Roughly 25% of the book of 1 Thessalonians is dedicated to the subject of end-times related events. We find a large portion of that 25% here in the opening ten verses of 1 Thessalonians chapter five. That section begins with the following message…
“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).
This reference to “the times” is a shorthand way of referring to a historic timeline of events. The “seasons” are associated with the individual characteristics of a given age. For instance, we might associate the 18th and 19th centuries (“the times”) with the first Industrial Revolution (or “the season”) that characterized that age. We often combine these two ideas whenever we speak of “the signs of the times” to describe a quality or characteristic of a particular time period.
There are only two other references to “times and seasons” in the Biblical Scriptures. The first occurs in the book of the prophet Daniel…
“…Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:20-22).
The other Biblical reference to “times and seasons” appears in Acts 1:6-7 where Jesus answered the following question from His disciples: “…they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.’”
We can glean some important insights from these references. First, we can say that God ultimately orchestrates the events of human history (“…He changes the times and the seasons“). And while God may elect to reveal “…deep and secret things,” He has sovereignly declined to provide us with a detailed timeline of end-time events (“…It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority“).
Nevertheless, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 provides us with a significant descriptive element in the form of a phrase that is rich with Biblical significance: “…the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.” We’ll take a closer look at this reference to “…the day of the Lord” next.
“I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:” (2 Timothy 4:1 NET).
Like many things, our view of the word “judgment” often depends upon our perspective. For instance, a person who has done something wrong is probably uncomfortable with the idea of “judgment.” On the other hand, let’s consider the alternative example of a well-prepared student or athlete. A person in that position may welcome the judgment of a written test or athletic contest to demonstrate his or her proficiency.
This latter example is true in a spiritual sense as well, for as Jesus once remarked, “…he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:21).
These distinctions are important, for unlike the “Great White Throne Judgment” of the unrighteous dead (as detailed in Revelation 20:11-15), the future judgment of God’s people will follow a different path. We can illustrate this difference with a look at Jesus’ statement from Revelation 3:5: “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (see also John 6:37-39, John 10:27-28, and Romans 8:33-39).
Because of this, we can say with certainty that the future judgment of God’s people will not involve the question of salvation, for Jesus addressed the sentence against humanity through His sacrificial death. Those who accept Jesus’ substitutionary atonement by faith are not only freed from sin’s death penalty, but are restored to a right relationship with God through His sacrifice.
However, the New Testament book of 2 Corinthians tells us that every man or woman of God will undergo a different type of judgment: “…Christ will judge each of us for the good or the bad that we do while living in these bodies” (2 Corinthians 5:10 CEV). In the words of one commentator, “The judgment seat of Christ will reveal our lives of service for Christ exactly as they have been. Not only the amount of our service, but also its quality, and even the very motives that prompted it will be brought into review.” (1)
This reality should prompt us to prayerfully examine our choices (and the motives behind them) now. It is far better to bring those choices and motives into alignment with God’s will today lest we suffer the regret associated with our failure to do so when we are called to account for them tomorrow.
(1) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers (2 Corinthians 5:10) p.1839
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:1 ESV).
The following commentary offers an excellent overview of Jesus’ second advent in the context of 2 Timothy 4:1…
“Christ’s appearing and His Kingdom are not the same thing. His appearing is the epiphany, the rapture of the church. His Kingdom refers to the revelation of Christ when He returns to earth to establish His Kingdom. Twice He will do some judging. He will judge His own when He takes them out of the world. Also, He will judge those who turn to God in the Great Tribulation.
All of us who are believers will come before Him for judgment at one time or another. Our lives are going to be tested to see if we are to receive a reward or not. Paul is saying, ‘In view of the fact that you, Timothy, are going to stand before Him to have your life judged, this is what you are to do.’ These instructions to Timothy are just as pertinent in our day as at the time they were given by the mouth of Timothy. This is what God is saying to you and me right now.” (1)
Another source adds the following words of encouragement…
“Sometimes we are tempted to be discouraged, to doubt that He is coming back, because it has been almost two thousand years since His ascension. But the people of God had to wait millennia for His first advent, and their faith was vindicated when He was born in Bethlehem. Our faith will be vindicated as well when our Savior comes in glory. ” (2)
Since this world will eventually be replaced by “…a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13), Paul the Apostle encouraged Timothy to live and work in light of that reality. Thus, every man or woman of God should be motivated (at least in part) by the anticipation of “…Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom” (NET).
As Jesus reminded us in John 9:4, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the One who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work” (NLT). Therefore, the certainty of Jesus’ return should prompt us to prayerfully consider how we can best redeem the time that God has graciously allotted to us. We’ll see what that meant for Timothy (and us as well) in the following verse.
(1) J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee, “2 Timothy 4:1-5 Paul’s Charge To Timothy” Copyright 1981 by J. Vernon McGee
(2) “The Advent of Christ” Tabletalk magazine, March, 2013 [pg. 59]
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).
Although it may not seem obvious, there is a difference between preaching (which is the first directive in this passage) and teaching (which forms the last directive). Preaching is generally associated with an exhortation to righteousness, while teaching involves the act of communicating the Scriptures in a way that others can understand, remember, and apply.
These directives are important because Paul the Apostle has made repeated references to false doctrines and worthless debates throughout his Biblical letters to Timothy. There are at least two different factors that contribute to such things in the context of this passage. First, we can say that many false beliefs often take root where people are unfamiliar with the Scriptures. It is for this reason that Paul encouraged Timothy (and modern-day readers by extension) to preach and teach God’s Word.
The second consideration involves the way we interpret and apply the Scriptures. You see, it is one thing to adapt a Biblical teaching or principle to the circumstances of life. However, it is something quite different to read something into a Biblical text that isn’t there. Theologians refer to this practice as eisegesis, a word that describes the act of reading an opinion or personal bias into a Biblical text that is not supported by the text or context.
One source identifies the issue with that approach…
“…There are various ways to use the word of God deceitfully, or to tamper with it. Using a Bible text to preach a ‘sermon’ that has little or nothing to do with the Bible is one of the common ways of doing it.” (1)
The opposite of eisegesis is exegesis, or the process by which we extract the meaning and application from a Biblical passage. These distinctions help shape the way we fulfill these directives to preach and teach God’s Word.
For instance, we can impose our preferences upon the Biblical text (eisegesis) or we can extract the meaning from the text (exegesis). In the first instance, we are more likely to alter a Biblical teaching to suit our preference. That approach will undoubtedly lead to “…disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:3). In the second instance, we are more likely to adapt our thinking and behavior to a Biblical teaching and fulfill the message of 1 Timothy 4:6…
“If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.”
(1) Paul T. Butler. The Bible Study Textbook Series, Studies In Second Corinthians (College Press) [p. 93] Copyright © 1988 College Press Publishing Company https://archive.org/stream/BibleStudyTextbookSeriesSecondCorinthians/132Corinthians-Butler_djvu.txt
“preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV).
