Paul’s famous last (recorded) words (2 Timothy 1:1 4:22)

2 Timothy 1:1 4:22

[] He’s grateful for the close fellowship with faithful friends

Paul senses that he could be near the end of his earthly days and ‘the time of my death is near’ (2 Timothy 4:6, New Living Translation throughout unless otherwise indicated). He’s been ‘deserted [by] Demos’, and has dispatched some of his ministry team to various assignments, including ‘Crescens …, Titus’, and ‘Tychicus’ (4:9-12). As for the rest: ‘Everyone abandoned me’ at a recent trial ‘before the judge;’ but ‘the Lord stood with me … [a]nd … rescued me from certain death’ – and ‘will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom’ probably in the near future (4:16-18). But thankfully, as winter approaches ‘Luke is with me’ (4:11), and ‘Eubulus …, Prudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the [other] brothers and sisters’ are nearby (4:21).

[] He reviews Timothy’s C.V. and advises him for the time ahead

‘Timothy, my dear son, … I constantly remember you in my prayers.’ Also ‘I remember your tears as we parted’, But those tears will hopefully be replaced soon ‘with joy when we are together again’ (1:1-4). And yet further back in time, Paul can ‘remember your genuine faith’, Timothy’s family heritage via his ‘grandmother Lois and … mother Eunice.’ He bids Timothy constantly to ‘fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid hands on you’, imparting a ‘God-given … spirit of … self-discipline’ (1:5-7). Now Timothy must ‘be ready to suffer with me … in prison … for the sake of the Good News.’ God’s ‘plan from the beginning of time’ was made known ‘through the Good News’. Paul as a teacher of this Good News’ goes on to encourage Timothy to ‘carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you’ (1:8-14).

[] He emphasises the importance of the ministry of sound teaching

Many times in this letter Paul stresses the importance of ‘sound teaching’. His vocabulary overflows with mentions of ‘teach/teacher/teaching’ as well as ‘the Good News’, ‘the word of God’, ‘a trustworthy saying’. and ‘truth’ – terms which vary from version to version of the New Testament, adding up to a substantial total. (I’ve never been good at mathematics, so over to you!) But Paul has in mind more than just speaking Bible truth, for he himself had always modelled what he taught: ‘… you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is’ (3:10).

Paul had taught Gospel truth (1:11) as: ‘wholesome teaching’ condensed into ‘the pattern’ of an easy-to-learn creed (1:13). Timothy must ‘hold on to’ that creed, and ‘carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to’ him, ‘[t]hrough the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us’ (1:13). And ‘things … You have heard me teachand ‘that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses’ Timothy must ‘Now teach to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others’ (2:2, literally ‘competent to teach others also’). An underlying analogy of Paul’s could be the relay race, because twice he uses the image of athletes in a contest for the prize, and of soldiers on the field of battle. His assessment of his own ministry is: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return – the prize … for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing’ (4:7-8).

[] He elaborates on the Christian ministry of teaching in a series of metaphors

‘The servant of the Lord … must be … able to teach. And be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those foolish hearts, and they will learn the truth …‘ (2:24-25).

  1. A Christian in ministry is an enlisted soldier . . . (2:4)

Thankfully we no longer sing (to the tune of America’s Hymn of the Republic) about the deceased John Brown who, while his ‘body lies a-mouldering in the grave, His soul goes marching on’. Presumably his soul marches on through those he had inspired and trained while he lived – because now ‘He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord [while] his soul goes marching on’. However, Scripture makes clear that the spiritual war is more immediate than ‘the hereafter’. Ephesians 6:11 is an ever-present command to ‘stand firm against the strategies of the devil’.

Therefore, Paul exhorts Timothy to ‘Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ(2:3) in order to please the officer who enlisted’ you – whom we know from 1:1 to be none other than the same ‘Christ Jesus’. His ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ would be reward in itself!

  1. . . . a disciplined athlete . . . (2:5)

So, as we are urged in Hebrews 12:1-12, ‘… let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us … keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy set before him, he endured the cross … Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people, then you won’t become weary and give up … ‘

The sense of fulfilment would also be reward as such! James fully agrees (James 1:2-4): ‘Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be … complete, needing nothing.’

  1. . . . a dedicated farmer (2:6)

‘… hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labour’ (2:6). As Paul wrote to his ‘dear friends’ in Philippi: ‘I love you and long to see you, … for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work (Philippians 4:1).

And then, surprise, surprise! Paul compares Christian ministry to:

  1. . . . a domestic dining utensil! (2:20-21)

‘In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use for every good work.’

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