Comments On Second Timothy
This is the last of all Paul's writings, and as his very life was about to be poured out in martyrdom for Christ's sake, so he pours out his heart to his beloved child Timothy in a way we could not expect in any but a personal epistle. There is a simplicity and reality here that is beautiful. For while he keenly felt such sorrows as having all in Asia turn away from him (ch. 1:15), others by false doctrine overthrowing the faith of some (ch. 2:17, 18), and even those closer forsaking him when he stood before the Roman Emperor (ch. 4:10, 16); yet the calm triumph of faith shines out radiantly in all this epistle, as the imprisoned apostle seeks with a full heart to encourage his younger fellow laborer, who had evidently allowed himself to become discouraged because of the pressure of such things.
The first epistle has shown us the responsibility of the individual as to his behavior in connection with the house of God, the assembly, while as yet its order was properly maintained. But this second epistle uses the term "a great house" rather than "the house of God"; and plainly teaches personal responsibility and provision for faith when disorder has invaded the church in so public a way as to cause divisions and separations - doctrinal and moral evil having been introduced by men, so that separation from this becomes imperative if one is to maintain faith and a good conscience. Doubtless both Paul and Timothy were made to feel the loneliness of this, for Paul, ready to be martyred for Christ's sake, did not enjoy the tender sympathies and fellowship of the saints; and this itself no doubt afflicted the heart of Timothy. Yet the vibrant, triumphant joy of the apostle far outweighs the loneliness, and is itself the sweetest encouragement for the younger man. May we all drink deeply at this fountain, so refreshing, so revitalizing.
Despite the fact of his heart being so drawn out in this epistle, Paul writes as "an apostle," not as a servant, nor even as a brother. Does this not stress the strongly authoritative character of that which he writes? The truth is urged imperatively upon the soul as that which is so vital to godliness in days of lax giving up to weakness and spiritual decay. And he is an apostle "by the will of God," not by his own choice, nor by that of other men, a matter deeply important in days when democracy and human rights become foremost in men's minds, and Christianity itself is invaded by this subtle corruption of the truth. "The will of God" remains paramount, and calls at all times for the true submission of the individual, whatever the condition of things may be publicly.
Moreover, the epistle is characteristically "according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus." Titus (ch. 1:2) shows this promise to have originated "before the ages of time": therefore it is life above and beyond all dispensations and ages: it cannot be affected by all the tests of history: the decay and ruin of all church testimony is no hindrance to this blessed promise. Wonderful encouragement indeed for the child of God! For the promise is "in Christ Jesus," dependent only upon the sufficiency and perfection of His own Person. Precious, stable, faithful resting place for faith!
It is precious to observe how the pressure of affliction more draws out the heart's affections; for the apostle here addresses Timothy as "my dearly beloved child," rather than, as in the first epistle, "my true child in the faith." Nor would this fail to comfort and strengthen the heart of Timothy at such a time. But the same fullness of blessing is desired for him here, the threefold supply of "grace, mercy, and peace," each so necessary and precious in its place, and proceeding "from God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord," the fruit therefore of the full revelation of the glory of God in the Person of His beloved Son.
The apostle thanks God, the same God he had served from his forefathers, and this, of course, recognizes the truth he had known before Christianity came, and to which he had been subject "with pure conscience." This does clearly illustrate the fact that conscience is no sufficient guide for the soul; for when Paul (then named Saul) was persecuting Christians, his conscience was actually approving this solemn evil: he thought he was doing God service. But at least, he was not guilty of deliberate dishonesty. And it is with genuine concern that he writes to Timothy, not ceasing to keep him in his prayers "night and day." It is not, of course, that this was the sole occupation of his thoughts, but Paul did not simply pray for Timothy for a few days following his leaving him, and then forget: it was a continuing matter. Night being mentioned first, before day, no doubt indicates that the times of darkness and loneliness were gone through without affecting the ardor of prayer, while in the more pleasant circumstance of "day" it was not neglected either.
Circumstances of pressure and sorrow had the precious effect of drawing out the longing of Paul's heart to see Timothy, whose very character was such as to be a comfort to him, and whose tears (no doubt in connection with the public breaking down of Christian testimony, and departure from Paul's doctrine) were a matter so affecting to Paul that he would not forget them.
And the apostle was free to encourage the younger man by commending "the unfeigned faith" that was evident in him, reminding him too that this dwelt first in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. The meanings of the names here are lovely; Lois meaning "no flight," and Eunice, "happy victory." In days of real trial of faith, is it not sweetly true that "no flight," no slipping away, but facing things with God, will issue in "happy victory"? And the issue of this is "Timothy," meaning "honoring God." Can we not imagine how deeply Timothy would appreciate this verse? And whose heart can fail to be stirred with the desire of earning the same commendation?
Whatever was the nature of Timothy's special gift, he had evidently allowed some feeling of discouragement to hinder its proper exercise. The New Translation of J. N. Darby uses the word "rekindle" rather than "stir up." Whatever was to transpire - whether a general turning away from Paul and his doctrine, or even his being put to death - Timothy must not give in to all these pressures of the enemy! God's gift to him remained, and should be rekindled and used in a full and real way, for it surely was the more needed in times of departure. We learn here also that Timothy's gift was given in an exceptional way, by the putting on of Paul's hands. This is certainly extraordinary, for gift is normally given by the independent operation of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 12:7-11). But the Spirit of God in Timothy's case used Paul as the instrument, while accompanied with "the laying on of the hands of the elderhood" (1 Tim. 4:14), that is, with their fully expressed fellowship.
And the Spirit, who communicated the gift and who dwells in every child of God, is not a spirit of fear. If, therefore, we give in to our own fears, we are not walking in the Spirit, for He is the Spirit "of power, and love, and of a sound mind." Observe how power and love are connected here: there is no weakness in the Spirit of God, but love is the very energy by which His power is exercised. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given unto us" (Rom. 5:5). The more positive and full the expanding of the heart in love toward others, the more will the liberty and power of the Spirit be in evidence, with calm courage of faith. And He is the Spirit of a sound mind also, for it is He who brings everything to its proper, sober level; who makes all to take its place in consistent balance with all else. If our minds are otherwise, it is because we do not allow Him His proper control over us. Of course the flesh is still in a believer, and he may be mentally unbalanced, but this stems from the old nature, not from the new. The Spirit is still the Spirit of a sound mind, and in certain areas where the knowledge of Christ is concerned, this will be evident even in a believer who in other respects suffers mental aberrations. It is a great mercy this is so; but a believer should seek in every respect to allow the Spirit of God such liberty and control that it will be manifest in every department of life. This is itself a great preservative of the mind's condition, though one could not suppose it to be a guarantee against physical infirmity and deterioration, which ofttimes affects the brain too, the brain being physical, the mind not so.
