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IV. Preaching the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-22)

4:1 After emphasizing the divine source and purpose of Scripture, Paul directs a solemn charge to his faithful son in the faith, Timothy. It was not a private charge from apostle to young pastor. Rather, this was a public charge delivered before witnesses: God and Christ Jesus—the same Christ Jesus who will one day judge all humanity and reign as King in his glorious kingdom. The God who called Timothy into ministry was delivering a sacred command to him through his authoritative messenger Paul. And he directs that same sacred command to every man who takes up the mantle of pastor in a local church.

I have kept the faith. Paul had been faithful with the faith. Just as he had exhorted Timothy (2 Tim 1:14), Paul had also guarded “the good deposit,” the good news of salvation. He recognized its great value, and he protected it as a treasure. To him, the gospel was worth any hardship. Indeed, the blessings of the faith outweigh any sufferings related to it.

4:8 There is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day. Paul knew he would soon die at Rome’s hands. According to ancient tradition, he was beheaded. But that frightening fate made no difference to Paul. Not only would the Lord restore his head to his body, but he would also place a crown on it. And not only on his head, but on the heads of all those who have loved Christ’s appearing through faithful living.

A football team can perform poorly during the first quarter—or even during the first half of the game. But what’s most important is how they finish. Don’t, then, look backward on the mess in your past. The grace of God can cover it. Instead, look forward. There’s still time. Fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith. Your reward is waiting.

4:9-12 Timothy had been a faithful companion and colleague of Paul. Therefore, the aging apostle longed for the young minister to come to him soon (4:9). Timothy’s visit was needful because practically everyone else had left Paul. Demas, whom Paul mentions elsewhere as a co-worker (Col 4:14; Phlm 24), ultimately decided not to follow Paul’s example in 4:7-8. Instead, he loved this present world more than the world to come and deserted him. Sadly, he had traded an eternal perspective for a mere earthly one. Others also left, but for more noble reasons. Crescens and Titus apparently departed to fulfill mission work (4:10). Tychicus left because Paul sent him to Ephesus (4:12). Only Luke (4:11), “the dearly loved physician” (Col 4:14), remained.

It’s interesting to see that Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him. Mark (also called “John” or “John Mark”) had traveled with Paul before (see Acts 13:5). But after Mark left Paul in the middle of his first missionary journey (Acts 13:13), Paul was unwilling to take him the next time around. Paul and Barnabas had such a sharp disagreement over Mark that they parted ways (Acts 15:36-40). But once the relationship was mended, Paul found Mark useful to his ministry (2 Tim 4:11).

4:13 Paul asks Timothy to bring his cloak and the scrolls, especially the parchments. The first request would address a practical, physical need: Paul was living in a cold Roman dungeon. The second request would address a ministry need. Most likely, the scrolls were copies of Scripture. Even to the very end, Paul was a diligent student of the Word.

4:14-15 Though Demas had merely deserted Paul, Alexander the coppersmith did him great harm (4:14). It’s likely that this is the same Alexander in Ephesus who was a false teacher and whom Paul “delivered to Satan” (1 Tim 1:19-20) because Paul warns Timothy, who was ministering in Ephesus, to watch out for him and his opposition to sound teaching (2 Tim 4:15). Regardless, Paul knew that ultimately the Lord would repay Alexander for his deeds (4:14). “Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap” (Gal 6:7).

4:16-18 Paul didn’t put his hope in people. After all, men and women fail. During his trial, at his first defense, he was deserted by everyone. Yet, he followed in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus and the first Christian martyr (Stephen) by asking the Lord to forgive them (4:16; see Luke 23:34; Acts 7:59-60). Regardless of who had abandoned Paul, the Lord had consistently stood with him and strengthened him throughout his ministry so that he could fully preach the word to the Gentiles (4:17). God had kept Paul from disaster time and again, and he knew that God would bring him safely into his heavenly kingdom (4:18).

The lion’s mouth (4:17) may either refer metaphorically to evil people like Emperor Nero (see Ps 22:13, 19-21) or literally to the wild animals that killed Christians in the Roman coliseum (see Dan 6:22).

4:19-22 Paul closes his letter with greetings and additional news (4:19-21). Then he offers a benediction for Timothy and the church he served: The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all (4:22).

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