popular," and no doubt significant, for desire for popularity will not lead one into the same path as Paul. Crescens had gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia, for what reasons he does not say, so that any questions that may arise in our minds must remain unanswered. But he adds, "Only Luke is with me." How good to see this devoted man, "the beloved physician," remaining steadfast through all the years. His character seems humble, consistent, one who deeply valued the grace of God.

But most precious here is Paul's instruction that Timothy take Mark and bring him to Paul. He had once departed from Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:13), when there was danger of reproach and suffering; and Paul would afterward (inActs 15:36-40; Acts 15:36-40) not consent to his accompanying them on another journey. Barnabas, Mark's uncle, so resisted this that he withdrew from Paul and took Mark with him to Cyprus. Scripture gives no further history of Barnabas at all; but it is clear in our present verse that Mark had been so recovered that Paul would desire his presence in Rome at a time when sternest trial and suffering could be expected, and could add, "For he is profitable unto me for the ministry." It seems unquestionable that Paul's faithfulness toward him inActs 15:1-41; Acts 15:1-41 (though possibly resented at first) had resulted in his eventual restoration and strengthening.

But Tychicus Paul had sent to Ephesus, and no doubt for a spiritual reason more important than that he should stay with Paul. If all in Asia (Ephesus included) had turned away from Paul (ch. 1:15), then Paul must have had confidence in this beloved servant, that he would at least teach Paul's doctrine though in opposing circumstances. How precious to see too that though these had turned away from Paul, yet he would not by any means give them up.

Verse 14 shows that Timothy was to care for the physical and temporal welfare of Paul. With winter coming, the cloak would be greatly needed in his prison cell. "The books" too are manifestly not the Scriptures, but doubtless other books of value, for the parchments were even more important to Paul than were the books. The parchments would no doubt be the unused material for his own writing. He desired this even though death was very near: his diligent service would continue to the end. But Paul did not discard all other books because of his devotion to the Word of God: they too were of profit in their place, if indeed the proper kind of books. It is a good reminder to us that written ministry may be of much value, if it is subject to the Word itself.

The nearness of Paul's martyrdom only adds to the sad solemnity of verse 14. Alexander had been delivered unto Satan because of his blasphemy, put outside the fellowship of saints, with the hope of his self-judgment (1 Timothy 1:20). But there had manifestly been no recovery, but the opposite: he did Paul much evil. It is not however that Paul is wishing the Lord's judgment upon him; but rather as a faithful man of God he pronounces the solemn prophecy, "The Lord will reward him according to his works." The meaning of Alexander's name seems most significant: "man defender." It will be of no avail to defend man in the flesh against the Living God. Paul's doctrine had exposed man in the flesh, and brought him to nothing, while exalting the person of Christ and giving believers a place "in Christ" above all fleshly position and dignity. And many Alexanders dispute Paul's doctrine today. Timothy is warned to beware of him, for he had greatly opposed the truth given by the apostles.

But there were other pressures too upon Paul's shoulders. The calmness of his peace and joy in the Lord is all the more precious for this: he had stood alone before the ungodly Gentile power, Nero; for in having to answer to him, none had stood with him. He does not complain of his loneliness, however: instead he expresses the heartfelt desire that God would not hold others chargeable for this neglect: it is their own spiritual welfare he is still most concerned about. Yet what faithful believer, if he could have been there, could have felt it right not to stand with Paul?

"Notwithstanding," he adds, "the Lord stood with me and strengthened me." Precious consolation, to more than make up for every other deprivation! And let us mark this, that Paul says nothing of being on the defensive on this occasion, but in fact boldly took the positive action of fully preaching the truth of Christ before the great Gentile court. Such is the power given as a result of any real sense of the Lord's standing with the servant. And he was delivered out of the mouth of the lion, that is, from the Satanic enmity which was moving strongly in the secular power.

With unshaken confidence therefore he faces the future. The Lord would deliver him from every evil work. He certainly did not mean he would be spared from dying a martyr's death, but that even this was to him only a minor incident in view of the delivering grace of the Lord Jesus. It was His heavenly kingdom he anticipated, and for this he would be fully preserved, by Him "to whom be glory and honor forever and ever." What a contrast to the shame and dishonor Paul had willingly borne for His sake!

Verse 19 seems to infer that Timothy was still at Ephesus at this time, for this was evidently the home of Onesiphorus (ch. 1:16-18), and the location of Priscilla and Aquilla on this last notice of them (Acts 18:24; Acts 18:26). If so, Timothy would surely welcome the coming of Tychicus. But this chapter shows the genuine interest of Paul in his fellow laborers, and which he knows Timothy shares. Erastus had remained at Corinth, where he was doubtless needed; but Trophimus Paul had left at Miletum sick, rather than exercise the gift of miraculous healing in his case. Neither did Paul make any suggestion of this in the case of Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25-30.

The apostle makes one last pressing request that Timothy be diligent to come before winter. Not only would he require the cloak for the cold, but he longed for Timothy's fellowship, and the time of his own departure was near. He sends greetings from four saints in particular, and "all the brethren." Doubtless Timothy was acquainted with the four. The closing expression is unusual, "The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit," for it was his spirit that needed strengthening, not his soul. Finally, "Grace be with you:" it is this alone that would lift him above the circumstances that tried him.

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/2-timothy-4.html. 1897-1910.