2 Timothy 4

Living in View of the End Approaching
2 Timothy 4
2 Timothy 4. In the final chapter of 2 Timothy Paul gives a number of exhortations to Timothy in light of the end approaching. He makes numerous references to the appearing of Christ, to the coming apostasy, and also to Paul’s own approaching martyrdom. These are the last recorded words of the apostle Paul, and he becomes very personal in this chapter.

Paul’s Charge for Timothy (4:1-5)

1 I testify before God and Christ Jesus, who is about to judge living and dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom, 2 proclaim the word; be urgent in season and out of season, convict, rebuke, encourage, with all longsuffering and doctrine. vv.1-2 Paul’s Charge to Timothy. Paul now gives his closing charge to Timothy, “before God and Christ Jesus, who is about to judge living and dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom”. What he tells Timothy to do is in light of the end approaching, when Christ will judge all men, beginning with the “living” initially at ,“his appearing” and ongoing through “his kingdom”, and followed by the judgment of the “the dead” at the great white throne. There is a thousand years between the judgment of the quick and the judgment of the dead. Read more… When we realize that Christ is about to intervene in this world, it motivates us to serve Him now! This is especially true in the gospel, but also in all areas of service. Paul’s charge to Timothy was to preach the Word of God, with urgency, and at all times and in all circumstances. He had just emphasized that every scripture is profitable, and now he says it is time to proclaim it! We should not wait for a favorable time to preach the Word, but rather preach it “in season and out of season”, when souls are receptive and even when they aren’t. Timothy was to use the Word of God to “convict, rebuke, encourage” souls in whatever state he found them. Some need to be convicted about something, others need to be rebuked, and others simply need to be encouraged. This action was to be coupled with “longsuffering” or patience with souls, and “doctrine” or teaching in a way that can be understood. We could summarize Paul’s charge to Timothy as that he should minister the Word of God.
3 For the time shall be when they will not bear sound teaching; but according to their own lusts will heap up to themselves teachers, having an itching ear; 4 and they will turn away their ear from the truth, and will have turned aside to fables. vv.3-4 The Reason for Urgency: Increased Apostasy. The reason why Timothy was to minister the Word urgently was because the Christian profession was beginning to apostatize, and the time was coming when those who profess the name of Christ “will not bear sound teaching”. There was still opportunity for Timothy to make a difference, but in some places that door was rapidly closing! Rather than hear sound teaching, professing Christians would chose their own teachers in order to hear teaching that will satisfy their own lusts. In scripture, it its Christ who chooses teachers, not the church (Eph. 4:11). The expression “having an itching ear” seems to mean that people want to hear stimulating or pleasing to the natural mind of man.1 The problem is not just with the leaders, but with the people themselves! They have turned away from “the truth” of the Word of God in favor of mere “fables”. “Fables” are made up stories with a moral lesson, but the story itself is not true. This is what we have left when we turn away from the Word of God. Christianity becomes a religion of morals arising from the human imagination, rather than from the Word of God. Surely, we can see that this description of the Christian profession aligns with our day. Although today there is less general reception of the Word of God, there is still opportunity to preach and teach the Word of God, and so the work must go on.
5 But “thou”, be sober in all things, bear evils, do the work of an evangelist, fill up the full measure of thy ministry. v.5 Timothy’s Path. The way to fulfill the charge of vv.1-2 is given in this verse. It is extremely personal to Timothy, but we can apply it to ourselves. First, we must be “sober in all things”, which means to have sound moral judgment concerning the world. Second, we must have patience and endurance to “bear evils”, from enemies as well as difficult circumstances. Third, we must “do the work of an evangelist”, by seeking to spread the gospel to lost souls. Not every believer has the gift of an evangelist (although Timothy may have had it), but we are all responsible to do the work of one. The gospel a core element of Christianity, and we should all be engaged in carrying forth the glad tidings! It is easy to get busy with other aspects of service and to neglect the work of an evangelist. Fourth, we are to faithfully carry forth the ministry we have been given; to “fill up the full measure of thy ministry”. Each believer has been given a specific service, as well as the gift (2 Tim. 1:6) and means to carry it out. Often discouragement or competing interests intrude into our lives and overshadow the work that the Lord has given us to do. We need to be stirred up, and prodded, as Archippus was by Paul in Col. 4:17, and as Timothy was here, to pay attention to the ministry we have received, and fulfill it. Who but the blessed Lord Jesus has done so perfectly; “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4)?

