2 Timothy 4 – Paul’s Final Testimony to Timothy
A. Paul’s final testimony to Timothy.
1. (1) A solemn charge to Timothy.
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.
a. I charge you therefore: Charge translates a strong word from Biblical Greek (diamarturomai), also often translated testified (such as in Acts 8:25). The idea is that Paul gave a solemn testimony to Timothy, testimony that Timothy must heed if he would be a godly pastor.
i. “The verb diamartyromai has legal connections and can mean ‘testify under oath’ in a court of law, or to ‘adjure’ a witness to do so.” (Stott)
b. Before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead: Paul here described the members of the court where Paul gave his testimony, thereby making it more important.
i. As Paul sat in his cold, damp prison cell, he understood there was a spiritual reality present that went beyond the walls of his cell. Spiritually, through this letter, he gave solemn testimony to his young friend and associate and he did it in the presence of the God who will judge us all.
c. At His appearing and His kingdom: Paul still believed in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. He had been in ministry for more than 30 years and his earliest letters (such as 1 and 2 Thessalonians) mentioned the return of Jesus. Now, so many years and experiences later, he still believed it with all his heart.
i. “The words ‘shall judge’ more literally are ‘is about to be judging’; they point to the fact that Paul was living in the hope of the imminent return of Christ.” (Hiebert)
2. (2) The testimony: Preach the word!
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
a. Preach the word! Paul’s emphasis on the word of God has been constant. There are some 36 references to the true gospel in this letter and some 17 references to false teachings.
i. This constant emphasis makes Paul’s point clear to Timothy:
· Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord (2 Timothy 1:8)
· Hold fast the pattern of sound words (2 Timothy 1:13)
· The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2)
· Rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
· A servant of the Lord must be . . . able to teach (2 Timothy 2:24)
· All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16)
b. Preach the word! As a pastor, Timothy was not required to merely know the word or like the word or approve of the word; he was required to preach the word. The word of God must be preached by Timothy; it was to be the content of his message.
i. Not everyone who opens a Bible and starts talking is preaching the word. Many well-intentioned preachers are actually preaching themselves instead of the word. If the focus is on the funny stories or the touching life experiences of the preacher, he may be preaching himself.
c. Be ready in season and out of season: This tells us when the pastor should be ready to preach the word. He should be ready always. He should preach it when it is easy and preach it when it is hard. He should preach it when the fruit is evident and preach it when the fruit seems invisible. He should just preach it.
i. There was once a Church of England clergyman who was gloriously saved. When Jesus changed his life he started preaching the gospel to his whole parish and they all got saved. Then he started preaching in neighboring parishes, and the clergymen of those parishes were offended. They asked the bishop to make the man stop. When the bishop confronted him he said, “I hear you are always preaching and you don’t seem to be doing anything else.” The changed man answered, “Well bishop, I only preach during two seasons of the year.” The bishop said, “I’m glad to know that; what seasons are they?” He replied, “In season and out of season!”
d. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching: In his preaching Timothy was to bring the Word of God to bear on the lives of his people. He was not to treat the word as if it were filled with interesting ideas or fascinating theories. He was to hold up the Word of God against the lives of his people and let God do His work.
3. (3-4) The need for the true preaching of the word.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
a. They will not endure sound doctrine: Timothy needed to keep focused on the Word of God because man, by his natural instinct, does not want God’s revelation. He would rather hear what he wants to hear – something to scratch his itching ears.
i. Clarke on itching ears: “Endless curiosity, an insatiable desire of variety; and they get their ears tickled with the language and accent of the person, abandoning the good and faithfulpreacher for the fine speaker.”
ii. This also shows that if we do want to hear God’s word, God is doing something wonderful in us. Left to ourselves, we would rather do it our way, but God changes our heart in wonderful ways, giving us a desire for His word.
b. They will heap up for themselves teachers: This reminds us that the most popular teachers are not necessarily the most faithful teachers. We shouldn’t assume a teacher is scratching itching ears just because he is popular, but neither should we assume that he is faithful to God’s Word just because he is popular.
c. And be turned aside to fables: Once people leave the Word of God they often then embrace fantastic fantasies. When a man rejects God’s truth, it isn’t that he believes in nothing; he will believe in anything.
i. To believe that the universe came about by chance is to believe a fable. This description of the evolution of the universe in a Los Angeles Times article is an example of one of these fables:
In the beginning, there was light – but also quarks and electrons. The Big Bang spewed out energy that condensed into radiation and particles. The quarks joined into protons and careened wildly about in a hot, dense, glowing goop as opaque as a star.
Time (300,000 years or so) passed. Space expanded. Matter cooled. The electrons and protons, electrically irresistible to each other, merged into neutral hydrogen, and from this marriage, the first atoms were born. Space between atoms became as transparent as crystal – pretty much the way it looks today.
The rest, as they say, is history. Atoms merged to form dust clouds, which grew into stars and galaxies and clusters. Stars used up their nuclear fuel, collapsed and exploded in recurring cycles, fusing elements in the process.
Occasionally, a stable planet condensed around a second-generations star, where carbon-based life forms grew into, among other things, cosmologists, the better to contemplate it all. (From a sidebar to a science article in the Los Angeles Times, titled “The Big Bang and What Followed It”)
ii. It is possible for many churchgoers to turn aside from the truth and to believe many fables:
· The fable that you must earn your way before God
· The fable that God only loves you when you are good
· The fable that you should walk around thinking of yourself as better than others because you are a Christian
4. (5) The testimony restated: Fulfill your ministry.
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
a. But you: This is a word of contrast against the people mentioned in the previous sentence. Though others turned aside to fables, Timothy was to be even more dedicated to doing what God wanted him to do. Their presence was to make him more dedicated, not more discouraged.
i. “The more determined men become to despise the teachings of Christ, the more zealous should godly ministers be to assert it and the more strenuous their efforts to preserve it entire.” (Calvin)
b. Be watchful in all things: Timothy could not fulfill his ministry unless he kept careful attention, being watchful in all things. Every good shepherd has his eyes open.
c. Endure afflictions: Ministry is just like life – there are afflictions to be borne with. For some this is a disturbing thought because they thought that the ministry would be one beautiful spiritual experience after another. There are plenty of wonderful blessings in serving God but there are also afflictions to be endured.
d. Do the work of an evangelist: This implies that Timothy was not particularly gifted as an evangelist but he still had to faithfully do that work as a preacher of God’s Word.
e. Fulfill your ministry: Paul gave a similar command to Archippus (Colossians 4:17), and he knew what it was to fulfill his own ministry in some sense (Acts 12:25).
i. There may be many reasons why someone’s ministry goes unfulfilled and each must be earnestly battled:
· The cares of the world
· The fear of man
· Criticism and discouragement
· Besetting sin
B. The final words from Paul: his triumphant confidence.
1. (6-7) Paul’s triumphant confidence.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
a. I am already being poured out as a drink offering: A drink offering brought wine before the Lord and poured it out at His altar. It was a way to give wine to God as a sacrifice, just as an animal might be given as a sacrifice.
i. The idea of a drink offering is first presented in Genesis 35:14, where Jacob poured out a drink offering before the Lord as a sacrifice. In the Mosaic Law, drink offerings could be a part of sacrifice to the Lord (Exodus 29:40-41 and Leviticus 23:13).
ii. There was also a Roman idea here. Every Roman meal ended with a small sacrificial ritual to the gods – a cup of wine was taken and poured out before the gods. In this sense Paul said “The day is done, the meal is just about over, and I’m being poured out unto God.”
iii. Poured out has the idea of a complete giving, with no reservation. The liquid is completely emptied from the cup, and totally given to God.
iv. So Paul was already being poured out. His head was not on the executioner’s block yet, but his heart was there. He was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice. “He considers himself as on the eve of being sacrificed, and looks upon his blood as the libation which was poured on the sacrificial offering. He could not have spoken thus positively had not the sentence of death been already passed upon him.” (Clarke)
b. The time of my departure is at hand: Paul felt that he was in the airport and his flight to heaven was ready to depart. He waited for his boarding call.
i. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is therefore even more meaningful because he knew he was passing from the scene and Timothy must carry the torch. God’s workmen pass on, but God’s work continues.
c. I have finished the race: Throughout his ministry Paul used the picture of the race and the Christian being an athlete running that race (Philippians 3:12-14, Acts 20:24, 1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 12:1). Now he knew his race was just about finished.
3. (8) Paul’s crown of righteousness.
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
a. There is laid up for me: Paul knew there was a crown waiting for him in heaven, and he was ready to receive it. He was certain of it.
i. There are two main words for crown in the New Testament. One refers to a royal crown and the other to the victor’s crown (the stephanos). Here Paul referred to the victor’s crown – the crown that was essentially a trophy, recognizing that one had competed according to the rules and had won the victory.
ii. Before Paul was a Christian he supervised the execution of the first martyr and then began to kill as many other Christians as he could. But now at the end of his life he was ready to receive a crown – a stephanos. It is likely that he remembered the name of the first martyr, who died at Paul’s own hands: Stephanos (Stephen).
iii. In that day winners in the world of sports received a crown of olive or ivy leaves that soon withered and died. But the crown for God’s people lasts forever (1 Corinthians 9:25, 1 Peter 5:4).
iv. We are promised the crown of life if we will endure temptation (James 1:12).
v. Some people wonder if we will walk around heaven with crowns on, and everyone will notice who has the bigger and better crowns. But in Revelation 4:10, the elders surrounding the throne of God take their crowns and cast them before Jesus – giving any trophy they have received right back to Jesus.
b. Which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day: Paul envisioned an awards ceremony where he would receive the crown that waited for him. Paul was about to be condemned and executed by an earthly court, but he was also going to be rewarded by a heavenly Lord.
i. “This is most probably the last letter the apostle ever wrote and it is impossible to see him in a more advantageous point of view than he now appears, standing on the verge of eternity, full of God, and strongly anticipating an eternity of glory.” (Clarke)
ii. Some feel that Paul was too focused on rewards and that it isn’t proper for Christians to think much about the reward they will receive in heaven. Yet God has no problem motivating us with heavenly reward. It will be worth it. We must hang in there now. We will be rewarded.
iii. Some Christians worry unnecessarily about their crown:
· What if I don’t get a crown?
· What if my crown is really small?
· What if the Lord is disappointed in me?
iv. We should ignore all these speculations and simply be busy serving and glorifying God and our crown will take care of itself.
c. Also to all who have loved His appearing: This promise is for us – if we will set our focus on heaven and on the Jesus who both walked the earth and now reigns in heaven, who is waiting to receive us.
C. Paul’s last words from prison.
1. (9-13) The solitude of the great apostle.
Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica; Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come; and the books, especially the parchments.
a. Be diligent to come to me quickly: Paul was a man of God but he was not superhuman. He needed and wanted companionship. Paul was lonely.
b. For Demas has forsaken me: Paul remembers those who have forsaken him. Some (like Demas) left him because they had loved this present world (literally, “the now age”). Others left him out of necessity (like Crescens and Titus). Some other left because Paul sent them (like Tychicus).
i. Demas was mentioned in Paul’s earlier letters as a fellow worker but later he went astray (Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 24). His previous faithfulness made it all more painful for Paul.
c. Only Luke is with me: Luke, who had traveled with Paul on many of his missionary journeys, remained with Paul. Everyone else was gone. This was a significant contrast to Paul’s first Roman imprisonment ten years before, where he received many visitors (Acts 28:30-31).
d. Get Mark and bring him with you: This is evidence of a restoration of trust in Mark from Paul. Paul had wanted nothing to do with him in Acts 15:36-40.
e. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas: This tells us that it is likely that Paul was arrested at Troas, resulting in this second imprisonment at Rome. In those days the arresting soldiers had claim to any extra garments in the possession of the one arrested. It may be that Paul was forewarned of the arrest and therefore committed his few books and this cloak – an outer garment – to the care of an honest man named Carpus.
i. The cloak was “A circular cape which fell down below the knees, with an opening for the head in the centre.” (White)
ii. This cloak left in Troas shows us:
· Paul gave up everything to serve Jesus (all he had at the end of his life was a cloak and a few books).
· Paul was almost completely forsaken by his friends (he apparently had no friends to lend or obtain a cloak for him in Rome).
· Paul had a very independent mind (he would not beg for a cloak).
· Paul did not care much for how he was dressed (he could have asked for more or for different articles of clothing).
· Paul was an ordinary man with ordinary needs.
iii. “Oh, what a small deal of household stuff had this great apostle, saith Erasmus; a cloak to keep off the rain, and a few books and writings.” (Trapp)
f. And the books, especially the parchments: Paul stayed a scholar to the end and wanted his books. He especially wanted the parchments, which were portions of the Old Testament.
i. “Still more does this passage refute the madness of the fanatics who despise books and condemn all reading and boast only of . . . their private inspirations by God. But we should note that this passage commends continual reading to all godly men as a thing from which they can profit.” (Calvin)
3. (14-15) A warning to beware of Alexander the coppersmith.
Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.
a. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm: In 1 Timothy 1:20 Paul mentioned Alexander as someone who whose faith had suffered shipwreck. Now Paul warned Timothy about this same man. Paul simply wrote that Alexander did me much harm – but that he would also oppose Timothy (You also must beware of him).
i. It would have been wrong of Timothy to respond to this by saying to Paul, “Paul, Alexander has always been nice to me. He has his faults, but don’t we all?” Instead, we can be sure that Timothy respected Paul’s judgment – and took his counsel to beware of Alexander.
ii. Coppersmith “Does not mean that he worked only in copper. The term came to be used of workers in any kind of metal.” (White)
b. Did me much harm: The implication of this phrase is that he “informed many things against me.” Perhaps Alexander was a traitor, an informer who betrayed Paul to the Roman government and was responsible for his current imprisonment. Perhaps the thought of he has greatly resisted our words meant that Alexander was a witness against Paul at his first defense.
i. “Informers were one of the great curses of Rome at this time. And it may well be that Alexander was a renegade Christian, who went to the magistrates with false information against Paul, seeking to ruin him in the most dishonourable way.” (Barclay)
ii. “They were accused to ‘atheism,’ (because they eschewed idolatry and emperor-worship), of cannibalism (because they spoke of eating Christ’s body), and even of a general ‘hatred of the human race’ (because of their supposed disloyalty to Caesar and perhaps because they had renounced the popular pleasures of sin). It may be that some of these charges were being leveled against Paul.” (Stott)
c. May the Lord repay him according to his works: Alexander’s judgment would be simple. It is a terrible thing to be judged according to one’s works.
i. “This is neither a curse nor a railing speech, saith an ancient, but a prediction well beseeming an apostle, that avenged not himself, but rather gave place to wrath, Romans 12:19.” (Trapp)
4. (16-18) God’s faithfulness to Paul at his first defense.
At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!
a. No one stood with me . . . But the Lord stood with me: Paul was all alone, but Jesus stood by him and Paul served God faithfully during his first defense.
i. The words “May it not be charged against them” show that Paul was not bitter that all forsook him. This is powerful evidence of a great work of grace and spiritual maturity.
ii. Paul’s first defense may have been his first imprisonment in Rome (spoken of at the end of Acts), or it could have been a first hearing under his current imprisonment.
b. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion: God had delivered Paul before so he had no doubt about God’s power or goodness. Paul just didn’t know if this time his fate would end with be delivered out of the mouth of the lion or being preserved for His heavenly kingdom.
c. To Him be glory forever and ever: This reflects an unreasonable optimism and joy. Paul faced his last moments of this life and he was, but many accounts, penniless, friendless, possessionless, cold, without adequate clothing, and destined for a soon death. Yet, especially knowing the heavenly reward waiting for him, he would not trade his place with anyone.
5. (19-21) Paul’s closing greetings to his friends in contact with Timothy, and from Roman Christians.
Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick. Do your utmost to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren.
a. Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus: In his parting words, Paul’s heart was for the people he knew. He thought about others and not himself. Paul knew the nature of Jesus and was an others-centered person just as Jesus was.
b. Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick: Paul was a man used by God to perform remarkable miracles of healing (such as in Acts 14:8-10 and 19:11-20), yet he left Trophimus sick. This shows that even the Apostle Paul did not have miraculous healing powers to use at his own will. He could only give a gift of healing if God it was God’s will and timing.
i. Charles Spurgeon preached a whole sermon on the words but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick (The Sick Man Left Behind). The points were:
1. It is the will of God that some good men should be in ill health.
2. Good men may be laid aside when they seem to be most needed.
3. Good men would have the Lord’s work go on whatever becomes of them.
ii. “It is possible that Erastus and Trophimus were with St. Paul when he was arrested the second time, and that they remained in his company as far as Miletus and Corinth respectively.” (White)
c. Do your utmost to come before winter: This has much heart and emotion behind it. As an old man, Paul dearly wanted to see his young associate before he laid down his life for his Lord. We don’t know if Paul ever saw Timothy again, but we can be sure Timothy did his utmost to come before winter.
i. Paul’s imprisonment in the Mamertine prison (a bleak building still standing in Rome, built 100 years before Paul’s imprisonment for political enemies of Rome) lasted until he was beheaded under Nero outside Rome’s Ostian Gate at a place called “Three Fountains.”
ii. An absurd legend was eventually spun that said that when Paul was beheaded, his severed head bounced three times and at each place it hit the ground a fountain sprung up – one hot, one warm, and the third cold – thus the place was called “Three Fountains.”
iii. Paul was martyred in the aftermath of the great fires that swept Rome in a.d. 64 – which Nero, in some manner, tried to blame on Christians. According to some traditions, he was beheaded on the same day Peter was crucified upside-down. Paul was a Roman citizen and could not be legally crucified.
6. (22) The last words from the pen of Paul.
The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.
a. The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. The last words of Paul reflect a man who simply loved Jesus and had received His grace. This simplicity, and all the power that went with it, marked the entire ministry of Paul.
i. “Here a very close personal association between the Lord and Timothy is prayed for.” (White)
b. Amen: Paul invited Timothy to affirm all this by an agreeing “Amen.” Paul had fulfilled his ministry and was ready to receive his reward, and he wanted Timothy to do the same.
©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission