Paul's Final Exhortation, Testimony and Benediction
As the title of this chapter suggests, Paul finishes his letter with various messages directed at different people and groups.
Final Exhortation to Timothy — II Timothy 4:1-5
There may not be time for another letter so Paul wants his final word of encouragement to profit Timothy for a long time to come.
I solemnly 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:
- II Timothy 4:1
Paul is coming to the end of his letter so he wants to challenge Timothy to his task and does so by reminding him of three things concerning Jesus.
- Jesus will judge. Jesus will be the one judging all men and women, and also judging the work of all elders, deacons and preachers. This thought should help Timothy to stand firm when criticized or attacked by those in or out of the church. Knowing that Jesus will examine your work as well as your conduct helps you when tempted to compromise your teachings in order to gain approval or promote your career.
- Jesus will return. He writes, "I charge you by His appearing." William Barclay (Studylight.org) offers an interesting insight into this phrase - I charge you by His appearing. The Greek word for appearing (epiphaneia) was used in two different ways. This was the word employed when describing the manifestation of a Greek god in some way, and it was also used in connection with the Roman Emperor. For example, the Emperor's ascension to the throne was referred to in divine imagery as his "epiphaneia." Paul uses this term in yet another way that was common in that era and that was to announce the visit of the Emperor to a city or region in the Roman empire. Places anticipating the epiphaneia of the Emperor would prepare by sprucing up the town and organizing an honor guard, etc. Paul is telling Timothy to prepare for an epiphaneia, however, not one from an earthly king or leader but from Jesus Himself, the divine Son of God and Lord of all creation. Timothy should do his work in such a way that he is ready for Jesus' epipaneia (appearing) at any time.
- Jesus will rule. Paul urges Timothy to action by reminding him that at some point all the kingdoms, principalities, rulers and powers will be under Jesus' rule. He is and will be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Timothy must work in such a way that he will rank high in the kingdom that will have dominion over all other kingdoms when Jesus, the Lord of all, returns to judge all men and their works.
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
- II Timothy 4:2
In this verse Paul provides a very compact summary of Timothy's responsibilities as a preacher/evangelist/minister. His basic task is to preach God's word. The method, throughout the centuries, has included preaching from the pulpit, radio, TV, books, online, etc. and has been based on skills, training and opportunity, but the job has always been the same: preach the Word. The manner of the preaching should be urgent, whether it's to a large or small audience, an enthusiastic or indifferent audience, or a convenient time or awkward moment, the preacher should preach in such a way that the hearer understands not only the message, but also how important it is to respond since it is a matter of eternal life and death!
To reprove – some versions use the word "convict." The preacher's task is to use God's word to point out what is wrong, sinful and worldly in a person's life so they can repent and be baptized into Christ. People don't always enjoy this type of preaching but if the preacher doesn't reprove us of sin - who will? Of course, this is not the only goal of preaching, but it is a necessary one.
To rebuke – a more modern term would be to "call out" someone for something improper. John the Baptist "rebuked" King Herod for his unlawful marriage to his brother's wife (Luke 3:19). Rebuke is like reprove but more personal and pointed. Preachers often receive their greatest criticism or lose their jobs because they've rebuked a prominent member or elder or family member of a church leader on account of bad behavior or divisive speech.
To exhort – means to encourage, comfort or rally a member or the entire congregation. God's word contains God's promises and witness of His love, mercy and generosity. The preacher needs to constantly remind the congregation of these things because we live in a world filled with darkness and death and the ruler of this world is always seeking to destroy our faith and hope of resurrection.
Paul has summarized what Timothy is to do (preach the Word), why he should take care in carrying out his ministry (Jesus will return to judge and rule), the purpose of his preaching (reprove, rebuke, exhort), the tone of his message (urgent), and finally the attitude he must maintain throughout (patiently teaching without exasperation or anger).
3for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
- II Timothy 4:3-4
Timothy will need a patient teaching attitude because things will get worse before they get better. Paul even describes the scenario of unfaithfulness that will take place in many churches. People will grow weary of hearing sound (healthy) doctrine that teaches them to deny the world and aspire to things from above. Because they may already be influenced by and increasing their consumption of earthly things (many of which might be sinful or spiritually unwholesome) their "hearing" or conscience begins to enjoy less the teachings from the word of God. Instead of responding positively to the reproof or rebuke, instead of an "Amen" to the preacher's exhortation to move forward spiritually to greater maturity, they find someone else to teach them who will not point out their spiritual decline with his preaching.
Eventually, Paul says, their rejection of some of God's word (that deals specifically with their sins) is replaced with a total rejection of God Himself by practicing a religion not based on God's word but one based on myths (man's word).
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
- II Timothy 4:5
Paul, once again, turns his attention to Timothy and his ministry with three final exhortations:
- Be sober. Means to be serious, not given to emotional reactions to everything. A sober-minded person is not led by his feelings. He has feelings but he doesn't allow them to dictate his thoughts or actions. Timothy needs to be clear-eyed, make sound judgments and not be carried away by his emotions if he is to succeed in his ministry going forward.
- Endure hardship. Paul has already warned Timothy of the trouble to come, so he reminds him that when it does come he'll need to weather the storm. Sometimes in ministry you can't change a bad situation but you can always persevere. Troubles might lead Timothy to consider quitting or running away, so Paul encourages him to choose endurance over surrender when the hardship comes.
- Do the work of an evangelist. Fulfill your ministry. These thoughts are connected to the previous idea of enduring hardship. Enduring doesn't mean doing nothing. Doing nothing is the same as giving up. Enduring, in Paul's estimation, means that despite the difficulties (whatever they may be) Timothy is to continue doing his job as an evangelist (proclaiming the gospel to the lost) and fulfilling his ministry to the church (reprove, rebuke, exhort).
God will judge his work as it has been performed in both ideal and difficult situations. Paul now returns the focus to himself and, as an example to Timothy, reviews his own ministry which has for the most part been successfully carried out in the most difficult of circumstances and is now at an end with his execution at the hands of the Roman government.
Paul's Final Testimony — II Timothy 4:6-8
This letter will not only be read by Timothy but, as was the custom in the early church, copies of it would be circulated to other churches for their instruction and edification. Paul, therefore, makes his final testimony before Timothy and the church concerning his life in the present, past and future.
1. The Present
For I am already boing poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.
- II Timothy 4:6
Using the language of the Jewish sacrificial system, Paul describes his death as a sacrifice to God. He refers to it as a "drink offering," the last stage of the sacrificial ritual where the priest would pour wine to the side of the altar representing the offering of a person's work to the Lord. In this sense Paul is telling Timothy that his own life and ministry will be offered to the Lord by way of his martyrdom which he believed was imminent.
2. The Past
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;
- II Timothy 4:7
Here, Paul testifies concerning the ministry he had been given by Christ Himself. The good fight or contest is the Christian life itself and the effort to live it faithfully to the end. Paul, like other faithful Christians, had successfully lived a faithful Christian life. He had completed the course set for him by God as an Apostle to the Gentiles, and done it so well that he was now about to give his life in service to his calling. He had also kept the faith in that he maintained and proclaimed the gospel as it was given to him without change until the end.
3. The Future
In the future 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.
- II Timothy 4:8
Paul reaches back to what he said to Timothy in encouraging him to stay faithful to his ministry. The idea that Jesus will judge this when He returns or appears (epiphaneia). In the same way Paul, who has been faithful in his life and ministry, will receive a crown of righteousness. This crown of righteousness is the true condition of being righteous before God, not as a hope while we inhabit this sinful flesh, but a reality once the spirit is released from the body through death. While alive on the earth I am considered perfect or righteous through faith. When in heaven, however, I will actually be perfect and righteous before God, never to deal with sin again. This crown of righteousness is its own reward, but it also signals that the eternal life promised by and through Jesus is now an experienced reality.
Paul adds that the past and present he refers to are uniquely his, but the future he describes belongs to everyone who fights the good fight, finishes faithfully and holds to God's word without change.
Paul's Blessings (Benedictions) — II Timothy 4:9-22
The instructions and exhortations have been given. The final section contains personal news, greetings and blessings.
9Make every effort to come to me soon; 10Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. 12But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments. 14Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.
- II Timothy 4:9-15
Paul earnestly hopes to see Timothy before he is executed, and fills him in on what has taken place since they last communicated. Demas, once a faithful helper (Colossians 4:14) has abandoned Paul to return home to Thessalonica, and the way Paul describes him, has also abandoned the faith. Crescens and Titus have been sent to other works since Paul is in prison. Luke is the only remaining worker tending to Paul and serving as a link to the outside world from his cell. Mark is the "John Mark" who was on the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas, and who eventually wrote one of the gospels. He has been restored to service after having left the first missionary journey early in order to return home. Tychicus is being sent to Ephesus to replace Timothy.
Paul provides a personal request for Timothy to bring his personal belongings when he comes. His cloak for the approaching winter in a cold cell; his "books" of Scripture to use at trial to argue his case concerning the Christian faith. Alexander is some artisan in Rome who was probably used as a witness for those prosecuting Paul in court. Paul calls upon God's judgment of this person because of the damage he has caused the faith by attacking Paul, an Apostle of the gospel. He warns Timothy to stay clear of this man in order to avoid getting into trouble himself when he comes.
16At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. 17But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion's mouth. 18The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
- II Timothy 4:16-18
Here Paul describes some of what has taken place and not just information on the coming and going of various workers. Those being prosecuted at Caesar's court could have a lawyer to help them organize their defense strategy, prepare evidence and guide them through the Roman legal system. They could also call on character witnesses or prominent citizens to testify on the prisoner's behalf or vouch for his character. Any persons that Paul could have called upon refused to come to his defense. Remember, Christians in general were being blamed for starting a fire that had destroyed a good portion of the city of Rome. Historians tell us that Nero himself set the fire so that he could redesign and rebuild the portion of the city that was burned down (Tacitus). Paul, as a prominent Christian leader, was arrested as part of the effort to punish believers for this crime.
Paul is describing how those who might have supported and defended him at trial abandoned him instead, afraid that any association with the Apostle might compromise their reputation or standing at the Imperial Court. Paul is not referring to his Christian helpers (Timothy, Luke, etc.) since these men would not be qualified to handle legal matters and had no standing at court, but rather risked arrest if they appeared with Paul at his trial.
Paul mentions a first "defense," suggesting that he was spared the death penalty at his first hearing or trial. Even though he was alone to present his case to the court, the Lord provided strength and wisdom so that Paul could make one last proclamation of the gospel to the highest officials of the Roman Empire and the crowd of prominent citizens assembled to watch the trial. Jesus' promise to provide what to say when the Apostles would be brought before governors and kings is fulfilled here (Matthew 10:19-20). Through the eyes of faith Paul sees that the message preached to these people would eventually find its way to the entire Roman Empire and beyond.
He finishes this section by noting that despite the sureness of his execution, the Lord will protect his soul so that whatever happens to his body, his eternal salvation is safe because Jesus Himself will bring him into heaven after his death. He closes out with a short doxology (burst of praise) for the Lord.
Final Greetings – 4:19-21
19Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. 21Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.
- II Timothy 4:9-21
Paul mentions other co-workers familiar to Timothy to whom he sends greetings:
- Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila with whom Paul had lived and worked when he was in Corinth (Acts 18:2).
- Onesiphorus, mentioned in chapter 1:16-18 who was helpful to Paul while he was imprisoned.
- Erastus, another worker who, along with Timothy, was sent by Paul into Macedonia from their base in Ephesus.
- Trophimus, a Gentile convert from Ephesus and worker with Paul. He was with Paul in Jerusalem when Paul was first arrested by the Jews (They accused Paul of bringing Trophimus, a Gentile, into the Temple area and started a riot based on this false assumption - Acts 21:29).
Paul repeats his request that the young minister hurry his visit before winter (the end is near) and sends greetings to Timothy from brothers and sisters who are in Rome.
Final Blessing — II Timothy 4:22
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
- II Timothy 4:22
Paul's blessing/prayer is all-encompassing. The Lord be with his spirit. The grace of the Lord be with him. These two include all that a Christian could ever want or need; the person and favor of the Lord ever present in one's life.
In the fall of 64 AD, the Apostle Paul was executed in Rome. He was decapitated since, as a Roman citizen, it was against the law to execute him by crucifixion. Four years later, on June 9th, 68 AD, the Emperor Nero committed suicide when he learned that he had been tried in absentia and condemned to death as a public enemy, making him the first Roman Emperor to take his own life.
We can draw many lessons from this letter, but I leave you with two, one doctrinal and one practical:
Doctrinal: The Bible is inspired
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
- II Timothy 3:16
Most problems in church and in Christian life arise or get worse because we don't make the Bible the God inspired guide for our lives. Both preachers and saints need to maintain, defend and teach this essential truth in order to keep themselves and the church faithful to Christ.
Practical: Jesus will never leave you
"...but the Lord stood with me"
- II Timothy 4:17
"...the Lord will rescue me from every evil deed"
- II Timothy 4:18
No matter what the world says or the voice in your head says, Jesus will never leave you or abandon you. You may want to leave Him, but He will never leave you. Knowing this truth and promise is the basis for our courage and faith, and it is the foundation upon which we can build a glorious Christian life and ministry.