Paul, with the End in View, Reflecting on His Ministry and Companions (4:6-18)

6 For “I” am already being poured out, and the time of my release is come. 7 I have combated the good combat, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will render to me in that day; but not only to me, but also to all who love his appearing. vv.6-8 Paul’s Ministry in Review, the End Near. Having addressed Timothy’s ministry that was still future, Paul now reflects on his own ministry. The end was very near. Paul knew that he would shortly suffer martyrdom. Paul speaks of himself as a libation or a drink-offering; emphasizing the willingness with which he would offer himself (Phil. 2:17). It refers to the complete sacrifice of himself; to be “poured out”. He was already being poured out, and the time of release – from his suffering body, from the Roman chains – had come. Paul could reflect on his service, and write by inspiration; “I have combated the good combat, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. The “good combat” is the continual struggle to live for God’s glory in an evil world (1 Tim. 1:18).2 The “race” is the entire pathway of the believer, pictured by a foot race, and the prize is Christ (Phil. 3:14). He speaks of having kept “the faith”, which refers to the whole body of Christian truth, which we are to “earnestly contend for” (Jude 3). Having thus finished his course, Paul could anticipate a reward at “that day”, which refers to the day of Christ, when rewards will be displayed. Paul pictured that reward as already waiting for him; “the crown of righteousness is laid up for me”. The thought of righteouness is brought in because of the rejection Paul was experienceing. Only “the Lord, the righteous Judge” can give a righteous assessment of our pathway and service for Him! This crown is not for Paul only, but for “all who love his appearing”. Again, the end of the pathway is in view, the day of Christ’s appearing, when all things will be manifested as they truly are. To “love his appearing” means to have a longing in our hearts for Christ to have His fully glory, and this corresponds with a lifetime devoted to His glory here below.
Crowns as Rewards in Scripture. There are a number of metaphorical crowns is the New Testament: the "crown of life" for total self-sacrifice (Jam. 1:12; Rev. 2:10), the "crown of glory" for caring for the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:4), the "crown of righteousness" for faithfulness in service (2 Tim. 4:8), the "crown of rejoicing" for those who evangelize and edify souls (Phil. 4:1), the "crown of incorruptibility" for those who maintain self-control (1 Cor. 9:25), the Philadelphian "crown" for not giving up the truth (Rev. 3:11), and the "crown of gold" for every redeemed saint of God (Rev. 4:4). These crowns will be awarded to the believer at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10).
9 Use diligence to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved the present age, and is gone to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thyself, for he is serviceable to me for ministry. 12 But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. vv.9-12 Paul’s Relationships with Companions. Paul desired Timothy to come quickly to visit him in Rome. Again, this is with a sense of urgency, because the end was approaching, and Paul desired Timothy’s companionship. Paul was clearly sensing a shortage of servant in Lord’s work; “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). Paul comments on a number of his companions.
  1. Demas. The first was “Demas”, whose name is mentioned in Philemon and in Colossians 4 without any commendation, which was very unusual for Paul.3 By the time we come to 2 Timothy, Demas had been fully swept along with the tide that had turned against Paul (2 Tim. 1:15), and now Paul had to say that Demas had forsaken him. It does not say Demas forsook Christ, but that he forsook Paul; i.e. he remained a Christian, but had no use for Paul. The reason was that Demas “loved the present age”, in contrast with loving Christ’s appearing (v.8). Paul’s ministry has a profound practical significance in that is demands separation from the world. Demas forsook Paul because it was incompatible with his priorities. How sad! This grieved Paul deeply.
  2. Crescens. Another fellow servant named Crescens is mentioned, and this is the only reference to him, as having departed to Galatia, perhaps on some service for the Lord. With Crescens and Titus there is no accusing comment, although it would seem that Paul wished they had remained with him.
  3. Titus. Here we have another delegate of the apostle Paul, to whom a pastoral epistle is addressed. Titus, who apparently had finished his work in Crete (Tit. 1:5), had departed to Dalmatia, most likely on some mission.
  4. Luke. Paul notes that Luke, “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14) and companion of Paul, and also the New Testament prophet who wrote the gospel of Luke and Acts, had remained with Paul to the very end. How gracious of the Lord to preserve a devoted friend at Paul’s side, especially one who could care for the aged apostle near the end.
  5. Mark. We have a wonderful comment concerning John Mark.

