2 Timothy 4

In view of all this Paul solemnly charges Timothy to preach "the
word." He carries away his thoughts to the tremendous hour when the
Lord Jesus shall appear in glory to judge the living and the dead, so
that he should serve and speak in view of that moment, and not succumb
to the temptation to speak so as to please the itching ears of men.

In the four striking verses which open chapter 4 the Apostle uses
three expressions, all of which are intimately connected with the
Scriptures, viz., "the word," "sound doctrine," "the truth." In
contrast with them we find "fables," which are desired by those who
merely want to hear those things which pander to their lusts. Timothy
however was not merely to preach the word but he was to bring it to
bear upon the consciences and hearts of his hearers, either for
conviction or rebuke or encouragement, and he was to be urgent about it
both in season and out of season.

The word "lusts" simply means "desires." The time will come, says
the Apostle, when men will insist upon hearing, not what is true but
what pleases them, and they will "heap up" to themselves teachers who
will give them what they want. That time is now arrived. Many features
of the Apostle's doctrine, as recorded in the New Testament are quite
repugnant to the "modern mind," therefore, we are told, they must be
discarded by all progressive thinkers and preachers, who must learn to
harmonize their utterances with the latest fashions in scientific
thought and the latest crazes as to popular pleasures. Hence all that
advanced modernistic preaching which the Apostle here dismisses in one

The servant of the Lord, on the other hand, is to keep steadily on
with his ministry. He is to "watch" or rather "be sober" in all things:
the word used means, "that sober clearness of mind resulting from
exemption from false influences-not muddled with the influence of what
intoxicates." A very important word this for all of us, for there is
nothing that so intoxicates the mind and muddles the perceptions as the
false modernistic teaching to which we have just alluded. Further he is
to be prepared to suffer, for he cannot expect to be popular, either
with the purveyors of fables who stand in the pulpit or with the
consumers of fables who sit in the pew. Timothy was to do the work of
an evangelist and so fill up the full measure of his ministry.

The Apostle's words here would indicate that to Timothy had been
committed a ministry of an all-round character. He was not only gifted
to teach and preach the word for the instruction, correction and
exhortation of believers, but also to preach the gospel for the
conversion of sinners; and he was not to neglect any part of this
comprehensive work. Had he reasoned after a human sort he might have
concluded that with so much evil threatening inside the church he must
concentrate all his energies on inside work in order to meet the
situation, and so abandon all effort to reach outsiders. This however
was not to be, and we may learn a lesson from it today. It is evidently
the will of God that, come what may in the history of the church, the
work of evangelization is to go forward. The great Head of the church
lives and He is well able to deal in due season with every situation
that may arise, however disastrous it may appear to us; and meanwhile
an all-round ministry of the truth to both saint and sinner is to be

Moreover it was to be a special incentive to Timothy that the hour
of Paul's "departure" or "release" was just at hand. He knew full well
that his martyrdom was imminent, when like a warrior he would leave the
field of combat. All the more need then for Timothy to gird up his
loins like a man and be fully engaged in the fight. The more difficult
the situation, the fewer those who fight the good fight the louder the
call to the true-hearted to engage in it. In exactly that way we should
view things today.

The earth is filled with fightings as the fruit of sin, and perhaps
none have been fiercer and worse than those that have been waged in the
arena of "the church." What a tragic misuse of energy there has been
all down the ages when brother has drawn the sword against brother over
comparatively trivial and oft-times selfish matters, to the great
delight and profit of the common foe! Alive to this and tired of it, we
must not slip into the opposite error of thinking that there is really
nothing worth fighting about. There is such a thing as "a good fight"
as verse 7 makes manifest. The Apostle fought a good fight inasmuch as
his contentions were for God and His truth and not of any selfish sort,
and further he used spiritual and not carnal weapons in his warfare
(See, 2 Cor. 10: 3-6). If we go to war for ourselves, or if warring for
God we use carnal weapons, our fight is not a good fight.

Paul not only fought a good fight but he ran his race to the finish
and he kept the faith. Having kept it, he could hand it on intact to
those who were to follow him. The faith of Christianity is the great
object of the adversary's attack. If he attacks us it is just in order
that he may damage the faith. It would almost seem as if the Apostle in
these verses had in his mind's eye a relay race. The baton of the faith
had been placed in his hands and beating off the attacks of the foe he
had raced through to the finish of his section and was now handing it
on intact to another, with the assurance that at the day of Christ's
appearing the crown of righteousness would be his; and not only awarded
to him but also to all others who like him faithfully run their bit of
the race with their eye on the goal. The rewards of faithfulness will
be seen at the appearing of Christ and that moment will be loved by
those who diligently seek His pleasure. To those who seek their own
pleasure His appearing will be an unwelcome thought.

It is an inspiring yet a searching thought for each believer who
reads these lines, that we are now engaged in running our little
section of the great relay race with the responsibility of carrying the
baton of the faith and of preserving it and of handing it on intact to
future runners, or of handing it over directly to the Lord Himself if
He comes within our lifetime.

From verse 9 and onwards the Apostle mentions matters of a personal
sort, that concerned himself or his acquaintances. Yet even these
personal matters present points of much instruction and interest.
Timothy was to endeavour to quickly rejoin Paul at Rome since only Luke
was with him. Others had left, some evidently on the Lord's service,
such as Crescens, Titus and Tychicus. With Demas the case was
different. He had loved the present world and consequently had forsaken
Paul, for Paul preached a Gospel that worked deliverance from this
present world which it characterized as evil (See, Gal. 1: 4). His
action in forsaking Paul was therefore only the visible expression of
the fact that he had forsaken in heart the real power of the Gospel.

Demas then stands as a warning beacon, illustrating the fact that
backsliding may take place even in one who came under the influence of
so great a servant as Paul. In happy contrast we have Mark, who is
mentioned in verse 11. In earlier days he had been carried into a
position which was beyond his faith and in consequence he had after a
while retreated from it, as recorded in Acts 15: 37-39. This act of his
was not only to his own hurt but also furnished the cause of the
estrangement which came in between such eminent servants of Christ as
Paul and Barnabas. Now however we find him fully recovered and
reinstated. Paul, the one who had objected to him previously, now
declares him to be "profitable to me for the ministry." The case of
Mark then is full of encouragement as showing how the backslidden may
be recovered.

In Alexander we have an opponent of the Apostle and of the truth.
whether an open enemy or a secret we have no means of determining. As
to him only one thing is said, "The Lord will reward him according to
his works." This seems to be the better attested rendering. Paul just
left him in the hands of the Lord, who will deal with him in due season
in perfect righteousness. We all may well ask the Lord that we may be
preserved from working any kind of evil against His servants or His

Verse 16 shows us that there were others who had not opposed Paul
like Alexander, nor definitely forsaken him like Demas, yet they had
been guilty of a temporary forsaking, by failing to stand by him in the
crisis of his trial. They could not face the stigma entailed by a full
identification with this despised prisoner. Still their cowardice only
made the faithfulness of the Lord to His servant the more conspicuous
and such power was ministered to Paul in that trying hour that instead
of summoning every ounce of wit that he possessed and straining every
nerve to establish his own innocence, he concentrated upon rendering
the fullest and plainest testimony to the Gospel. His trial became the
occasion in which "the preaching might be fully known, and that all the
Gentiles might hear." Paul eagerly seized the occasion to fully set the
Gospel forth before the most august assemblage that then could be found
upon earth. There his words stood on record in the official report of
the proceedings available for any and every Gentile.

For the moment the Apostle was delivered "out of the mouth of the
lion." Just when his case looked hopeless he had been snatched back
from the jaws of death by the hand of God, acting it may have been
through a sudden whim of the capricious and godless Nero. In verse 18
he looks right away from men altogether. No evil work of man could
ultimately prevail against him. Come what may, and martyrdom under Nero
did very soon come, he would be carried through in triumph to His
heavenly kingdom. The coming kingdom of our Lord Jesus has a heavenly
as well as an earthly side, and we as well as Paul are destined to the

A few more greetings and the Epistle finishes. Verse 20 leads one to
think that Paul was released from captivity after his trial since his
first voyage to Rome was taken under the circumstances recorded in Acts
27 and 28, when there was no opportunity for his leaving Trophimus at
Miletum. The fact that he left him there sick shows that it is not
always God's way to heal sick believers directly, as is asserted by
some. In just the same way verse 13 shows us that the highest
spirituality goes quite consistently with carefulness over quite small
and humble details of daily life This is a thing that we do well to