2 Timothy 4
1I 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:
2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Given that the Word of God is what will be attacked and that the Word of God is what will sustain us and enable us to walk perseveringly in faith, Paul commands Timothy in all seriousness, gravity and authority to preach the Word. He is in a position of shepherding and teaching in the church, and he must study the Word so that he can accurately and effectively teach it to others. The truth must be publicly proclaimed and heralded as if it is an announcement of utter importance from the King of Kings. Christ will judge the living and the dead, and Timothy will be held to account for how accurately and faithfully he taught the Word. His faithfulness could lead to the salvation of others, and a reminder of the judgment of God at the end of the age is a great motivator for him to continue to preach the Word. Christ will come back, all men will have to face Him, and He will set up an everlasting kingdom with those who have received Him in faith. Preaching the Word has eternal effects and consequences. This is thus the most important of tasks that Timothy could do. Whether in a time of persecution with hostile listeners or in a time of ease and prosperity with receptive listeners, Timothy must always preach the Word. God’s Word is always relevant no matter the season or the circumstances. Timothy must be willing to reprove (admonish; point out sin), rebuke (chide, censure, charge; deal with the hard issues), and exhort (entreat, comfort, strengthen, beseech; call to change, faith, or action) with great patience and instruction. He must be willing to preach the truth for the long haul, dealing with sin that arises, confronting those who get into false teaching, and comforting and encouraging those who need hope and strength. He must be willing to urgently and passionately summon to action and service the people of God, which he will only be able to do as he guards his own heart and studies the Word. Preaching is not a mere motivational or emotional speech, but it has educational content from the Word of God that can instruct a believer as to how to live in the very practical areas of life. It also passes on and expounds upon sound doctrine so that believers know precisely what they believe, why they believe it, and how it differs from what the world believes and from what false teachers teach.
3For 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,
4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
As time goes on, even in Timothy’s day let alone ours, people will not want to bear with and tolerate true and sound doctrine. It takes effort, patience, and humility to receive the Word of God in a holy fear, and people will grow tired of it, choosing rather to have their ears tickled. They will want to be told what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, and if a teacher doesn’t talk to them about what is pleasurable rather than what is convicting as they will go and find somebody else to listen to. There will be less and less of a demand for teachers who teach sound doctrine. Sound teachers will be hard to find, and those who are willing to listen to what they teach will likewise be a difficult find. People will reject the truth and propagate lies, choosing rather to listen to lies because they want to, because it is easier, because it is popular, because it appears more successful, and because of sin in their own hearts. It is not that they will find just one teacher that agrees with their sinful desires and pleasures, but they will heap them up, accumulating them one after the other. This is evidence that it won’t be hard to find a teacher who tells people what is comfortable and what their flesh would prefer to hear. In fact, in order to appease their conscience, they will need to take in a lot of false teaching by a lot of false teachers. Rather than put such devotion into the truth, they devote themselves to justifying their own error and sinful pleasures. They will choose to turn aside from the truth and accept myths, fables, lies, and the foolish ideas of men that contradict the infallible Word of God. Even when this happens and the Word goes out of season, Timothy must still preach it even if it means all will leave him as they did to Paul in Asia. There is no ministry without the truth, and persecution is to be expected. In light of eternal rewards and the glory of Christ, it is worth taking on the shame and reproach of teaching the truth despite the hardship that will come as a result. The truth has never been popular, and it never will be. The way to destruction is wide, and many go that way. Few find the truth, which is by the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13).
5But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Timothy is not to placate those who want false teaching, but he is to fulfill his ministry by preaching the Word and evangelizing the lost by the true and full gospel. He must be wiling to endure the hardship that Paul describes as being inevitable, and he must be sober, being wary of false teaching and being disciplined to guard against sin in his own life. He cannot let himself be swayed by popular opinion or the desires of the masses or of even one individual if it means that he compromise on the Word.
6For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.
7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;
8in 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.
Paul endured incredible hardship in his life because of the truth. He recognizes that he is coming toward the end of his life, and he can say that he has faithfully served Christ, offering himself up to Him in love and faithfulness. His life, like a drink offering being poured out on the fire of an Old Testament altar, was a fragrant aroma to God (Exodus 29:41). Paul believes that his death is imminent, and, as church tradition has it, he was shortly thereafter beheaded for the sake of Christ. He is confident and hopeful, however, because he has fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith. He has not compromised on doctrine, and he has continued to preach the gospel and labor for Christ. He has fulfilled his ministry and calling in Christ. Paul knows that he will receive honor soon in the future as Christ gives him a crown of righteousness. This is not something only he gets, but it is available to all who received Christ as Who He said He was. Those who loved His coming rather than having rejected Him will get this crown of honor (James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, Revelation 2:10, 3:11, 4:4, 10)
9Make every effort to come to me soon;
10for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.
