New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary



4:1 I charge you in the sight of God and of Christ Jesus- Paul several times writes this to Timothy. Paul always seemed so worried as to whether Timothy was going to hold on, and we could dynamically translate him as meaning 'Get a grip!'. But it may be that Paul had been given charges by the Lord which he was duty bound to soberly pass on to Timothy- hence the reference here to the charge being given in the presence of the Father and Son.

Who shall judge the living and the dead- The charge to preach to others is made in the light of judgment to come. We shall be judged according to whether we have shared the light with others or not. This is not to say that our acceptance is determined by our works; but the final judgment shall in some form take into account the life we lived now.

And by his appearing and his kingdom- Because there really will be a Kingdom of God on earth and people really can eternally live there because of their response to the Gospel- therefore we should preach.

4:2 To preach the word. Preach it urgently, whether the occasion seems appropriate or not- Our task of witness may seem hopeless. But we are to be prepared to preach “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2 AV). Paul wrote to Timothy at Ephesus, and his language in 2 Timothy has many allusions to his own behaviour whilst at Ephesus. He spoke at Ephesus of how he had preached the word "at all seasons" (Acts 20:18)- and he tells Timothy to do likewise (2 Tim. 4:2 AV); Paul had taught what was profitable to others (Acts 20:20); and this was to be Timothy's pattern (2 Tim. 3:16 RV). “Out of season” translates a Greek word only elsewhere rendered ‘lacking opportunity’ (Phil. 4:10). Whether there is apparent opportunity or not, we must still witness- not just wait until someone asks us if we are religious. This is a common fallacy we all fall into at times. By contrast, there is to be a sense of urgency to our witness. Several times the Lord invites us to “go” and preach- we are all to feel a spirit of outgoing witness, rather than the defensive, tell-them-if-they-ask attitude which has dominated so many of us for so long. We need the same spirit of heroism in our witness which Jeremiah and Ezekiel had, as they reflected the indomitable Spirit of God in this matter of human salvation. Our unbelieving families, our workmates, our neighbours, seem to be stony ground to the point that it just isn’t worth bothering. But we need a positive spirit.

Reprove, rebuke, exhort, as you patiently teach- The patience or makrothumia which God has is intended to be had by us too (2 Pet. 3:9,15; Rom. 2:4; Eph. 4:2). And especially is the preacher encouraged to have this makrothumia (2 Tim. 4:2; 3:10). God waits / is patient for repentance, amazingly so (we recall His waiting 120 years before the flood came)… and we are to have it in this same way too.

4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound teaching- See on :4 Will turn away.

But having itching ears, will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own lusts- "Lusts" in Timothy refer to lusts for illicit wealth and sex (1 Tim. 6:9; 2 Tim. 2:22; 3:6), of the type justified and indulged in by the group of female false teachers whom Timothy had struggled with in Ephesus. We have noted that there were sinful Christian women of 3:6 who were led astray by female false teachers seeking to justify their lusts. But those women were led astray because they subconsciously wanted to have such teaching. The whole theme of the Timothy letters is that Timothy has been given a charge to teach true doctrine and stop false teaching in Ephesus. Paul is warning him about these particular false teachers, and helping Timothy understand that false teaching is actually a psychological function of the desires of the audience, ever seeking self-justification. Paul may be saying that even although Timothy has sorted out the immediate problem in Ephesus, it will recur- because that is the way of human nature.

4:4 And will turn away their ears from the truth- Paul had told the Ephesian elders the same (Acts 20:29,32). It is the more impressive, therefore, to read the Lord's judgment that the church at Ephesus had maintained the faith and driven out false teaching. Timothy had fulfilled his ministry against incredible odds, and had changed, at least for a generation, the direction which the Spirit had foretold.

The phrase “the truth” is used in Scripture as a summary of the Godly life, rather than a set of particular theologies; for truth telling, and being truthful with oneself and God, is the epitome of the life which God intends. All too often it has been assumed that because we know and believe true propositions about the Gospel, therefore we are somehow automatically ‘of the truth’. The following passages make clear enough that “the truth” refers not so much to intellectual purity of understanding as to a righteous way of life. If someone understands a matter of Biblical interpretation differently to how we do, e.g. over matters of prophecy, this doesn’t mean they have ‘left the truth’. Yet if we [e.g.] lie, then we have ‘left the truth’ despite holding a correct understanding of the doctrines of the Gospel. Sinners turn away from truth (2 Tim. 4:4; Tit. 1:14). They are bereft of the truth (1 Tim. 6:5). God has revealed the truth, indeed has sent his Son to live it and to proclaim it, but sinful people have refused to listen.

