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2 Timothy

Last Words

2 Timothy  4

Lesson audio

If you knew you were about to die, would you not put your house in order? You’d issue your final instructions; update your will; perhaps even seek forgiveness. This chapter is similar to that; Paul sends his final words to Timothy, knowing that he is about to meet the martyr’s death.

I solemnly 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: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

(2Ti 4:1-5 NASB)

Solemn Charge

There is an air of formality about this passage, and it is instructive to ask why Paul would now choose this tone of voice. Paul is dying; the hope of the Christian is in the Lord’s return. This is the reason.

  • First, Paul knows that he is in the presence of God – and soon will be even more so. It is as if he cautions that young man to remember who is watching him.
  • Christ will one day return – and then the judgment. Some will rise to be blessed – and those who do will receive the reward due them. That reward will go to Paul; it will also go to Timothy if he keeps the faith.
  • Perhaps most urgent, we know that when He returns it’s too late to achieve such reward. Don’t miss the bus.
Instructions

Paul is not one to remind you of how important something is – and then leave you without instructions. We may conveniently group his instructions into three categories:

  • Public: Timothy is to preach the Word. Preaching itself is not enough; it must be telling the story of the Word made flesh.
  • Personal: He is to “reprove, rebuke and exhort” – which covers just about all situations that a church leader might encounter person to person. Note the qualifiers: He is to do so with great patience and with instruction. Patience is fairly obvious, but instruction? So that he won’t have to do it again.
  • Private: Here Paul addresses the inner man. It’s easy to be enthusiastic at the outset. It’s the long haul that counts. So he tells him to be ready – when it seems like a good time for it. And when it doesn’t.
Apostasy

Paul is not one to minimize the boy’s difficulties. He comes right out and tells him that he will encounter a very frustrating condition. Timothy will preach his heart out – only to find that the congregation just wasn’t interested in that. They’ll soon find somebody who suits them better. See the steps:

  • First, they will complain about sound doctrine. (I well remember the day when our preacher said, “Sex outside of marriage is wrong.” And the gasp from the congregation when he said it.)
  • The real key comes when the congregation chooses a new minister (or selects from amongst the Bible classes) – they will seek out someone who tells them what they want to hear. (Think it can’t happen here? Try submission in marriage for a topic.)
  • Eventually they will believe anything but the truth (see Jesus Seminar for examples).

Remember that this section comes directly after the admonition about all Scripture being inspired. This is more rejection than choice.

Personal Notes

If you’re going to attempt this, you need to be personally fit for it:

  • Be sober. We speak of someone being “sober minded”, and that is the sense it is used here. (Remember Paul telling Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach?)
  • Endure. You should know by now that suffering is coming.
  • Do your job. Yes, it really is that simple.

Reflections

Paul now looks back over his own life – and likes what he sees.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

(2Ti 4:6-8 NASB)

The Christian’s life OF sacrifice

Paul’s one thought at the end of his life concerns how well he has done over it. In short words he sets for us the things which may be used in God’s judgment:

  • He fought the good fight. Please notice that this is combat. It is spiritual combat, which is the most difficult. And it is no use just picking some cause or other (Christianity and Physical Fitness!); it must be the good fight, the struggle between Christ and the world.
  • He finished the course. What God set for him to do, he did. He didn’t do it half way, or make a good attempt at it; he finished it. There is no sense of retirement after a good try at this.
  • Most important: he kept the faith. Like your teacher says, it was here when I got here, I taught it and it will be here when I’m gone. My object is to teach the faith, unmodified, unvarnished and unstoppable.
The Christian’s life AS sacrifice

We are told to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Do you not see that your entire life should be seen as a sacrifice, an offering to God?

  • At the very least, you can show the world how a Christian faces death. You will face it; so prepare now to face it calmly.
  • Millions of Christians have gone beyond that: they embraced martyrdom. To live is Christ, to die is gain. Their testimony was in the way they endured horrible death rather than deny their Lord.
  • Remember this: your sacrifice today may bring someone to Christ. They may want what you had; be sure you have it.
Crown of righteousness

We may see this in three ways:

  • There is the victor’s crown – the symbol of one who has triumphed. Those who finish the course deserve this.
  • There is the crown which reigns – as we will reign with Christ at His return.
  • There is the crown of thorns – which shows that we suffered as our Lord suffered.

Practical Instructions

OK, closed Bible quiz time. Remember the “still, small voice” which spoke to Elijah? Of course you do. What did it say?[1] Whatever it was, it isn’t very grand or eloquent, is it?

In fact, it’s God’s to-do list. Here’s another one.

Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching. At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

(2Ti 4:9-22 NASB)

A call for help

Paul begins with a call for help. He is now an old man – late 50’s, early 60’s, old by the standards of the time – and he needs some assistance. He asks for three things:

  • Foremost, he asks for people to come to him. It’s lonely being in jail. He can’t see too well. So he asks for those he loves to come to him.
  • He asks for a practical item: his cloak. It’s cold in winter.
  • Finally, there are the tools of the intellectual, spiritual life – his books.[2]

People, things and the life intellectual – a well rounded lot.

Warning

The passage about Alexander is rather enlightening. He warns Timothy about the man – it’s always best to know where the snakes are hiding. But notice that he does not condemn the man, nor does he ask that action be taken against him. Rather, he turns him over to the Lord – for vengeance belongs to the Lord. If you take vengeance, you steal from the Almighty God.

Left alone

Paul relates his experience of being alone and unaided. It is true: sometimes God removes your support system from around you. It may be that He wants to see what you will do, or it may be that He wants you to know what you can do. But it’s not pleasant at the time.

Sometimes it’s worse. There are times during which you will feel that God has left you entirely alone. Do not fear, little heart. He is but strengthening you for the next test. He will rescue you and, someday, take you home.


[1] 1 Kings 19:15-18

[2] Many will pray, few will study – and grow.

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