Verse 8 shows that God's marvellous provision of verse 7, the living presence of the Spirit of God, is not to be considered as operating independently of the exercise and cooperation of the individual. But a due consideration of the fact of such provision will certainly render one unashamed of the testimony of the Lord. The exhortation not to be ashamed has a most solid basis. There is no right reason for fear: therefore we are perfectly entitled to dismiss it totally. In any real sense, no believer is ashamed of the Lord Himself; but the danger is present that he might be ashamed of His testimony, or ashamed of identification with one suffering for His sake. Timothy needed his mind stirred up as to these things, and he is not alone as regards such a need. He is encouraged to "suffer evil along with the glad tidings, according to the power of God." If the gospel is held in contempt of men, let me be willing to share this by fullest fellowship with it. It was thoroughly this for which Paul suffered, and not at all as an evildoer: therefore fellowship with Paul was fellowship with the pure gospel of God.
Moreover, this would be "according to the power of God." How contrary is this to the natural thought of man, the fact that such power is seen in the willingness to suffer for the sake of the gospel. Even Christians are too often deceived by what appears to be great public displays of power, and many desire these things as evidence of God's working. In this case they will as likely as not be deceived by Satanic delusion. Where are we to see the actual power of God? The answer is evident in our verse: the willingness to suffer in lowly faith along with the precious gospel of grace is a wonderful setting in which the power of God is committed to the individual to enable him to bear tribulation and reproach for Christ's sake. That triumphant energy that carries everything before it is not at all for the child of God today. True moral power - the power of God - is seen in the submission of heart that takes its place along with the despised testimony of God.
That same power is seen in the faCt that He "has saved us, and called us with an holy calling." For the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16): it is not simply kindness and mercy involved here, but power acting on behalf of those previously lost in sin, power acting in the midst of all that is so contrary to God. Precious it is to see this wonderful divine workmanship raising up vital, energetic life out of ruins, and in the very midst of ruins!
It is not a questionable thing, but a settled fact: He "hath saved us" - whether Paul, Timothy, or any other true believer - "and called us with an holy calling." This distinctively places us in a position apart from all former identification: it is a "heavenly calling" (Heb. 3:1), or "The calling on high of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14-J.N.D. Trans.), a calling of dignity and blessedness infinitely precious, as high as heaven is above the earth.
It is impossible that this could be "according to our works," for in that case it would be our workmanship, not God's: such a result required infinitely more than mankind could achieve: it required the power of God. Therefore, it is "according to his own purpose and grace, given us in Christ Jesus before the ages of time." How completely above and beyond man's works are these precious expressions, "His own purpose and grace! "No one was then present to influence His purpose, no one ever having lived to raise a question as to what kind of a life would be blessed with His grace. No, it is rather the grace of God known and believed that rightly forms man's life.
Yet, this was "given us . . . before the ages of time," and this expression would seem to connect with Titus 1:2: "In hope of eternal life, which God who cannot lie, promised before the ages of time." If the purpose itself was eternal, yet the promise given us is no doubt in the words of God to the woman in the Garden of Eden, that her seed would crush the serpent's head. The promise was given before man was sent out of the garden to be tested by the various dispensations of God; for these ages evidently only began in connection with man estranged from God. But since the purpose was eternal, and the promise given immediately before man was tested in the various ages of time, therefore this absolute purpose and grace is not in the least affected by all that is involved in man's history.
All of this, however, was not made manifest until "the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ," for it is by and in Him that these blessed purposes are fulfilled. Only in Him, the supreme Object of faith, could we possibly comprehend the truth of these things, and find them vitally real: only in Him personally could such a manifestation be possible. He is seen as Savior here, acting in both grace and power on our behalf. In His own death and resurrection He "has annulled death." Mere natural wisdom will not understand this, of course, for man knows in experience that death is in painful evidence everywhere around him. But faith can see that all the power of death is broken for the believer. Christ has triumphed over it in His voluntary humiliation even unto death, and in His being raised from the dead the third day. Therefore death holds no terrors for the child of God: it has no power to hold him a helpless prisoner: if he should die, this is only a step in the fulfillment of God's superior purpose concerning him: his resurrection is as certain a matter as that of the Lord Jesus. For "the sting of death is sin," which has been fully atoned for at Calvary, so that for the believer the sting is gone (cf. 1 Cor. 15:55-57).
Added to this, He "hath brought life and incorruptibility to light through the gospel." Paul very simply declares the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, as this, "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again from the dead the third day according to the Scriptures." Hence, it is life out of death - resurrection life - spoken of; and with it "incorruptibility," life therefore in a state impossible of being corrupted. The believer certainly has this life now, as identified with Christ in resurrection, though he also has natural life, which is subject to decay and death; and only when Christ comes again will the resurrection life be seen in full display, "death swallowed up in victory," and life and incorruptibility manifested in the saints then as it is now in Christ.
It was of this glorious gospel that the apostle was appointed a preacher, and apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. We must take note of the fact of Paul's appointment here: the Spirit of God required that this be insisted upon. It was no mere appointment of men, and is not by any means intended as a criterion for others to follow. In fact, as to Timothy, no mention whatever is made as to his being appointed to anything, nor are we even told what gift Timothy had been given, though Paul tells him to stir it up, and also tells him to "do the work of an evangelist" (ch. 4:5). But Paul was given the special responsibility of "laying the foundation," as "a wise master builder" (1 Cor. 3:10), and the Spirit of God therefore emphasizes this in order to press home the authority of the apostle's message. Anyone else attempting this in regard to himself would only display his glaring insubjection to the Spirit of God. As Scripture often notes, so here again, Paul was sent to the nations, not to Israel, though his heart longed after his own people (Rom. 10:1).
Those who aspire to some place of official appointment or recognition are not generally those who are fully prepared to suffer persecution for Christ's sake. Paul had not desired the place, but he was thoroughly willing to suffer for Christ if needs be. God put him in the position in which he could not escape suffering. But he was not at all ashamed, for his faith was in the blessed Person of Christ: he knew whom he had believed, not merely what he had believed.
This gives absolute persuasion as to the faithfulness of God in keeping what Paul had committed to Him. Does this not include everything concerning Paul's well-being and his needs of whatever kind? And it is in view of "that day," the day of manifestation, so that the apostle had no slightest doubt as to his being satisfied with the eventual result. The Greek form of the expression here is evidently a noun, literally, ,'my deposit." It is as though he had deposited with God everything concerning himself: there could therefore be no doubt of its being securely held. In fact, who can doubt that in such hands the interest itself will multiply immeasurably?
