Today: [2 Timothy 4:] Paul’s Final Charge to Timothy: In 2 Tim. 4 Paul gives a final charge to Timothy knowing that he will soon go under the headsman’s ax. For centuries young ministers have found courage and wisdom in these last words of affirmation and exhortation. In them, we discover the definitive description of apostolic ministry as it existed then and as needed so desperately in our day.
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[2Ti 4:1-22 KJV] 1 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; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 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; 4 And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished [my] course, I have kept the faith: 8 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. 9 Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: 10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. 12 And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. 13 The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring [with thee], and the books, [but] especially the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: 15 Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. 16 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. 17 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. 18 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. 19 Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. 21 Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren. 22 The Lord Jesus Christ [be] with thy spirit. Grace [be] with you. Amen.
In the final chapter of 2 Timothy Paul begins with giving Timothy an apostolic charge. This type of language is some of the strongest in scripture intended to intensify the commission given to Timothy when he was sent to Ephesus in the first place. In the wording, Paul reminds Timothy that he will be judged at the appearing of Christ for his response to this command. Is this language necessary to get Timothy’s attention? It may convey to us a lack of confidence on Paul’s part toward Timothy as a leader left on his own who was accustomed to working under direct supervision of the apostles who now has served for some time on his own.
In the charge given Paul commands Timothy to preach the word, be instant in season and out, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. Herein is disclosed then the primary components of apostolic function. Whereas you will not find one single New Testament prophet moving in rebuke or reproof, it is one of the primary responsibilities of an apostle. The word reprove in the verse means to admonish severely and to call into accountability. The word rebuke means to censure severely and to charge sharply which is precisely what Paul is doing here.
If you study the scripture, you cannot find one passage to justify the belief that apostles were ever intended to pass from the scene. The church today needs apostles just as much then as they do now. If you asked a New Testament believer what apostles they were familiar with or what apostles they were submitted to there would be an instant answer. Today that would be a rare occurrence. If there was a recognized apostle in your life would you see yourself as being able to tolerate rebuke and reproof against you by their hand which is one of their primary callings? If not why not? Is it because believers do not need correction today?
In v. 3 Paul predicts the time to come when the church would no longer endure sound doctrine but would prefer teachers who would only bring informational messages to titillate their hearers. It is interesting that which the suggestion is that apostles and prophets are no more, teachers have always been an accepted part of the culture of the church. Remember that 1 Cor. 12:28 says “first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers…” and after that government, helps, and miracles. If you want to know where the miracles went go find where apostles and prophets are accepted along with teachers. The church is ungoverned where the apostle and the prophet in conjunction with the teacher are absent. Where apostles and prophets are excluded the church (v. 4) turns to fables and fanciful stories with no grounding in the truth. The current prophetic movement is overrun by this kind of error because the prophets currently recognized in their midst have little or no relational accountability that scripturally can only be provided by validated and authentic apostles in their midst.
Why is Paul making these statements now? Because in his second imprisonment he comes to realize that the time of his death is near. Paul was beheaded in Rome sometime after the crucifixion of Peter. Tradition says when his head hit the ground it bounced three times and in each place, a spring of water came up and there is a commemoration of that legend in Rome today.
Paul declares that he has run his race and is looking forward to his reward in heaven. How does he know this? Out of his intimacy with Christ, he no doubt senses the burden of service beginning to lift off of his shoulders in anticipation of the end of his earthly sojourn. Can you imagine the relief he must have felt? I remember when a prophet spoke over my father along these lines. My father had run his race of ministry for 38 years with great faithfulness. His ministry was fraught with challenges, and he served diligently never turning away from the commission on his life. A day came when there was a shift in his life, and for several years he lived on relieved of the burden of pastoral service before his passing on to be with the Lord. He had run his race. He had kept the faith. When I stood in the room where his body lay, I was overwhelmed by the sense of here lay the earthly remains of a man who left everything of himself on the field of service. His was a life utterly spent for the gospel. He had done a good job and was now dismissed to his reward.
Paul then (v. 10) calls for Timothy to make haste to come and see him because his co-worker Demos has forsaken him. This also is a common occurrence with many men and women of God. In their later years, they are often abandoned by those who owe them everything of their successes with little acknowledgment or recompense back to their mentors. Only Luke, the Physician, remained to see to Paul’s needs in the prison under Nero’s palace. Paul also calls for Timothy to bring John Mark to see him as well. This is the same John Mark over whom Barnabas and Paul had disputed and severed relationship. Paul is tying loose ends in his life and seeking to make amends where necessary. It is interesting that in the final days of his life he was in the company of men who wrote two of the gospels. Timothy himself is thought to have written the book of Hebrews. What a company of lions this must have been as they gathered together to see Paul off on his exit to eternity. A writer’s workshop to be sure of the most influential book in all of history.
Paul mentions other problematic relationships of several men who resisted his ministry but concludes that regardless the Lord stood with him in his ministry until everything he was commissioned to preach and write was completed. He knows that the Lord will deliver him and preserve him unto the very last. He sends his salute to Priscilla and Aquila and the house of Onesiphorus. Priscilla and Aquila along with Andronicus and Junia were husband and wife teams in apostolic ministry and forerunners of the power couples of the kingdom that God is raising up today. Paul reminds Timothy again to make haste and concludes his letter with the benediction that the Lord Jesus Christ be with his spirit.
Is there any wonder that these letters of Paul to Timothy have come down to us? No doubt they were treasured heirlooms passed from generation to generation filled with love and so indicative of the character of the apostle Paul. They serve even for us today as an intimate picture, a window into the lives of the men and women who received the care of the churches from the first generation of Christian leadership. Amen.
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