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Bible Commentaries

Pett's Commentary on the Bible

2 Timothy 4

Verse 1

‘I charge (or ‘adjure’) you in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly rule,’

Paul, aware of his near demise, gives Timothy a most solemn charge. He does it as ‘in the sight of God and of Christ Jesus’, and adds to the latter’s name a description of the prime responsibility that make the true proclamation of the word of such importance. For He will one day judge the living and the dead (compare John 5:22; John 5:27; Acts 17:31; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

The charge is also given ‘by His appearing and His Kingly Rule’. It is given in the light of what the future finally holds, and therefore of the urgency of the hour. Thus he is facing Timothy up with exactly what his responsibility involved. He is acting as the servant of God and of Christ Jesus, in the light of the emergency situation.

It will have been noted that Timothy has been given a number of solemn ‘charges’ by Paul ( 1Ti 1:18 ; 1 Timothy 5:21; 1 Timothy 6:13; compare 2 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:5), but none as solemn as this, for he is conscious of the urgency of the moment (only 1 Timothy 5:21 uses the same strong verb).

‘Judge the living and the dead.’ Compare 1 Peter 4:5. These words had clearly become a formalised idea, possibly even a part of a primitive creed or hymn. They bring out that none will escape His judgment when he comes, neither those living on earth at the time, nor those who have died and gone to their graves (compare Matthew 13:41-43; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 14:10-12; Revelation 14:14-20; Revelation 20:11-15. It should be noted that while in each case the judgment is described in vivid picture form, as though it would be a physical judgment, it will in fact be spiritual, and the form it will really take is unknown to us).

‘By His appearing.’ The same word was used when the Roman Emperor visited a city. If word came that he was ‘appearing’, then great efforts would be made to ensure that everything was suitable and ready. In the same way must the Christian be preparing for His ‘appearing’, the day when His kingly glory is manifested (compare its use in 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Timothy 6:14; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:7). Alternately this may be referring to His first appearing (as in 2 Timothy 1:10), when He appeared on earth as the lowly king to be our Saviour (Matthew 1:21), with the idea that His appearing has given urgency to the situation.

‘And His kingly rule.’ This may again be referring to His final triumph as King over the everlasting kingdom, in the light of which must be determined all that we do, or it may signify His present Kingly Rule (Matthew 12:28; Romans 14:17) in the light of which we must faithfully serve Him as His subjects.

Verses 1-8

SECTION 4. Paul’s Final Charge (2 Timothy 4:1-8 ).

In some ways this could be seen as a final charge which sealed all that Paul had taught in his letters. For Paul now places on Timothy’s shoulders the responsibility to take over where he was leaving off, and teach what he has taught, the word of the truth of the Gospel. He knows that his time has come, and Timothy must therefore now recognise, along with others, that under God the future rests with him. He therefore charges him in the most solemn way to fulfil his responsibility in the preaching and teaching of the word, and the laying of a sound doctrinal foundation based on it, because he himself is now being called on to go to his reward, with his own task successfully accomplished. All now depends on the new generation of which Timothy was to see himself as an important member.

There lies in this a reminder that every great man of God will in the end be superseded. Moses had to go. Joshua had to go. Samuel had to go. David had to go. None, not even a Paul, is indispensable. Each must go on to his reward and hand over to others, and so it would be from generation to generation. There was only One of Whom that was not true. And the whole of the Gospel was founded on Him. What was passed on to others, however, as we see here, was not a status, or an office, but the responsibility to proclaim and maintain the truth of the word. Once men began to veer from that truth they ceased to be in the succession, whatever their position was.

Analysis.

a I charge you in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly rule (2 Timothy 4:1).

b Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2).

c For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3 a).

d But, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts (2 Timothy 4:3 b).

c And will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside to fables (2 Timothy 4:4).

b But you, be sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry, for I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come (2 Timothy 4:5-6).

a I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me at that day, and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Note that in ‘a’ the fact of Jesus as the Judge and ‘His appearing’ are described, and in the parallel the consequence of that judgment for Paul and a further reference to ‘His appearing’. In ‘b’ Timothy is exhorted to fulfil his ministry, and in the parallel he is exhorted to the same. In ‘c’ men will not endure sound doctrine, and in the parallel they will turn away their ears away from the truth. Centrally in ‘d’ men will heap to themselves teachers who accord with their own desires. This is the way of men. There is in the passage a total contrast between the ministries of Timothy and Paul, and the ministry of these men.