Two sources offer several compelling insights on the subject of “preaching the word” from this passage…
“Timothy is to preach the Word. The word ‘Word’ here refers to the whole body of revealed truth, as will be seen by comparing this passage with 1Th_1:6 and Gal_6:6. The preacher must present, not book reviews, not politics, not economics, not current topics of the day, not a philosophy of life denying the Bible and based upon unproven theories of science, but the Word. The preacher as a herald cannot choose his message. He is given a message to proclaim by his Sovereign. If he will not proclaim that, let him step down from his exalted position.” (1)
“Where are those who today declare the whole counsel of God? Paul warned that in the last days, people would not endure sound doctrine, but look for teachers who would tell them what they want to hear – teachers who will scratch their itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3) Many preachers today simply use a Bible text as a launching pad, and then get on to say what they want to say – what the people want to hear. Others throw in Bible quotations to illustrate their points, or to illustrate their stories! But who will simply let the Bible speak for itself and let it declare its own power?
…The preacher who preaches what his audience wants to hear, and not the whole counsel of God, hurts both his audience and himself! We also must demand that we are being taught the whole counsel of God; not just interesting topics, not just what we want to hear, not just the things that will grab people, but what God says to all of our lives.” (2)
The following Biblical verses also serve to reinforce these admonitions…
“Our message is not about ourselves. It is about Jesus Christ as the Lord. We are your servants for his sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5 GW).
“We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28 HCSB).
Because of this, we should be wary of sermons that revolve around a speaker’s opinion or preferred doctrine. While every sermon reflects the minister to some extent, we should be alert to those who promote their views or interests at the expense of the Scriptures. Those who do so neglect to “preach the word“ as we read here in 2 Timothy 4:2.
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [note on 2 Timothy 4:2] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(2) Guzik, Dave, Acts 20 – Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/archives/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Act/Act_20.cfm
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV).
The next directive given to us in 2 Timothy 4:2 involves being prepared to represent Christ “in season and out of season.” In other words, we should be ready to communicate spiritual truths when it is convenient and when it is not. Much like an athlete who is ready and prepared when called to enter a competition, we should also be ready to accurately represent Christ to others.
The next two items on this list involve reproof (or correction) and rebuke. One Pastoral commentator expands on these concepts with the following insight: “(This represents the) negative side of preaching the Word… The Gr. word for ‘reprove’ refers to correcting behavior or false doctrine by using careful biblical argument to help a person understand the error of his actions. The Gr. word for ‘rebuke’ deals more with correcting the person’s motives by convicting him of his sin and leading him to repentance.” (1)
There are two equal and opposite concerns regarding this aspect of preaching and teaching. The first involves those who are reluctant to correct others when it is appropriate to do so. A person who falls into this category would do well to consider the account of Eli, an Old Testament priest. Eli failed to correct the inappropriate behavior of those who were under his authority and ultimately paid a terrible price (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-34, 3:11-14, 4:11-22).
The opposite extreme involves the type of person who takes pleasure in correcting others. Those who possess this kind of overly-corrective attitude should contemplate the message of James 3:17-18: “…the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (NIV).
The next attribute is exhortation or encouragement. This represents the affirmative aspect of preaching and teaching and typically involves a call to act upon the truths of Scripture.
2 Timothy 4:2 then closes with the procedure for implementing these directives: “…with great patience and careful instruction.” In the words of one source, “great patience” (or “longsuffering”) “…speaks of that temper which does not easily succumb under suffering, of that self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong.” (2) This is coupled with “careful instruction,” a reference to the serious nature of this subject and our responsibility to give it the respect and attention it deserves.
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (2 Ti 4:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(2) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [note on 2 Timothy 4:2] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
2 Timothy 4:3-4 signals the return to a recurring theme within the Pastoral Epistles of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus- the subject of sound doctrine. The Living Bible paraphrases verse three in the following manner…
“There is going to come a time when people won’t listen to the truth but will go around looking for teachers who will tell them just what they want to hear.”
In one sense, this passage illustrates the familiar law of supply and demand. For instance, there will always be opportunists who seek to fulfill the need for a commodity that is in high demand. In like manner, there will always be those who are willing to fulfill the demand for a spiritual message that conforms to an audience’s preference as long as that demand exists.
This is an important consideration, for the size of a church congregation does not necessarily correspond with the presence of sound Biblical teaching. For example, we might observe a well-attended religious service and assume that God’s blessing is upon that assembly. Unfortunately, that may not be true, for any congregation might grow under the leadership of a charismatic minister or a dynamic speaker who tells others what they want to hear.
The Biblical church of Sardis may serve as the best illustration of this unfortunate reality. Consider Jesus’ message to the church at Sardis from Revelation 3:1: “…I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead” (HCSB). While the congregation at Sardis was likely known as a busy and dynamic fellowship in its day, that appearance had little to do with their real spiritual condition.
Their example tells us that it is possible for a church to function as an active religious institution, yet still be far from where God wants it to be. A congregation that has a reputation as a living and active fellowship but has turned “…their ears away from the truth” may be externally alive but spiritually dead.
Finally, this passage reminds us that a popular teaching is not always synonymous with a Biblically accurate teaching. The question is really one of truth- does that spiritual teaching accurately reflect the Word of God or does it serve those who “…will not endure sound doctrine”?
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV).
We can gain a better understanding of this passage if we take some time to look at its constituent elements. We can begin by noting that Paul the Apostle was well-acquainted with the first characteristic mentioned in these verses: “…the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (KJV). For instance, the subject of Jesus’ death and resurrection brought the following responses from a group of intellectual leaders when Paul visited the ancient city of Athens…
“As soon as the people heard Paul say that a man had been raised from death, some of them started laughing. Others said, ‘We will hear you talk about this some other time’” (Acts 17:32 CEV).
While this dismissive attitude was partially reflective of Paul’s era (and every subsequent era to a greater or lesser extent), it will assume a more dominant role as we draw closer to the end of this human era. This message parallels a similar theme from Paul’s first Biblical letter to Timothy…
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV).
While 1 Timothy 4:1-2 references false teachers and the forces behind them, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 tells us that there is culpability on the part of their listeners as well. You see, those who will not accept sound Biblical instruction provide fertile soil to heretical teachers. They also face increased vulnerability to deception, fraud, and falsehood.
Unfortunately, there are some who prefer to listen to a spiritual message that corresponds with their attitudes and beliefs rather than conform their attitudes and beliefs to God’s Word. As mentioned previously, the supply of those who are willing to offer such messages will always rise to meet that demand as long as it exists.
From an alternate perspective, a person who conveys sound Biblical teaching should not be distressed if that teaching fails to resonate with others. While it is our responsibility to make the Word of God accessible within our circle of influence, there will always be some (or perhaps many) who will not endure sound doctrine. We’ll see why people will not endure sound teaching next.
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV).
As we continue with our look at 2 Timothy 4:3-4, we now stop to examine the motivating force that compels those who will not put up with sound doctrine: “…in accordance with their own lust they will heap up teachers for themselves” (Mounce).
While many are undoubtedly misled by the heretical doctrines of false teachers, this passage tells us that there are others who choose to accept such teachings because it suits their purpose. 2 Timothy 4:3 associates that purpose with “lust” (KJV), a characteristic trait of those who use others to satisfy their appetites and needs.
This means that false teachers and those who pursue them are using one another to some degree. The teacher brings a message that will curry favor with an audience. The audience corresponds by supporting that teacher as long as he or she tells them what they want to hear. To further illustrate that relationship, these verses utilize the familiar imagery of a persistent itch coupled with the depiction of a human ear.
