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The Apostle is here closing his Epistle, and, therefore, impresseth his Exhortations on Timothy, with the tenderest Affection. He speaks of several who were Enemies to the cross; and sends his Salutations to several, who were Friends: and concludes with his usual Apostolic Blessing, in praying for Grace.
(1) ¶ I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; (2) Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (3) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (4) And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (5) But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
I pray the Reader to remark, the earnestness, with which Paul charged Timothy, on this momentous ground, to be faithful, and diligent in his ministry. Though Timothy was very dear to Paul; yet the Lord Jesus Christ, and his cause, was infinitely dearer. And, let the Reader yet further remark, in what a solemn manner the Apostle introduceth the Lord, both Father and Son, including the Holy Ghost, who is the Almighty Speaker by Paul, as looking on, while he thus chargeth Timothy to faithfulness. Yea, he seems by his expression, as if he had brought this young man before the presence of the Lord, and then bids him behold, who were witnesses to this renewed Ordination! Oh! that God the Holy Ghost would carry the conviction of this solemn scripture, to the consciences of those, who run unsent of God; that the awful prospect of His coming to judge the quick and dead at his appearing, might stop the mouths of them, who serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own bellies! Romans 16:18 .
And, while the Reader particularly noticeth the Apostle's charge to the faithful Preacher; let him no less observe, the special cause, for giving a command so earnest in relation to the people. The time will come, (saith Paul,) when they will not endure sound doctrine. What an awful account. We read in the Old Testament scripture of some, who said to the Prophets: prophecy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophecy deceits. Isaiah 30:10 . But here seems, if possible, a more awful delusion, when the sound doctrines of the Gospel, men will not hear, nor endure. It is worthy the Reader's observation, that the Lord Jesus himself, in allusion to the latter-day dispensation, declared, the delusion should be so great, that had not the Lord shortened it, no flesh could be saved. But, saith Jesus, (and a sweet saying it is, to the Lord's people,) for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. Mark 13:20 . Paul, in taking leave of the Church at Ephesus, beheld; with great concern, the alarming times of the latter-day heresies. Acts 20:25 , to the end.
Let the Reader observe further on this subject, that when the Apostle spake of a time that would come, when men would not endure sound doctrine, he then spake of a distant day. But if we consider the signs of the present time, that day is actually come. Surely it is impossible for any child in grace, to contemplate the circumstances going on in the Churches professing godliness, and where the Gospel is repeatedly said to be preached; without being struck with the most palpable conviction, that men do not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts, are heaping to themselves teachers having itching ears.
If there be a doctrine of the Gospel of Christ, more eminently to be insisted upon, one than another, in being the bottom, and foundation of every other; surely, the everlasting love of God in the choice of his Church in Christ, is that doctrine. For from hence ariseth the redemption of the Church by Christ, from the Adam-fall of sin: and the regeneration of the Spirit, by God the Holy Ghost. In short, all, and everyone of the momentous doctrines of grace, are the result of this first, pre-disposing, and eternal love of God to the Church in Christ, before all worlds. Ephesians 3:9-11 . As such, can it be otherwise supposed, than that this glorious, fundamental article of our most holy faith, should be the constant, unwearied subject of every Preacher's discourse; and the joy of every hearer's heart, in all Churches of the Saints? From hence, as from a foundation, all the after-building in grace, must arise. And to this, every wise master builder, (as Paul calls preachers,) hath respect, as forming the basis of the whole superstructure. Could it ever have been supposed then, that any age of the Church, would be found, that would go off this foundation? Yes! saith the Holy Ghost, the time will come, when they will not endure sound doctrine. That time is indeed now come; and come with such awful forerunners of evil, that the grand Truths of our holy faith, are frittering away, so as by many to be nearly given up. The glorious doctrines of election; redemption solely by Christ, as a finished salvation; and the Person, Godhead, and Ministry of the Holy Ghost: these Truths are seldom spoken of by some, and relinquished by others. Nay, the departure from sound doctrine, hath been so great, that in the self-importance of vain minds, some have gone so far, as to form comparative statements, between the doctrines of election, predestination, the atonement, and the like; and what they call other topics, and in their view, of a supposed equally important nature, that in the presumption of their minds they have turned the attention of the faithful to the former, as disproportioned.