And turn aside to fables- Gk. 'be turned aside'. As men turn away their ears (of their own volition) from the truth, so God will turn their ears to fables. If you turn away your ears from truth, Paul says that you are turned unto what is untrue. He doesn’t say that a person turns their ears away from truth and then turns their ears to untruth. By turning away from truth, God confirms the person in that- and He turns them towards untruth. He sends strong delusion upon those who love and want to believe in lies (2 Thess. 2:11). The fables in view are those which Timothy had been asked to stamp out in 1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7. According to the Lord's estimation in Rev. 2, he succeeded in stamping them out. But Paul is saying that there will always be a desire for people to believe in them, and God will even turn people towards them if they do not want to hear truth.

4:5- see on 2 Tim. 2:3.

But you, be sober in all things- The word means literally to be sober as in not being drunk. Every time it is used, it is in the context of being prepared for the Lord's second coming and not being caught off guard (1 Thess. 5:6,8; 1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8). The reference is surely to the Lord's parable about the household servants who are to remain sober and care for the others in the household (Mt. 24:45-50). Timothy had been set over the church at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3) and thus that parable spoke to him directly as one "whom his lord has set over his household". The soberness or awareness was therefore in relation to looking out for the needs of the household.

Suffer hardship- The same words used about Paul himself, and his earlier encouragement to Timothy to endure hardship (2:3,9). Paul so consciously sets himself up as Timothy's pattern (1 Tim. 1:13-16).

Do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry- Paul encouraged Timothy to "do the work of an evangelist" despite all the doctrinal and pastoral problems and needs at Ephesus. These are never to be an excuse for not evangelizing. This was in addition to "fulfil your ministry"- which according to 1 Tim. 1:3,4 was to stamp out false teaching and encourage good works. In other words, his pastoral calling should not mean that he overlooked evangelizing fresh blood for the church. So often evangelism has been overlooked because of pastoral concerns, and yet it is fresh blood which is so helpful in moving beyond the pastoral problems.

4:6 For I am already being offered- Paul has in view his imminent death, but he sees it as on ongoing death. Alternatively we can read this as GNB "the hour has come for me to be sacrificed". But there is the idea as reflected in the AV that "I am now ready to be offered". It seems that Paul wrote 2 Tim. 4 when news of his imminent death had just been broken to him. As Paul faced his death, there was a deep self-knowledge within him that he was ready, that he was "there". As we face the imminent return of the Lord, it should be possible for us to have a similar sense: "I am now ready...". If we don't know that we are "in the faith" and that "Christ is in you", then we are "reprobates" (2 Cor. 13:5). All those who will be accepted must, therefore, will, therefore, have a measure of self-knowledge and appreciation of how far they've grown in Christ. Growth is a natural process, it's impossible to feel it happening. But by looking back on our lives and attitudes and comparing them with the experience of successful believers, it is possible to get some idea of our readiness for the judgment.

And the time of my departure comes- Paul had earlier spoken  of his "departure" (Phil. 1:23), he had told Timothy and the Ephesian elders that he must finish his course with joy (Acts 20:24); and he knew his time had come; he could speak of having reached "the time of my departure" (2 Tim. 4:6). The level of self-knowledge he had as he faced the end is remarkable. Yet it really is possible for each of us; for his glorious race to the finish is our pattern. Despite his surface sadness and depression, Paul was finishing his course with joy.

As Paul's sense of his own sinfulness grew, so did his confidence of salvation. These two elements, meshed together within the very texture of human personality, are what surely give credibility and power to our witness to others. On one hand, a genuine humility, that we are sinners, that we are the last people who should be saved; and yet on the other, a definite confidence in God's saving grace and the achievement of Jesus to save sinners. Paul at the very end had a wonderful confidence in the outcome of the day of judgment. He had spoken earlier of running the race (1 Cor. 9:24-26; 1 Tim. 6:12). Now he says that he has finished it, in victory. His final words consciously allude back to what he wrote to the Philippians a few years earlier:


2 Timothy 4

What I should like is to depart (1:23)

The hour for my departure [s.w.] is come (4:6)

