Friday, February 12, 2010

2 Timothy 4:19-22

V19-22 – 19Greet Priscilla [or Prisca] and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. 20Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. 21Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers. 22The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

Paul’s conclusion is typical; he issues personal greetings and a benediction of grace. Apparently from v19, Priscialla and Aquila, who were good friends and partners of Paul throughout his ministry, were back in Ephesus at this time. They had originally remained in Ephesus when Paul was itinerant and then moved to Rome. Onesiphorus was mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:16 for his compassion toward Paul, and Paul, having already asked for mercy toward his household, wants to greet them one last time. He mentions Erastus (Acts 19:22; Romans 16:23), and Trophimus, who was from Ephesus. (Acts 20:4; 21:29; possibly 2 Corinthians 8:19-22). Miletus was a coastal port south of Ephesus.

In v21, Paul urges Timothy to “get here before winter.” Paul needed his cloak (v13), and if Timothy waited too long, it would be impossible for him to sail from Ephesus to Rome due to the weather. Also, if he delayed too long, he may miss the opportunity to say goodbye to Paul, whose death was certainly imminent. Paul names several people, likely from Rome, who sent greetings to Timothy. Linus is worth mentioning, since, according to Catholic tradition, he succeeded Peter as Bishop of Rome, head elder there, or more formally, Pope. Finally, the “your” in v22 is singular, referring to Timothy, but the “you” in v22 is plural, revealing possibly that even this letter, so personal in nature, was intended for more eyes and ears than solely those of Paul’s protégé.

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.”

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

2 Timothy 4:6-8

V6-8 – 6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.

Certainly Paul exhibited the characteristics that he has encouraged Timothy to embrace. He views his life as a sacrifice to Christ. Then he reminds Timothy of his suffering and impending death, all on behalf of true, gospel ministry. In fact, Paul’s imminent death is his motive for extending his appeal to Timothy to this point. And as stated earlier in the study of Timothy, Paul measures success in ministry, as we ought, by faithfulness, not the number of converts. He issues three metaphors in v7 as evidence of his faithfulness – fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith. The enemies of God may have claimed that Paul failed, since his life ended in imprisonment and death; but that truth actually, ironically, proves that he was immensely successful in his ministry. He hadn’t wasted the time he’s had since conversion, and he doesn’t want Timothy to waste his time either.

Paul has now in his sights “the crown of righteousness” (1 Corinthians 9:27; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:4; 4:4). He knows that he will receive his reward “on that day,” speaking of Judgment Day. “Apparently,” says one commentator, “Paul believed that believers would be with the Lord at death (2 Corinthians 5:8), but the rewards and full fellowship awaited Resurrection Day (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).” Paul is not selfish about this crown; he knows that others, in fact “all who have longed for His appearing” will receive it as well. This is the crown of righteousness, the immutably sinless state we’ll embody in eternity. And so we cry out, “Marantha! Come Lord Jesus!” We want the end to come; we’re not afraid of death. We hope with joy, a sign of true Christianity.

Monday, February 08, 2010

DC 402 - Week 7

After a nice discussion on the topic "saved by grace," we turn to an appropriate follow-up topic: "eternal security and eternal rewards." Here's how the workload might break down:

Monday - Read Hosea (chapters 1-14) and Psalm 103, and comment
Tuesday - Read the articles, "Safe and Secure" by Hank Hanegraaff and "What Will I Do with a Crown?" by Manfred Koehler
Wednesday - Memorize 1 John 5:13 - I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life - and review previous memory verses, such as James 2:14,19; Ephesians 2:10; and Hebrews 12:1
Thursday - Answer questions 1a-b and 2a-e (7 questions) and review memory verses
Friday - Answer questions 3a-h (8 questions), including reading chapter 11 of Boyd and Eddy's Across the Spectrum, and review memory verses

2 Timothy 4:1-5

V1-5 – 1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

V1-5 represent the conclusion of Paul’s appeal to Timothy begun in 2 Timothy 1:6. This is the final chapter that Paul would ever write; and he begins with a charge (v1) to Timothy coram deo, before the face of God and Christ. This is a grave situation, and Timothy cannot say he wasn’t sure or didn’t know. Paul is serious here. The audience of this charge is crucial, because the time is drawing near. Soon, Christ will return (epiphany) to “judge the living and the dead.” The command to “preach the word (Jesus)…in season and out of season” in v2 is directing Timothy to be faithful in that regard whether the situation seems promising or not. Each day may be his last, so he ought to live like it, not so much as selfish carpe diem, but a selfless carpe diem. Perhaps we should do the same, refusing to wait for that perfect opportunity to come along so that we can unleash the gospel, and instead to unleash the gospel in every circumstance, knowing that God’s word will not return to Him empty but will accomplish what He desires and fulfill the purpose for which it was sent (Isaiah 55:11).

Calvin says, “By these words he recommends not only constancy, but likewise earnestness, so as to overcome all hindrances and difficulties; for, being, by nature, exceedingly effeminate or slothful, we easily yield to the slightest opposition, and sometimes we gladly seek apologies for our slothfulness… Moreover, this earnestness must relate both to the pastor and to the people; to the pastor, that he may not devote himself to the office of teaching merely at his own times and according to his own convenience, but that, shrinking neither from toils nor from annoyances, he may exercise his faculties to the utmost. So far as regards the people, there is constancy and earnestness, when they arouse those who are asleep, when they lay their hands on those who are hurrying in a wrong direction, and when they correct the trivial occupations of the world. To explain more fully…” Paul urges Timothy to “correct, rebuke, and encourage.” He is to prove the truth, reveal falsehood, and encourage living the truth by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ; and he’s to do it patiently and carefully (1 Timothy 1:16).

In v3-4, Paul speaks of professing Christians in the church who may or may not be genuine Christians. He says they have “itching ears,” a fascination with everything but the truth (v4). That’s why Timothy has to use sound doctrine to “correct, rebuke, and encourage” carefully; his audience “will not put up with sound doctrine.” One commentator says, “They just want to hear (1) those who agree with them (cf. Jeremiah 5:31); (2) those who teach new and speculative things, or (3) many different teachers (always a new seminar to attend).” People are always deviating from the standard course, turning away from truth and turning aside to myths, for one reason or another. And this is despicable, but it is truth, and good reason for believers to all the more “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).

And again, as Paul commonly does, he contrasts the false teachers and their followers with Timothy. The previous verses are not to describe him, but he is to “keep [his] head in all situations, endure hardship, [and] do the work of an evangelist.” In other words, Timothy is to remain sober or even-tempered, understand that trials come with gospel ministry and endure them, and share the gospel, thereby fulfilling the duties of his ministry. Apart from these three elements (Ephesians 4:11), it may be impossible to claim that one’s ministry duties have been fulfilled.