‘The cloke … and the books, but especially the parchments’, 2 Tim. 4. 13
Have you ever left or lost something? Sometimes, the item is not that valuable, but there are some things that are undoubtedly worth searching for and retrieving.
When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he was probably imprisoned in a dungeon cell in Rome. His circumstances were considerably different from his last experience in that city, Acts 28. 16-31. Darker days had come, and Paul had been arrested and had no time to gather up all his possessions. Three of his possessions are identified in our text. The question is why these three items alone were so important to Paul? We suggest that they reflect some of Paul’s teaching in the Pastoral letters.
The cloke - The cloke refers to an outer garment made from a heavy material, circular in shape with a hole in the middle for the person’s head, like a poncho cape. Languishing in a dungeon cell during winter would not be a pleasant or a warm experience and so the cloke would be of immeasurable benefit to him. Even though Paul knew the help of the Lord, v. 17, he did not despise the use of other means of comfort in his predicament. Throughout the Pastorals, Paul teaches that Christianity is not about extremism as evidenced by those who pervert the gospel of Christ. Nor is it resignation! When our bodies are cold, we need clothing; when we feel abandoned and our spirits are low, we rejoice in the support of Christian friends, 1. 16-18. These are not spiritual weaknesses, but the recognition that our faith is both practical and corporate.
The books, but especially the parchments - The word for ‘books’ refers to any writing in general, but in the Old Testament it means the Book of the Law, Deut. 28. 58. So, this may well be a request for copies of Old Testament scriptures to enable Paul to keep up his daily reading. This emphasis on attendance to reading scripture is mirrored throughout the Pastorals. How much time do we spend meditating daily on scripture?
Finally, ‘the parchments’ suggests Paul’s private papers, possibly legal documents, confirming his Roman citizenship. These would be required by him to support his case before Caesar. Whilst our true citizenship is in heaven, Phil. 3. 20, and we are spiritual exiles in this world, 1 Pet. 2. 11; Heb. 11. 13, we are, nonetheless, required to show that we are good citizens by our subjection to authorities, provided it does not compromise our allegiance to Christ. This teaching on legal obligation is seen in the Pastorals, 1 Tim. 2. 1-4; Titus 3. 1, and elsewhere. Believers should resist, however, any attempt by authorities to make us compliant with that which is contrary to God’s word, regardless of how it seeks to squeeze us ‘into its own mould’, Rom. 12. 2 Phillips.
Ministry Articles Editor