Paul would like Timothy to visit him soon for the purpose of godly fellowship and encouragement. Demas deserted Paul because he loved the pleasures of sin for awhile rather than the reproach of Christ (Hebrews 11:25). This may have indicated that his faith was spurious (1 John 2:15-17) or that he was in sin. Perhaps he just sinfully fled the persecution that he would have received jointly with Paul, thereby abandoning him in his time of need. Regardless, he went to Thessalonica. Crescens, a faithful disciple, was sent to Galatia to minister to the saints there, and Titus, another very faithful and dependable disciple (Titus 1:5), was sent to Dalmatia to minister.
11Only Luke is with me Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.
12But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.
Luke, the beloved physician and author of Luke and Acts, was still faithfully at Paul’s side ministering along with him. Timothy was to bring Mark, also called John, along with him when he came to visit Paul. Paul viewed Mark as a very useful and effective minister (Philemon 1:24). Paul either sent Tychicus to Ephesus earlier, or he is expressing that he is going to be without him because he is sending him to Ephesus now, perhaps with this letter for Timothy. Tychicus had previously been sent to the Ephesians (Ephesians 6:21) and to Colosse (Colossians 4:7), perhaps with the epistles from Paul. He may also have been sent to Titus (Titus 3:12). Clearly, he was a “beloved brother and faithful servant” (Colossians 4:7), worthy of being entrusted as a messenger on Paul’s behalf.
13When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.
Paul left some valuable parchments and scrolls at Troas with Carpus, of whom nothing more is known. Timothy was to get Paul’s cloak for winter and these important writing materials and resources.
14Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.
15Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.
This Alexander is probably different from the Alexander who Paul turned over to Satan in 1 Timothy 1:18-20 because he specifies that this is Alexander the coppersmith. What is certain is that this man made life miserable for Paul, doing him much harm. Timothy was to beware of this person, keeping his distance from him as much as was possible while still doing the work of the ministry. This man adamantly opposed sound doctrine and the true teaching about Christ, but Paul left vengeance in God’s hands and didn’t let it keep him from pressing forward in the work of the Lord with peace and rest in his own heart (c.f. Romans 12:19).
16At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.
Paul, writing from prison, is likely speaking of the defense which he would have given in a Roman court of law, prior to his sentencing. There was no one there to support him, but all condemned him. None wanted to stand for the truth along with Paul, and thus he was declared guilty, though he committed no real crime. Yet he hoped that the Lord would lead them to repentance and grant them mercy (c.f. Stephen in Acts 7:60 and Christ in Luke 23:24).
17But 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.
18The 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.
Paul was given an opportunity in giving his defense to declare the gospel message publicly to the Gentiles, for whom he was specifically called (Acts 9:15-16). The Lord didn’t abandon him in this time, but he strengthened him and enabled him to speak forth the truth with boldness. Though this was a dangerous and difficult thing to do, God delivered him from destruction at that time and gave him some more time to complete the work He had for him to do. Satan is described as a lion seeking to devour believers (1 Peter 5:8), and it is possible that Paul was tempted to not speak the gospel boldly. But the Lord gave him strength, and he was spared from the evil which he might have committed. This is consistent with verse 18 which speaks of God delivering him from all evil deeds and bringing him safely home to heaven. This God will do by the work of Christ and Paul’s faith in it. Paul ascribes glory to Christ Who alone deserves praise and worship forever.
19Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.
Priscilla and Aquila were two faithful friends of Paul which he had met in Corinth (Acts 18:1-3). He stayed with them because they were tentmakers as he was. Onesiphorus’ (2 Timothy 1:16) household was to be greeted as well as Priscilla and Aquila.
20Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.
Erastus had served with Timothy before (Acts 19:22), so Paul is simply speaking to Timothy of what he knows about his whereabouts. He informs Timothy that he is in Corinth, where is may have remained the city treasurer (Romans 16:23). Trophimus was an Ephesian who accompanied Paul to Asia (Acts 20:4). He had become sick, and Paul was forced to leave him in Miletus, which was about 40 miles south of Ephesus. Despite his apostleship, even Paul couldn’t always heal a person. God healed when God saw fit, and the apostles were vessels of His glory. Physical healing is not the guarantee for even a faithful Christian, as Trophimus and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:26-27) experienced.
21Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.
Paul wanted Timothy to do whatever he could to come before winter. He needed that cloak, and he could really use the books and parchments as well. Furthermore, he understood that he might not have much time left (2 Timothy 4:6), and he would have appreciated seeing Timothy one last time. The greetings passed on from Paul to Timothy from these brothers may have indicated that they were from the body of Christ in Rome.
22The Lord be with your spirit Grace be with you.
Paul prays that Christ will continue to work in Timothy’s heart, and he wishes him grace to do what is right and to fulfill the commands which he has given him. Paul may not be able to disciple him any longer, but he entrusts him to Christ Who is more than capable of sustaining him.