2 Timothy 4 Well Seasoned

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Questions: What is Paul’s greatest concern? What should we preach? How do we dodge sound doctrine? What is the proof of our ministry? For what do we hope? What makes for profitable ministry? In what way will the Lord deliver us? To what end?

“Read More” to pursue answers from Second Timothy.

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Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence
And fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I would know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:1-22

I charge [thee] therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

Hmm, sounds like Paul has something serious on his mind. What is so important that Paul is calling God as his witness?

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

And why is that so important?

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

In conservative circles it is fashionable to interpret this as (primarily) condemning permissiveness and relativism. But, based on the previous chapters, I think it applies equally to those who “dispute about words”, and obsess about “myths and genealogies” instead of pursuing godliness with their whole hearts.

For Paul seems less concerned about Timothy’s notional beliefs than his practical behavior:

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

I infer from this that the true proof of Timothy’s ministry is how well he:

  • watches his own behavior
  • handles criticism and affliction
  • focuses on Christ’s good news

In short, how well he follows Paul’s example of self-sacrifice:

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

Paul, at least, has no regrets:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished [my] course, I have kept the faith:

And his focus is not on his present tragedy, but his future reward:

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Now, I don’t have a very well-developed theology of “crowns” and “heavenly rewards.” But, the psychological and empirical data overwhelmingly agree that those who hope in a future reward are far more likely to take risks and endure hardships. Especially if it is for something (or someone) they love.

In contrast to those who focus on the short term, and get easily discouraged:

Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.

I don’t know whether Crescens or Titus left for the same reasons as Demas, but either way, it had to be hard on him. Not that he’s totally abandoned:

Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.

This last bit is particularly poignant, assuming this is the same Mark Paul distanced himself from in Acts 15. In fact, this whole section has the sense of tying up loose ends:

And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring [with thee], and the books, [but] especially the parchments.

Including remembering old enemies:

Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:

Though Paul seems content to let God deal with him, he does at least want Timothy to be aware:

Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.

Interestingly, while Paul has harsh words for Alexander’s resistance, he is more charitable to those who were guilty of mere cowardice:

At my first answer no man stood with me, but all [men] forsook me: [I pray God] that it may not be laid to their charge.

Perhaps because he experienced God’s sufficient grace supporting him, despite the abandonment of earthly friends:

Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and [that] all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.

Which does appear to be his ultimate hope and comfort:

And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve [me] unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The rest seems mostly small talk:

Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.

Though, there is at least one tantalizing reminder that even Paul couldn’t heal everyone:

Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.

And Paul emphasizes his desire to see Timothy, perhaps underlining his loneliness — despite the presence of many companions:

Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.

We breeze through scripture so easily, it is difficult to remember the lifetimes of joys and sorrows encompassed by a few brief chapters. What heartbreaks and betrayals must Paul have endured, time after time? How deep his joy, to sustain him through all his tribulations? How many hopes and dreams dare he rest upon Timothy’s young shoulders, for the continued oversight of the church?

The Lord Jesus Christ [be] with thy spirit. Grace [be] with you. Amen.

And with us all. Amen.

Prayer
God, I am awestruck at the slender yet unbroken thread of faith, that has stretched down the centuries from Paul to Timothy to generations of saints (and sinners), and finally to me. Thank you for faithful men and women who loved the gospel more than their own lives, and risked everything to pass on the good news of your love. Father, teach me to love like that, and live like that. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

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