Having spoken of the perfect faithfulness of God through whatever circumstances of dependent need, the apostle now may turn to the becoming responsibility of his child Timothy. It was most important that he should hold a clear outline (or pattern) of sound words. Paul had communicated these things to him, but he was not to take them merely as a disjointed, unrelated collection of good words. To hold them in the soul, in orderly form, as sound words forming a united pattern, is of great importance. For the truth of God is one. It is true that one may see those things connected in a different way than another sees; and it is no mere formal creed here advocated for the acceptance of everybody; but the exercise of the individual in having sound words rightly formed in his soul in a pattern of consistency with the entire Word of God. This personal enjoyment and comprehension of the Word can be likened to the honeycomb. The Word itself is "sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" (ps. 19:10), but honey is symbolical of the ministry of the Word and the honeycomb would speak therefore of that ministry stored up for use in orderly form, just the thing that is here urged upon Timothy.
But "sound words" are not to be dry or cold: they are to be liberally mixed with "faith and love which are in Christ Jesus." Faith, the reality of confidence in the Living One, will effectually banish dryness; and love, the warmth of unfeigned affection, is the total opposite of coldness. Then being "in Christ Jesus" lifts the whole matter as high as heaven is above earth, giving precious balance and substance, a fullness with no lack.
It has been seen that Paul had entrusted to God a deposit of all that concerned him. Here rather God has entrusted to Timothy a good deposit, which Timothy is enjoined to keep. Would verse 13 not indicate the way in which Timothy was to assess and appreciate the value of this deposit? This is that which belongs to God, the sacred truth of His Word, and to be held in solemn trust by the servant to whose hand it is committed. Indeed it is only right too that the Master should be entitled to interest in view of so valuable a deposit. Compare Luke 19:23: at least in one case the servant's pound had gained ten pounds, in another five. The one effective way of keeping this deposited trust is by using it for the Master. But it is not ours to give up to the enemy as we please: we must not allow it to be stolen away. If we feel the great responsibility of this, and at the same time our own helplessness to fulfill it, let us but remember that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, abides continually, and we have but to allow Him to exercise His own blessed power in this matter.
Though Timothy knew this, it was necessary to pen this
reminder, both for his own sake, and for ours. How painfully sad, as the apostle neared the end, to be faced with, not only the increased persecution of the enemy, but the turning away of the large number of saints in Asia. Paul had spent 3 years in Ephesus, ceasing not to warn everyone night and day with tears (Acts 20:31). From there the word had gone out to the surrounding areas of Asia, bearing much fruit. He does not say they had turned away from the Lord, but from himself. It seems likely therefore that Paul's doctrines of the gospel of the glory of Christ, that which sets aside man in the flesh and gives the believer a heavenly position apart from the world entirely, had become too unpalatable; and the attitude of settling down in the world was taking the place of a fresh fervent spirit of affection for the person of Christ. It was not apostasy, but an evident ignoring of Paul and his doctrine.
What a leading up to that of which he warned the Ephesian elders: "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your ownselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29, 30). This evil did not appear without warning after his death: the seeds of it are plainly present as he here writes to Timothy. Once Paul and his doctrine are ignored, the door is open for "grievous wolves" to enter in, and for even believers to make themselves leaders by means of twisting the truth in some favorite way. What havoc has this very thing wrought in the Church since that day!
And two men are here specifically named, which seems to indicate they were leaders in this defection from Paul. Phygellus means "a little fugitive"; can it suggest a fearful fleeing from the unpopular stigma of being identified with Paul? And Hermogenes means "lucky born." Is there an intimation in this of his having no real sense of divine direction in his soul? At least, these things can certainly be factors that loom largely in any turning away from Paul and his doctrine - whether the names themselves signify this, or not. Were these men really believers or not? It is not said and we must leave it there. But how solemn to have their names recorded in this way in the Scriptures, for eternity!
In chapter 2 we read of two men, Hymeneus and Philetus; who had gone further than ignoring the truth: they were undermining the truth (vv. 17, 18). A further advance in evil is seen in the two men mentioned in chapter 3, Jannes and Jambres (v. 8), who resisted the truth by means of imitation. They were the Egyptian magicians in the time of Moses, and Paul speaks of others in the last days having the same character. In chapter 4, Alexander is the ultimate development in this, doing Paul "much evil," therefore persecuting the truth (v. 14). Another man, Demas, is also mentioned in that chapter, previously, as having "forsaken" Paul because of love for this present world. But it would seem he was a believer, intimidated by the opposition of the enemy, and clinging too much to life in the world. He had been a helper in the work, but as the persecution against the apostle increased, it was too much for him. But it was desertion, at a time the apostle most needed the help of devoted companionship.
How precious a contrast is seen now in this devoted brother Onesiphorus, his name also eternally inscribed in the Word of God! The heart of the apostle is deeply appreciative of the simple faithfulness of this dear man, who evidently had no place of prominence, but a heart devoted to the Lord and to His afflicted servant. It is no great public work he does, but he often refreshed the apostle, and was not ashamed of being identified with one in prison for Christ's sake. In Rome he sought Paul out, no doubt a difficult matter in so large a city, where prisons would be more than few. One could easily excuse himself from such a task, as being unnecessary: but the apostle (and certainly God also) appreciated the faith that persisted until finding Paul. What an indication that things which may appear small in our eyes are not really so in the estimate of God!
As to his finding "mercy of the Lord in that day," it is no doubt the day of rewards. And rewards are not strictly that which is deserved: that would be wages. It is because God's very character is merciful that he gives rewards. Note in Matthew 25:28 that though the one servant had gained ten talents for his master, by use of his master's goods, yet after he brought it to the master, we find that he still had it in his own possession. The master had allowed him to keep it, and in fact gave him more. This is certainly mercy, a reward not really deserved at all. Then is added the many things in which Onesiphorus had previously ministered to Paul. It was not forgotten by him: how much less with God!
If in chapter 1 we have seen the blessedness of God's abiding presence in His beloved saints - whatever may be the human failure everywhere - now in chapter 2, verses 1 to 13, there is a resulting conflict that requires the reality and energy of faith by which to overcome.
In his being addressed as "child" the fresh reality of new birth is emphasized, and the sweetness of filial relationship; but it is all the more reason that Timothy should be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. There is no brute strength here, but strength the fruit of pure grace known and enjoyed in the soul. The zeal of law-keeping gives nothing of this, but the submission of faith that drinks in the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
He is given too the serious, though precious responsibility of communicating the truth learned from Paul, to "faithful men." It would be of little value to commit these things to those who merely have "itching ears." Nor in fact is it "educated" or "ordained" men mentioned here, but "faithful men." This is the true means by which the truth of God is perpetuated in the world. Human wisdom or dignified position cannot sustain a true witness for God: there must be faithfulness in obeying the truth, if one is rightly to "teach others also."