    Mark, or "John, whose surname was Mark", as he is called in Acts 12:12; 12:25; 15:37, was a servant of Christ and a New Testament writer. When we first read of John Mark, we find that his mother, Mary, opened her home up for a prayer meeting. Later in the same chapter, we find that Paul and Barnabas took John Mark with them on the first missionary journey. However, part way along the journey (when they reached the coast of Asia Minor), John Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas. On account of this, Paul refused to take John Mark on the second missionary journey; "But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work" (Acts 15:38). Barnabas disagreed with Paul, and the two servants were separated over the issue. Barnabas took Mark with him, and Paul took Silas. Evidently Mark was restored from his previous failures, and used in broader service (Col. 4:10). Mark was later used to write the gospel of Mark, which fittingly presents Christ as the Perfect Servant. Being shepherded by Peter may have had something to do with Mark's restoration (1 Pet. 5:13). In his second epistle to Timothy, Paul could say, "Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry" (2 Tim. 4:11). Mark is a testament to the fact that failures don't necessarily mean the end of our usefulness for Christ. Perhaps Mark was timid (like Timothy), but more likely his failure was publicly known, and so Paul "ordered" the Colossians to receive Mark if he visited Colosse.

  6. Tychicus. The final name is Tychicus, who was “a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” from Asia (Eph. 6:21; Acts 20:4), who could be trusted with various commissions and was able to relate Paul’s state to many saints that prayed for him (Col 4:7). Here we find that Tychicus was sent by Paul to Ephesus, perhaps to join Timothy there. It is noteworthy that Crescens and Titus “departed” on the own responsibility before the Lord, but Tychicus was sent by Paul.

Three individuals mentioned in Colossians 4 and 2 Timothy 4:

  • Luke: began well, and finished well.
  • Mark: had an early failure, but was restored, and finished well.
  • Demas: began well, but drifted away, and forsook Paul in the end.
13 The cloak which I left behind me in Troas at Carpus’s, bring when thou comest, and the books, especially the parchments. v.13 Practical Notes. It is wonderful to see that a note about Paul’s cloak, books, and parchments would be included in the inspired scripture. It shows that God takes note the smallest needs, such as the cloak of the apostle Paul who was  approaching winter (v.21). Timothy would pass through Troas on his way to Rome, and could bring the cloak from Carpus’s home. Paul wanted “the books”, which would have been completed works of the apostle Paul, although not necessarily inspired. The “parchments” would be the blank sheets of writing material, which were expensive in those days. On a practical note, this shows us that Paul valued the privilege of writing down the truth God had given him. We can take this as an encouragement to take notes as we learn more from the Bible! 
14 Alexander the smith did many evil things against me. The Lord will render to him according to his works. 15 Against whom be “thou” also on thy guard, for he has greatly withstood our words. vv.14-15 Alexander the Smith. Paul writes of a certain “Alexander the smith”, a personal enemy of the apostle, who had done many evil things against him. As far as retribution goes, Paul was not looking to get even. Vengeance is a matter that belongs to God alone (Rom. 12:19), and Paul could leave that matter with the Lord; “The Lord will render to him according to his works”. But he warned Timothy of Alexander, so that he could be on his guard against attacks that would come. Alexander may be the same “Alexander” as found in 1 Tim. 1:20, who along with Hymenaeus did not keep a good conscience, and as a result eventually “made shipwreck as to faith”. Paul had to deliver this one “to Satan” because of his blasphemy. Here we find that Alexander had “greatly withstood our words”, referring to the words of the apostles. The servant of the Lord must be on his guard against enemies.
16 At my first defence no man stood with me, but all deserted me. May it not be imputed to them. 17 But the Lord stood with me, and gave me power, that through me the proclamation might be fully made, and all those of the nations should hear; and I was delivered out of the lion’s mouth. vv.16-17 Paul’s First Defense Before Nero. Paul speaks of his “first defense” or trial before Nero, where he stood alone without human support; “all deserted me”. It would have been certain death to stand with Paul in “the lion’s mouth”, and none did. Following blessedly in the footsteps of his Master, Paul could say without bitterness, “May it not be imputed to them” (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60). When human helpers fail and comforts flee, the Lord will never forsake His own (Heb. 13:5). The Lord sustained His servant Paul through that trial, and gave him strength to fully proclaim the gospel message in the highest court of the land; that “all those of the nations should hear”. This we could say was perhaps the last mission Paul, “a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). The Lord saw fit that Paul was delivered from Nero at this first defense; he was “delivered” in the language of Psalm 22, “out of the lion’s mouth”. The lion refers first to Satan, who was controlling Nero and attempting to silence Paul in his trial (1 Pet. 5:8).
18 The Lord shall deliver me from every wicked work, and shall preserve me for his heavenly kingdom; to whom be glory for the ages of ages. Amen. v.18 Confidence in the Lord. The apostle had confidence in the Lord that he would be ultimately delivered from “every wicked work”. This does not mean he would be delivered from Nero a second time, for he knew that the time of his release had come. It means rather that he would be preserved from the evil itself; i.e. to be preserved or delivered morally (Dan. 3:17). Paul would be preserved for the Lord’s heavenly kingdom, which refers to being with the Lord even before the appearing of Christ, when His authority will be extended over the earth. It is the kingdom viewed as a heavenly portion of the saints (Matt. 13:43). This leads the imprisoned apostle into a doxology of praise; “to whom be glory for the ages of ages. Amen”.

