2 Timothy 4: ‘Be Considerate’
E W Rogers, Oxford
We have labelled this chapter "Be Considerate", because it contains the touching last requests of the veteran apostle to his junior aide in circumstances that imply that he is at the end of life's journey.
He urges Timothy to do his utmost to come to him shortly, v. 9, as he longed to see him, 1. 4. He wants him to do this "before winter", 4. 21, when travelling would be, at least, very difficult and hazardous. In the mercy of God he has Luke, the medical man, with him but all others have left him. Demas had allowed the world to get a grip on his heart and he had gone to Thessalonica, Crescens to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia.
He wishes him to collect on the way Mark, who had defected on Paul's first missionary journey, but who had later proved himself to be a very useful servant. The R.v. better renders the phrase as "useful to me for ministering" rather than as in the a.v. "for the ministry", v. 11. This latter has now acquired a restricted and religious meaning which it did not originally possess. Tychicus in self-sacrificing devotion had Paul sent to Ephesus, presumably with this letter; hence of his travelling companions the only one left was Luke. It is apparent from verse 21 that there were other believers near at hand, so that verse n must be interpreted in relation to his erstwhile fellow-workers.
The love of Demas for this present age, v. 10, is manifestly set in contrast with those "that have loved his appearing", v. 8 r.v. The pull of the unseen had given way, as far as he was concerned, to the pull of the seen.
In view of the approaching winter Paul wants a cloke which he had left at Troas with Carpus (long standing doubts as to the meaning of the word translated "cloke" have not yet been finally resolved; see Vine's Expository Dictionary). Paul not only wants something for his body but also something for his soul and his spirit; hence he desires Timothy to bring the books, specially the parchments, v. 13. Maybe the latter were writing material. Did Paul wish to write further letters?
In our present day, when the younger sometimes have little regard for the older, such requests might appear so trivial that they would be apt to be ignored, but Timothy must be considerate of his spiritual leader, and in view of his very trying circumstances and gruesome prospect he must not regard matters such as cloke, books, parchments, and haste as things which can be forgotten. Besides, could Timothy so treat his loved chief?
The Last Words of Paul. Timothy has been left in Ephesus. In view of the fact that the Lord Jesus is about to judge the "quick" (i.e., living; see Matt. 25. 31) when He returns to earth, and the "dead" at the great white throne, Rev. 20. 11ff; in view of the fact that He is not always to be absent but will in due time appear; and in view of the fact that His rights on earth will then be acknowledged and that He will have His kingdom, Timothy must now "preach the word", v. 2. He had been assured of its true nature and capacity at the end of chapter 3; this word he must now preach, or "herald". Both Paul and Timothy are accountable to the Lord; hence Paul gives his solemn charge in the sight of God and of Christ Jesus, and Timothy must heed and comply with it accordingly. If he has not opportunity he must make opportunity - in season or out of season; he must reprove (margin, bring to the proof), rebuke, exhort; it will take patience and diligent teaching. This is all the more imperative because the time will come (and by our day has come) when people will not endure sound teaching (healthy doctrine). Note how Paul describes the message entrusted to Timothy: "sacred writings" 3. 15 r.v.; "all scripture", 3. 16; "the word", 4. 2; "sound doctrine", 4. 3; "the truth", 4. 4. To unregenerate men the "truth" is unpalatable, and consequently they turn away from it, and governed by their own likings they heap to themselves teachers who will speak things which are palatable to them but in reality are merely myths (fables).
Timothy must be sober in all things. He must allow nothing to control him excessively. He must suffer hardship, v. 5 r.v. ; 2. 3, and he must do the work of an evangelist and fulfil the specific service that had been entrusted to him. This is all the more urgent because Paul affirms that his work is finished.
I am, he says, already being poured out as a drink offering, v. 6 R.v. marg. He foresaw this as a possibility when writing to the Philippians, 2. 17, but now it was being realized. The time for him to strike tent and to "go home" (cf. 2 Cor. 5. 8) had come; the time for him to loose his moorings and to set sail for the eternal harbour had arrived. Paul has no fears; rather a joyful prospect lies ahead of him.
He reviews his life. "I have fought the good fight", v. 7 r.v. ; not "I have fought well", but the cause in which I have been fighting has been a splendid one (Greek: kalos). Possibly the thought is not so much of a fight as a games-contest, (see Heb. 12. 1-2), and this may agree with the second item mentioned, "I have finished my course", a thing that he earnestly desired when speaking to the Ephesian elders, Acts 20. 24. He had kept the faith (that good deposit to which he referred in 1. 12).
Thus Paul imitated his Lord whose great contest and ultimate victory is mentioned in Hebrews 12. 2. The Lord Jesus said, "It is finished"; Paul the apostle said, "I have finished". He had enjoined Archippus to "fulfil" the service entrusted to him, Col. 4. 17; Timothy must do likewise.
Paul had been the subject of much adverse criticism as his letters to the Corinthians in particular show, but there is a "righteous judge" or the Lord Himself from whose hand Paul was sure he would receive a victor's crown because He would righteously assess both his motives and his work at that day. However, he has no exclusive monopoly in this as it is open for all to gain, providing that they have loved His appearing. The perfect tense which Paul uses frequently here is important, for it denotes a thing done, the effects of which abide.
At the end of the journey of the life of king Saul, he had to bemoan, "I have sinned: ... I have played the fool, and have erred", 1 Sam. 26. 21. At the end of the earthly life of our blessed Lord Jesus, He could say, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work ... I have manifested thy name", John 17. 4, 6. And now Paul has his three triumphant notes.
Alexander, whose identity cannot definitely be fixed, is said to have done many evil things to Paul - when and where is not stated. The latter part of verse 14 is rendered in the a.v. as the expression of a desire, but in the R.v. as the assurance of a future penalty. Certainly the latter conforms more with the Christian spirit, while the former agrees with the Old Testament imprecations. In view, however, of the fact that this Alexander had greatly withstood Paul, Timothy should be specially wary of him.
Paul then alludes to his first hearing before Nero. Unhappily no one was prepared to accept his brief, and argue his case on his behalf. He had to be not only prisoner in the dock, but counsel for the defence. Yet, though apparently standing alone, he was not really alone, for the Lord stood with him, and at that time he was delivered from the lion's (Nero's) mouth. The case was apparently deferred.
Read in the light of 1. 15, it would seem that none had the courage in those hard days to stand by Paul and espouse his cause. But, as always, he found the Lord standing by him, faithful as ever. He had been with him in the difficult days when he first visited Corinth, Acts 18. 10, and again when he was in peril in the midst of the Euroclydon storm, Acts 27. 23, and again in Jerusalem, Acts 23. 11. It was so with the three men in the fiery furnace, Dan. 3. 25, and with Daniel, Dan. 6. 22. We may count on His like presence, Heb. 13. 5. But how mysterious, in view of all this, was the cry of the Holy Sufferer!, Ps. 22. 1.
Paul has no hard thought against his fellow believers who deserted him in this hour of legal trial. It seems from the language of verse 17 that Paul took advantage of his dual position, prisoner in the dock and counsel for the defence, to proclaim the gospel to a crowded court before the ruler of the Roman world and all who were there assembled. It was a unique and splendid opportunity. Who can tell what were its eternal issues?
Yet Paul knew that martyrdom was not far off and that it would prove a deliverance from every evil work, however extreme. It would but be the means of his entrance into the heavenly kingdom. He employs the title "the Lord" in verse 18 as referring, of course, to the Lord Jesus - not to Nero who claimed the title for himself. But Paul recognized the Lord of all lords whose purposes could not be frustrated, and whose eternal glory would be assured by whatever happened to him.
Paul salutes Prisca and Aquila (a shortened form of the name in affectionate regard, as we often do now-a-days) and the house of Onesiphorus, who had presumably passed on by death.
Trophimus Paul had left at Miletus sick. Had he possessed the gift of healing to be used indiscriminately upon any and all, this could only be regarded as callous in the extreme; but, of course, such a gift was entrusted to no one for such haphazard use.
In the last verse, we see what a loss modern translations incur for us when they jettison "thee", "thou", and similar second person singular pronouns. As in the A.v. Paul expresses in verse 22 two wishes, one for Timothy, and one for all saints. For Timothy: "The Lord be with thy spirit'*. For all saints: "Grace be with you" (plural).