You see, a person with an itch typically scratches that itch to make him or herself feel better. In the context of 2 Timothy 4:3-4, the itch in question is likely caused by a nagging realization that we are not everything we should be. For instance, we inherently know that certain actions are unjust (such as lying, cheating and/or stealing, to name a few examples). We recognize the injustice of such behaviors because they are inconsistent with the way we want others to behave toward us. Yet who among us has not engaged in these behaviors?
We may compile layers of justifications or rationalizations to excuse our failures in these areas, but deep down, we know we are guilty of not being everything we should be. While God graciously offers a solution to this human dilemma, others prefer to insulate themselves from such realities.
When faced with this “itch,” some prefer to scratch it by searching for spiritual teachers who will tell them what they want to hear; things that will make them feel good about themselves without the “burden” of things like repentance and submission to God’s authority. That may make us feel good for a while, but it fails to address the source of the issue. Therefore, those who choose that path must therefore continue to “…collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear” (GNT).
“For a time will be when they will not endure sound doctrine, but they will heap up teachers to themselves according to their own lusts, tickling the ear. And they will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned to myths”(2 Timothy 4:3-4 MKJV).
“Some people have an endless fascination with everything but the truth.” (1)
We should note two important aspects regarding those who “…will not endure sound doctrine” (NKJV) from this passage: they will turn from sound teaching and be turned from it as well. While this may seem to be an insignificant difference, one Biblical scholar explains that there is more to this distinction than it may seem…
“The words ‘turn away’ (apostrepho), carry the idea of ‘averting.’ That is, those who follow these heretics, not only turn away their ears from the truth, but see to it that their ears are always in such a position that they will never come in contact with the truth. Notice the active voice of the verb ‘turn away,’ and the passive voice of the verb ‘shall be turned.’ The first named action is performed by the people themselves, while in the case of the second one, they are acted upon by an outside force.
…When people avert their ears from the truth, they lay themselves open to every Satanic influence, and are easily turned aside to error. …Like a dislocated arm which has no freedom of action, they have given themselves over to a delusion which incapacitates them for any independent thinking along religious lines which they might do for themselves.” (2)
So much like a radio with an antenna that can be turned to receive broadcasts from one direction instead of another, this passage describes those who willingly turn from sound Biblical doctrine in favor of something else they’d rather hear. Thus, in the words of another source, “He who despises sound teaching, leaves sound teachers; they seek instructors like themselves.” (3)
Unfortunately, the fact that some elect to “…turn their ears away from the truth” (NKJV) does not serve to invalidate the truth. One Pastoral commentator gets to the heart of this matter in a very direct and forthright manner: “They will do this because truth requires the admission of human weakness, which people do not like to admit; the restraint of passions, which they do not like to do; and submission to the authority of God and other authorities under him, which they dislike and reject.” (4)
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2174). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
(2) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [note on 2 Timothy 4:3-4] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(3) Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. “Commentary on 2 Timothy 4:3”. “Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfb/2-timothy-4.html
(4) Excerpted with permission from The Majesty of Ministry © 1982 by Ray Stedman Ministries. All rights reserved. Visit www.RayStedman.org for the complete library of Ray Stedman material. Please direct any questions to webmaster@RayStedman.org https://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/timothy/the-majesty-of-ministry
“A time will come when people will not listen to accurate teachings. Instead, they will follow their own desires and surround themselves with teachers who tell them what they want to hear. People will refuse to listen to the truth and turn to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 GW).
This not the first time Paul the Apostle has addressed the subject of mythic beliefs and their relationship to sound Biblical teaching in his New Testament letters to Timothy. The challenge of interacting with those who chose to reject the truth in favor of myths or fables (NKJV) was an ongoing reality for Paul…
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work–which is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:3-4 NIV).
Paul addressed a similar concern in his Biblical letter to Titus…
“…rebuke them sharply that they may be healthy in the faith and not pay attention to Jewish myths and commands of people who reject the truth” (Titus 1:13-14 NET).
In this context, a “myth” refers to a legendary account or fabricated religious story. So why would some choose to devote themselves to such things? Well, the answer may have something to do with one aspect of human nature.
You see, people naturally gravitate towards things that are easy. This is not necessarily a bad thing. For instance, it would be foolish to engage in a difficult procedure when an easier method can achieve the same result with less effort. The problem is that God’s Word often asks us to do difficult things.
For example, it is relatively easy to speculate on matters of religious opinion, share our thoughts regarding the state of modern-day spirituality, or offer theories concerning prophetic events that have not yet taken place. It is often easier to surround ourselves with those who are willing to accommodate us in these areas and avoid others who are committed to speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
On the other hand, it is much more difficult to forgive those who have wronged us, demonstrate the love of Christ to unpleasant people, or accept correction from God’s Word in those areas of life where we might be falling short. Those who choose to isolate themselves from such challenges may wish to consider if they are among those whom Paul addresses here in 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
Here in 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul the Apostle urged Timothy to remain attentive and endure afflictions, especially in matters of spiritual concern. With these characteristics in mind, let’s consider some obstacles which may impede our ability to exercise these qualities…
Spiritual lethargy: We may grow disheartened by the seemingly never-ending problems of daily life and the prospect of having to deal with those problems into the foreseeable future. In such instances, we would do well to remember Jesus’ counsel from Matthew 6:34: “So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own” (NET). It also helps to focus upon the following promise from Galatians 6:9: “And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up.”
Fear: Fear is a quality that may limit our ability to fulfill God’s agenda for our lives. But as Proverbs 20:29 reminds us, “Fear of man is a dangerous trap, but to trust in God means safety” (TLB). As Jesus also reminded us in the Gospel of Luke, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:4-5 NKJV).
Unbelief: Hebrews 3:12 provides us with a cautionary message in this regard: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).
Criticism from others: Paul the Apostle offered an excellent model for dealing with criticism: “We try to live in such a way that no one will ever be offended or kept back from finding the Lord by the way we act, so that no one can find fault with us and blame it on the Lord” (TLB). 1 Peter 2:12 adds, “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when He judges the world” (NLT).
Disappointment: It is difficult and challenging when others let us down and disappoint us. In such instances, we should remember the counsel found in Hebrews 12:2 “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end” (GNB).
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6).
This verse (and those that follow) serve to reveal Paul the Apostle’s mindset in light of his impending death. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul referenced a familiar sacrificial element in assessing his departure from this earthly life: the drink offering.
This type of sacrificial offering first appeared in Genesis chapter thirty-five. In that portion of Scripture, God appeared to the Old Testament patriarch Jacob to confirm the promises He made earlier to Jacob’s ancestors. Jacob responded by erecting a pillar to commemorate the place where God had spoken to him and poured a drink offering upon it (see Genesis 35:9-15).
Later with the advent of the Old Testament sacrificial system, the Israelite priests were charged with the responsibility of presenting several different sacrificial offerings (including a drink offering) each day (see Numbers chapter twenty-eight). One source explains the function of the drink offering within this sacrificial system: “After the Jewish priest offered the lamb, ram, or bull in this ritual, he poured wine beside the altar. This was the last act in the sacrificial ceremony, all of which symbolized the dedication of the believer to God in worship.” (1)
Israel’s king David also made use of this symbolism to honor a group of valiant warriors who risked their lives to draw water for him from one of his favorite wells (see 2 Samuel 23:13-17).