Alas! what blind leaders of the blind, must such men be! And what a leanness of soul must be found, in the congregations, where such men minister? For what proportion (to use their own words) can there be, between the drops of the bucket, and the ocean; or the small dust of the balance, and the whole earth? And yet, far less must there be, between the glorious purposes of Jehovah, in his electing love of his Church in Christ; than all the counsels, wills, and works of men, and angels, to all eternity. But such men see it not. And hence neither they, nor their congregations, can endure sound doctrine. The itching ears of the one, and the unhumbled pride of the other, are in quest of somewhat, which shall gratify the lusts of both. The lust of the Pharisee, is satiated, in the compliment paid to his self-righteousness; and the lust of the Professor is not less indulged, in the having a name to live, while virtually dead before God. And both Preacher, and Hearer, sit down in the complacency of their own self-importance.
Reader! I pray you to pause over the awful prospect Persons of the complexion I am adverting to, with confidence tell us, that the piety of our days is reviving. Whereas, God the Holy Ghost speaketh expressly, that in the last days perilous times shall come. And the Son of God hath left upon record, that so general will be the apostacy of the last days, that if it were possible, they should deceive even the very elect. Mark 13:2 . If these men were taught of God, and acquainted with the plague of their own heart these things alone would be enough to convince them of their error. But, alas! they are too full of self-importance. Paul's charge to Timothy, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, to be instant in season, and out of season, and to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all long suffering and doctrine, (which implies much opposition to a faithful ministry,) they know not. The fashionable congregations they address, according to their system, require neither reproof nor rebuke. And thus for the most part such men live, and, it is to be feared, too often die, full of their own good deeds, and literally strangers to their own corruptions before God.
But, what a blessed relief hath God the Holy Ghost given, to the alarming view of such men, in the short, but sweet portrait he hath drawn, by the Apostle, of what form the outlines of a faithful servant of Christ. But watch thou in all things; endure afflictions; do the work of an Evangelist: make full proof of thy ministry. Without entering into all the parts of the ministerial character, which would form a volume, rather than to be comprized within the limits of a short observation, which this work can only allow; suffer me to ask, what afflictions from men, would the work of an Evangelist bring upon a preacher, whose chief bent is to compliment his hearers? And what watchings do those men go through, for the souls of the people, who know nothing of the doubts, and fears, and spiritual distresses, of exercised believers? What full proof can they give of their ministry, whose services are confined to the pulpit? Paul, who recommends this conduct to Timothy, and who preached the sound doctrines of election, redemption, and regeneration, continually; was himself a living example of what he enjoined. He entered into the spiritual concerns of all the Lord's people, and made their case his own. Who is weak (saith he) and I am not weak? Who is offended and I burn not? 2 Corinthians 11:29 . Faithful servant of Jesus! Hadst thou lived in these days, what burning of soul wouldest thou have felt, at the conduct of those, who, though professing Christ, cannot endure sound doctrine!
(6) For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. (7) I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (8) Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
It appears very plain, that Paul knew his departure was near. And it is also very plain, he knew that he should finish his course by martyrdom. But what a firmness of mind he manifested in the prospect. He had before said, Christ should be magnified in his body, whether by life, or death. Philippians 1:20 . And now the hour is arrived. He reviews the past, and contemplates what is to come. And, under the conscious assurance of an oneness and interest in Christ, he triumphs, in having fought the good fight of faith. I pray the Reader to notice this. The fight of faith, and the victory of faith, are both in, and from Christ. Paul utters not a word of his services, or labors, or sufferings. He well knew, that these added not an atom, to his acceptance before God. Christ, and Christ alone, was Paul's triumphs. Sweet, and precious consideration, to the child of God.
In like manner, the crown of righteousness laid up for him, was not for services, or sufferings, but wholly the respect of the free gift of God in Christ; and Christ's right, and the believer's right, from his union, and interest in Christ. And I pray the Reader particularly to notice the Apostle's expressions. He doth not merely call it a crown, neither a crown of glory, but a crown of righteousness. And, no doubt, eminently on this account; because it is Christ's due for his people, though not their's. Christ had purchased it for them, though to them it comes free. And it is but just in God, the righteous God, to give it to them as Christ's right, though on their part, they have no pretensions to it from their own merit. Reader there is a great sweetness in this view. As sinners, all we have given to us, is God's free grace. But, as members of Christ, we have a claim to what is Christ's right. And it is, therefore, a crown of righteousness, to which all his redeemed family are justly entitled, by the blood-shedding, obedience, and death, of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And, there is one point more, which must not be overlooked, in this sweet scripture. Paul saith, that this crown of righteousness, is not laid up only for him; but for all them that love the Lord's appearing. Oh! how very blessed is this assurance. And who is there among the truly regenerated in the Lord's family, but what doth love his appearing? True, the moment is solemn. The first view of Jesus, on the spirit departing from the body, must be indeed overwhelming. But yet, there is glory in it. We then see him face to face, whom by faith we have often looked at, and loved with a joy unspeakable, and full of glory. Still, the sight will be more rapturous, than confounding. We shall see him, as he is. And that is all lovely. And, if we love his appearing now, we shall love his appearing then. If Christ in his ordinances, Christ in his visits, Christ in his work on poor sinners, and manifestations to his saints; if these are appearings, in which our souls rejoice; this is to love his appearing in grace, and very sure, all such must love his appearing in glory. Precious Jesus! keep my soul alive, in the daily expectation of thy coming!
