2 Timothy 4 … This is the final chapter of Paul’s last letter to Timothy and, in terms of chronology, His last communication to be preserved in the New Testament canon. You can tell as you read it that the circumstances are dire … verse 6 … “the time has come for my departure,” others had deserted (some apparently on assignment from Paul, others perhaps out of fear). We might also surmise that at least two hearings were to be held in the Roman judicial system. The first had been held (v.16) and no witness came forward to support Paul. This was the historic time of Nero’s tyrannical persecution of Christians. The atrocities committed then are horrible to even consider – perhaps the greatest atrocities ever committed by man upon man. At his first hearing, Paul was “rescued out of the lion’s mouth,” whether literally or figuratively, we can’t tell, but it was a close call.
Church tradition holds that subsequently Paul was executed by the Romans, making this an especially poignant, but still very practical communication. For example, Paul requests Timothy to bring his papers and cloak (v.13) before winter (v.21). More important is his instruction regarding the ministry, to Timothy in particular, but also to preachers for all time. This is a solemn charge to (1) preach the Word, (2) being always ready, and (3) to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, all with great patience. And the reason for the charge is given: because a time is coming when people will want to be amused (v.3), when they’ll want to hear what they want to hear, and will reject sound teaching. So the call is clear to faithful congregations to seek preachers who are faithful to their calling and fearless in preaching God’s Word. This “last will and testament” of Paul is wonderful in that respect: it’s a charge for faithfulness in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all generations.
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