Paul now turned to this imagery to illustrate his perspective on the subject of his approaching death. Just as wine was poured from a cup as a sacrificial offering in the presence of God, Paul’s earthly life was now being emptied in a similar manner. However, this was not the first time Paul made use of this word picture. Earlier in his letter to the church at Philippi, he also wrote the following…
“Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17 ESV).
So much like the sacrificial drink offerings that were regularly poured out before God, Paul was also committed to pouring out his life in fulfillment of God’s will as the end of his life drew near. For Paul, those final drops were now draining away, and that undoubtedly accounts for the sense of urgency that we’ll see over the last few verses of this letter.
(1) William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles, p 313. Quoted in Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 2 Timothy 2021 Edition [Paul’s role in the last days 4:6-8] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/2timothy/2timothy.htm
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (2 Timothy 4:6 ESV).
For many, their departure from this life is a prospect that seems exceedingly remote, assuming they think about that subject at all. Yet how many of us actually stop to consider an important question: how much time do we really have? The unfortunate reality is that life can pass very quickly and nothing is guaranteed.
While this is hardly a popular subject, the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes provides us with an important reminder: “A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time” (Ecclesiastes 7:3-4 NLT). 2 Timothy 4:6 indicates that Paul the Apostle took that counsel seriously in regard to his own mortality.
In the original language of this verse, the word “departure” referenced a sailing vessel that had been loosed from its mooring. It was also used to convey the relocation of a military encampment. Thus, this imagery tells us that Paul viewed physical death as an exit from this life to another. We can also say that Paul welcomed that exit based on the following portion of his letter to the Philippian church…
“…living to me means simply ‘Christ’, and if I die I should merely gain more of him. I realise, of course, that the work which I have started may make it necessary for me to go on living in this world, I should find it very hard to make a choice. I am torn in two directions—on the one hand I long to leave this world and live with Christ, and that is obviously the best thing for me.
Yet, on the other hand, it is probably more necessary for you that I should stay here on earth. That is why I feel pretty well convinced that I shall not leave this world yet, but shall be able to stand by you, to help you forward in Christian living and to find increasing joy in your faith” (Philippians 1:21-25 Phillips).
Much like Paul the Apostle, our view of death is largely influenced by our perception of what will take place beyond it. In this respect, Jesus once made an important statement followed by an equally important question…
“…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
One of the characteristic elements of Paul the Apostle’s New Testament letters involves his use of athletic illustrations. Because of this, it should come as no surprise to find that Paul employed a boxing reference in the passage quoted above.
In addition to what we read here in 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul also employed the imagery of a boxer in his first Biblical letter to Timothy as well as the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians. In that portion of Scripture, Paul used the example of a prizefighter to communicate the importance of qualities like focus, purpose, commitment, and dedication as they relate to a life that honors Christ…
“So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27 NLT).
These analogies reflected Paul’s mindset as he took part in the spiritual contest of life. However, Paul’s best-known use of this imagery might be found in some of his last recorded words as he neared the final round of his earthly existence: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
This courageous statement reflected the attitude of a man who could face the prospect of eternity with the knowledge that he had invested his earthly life in service to Christ. Compare this fearless declaration to a different type of statement made by another person who, like Paul, was facing the end of his earthly existence: “What an account I shall have to give to God! How I should like to live otherwise than I have lived” (Phillip III, King of France, 1396-1467).
A survey of Paul’s life from the second half of the Biblical book of Acts demonstrates that he had been diligent, faithful and productive with the resources God had given him. Therefore, Paul could take an accurate assessment of his life as he neared the end of his time on earth and look back with the satisfaction of an athlete who had “given it his all.” In the words of one commentator, Paul had kept the faith, kept the doctrines of the gospel. What comfort will it afford, to be able to speak in this manner toward the end of our days!” (1)
(1) Henry, Matthew. “Concise Commentary on 2 Timothy 4”. “Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhn/2-timothy-4.html. 1706.
“Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8 NKJV).
Unlike the traditional crown that is associated with a royal king, the crown mentioned here in 2 Timothy 4:8 referred to the laurel (or ivy) wreath that was presented to the winner of an ancient athletic contest. We can find a modern-day equivalent of this award in the form of a trophy that is given to the champion in a competitive event.
But unlike the discarded trophy from a long-forgotten contest that holds no further relevance, the crown of righteousness mentioned here will never lose its value. The Lord will award this crown to everyone who has “…set their affection on his appearing” (NET). Since it is bestowed by the God of eternity, it will always mean something important to those who receive it as well as everyone else.
The following author makes some important observations regarding this crown that are worthy of our attention…
“The crown of righteousness is given to those who long for the second coming of Christ (2 Timothy 4:8). It is highly revealing that in Revelation 4:10 we find believers casting their crowns before the throne of God in an act of worship and .adoration. This teaches us something very important. Clearly the crowns (as rewards) are bestowed on us not for our own glory but ultimately for the glory of God. We are told elsewhere in Scripture that believers are redeemed in order to bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 6:20). It would seem that the act of placing our crowns before the throne of God is an illustration of this.
Here’s something else to think about. The greater reward or crown one has received, the greater capacity one has to bring glory to the Creator. The lesser reward or crown one has received, the lesser his capacity to bring glory to the Creator. Because of the different rewards handed out at the judgment seat of Christ, believers will have differing capacities to bring glory to God.
Still, we shouldn’t take this to mean that certain believers will have a sense of lack throughout eternity. After all, each believer will be glorifying God to the fullness of his capacity in the next life. Each one of us, then, will be able to ‘declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light’ (1 Peter 2:9). (1)
(1) Ron Rhodes, The Complete Book Of Bible Answers, Copyright © 1997 by Ron Rhodes, Published by Harvest House Publishers [p. 275]
“Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica–Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia” (2 Timothy 4:9-10).
If we were to paraphrase this message from Paul the Apostle, we might do so in the following manner: “The curtain is about to close on the story of my life, Timothy. Please make every effort to visit me quickly.” As we consider these verses, it’s easy to imagine that advancing age and physical infirmity made it difficult for Paul to live without the assistance of his friends.
We should also note the emotional intensity within this passage, for it clearly expresses Paul’s sense of loneliness as he sat chained in a cold, damp prison cell. In addition to these physical and emotional challenges, Paul also carried the burden imposed by a former colleague who had abandoned him: “Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica” (NLT).
Although Demas is largely unknown to us, he is mentioned once in Paul’s epistle to the church at Colossae and again in his message to Philemon. Since Paul offered greetings from Demas in those letters (and even identified him as “a fellow laborer” in his message to Philemon), he must have been a relatively close companion. Unfortunately, it also appears that Demas was someone who left Paul in favor of the attractions offered by this present world. Apparently, the lure of such things was more important to Demas than the God-honoring lifestyle modeled by Paul the Apostle.
This unfortunate circumstance offers an important reminder for today, for there are bound to be “Demas-es” in our own lives. For instance, we may have friends (perhaps even good friends) who will depart from us as they seek to indulge their interests in the pursuits of this world. If that should occur, we will be faced with a decision: “Will I continue to move forward in Christ or will I follow a similar path?
While it is never easy to confront this painful reality, Jesus suffered through this type of experience and knows exactly how it feels to be deserted by one’s friends. We can also find comfort and assurance in the words of Romans 8:18: “… what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later.“
Finally, the commentary quoted below offers an additional message of encouragement…
“Some friends had proved faithless, others Paul had needed to send away; but God had proved faithful all along (2Ti_4:17-18).” (1)
(1) Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary [2 Timothy 4:9-18]
“for Demas has deserted me, because he loved this present world, and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia” (2 Timothy 4:10 HCSB).
