The Worst of Times for the Best of People

I. “Difficult times will come” – Paul described a culture of unbridled self-centeredness and self justification in 3:1-9. He had just described problems presently confronted [2:14-19]; now he shows that even worse times await. Perhaps these times parallel each age of the church and this is not a particular prophecy about some especially perilous time in the future. The last chapter encouraged Timothy to deal with heretical problems in a straightforward manner in the church. Paul gave instruction concerning the avoidance of wrangling and contentiousness while seeking, nevertheless, to correct the opponents of truth. This difficulty described in chapter 3 seems more subtle and slowly destructive in that it involves hypocritical affections and apparent religiosity as a cloak for the corruption of Christian character.

A. Their personal life unconformed to true religion. In a detail of twenty characteristics, Paul gives an anatomy of religious deceit. I have organized these in six divisions.

  1. Permeating all of these moral and spiritual traits is a rampant focus on self. They perform their religious activities from a principle of self-love; this is the fountain of all these perversities that follow. Both in Paul’s day, even the apostolic era, and in the continued history of the church until Christ comes again, we must contend with “lovers of self, lovers of money” who are “boastful, arrogant.” Since religion has an intrinsic appeal to personal safety and eternal joy, many purely natural reasons exist as to why some would want to be “religious” even with no heart for true holiness. At bottom, therefore, of the motivation of those Paul described is self-seeking. Personal recognition and material gain motivate them to zealous activity in the church, or at times, against the church.
  2. They nurse hostility to others to whom gratitude is due. Paul described those who have this trait as “revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful.” Rather than a spirit of dependence and gratitude, those to whom in God’s providence they should be grateful and submissive, they revile them and see no cause for gratitude. See Paul’s description of the natural heart under the power of corruption in Romans 1:21, 30 especially.
  3. They develop antagonism to Christian graces of virtue. Accordingly, they are “unholy, unloving, irreconcilable [unforgiving].” This spirit of self-sufficiency, self-interest, and self-congratulation runs so counter to genuine Christian humility that these traits dominate. As unholy, their internal motivation is not for true devotion to God or mortification of fleshly desires, but for gratification. As “unloving,” they do not consider how they may be self-giving to others, considering others better than themselves, but seek their own personal interests and in this way are sources of constant friction and disturbance. This word includes the idea that even those ties of affection that should flow naturally in family relationships begin to erode under the power of selfishness. As “irreconcilable, or unforgiving,” their self absorbed motivations operating, personal slights or interruption of personal pleasure can hardly be tolerated; those bent on exaltation of self find little place for forgiving those that hinder their progress to that goal.  This is particularly a mark of an unregenerate heart, cf. Matthew 6:14, 15.
  4. They encourage aggressiveness against what is good. Paul used six words to build this aspect of the profile. He called them “slanderers [diaboloi], without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless.” The lack of internal grace cannot be kept hidden for long, but eventually must out with aggressive self-seeking behavior. Everything that hinders the goal of self-aggrandizement must be discredited, ridiculed, opposed, represented as unwarranted, bigoted, and narrow. Early Christians, because of their moral stance against a decadent Roman society were called “haters of mankind.”  Christians who oppose abortion and the pervasive homosexual agenda, must be careful to maintain humility and compassion and have clearly defined in their minds why this is a loving thing to do; even so, they must expect hateful opposition, misrepresentation, abusive speech, and seeing the true good that they pursue represented as evil.
  5. They consider personal desire their sole canon of right. Accordingly, Paul described them as “conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
  • Lovers of God will pay attention to his revelation and his commands. They will embrace the fullness of his character and seek to honor it. Justice and mercy, wrath and forgiveness, judgment and grace must all be seen in proper context as reflections of the singular wisdom and holiness of God.  The cross will become a paradigm for the true harmony of all the distributively perceived attributes of God.  One of these shall not be put in opposition to another or perverted so that God loses his ability to judge the world [cf. Romans 3:5-8]. God’s love has no tendency to compromise his holiness for its first object is his own immutable perfection. God’s love, therefore, has its operation toward his creation in harmony with holy, unchangeable, and infinite goodness.  A justification of personal sin, therefore, under the guise that forgiveness is God’s job, betrays a love of personal pleasure with no concern for God’s character. Pauls’ connection of God’s love toward us with the death of his Son means that there is a dual action on that love: God’s love for sinners in operating for their redemption and restoration of fellowship to him, and God’s intrinsic love for the inviolability of his own character in that no restoration could take place apart from a full and worthy satisfaction made to his justice, righteousness, and holiness.
  • The entire spectrum of pleasure for which humans have the capacity to enjoy were established by God as a pleasing correlation between our psycho-somatic condition and the world around us. In our fallen condition, however, we seek this pleasure for its own sake, not with gratitude to God, and in violation of God’s purpose expressed in his law and in instructions that arise from inspired applications of his law. See Colossians 2: 16-23 and 1 Timothy 4:1-4 for an improper forbidding of legitimate pleasure. See Colossians 3:4-10 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11 for a series of perverse transgressions of God’s law.
  1. They use their privatized doctrine of God to justify their perversions and hostility. Their pretense is godliness but they have no knowledge of the true power of godliness.
  • Either they hide behind a profession of godliness while being internally corrupt, or they openly display these vices under the pretense of divine permission. A theology of perversity dominates much of modern mainline church life as well as much of the personal life of so-called evangelicals. Some preach with great boldness that the gospel focus is on the increase of power, position, and worldly wealth in this life. Such increase is a mark of God’s pleasure toward you and the long-term purpose that God has for you. So they declare. This apparent “godliness’ can worm its way into the most unlikely places.
  • The power of real godliness, however, is neither experienced nor endorsed. Doctrines central to gospel truth, doctrines that demonstrate that salvation is a matter of divine grace effected by divine power, are avoided. Gratitude is diminished to the degree that we reduce out dependence on God’s “own purpose and grace.” Unconditional election, effectual calling, the necessity of the transforming power of regeneration, mortification of sin by the work of the Spirit, the effectuality of Christ’s sacrificial death, the certain benefits of his resurrection not only for forgiveness but for godliness – all these truths that speak of the power of the gospel and contain the power of godliness remain strangers to this crowd.

B. Particular manifestations of their operations

  1. Their penchant toward easily misled women – They prey on the weaker sort of the weaker sex; They duplicate the tactics of Satan himself who went first to the woman, and appealed to her as separate from the one to whom she was specifically designed as a help.This often occurs in religious circles because women do not experience leadership from legitimate patterns of guidance and affirmative help.  They become, therefore, susceptible to those who will pay them attention and appear to be unflinching spiritual leaders. These deceivers do not have the well-being of the insecure woman in mind, but they shower their attention solely for the sake of personal pleasure.
  2. They take advantage of those whose life-situation and personal deportment show a lack of strong conviction, who can be easily led astray. They seek out women in distress who might be looking for security in a physical relationship. Even in this they promise relief from consciences “weighed down with sins” – The weight of unforgiven sins creates a susceptibility to those who promise religious advantage, as these false teachers do in justification of their blatant immorality.
  3. Their promise of truth never materializes. A system that focuses on personal comfort, personal advantage, personal blessing and sees God as a means of getting human fulfillment and the cross as a guarantee of freedom from personal ills will always miss the narrow way that leads to life. If the cross does not drive us to repentance and the resurrection does not create a sense of dependence and gratitude, if our confidence relates more to security in this present world and not to the gracious purpose of God as seen in his giving his beloved Son that sinners might be justified, the truth always will elude us.

C. Paul points to the Old Testament example of Jannes and Jambres, the Egyptian magicians. Paul’s reference shows his familiarity with non-canonical Jewish writing. The Targum of Jonathan on Exodus 7:11 says “And Pharaoh call the wise men and the magicians; and Janis and Jambres, the magicians of Egypt, did so by the enchantments of their divinations.” The same names are used in Exodus 1:15 [so John Gill]; By this reference, Paul could indicate that all these issues discussed above come from a self-consciously non-Christian religion, but more likely he is using this example to show that those who have no true connection with the people of God can nevertheless have an appearance of divine power and favor.  Eventually the truly deceitful nature of their activity will be exposed as was that of the Egyptian magicians.  The demonstrations of God’s Spirit in the lives of his people will cause a holiness, love, and grasp of truth that cannot be sustained by hypocrites.



II. Paul’s Life by comparison 3:10-13

A. Paul’s example of suffering for truth.

  1. (Verses 10, 11) He mentions 9 things that marked his ministry: “teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings.” Paul begins with his teaching, the doctrine revealed t him that defined the gospel. He then calls attention to the consistency of his practice with his conviction of the truth of his teaching. Then he looks to the internal commitments arising from the gospel that drive him—purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance. This chain of connected ideas consummates in his willingness to suffer personal privation for the extension of the truth and even the infliction of persecution. Each of these is set up to be compared with the manner of conduct and teaching of the self-seeking religionists above.
  2. He points specifically to Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra (Acts 13, 14). These were stops on the first missionary journey of Paul.  The churches there were established and perhaps Timothy’s mother and grandmother were converted at this time.  On his second stop through Lystra, Paul arranged for Timothy to go with him. He had first-hand knowledge, therefore, of Paul’s conduct and message and willingness to suffer for Christ and his truth from the very beginning of his apostolic ministry.  He knew of those persecutions.
  3. He also includes persecutions in general wherever he has gone cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 – From the beginning of his second journey on, Timothy had first knowledge of all Paul’s activities and knew of his concern for the churches, see Acts 17:13, 14.Also see Paul’s evaluation of Timothy in Phil 2:19-23; 1 Thess 3:1-6


B. Principial differences between the godly and those who feign godliness 12, 13

  1. (Verse 12) Paul makes a general principle of these things present in his life for all who would know, believe, and act consistently with the gospel. For the godly, truth and holiness before God are more important than earthly advantage -This persecution may unfold in a variety of forms, but at some point a Christian who chooses to please God and be obedient to his truth will suffer at the hands of the friends of the world; see 1 John 2:15-17; 3:1, 11, 12; Cain killed Abel because he resented the righteousness and acceptability of Abel’s sacrifice while his own deeds were evil and his offering rejected.
  2. Imposters will find that they cannot conceal their deceit for they will more and more choose the world all the while professing that this is a manifestation of religious commitment.



III. (Verses 14-17) The Pathway to wholeness and truth.

A. Timothy is to continue in the way established early in his childhood (14).

  1. Not only had Timothy learned Christian truth, he had become convinced of it – The relationship between learning and certainty cannot be broken. One cannot be assured of, convinced of the truth of, a thing that he has never leaned or investigated. The church must use means for the clear inculcation of Scripture truth as a means of convincing people of that truth.  Strong exposition of the Bible from the pulpit and in classes along with catechism in doctrine are tried and true means of the propagation of truth. Preaching and teaching Scripture are, of course, means specifically ordained in Scripture and catechism is implied in many ways.
  2. It had been taught to him by those who loved him, not only his mother and grandmother, but the apostle himself had been instrumental in Timothy’s instruction. This gives an acknowledged authority to the instruction.
  3. Its content was not human speculation but sacred Scripture [grammata = writings used 15 times in NT but only here in this form cf. John 5:47] Calvin remarks, “There is nothing more alien to faith than an easy credulity that bids us accept everything indiscriminately no matter what its nature or source may be, for the chief foundation of faith is to know that it has its origin and authority in God.”
  • Its purpose is salvation ; cf. 1 Tim 1:8-11 Although wisdom in general about issues of life and principles of decision-making may result from continual study of Scripture, one misses the point of the entire revelation if he sees anything as of independent relevance apart from God’s movement to save sinners.
  • This salvation comes only from the redemptive work of Christ. All of human nature as a reflection of the image of God, in its fallenness, all issues of evil, morality, wisdom, suffering, human relations, and human purpose have coherence and their ultimate solution in the redemptive purpose of God as substantiated through the person and work of Christ. It is to this issue that all of Scripture is given and no book is properly understood without that as its context. All of Holy Scripture, all the sacred writings, point to Christ (cf. 1 Peter 1:10-12). Attempts at wise counsel disjointed from Christ may have the appearance of Bible truth but are empty.

B. Character of Scripture – In this designation, Paul likely includes the apostolic work (cf. 1:13f). He knew he had been given a deposit of truth and that the apostolic ministry, including its writing, was the fulfillment of all the promises, types, and prophecies of the Old Testament. “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silas and Timothy, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1:19, 20).

  1. All Scripture – The Old Testament which is commonly called Scripture [graphe, 51 times in NT;] Paul insists that his writing also is to be taken as authoritative and probably includes that along with the other apostles in this designation –cf .2 Thes 3:14; 2 Peter 1:12; 3:1, 2. The apostles were assured that their writing was of equal authority with their preaching and would serve the church until the day of Christ. They have no doubt that they are stewards of the new covenant that comes with greater glory than the old covenant [2 Corinthians 3] and therefore their proclamation is of equal authority, equally free from error, and more glorious than the graphe, Scripture, already received by the people of God as divinely revealed truth.  Reading what they wrote would give insight into the mysteries of divine revelation [Ephesians 3:3, 4].
  2. God-breathed – not a subjective and inspiring experience but objectively “ex-pired.” In the mysterious confluence of human emotion and personality operating freely and historically engaged being carried along by the Spirit of God, the writing of the Bible came to be. Negatively, Scripture is not the product of human ingenuity or interpretation, though the Spirit employs human gifts and speaks to specific and peculiar situations.  Positively, Scripture is divinely revealed truth, couched in Spirit-inspired words relevant to the church in all ages, transcending time and culture.
  3. Profitable – not for mere entertainment or intellectual curiosity, but for edification in 4 ways, comprehensive in scope: doctrine, reproof, correction, training in righteousness
  • Doctrine – the statement of coherent truth, reducible to propositions about God, man, salvation, creation time eternity, judgment, heaven, hell etc.
  • Reproof – The ideas that we hold as we come to Scripture often must undergo radical change to make way for the doctrine of Scripture.
  • Correction – Our life style must be challenged and changed.  We must stop being conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1,
  • 2). The spirituality of the law of God is a continual corrective to our indwelling sin.
  • Instruction or training in righteousness – With greater knowledge of Scripture and more mature reflection on it content we learn how to test and find approved the will of God, “the good, and acceptable, and perfect” (Romans 12:2).  We have “our powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).  We learn to “Prove the things that are excellent, in order to be found sincere and blameless in the day Christ” (Phil 1:10). The example of lives lived in the power of the gospel also, to which Paul points above and in Philippians 3:17 and 4:8, 9 give instruction in righteousness.

C. Purpose of Scripture

  1. The Man of God is any person who is “His” (2:19), elect redeemed, called but particularly those responsible for teaching others cf. 1 Tim 6:11
  2. Scripture contains all one needs to be perfect, that is, whole, adequately fitted for the particular service to which he is called.
  3. He is fitted for every good work, in general of Christian virtue, but particularly the “Good work” of the ministry. We do not invent ministry as a product of our own creative ideas, but we follow the guidance of the inspired word. The regulative principle relates not only to how we order worship, but how we order our lives and particularly how a minister of the gospel lives with freedom and knowledge under the authority of God.



IV. Conclusions

A. Christians must be aware that perversity of many sorts will challenge their devotion to truth.

B. Christians must be prepared for this, and be willing to suffer, by the training of Scripture.




Faithfulness or Apostasy

Be Persistent to the End

2 Timothy 4


I. In light of Paul’s description of the authority, purpose, and finality of Scripture, Paul charges Timothy with the urgency of a Word Centered Ministry 4:1-8

A. The clarity of Timothy’s present task1-5

  1. An impressive foundation – Paul already has issued at least 20 imperatives in this letter; Eleven [or more] of these directly impact his view toward Christian truth as issued in words.  He has told Timothy many important things:   “Kindle afresh the gift of God, Don’t be ashamed of the Testimony of our Lord, join me in suffering, retain the standard of sound words, guard the treasure entrusted to you, remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead etc., be diligent to present yourself approved to God, continue in the things you have learned”  He had told Timothy in 2:14 “earnestly charge them before God not to wrangle about words.” With all these imperatives, and more, this one imperative recapitulates the seriousness and urgency of all of them.
  2. The earnestness of the charge (1). All the more impressive, then is the intensity of this charge (for same verb see 1 Tim 5:21 accompanied by same modifiers). In that passage, the issue was the selection and discipline of elders, the teaching ministry of the church.  Paul’s deep God-inspired commitment to the importance of each local church as the purveyor of divine truth and the guardian of the gospel cannot be sidestepped in biblical interpretation.  The church and its elders must see themselves as under divine authority and having no liberty to invent the church’s mission, its officers, its message, or its worship.  These are established in the Word.  To go beyond Scripture is to teach some “other doctrine” strictly forbidden by Paul [1 Tim 1:6].
    • Before God – This dismisses the influence of earthly pressure and the power of men for the ultimate fact of God as creator, sustainer, and all seeing – Lk. 12:1-12 Fear of man may drive many a minister to abbreviate his emphasis on some vital biblical truth.  External pressures can make one feel that he is answerable to man and not God.  God’s truth must never be a matter of human negotiation, political strategy, or denominational prudence.  We must be  brought to our senses and realize that nothing can be hidden from the eyes of him with whom we have to do [Hebrews 4:13]  It seems that Paul was accused of such trifling handling of the word, but he denied the charge vigorously and demonstrated his unalloyed commitment to the full truth of revelation in spite of human reticence about the exclusivity of his message [Galatians 1:9, 10].
    • Before the Lord Jesus Christ.
      • Judge – cf. Hebrews 9:26-28; 10:26-31; John 5:22, 30 – Jesus has appeared once in humiliation to die for sinners and bring salvation to the many whose sins he bore.  When he returns the issues of sin and salvation will be immutably set.  Both those who remain alive as well as those who have died will be judged by the Lord Jesus. He himself will call all the dead forth from their graves and then judge them according to an absolute standard of righteousness as well as a variety of circumstances accompanying the different levels of revelation available to all persons.  To those whom he has quickened in spirit [John 5:22] and have, therefore, believed on him, there will be life eternal.  Paul’s admonition comes in light of the reality not only that Timothy will give an account to Jesus the judge, but that those who hear him will be judged and will also stand as witnesses either to his faithfulness or his compromise.
      • By His appearing – In 1:10, his first coming, by which he abolished death etc.; Titus 2:13, the second appearing in glory; 1 Tim 6:14, his second appearing; 2 Thes 2:8 – the glorious appearing of his coming when, by its splendor, he destroys the man of lawlessness. A variety of circumstances and factors conspire to demote preaching from its true place of preeminence in the church.   When we are reminded, however, that Paul admonishes Timothy to preach and gives as impetus the glorious appearing of Christ, nothing should be able to diminish the splendor and power of such a prospect.
      • By His Kingdom – His future visible rule as well as his present rule through redemption and Providence. Believers already are in his kingdom [Col 1:12-14] and are under his rule and his protection by the effectual working of his Spirit and the providential effecting of his purpose, established in covenant before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:11,12; Romans 8:28, 29). In his first appearing he established the “already” of his redemptive rule in demonstrating his wisdom to redeem (“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”) and by his second appearing he manifests his infinitely great power to rule in visibly subduing all things to himself, including the glorification of our “vile bodies” (Philippians 3:20, 21)
  1. The command is clear, “Preach the word” (2). No doubt as to what word he commends: He has in mind, of course, the Old Testament writings as well as the apostolic deposit of faith that Timothy learned from Paul and that he was responsible for passing on to others [2:1, 2; 3:10, 14].  By this time Peter could commend in writing Paul’s letters as containing instruction consonant with his, but more tightly reasoned and deeply grounded, put in the class of Scripture [2 Peter 3:1, 2, 14-18].  Many feel that other sources of instruction beyond Scripture may interest people more.  New curriculums employing TV sitcoms, popular books, and movies make their appeal to certain crowds.  Paul would have none of this, however, and insisted in the most solemn terms that the content of teaching and proclamation was the Word.
  • Stand upon it when it is opportune and not opportune, responsive or unresponsive, good times or no-times. The affections of an age or of a particular culture shall not woo the faithful minister away from his commanded task.  Paul did not expect Timothy to take a poll to discover if people wanted word-centered instruction; the content of proclamation is determined from above, not below.  No amount of disfavor may dissuade one from preaching the word. This is not negotiable, it is commanded even if the time is not ripe for it.  Jesus even preached to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:16-20).  He announced his victory over sin and death, and all enemies of truth, to those, both demons and men, who opposed the preacher of righteousness, Noah.  Noah’s truth, so seemingly incredible in his time, so alien to the world’s view of God, sin, holiness, judgment, finally has full vindication though the time in which he proclaimed it was ‘inopportune.”
  • Faithful exposition leads one to reprove, rebuke and exhort:  Reprove refers to the correction of error as well as men for their error.  Knowledge of scriptural truth in a comprehensive and coherently arranged order necessarily gives foundation to this important pastoral task.  Rebukerefers to confrontation, whether gentle or severe, for sin.  Some of this must be done privately but at times public rebuke is demanded by the nature of the offence.  Exhortinvolves the positive encouragement in duties of love to God and love to neighbor. Also, it includes consolation in times of trouble and distress.  Sometimes one must be a Boanerges, son of thunder, and at other times a Barnabas, son of consolation.
  • Effectiveness requires patience, long-burning and genuine instruction. Patience without instruction creates laxness and an effete Christianity.  Instruction without patience tends to frustration, unnecessary confrontation, discouragement and a loss of pastoral sympathy.
  1. There will be distressing Temptations to Ignore the command (3, 4). “For the time will come;” “For;” The urgency of the above instructions is increased by the reality that Christian truth will be challenged, ignored, and amended by those who can not stomach its power. Paul foresees one of the inopportune seasons, the no-time.  The time came soon, as Paul already has dealt with doctrinal deviation in several of his letters, here in chapter 2, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians;  The apostle John confronts this throughout his epistolary correspondence and gives severe warnings against aiding false teachers in any way (2 John).  Peter also foresaw this and confronted it in person. (2 Peter).  Our Lord dealt with this in his earthly ministry.  Even in his presence some preferred easier doctrine (John 6:27-29, 41-45, 52-58, 60-65, 66-71).
  • Some will be obnoxious to sound doctrine – Paul already has admonished Timothy to hold fast the form of sound words, whole words, words that need no correction. Now he speaks of those who cannot endure whole, comprehensive, coherent, fully biblical doctrine.  The depravity of men causes them to reject the doctrine of depravity and their corruption and helplessness makes them eschew the gospel of grace that is their only help.
  • Instead, while they eschew true biblical teaching, they will seek empty calories from sugar-coated teachers to say pleasing things. Paul employs a play on words; They cannot endure the curative qualities of sound didaskalia[teaching or doctrine] so they seek didaskalous[teachers] palatable to their tastes in their sickness unto death.  These teachers say pleasing things congenial to the ears of those who have bought them.
  • Unwilling to hear the truth with its convicting power, they make a fatal exchange; they turn away from truth, to fables. On the one hand they have their ears tickled but those same ears turn away from the truth. Paul described a species of this type in 2 Thessalonians. Having given a revelation of truth, those who turn from it may very well be helped along in their desires by God himself as an element of just judgment on them: “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes 2:9-12).
  1. Don’t Fall (5). Falling comes when calling declines, therefore,
  • Be sober, that is, clear headed and serious minded about all things; don’t be deluded by the immediate fashionableness of an idea.Maintain a clear feeling for the seriousness of Christ’s judgment of the living and the dead.  “He carries on with his exhortation to make sure that the more grievous the troubles, the more conscientiously will Timothy labour to cure them, and the more pressing the dangers, the more intently will he keep watch.” [Calvin]
  • Suffer hardship rather than surrender truth – summary of 2:3-7 and also 1:8. Timothy is not invited to a life of ease and comfort.The gospel is a head-on collision with the world.  The world is moving to hell and its speed and momentum witnesses to its delight in hellish things.  The heavenly-minded consistently run counter to this direction, reject the driving force behind it, seek to alter the direction of those caught in the speedy thrill of a roller coaster ride that crashes into perdition.  Every earnest Christian becomes a “partaker of the afflictions of the gospel.”
  • “Do the work of an evangelist” Continue his focus on the Christ-centered gospel preaching – 1:8-11; 2:8. Paul probably has in mind the “evangelist” as one of the specific offices of Ephesians 4:11.  If it is true that Paul has recognized in Timothy and has set him aside as a prophet [1:6], then he also may perform the work of an evangelist. The apostle may do the work of a prophet, an evangelist, and a pastor-teacher; the prophet may do the work of an evangelist, and a pastor teacher.  The evangelists may do the work also of a pastor teacher.  In certain cases specific qualifications rule otherwise [Acts 21:9; 1 Cor. 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:11, 12]
  • Do not omit any part of your ministry – “Fulfill your ministry” [KJV – “make full proof”] He wanted Timothy to enjoy the same satisfaction and confidence at the end of his life that Paul now experienced.  He was to prophesy, do the work of an evangelist, serve as a pastor teacher, and all with such a view of honoring Christ and emulating him that he also would join Paul in serving joyfully through affliction for the cause of the gospel.  There is more joy in the afflictions of a Christian than in the greatest prosperity, unmixed with affliction, that the world may provide.  See Psalm 4:7 – “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”


B. The end of Paul’s ministry (6-8) – “For” – Paul gives an urgent reason for Timothy to fulfill his ministry and to give such close attention to the word.

  1. His realization of an impending martyrdom 6 {also see comments on verses 17, 18 below] “Ready to be offered”That is, already being offered; Paul views his sacrifice through martyrdom as the ratification of the truth of the new covenant that he has preached and as sealing the certainty that God has included the Gentiles in the messianic covenant [Phil 2:16-18 where he uses the same word for his sacrifice as a seal on the sacrificial offering he gives to God of the faith of the Gentiles.]  The same idea of the Gentiles covenantal status through the sacrifice of Christ is seen in Ephesians 2:11-19; also 2 Corinthians 1:5, 6 for the apostolic suffering that the Gentiles would be included combined with 3:4-5:21; Paul suffered and presents his martyrdom as a sacrifice poured over that which he offers in giving up the Gentiles to God.  All of this is the necessary and concomitant means by which the certainty of Christ’s sacrificial and reconciling work gains its full application for all of those for whom he has given himself as a sin offering [2 Cor 5:21]. and the time of his departure has come, his loosing from the present order of things and the present calling. When he considered this possibility in the letter to the Philippians he concluded that though he had a desire to “depart” and be with Christ, there was yet more that his apostolic calling demanded of him here. Phil 1 :23 “Having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” uses the same word for depart as here in 2 Tim 4:6. It is used in the passive in Acts 16:26 when by the earthquake “everyone’s bonds were unfastened.” He was not unfastened from this life before, but now, he senses that the time of unfasteninghas come. The time for the fulfillment of his desire to be with Christ, whose glory he has seen so profoundly, whose excellence forced from his affections their attachment to earthly greatness. Soon he would be unloosed from suffering, unloosed from the emotionally grinding daily care of the churches, unloosed from the attacks of false teachers, unloosed from the disappointments of trusted earthly companions, unloosed from the threats of Jewish religious leaders and the Roman political machine. His pressing “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” would soon be attained.
  2. Confidence of a stewardship fully executed – This involves three things. One, He has fought a good fight—everything that has exalted itself against Christ he has brought captive, not with carnal weapons but with those provided by the Spirit cf. 2 Cor. 10:3-6 and Ephesians 6:10-20.  Two, he has finished his course.  Paul did not run in vain as an apostle (Galatians 2:2; Phil 2:16) but both his message and the result of his message were consistent with that calling (1 Cor 9:1, 2). Nor did he manifest merely external gifts and fruit, but kept himselfunder control, running with purpose in fulfilling the calling as a Christian even as he preached the gospel fulfilling the calling as an apostle. [1 Cor 9:24-27].  Three, he has kept the faith, both that which was granted him in Christ Jesus when he found in Christ an excellence above all personal qualifications [Phil. 3:8, 9] as well as that deposit of faith that consists of precious revealed truths that, under the power of the Spirit, transform the elect from one degree of glory to another.
  3. A clear view of the Future – Paul sees clearly that God will grant him that for which he initially set him aside (1 Timothy 1:11, 12). God rewards Paul in accord with the gifts of His own gracious working within him.  He counted him faithful, that is, accounted from the beginning that Paul would be set aside for justification and would demonstrate the true nature of faith through the severe challenges experienced throughout life.  God gave him faith and all concomitant graces to show that it was genuine, tested and proved, and now, by that same grace he will grant the crown of righteousness.
  4. God does not surrender his righteousness in this, but demonstrates in this reward the same justice he manifested in the propitiatory offering of Christ (Romans 3:25, 26), for the one granting this crown is the “righteous judge.” God’s merciful provision to sinners and the exuberant status of joy he grants them is not an expression of mercy in disregard of righteousness, but is all the more full because it is based on righteousness, the eternal life that is the result of a perfectly fulfilled Law. This phrase, “the crown of righteousness” could signify the crown that is righteousness or the crown that comes as a result of being declared righteous.No contradiction exists in these two ideas but they certainly are tied to each other.
  5. The encouraging words that follow (“not only to me”) show that such confidence comes not only to an apostle of Paul’s stature and suffering, but for all those that love the appearing of Christ. Love does not save or justify; faith-onlyfits the declaration of justification. Love always is imperfect and in our present state cannot fulfill the Law.  Though it does not exist perfectly, however, it exists in truth and is the spirit-wrought foundation for true faith.  Faith cannot exist where love of Christ’s righteousness does not precede.  This is why the new birth is necessary and why faith works by love (Galatians 5:5, 6).


Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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