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 word-FABLES!

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 maintained.

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 interests.

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 heavenly.

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 remember.