We often speak of “the world” in terms of our natural realm. However, the reference to “this present world” here in 1 Timothy 4:10 identifies something different. You see, this phrase reflects the cultural attitudes, pleasures. values, opinions, philosophies, ideas, and belief systems that reject the God of the Scriptures.
Jesus made use of this concept in a message to His disciples when He said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 5:18 NIV). The New Testament epistle of 1 John also sheds some light on this idea when it tells us…
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
It’s significant to note that Demas chose the city of Thessalonica to pursue his love of “this present world” here in 2 Timothy 4:10. Much like the ancient Biblical cities of Ephesus and Corinth, Thessalonica served as an important destination for commerce and travel in the Biblical era. Since Thessalonica was situated along a major Roman thoroughfare, it was easily accessible to those who were traveling by land to the capital city of Rome or points east. It also featured an excellent harbor that made it ideal for those who journeyed by sea.
Thus, the city of Thessalonica was known as a cosmopolitan urban center with a wealthy, diverse, and influential population. Those qualities would undoubtedly prove to be highly attractive to anyone (like Demas) who had “…fallen in love with this present world” (CJB).
With this in mind, it is instructive to compare Demas and his love of this present world with someone like Moses, a person who offers a far better example to follow…
“…(Moses) chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin. For he considered the reproach because of the Messiah to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since his attention was on the reward” (Hebrews 11:25-26 HCSB).
The following verse provides us with two other positive examples, and we’ll those consider them next.
“Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11 NKJV).
In contrast to Demas (a man who abandoned Paul the Apostle), 2 Timothy 4:11 presents us with two individuals who possessed character traits that were much more positive: Luke and Mark.
First, we have Luke, Paul’s faithful friend until the end. Luke served as Paul’s traveling companion on some of his earlier missionary journeys and remained with him as Paul faced his final days. Since Luke was a physician by trade, his presence must have been a great comfort to Paul as he neared the end of his life.
Next, we have a reference to Mark, also known as John Mark. Mark’s relationship with Paul carries an interesting back story that is detailed for us in the New Testament book of Acts…
“…Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus” (Acts 15:36-39).
From this, it seems clear that Paul had some reservations about Mark at one point in his ministry. Much like Demas, Mark had also abandoned Paul when he needed him. But that is where the similarities between Mark and Demas end. By the time we reach 2 Timothy 4:11, it appears that Mark had grown to become a valuable asset to the aged apostle.
So, 2 Timothy 4:11 tells us that Paul gave Mark a fresh start and refused to hold his past failure against him. Paul’s example provides us with an important reminder concerning those (like Mark) who bear fruit in keeping with repentance…
“There’s a lesson in these few words. We should allow people to grow up and not hold them back from ministry or leadership for faults in the past that have now been corrected. When we encourage someone and open our minds to the possibility that he or she has changed and matured, we may be salvaging a significant ministry. Mark went on not only to be Paul’s good friend and a trusted Christian leader (Col_4:10; Phm_1:24), but he also wrote the Gospel of Mark.” (1)
(1) Life Application Study Bible [2 Timothy 4:11-12] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.
“And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come–and the books, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:12-13).
In addition to his role as an emissary, it appears that Tychicus was a close friend and traveling companion of Paul the Apostle. For example, Tychicus was part of a group that accompanied Paul during his third missionary journey according to Acts 20:2-5. Paul also identified Tychicus as “…a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord…” in his letter to the church in the city of Colossae (Colossians 4:7-8).
The fact that Paul decided to send Tychicus to Ephesus also presents us with an interesting possibility to consider. Since Luke was Paul’s last remaining companion, he might have been reluctant to allow a friend like Tychicus to leave him. However, it seems Paul felt that the needs of the church in Ephesus outweighed any desire he may have had to keep his few remaining friends close by. Thus, we can say that Paul put the needs of others ahead of his own in this matter.
Timothy was someone who mirrored Paul’s attitude in this regard as well…
“If the Lord is willing, I will send Timothy to see you soon. Then when he comes back, he can cheer me up by telling me all about you and how you are getting along. There is no one like Timothy for having a real interest in you…” (Philippians 2:19-20).
Paul’s confidence in Timothy was related to his attitude toward the Philippians: “He takes a genuine interest in your welfare” (GW). That made Timothy different from others who may have been more self-absorbed. This shared characteristic may also help to explain why Paul considered Timothy to be his “…true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2).
These examples remind us that something that is best for us may not always be best for someone else. Because of this, it is important to prayerfully consider the implications of our decisions and their potential impact upon others. This does not prohibit us from acting in our best interest, but it does mean that we have an obligation to look beyond those interests and respond accordingly.
For some, the agenda of life contains one item: “what’s best for me.” But much like the example set by Paul the Apostle, the agenda of a God-honoring life also includes “what’s best for others” as well. As we’re reminded in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians, “Try to do what is good for others, not just what is good for yourselves” (1 Corinthians 10:24 ERV).
“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13).
The cloak mentioned above was a heavy, cape-like garment that enabled its wearer to stay warm in cold weather. It could also double as a blanket on a chilly evening. Given the harsh conditions that likely accompanied Paul’s incarceration, it’s easy to see why he would make this request. If Paul had been arrested in the city of Troas, then Carpus may have been holding this cloak in safekeeping.
Among Paul’s other personal effects were his books and parchments. As one author explains, “‘Books’ refers to papyrus scrolls, possibly OT books. ‘Parchments’ were vellum sheets made of treated animal hides, thus they were extremely expensive. They may have been copies of letters he had written or blank sheets for writing other letters. That Paul did not have these already in his possession leads to the possible conclusion that he was arrested in Troas and had no opportunity to retrieve them.” (1)
In addition to his pressing need for a cold-weather garment, Paul’s sense of urgency may have been motivated by the challenges associated with winter travel during that time. You see, ancient shipping lanes were generally closed between November and March each year due to the hazardous winter travel conditions. If Timothy delayed, he would not arrive until the following spring- and Paul might not survive that long.
Another source makes a rather ironic observation regarding this passage: “It is touching to note that Paul, who could have become a rich Pharisee, was willing instead to suffer the loss of all things for Christ (Philippians 3:8), ending up in a cold, filthy, damp Roman dungeon next to the Tiber River, needing a cloke just to keep warm in the coming winter (II Timothy 4:21).” (2)
So, let’s consider the situation presented to us over the past few verses of 2 Timothy chapter four and make an educated guess regarding Paul’s physical and emotional state…
- “…bring the cloak that I left with Carpus” (verse thirteen): “I’m cold.”
- “…(Bring) the books, especially the parchments” (verse thirteen): “I don’t have access to God’s Word or other reading materials.”
- “Only Luke is with me…” (verse eleven): “All my friends are gone except one.”
- “Be diligent to come to me quickly” (verse nine): “I miss you.”
If we can imagine the prospect of sitting in a cold, damp prison cell with nothing to do, then we can easily understand why Paul might want his books, parchments, and the emotional encouragement of Timothy’s presence.
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (2 Ti 4:13). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(2) Institute for Creation Research, New Defender’s Study Bible Notes [2 Timothy 4:13] https://www.icr.org/bible/2Timothy/4/13/
“Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words” (2 Timothy 4:14-15 NKJV).
