Paul’s final Word to Timothy. READ HEREhttps://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/2-timothy-4/
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. Through this letter, he gave solemn testimony to his young friend and protégé Timothy, and he did it in the presence of the God who will judge us all.
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. So, 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.
The Testimony: Preach the Word!
Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
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. 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).
As a pastor, Timothy was not required to preach ‘about’ 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. 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 preacher’s funny stories or emotional life experiences, they may be preaching about themself more than about God.
Paul points out to Timothy to be ready in and out of season, convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. This tells us when the pastor should be ready to preach the Word. The preacher should preach it when it is easy and hard. Moreover, preach it when the fruit is evident and when it seems invisible. Whatever the circumstances, they should just preach it. 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 exciting ideas or fascinating theories. Instead, he was to hold up God’s Word so the hearers could apply it to their lives and let God the Holy Spirit do His work.
The need for the faithful preaching of the Word.
For the time will come when they do not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will gather up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables.
Timothy needed to keep focused on the Word of God because, by natural human instinct, they do not want God in their lives. Most folk would rather hear what they want – something to affirm what they are doing is right and good – even if it’s not.
The term itching ears mean an endless curiosity, an insatiable desire for variety, and they get their ears tickled with the language and importance of the person, abandoning the good and faithful preacher for the popular speaker.
This also shows that if we do want to hear God’s Word, God is doing something extraordinary in us. Left to ourselves, we would instead do it our way, but God changes our hearts in beautiful ways, giving us a desire for His Word.
Paul reminds Timothy that people will gather for themselves preachers to tell them what they want to hear. Therefore, the most popular teachers are not necessarily the most faithful teachers.
We shouldn’t assume a teacher is scratching itching ears just because they are popular, but neither should we assume that they are faithful to God’s Word just because of popularity.
These kinds of teachers will turn the hearers aside to fables. I have found that many people want to be told what to believe rather than sorting it out for themselves. Sadly, these folks are prime picking for false teachers who lead them away from the Word of God. Once people leave the Word of God, they often then embrace fantastic fantasies. When a people reject God’s truth, it isn’t that he believes in nothing; he will believe in anything – anything at all.
Paul is firm in his theology and establishes that the universe did not come about by chance. To believe the universe’ just happened is to believe in a fable. It is to believe lies. It is possible for many worshippers to turn aside from the truth and to believe many fables like-
· 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 unbelievers and other Christians because you are a born-again Christian.
Interestingly, Paul emphasises But you: This is a contrast phrase against the people mentioned in the previous sentence. Paul is saying, ‘although others turned aside to fables, you Timothy be even more dedicated to doing what God wants you to do. “
The more determined folk are to despise the teachings of Christ, the more ardent should godly ministers be to affirm it and the more strenuous their efforts to preserve it.
Paul tells Tim to be watchful in all things. This is because Timothy could not fulfil his ministry unless he kept careful attention, kept his eyes open and knew what was going on.
Paul warns to endure afflictions. Ministry is just like life – there are difficulties, and for some, this is an unsettling thought because they thought that the ministry would be one beautiful spiritual experience after another. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of beautiful blessings in serving God, but afflictions must be endured.
Timothy is directed to do the work of an evangelist and fulfil his ministry. There may be many reasons why someone’s ministry goes unfulfilled; some are-
· The cares of the world.
· The Fear of man.
· Criticism and discouragement.
· Conscience sin.
Paul’s final words hit hard and strong “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, finished the race, and kept the faith.”
There is powerful symbolism here. A drink offering brought wine before the Lord and poured it out at his altar. It was a way to give wine to God, just as an animal might be given as a sacrifice.
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 the sacrifice to the Lord (Exodus 29:40-41 and Leviticus 23:13).
There was also a Roman idea here. Paul uses language and metaphors that his hearers fully understand. Every Roman meal ended with a small sacrificial ritual to the gods where 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.”
Paul said he felt poured out, with the idea of a complete giving, with no hesitation, like wine that is completely emptied from the cup and given to God.
Paul knew he was leaving the scene, and Timothy must carry the torch. God’s workers pass on, but God’s work continues through others. Throughout his ministry, Paul used the metaphor of the Christian being an athlete running that race (Philippians 3:12-14, Acts 20:24, 1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 12:1). Here, talking to Timothy, he knew his race was just about finished.
Paul’s Crown of Righteousness.
Paul knew a crown was waiting for him in heaven, ready to receive it. There are two main words for the crown in the New Testament. One of those words refers to a royal crown and the other to the victor’s crown (the Stephanos). Here Paul referred to the victor’s crown – a crown like they awarded to the winner at the ancient Roman Olympics. The crown was essentially a trophy, recognising that one had competed according to the rules and had won the victory over temptation.
Before Paul was a Christian, he supervised the execution of the first martyr Stephen and began killing as many other Christians as possible. But now, at the end of his life, he was ready to receive a crown – a Stephanos. He likely remembered the name of the first martyr, who died at Paul’s own hands: Stephanos (Stephen).
In the Roman world, 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). We are promised the crown of life if we endure temptation (James 1:12).
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.
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Paula Rose Parish
Paula Rose Parish
Paula Rose is an Ordained Minister, Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, Course Creator, and Published Author and has a Master of Arts in Counselling. Paula is a life member of (ISFP) The International Society of Female Professionals.
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