How important to notice here that nothing is said of the soldier's ability to fight. In fact, fighting only occupies a very small percentage of his time, and in some cases a soldier never does see a battle. But his training is generally intensive and rigorous. He must learn to endure all kinds of discomfort, sleeping outside and in every kind of weather, long rugged route marches, the ill-temper of his fellow-soldiers, unpalatable food, etc. If we find this in the true testimony of God, let us be willing to take our share in suffering, whenever it may arise, and continue steadily on. The soldier does not enjoy all the comforts of normal, easy living. He is enlisted for a serious purpose, and primarily to please his commander. To entangle himself with the common affairs of life would not be permitted: it is contrary to the character of a soldier and the work for which he is enlisted.
Whether a wrestler, or runner, or whatever athlete, he must obey the rules, or he is disqualified. So for the child of God: it is not enough to be on the right side: the Lord will allow no reward for any accomplishment that is not in true moral accord with His own blessed nature and His Word. This we must apply to ourselves in serious self-discipline.
Another character in which the believer is found is that of husbandman. Farming requires hard work, tilling the ground, planting, cultivating, while patiently waiting for the fruit to eventually mature. One cannot expect immediate results. What a lesson to quiet our own natural restlessness and impatience as to looking for results as quickly as possible! Let us labor on, steadily, consistently, according to the Word, and results will certainly come in due time. Patient, plodding continuance in well-doing will prove vastly more fruitful than great public campaigns that so impress crowds for the time being.
The significance of these things is of such vital importance as to call for serious consideration: it is not enough to acknowledge them as good doctrine: they are to be worked into the soul by meditation, in which one may have confidence that the Lord will give proper understanding.
Timothy is admonished to "remember Jesus Christ" - not simply to remember the fact of His resurrection - but to remember Him personally as raised from among the dead. In this is living power, the power of a Living Person, Conqueror of death. And He is of the seed of David, that is of one who was unfailingly raised to the throne of Israel after years of patient suffering, only indeed a faint type of his infinitely greater Son, in whom all the counsels of God are fulfilled, and whose kingdom and authority shall have no end. What power there is just in the remembrance of Himself!
This was the very cornerstone of Paul's gospel: he had not even known Christ in His earthly path: his gospel began with Christ raised from the dead. Israel's hatred of such teaching (common in all mankind, too) was vented in bitter persecution against this faithful servant, who suffered "trouble as an evil-doer, even unto bonds." But the truth is worth suffering for, nor is the Word of God bound, no matter how man may bend every effort to restrain it or to destroy it. Since in Rome Paul was considered the chief exponent of the Word of God, man no doubt supposed that in confining him, they would also confine the truth he proclaimed; but it went forth even from his prison; prisoners were converted by it, and even soldiers; and it spread abroad in every direction, and just as effectively as if it had been favorably used. How it proves to be sufficient of itself, without the support of the servant: indeed it is itself the support of the servant.
The long-range vision of the apostle is precious to consider: in view of the eternal results, valuable beyond all human computation, he would willingly "endure all things for the elect's sakes." No doubt his prime motive was for the eternal glory of God; but this vitally involves the blessing of the beloved saints of God, the body of Christ; and real affection for the Lord will surely express itself in love toward those whom He loves. Paul therefore "filled up that which was behind of the sufferings of Christ, for His body's sake, which is the church" (Col. 1:24).
If one were to object that the elect would obtain this salvation anyway, apart from Paul or anyone else, this is neither honest faith, nor true love for souls. For faith is gladly obedient to the call of God, and love will spend itself in self-sacrifice for the sake of its objects. God chooses to use His willing servants in accomplishing the ends He has purposed, and it is our wisdom to be willing and obedient. If we are not, He can of course still use others. To apply the principle of death to ourselves, as identified with the death of Christ, is of real importance here. Having died with Him, we shall live with Him. Let us therefore apply this truth, and be willing to suffer with Him in view of eventually reigning with Him. For our denial of Him would mean His denial of us. Israel denied the Holy One and the Just (Acts 3:14), and the nation has been denied by Him ever since; and will be until they eventually turn back to Him in confession. There is a practical analogy to this even in the case of one truly born of God. If in practice we deny Him, in that measure we shall be denied the blessing of communion with Himself, until there is honest restoration.
But this does not change His faithfulness. However unfaithful we may be, He abides faithful: He cannot deny Himself.
Much of Timothy's work consisted in putting souls in remembrance of what they had already learned: he was not told to bring out new or original things, a specially important consideration for the last days, when the danger of striving about words increases, with its emptiness as regards spiritual profit. Saints must be charged not to stoop to this. Its effect is to turn souls aside from the truth.
Verse 15 is the positive antidote for the evils warned against in the verses preceding and following. Studying requires applied concentration. Yet let us carefully note it is not here with the object of gaining knowledge, but of showing oneself approved by God. To know and act upon the Word of God is the vital matter here. But one must be most diligent to discern the true application of what he reads, drawing the lines where Scripture does. Differing dispensations must be distinguished: the particular character of each book should be understood, and the way in which it relates to other books. This will take time, patience, selfjudgment, and lowly consideration, together with plodding, consistent work. But we need it if we are not to be ashamed. It is always important, in considering any Scripture, to discern the prime object of each passage, and apply the details consistently with this object. God means something when He speaks, and it is His own thoughts about the passage that we should be concerned to know.
If Timothy is told to "shun profane and vain babblings," it is no less urgent for us, for these things are greatly multiplied today. "Profane" has the sense of being strictly secular, with no real reference to God, hence that which reduces things to a rationalistic, materialistic level. This is empty vanity, and drags souls into deeper ungodliness. Just the opposite of sound, solid truth, it will spread like a gangrene where it once gains a foothold. A pointed illustration of this is given in the case of two men, Hymenaeus and Philetus, leaders in such evil, who claimed that the resurrection had already taken place. This was evidently a subtle spiritualizing of a vital truth of God, and therefore taking away its entire value. Denial of a future literal resurrection is wickedness that the believer must not tolerate.
In Corinth the denial of the resurrection by some was a matter of grave concern to the apostle (1 Cor. 15:12, 33, 34). But 2 Timothy is written much later, with most of the New Testament having been written and Christianity established as the pure truth of God. Consequently, such denial is even more serious now, for it is a turning from the truth once delivered; and the believer must decidedly separate from this type of error. Though the names Hymenaeus and Philetus have lovely meanings ("a wedding song") and ("beloved") the men themselves possibly attractive, pleasant characters, yet their error must be absolutely refused. If the resurrection is past, then there is no more suffering for Christ and with Christ, no more testimony of the faith in an adverse world, no more warfare against the forces of evil. This false doctrine was designed to settle souls down at ease in the world: the faith of some was overthrown: they were robbed of their proper direct relationship with the Living God.