Just as we can identify a tree by the fruit it produces, we can often identify the character of others by the “fruit” that grows from their choices and decisions. Jesus introduced this concept in the following passage from the Gospel of Matthew…
“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:16-20).
Paul the Apostle was well-acquainted with this idea, for he often encountered both types of fruit mentioned in the passage quoted above. For instance, Paul identified the positive fruit that was growing among the members of the Christian community in the city of Ephesus: “,..after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, (I) do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15-16).
He also encouraged the Philippian church in a similar manner: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5). However, Paul also asked the church in Thessalonica to pray for him for a very different reason…
“Finally, brothers, pray for us… that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 ESV).
Throughout his ministry, Paul faced regular opposition from religious authorities (Acts 18:12-13), local tradesmen (Acts 19:23-41), spiritual mystics and fortune-tellers (Acts 13:6-12, Acts 16:16-19), and secular philosophers (Acts 17:16-34). Here now in 2 Timothy 4:14, we also learn that Paul faced individual opposition as well: “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm…” (NIV).
1 Timothy 1:20 tells us that Paul was forced to deliver a man named Alexander over to Satan so he might “…learn not to blaspheme.” If the individuals mentioned in these passages are the same, then it would seem that Alexander rejected that lesson and further serve to explain his opposition to Paul.
“Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message” (2 Timothy 4:14-15 NIV).
In 2 Thessalonians 1:6, Paul the Apostle wrote the following words: “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you” (NIV). That counsel was not only good for the Thessalonians; it was good for Paul as well. You see, 2 Timothy 4:14 tells us that Paul applied this same guidance in a troublesome relationship with an individual named Alexander.
Paul’s interaction with Alexander the metalworker is instructive on several different levels. We should first note Paul’s focus upon God’s response to his circumstance: “The Lord will repay him for what he has done.” If we are armed with the knowledge that God will vindicate us for acting righteously, then we need not seek to avenge ourselves when others inflict injury upon us.
While this goes against our natural instinct to retaliate against those who hurt us, our responsibility to conduct ourselves in a God-honoring manner does not end when others seek to harm us. In fact, this directive also extends to our internal thoughts and attitudes, even when others seemingly “get what they deserve”…
“Do not rejoice when your enemy meets trouble. Let there be no gladness when he falls— for the Lord may be displeased with you and stop punishing him!” (Proverbs 24:17-18 TLB).
This attitude also reflects a portion of Jesus’ teaching from The Beatitudes…
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45 ESV).
It also follows the example Jesus set for us…
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23 ESV).
Finally, Paul issued a common-sense warning regarding Alexander’s conduct to help protect Timothy from unnecessary injury: “You also must beware of him.” This practical reminder echoes Jesus’ counsel from Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
“At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them” (2 Timothy 4:16).
It helps to know something about the ancient Roman judicial system to grasp Paul the Apostle’s reference to his “first defense” in this passage. You see, the “first defense” mentioned here was similar to a modern day pre-trial legal hearing. It served as a judicial inquiry that examined the allegations made against a defendant. If the evidence presented was sufficient to support the charge, the defendant was brought to trial.
Three sources provide us with additional information regarding this process…
“In the Roman legal system, an accused person received two hearings: the prima actio, much like a contemporary arraignment, established the charge and determined if there was a need for a trial. The secunda actio then established the accused’s guilt or innocence. The defense Paul referred to was the prima actio.” (1)
“Customarily under Roman law, accused prisoners underwent a preliminary hearing before their trial. At this hearing, witnesses could speak on behalf of the accused. In Paul’s case, at his ‘first defense,’ after he had arrived in Rome as a prisoner for the second time, ‘no one’ had come to his defense. This was probably because, when Rome burned in July of A.D. 64, Nero blamed the Christians, and from then on it was dangerous to be a known Christian in Rome. Neither local Christians nor Paul’s fellow workers were willing to stand with the apostle (‘all deserted me’; cf. Matt. 26:56). Paul hoped the Lord would not hold (‘count’) their failure ‘against them’” (cf. Ps. 32:2; Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60). (2)
“The word ‘stood’ (paraginomai) is a technical word used of one who appeared in a court of justice in behalf of the accused. No one appeared, to act as his advocate, to advise him as to legal forms, to testify to his character. The last persecution had been so severe, that those who lived through it, dared not appear in Paul’s defense.” (3)
So, anyone who stood with Paul during this period did so at the potential cost of his or her life. This helps explain why no one came to support him when he appeared for this preliminary hearing. Unfortunately, this also meant that Paul had no legal counsel to represent him, no character witnesses to testify on his behalf, and no one to offer evidence in his defense. However, that lack of support didn’t mean Paul was entirely alone. We’ll see why next.
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (2 Ti 4:16). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(2) Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 2 Timothy 2021 Edition [B. Paul’s preliminary hearing in court 4:16-18] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/2timothy/2timothy.htm
(3) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [note on 2 Timothy 4:16-17] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Timothy 4:17).
Although everyone had abandoned Paul the Apostle in advance of his legal hearing before the Roman government, Paul was not disheartened by that development. While the support of his friends and colleagues was undoubtedly important, Paul had the services of a far greater Advocate: “… the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.”
This harmonizes with something Paul had earlier written to Timothy: “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Paul’s statement in that passage bears repeating. Notice that he did not say, “I know what I believe.” Instead, he said, “I know whom I have believed.” That belief was validated (at least in part) when the Lord stood with him while everyone else abandoned him.
This also reminds us that Christianity is not about an idea, a belief system, an organization, or a set of rules to follow. Christianity is about a relationship with a person, namely Christ. Since Paul knew the One he believed, he could say with confidence, “I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him.”
Paul then followed with a word-picture that illustrated the fate that might have awaited him: “…I was rescued from the lion’s mouth” (HCSB). There are several ways we might understand this reference. Perhaps the most graphic association for modern-day readers is the horrific spectacle of Christians being forced into the ancient Roman arena to be devoured by hungry lions. While this scenario is possible, it seems unlikely that Paul would have been executed in this manner given his status as a Roman citizen.
Another possibility involves the well-known account of the Old Testament prophet Daniel and his experience in a lion’s den. Just as God protected Daniel from a ferocious group of lions, He also protected Paul from those who might seek to injure him (or worse). Or perhaps the apostle may have had Psalm 22 in mind, a Psalm that asks God to “Save Me from the lion’s mouth” (Psalm 22:21).
Perhaps it’s best to understand this passage as a reference to God’s grace in saving Paul from mortal danger. Paul was certainly familiar with that idea, for the Lord had rescued him from such trouble more than once.
“And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!” (2 Timothy 4:18).
While human beings sought to end Paul the Apostle’s life on several occasions, God graciously preserved him until the time of his entry into eternity. God’s agenda for Paul’s life and death thus provides us with another opportunity to consider Jesus’ teaching from Luke 12:4-5…
“I tell you, as friends of mine, that you need not be afraid of those who can kill the body, but afterwards cannot do anything more. I will show you the only one you need to fear—the one who, after he has killed, has the power to throw you into destruction! Yes, I tell you, it is right to stand in awe of him” (Phillips).