Verse 2

‘Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.’

And what is the charge? It is that he preach ‘the word’, that is, the word of the truth of the Gospel, as evidenced in the Scriptures. He is to do it constantly, both when the time appears to be right, and when it does not, and when men are listening and when they are not. As mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:16 he is to use the Scriptures in order to reprove men and women when they err (Paul saw this ministry of tender reproof as important, compare 1 Timothy 5:20; Titus 1:13; Titus 2:15), to rebuke men and women when they do wrong (a slightly more sever form of reproof), and to exhort and encourage men and women to obedience and to righteous living. It has been suggested that this signifies that he is to reprove in order to reach their reason, rebuke in order to stir their conscience and exhort in order to move their will. And he is to do it with both a caring and compassionate heart, and with sound doctrine (see 2 Timothy 4:3 for ‘sound’, and compare 2 Timothy 1:13). The especial importance of the sound doctrine is then brought out in what follows.

Verses 3-4

‘For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside to fables.’

For a time is coming when ‘they’ (those who veer from the truth - 1 Timothy 1:6, 22; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 1 Timothy 6:20 - and those who listen to them - 1 Timothy 3:6-7; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Timothy 6:21) will not be able to bear sound teaching. They will have ears that ‘itch with desire’ to learn the latest newfangled ideas (compare Acts 17:21) and want to be tickled with the latest fancy. They will want to discover some teaching that will satisfy them and yet enable them to live as they like. They will look for teachers who pander to what they want (prophets who say ‘peace, peace’ where there is no peace - compare Jeremiah 6:4; Jeremiah 8:11; Ezekiel 13:10). They will turn away their ears from the uncomfortable truth, preferring fables which sound fascinating, but make no demands on them and pander to their ‘spiritual’ taste buds. For they will not want truth, they will want what suits them. It was not difficult for Paul to foresee this, for he had already come across enough of such people himself, and was old in experience. But he was aware that young Timothy was still optimistic about reaching everyone effectively, and he wanted to ensure that he did not become disillusioned.

Verse 5

‘But as for you, be sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.’

In contrast with these people Timothy is to have his eye fixed on the truth. The word ‘sober’ signifies coolness and presence of mind, and can also signify ‘be wide awake. He must not allow his mind to wander but is to soberly come to the truth ‘in all things’, being wide awake on every count. He is to be ready to suffer hardship (compare 2 Timothy 2:3), and he must assiduously pursue his responsibility as a proclaimer of the Gospel, for this is the responsibility of all who know the truth. (We must not stereotype such terms as ‘evangelist’, even though some were especially gifted for it - Ephesians 4:11. All Christians are intended to be evangelists). And he must carry out fully the ministry that has been entrusted to him. It is a charge to full dedication.

Verse 6

‘For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come.’

The charge to Timothy is made all the more important because he himself is aware that he is coming to the end of his own ministry. He is about to be ‘offered’ (poured out as a libation - compare Philippians 2:15), for his death may be seen as a thankoffering to God, and the time for it is drawing near. It is clear that he saw his life, and indeed all Christian lives, in these terms. Compare also Romans 12:1-2 where all Christians are to see their lives as a sacrificial offering, while a libation of red wine fitted well with his expectancy of martyrdom. This would be his final offering of himself to God.

‘The time of my departure is come.’ He was sure now that his time had come. He was not expecting release. Possibly he had heard rumours, and certainly he knew that the Emperor had no time for Christians. And it may well be that it had been prophesied (compare Acts 21:4; Acts 21:10-11). The term for ‘departing’ is used of loosing a vessel from its moorings, or striking a tent. It may therefore indicate that the time had come to move on to something better. But it can also be used simply to signify death.