Verses 19 to 21 are most crucial in this chapter, and we cannot afford to lightly pass them by without suffering spiritual loss. The plain, strong force of the passage has inclined many to seek to avoid its impact by means of blunting its sharp edge. If it hurts, the truth is intended to do so if error is tolerated: it is a sword of two edges. But is not every Christian deeply grateful that "the foundation of God stands sure?" In 1 Corinthians 3:11 Jesus Christ is seen to be the only foundation. But verse 10 speaks of Paul's having laid the foundation. The sense of this is certainly found in his laying down the truth concerning the person and work of Christ, indeed all of that concerning Him which is the basis of all Christianity. Of course, all the truth of the Assembly is a vital part of this, because the Assembly is His own body. It seems clearly that it is of this foundation that Paul is speaking here, which stands firmly, unaffected by all the ravages of time and all the attacks of the enemy, and will allow nothing inconsistent with its pure character. It involves the entire range of revealed truth concerning the person of Christ, His work, His interests, His relationships in connection with the present dispensation; that is therefore, the whole New Testament revelation. This foundation stands firmly, whatever may be the proven failures of those professing to believe it, and however violent have been the attacks against it from outside. It remains pure and uncorrupted, refusing all the human additions that attempt to attach themselves to it. Let the believer learn well what this foundation is, and both hold it in its entirety, and refuse all other.
The foundation has a seal with two sides, first, that of the sovereign knowledge of the Lord, and secondly that of man's responsibility. We are intended to give due and full regard to both of these. "The Lord knoweth them that are his." In the early days of Christianity, spiritual power in the assembly on the one hand, and open persecution on the other, tended to clearly manifest who were Christians and who were not: those who were saints were generally clearly marked. But today the ease and affluence of the professing Church has allowed for the entrance of many corruptions, and confusion is the practical hallmark of that which claims allegiance to "the name of the Lord." Still, it remains a precious comfort that "the Lord knoweth them that are his." This is not therefore at all the question we are called upon to judge in regard to our departing from iniquity. We are not asked to decide whether others are the Lord's in connection with this matter. But the seal for us is very definite: if one names the name of the Lord, he is thereby responsible to depart from unrighteousness; whatever others may do, or whoever they may be. Let the individual recognize and act upon that which is clearly his personal responsibility. And in this case, he is not told to simply abstain from iniquity, but to depart from it, which means a separation in some very real sense.
If questions remain as to it, this is further explained in reference to "a great house." This embraces all that claims to be Christian, but is sadly far departed from the pure simplicity of "the house of God" as in 1 Timothy 3:15. What began as the house of God has degenerated into this condition today. True believers are of course still in this house by the very fact of their profession; but as well as the true and godly (gold and silver vessels), there are also now vessels of wood and of earth, unbecoming to the character of God's house: people and principles have entered in to corrupt and confuse that which was -once the testimony of God.
The believer is not told to leave the house: indeed there are vessels to honor in the house, and these are those whose conduct gives honor to God (observe here the meaning of Timothy's name - honoring God); while vessels to dishonor are those whose conduct tends to dishonor the God whose name they profess. The question is not whether they are saved, but whether they are honoring God.
Hymenaeus and Philetus were plainly vessels to dishonor, and this is certainly the case with any who introduce wicked doctrine or practice. From these the individual is called
upon to purge himself. It is not here a question of purging out the evil, as in 1 Corinthians 5:7, where it is an assembly responsibility; but of one purging himself from it. That is, where an assembly has refused its own responsibility to purge out wickedness, then the individual must separate himself, if he is to be "a vessel unto honor." This should be transparently clear to every soul who has the honor of God at heart.
The vessel in this way is "sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work." It is a practical sanctification from evil and to God, which fits the saint for the proper use of the Master. Others may be prepared to some goods works, but if not so separated, they cannot be prepared to "every good work." For instance, they could not in this case do the good work of leading souls in a true path of separation.
If, by purging himself in separating from vessels to dishonor, one has escaped the dangers of spiritual evil, he is not however to settle down with smug self-satisfaction; but is to flee youthful lusts, to exhibit a maturity consistent with his stand spiritually. If fleeing sounds negative, it is yet imperative that we put ourselves at a long distance from former self-indulgence. Then the positive following of that which is good is added: not an armchair type of mere approval of what is good, but an active energy that pursues righteousness first, an exercise always to have things consistent with truth. Then faith is the confidence of depending upon the Living God, an attitude again maintained only by exercise. Love is next added, for it must be consistent with the former two, but it is the active energy of genuine concern for the blessing of others. And peace is last, for while it cannot compromise any of the others, yet it is a blessed complement to them all, a proper and godly result of acting upon the former.
It is evident that these things cannot be practiced if one isolates himself. His separation in verse 21 is not to be isolation, but he is to follow these things "with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." In this way his sphere of fellowship is simply defined. It will not be large, as one could desire: it cannot be with all Christians, for all have not purged or purified themselves from the sad mixture. "Them that call on the Lord" are those whose hearts dependently cry out for Him and His faithful authority. But it is not said, "out of a sinless heart," for fellowship in this case would be impossible, but "out of a pure heart," that is, a heart unmixed, but with Christ as its single Object, not Christ and some favorite theories, or denomination, or enterprise; but Christ the one predominating Object of the heart. In days of corruption and of unholy mixture, how refreshing is that simplicity of heart that looks solely to the Lord Jesus, with steadfast purpose to honor Him, and not moved away by the many plausible activities which today so attract and excite the minds and emotions of men. This is the fellowship alone approved of God for the day in which we live: let us settle for no less.
It is humbling too that it is not said, "all that call on the Lord out of a pure heart," for it would be most doubtful that we could find them all, and we must not dare to suppose that since others are not gathered with us, therefore their hearts are not pure. This we must leave with God, while maintaining positively only what He directs.
"But foolish and unlearned (unsubject) questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive." The truth is too vital and precious to be made a subject of mere argument. Foolish questions are commonly an indicator of a heart not willing to be subject to the Word of God: these require no answer, but must be avoided, or will only lead to strife. At a time when divisions have sorely rent the testimony of God, and when genuine godliness is little esteemed, such questions are the more urged by those who would reduce the truth to a level of indifference or worse. If one is genuinely concerned to know the answer to a question, let us seek his proper help; but if asking questions with the evident intention of disputing against the truth, he deserves no answer.
For the servant of the Lord (another character in which the believer is seen in this chapter) must not strive: he must remember that he is only a servant, but a servant of the Lord, and responsible simply to obey and proclaim the truth God has given him. To rightly represent his Master, he must be gentle, and have a willingness to teach in all patience. Any instruction given to others must be in meekness, the servant himself not contending for his own interests, for it is solely the interests of God he is called upon to serve. If others oppose, let him remember that they are really opposing themselves and their own proper welfare; and he is to be concerned that God will work in blessing by means of true repentance in such souls, giving them a subject acknowledgment of the truth. And this of course is not by any means that the servant should be proven right, but that by the grace of God the opposer may be recovered from the snare of the devil, by which he has been deluded.
It is not that the devil takes anyone captive at his will, but "for his will," as is the proper translation. Satan's will is not so predominant as to secure victims as he pleases. God does not allow such a thing unless there is first some wrong attitude on the part of the individual, such as leads him to being willingly deceived. It has been questioned too whether it is Satan's will here indicated, or God's will (referring to v. 25); but in either case it is allowed with the object of humbling the will of the victim in experiencing the evil results of such captivity. What a mercy if this captivity leads to a genuine desire for recovery! But the servant is to be in truth a servant to the real need of souls.
When Paul wrote this to Timothy, "the last days" had not yet come, so it is evident that the epistle is not written strictly for Timothy personally, but for every individual believer who would follow him. "The last days" here also go beyond "the latter times" mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:1; but there can be no doubt that the last days are present with us now.
The expression "perilous times" is more rightly rendered "difficult times," and is defined in Vine's Dictionary as indicating "hard to bear with, hard to deal with." The list of evils such as would characterize men is most similar to the list in Romans 1, where the ungodly heathen are exposed in their repulsive guilt. The great difference however, is this, that here we are faced with the condition of Christendom, men having assumed the form of godliness, while not only lacking the power of it, but denying such power.
The various evils listed here need hardly be commented upon, though each reader may seriously consider and avoid these things. In fact, he is told, "From such turn away." Those who are characterized by these things, while ostensibly claiming to be Christian, should be decidedly avoided: they have no place whatever in Christian fellowship.
The cunning deceit of such men is to be expected, creeping into houses, and leading captive silly women; for those who adopt a religion that encourages moral corruption are quite content to be living a lie, and they will be specially successful in making victims of women easily drawn by their emotions, who have willingly ignored their consciences. "Laden with sins," having no desire to be rid of them, and "led away by their own lusts," they are glad for a religion that submerges the serious voice of conscience.
These too will make a pretense of acquiring more and more light, but will never find the settled peace of knowing the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, for they are trifling with infinitely serious things.
Jannes and Jambres were the magicians of Egypt (Ex. 7:22; 8:7, 18, etc.) who withstood Moses by means of imitating the miracles God wrought by him; thereby attempting to discredit these. Such imitations of God's power we may expect in the last days, with claims of having revived former days of the miraculous. Jude shows us too that imitations would even invade the realm of God's grace, through ungodly men turning the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4). Such men are reprobate concerning the faith: being guilty of a calculated refusal of it, they choose to be rejected by God. But there is a definite limit: their folly will be exposed to all men: whatever success they claim is only momentary.
But this dark background serves to make all the more precious the contrast seen in verses 10 and 11. Timothy had fully known (or followed), Paul's doctrine, that which introduced the blessedness of eternal heavenly things thereby separating from all man's earthly-minded religion And Paul's manner of life too was consistent with this, by manifestation of the truth commending [himself] to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:2). His 'purpose" was single, for its object was Christ at the right hand of God: the Mark and the Prize always in view. This is a most important accompaniment of a true manner of life. It is more than mere human determination, and more than any mere self-confident vow. Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself" (Dan. 1:8). This is not like Peter, asserting loudly that he would not deny the Lord: it is rather the quiet decision made in the presence of God, and in the secret of his own heart's communion with God, that he would depend simply and wholly upon the grace and power of God in reference to these matters of vital import. Would to God we all knew more of this firm purpose that is not swayed by all the circumstances of life, nor by all the cunning of the enemy. Barnabas expressed this beautifully too at Antioch, when he exhorted the disciples, "That with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord" (Acts 11:23). Compare also Philippians 3:13, 14.
"Faith" is the precious complement of this, being the confidence that recognizes the hand of God in all experience, and God's sovereign will in the place of predominance over all the corruptions of men or of Satan. And longsuffering finds its place alongside of faith, for it is the character that bears without discouragement the constantly recurring trials of faith that the servant of God must encounter in contact with men. "Love" is added to this, for the longsuffering must not be in any spirit of resentment, but with the positive, active exercise of genuine concern for the blessing of souls. And "patience" is the calm endurance that does not succumb to pressure. How beautifully these virtues shine out against a background of dark self-pleasing and self-will! How worthy of much meditation, and of our acting upon them!
But in verse 11 he speaks of experiences, and it is most salutary that he mentions nothing of those things in which he had wrought outstanding achievements for God, nothing of sublime spiritual victories such as religious men (and women) desire to attain. No, it is rather in contrast to this, the persecutions and afflictions he had endured for Christ's sake, those of which Timothy had been well aware, at the three places Paul here mentions. Certainly he suffered elsewhere too, but he speaks only of these which Timothy knew well. And the intensity of them is further indicated in the expression, "What persecutions I endured." Here is the solid, real character of Christianity, that which can make its way in steadfast endurance in the face of bitter opposition. This steadfastness through afflictions is a precious witness to the faithfulness of God. "But out of them all the Lord delivered me," he says.
And verse 12 is emphatic: if one lives godly in Christ Jesus he will suffer persecution. Whatever may be the form this takes, whether ostracism, strong criticism, contempt, loss of property or goods, discrimination that infringes on proper rights, etc., yet all who live godly in Christ Jesus will know something of this. Let us take it patiently for Christ's sake.
But evil men and juggling imposters (J.N.D. Trans.) would wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. History has certainly proved this so, conscience so defiled and seared in such men that they hold in contempt the God they profess to serve. They are those who manipulate truth and error in the way they think will serve best their own interests, and the more attention they gain from those willingly deceived, the more bold they become, even to the point of being deceived by their own deceptions.
Against so dark a background, verse 14 now presses the responsibility of the individual child of God, in this case of course Timothy: "But continue thou." Defections and falling by the wayside are all too common because of the pressures of evil. What mercy at such a time to have learned and been assured of the solid, pure truth of Christianity. But one must yet be exhorted to continue in it. If Paul had been the vessel through whom Timothy had learned these things, yet surely Paul has in mind God as the higher Source, from whom Timothy had actually learned. Only such learning will enable the soul to continue.
But more than this: Timothy's background had been one of inestimable value: from a child he had known the Holy Scriptures, the Old Testament of course. No doubt it was this that prepared him for receiving the precious gospel of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, when Paul presented it to him. Certainly any true learning of the Old Testament would have prepared one for the reception of the message of the New. Even these Scriptures (the Old Testament) are able to make one wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. When Christ has been received into the heart, He Himself is the illumination that makes beautifully clear the gospel message contained in those Scriptures written long before His coming. With what full hearts would the disciples have studied these blessed Scriptures after Christ had been raised from the dead, every page being freshly illuminated by this marvellous light! Salvation was fully prophesied of in the law and the prophets; and the types and prophecies there will furnish us with great material for study and meditation.
