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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

2 Timothy 4

Verse 1

Observe here, 1. A most solemn adjuration and charge given, I charge thee before God and our Lord Jesus Christ, the judge of quick and dead.

Lord! what opiate can stupify the conscience of minister, that he shall not feel the authority of such a charge, or not be awakened by such arden expressions! How can they appear before the most high and everlasting Judge? What will be a sufficient defence before his enlightened tribunal? If such in the last judgment, who neglected to feed the poor with material bread, shall be placed at Christ's left hand; how can those whose office it is to dispense spiritual bread, if they neglect to do it, escape condemnation!

Observe, 2. The subject matter of the charge to preach according to Christ's commission, Matthew 28:19.

Go, preach and baptize: to preach the word, not the fancies and inventions of men, but the wholesome word of God; and the whole word of God, both law and gospel, the one to keep men from presumption, the other from despair; to be instant and active, urgent and zealous, in the discharge of his duty, in all the parts of it, in instruction, reprehension, and exhortation; and this with all long-suffering, patience, and lenity, undergoing meekly the contradiction of sinners, and the reproaches of men: and for the time to do it in season, and out of season, that is, to take all occasions, and to be thankful to God for all opportunities of preaching his word: the lazy may find a thousand excuses, but willing minds know no difficulties; they consider the price paid for souls, and the account that must be given of them.

Observe, 3. The person to whom this charge is given; to Timothy, and ordained person, one set apart for the work: this is not a work common to all, but peculiar to some; God's Timothies only , who are called and set apart by imposition of hands for the work of the ministry, must preach the word; and such ought to take all occasions, and be very instant in so doing, Necessity is laid upon us; yea, woe be unto us if we preach not the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:16

Verse 3

Here we have the reason of our apostle's solemn adjuration in the foregoing verses, by which he stirs up Timothy to a careful discharge of his duty; namely, in regard of the apostasy of the times, in which many would grow weary of sound doctrine, and follow fables.

Here note, 1. The ground of this apostasy: men's hatred of the truth: They will not endure sound doctrine, that is, they will reject and abhor it; they love their lusts above God's law, and will not endure to hear it.

A second ground of their apostasy is, a delight in false teachers: they heap up to themselves such as will claw their itching ears, and gratify their wanton desires, and in now wise disturb their lusts.

Thirdly, Here is the doleful issue and dreadful consequence of this their malicious contempt of the truth; they shall turn away their hearts from the truth, and be turned unto fables; that is, say some, to the fabulous traditions of the Jewish doctors, say others.

Learn hence, 1. That Christian doctrine is sound doctrine, wholesome words.

2. Unsound persons cannot endure sound doctrine; sore eyes cannot abide the light.

3. That in the last days there will be many teachers to claw and gratify itching ears.

4. That the more false teachers do abound, the more careful and industrious should the ministers of Christ be to oppose them, by preaching sound doctrine.

Verse 5

Behold here a fourfold duty pressed upon Timothy;

1. Watchfulness: Watch thou in all things. As if he had said, "False teachers will beset you round on every side; therefore guard and watch every where."

2. Courage: Endure afflictions: he that fears the frowns of men, can never discharge his duty faithfully to God.

3. Fidelity: Do the work of an evangelist. which was an extraordinary, and therefore but a temporary, office, to assist the apostles in preaching and publishing the gospel from place to place; they watered what the apostles planted.

4. Sincerity: Make full proof of thy ministry: so fulfill all the parts of it, that none may charge thee with the neglect of any part of thy duty: let the world see that thou makest it thine own and only work to win souls.

Learn hence, 1. That the apostasy and looseness of the times we live in must oblige all persons, but especially the ministers of Christ, to watch: who should watch, if not the watchmen?

Learn hence, 2. That ministers, of all men, need courage: they must inure thmeselves to endure hardships and expect hard words, hard dealing, nick names, and all kind of reproaches; and these must be endured with patience, with courage, and with constance.

Learn, 3. That ministers must make full proof of their ministry; that is, must fully and faithfully discharge all the duties of their calling, not do their duties by halves; but accomplish all the parts of their ministry, strengthening the weak, comforting the afflicted, reducing the wandering, and adorning their doctrine by a pure and unblamable conversation. This is to fulfil our ministry.

