2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
(a) Sound doctrine includes the gospel of grace that Paul preached. It is the announcement that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4). It is the happy announcement that God is no longer counting our trespasses against us (2 Cor. 5:19), that he freely offers us his righteousness as a gift (Rom. 5:17), so that we may rule and reign with Christ here on earth (Eph. 2:6).
(b) Wanting to have their ears tickled. The natural man has no time for the gospel of grace. He doesn’t want to hear that his good works count for nothing. He wants principles for living and keys to success that he can implement as he works his way up the ladder of self-improvement. Although Paul exhorted Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:1), the natural man prefers to rely on his own strength and understanding. He believes that if he does the right things and makes the right decisions he’ll pull himself up by his bootstraps. He’ll impress God with his accomplishments and bless himself with his all-round goodness. But that’s a myth for ticklish ears.
2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;
(a) I have finished. Paul was on death row waiting to die. Since his present circumstances were unpleasant, he reminded himself of his past (“I have run, I have fought”) and future (“On that day…”; see next verse). When we go through times, it helps to remind ourselves of what God has done for us and what he is yet to do.
(b) I have kept the faith. Unlike Demas who loved the world (2 Tim. 4:10) or those who run after money (1 Tim. 6:10), Paul never wandered from the faith. He never stopped trusting in and relying on the love of God.
2 Timothy 4:8
in the future there is laid up 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 loved His appearing.
(a) The crown. Crowns are not earned but are given to the children of the King.
(b) The crown of righteousness. Paul did not earn this crown by being faithful for righteousness is a gift that is received by faith (Rom. 4:11). The righteous crown is given by the righteous Judge to all who long for the unveiling of the righteous One. Crowns are given to the children of the King.
(c) Award to me. The original word (apodidomi) can be translated as recompense or payment. It’s not a word we normally associate with grace. Paul is essentially saying, “I fought, I finished, I kept – now where’s my crown?” Under other circumstances, this would sound presumptuous. But context is everything.
Paul is in prison being poured out like a drink offering. In the eyes of the world, he is a condemned man with no future. He is a failure with nothing to show for his life except a lot of scars and a death sentence. If we heard about poor Paul, we’d pray for him for a change in his circumstances and include him in our prison ministry. But from the perspective of eternity, Paul is one small step from the winners’ podium and he knows it.
Paul doesn’t fix his eyes on what is seen and temporal but on what is unseen and eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). His focus is not on the shameful shackles but the crown of righteousness. He refuses to be unsettled by the injustice of his incarceration because his gaze is fixed on the righteous Judge. In his hour of great need, he finds his strength in the Lord.
2 Timothy 4:9
Make every effort to come to me soon;
Paul missed Timothy. Paul was used to ministering in teams, and his current team had left him alone in a Roman prison.
2 Timothy 4:10
for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.
Demas has become infamous for deserting Paul in his hour of need. Demas was part of Paul’s ministry team (Col. 4:14, Phm. 1:24). The whole team left Paul alone in Rome, but Demas’s reasons for departing were suspect.
2 Timothy 4:18
The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
(a) The Lord will…. The difference between the old covenant and the new covenant is we will versus he will (Jer. 32:40). If the old was characterized by people making and breaking their promises to God, the new is characterized by God’s unshakeable promises to us.
(b) Will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. If our salvation were up to us, we would surely stumble and be lost. But what Christ begins, he finishes (Php. 1:6).
Further reading: “Eternal security scriptures”
(c) Amen. What the Lord requires, he provides. Everything you need, from salvation to holiness, and righteousness, he freely supplies according to the riches of his grace in Christ Jesus. There are no ifs and buts in God’s promises to us. There are no conditions for you to fulfill. All he asks is that we take him at his word. All he requires is that we believe in his eternal goodness as revealed in Jesus.
Further reading: “The ‘I wills’ of God”
2 Timothy 4:22
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
Grace be with you. Paul sometimes finishes his letters by saying “the Lord be with you” (2 Th. 3:16), and sometimes he closes by saying “grace be with you” (Eph. 6:24; Col. 4:18). As this verse reveals, there is no difference (Phm. 1:25). To have the Lord is to have his grace.
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