Now verse 16 makes a most absolute and uncompromising claim, indeed a claim of stupendous magnitude. If it were not true, then Paul and his writings would be worthy of only utter contempt; but since it is true, then his writings, and all Scripture, command rather the utmost respect and allegiance: it is given by inspiration of God. Let us note, it is not said that all Scripture is revelation; but rather that it is given by direct inspiration of God, God Himself inspiring the words of every writer. Ecclesiastes, for instance, is not at all God's revelation, but God's inspiring of Solomon to write just what Solomon had experienced in his trying "everything under the sun," and finding that "all is vanity and vexation of spirit." The purpose and viewpoint of the whole book must be considered in the study of every book of Scripture; but it is a complete whole, every part perfect in its place, pure in its truth, with utterly no inconsistency in all of its parts, as it was given of course in the original languages.
If, in the translation, minor inaccuracies have occurred, these may be generally found and corrected by honest study. Of course, it is important that one should have a reliable translation, and we may be deeply thankful that the King James Version has been for centuries most prominent in English speaking countries, for in the main it is an excellent translation. A very few others will be helpful however, in giving a more correct rendering in certain passages, and this is advisable for study purposes. But many of the modern translations, and all paraphrased versions, should be avoided. For careful study, the New Translation by J.N. Darby is highly recommended.
Since all Scripture is from God, it is all profitable, even genealogies and names of cities, etc. If my interpretation of it does not give spiritual profit, then my interpretation of it is not right. First it is profitable for teaching, or doctrine, for this is the basis of all true practice. Secondly, for reproof or conviction, a matter we should deeply take to heart, for it is a wise man who hears reproof, and we should certainly allow the Word of God to fully convict us as regards any practice that cannot stand its precious, searching light. Thirdly, for correction: reproof without this would be pointless; and Scripture itself should be applied continually to correct every misapprehension I may have entertained. Fourthly, for instruction in righteousness. What righteousness really is, is found only in Scripture, and it is only here that one may be enlightened in the many aspects of this important matter that involves every relationship in which one may be placed.
Without the Word, godliness will not be rightly directed, therefore the man of God requires this in order to be perfect in the sense of mature or complete. Timothy himself is called a "man of God" (1 Tim. 6:11), though this cannot be said of all believers, sad as it may be; for it is true only of those whose one chief object is to honor God. In just the measure this is true, so we shall be furnished by the Word "unto all good work." Compare here Chapter 2:21, where it is made clear that only by obeying the Word in separation from ungodliness can one be "prepared unto every good work." The Word holds the complete furnishing, but it must be seriously and practically applied.
The apostle writes this last chapter with a deepening sense in his soul of the nearness of his martyrdom; and it is most precious to observe how the solemnity of his charge to Timothy is mingled with a vibrant, untarnished joy, such as the Lord Jesus urged upon His disciples in Luke 10:20: "But rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." No shadow of fear or of disappointment passes over his soul, no matter how sad has been the havoc wrought in the testimony of the assembly. Yet he does not minimize this at all, but prophetically exposes the dreadfulness of the eventual tide that would turn men from the truth; and therefore earnestly charges Timothy to "Preach the Word, be urgent in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine."
This charge is before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, He who is about to judge the living and the dead at His appearing and kingdom. Let our energies and zeal be directed consistently with that perfectly righteous and discerning judgment, rather than to allow ourselves to be identified with that which will then merit such stern judgment at His hands. The living will be judged at His appearing, as the Tribulation comes to an end: the dead of course one thousand years later, at the Great White Throne, the Son of Man reigning in His kingdom, bringing every enemy into subjection before delivering up the kingdom to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24-26).
Timothy was to be urgent "in season, out of season," whether men felt it to be timely or not: when dreadful danger is imminent, it is no time to be waiting on mere formality. The same Word that has reproved him he is to use for the reproof of others. Reproof seems more properly personal, while a rebuke may very likely be public (1 Tim. 5:20) and more sharp. But with this, Timothy was also to "encourage," and "with all longsuffering," not allowing impatience to hinder his effectiveness; and with "doctrine," always using the sound basis of Scripture teaching to produce results, not by any means resorting to substitutes of human reasoning and rationalization. But the encouraging here follows reproof and rebuke; for if one were willing to take to heart the former two, then to pour in the encouragement of the Word would be most essential. In a day when many voices unite in strong efforts to discourage souls from any path of real devotedness to God, how vital is this matter of encouraging, and indeed so much the more as we see the Day approaching.
In this way Timothy was to act to protect souls in view of dangers threatening, which the apostle knew would develop in apostasy. Today the time has come when "they will not endure sound doctrine," but with itching ears heap to themselves teachers of any kind except those sober and solid. Even Christians are deceived by new, sensational things that leave out the sound doctrine of the Word. But let us notice that it is really because "their own lusts" are involved: it is what the flesh desires. And they become as those infatuated with a diet of wine and pastry, so that the healthy, solid food of the Word is turned from. "Fables," mere empty fascinations of the imagination, take the place of truth. How great the need for an epistle of this kind today!
Whatever others might do, Timothy was to watch in all things; and a watchman must be prepared for danger from any direction. And passive, patient endurance of afflictions was to be accompanied by the active doing of the work of an evangelist. No doubt the pressures of work among the saints, and the many demands this might make upon his time, would tend to hinder the carrying of the message of grace to the perishing; and this urgent reminder was necessary for him, and for us. Though he was possibly not gifted particularly as an evangelist, yet as he saw the need, he could do as much good work in this way as he was able. Is it not a message for every believer? He ought to fully prove in experience for the sake of others, the value of the ministry God had given him. A similar exhortation is found in Colossians 4:17: "And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it."
But there is more urgent occasion for Paul's so exhorting Timothy: Paul himself was remaining no longer on earth to do such work. Verse 6 is more correctly translated, "For I am already being poured out, and the time of my departure is come" (Numerical Bible of F. W. Grant). It was as though he was a drink offering, poured out upon the infinitely greater offering of his Lord, signifying his joy in this One who was the true meal offering, whose perfection and beauty shine so brightly even in suffering and martyrdom. For the drink offering was evidently poured out upon the meal offering (Ex. 29:40, 41).