Verse 6

Our apostle being now come almost to the end of his Christian and ministerial race, he first looks downward into his grave with comfort, ver, 6. and sees his death a pleasing sacrifice to God, and a sweet departure to him; I am ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

Next he looks backward, and reflects upon his well-spent life with joy: I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, 2 Timothy 4:7.

Last of all he looks upward, and there sees heaven prepared for him, 2 Timothy 4:8. Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.

Observe, 1. St. Paul's intimation of his death: I am ready to be offered up: a sacrificial word, "I am ready to be poured out as a drink-offering; my death will be a sweet sacrifice to God, my blood being shed for Christ, as the wine was poured out in the meat-offering."

Learn hence, That the death of God's ministers, especially of such as die martyrs, is a most pleasing sacrifice unto God: precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of all, but especially of the saints.

Observe, 2. St. Paul's narration of his life: I have fought, I have finished,&c. The word run is a figure taken from the Olympic games, where was combating, wrestling, running, according to the laws of the games, and judges appointed to declare the victors, and to give them the prize, a crown of garlands.

The first metaphor is taken from a soldier, a combatant, a champion; I have fought a good fight.

Learn, Every sincere Christian, but especially every faithful minister is a spiritual soldier; their enemies are spiritual, their weapons spiritual, their warfare spiritual, their victory spiritual; they must be men of courage, men of conduct, men that can endure hardship, men of unity and activity among themselves.

The second metaphor is taken from a strenuous runner; I have finished my course, "I am come to the period of my days, and to the end of my race;" alluding perhaps to his course of life after his conversion, which was wholly spent in running from place to place to preach the gospel.

And now he was come to the last stage or gaol at Rome, where he was to receive his garland, his crown of martyrdom.

Learn hence, A Christian's life is a race, which he must not only cheerfully begin, but perseveringly finish: so says the apostle here, "I, Paul the aged, have fought the good fight, &c., have not only begun, but finished, my course."

O what a comfort is it to be an old soldier of Jesus Christ! St. Paul is now reckoned to be sixty-one years of age when he suffered martyrdom; he runs his race patiently, cheerfully, reservedly, and perseveringly.

The third metaphor is taken from depositories, who faithfully keep things committed to their trust without embezzlement. This depositum, the Christian faith, St. Paul had kept; I have kept the faith. He kept first, the grace of faith; secondly, the doctrine of faith, inviolable; endeavouring to transmit it down to posterity, in despite of the legal Jew, or the profane Gentile.

Observe, 3. St. Paul's expectation of his reward: Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness &c.

Here note, The reward is a crown of righteousness, because only given to righteous men: the person rewarding, Christ, the righteous judge: the person rewarded, me, St. Paul himself, and all the faithful that love Christ's appearing: the certainty of the reward,, it is laid up, reserved and kept safe, as an inheritance for a child: the time of the reward, in that day, the great day of the Lord, when he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

Learn hence, 1. That the reward which God has in hand for his faithful servants, is no less than a crown of glory.

2. That the time when this reward shall be fully and finally dispensed, as the great day.

3. It is the property of the godly to look, love, and long, for that day.

Verse 9

Our apostle comes now, in this second part of the chapter, to treat of some private and personal affairs.

And first he desires Timothy to come speedily to him, having a great desire to see him, and be comforted by him, before he died. The strongest of Christians may sometimes be helped by the weaker; a Paul may stand in need of a Timothy ; there is not a member in the body, but is some way serviceable to the head.

Secondly, He assigns a reason why he did thus desire Timothy's presence, because of Demas' and others' absence; Demas had forsaken him, having loved this present world. The best may sometimes be forsaken by their bosom friends; Demas was such to St. Paul, yet left him. For what cause? For the love of the world, This, when it grows inordinate, will cause a man first to forsake his friend, and then his God.

Thirdly, Crescens was gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, Tychicus to Ephesus: all of them, no doubt, to spread the gospel, to plant or water the churches. Good men will be doing good wherever they are, wherever they come or go. Only Luke was with him; nothing could separate that good man from him. A faithful friend loveth at all times; yet friendship (olle amicitia) will vanish in adversity: but true Christian friendship is perpetual, the foundation of it is eternal.

Lastly, he desires Timothy to bring Mark with him; not for rest or recreation, because he wanted a companion for his diversion; no, but to assist him in his work: Bring Mark; for he is profitable to me for the ministry. 'Tis happy when the ministers of God affect the company, and desire the presence, of each other, for spiritual ends and religious purposes.

Verse 13

St. Paul having desired Timothy's company at Rome, requests him to bring with him such things as he wanted, and stood in present need of.

1. His cloak: probably a garment which in the winter season he might want the warmth and benefit of, especially being in a cold prison. So long as we are upon earth, a prudential care mnust be taken to preserve our health; when winter approached, St. Paul sent for his winter garment to keep him warm. The body is the soul's organ or instrument by which it acts; therefore we must do what in us lieth to keep it in tune for the service of the soul.

2. His books; probably the book of the Old Testament; certainly no profane books; he had no leisure for, no liking to, any such.

3. But especially the parchments; these are thought to be note-books of his own collecting, in which he had written several things for the help of his memory, and the benefit of the church.

Behold here, 1. An eminent pattern of pious studiousness in St. Paul. Here was an aged man, an aged minister, that had already read much, a prisoner; no very proper place for study, were prisons then filled with such brutes as generally now; nay, a dying prisoner, one that looked for death and beheading every day; yet aged Paul, dying Paul, cannot live without his books; he must still be reading, learning, studying the scriptures especially, which are such a vast deep, as the line of an inspired apostle could not fathom. Behold, I say, a pattern for such ministers as think they know enough, they have studied enough, and are too old to learn; so was not our apostle, when within a few months of his death.

2. Behold here an eminent pattern of pious humiltiy in Timothy, if bishop of Ephesus now, as some affirm, if only a minister of a particular church as others affirm; yet was he undoubtedly a very humble person, otherwise, St. Paul had not desired, and Timothy had certainly disdained to carry this luggage with him to Rome. Pride would have stooped to nothing of this, but thrown all to the dunghill; whereas true humility disposes a man, especially a minister of Christ, to become all things to all men.

Verse 14

Here our apostle, 1. Complains of the injuries and oppositions which he had met with from Aexander the Coppersmith, who was before a great professor, but now become a grievous persecutor: He made shipwreck of the faith, 1 Timothy 1:19 which he did before profess; nay, 'tis thought this man, Acts 19:33 was near martyrdom, yet afterwards an opposer of the truth. The best things corrupted, become worst; the sweetest wine makes the sharpest vinegar. Be not offended then, if at any time you see professors turn blasphemers; nay, preachers themselves turn persecutors.

Observe, 2. An apostolical prediction, rather than a dreadful imprecation, passed upon Alexander; The Lord reward him according to his works. The Lord will reward him according to his works. The apostle by a prophetic spirit, saw what was coming upon him, and foretels his doom. Imprecations against the enemies of the church if lawful, yet must be cautiously and very rarely used: What we find in scripture looking like such, are rather to be accounted predictions, than imprecations.

Observe, lastly; The caution given to TImothy to shun him; Of whom be thou aware also, for he is an opposer of the truth. Wicked men do not so much oppose the ministers, as the ministry; not so much oppose preachers, as preaching: 'Tis the light of truth which evil- doers hate; because it has a searching, discovering, condemning power.

St. Paul doth not complain of Alexander;s unkindness towards him, but of his malicious resisting the truth, and hindering the preaching of the gospel: He hath greatly withstood our words.

Verse 16

Our apostle here complains of the timorousness of weak Christians in their carriage towards him, at his first appearing before Nero the emperor of Rome, or some of his officers; they deserted him, they all deserted him, very few durst own him. But this was out of weakness and timorousness, not our of maliciousness, as Alexander in the former verse; therefore, St. Paul prays for them. That God would not lay it to their charge, but pity and pardon their infirmity.

Learn hence, How hard it will go with the holiest of saints, if God should lay but one sin, though a sin of infirmity, to their charge; it would sink them to the lowest hell.

Lord! how sad must it then be to have the sins of the wicked man's whole life charged upon him!

Learn, 2. That the holiest servants of God, in a suffering hour, may and must expect to be left alone, forsaken of all their friends, none daring to open their mouth, and speak a word for them: The apostle met with it here, and a greater than he before him; when Christ was apprehended, all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

Verse 17

That is, "Though man forsook me, God stood by me; the Lord Jesus strengthened me, that by me, thus standing up in the defence of the gospel, the preaching of it might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear the defence of it; and thus, for that time, I was delivered out of Nero's hands, that bloody lion's mouth."

Learn, 1. That whilst God has any farther work for his servants to do, he will assist and sustain them in despite of all opposition and discouragement whatsoever; though Nero roar, and persecutor;s rage, and friends desert, yet God will stand by, God will deliver, till his faithful servants have finished their work; The Lord stood by me, and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion, says the apostle.

See here the certain character of the church's enemies: They are lions; lions for power, lions for policy, lions for terror, lions for cruelty; God sometimes delivers his people, and saves them from, sometimes suffers his dearest children to fall into, the paws, yea, the mouths of these devouring lions.

Verse 18

Mark, He doth not say, The Lord will deliver me from every evil worker, but from every evil work; though he doth not save me from my temporal enemies, blessed be God my spiritual enemies shall never hurt me, neither sin not Satan.

Lord! it is a far greater favour to be preserved from sin, than from any temporal affliction that can befal us, yea, than from death itself; The Lord will deliver me from every evil work; yea, farther, He will preserve me to his heavenly kingdom.

God has a kingdom, an heavenly kingdom for all his saints, his suffering saints especially; it is prepared for them, they are preparing for it, and they shall be put into the possession of it in due time.

He closes with a doxology here: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. As God has prepared an eternal kingdom for his saints, so they desire that God may have glory from them to eternal ages: Grace enlargeth the heart towards God, in fervent desires that his glory may be eternized.

Verse 19

Observe here, How mindful the apostle is of his absent friends; though he was now in prison, and they a great way from him, yet he sends pious salutations to them. This Prisca or Priscilla, and Aquilla, are often remembered by St. Paul, he lodged in their house at Corinth: The saints and servants of God forget not one another, when at the ends of the earth. - He salutes also Onesiphorus and his household, wife and children, and servants. Thus do pious governors procure a blessing upon their families as well as upon their persons. Onesiphorus is not only prayed for himself, and saluted singly, but likewise his household also; Salute Prisca and Aquilla, and the household of Onesiphorus.

Verse 20

Erastus is mentioned, Romans 16:23 as chamberlain of the city of Corinth, one that shewed kindness to Paul; he was a great man, the treasurer of the city of Corinth; yet neither his riches, nor his great place, could keep him from loving the apostle and the afflicted church of God. Rarely are great men good, and as rarely are good men great; yet some great men are good, and some good men are great. Lot and Abraham, Job and David were full of riches, yet full of piety, under the Old Testament: So was Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Zaccheus, under the New. Thus God magnifies the power of converting grace. - Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. This man was a citizen at Ephesus, a disciple and companion of St. Paul, whom he was forced to leave sick at Miletum. Acts 20:4

Note, Strength of grace cannot prevail against bodily weaknesses and diseases; sickness may seize even the best men.

Note also, That the apostles had not the gift of healing, when they pleased, but only when God gave it them.

Verse 21

Our apostle being greatly desirous to see Timothy before his death, reneweth his request and suit to him to make haste and come before winter: the personal presence of good men is much, very much desired by them, in order to excite and quicken each other.

To encourage Timothy to hasten to him, he names several persons of note that were then at Rome, who sent salutations to him, and would rejoice to see him.

But where were all these, when our apostle was upon his trial?

Ans. They all forsook him, and not one of them stood with him.

Behold what frailty there may be! and what fear will do, in persons of choice note for eminency and grace in the church of God!

Verse 22

The apostle concludes this, like his other epistles, with an apostolical benediction, The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit; as if he had said, "Be not sad at my departure; for, though I must leave thee, yet the Lord will uphold thee by his grace, and be present with thee by the influence of the Holy Spirit." The inward presence of Christ with the spirits of his people, directing their spirits in thinking, judging, choosing, and refusing is a sweet privilege, and greatly to be desired. Happy they who have the spirit of Christ perpetually present with them, who so live, that Christ may delight to dwell by his Spirit in them.

Grace be with you, that is, with all of you; he doth not say, riches be with you, or honours be with you, or the favour of man be with you, but grace, and the favour of God be with you. God's special favour and distinguishing grace is to be sought by all persons, above and before all things. -

Lastly, Our apostle ratifies and seals up all with that concluding particle, Amen; teaching us, That whatever we should pray for, should be rightly understood, firmly believed and earnestly desired, and heartily consented to: they sin in prayer who understand not what they pray for, and who do not earnestly desire what they pray for; for in testimony of our desires to be heard, we say, Amen.

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Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 4". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wbc/2-timothy-4.html. 1700-1703.