If my life-blood is to crown the sacrifice (2:17)

Already my life blood is being poured out on the altar of sacrifice [s.w.] (4:6)

I have not yet reached perfection [finishing] but I press on (3:12)

I have run the great race, I have finished [s.w. perfected] the course (4:7)

I press toward the goal to win the prize (3:14)

Now the prize awaits me (4:8)


Paul felt that he had attained the maturity which he had earlier aimed for. To have the self-knowledge to say that is of itself quite something. May it be our ultimate end too. These parallels and Paul's commentary becomes all the more poignant if we accept the view that actually, Paul did not die soon after 2 Tim. 4 was written- rather was he released, did much work for the Lord, and died under Nero at a later date. In this case his commentary in 2 Tim. 4 is a reflection not so much of a dying man's last words and hopes, but of a mature, reasoned conviction that in fact he had arrived at a point of believing in salvation.

4:7- see on Lk. 13:24.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course- Paul has used the metaphors of a soldier and athlete in challenging Timothy to a disciplined life. And now he says that he has himself fulfilled those images, yet again setting himself up as Timothy's pattern. In nearly all his letters, Paul asks his readers to pray for him. But not in these final letters to Timothy. "I am now ready to be offered". He knew he had finished the fight (2 Tim. 4:7). The Greek for "fight" occurs in Phil. 1:29,30 concerning the struggle we have to truly take up the cross of Christ, and also in 1 Cor. 9:25 regarding the battle we have for total self-control. Paul knew these were the aims his Lord had hoped to achieve in him. And Paul knew that he was through, he'd finished and achieved them. He had achieved self-control. He knew his Lord, he had been made conformable to the dying Lord Jesus on the cross, he knew the fellowship of his sufferings. He had filled up the whole measure of Christ's sufferings (Phil. 3:10).

Paul felt very clearly his sense of mission. He speaks in Troas of how “none of these things move [deflect] me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy” (Acts 20:24). Some years later at the end of his life he could write that “I have finished my course” (2 Tim. 4:7). He didn’t let anything distract him- and our age perhaps more than any other is so full of distractions. In his time of dying (at which he wrote 2 Tim.), John his hero was still in Paul's mind. Paul speaks of finishing his course (Acts 20:24; 2 Tim. 4:7), using a word only used elsewhere concerning John finishing his course (Acts 13:25).  
On a series of long Russian train journeys, I read through the Gospels and epistles, noting down all the times Paul makes a direct or indirect allusion to the Gospels. I then worked out how many times in each epistle he alludes, on average, to the Gospels. I found that on average, he did it once every six verses. But when you list his epistles chronologically, the general trend suggests that in his writing, Paul increasingly alluded to the Gospels. And in his time of dying (in which he wrote 2 Timothy), the intensity of his allusions to the Gospels reaches an all time high. In 2 Timothy he is referring to the Gospels at least once every 3.9 verses- and almost certainly more than that, seeing that my analysis is incomplete. As he faced death in 2 Tim. 4, he more intensely modelled his words (probably unconsciously) upon those of Christ. Thus when he speaks of how he is about to finish his course (2 Tim. 4:7), he is combining allusions to Mt. 26:58; Lk. 12:50; 18:31; 22:37 and Jn. 13:1. He speaks of how he wished that “all the gentiles might hear” (2 Tim. 4:17) in the language of his Lord, also facing death, in Jn. 17- where He spoke of His desire that all “the world might know”.  

I have kept the faith- Paul breathes a sigh of relief at the end of his life when he says that he has “fought a good fight... finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). To keep believing true doctrine (“the faith”) is likened to a lifelong struggle, a gruelling race. It hardly appears like this when we first learn the basic doctrines and are baptized. That it will be a struggle to continue believing them properly hardly seems possible in those innocent days. But living out true doctrine is a pre-requisite for acceptance into the Kingdom: “Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truths (AV mg.) may enter in” (Is. 26:2).