There is no hint of disappointment or regret in prospect of his death, but fresh, vibrant joy. He had "fought the good fight," not "a good fight," as though drawing special attention to his own fighting; but the fight in which all Christianity is engaged, as against evil and for the glory of God: his fighting in this engagement was about to conclude. He had finished the course, he had kept the faith. He is not saying how well he had fought, nor how well he had run in the racecourse, nor how well he had kept the faith: these things God would estimate. But there was no other good fight, no other proper course, no other true faith except Christianity. In this he had continued to the finish.
A crown of righteousness awaited him therefore: he could lay down his life in calm assurance of this, that the Lord, the righteous Judge, would give this to him at that day. It is the day of His appearing, of course, when He will take His rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords. It is evident too that this crown is not for outstanding accomplishments in the fight or the race, for it is given not only to Paul, but to all them also who love the appearing of the Lord. The anticipation of such a crown however will be more precious to one whose undivided object on earth is to honor the Lord Jesus. It would seem the crown of righteousness would compare with Philippians 3:9: "The righteousness which is of God by faith." Certainly also every true believer loves the appearing of the Lord, however little he may understand about any distinction between the rapture of saints before the Tribulation and the appearing in glory with the saints. Similarly, Hebrews 9:28 tells us that "Unto them who look for him shall he appear the second time." It is certainly for all saints that this is true, for all look for Him, however little they may understand about His coming.
Verse 9 shows that Paul evidently longed for the company of his beloved child Timothy before he was taken from the earth: of course in Chapter 1:4 he had said so. For Demas had forsaken him, having loved this present world. How sad an observation! We cannot conclude that Demas had turned from Christianity, for he had gone to Thessalonica, where was a thriving gospel witness; but he was avoiding suffering with the apostle, and sought a more pleasant life in the world. The meaning of his name is "popular," and no doubt significant, for desire for popularity will not lead one into the same path as Paul. Crescens had gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia, for what reasons he does not say, so that any questions that may arise in our minds must remain unanswered. But he adds, "Only Luke is with me." How good to see this devoted man, "the beloved physician," remaining steadfast through all the years. His character seems humble, consistent, one who deeply valued the grace of God.
But most precious here is Paul's instruction that Timothy take Mark and bring him to Paul. He had once departed from Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:13), when there was danger of reproach and suffering; and Paul would afterward (in Acts 15:36-40) not consent to his accompanying them on another journey. Barnabas, Mark's uncle, so resisted this that he withdrew from Paul and took Mark with him to Cyprus. Scripture gives no further history of Barnabas at all; but it is clear in our present verse that Mark had been so recovered that Paul would desire his presence in Rome at a time when sternest trial and suffering could be expected, and could add, "For he is profitable unto me for the ministry." It seems unquestionable that Paul's faithfulness toward him in Acts 15 (though possibly resented at first) had resulted in his eventual restoration and strengthening.
But Tychicus Paul had sent to Ephesus, and no doubt for a spiritual reason more important than that he should stay with Paul. If all in Asia (Ephesus included) had turned away from Paul (ch. 1:15), then Paul must have had confidence in this beloved servant, that he would at least teach Paul's doctrine though in opposing circumstances. How precious to see too that though these had turned away from Paul, yet he would not by any means give them up.
Verse 14 shows that Timothy was to care for the physical and temporal welfare of Paul. With winter coming, the cloak would be greatly needed in his prison cell. "The books" too are manifestly not the Scriptures, but doubtless other books of value, for the parchments were even more important to Paul than were the books. The parchments would no doubt be the unused material for his own writing. He desired this even though death was very near: his diligent service would continue to the end. But Paul did not discard all other books because of his devotion to the Word of God: they too were of profit in their place, if indeed the proper kind of books. It is a good reminder to us that written ministry may be of much value, if it is subject to the Word itself.
The nearness of Paul's martyrdom only adds to the sad solemnity of verse 14. Alexander had been delivered unto Satan because of his blasphemy, put outside the fellowship of saints, with the hope of his self-judgment (1 Tim. 1:20). But there had manifestly been no recovery, but the opposite: he did Paul much evil. It is not however that Paul is wishing the Lord's judgment upon him; but rather as a faithful man of God he pronounces the solemn prophecy, "The Lord will reward him according to his works." The meaning of Alexander's name seems most significant: "man defender." It will be of no avail to defend man in the flesh against the Living God. Paul's doctrine had exposed man in the flesh, and brought him to nothing, while exalting the person of Christ and giving believers a place "in Christ" above all fleshly position and dignity. And many Alexanders dispute Paul's doctrine today. Timothy is warned to beware of him, for he had greatly opposed the truth given by the apostles.
But there were other pressures too upon Paul's shoulders. The calmness of his peace and joy in the Lord is all the more precious for this: he had stood alone before the ungodly Gentile power, Nero; for in having to answer to him, none had stood with him. He does not complain of his loneliness, however: instead he expresses the heartfelt desire that God would not hold others chargeable for this neglect: it is their own spiritual welfare he is still most concerned about. Yet what faithful believer, if he could have been there, could have felt it right not to stand with Paul?
"Notwithstanding," he adds, "the Lord stood with me and strengthened me." Precious consolation, to more than make up for every other deprivation! And let us mark this, that Paul says nothing of being on the defensive on this occasion, but in fact boldly took the positive action of fully preaching the truth of Christ before the great Gentile court. Such is the power given as a result of any real sense of the Lord's standing with the servant. And he was delivered out of the mouth of the lion, that is, from the Satanic enmity which was moving strongly in the secular power.
With unshaken confidence therefore he faces the future. The Lord would deliver him from every evil work. He certainly did not mean he would be spared from dying a martyr's death, but that even this was to him only a minor incident in view of the delivering grace of the Lord Jesus. It was His heavenly kingdom he anticipated, and for this he would be fully preserved, by Him "to whom be glory and honor forever and ever." What a contrast to the shame and dishonor Paul had willingly borne for His sake!
Verse 19 seems to infer that Timothy was still at Ephesus at this time, for this was evidently the home of Onesiphorus (ch. 1:16-18), and the location of Priscilla and Aquilla on this last notice of them (Acts 18:24, 26). If so, Timothy would surely welcome the coming of Tychicus. But this chapter shows the genuine interest of Paul in his fellow laborers, and which he knows Timothy shares. Erastus had remained at Corinth, where he was doubtless needed; but Trophimus Paul had left at Miletum sick, rather than exercise the gift of miraculous healing in his case. Neither did Paul make any suggestion of this in the case of Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25-30.
The apostle makes one last pressing request that Timothy be diligent to come before winter. Not only would he require the cloak for the cold, but he longed for Timothy's fellowship, and the time of his own departure was near. He sends greetings from four saints in particular, and "all the brethren." Doubtless Timothy was acquainted with the four. The closing expression is unusual, "The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit," for it was his spirit that needed strengthening, not his soul. Finally, "Grace be with you:" it is this alone that would lift him above the circumstances that tried him.
Leslie M. Grant