Verse 7

‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith,’

But he was not discouraged for he knew that in spite of his weaknesses and his failures, he had fought a good fight and had completed the race. The picture is of both a soldier and an athlete (compare 2 Timothy 2:3-5; see also 1 Corinthians 9:24-26; Hebrews 12:1-2). He had been following his own advice, and had done it successfully. But even more importantly he had ‘kept the faith’ with which he had started out, and which he had called on his lieutenants to closely guard (2 Timothy 1:13-14). Not for him a straying into false teaching or loose living. Happy the Christian who can come to the end of his life with this sense of fulfilment.

Verse 8

‘Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me at that day, and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved his appearing.’

And now all that awaits is for him to approach the great King and Judge and collect his award. The picture is of a man being honoured for having fulfilled his role. He will receive what God had purposed for him from the moment of his call (and even before), the gift of God which is finally fulfilled, complete righteousness through and through and eternal life. Some have seen it in terms of a man who is being honoured by the leaders of his country, and others in terms of an Olympic crown, and that he is being honoured because of what he has achieved. But it is clearly stated that it is not some special award only for him. It is the award which will be given to all those who ‘love His appearing’, all of whom will have achieved it. The idea of ‘loving His appearing’ does not simply mean those who are looking forward to the second coming. It refers to the servant who is faithfully working in readiness for His appearing, with the lights turned on and his sleeves rolled up as he prepares for his Lord’s coming. It is only such who can really ‘love His appearing’. Compare Luke 12:35-40; Luke 12:43-44. But in the last analysis Paul intended it to signify all Christians.

Other consider that ‘having loved His appearing’ refers to His first appearing. They rejoice because He has come and lived among us, and because they believe in Him and love Him and have responded fully to Him They will therefore receive the crown of righteousness promised to all who have loved that appearing..

‘The crown of righteousness.’ Compare ‘the crown of life’ where the crown clearly refers to what is received (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10). The thought would seem therefore to be that he was looking forward to being made holy, unblameable and unreproveable in His sight (Colossians 1:22), not only judicially but in reality. He had hungered and thirsted after righteousness and now he would be filled to the full (Matthew 5:6). At last he would really be like Christ, and would see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). Compare how the Bride will be clothed in ‘the righteousnesses of the saints’ (Revelation 19:8). All that is contrary to that will have been done away. Compare here Zechariah 3:3-5 which was a foretaste of this. Like all Christians Paul had been clothed in the righteousness of Christ at his conversion (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He had been fully accepted as righteous before God through the blood of Christ (Romans 3:24-25). But now he was to enjoy the even fuller reality of perfect through and through righteousness, as a trophy of grace made perfect. The writer in Ecclesiastes had rightly said, ‘there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and does not sin’ (Ecclesiastes 7:20). But the truth is that everyone in Heaven is righteous without exception. Along with eternal life they have received the crown of righteousness.

Others see the crown as his reward for a righteous life, but it seems to us far more probable that he was thinking of his receiving what would bring credit to his Lord. It is the spiritually immature (like the disciples had once been) and the young, who think in terms of their own level of reward. The spiritually mature are fully concerned with bringing glory to Him, for they recognise their own total unworthiness.

SECTION 5 Final Greetings And Instructions.

In these final greetings we have mainly a record of heroes of the faith. Unsung heroes, but heroes nevertheless. A few we know of but the majority are but names. And yet a number of them were Paul’s lieutenants and co-workers and humanly speaking ensured that the church became strong. It is a reminder that it is often the unknown ones to whom much is owed.

But as expressed in the hymn in 2 Timothy 2:11-13 there are not just those who are faithful. There is Demas (short for Demetrius) who seemingly shares with Phygelus and Hermogenes the disgrace of having turned away from Paul (2 Timothy 1:15). He was not faithful at that stage, but if he was a true believer God would be faithful to him, for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Was he the Demetrius of 3 John 1:12, a man restored? And there is Alexander the coppersmith, the treacherous informer and presumably denier of Christ. For him there was probably no hope (2 Timothy 2:12).

Verse 9

‘Give diligence to come shortly to me.’