Salutations (4:19-22)

19 Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the house of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained in Corinth, but Trophimus I left behind in Miletus sick. 21 Use diligence to come before winter. Eubulus salutes thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and the brethren all. vv.19-21 Personal Salutations. In closing, Paul passes on a few personal notes and salutations. First, Paul would have Timothy greet “Prisca and Aquila”, that dear Christian couple that labored with the apostle for many years. Apparently they were now in Ephesus again. Read more… The “house of Onesiphorus” was mentioned in the first chapter as the family of that brother who had diligently sought out Paul when he was in Rome, and was not ashamed of the imprisoned apostle. He notifies Timothy that Erastus, a fellow servant of Timothy (Acts 19:22) and the chamberlain of Corinth (Rom. 16:23), had remained in Corinth. Paul would not dictate what others should do. Trophimus, another companion of Paul from Asia (Act 20:4; 21:29), was left behind in Miletus sick. It is noteworthy that Paul did not use his apostolic power to cure Trophimus. That power was not to be used for personal interests. It must have grieved Paul to leave him there, but he could count on the mercy of God, and rest in the fact that the illness was ultimately for the glory of God. It would seem that this event took place on the undescribed “fourth missionary journey” under some level of supervision, which would have taken place between AD 63 and 65. Read more… Paul wanted Timothy to come before winter. No doubt he was earnestly anticipating their reunion, but also wanted Timothy to make the journey before winter weather made it impossible. Paul passed on the greeting of several he had met in Rome, none whose names are found elsewhere in scripture; “Eubulus salutes thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia”. Paul adds, “and the brethren all” conveying the warmest Christian love from a wide array of brethren. See Acts 28:14-15.
22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. v.22 Closing Prayer. The closing prayer of the apostles Paul was that the Lord would be with Timothy’s spirit or attitude. It is very important to maintain a right spirit, especially in difficult days. Finally, Paul prayed for “grace” for Timothy. In 2 Tim. 2:1 Paul encouraged Timothy to “be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus”, and now he prays for grace to strengthen and keep Timothy all through his pathway. The same grace that saves us is the same grace that keeps us!
The Importance of Having a Gracious Spirit. It is perhaps one of the most important things in our Christian life to maintain a right spirit. It is possible to do right things with the wrong attitude. “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits” (Prov. 16:2). God insists that His servants reflect His character. As the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9), the Lord is correcting our attitude or spirit. We see this with Moses, when he failed to reflect the gracious heart of Jehovah to the children of Israel, and said "Hear now, ye rebels, etc." and struck the rock twice (Num. 20:10). Because of this he was not allowed to enter Canaan. We see it again with Elijah, who remained faithful to the Lord, but developed a bad attitude, and said twice "I, even I only, am left, etc." (1 Kings 19:14). Because of this, Elijah was told to anoint Elisha to be prophet instead of him. The same is true in the New Testament. There are a number of times where we are exhorted to have a right spirit at the very close of Paul's epistles. Each occasion corresponds to a circumstance where is would be easy to develop a bad attitude or spirit:
  • Galatians 6:18. When we have been carrying on in a legal way, and when we have been corrected.
  • Philippians 4:23When there are disagreements between brethren.
  • Philemon 25. When we are called on to forgive someone who has offended us.
  • 2 Timothy 4:22. When we look around and see failure in a day of public ruin.
  1. “the desire to hear what pleases the mind, the taste, and the natural aspirations of man, modified as all is by the governing spirit of the age” – Kelly, W. The Second Epistle to Timothy.
  2. But that battle of which the apostle speaks is the honourable combat which befits the soul set free, who has Christ before him, and has to face in his measure what Christ faced in the days of His flesh. It is the holy struggle for God’s glory in a hostile world, end not merely the struggling against self in the despairing strife of Rom. 7. – Kelly, W. The Second Epistle to Timothy.
  3. Another reason nothing critical is said of Demas in Colossians is that Paul refrained from naming bad characters in letters to assemblies, but felt free to do so when writing to individuals, such as Timothy whom he trusted greatly.