For an introduction to this series, click here.
October 29, 2007
Paul wraps up his final epistle with a strong word of encouragement for Timothy:
"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: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 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 passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (4:1-5)
Paul is simply telling Timothy to keep preaching the Gospel faithfully and fearlessly. This is really all the Lord requires of any of us: to be faithful and fearless in our Christian walk. Notice what Paul says about the people who do not endure sound doctrine: they will find their own teachers who will tickle their ears for them. This is always been a temptation throughout history, and often teachers fall into the trap of serving this desire, sometimes without even realizing it.
"For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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. Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments." (4:6-13)
We cannot be absolutely certain when Paul wrote this, but we know that he knew he was close to death. Most people assume that Paul knew he was about to be executed, and of course that is probably true. But it could also be true that he was physically going downhill as well. He doesn't say anything specifically about his health, but then he was never one to complain.
It is amazing all the names in this section. Not only Demas, who unfortunately left Paul and took off for greener pastures, but also all the names of the people Paul sent to various places. Paul was not alone in his ministry: he had a network of preachers all over Eastern Europe and Asia Minor. No one can do the ministry alone. We need fellowship with other believers.
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth." (4:16-17)
"The lion's mouth" is basically a metaphor for life-threatening danger. There was a lot of danger in Paul's life, but he seemed to take it in stride. Paul was ready to take on anything if it meant that the Gospel could be further spread. The word "defense" is a probably a reference to a trial or hearing. That is sad that no one was with Paul at his trial, probably before Nero. But the Lord was there even when no other friends were there to support him.