Paul at his bitter end could say that he had kept the Faith; but he brackets this together with finishing the race and fighting a good fight (2 Tim. 4:7; Eph. 6:12). These ideas of running the marathon and wrestling through the fight he uses elsewhere; but in the sense of striving for spiritual mastery over ourselves. It is this which is keeping the Faith. The need to remain in the Faith, to hold onto it, is one of the classic themes of the NT (Acts 14:22; 1 Cor. 16:13; Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:23; 1 Tim. 3:9; 2 Tim. 4:7). Jude begins by appealing for his readers to be keeping the faith, to contend for the faith; and concludes by asking them to build up each other in that faith. To preserve it is in order to build up; for our growth is on the basis of the pure Gospel which we believe. It is this which leads us on "from faith to faith" in an upward spiral of growth (Rom. 1:17). These passages do not mean that we must religiously hold on to our understanding of the doctrines of a 'Statement of Faith', and nothing more. It is true that the need to maintain doctrinal purity is taught in these passages; but those doctrines are not just things which have been delivered to us to 'keep' in the sense of maintaining a correct understanding of them. If this were the case, God would be rather like the Roman slave owner who endlessly dropped a spoon and asked his slave to pick it up, then he dropped it again, asked him to pick it up... There was no purpose in the exercise itself, it was simply a test of the slave's obedience. But God is not like this. He has commanded us to keep the faith, to preserve the doctrines of the Faith, but there is a reason for this. Those doctrines are not just arbitrary statements which God invented as part of the boundless theological fantasy of an omnipotent being. They are intended to produce behaviour, and this is why they must be defended; because without the understanding of true doctrine, true spiritual behaviour is impossible. To simply hold on to the same doctrines we learnt before baptism, e.g. that God is one not three, is not holding the Faith in the sense the NT requires. This is simply clinging on to what we have always believed, just as most human beings cling on to their belief systems, especially as they grow older.

4:8 From this time forward- Was Paul given some special assurance that he would be saved at the last day? Otherwise it is hard to understand the force of him saying that he is sure of his salvation "from this time forward".

There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness- It could be that the reward is to be made righteous. Or that the reward / crown is the reward for righteousness. Yet Paul elsewhere is very aware of "our unrighteousness" (Rom. 3:5), and how righteousness is imputed to us, final salvation not being any function of "works of righteousness which we have done" (Tit. 3:5). Perhaps he means that he now finally believed in practice what he had so eloquently explained to the Romans in theory- that he was righteous by faith. And he saw that there was indeed a crown for that faith.

Which the Lord, the righteous judge- This title is to be connected with the way that He will give us "the crown of righteousness". The 'justness' or 'rightness' of His judgment is not to be measured in human terms; for it shall involve counting us righteous who are not- if we have believed it. But this is His rightness / justice.

Shall give to me at that day; and not to me alone, but also to all those that have loved his appearing- The Lord said that all those whom he finds watching will be welcomed into the marriage feast (Lk. 12:37). And 2 Tim. 4:8 is plain enough: "All them also that love his appearing" will be rewarded along with Paul. Paul's own confidence in salvation was because he knew the earnestness of his desire to be "present with the Lord" Jesus (2 Cor. 5:8), such was the closeness of his relationship with him. Is this really our attitude too? Can we feel like Simeon, that we are quite happy to die after we have just seen our Lord with our own eyes (Lk. 2:29)? Is there really much love between us and our Lord? The faithful are described as "those that seek (God)... such as love thy salvation" (Ps. 40:16). None truly seek God (Rom. 3:11- the context concerns all of us, believers and unbelievers); and yet we are those who seek Him. We must be ambitious to do the impossible. Those who truly love righteousness and the Kingdom will be rewarded with it. Likewise Paul in 1 Cor. 8:2,3 describes the faithful man as one who accepts he knows nothing as he ought to know, but truly loves God. Heb. 9:28 is clear: "Unto them that look for (Christ) shall he appear the second time... unto salvation". Those who truly look for Christ will be given salvation. People from all over the world, the living responsible, will see the sign of the son of man, will know His return is imminent, and wail with the knowledge that they have crucified Him afresh and must now meet Him (Mt. 24:30,31 cp. Rev. 1:7; Zech. 12:10). Their response to the certain knowledge that His return is imminent will in that moment effectively be their judgment. See on Lk. 12:37. The idea that whoever truly loves the Lord's coming will therefore be accepted by Him can easily be abused by those who reason that anyone who has the emotion of love towards Christ will be rewarded by him. We know that true love involves both having and keeping his commands. But for those of us in Christ, these verses are still a major challenge. If we truly "look for" Christ's second coming, if we "love his appearing", this will lead us to acceptance with him. So the point is surely clinched: our attitude towards the second coming is an indicator of whether we will be saved. Time and again in the Psalms, David expresses his good conscience in terms of asking God to come and judge him (e.g. Ps. 35:24). Was this not some reference to the future theophany which David knew some day would come?