(9) ¶ Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: (10) For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. (11) Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. (12) And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. (13) The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments. (14) Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: (15) Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. (16) ¶ At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. (17) Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. (18) And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (19) Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. (20) Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. (21) Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren. (22) The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.
What is here said of Demas, may be said, and must be said, of all mere nominal professors, who follow Christ only for a name, and were never regenerated, and called by God. If the Reader would learn, under the Lord, to form this one estimate, for ascertaining real, from mere formal godliness; it would enable him, both for himself, and for all around him, to discern him that serveth God, from him that serveth him not: I mean, by the regeneration of the heart. Where the Holy Ghost hath wrought this saving work upon the spirit; there the Lord dwells forever. And none of this description, shall ever, Demas - like, forsake the Lord finally. Sweetly the scriptures bear testimony to this safety, when saying: Though he fall, he shall not utterly be cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. Psalms 37:24 ; Jeremiah 32:40 .
What a blessed improvement the Apostle makes, from the defection of men, to remark the faithfulness of the Lord. It is sweet, yea, very sweet, from creature unkindness, to learn to value more Creator, and Redeemer love. Paul, no doubt, felt the wound at such a season, when he stood to answer for his life. But it afforded only greater blessedness, from the Lord's personal grace, and mercy. I hardly think it necessary to remind the Reader, of an infinitely greater than Paul, who at the hall of Pilate was treated thus by his disciples, when all forsook him and fled. Precious Jesus! preeminent in all things: sufferings, as well as glory. Reader! there is a time coming, when all friends, however reluctantly on all sides, must leave both you, and me, and we must stand alone before God. I mean, when the Lord shall undress our earthly tabernacle at death. Oh for grace now, to say then: Notwithstanding, the Lord will stand by me, and strengthen me; notwithstanding all my unworthiness, and undeservings; Jesus's Person, blood and righteousness, will be my strength and my song, for he is my salvation. Isaiah 12:0 .
I do not think it necessary, to dwell with enquiries about any of those persons the Apostle noticeth in the close of this Epistle. They are all passed away in the flood of time, and their dwelling place, like the flower of the field, knoweth them no more. Sweetly the Apostle folds up his Epistle, as I pray God, may be my portion, in the close of life: The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit: Grace be with thee. Amen.
ALMIGHTY God and Father! may all, whom the Holy Ghost hath made ministers in the service of the Church of Jesus, hear the solemn charge of Paul to Timothy, to prompt to faithfulness in their high calling. And, no less, Almighty Jesus! may the sure expectation of thy appearing, and thy kingdom, to judge the quick and dead, awaken such, to be diligent in thy service to thy coming. Lord! give them grace to preach the word, and to be constant, in season, out of season; and especially in these awful times, when the way of truth is evil spoken of, and men will not endure sound doctrine. And, oh! thou blessed, and Almighty Spirit of all truth, do thou guard, and guide, lead, and instruct all thy family; that the hearts of thy people, may not be turned unto fables.
Blessed be a faithful Covenant-God in Christ, for the fulfillment of his faithful promise, in the instance of Paul, in giving such a pastor, after his own heart. The Church of God bless the Lord for this man's services, in all his past labors; and in all his future usefulness. Oh! grant, Lord, that all thy faithful, whether ministers, or people, may like Paul, and from the same cause, live and die, in the full assurance of faith, in expectation of the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge, will, give at that day to all them that love our Lord's appearing!
Praises to the Father, Son, and Spirit, for this, and all the other precious portions of God's word; to make the Church, under divine teaching, more and more acquainted with the Person, and glory of Jesus, for the happiness of the life that now is, and that which, is to come. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany