2 Timothy 4
4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths
Paul is making a very solemn and intense charge to his protégé here in verse 1. It’s akin to the charge in the prayer book wedding service where the ministers says to the bride and groom, “I charge you both, as you will answer before God, that if either of you know any reason why you may not lawfully be joined together in matrimony, you now confess it. For be assured that those who marry otherwise than God's word allows are not joined together by God, neither is their matrimony lawful in his sight.” [ Anglican Church of Australia Trust Corporation. From the text of An Australian Prayer Book published by A.I.O. Press] Paul is not giving Timothy an option, it’s not a request; once Timothy took on the role of pastor of the church, he took on these things. Again, it’s akin to the charge given to clergy when they are ordained. When you take on ordination you vow to do certain things and to be a certain sort of person.
“Preach the word.” That is the primary role of the leader of God’s people. There is no mention here of the other things that go with the role. It’s thought provoking that there is no mention of pastoral care, for instance, which is one of the big expectations of the pastor in today’s church. Pastoral care is not holding people’s hands, it is the applying of the word of God to their everyday situations. It is gently but firmly encouraging them into the presence of the Father in the midst of the hurly-burly of life. It is caringly confronting their doubts in the midst of suffering and grief with the truths of the Word of God. It is rebuking unbelief or disobedience with the truths of Scripture from the place of a fellow sinner. The word of God, and response to it in prayer, should always be at the centre of church leadership and pastoral care. At the same time, we shouldn’t play down the importance of small talk. In his book The Gift, Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message version of the Bible, says in his chapter titled, The Ministry of Small Talk, “If we bully people into talking on our terms, if we manipulate them into responding to our agenda, we do not take them seriously where they are in the ordinary and the everyday. Nor are we likely to become aware of the tiny shoots of green grace that the Lord is allowing to grow in the backyards of their lives.” [Eugene H Peterson “The Gift” pg. 114]
As the leader Paul is to convince, rebuke and exhort. We must support our leaders and those who teach us when they do this. Some years ago, a clergy friend spoke to a person in his congregation about their infrequent attendance at church and the person was greatly offended. “Who do you think you are to talk to me like that?”, they stormed. He replied, “I’m your pastor.”
Paul warned Timothy that people, even people in his church, will turn their backs on sound teaching and instead will follow teaching that agrees with their own thinking [v 4], teaching that pleases them. I can think of one person who was very strong in his beliefs that divorce was wrong for believers. When his own marriage fell apart, he came up with some very obscure translations of the Bible and weird interpretations of the Word to justify his decision to divorce his wife. I don’t in any way want to play down the terrible complexities in those situations and the pain and questioning and doubting that goes on but our ability to change our beliefs to conform to our desires is very strong.
Have you found yourself doing that? Are there parts of the Bible that you disagree with and have quietly turned away from? How are you going to keep yourself true to the truth?
Lord God, I am so prone to going my own way and not following your truth. Please empower me by your Spirit to hold fast in the face of temptation to find teaching I like rather than what I need. Amen
2 Timothy 4
5 As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.
Paul is addressing Timothy as the pastor of the church, but what he says has application for all of us. Being “steady” is really being cool, calm and collected. The earlier edition of the NIV translates it “keep your head in all situations.” As the pastor, Timothy is to be the level-headed one. We all want a steady hand at the tiller in church life. Are you praying that for your ministry leaders? And for ourselves, self-control should mark us as God’s people [Gal 5:23, 2 Tim 3:3], and our trust in God’s control should prevent us from much panic and anxiety. God’s people are stable people.
“Endure suffering”. This is a theme in this letter. Timothy is encouraged “to share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God” [1:8], “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” [2:3], and he’s told “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” [3:12]. Of course, suffering is inevitable in our fallen world, but here Paul is specifically writing about the suffering that comes from living a life as a follower of Christ. That too is inevitable, from the slight mocking that might come from workmates, media or teachers and lecturers to the imprisonment and torture for many of our brothers and sisters in other places. Timothy is not to rage against it, but to endure it as part of the job description, like a soldier. Again, this is the situation for all believers, as we’ve seen in previous devotions. One of the things that attracted people to Christ in the early days was the way that Christians endured suffering with grace and peace. People are watching how we handle persecution and suffering, as is the spirit world. The angels watch and praise God when his people endure suffering and the evil spirits tremble at their failure and coming doom. Remember Job whose endurance of suffering while remaining faithful to God actually glorified God, not just in his day but down to the present day.
“Do the work of an evangelist.” There is no difference between this and preaching the word [4:2], both are sharing the gospel. It’s not as though there are set job descriptions for believers – I’m a teacher and you’re an evangelist. We are all to share the good news, we’re all to teach others the Bible to the best of our abilities when the situation arises.
Is the. gospel really good news for you? If it is, you’ll need no encouragement to share it because, as one writer put it, good news is for sharing. I became grandparent for the first time last week and I’ve been sharing that good news and showing the photos of my grandson to anyone I can. Good news bubbles up inside most of us and has to be let out. The gospel is no different. If that is not how you feel, then pray that it will be.
“Fulfil your ministry”. These things Paul has mentioned, being steady, enduring suffering, doing the work of an evangelist, they are all part of his ministry. The word for “ministry” is the word for caring for or serving someone. A minister is a helper, a server. This is not a subservient role; as we’ve seen Timothy is to lead and rebuke and encourage. Timothy serves as a parent serves – not by giving their children what they want, but giving them what is best for them. Is that not the case for all of us? We serve others (love your neighbour as you love yourself), but we do that by doing good. It does not mean we have a sign on our back which says, “Wipe your feet here.”
What a great prayer this verse makes for us as we pray for our leaders. It’s short but potent. Why not make it part of your prayer life?
2 Timothy 4
6 For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Woody Allen once said, “I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
Are you ready for the day of your death? That might sound pretty negative, but it is in reality, far from negative. Christians should die well. St Paul said, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” [Phil 1:21]. To die is gain! That is how we can face death with peace, even excitement. And that is how we can face life with bold confidence – because death holds no fear for us. The great Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying, “To be prepared to die is to be prepared to live.”
Death is an adventure for the believer. Paul is excited about receiving the crown of righteousness. This is his retirement plan. [Phillip D Jensen “1 and 2 Timothy For You” pg. 191] Just in case we mistakenly think that the crown is a reward for Paul’s hard work he adds this last part, this reward is for “all who have loved his appearing.” [v 8]. – it’s all about loving Jesus’ appearing. Do you have the same confidence?
He has fought the good fight. The latest edition of the NIV is a little less vivid here than its previous edition where “being sacrificed” was translated more accurately as “Poured out like a drink offering.” As Hughes and Chapell say in their commentary, “Paul borrowed the vivid image of “being poured out as a drink offering” from the Jewish custom of pouring out wine at the base of the altar as part of the ritual sacrifice of a lamb. The image of red wine splashing down upon the altar became an operative metaphor for how Paul regarded his life.” [R Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell “1 & 2 Timothy: To Guard the Deposit” pg. 276]
There is no hint of defeat in Paul’s words, rather he’s like the athlete who has made it to the finish despite all the difficulties of the race. “I’ve done it.” I can remember standing at the finish line of the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic, a 111 km overnight canoe race, and watching people cross the line with incredible elation and a sense of accomplishment. One couple in their 70’s crossed the line and as they were helped from the kayak the lovely elderly lady exclaimed, “That’s a s*** of a race, but we did it!” It wasn’t about winning, but finishing. I’m reminded of another man who, at the end of his life exclaimed in exaltation, “It’s finished.” [John 19:30] Paul has remained faithful despite all that the world and evil one have been able to throw at him. And this is he constant prayer for others [Rom 5:3, 2 Thess. 1:4, 3:5].
It’s a great thing to pray for ourselves and our Christian brothers and sisters, that we finish the race well.
Lord God, thank you for the example of Paul and our Lord Jesus who were steady to the very end. Help me to end well. Amen
2 Timothy 4
9 Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessaloni′ca; Crescens has gone to Galatia,[a] Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me. 12 Tych′icus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Tro′as, also the books, and above all the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will requite him for his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defence no one took my part; all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the message fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it. So, I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
At the end of this letter we get to some of Paul’s personal matters. He is alone and seemingly lonely, something we don’t normally associate with him, but he is human, and God made us for relationships so it shouldn’t be surprising. It’s partly due to his sending some of fellow-workers to other tasks and partly because some have deserted him [v 16], and supposedly the cause. That must have been incredibly discouraging. There will always be those in our churches who seem to onboard but when things head in a direction they’re not happy with, either in terms of church life or in their personal lives, will give it all away. It’s a sad truth but it happened to arguably the greatest church leader of all time, Paul himself, so we should not be surprised when it happens in our churches. Jesus warned us about the possibility in his parable of the soils [Luke 8].
Mark is very useful in serving Paul [v 11]. Would you be upset at being described like that, a useful servant? I sort of wish Paul had expressed it differently, like “he is a good helper.” Why do we not like the idea of being a servant? Why, for instance, do people get all uptight at what the Bible says about submission? Surely it is what we were called to be and should be our delight and privilege [Mark 10:45, Luke 22:24ff, 1 Cor 10:24]!
Paul mentions Alexander the coppersmith, and he is hurt and upset by what Alexander had done to him. We don’t know what had transpired but Paul is leaving the judgment of Alexander up to God. Paul is not being malicious but longing for justice. The same can be said about his comments regarding those who deserted him when he was on trial. May it not be held against them, he says. He was hurt, but not destroyed because the Lord stood by him. Our faith does not prevent pain and hurt coming our way, but the Lord does stand beside us in the midst of it. And look at how God stood by him – he gave Paul the strength to proclaim the message fully. When we ask God for strength we should expect it to be to carry out his will for us, not necessarily for him to carry out our will for us. God rescued Paul “from the lion’s mouth.”, but it looks like Paul is not expecting rescue from his imprisonment and execution this time, although he does say that he expects God will rescue him from every evil [v 18] and save him for heaven. Rescue, then, is not always physical. Paul’s expected rescue and safekeeping is a spiritual thing – his soul will be protected for the coming life. Sometimes we are accused of spiritualising the biblical promises, but here at least, rescue is entirely spiritual. Paul is expecting both execution [v 6] and rescue [v 18].
It is easy to have the wrong expectations of the Lord when read the Bible carelessly and see promises when there are no promises, or we don’t see the promises the way the Lord does. The outcome can be loss of confidence in our Lord. Our rescue is on the final day. Until then the Holy Spirit is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance [Eph 1:13 & 14].
Are you encouraged that even when things look bleak God will rescue you for his heavenly kingdom? Does that enable you to live with confidence and courage? It should!
Lord God, in your son Jesus all your promises are “yes”. Thank you for his presence in my life. May he continue to do his work in me. Amen
2 Timothy 4
19 Greet Prisca and Aq′uila, and the household of Onesiph′orus. 20 Eras′tus remained at Corinth; Troph′imus I left ill at Mile′tus. 21 Do your best to come before winter. Eubu′lus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.
22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
Paul is not totally without friends, and here he lists some of them. Kingdom work is a team game, that is one of the reasons God insists on placing us in churches [Eph 2:19-22]. Church membership is not an optional extra [Heb 10:24-25, 1 Cor 12:12-27].
Jensen makes the point here that we are dealing with real people in time and space. The Bible is not a series of disembodied sayings that have not context, unlike some other major religious texts [Phillip P Jensen “1 & 2 Timothy For You” pg. 193]. Like our Saviour who came into time and space to rescue us, the Word of God also comes in time and space. This aids us in understanding the Word as it gives context.
“Do your best to come to me before winter.” That would be because travel is difficult in winter, especially if travelling by sea, and because Paul needs his cloak for the cold. It may also be because Paul was expecting his execution soon.
“The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.” The letter started with Paul praying for grace for Timothy and ends the same way. The very last word “you” is plural. Paul understands that others will read this letter or have it read to them. It’s not as though God’s grace is not with Timothy already, or that the Lord is not with him by his Holy Spirit, but Paul still prays for it because it is a reminder to Timothy of what is already true for him, and it is an expression of fellowship that we want the best for each other as God’s people. It’s also a reminder to Timothy to rely on God’s grace and the work of the Holy spirit in his life. So it is both a prayer and an encouragement.
Paul mentions grace in all his benedictions. It is completely central to his existence and ours. If the gospel was summed up in one word, this would be it. Grace, wonderful grace! It is a word that has lost its meaning in our culture. A friend was looking for a new name for his church and conducted some focus groups with the community to test out some names. One of them, his favourite, was Grace Church, but he found that most people in his community thought it was person’s name and didn’t think of anything like “unmerited favour.” It is a great loss!
God’s grace is a great wonder.
Grace be with you.
Gracious God, may your grace be the foundation of my life and my church. Amen