Paul now calls on Timothy to come to see him urgently. It has been asked whether Paul would have written a letter like this if he had had the intention of issuing such an invitation. But quite apart from the folly of trying to read the mind of a complicated man like Paul, there are good reasons. Firstly because Paul could not be sure whether in the interval between his sending the letter and Timothy’s being able to make the trip, he himself might not be suddenly called in, tried and executed. Thus he may well have felt that the contents of the letter were so important that he had to make sure that Timothy received them whether he was able to come or not. He was not a man to take chances on such an important question. Secondly the defection of Demas (2 Timothy 4:10) might have occurred just as Paul was completing the letter resulting in an urgent need to consult with Timothy, or his earlier defection may have made Paul recognise that if the more timid Timothy was to come to see him in his prison he would need to be given some backbone in the way described in the letter. And we should note that Paul’s expression of his longing to see Timothy might itself have been seen as an invitation (2 Timothy 1:4). At a minimum that might be seen as in fact preparing us for the invitation.

Verses 9-13

The Initial List Of Heroes (2 Timothy 4:9-13 ).

The two lists of names in this passage are separated by the reference to Alexander the coppersmith and what follows. Initially the list is of his active co-workers, although the final list also appears to contain the names of two of Paul’s lieutenants, named among his friends, thus connecting the second list with the first list. It may, however, be that Erastus was now independent of Paul while Trophimus was very sick and out of action. They were not therefore at this stage under Paul’s direction.

Analysis.

a Give diligence to come shortly to me (2 Timothy 4:9).

b For Demas forsook me, having loved this present world, and went to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10).

c Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministering (2 Timothy 4:11).

b But Tychicus I sent to Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12).

a The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, bring when you come, and the books, especially the parchments (2 Timothy 4:13).

Note that in ‘a’ Timothy is to come to him as quickly as possible and in the parallel is told what to bring when he comes. In ‘b’ we learn where Paul’s lieutenants went, and the same in the parallel. Centrally in ‘c’ he describes who is with him and whose presence he desires.

Verses 9-20

Overall Analysis.

a Give diligence to come shortly to me (2 Timothy 4:9).

b For Demas forsook me, having loved this present world, and went to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10).

c Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministering (2 Timothy 4:11).

d But Tychicus I sent to Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12).

e The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, bring when you come, and the books, especially the parchments (2 Timothy 4:13).

f Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord will render to him according to his works, of whom do you also beware, for he greatly withstood our words (2 Timothy 4:14-15).

g At my first defence no one took my part, but all forsook me (2 Timothy 4:16 a).

h May it not be laid to their account (2 Timothy 4:16 b).

g But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me, that through me the message might me fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear, and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion (2 Timothy 4:17).

f The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen (2 Timothy 4:18)

e Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the house of Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 4:19).

d Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left at Miletus sick (2 Timothy 4:20).

c Give diligence to come before winter (2 Timothy 4:21 a).

b Eubulus salutes you, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brothers (2 Timothy 4:21 b).

a The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you (2 Timothy 4:22).

Note that in ‘a’ Timothy is to give diligence to come shortly to him, and in the parallel he gives him his benediction. In ‘b’ he describes absent companions and in the parallel present companions. In ‘c’ he calls on Timothy to bring Mark with him when he comes, and in the parallel urges him to come speedily. In ‘d’ he describes what happened to one fellow-worker, and in the parallel what happened to other fellow-workers. In ‘e’ he gives instruction as to things that Timothy has to do, and in the parallel does likewise. In ‘f’ he describes one who did him evil, and in the parallel says that God will deliver him from every evil work. In ‘g’ he describes how no one stood with him, and in the parallel how the Lord stood with him. Centrally in ‘h’ he prays that their failure might not be set against them.

Verse 10

‘For Demas forsook me, having loved this present world, and went to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.’

‘Demas forsook me, having loved this present world, and went to Thessalonica.’ Demas was called a fellow-labourer in Colossians 4:14. The aorist here might suggest a sudden act as a result of Paul’s being called for his first appearance as described in 2 Timothy 4:16. It might suddenly have come home to Demas that his own life may be in danger if he remained with Paul. But we are probably not to see in this a spiritual backsliding. so much as simply an act of pure cowardice. He wanted to serve Christ but he loved the present world and just did not want to die. Compare those mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:15 who were very similar. So he thought of an excuse. He felt led to go to Thessalonica to help the church there. But Paul was not deceived. He knew why he had gone.

We can compare his love for the present world with those who love Christ’s appearing in 2 Timothy 4:8. Demas was failing to be singleminded. He wanted the best of both worlds.

‘Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.’ The mention of Titus is against suggesting that they had left Paul for the same reason. These departures were thus more tactical. The churches needed them. Paul would not hold them back just for his own sake. We know nothing of Crescens, but God knew, and he is listed alongside Titus. And Galatia no doubt knew him well and thanked God for him. We know more about Titus who had at times been a companion of Paul (Galatians 2:1; Galatians 2:3), and had been sent by him earlier to sort out the difficulties with the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 7:13-14; 2Co 8:6 ; 2 Corinthians 8:16; 2 Corinthians 8:23; 2 Corinthians 12:18). Like Timothy he had received a letter from Paul while he was ministering in Crete. Now he had gone to Dalmatia. He was one of Paul’s troubleshooters.

Verse 11

‘Take Mark, and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministering.’

‘Useful for ministering’ probably means ‘is a useful man to have around because he can set his hand to anything’. Mr Unreliable who had deserted Paul and Barnabas on their first mission, had become Mr Reliable. It is a reminder that we must not always judge people by first impressions, for they can change. He too had probably written his Gospel by this time. Perhaps that is why Paul linked him here with Luke. He had also been with Paul when he wrote to the Colossians from his earlier Roman prison, and had been commended to that church. It says much for Paul that Mark had been determined to get back on good terms with him. Timothy probably had to pick him up en route to Rome.

Verse 11

‘Take Mark, and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministering.’

‘Useful for ministering’ probably means ‘is a useful man to have around because he can set his hand to anything’. Mr Unreliable who had deserted Paul and Barnabas on their first mission, had become Mr Reliable. It is a reminder that we must not always judge people by first impressions, for they can change. He too had probably written his Gospel by this time. Perhaps that is why Paul linked him here with Luke. He had also been with Paul when he wrote to the Colossians from his earlier Roman prison, and had been commended to that church. It says much for Paul that Mark had been determined to get back on good terms with him. Timothy probably had to pick him up en route to Rome.

Verse 12

‘But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.’

Tychicus was another faithful lieutenant. He had been Paul’s messenger entrusted with the delivery of the letters to the Colossians (Colossians 4:7), and the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:21). Possibly he also brought Paul’s letter to Timothy and was to take his place. That would explain why mention of him is immediately followed by the request for the cloak, books and parchments, all being a part of the arrangements for Timothy.

Verse 13

‘The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, bring when you come, and the books, especially the parchments.’

Meanwhile Paul wants his cloak, his papyrus books and parchments. The parchments were probably some at least of the Hebrew Scriptures. The books may have been Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels. The cloak may have been a favourite one, or indeed his only one, left behind when he was arrested, or he may just have been cold and the cloak an especially thick one.

Verse 14

‘Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord will render to him according to his works,’

Alexander was such a common name (which is why he is described as ‘the coppersmith’), that identification with other Alexanders mentioned elsewhere must be seen as uncertain. The evil that he did to Paul would seem to be connected in some way with his trial, for the description of that follows immediately. The Greek for ‘did me much evil’ is endeiknumi. It literally means ‘to show or demonstrate’, and was in fact often used to indicate the laying of information against a man by an informer. Informers were common in Rome at this time, being encouraged by the authorities, and those who bore a grudge would often inform on their neighbours, not necessarily honestly. It may well be that Alexander was a renegade co-worker of Paul, (a Judas), who went to the magistrates and laid false information against him, seeking to bring about his downfall because he had offended him in some way. Paul commits judgment on him to the Lord, for he is one who has denied the Lord (2 Timothy 2:12 b). Compare Psalms 62:12 which was probably in Paul’s mind.

Verses 14-18

Paul Describes His Preliminary Appearance Before The Roman Court (2 Timothy 4:14-18 ).

We must ask why Alexander the coppersmith is brought in here in the middle of the list of greetings, and at the end of the description of what had happened to Paul’s lieutenants and co-workers. It is quite possible that he had been another co-worker of Paul’s but had become a turncoat. Mention of him then leads naturally into the description of Paul’s preliminary hearing.

We should note here that Paul appears, like Jesus had done before him, to very much have in mind Psalms 22:0 as he faces his suffering. He is conscious that he is ‘filling up on his part that which is behind in the sufferings of Christ’ (Colossians 1:24). Compare for example the following:

· ‘All who see me laugh me to scorn’ -- ‘All forsook me.’

· ‘Nor has He hid His face from him’ -- ‘the Lord stood by me.’

· ‘There is none to help’ -- ‘no one took my part’.

· ‘Save me from the mouth of the lion’ -- ‘I was rescued from the mouth of the lion.’

· ‘All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord’ -- ‘that the Gentiles might hear it.’

· ‘The Kingly Rule is the Lords’ -- ‘The Lord will save me for his heavenly Kingly Rule.’

Analysis.

a Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord will render to him according to his works, of whom do you also beware, for he greatly withstood our words (2 Timothy 4:14-15).

b At my first defence no one took my part, but all forsook me (2 Timothy 4:16 a).

c May it not be laid to their account (2 Timothy 4:16 b).

b But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me, that through me the message might me fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear, and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion (2 Timothy 4:17).

a The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen (2 Timothy 4:18).

Note that in ‘a’ evil (kakos) was done to him, and in the parallel he is confident that he will be delivered from every evil work (ergou ponerou). In ‘b’ no one took his part at his defence, and in the parallel the Lord took his part. Centrally in ‘c’ he prays that those who failed him might not have it laid to their account.

Verse 15

‘Of whom do you also beware; for he greatly withstood our words.’

But he warns Timothy to beware of him because he was a troublemaker, and had testified against Paul, or had spoken contrary to his proclamation at his trial. Or perhaps had generally become a rival in opposition to his ministry.

Verse 16

‘At my first defence no one took my part, but all forsook me. May it not be laid to their account.’

Paul refers here to a preliminary hearing, and probably to an initial examination before a wider audience, a kind of show trial. Compare that before Herod Agrippa in Acts 25:12 to Acts 26:32. Rome had been intending to have fun at Paul’s expense, but as he had done previously, Paul turned the situation around, and made it a Gospel opportunity.

‘All forsook me.’ None could be found among the Christians in Rome to testify on his behalf. This might also be seen as pointing towards an unusual form of public trial of which they were wary. Or it may indicate how dangerous it had become for Christians to be involved in the justice system in Rome under Nero. They had welcomed this famous man, and had probably ensured his provisioning. The greetings that follow (2 Timothy 4:21) confirm that they visited him and were on good turns with him. But when it came to the crunch, appearing before a Roman court as a witness for the defence in Rome under Nero had seemed too dangerous.

It should be noted that these facts, combined with the attitudes of Demas in 2 Timothy 4:10 and of the two mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:15, bring out the sense of fear that had permeated the Christian church as a result of the activities and influence of Nero which had become known throughout the empire. We may ask why Luke did not stand with him. But Luke in fact may well have not been acceptable to the court as a witness. It may well be that he had been able to stay with Paul continually by posing as his slave, for a Roman citizen awaiting trial was allowed two slaves to minister to his needs. A man’s slave would not be seen as an acceptable or reliable witness.

‘May it not be laid to their account.’ Paul’s gracious prayer is that God would overlook what they had failed to do. He is concerned for them rather than being bitter against them. He understands their weakness.

Verse 17

‘But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me, that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear, and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.’

But the Lord had proved more than sufficient for Paul. He had stood by him. He had been with him and had strengthened him, and Paul had thus been able to witness boldly to the gathered Gentiles, fully proclaiming the Christian message in front of them all. This was in fact one way by which Jesus had said that God would reach prominent Gentiles, ‘yes, and you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles’ (Matthew 9:18. Compare also Mark 13:9; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11-12). There may in ‘all the Gentiles might hear’ be a reflection of these words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew, as he points out how the Lord’s words were fulfilled in the reaching of the Gentiles by testifying before their leaders. Furthermore the transcripts of trials might well often have become public knowledge, and the trial of so prominent man as Paul had become might well have become a talking point on a wide scale. Or it may simply be that the preliminary hearing was open to all and well attended.