As Job's emphasis on the coming of Christ and judgment increased, so his concentration on his present sufferings decreased. His heart was consumed within him with desire for that day (Job 19:27 AVmg.). 2 Tim. 4 can be regarded as Paul's most mature spiritual statement, written as it was just prior to his death. In 2 Tim. 4:1,8, Paul's mind was clearly on the second coming and the certainty of judgment. He realized, in that time of undoubted maturity, that the common characteristic of all the faithful would be that they all loved the appearing of Christ. This isn't, of course, to say that anyone who loves the idea of Christ's coming will thereby be saved. A true love of His appearing is only possible with a correct doctrinal understanding, and also a certain level of moral readiness for His appearing. But do we love the appearing of Christ as Job did? Is it really all we have in life? Is our conscience, our faith in the grace of God, our real belief in the blood of the cross, so deep that we love the idea of the coming of judgment, that we would fain hasten the day of His coming? The graph constructed above shows how Job's love of the Lord's coming grew very rapidly. Before, he was too caught up with bitterness about his unspiritual fellow 'believers', effectively justifying himself in the eyes of his ecclesia and his world, full of passive complaints about his own sufferings... and so he didn't love that day as he later came to.

4:9 Make an effort to come to me soon- "Make an effort" again seems to reflect Paul's knowledge of Timothy's tendency to inaction and laziness, and the need to 'stir himself up'. By inviting him to Rome, Paul clearly believed that Timothy did not have to be permanently in Ephesus, but must have been confident that Timothy could pass over his duties to faithful brethren there for a time.

4:10- see on Mt. 13:22; Lk. 13:27.

For Demas- In Col. 4:14, Demas is a fellow prisoner with Paul, or at least with Paul in Rome. Either he fell away, or the difference is evidence of a second imprisonment. Demas was certainly within Paul's inner circle to have been with him in Rome, and a great loss.

Forsook me- Paul does take things rather personally, although that is just a function of being human. We would rather expect him to speak of forsaking the Lord. There are so many references to "I" and "me" in these final words that we can assume that Paul was in deep depression as he faced death alone and deserted. "Only Luke is with me... profitable unto me (:11)... did me much evil (:14)... no man stood with me, but all forsook me (:16)... that through me the message might be fully proclaimed" (:17).

Having loved this present world, and went to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia- Translated to Hebrew, the olahm hazzeh [“present world”] is the term used by Judaism for the Jewish system. So it seems that Demas went off to Judaism, another casualty of the Jewish plot and machinations against Paul and his work.

Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with you- As Paul in his time of dying remembered his fallout with Mark, so awareness of sinfulness is a sign of spiritual maturity in us all. Paul must surely have had twinges of guilt over his behaviour at times (not least over the bust up with Barnabas and Mark, Acts 15:39); and yet he insists that he always had a good conscience; so convinced was he of forgiveness. It seems Paul was aware of his error of years before in pushing Mark away. We have seen that he alluded to it in his letters. And now, right at the very end, the memory of his earlier pride and brashness to his brethren stayed with him. Every, every one of us has done the same thing to our brethren, countless times. Will we remember them on our deathbeds? Will our sensitivity to sin be that great? Paul in his time of dying was a man who had reached a spiritual peak, the love which was the bond of spiritual completion and maturity. Yet this didn't stop him being depressed, or from so desperately wanting his brethren, or from meditating upon past mistakes.

For his service is profitable to me- AV "Profitable to me for the ministry". Paul at his last gasp was still thinking about fulfilling his ministry / service of the Lord. And he saw that the fulfilment of his ministry required others, including those whom previously he had considered unhelpful. We all go through this path, coming to realize that we ourselves desperately need our weak brethren, that no man is an island, not even me. The term has just been used by Paul in saying that if a man separate himself from the vessels which are to dishonour, then he can be "profitable" in ministry (2 Tim. 2:21). It could be that Paul considered the vessels unto dishonour to be the Judaists, for he uses similar language about those under the Mosaic law in Romans. Perhaps he was satisfied that Mark had now separated himself from those Judaistic influences which had limited his service previously. Or perhaps Paul in his desperation to fulfil his ministry, simply lowered the bar and accepted the likes of Mark, even though he disagreed with those with whom Mark fellowshipped. Again, this path has been trodden by so many of the Lord's servants as they come towards the end of their service.

4:12 But Tychicus I sent to Ephesus- Timothy was the bishop at Ephesus, and Paul has charged him about how to lead the church there. But really wanting Timothy to personally come to him, he had arranged for Tychicus to go to Ephesus to temporarily relieve Timothy. We see here how intensely valuable and encouraging Paul found Timothy's presence. And yet there is probably no other single individual over whom Paul worried so much, and feared his weakness and possible spiritual collapse. Such fears are evident throughout the letters to Timothy. But it is a mark of Paul's final maturity that he took such encouragement from a brother whose weaknesses he so clearly perceived.

When you come, bring the cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus- Paul's situation is very different from that presented at the end of Acts, where he lives in a large rented home capable of accommodating many visitors. He is presumably cold and needed the cloak. There are many links between Paul's time of dying (as recorded in 2 Tim. 4) and the death of the Lord Jesus. Paul felt that he had at last approximated to the fellowship of his Lord's sufferings, and therefore he looked ahead with confidence to the day of resurrection. His awareness of his cloak, as his one treasured worldly possession, was maybe fuelled by a realization that this too was the only significant worldly possession of his Lord, at the end (2 Tim. 4:13).

And the books, especially the parchments- He wanted to have his own copies of the Scriptures, which implies his relationship with the Jews in Rome had soured to the point where nobody would provide copies of the Scriptures to him. His desire for parchment reflects how he had no local source of them, even though Luke was with him, they perhaps had no money to buy parchment. Whereas previously Paul had the funds to rent his own accommodation in the prison. His desire for parchment suggests he wanted to write more letters; and yet 2 Timothy appear to be his final letter preserved. Perhaps his intention never came to anything; but he surely desired to serve his Lord until his last breath, and he realized that letter writing was a significant ministry.

4:14 Alexander
the coppersmith did me much evil; may the Lord render to him according to his works- The individual was clearly known to both Paul and Timothy, and it seems he was present with Timothy in Ephesus. He is the Alexander who had left the faith in 1 Tim. 1:20. It cannot surely be coincidence that Acts 19:33 records that there was a friend of Paul's called Alexander in Ephesus who attempted to defend him when the crowd of silversmiths called for Paul's destruction, angry that the collapse of the Diana cult had put them out of business. We can reconstruct that Alexander as a metalworker likewise depended upon the Diana cult for his livelihood. He initially converted and stood with Paul- but the pull of the Diana cult and the love of wealth and his former status had meant that he had turned against Paul. To regain his credibility in Ephesus, he had started a campaign against the Christians in Ephesus which affected Timothy and also led to Paul's suffering from him even in prison in Rome. This is fairly commonly seen amongst once zealous converts who fall away, and contributes towards the picture of Paul feeling so forsaken at the end.

You also need to be on guard about him, for he greatly withstood our words- The same word in 3:8 about the men of corrupt minds within the Ephesian church who resisted the Truth. There the parallel is drawn between them and Jannes and Jambres, the magicians who did false miracles to withstand the teaching of Moses. Perhaps Alexander repeated the false miracles claimed by the Diana cult; and the parallel would put Paul and timid Timothy in the place of Moses, who was seen as someone way above all other human spiritual endeavour. Paul often alludes to Moses as an example who is to be realistically followed, rather than admired as an icon from a distance.

4:16 At my first defence no man stood with me, but all forsook me- Paul was obviously deeply hurt by this. His call for Timothy to join him in Rome was therefore an invitation to persecution; for people didn't stand with Paul for fear of guilt by association and persecution. "All forsook me" obviously recalls the Lord in Gethsemane and Paul continues this allusion further. This is how 'Jesus is with us', in that life situations are clearly designed to be repetitions of what He experienced.

May it not be held against them- Paul saw that his own tribunal appearance was nothing compared to the appearance we shall all make before the judgment seat of Christ. Things like not standing up for a brother in court will perhaps be raised. But Paul understood that his forgiveness and prayer in this life, regardless of their repentance, could influence the nature of their judgment experience. His forgiveness of them could mean that the issue would not be raised with them then (AV "laid to their charge"). Whilst Paul doesn't speak with absolute certainty ["May it not..."], this possibility opens up huge issues for us. It gives eternal weight to our decisions regarding forgiveness, and our need to implore others to forgive us when we have sinned against them.

4:17- see on 2 Tim. 2:1; 4:7; 4:13.

 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me- There in the empty witness box, Paul sensed the Lord Jesus standing. The 'strengthening' is that spoken of in the notes on 3:5. It was psychological strengthening, against the pain of being left alone there, against bitterness, against unforgiveness.  The Lord had such a wide experience of human life and suffering so that not one of us could ever complain that He does not know in essence what we are going through. This is my simple answer to the question of why, exactly why, did Jesus have to suffer so much and in the ways that He did. Take one example of how His earthly experiences were the basis of how He later administered “grace to help in time of need” for a believer.  The Lord’s one time close friend Judas is described as "standing with" those who ultimately crucified Jesus in Jn. 18:5. Paul says that none of the brethren 'stood with' him when he was on trial, but "the Lord [Jesus] stood with me". It seems to me that the Lord knew exactly what it felt like to be left alone by your brethren, as happened to Him in Gethsemane and at His trials; and so at Paul's trial He could 'stand with' him, based on His earthly experience of being left to stand alone. In our lives likewise, the Lord acts to help us based on His earthly experiences; He knows how we feel, because He in essence went through it all. John maybe has the image of Judas and Peter standing with the Lord's enemies in mind when he writes that the redeemed shall stand with Jesus on Mount Zion (Rev. 14:1), facing the hostile world.

That through me the message might be fully proclaimed- Paul's intention of going to Rome in order to make a public witness for the Gospel was therefore fulfilled. His trial was presumably high profile, so that many Gentiles heard the Gospel.

And so all the Gentiles might hear- As he faced death, Paul more intensely modelled his words upon those of Christ (see on :7). And yet despite this, perhaps because of his increasing identification with Christ and sense of Christ's supremacy, Paul's concern was constantly for doctrine; he pounded away, time and again, at the danger of apostasy. As he got older, this was a bigger and bigger theme with him. His last words just before his death are full of this theme, more than any other of his writings. And yet that same letter has more reference (relatively) to the Gospels and to the Lordship of Christ than anything else he wrote. On average, Paul refers to Christ as "the Lord" once every 26 verses in his letters. But in 2 Timothy, he calls Christ "Lord" once every six verses; and in his very last words in 2 Tim. 4, once every 3 verses, nine times more than average! His appreciation of the excellency and the supremacy of Christ, of the height of His Lordship, grew and grew. Paul seems to have seen in Christ's prophecy that the Gospel would be fully known world-wide in the last days as being a specific, personal command to him (Mt. 24:14 = 2 Tim. 4:17). The Gospel is to be preached; Paul realized this in these his very last words, as even then, he makes one of his last plays on words: “… that through me the proclamation might be fully proclaimed” (2 Tim. 4:17 RVmg.). The Gospel, the proclamation of the Kingdom, is to be proclaimed. We cannot possess a proclamation, designed to be proclaimed, without proclaiming it.

And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion- As a Roman citizen, Paul's death would have been by execution. So he may be expressing gratitude that the form of his death was not going to be so awful as death in the arena. But he may also mean that he was spared the death penalty. But in this case, why does he write with urgency to Timothy as if he is about to die shortly? Perhaps he realized he had a terminal illness? Surely such language would be inappropriate if he had just been acquitted from a death penalty. This is why I take him here to be simply grateful for the form of death which had been decreed for him. We must also factor in the historical records of Paul's execution at the time of Nero's persecution. The reference to salvation from the lion was alluding to the Lord's experience on the cross, as described in Ps. 22:13,21. He felt forsaken by his disciples, just as Christ had been at His arrest and judgment (2 Tim. 4:16). The Lord's deliverance from the lion was through resurrection- and not through temporary release from its power. And it seems Paul understood that. But maybe he was also alluding to Daniel, who was literally saved from the mouth of the lion.

Whatever, Paul's mind was full of allusions to John the Baptist, Daniel, Moses and above all his Lord. All his years, his hours and minutes, of sustained meditation, of bringing the mind back from its natural wandering, were now paying their glorious reward. The picture of Paul in prison, having reached this spiritual pinnacle, fired the minds and living of "many of the brethren in the Lord" (Phil. 1:21). And for me too, the old and brave Paul in that cell is the man I fain would be. Nero is reported as having said that the time would come, when men would call their sons Nero and their dogs Paul, as veiled with all the pomp and the power and the pride of this life, he watched Paul led out to his death. And yet that Paul is the man we fain must be; and doubtless he had in his mind words he had penned years before: "... those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things... and be found in him... being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain the resurrection of the dead... forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth... I press toward the mark for the prize" (Phil. 3). This is a far cry from the Paul who just a few years earlier had ‘refused to die’, who wanted to fight for his life (Acts 25:11). Now he felt ready to be offered, to be poured out as a drink offering upon the lives of his brethren (Phil. 2:17 Gk.); he held nothing back, but gave his life rather than have it forced from him by the inevitable death that must  come to all men. What he had once counted gain- and the Greek suggests material, financial gain- he now counted loss. He came to despise the materialism of the world, as did Jacob in his maturity. The power of all this is not just in its relevance to the elderly or terminally ill. We are all old men now, we are all on borrowed time. We believe the Lord's return, the end, the ultimate end, is imminent. If we are living expecting the imminent second coming; are we ready? Have we reached the completeness?

4:18 The Lord will deliver me from every evil work
and will save me to his heavenly kingdom; to him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen- Paul writes to Timothy as if he is shortly to die. So I don't take this as meaning that he was confident of deliverance from death at the hands of the Romans. Rather is this confidence that despite the "evil work" of his execution, he would be delivered from that through resurrection of the body at the Lord's return. He was using the very words of the Lord's payer, "Deliver us from evil, for Yours is the Kingdom..." (Mt. 6:13). He understood this as ultimately a prayer for deliverance from death into the Kingdom of God on earth at the Lord's return. Admittedly he has spoken of past deliverance from his persecutions (3:11), but here he speaks of deliverance as a 'saving me to His heavenly Kingdom', the Kingdom of Heaven to come on earth at the Lord's return. The Greek term for "evil work" however may well not refer to the 'evil work' of his execution. The plural "every evil work" suggests many evil works. And the phrase is consistently used in the NT of sins (Col. 1:21; 1 Jn. 3:12; 2 Jn. 11; 3 Jn. 10), specifically those committed by Judaism against Jesus (Jn. 3:19; 7:7). At the end of his life, faced with death, Paul's mind was inevitably on the serious sins he had committed against Jesus under the influence of Judaism. And as he surveys his future, he is confident that he will be delivered from them, and accepted into God's Kingdom. And that is enough for him to face death calmly. And it is with this issue of forgiveness and subsequent salvation in view that he can comment: "to him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen". This language is more appropriate to the triumph of Divine forgiveness and salvation than it is to Paul's being delivered from Roman punishment and released from prison.

4:19 Greet Prisca and Aquila
and the house of Onesiphorus- His old friends Priscilla and Aquila were now at Ephesus.

4:20- see on Acts 20:25 I know.

Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left at Miletus sick- Perhaps this is a lament of loneliness. Instead of coming to Paul, Erastus had remained at Corinth. Hence Paul's urging of Timothy to not be like the rest and find excuses not to come to him.

4:21 Try by all means- At the bitter end, the way Paul begs nervous, spiritually and physically weak Timothy to try to get to him before he dies has something pathetic about it: "Do thy diligence to come... do thy diligence to come", he repeats twice over (2 Tim. 4:9,21 AV). The spiritual weakness of Timothy and his need for Paul's encouragement is quite a theme (1 Cor. 16:10; 1 Tim. 4:12,14; 2 Tim. 1:6-8; 4:2).

To come before winter- The urgency may be because without the cloak he would have frozen in his cell (:13). But he knows that the time of his departure is near. He knows that travelling to Rome by sea in Winter is dangerous- as he had experienced. So he wished Timothy to come immediately and not miss the shipping season.

Eubulus greets you, and Pudens and Linus and Claudia, and all the brothers- We note his grace in passing on these greetings; because these would have been amongst those who sadly did not stand with Paul in support at his trial (:16).

4:22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you- As noted on 1:14 and elsewhere, Paul was very conscious of the work of the Spirit as an internal strengthening within Timothy's spirit. "Grace" or 'gift', charis, refers to the gift of the Spirit; so we see here the way Lord's Spirit intertwines with the human spirit. This is Paul's closing wish to Timothy, because he realized the supreme importance of having the mind or spirit of Christ. We should give it a like importance.