As we saw earlier in this chapter, it is wise to take precautionary measures to protect against those who may seek to harm us. Nevertheless, it is important to maintain a vertical focus in such instances, for as we’re told in the Old Testament book of Proverbs, “Fearing the Lord leads to life, and one who does so will live satisfied; he will not be afflicted by calamity” (Proverbs 19:23 NET).
Paul’s confidence in the Lord thus prompted him to express his praise and appreciation: “To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!” This word “glory” carries several meanings depending on the context of its use. For instance, this word often serves to communicate the qualities of excellence, preeminence, and dignity. (1) It is also used to convey the idea of weightiness or substance. (2)
In the New Testament, “glory” is frequently used to signify one’s praise, honor, or acclamation for another. This usage is similar to the definition of this word in a modern-day context: “very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent; renown.” (3)
One author provides us with an overview of “glory” from a Biblical perspective…
“The word glory in Hebrew, kabod, derives from a root word meaning ‘weight.’ For example, the value of a gold coin was determined by its weight. To have weight, therefore, is to have value or worth.
The Greek word for glory, doxa, originally meant ‘opinion.’ This word refers to the worth or value which we, in our opinion, assign to someone or something. The Hebrew idea speaks of what is inherent in God—His intrinsic value or worth; the Greek idea speaks of the response of intelligent and moral beings to the value or worth they see manifested by God’s Word and works.” (4)
(1) G1391 doxa Vine’s Expository Dictionary https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1391&t=NKJV
(2) See Sproul, R.C. Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow [pg. 79-80] © 2008 by R.C. Sproul. Published by Reformation Trust Publishing a division of Ligonier Ministries. See also H3513 – kabad https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3513
(3) “Glory” Dictionary.com, Retrieved 1 June 2020 from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/glory
(4) Joel R. Beeke, Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism [pg 146-147] © 2008 Published by Reformation Trust Publishing a division of Ligonier Ministries
“Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus” (2 Timothy 4:19).
2 Timothy 4:19 begins what are probably the last recorded words of Paul the Apostle. As we consider this final passage, it may be helpful to visualize Paul’s condition as he ends this letter to Timothy.
First, he is chained in a damp, dark prison cell. He has no money. He has no possessions. Most of his companions have left. Others have deserted him. He is cold, lonely, and soon to die. However, he has managed to procure some crude paper, a quill pen, and a mixture of water and charcoal to serve as his ink. So as Paul scratches out these final words to Timothy under these conditions, what does he choose to say? He says, “Please greet my friends.”
Among those friends were Priscilla and Aquila, two old acquaintances of Paul from his days as a traveling missionary. The Biblical book of Acts tells us that they had been expelled from the city of Rome, along with the rest of the Jewish people under an edict from the Roman government. When Paul arrived in the city of Corinth, he met this married couple who had just arrived there as well.
As it turned out, Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla were all tentmakers by trade. They apparently got along so well that they established lodging together within the city and stayed there for some time. Later, when Paul departed for Syria to continue his missionary work, Priscilla and Aquila went with him (see Acts 18:1-18). In fact, Paul was so close with this couple that he referred to Priscilla as “Prisca” in this passage, a likely reference to her nickname.
Priscilla and Aquila also appear in several of Paul’s other New Testament letters. For instance, the book of Romans tells us they were ready to support Paul at the cost of their lives…
“Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home” (Romans 16:3-5).
In addition to opening their home to serve as a house church, we also know that Priscilla and Aquila ministered to others on an individual level as well (see Acts 18:24-28). Now it seems this well-traveled couple had made their way to the city of Ephesus along with Timothy. Thus, it is fitting that Paul reserved some space at the end of this letter to greet these long-time, faithful friends.
“Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus” (2 Timothy 4:19)
Paul the Apostle mentioned Onesiphorus earlier in this letter when he said, “…he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me… You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:16-18).
Unlike Alexander the coppersmith (who apparently went out of his way to harm Paul), Onesiphorus was someone who went out of his way to help him…
“‘Refreshed’ is anapsucho, ‘to cool again, to cool off.’ It is an admirable word to express the comforts which this saint brought to Paul who was enduring the discomforts of a Roman prison… By not being ashamed of Paul’s chain, the apostle means that Onesiphorus was not deterred from visiting Paul in prison by any danger which he might incur by reason of the fact that he was a friend of a prisoner who was a Christian, and who was on trial for his life.” (1)
Some commentators have suggested that this reference to “…the household of Onesiphorus” implies that he had passed away. However, this seems unlikely since Paul referred to his household in the present tense. A more likely possibility is that Onesiphorus had simply been away from home for an extended period. Thus, Paul sent greetings to his family members who were left behind.
But if Onesiphorus had passed away, there is a more ominous possibility to consider. You see, it was dangerous to be known as an associate of a political prisoner in those days. Onesiphorus clearly took a substantial risk in visiting Paul, and it’s possible that he paid for that loyalty with his life. There’s also a chance that he had been imprisoned as well, thus awaiting the same fate as the friend he came to visit.
These possibilities lead us to some thought-provoking observations from the following commentator…
“Again and again the Bible bangs us face to face with a question which is real for every one of us. Again and again it introduces and dismisses a man from the stage of history with a single sentence… Onesiphorus–we know nothing of him except that in his loyalty to Paul he risked–and perhaps lost–his life… Onesiphorus goes down to history as the friend who stuck closer than a brother. If we were to be described in one sentence, what would it be? Would it be the verdict on a traitor, or the verdict on a disciple who was true?” (2)
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [note on 2 Timothy 1:16-17] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(2) Barclay, William, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible“. “The Faithless Many And The Faithful One (2Ti_1:15-18)”.
“Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick” (2 Timothy 4:20).
Erastus is mentioned in two other places within the New Testament Scriptures. We find the first in Romans 16:23 where he is identified as the city treasurer. He is also mentioned in Acts 19:21-22where he was assigned to visit the region of Macedonia along with Timothy.
While Erastus may seem to be an insignificant person mentioned at the end of this letter, his presence offers us something important to consider. For instance, Erastus’ role as city treasurer probably means that he had to balance the demands of secular employment along with his ministry responsibilities, at least for a while. Much like Paul the Apostle (who worked as a tentmaker to support himself for a time), Erastus was a government official by vocation but a minister of God’s Word by avocation.
This example reminds us that God’s call upon our lives may involve a time (or a lifetime) of bi-vocational service as we fulfill our ministerial responsibilities alongside our roles as employees, students, or parents.
However, Erastus’ greatest contribution may come from outside the Biblical Scriptures…
“Writing his Epistle to the Romans from Corinth during the winter of AD 56-57, Paul sends greetings from some of his companions, and adds: ‘Erastus the City Treasurer greets you’ (Rom_16:23). In the course of excavations in Corinth in 1929, Professor T. L. Shear found a pavement with the inscription ERASTVS PRO: AED: S:P: STRAVIT (Erastus, curator of public buildings, laid this pavement at his own expense). The evidence indicates that this pavement existed in the first century AD, and it is most probable that the donor is identical with the Erastus who is mentioned by Paul.” (1)
“Even as isolated a reference as Acts 19:22, which mentions that Paul sent Timothy and Erastus ahead of him into Macedonia, employs a name that appears only here in Acts and twice in Paul’s letters- Erastus. In Romans 16:23, he is described as the director of public works and is among those who send greetings from Corinth to the Roman church.90 In 2 Timothy 4:20, Paul notes merely that he left Erastus in Corinth.