On the other hand it may be that ‘that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear’ reflects his feeling that now, by his testimony before these Gentiles in Rome, he has capped off and fulfilled his ministry as the Apostle to the Gentiles (see Romans 1:5 where ‘all the Gentiles’ is also used). He had proclaimed the message of the Gospel throughout the empire, and now he was proclaiming it at its centre. It had thus been fully proclaimed. Now ‘all the Gentiles’ had heard (compare the thought in Romans 1:8).

‘And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.’ Being ‘delivered out of the mouth of the lion’ may have become a popular way among Christians of describing rescue from adversity, taking into account Psalms 22:21 and on the basis of what had happened to Daniel (compare Daniel 6:16-24). Alternatively the thought here may have been of the Devil seen popularly as a roaring lion (compare 1 Peter 5:8). Or it may have been an indirect way of referring to Nero. Paul would hardly wish to mention him by name in case his letter was intercepted.

Verse 18

‘ The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.’

Paul was quite confident in the delivering power of the Lord. He had delivered him, and He would deliver him again (compare 2 Corinthians 1:10). Whatever men might do to him, God would deliver him from all the evil that they planned and ‘save him (keep him safe) unto His heavenly Kingly Rule’. He would ‘keep what he had committed to Him against that Day’ (2 Timothy 1:12). He had no doubt about his eternal destiny. He was not here speaking about earthly deliverance, but about final deliverance, as ‘keep me safe unto His heavenly Kingly Rule’ makes clear. The certainty of it moved his soul, and he added, ‘to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.’

Verse 19

‘Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the house of Onesiphorus.’

Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila were old friends from his missionary days (see Acts 18:2; Acts 18:18; Acts 18:26; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19). They had for a time been co-workers but operated more independently. The whole household of Onesiphorus were among those who gave Paul full support (2 Timothy 1:16-18).

Verses 19-22

Final Explanations and Greetings (2 Timothy 4:19-22 ).

Having previously explained what had happened to his lieutenants and fellow-workers, who would all have been known to Timothy, Paul now moves to a wider circle.

Analysis.

a Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the house of Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 4:19).

b Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left at Miletus sick (2 Timothy 4:20).

c Give diligence to come before winter (2 Timothy 4:21 a).

b Eubulus salutes you, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brothers (2 Timothy 4:21 b).

a The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you (2 Timothy 4:22).

Note that in ‘a’ Timothy is to pass on a salute, and in the parallel he salutes Timothy. In ‘b’ he describes his companion who are not with him, and in the parallel describes those who are. Centrally in ‘c’ he asks that Timothy will come before winter.

Verse 20

‘Erastus remained at Corinth: but Trophimus I left at Miletus sick.’

Erastus is mentioned in Acts 19:22 as a co-worker with Timothy, and his whereabouts would thus have been of interest to him. It may be that he had taken up an independent ministry in Corinth as he is not mentioned in the list of lieutenants in 10-12/14. Trophimus was out of action. He was an Ephesian. Compare for his relationship with Paul, Acts 20:4; Acts 21:29. He was one of those who had helped to bring the collection to Jerusalem, and had seemingly been subsequently with Paul. It is interesting that with Paul the wonder worker there he had had to be left at Miletus, clearly very sick. The early days when all were healed have been left behind.

Verse 21

Eubulus salutes you, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brothers.

These final names are probably those of members of the churches in Rome, after which the greetings of the whole church is mentioned (‘all the brothers and sisters’). They are added with him in his final salute. A Linus was later mentioned by Irenaeus as having been a prominent ‘overseer’ (bishop) at Rome.

Verse 21

Eubulus salutes you, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brothers.

These final names are probably those of members of the churches in Rome, after which the greetings of the whole church is mentioned (‘all the brothers and sisters’). They are added with him in his final salute. A Linus was later mentioned by Irenaeus as having been a prominent ‘overseer’ (bishop) at Rome.

Verse 22

‘The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.’

The final salute is in two parts, the first directed to Timothy, the second to the whole church. To Timothy he seeks to bring home the intimacy of his Lord with him. It is the Lord Himself Who is with his spirit, Christ in him. How then can he faint or fail? The greeting to the church wishes for them the unmerited favour and gracious working of a gracious God. With these words the Pauline letters are complete.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/2-timothy-4.html. 2013.