Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2 Timothy 4:9-18

V9-18 – 9Do your best to come to me quickly, 10for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 12I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. 14Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. 16At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Paul, in v9-18, begins to wrap up this letter with the primary purpose for it; he wants to see Timothy one last time. He may have been lonely and struggling with physical ailments (eyes); personal fellowship is immensely valuable. Demas, who was with Paul during his first imprisonment (Colossians 4:14; Acts 20:4; Philemon 24), is criticized in v10. Though he was regarded poorly as one who “loved this world,” we can’t determine his spiritual condition based on this remark. Perhaps he, like any man, didn’t want to be imprisoned for his faith and went away from Paul out of fear and cowardice. That may have been a bad decision, but no worse than Peter’s triple denial of Jesus, providing that he repented and continued in ministry and/or Christ-like living. Crescens and Titus may have left Paul to continue the work of ministry; Titus went to Dalmatia (north of Illyricum), near Nicopolis, where Paul planned to winter during his fourth mission trip (Titus 3:12).

In v11, we read that Luke, the only non-Jewish writer of the New Testament, was the only person who stayed with Paul during this second imprisonment. Luke was Paul’s beloved physician, who probably spent the final 15-18 years of his life with the Lord’s apostle to the Gentiles, and may have even died with him. Paul had clearly forgiven John Mark for his failure to complete the work of ministry on their earlier mission trip (Acts 12:12; 15:38); now Paul wants Mark to visit him, for “he is helpful … in … ministry” (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24). V12 mentions Tychicus, likely the deliverer of this letter and temporary (or permanent) replacement for Timothy at Ephesus (so he can visit Paul, bringing his cloak, scrolls, and parchments). Paul wanted fellowship, warm clothes, and his books; he was a practical spiritual man. Spurgeon said, “Even an apostle must read… He is inspired, and yet he wants books. He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books. He has seen the Lord, and yet he wants books. He’s had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books. He had been caught up into the third heaven and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, and yet he wants books. He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books. The Apostle says to Timothy, and so he says to every preacher [and believer], ‘Give thyself unto reading.’”

V14-15 appear as somewhat of an aside. Alexander was a common name, and so we can’t be certain that this man was the same as the one in Acts 19:33-34 or in 1 Timothy 1:20. He may be the same, but that would make him no worse or better than if he is a different person. Regardless, he opposed the gospel message, and as Paul warns Timothy to watch out for him, he states that fighting against the gospel will bring judgment. Perhaps Alexander lives in Troas, where Timothy will have to go to fetch Paul’s cloak; perhaps he is the accuser who turned Paul in to the authorities, like Jesus’ Judas. Paul says, “The Lord will repay him for what he has done.” And that doesn’t sound very merciful, but notice Paul’s compassion toward believers, as he does not want those who deserted him at his pre-trial hearing to be punished for that (v16; Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60); the Lord was with him (v17; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Philippians 4:11-13), and he even proclaimed the gospel in that moment, which may have earned a temporary stay in his execution (delivered from the Lion’s mouth) (v17).

Calvin says, “Because some had fallen through fear and weakness, he desires that the Lord would forgive them; for in this manner we ought to have compassion on the weakness of brethren. But because this man rose against God with malice and sacrilegious hardihood, and openly attacked known truth, such impiety had no claim to compassion. We must not imagine, therefore, that Paul was moved by excessive warmth of temper, when he broke out into this imprecation; for it was from the Spirit of God, and through a well regulated zeal, that he wished eternal perdition to Alexander, and mercy to the others. Seeing that it is by the guidance of the Spirit that Paul pronounces a heavenly judgment from on high, we may infer from this passage, how dear to God is his truth, for attacking which he punishes so severely. Especially it ought to be observed how detestable a crime it is, to fight with deliberate malice against the true religion.”

Calvin also says of Paul’s remark in v17, “By the word ‘lion,’ many suppose that he means Nero. For my part, I rather think that he makes use of this expression to denote danger in general; as if he had said, ‘out of a blazing fire,’ or ‘out of the jaws of death.’ He means that it was not without wonderful assistance from God, that he escaped, the danger being so great that but for this he must have been immediately swallowed up.”

Finally, Paul makes a striking claim in v18, especially since he has admitted that his own death is near. He says, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack.” We might be tempted to see this as a physical punishment or execution, which of course, Paul did face. But he may be speaking of his own spiritual status in these last hours of his life. He remains strong and confident; nothing can harm his spiritual condition, for, as he claims, God “will bring [him] safely to His heavenly kingdom.” In other words, all of Satan’s attempts to harm Paul spiritually would have to come at him physically, but since Paul knew that his spiritual status was secure in Christ, he also knew that no physical punishment or persecution or torture would derail his spiritual condition. He might have said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” And this is true for us as well. Secure in Christ, we can cry out the doxology along with Paul, “To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

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