To this day one can see a portion of paving stone in the outdoor part of the archaeological museum of the Corinthian ruins that has inscribed on it in Latin the name of Erastus as the ‘aedile’ (a municipal director of public projects) who financed the laying of this street at his own expense. All these undesigned coincidences inspire all the more confidence in Acts’ historical accuracy.” (2)
(1) F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents Are They Reliable? Fifth Revised Edition © The Inter-Varsity Fellowship
(2) Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament Copyright © 2016 B&H Academic Nashville, Tennessee [pg. 334]
“Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus” (2 Timothy 4:20 ESV).
It may seem disconcerting to read how Paul the Apostle “…left Trophimus behind in Miletus, where he was sick” (NTE). This is especially true when we stop to consider how God used Paul to miraculously heal others on numerous occasions. One commentary makes a thought-provoking observation concerning Paul, his traveling companion Luke (a physician), and Trophimus in this respect: “This interestingly enough, happened despite the presence of a doctor and an apostle…” (1)
While it is true that God may often protect us from accidents or physical ailments, the Scriptures also identify a number of God-honoring men and women who suffered from various illnesses (see Philippians 2:25-27 and 1 Timothy 5:23 for some examples). There are several factors that may explain why God might allow such things to enter our lives. For instance, physical infirmities may serve as a disciplinary measure, as a catalyst for spiritual growth, or they may simply reflect the consequences of life in a fallen world.
This difficult topic is worthy of a lengthy except from the following Biblical scholar…
“Numerous verses in Scripture substantiate the view that physical healing in mortal life is not guaranteed in the atonement and that it is not always God’s will to heal. The apostle Paul couldn’t heal Timothy’s stomach problem (1 Tim. 5:23) nor could he heal Trophimus at Miletus (2 Tim. 4:20) or Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25–27). Paul spoke of ‘a bodily illness’ he had (Gal. 4:13–15). He also suffered a ‘thorn in the flesh’ which God allowed him to retain (2 Cor. 12:7–9). God certainly allowed Job to go through a time of physical suffering (Job 1–2).
In none of these cases is it stated that the sickness was caused by sin or unbelief. Nor did Paul or any of the others act as if they thought their healing was guaranteed in the atonement. They accepted their situations and trusted in God’s grace for sustenance. It is noteworthy that on two occasions Jesus said that sickness could be for the glory of God (John 9:3; 11:4).
Other Scripture reveals that our physical bodies are continuously running down and suffering various ailments. Our present bodies are said to be perishable and weak (1 Cor. 15:42–44). Paul said ‘our outer man is decaying’ (2 Cor. 4:16). Death and disease will be a part of the human condition until that time when we receive resurrection bodies that are immune to such frailties (1 Cor. 15:51–55).” (2)
(1) New International Bible Commentary, Copyright© 1979 by Pickering & Inglis Ltd [pg. 1492]
(2) Norman L. Giesler and Ron Rhodes, When Cultists Ask A Popular Handbook on Cultic Misinterpretations [note on Isaiah 53:4–5] Baker Books, 1997
“Do your utmost to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren” (2 Timothy 4:21).
Two sources explain the urgency behind the Apostle Paul’s request to Timothy and this heartfelt appeal to “Do your best to come before winter” (Mounce)…
“The seas were closed down to traffic in winter; shipping was completely closed down from around November 10 to as late as March 10, but the periods from about September 15 to November 10 and March 11 to May 26 were risky periods as well.
Timothy thus could not sail from Ephesus in winter, but even if he took the overland route north of Greece, as Paul seems to expect (2Ti_4:13), he would still need to sail across the Adriatic, which was also closed. If Timothy delayed, he would not be able to come until spring—and Paul might not still be alive then. Paul may have sent this letter by Tychicus in summer, leaving Timothy little time to set matters in order and come to him.” (1)
“The safe sailing season was from May 27 to September 14. Risky seasons were from March 10 to May 26 and from September 15 to November 11. The winter season, from November 12 to March 9, was avoided except for emergencies or military campaigns. Even travel on land was avoided during winter—hence Paul’s plan to spend one winter at Corinth (1 Cor. 16:5–6) and another at Nicopolis (Titus 3:12), as well as his urgent plea to Timothy, “Do your best to come before winter” (2 Tim. 4:21).
The greatest danger of winter sailing, of course, was shipwrecks. In his second letter to Corinth, Paul mentions being shipwrecked three times, and on one of these occasions, spending a night and a day floating in the open sea. Yet we know of another shipwreck still, and Luke’s description of it (in Acts 27) is one of the most vivid narratives in all of ancient literature.” (2)
While some of those mentioned earlier in 2 Timothy chapter four are relatively well known, we have little or no information regarding Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia. Early church tradition tells us that Linus served as the bishop of Rome. In addition, some speculate that Claudia may have been related to royalty. But other than these bits of fragmentary information, we know nothing else about these individuals beyond what is written here.
Yet even while these four persons may remain unknown to us, they are well known to God- and the same is true for us as well.
(1) Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary [2 Timothy 4:19-22]
(2) Edwin M. Yamauchi, Christian History magazine Issue 47, On the Road with Paul. The ease—and dangers—of travel in ancient world. (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, Inc.) 1997.
“The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:22).
“Shortly after this Epistle was written, within a few months at most, Paul had his second hearing, was sentenced to death by execution, was led out of the city at the Ostian Gate to a place called the Three Fountains, and there was beheaded. At least all early tradition, and the Fathers, among them Clement, one of his companions, support this view.” (1)
“The traditional view is that Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero between AD 64 and 67. Scripture does not directly state his martyrdom, but there are hints in both Acts and 2 Timothy 4:6-8 that Paul knew his death was pending. The first extrabiblical evidence is found in 1 Clement 5:5-7 (c. AD 95 – 96) in which Paul is described as suffering greatly for his faith and then being ‘set free from this world and transported up to the holy place, having become the greatest example of endurance.’
While details regarding the manner of his fate are lacking, the immediate context strongly implies that Clement was referring to the martyrdom of Paul. Other early evidences for the martyrdom of Paul can be found in Ignatius (Letter to the Ephesians 12:2), Polycarp (Letter to the Philippians 9:1-2), Dionysius of Corinth (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2.25.4), Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3.1.1), The Acts of Paul, and Tertullian (Scorpiace 15:5-6). The early, consistent, and unanimous testimony is that Paul died as a martyr.” (2)
“Paul, the Apostle, who was before called Saul, after his great travail and unspeakable labours in promoting the Gospel of Christ, suffered also in this persecution under Nero. …Nero sent two of his esquires… to bring him word of his death… (T)he soldiers came and led him out of the city to the place of execution, where he, after his prayers were made, gave his neck to the sword.” (3)
“By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place, having been found a notable pattern of patient endurance.” (4)
(1) B. W. Johnson, The People’s New Testament [pg. 538]. Public Domain http://www.ccel.org/ccel/johnson_bw/pnt.html
(2) Josh McDowell And Sean McDowell, PhD, Evidence That Demands a Verdict [pgs. 363-364] © 2017 Josh McDowell Ministry
(3) John Foxe, Foxe’s Book Of Martyrs [pg. 13] © 1981 by Whitaker House https://archive.org/services/img/foxesbookofmarty00foxe_1
(4) The First Epistle Of Clement To The Corinthians, [5:5-6] http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/1clement-lightfoot.html