From:  Busy Teacher’s Guide to 2 Timothy                         Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2021


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In the Future Many Will Arise

Who Retain the Veneer of Religion

Without Allowing It to Recast

Their Behavior In a

Constructive Direction




            But understand this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, savage, opposed to what is good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, loving pleasure rather than loving God. They will maintain the outward appearance of religion but will have repudiated its power. So avoid people like these.  --New English Translation (for comparison)



            3:1       But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.  It is common to take “last days” as a reference to something still in our distant future.  The Biblical usage is different.  When the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles at the beginning of Acts, Peter told the listeners, “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:  ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.”  (Acts 2:16-17).  In other words, Biblically speaking the “last days” had already begun decades before.

            In the book of Hebrews--by Paul???--we find that “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

            The blatant sinners of his day were warned by James “You have heaped up treasure in the last days”--contextually, a treasure (= abundance) of sin and resulting Divine condemnation (James 5:3).

            Hence there is absolutely no need to project into our future the fulfillment of these words.  Although the full fulfillment of these trends might have been several centuries in the future, the core mistakes were already being made; the seeds were being scattered abroad.   Indeed the description of the evils of the future fit well with the evils Paul has already warned of in this epistle.  Indeed notice how he ends this brief essay on the last days in verses 1-5, “And from such people turn away!” (verse 5).  You . . . Timothy . . . reject and turn away from such individuals.  Paul is clearly warning Timothy of the dangers he currently--and in the future--faces.  The fact that we too face such a societal bastion of evil shows that no matter how much society changes, it has the horrible tendency to renew and cherish again its worst evils. 

            Because of this fact, Timothy and other Ephesian believers faced “perilous (= dangerous, uncertain, treacherous) times.”  And this is not even in a context of the danger of persecution.  If you live in a society that is fundamentally compromised as to moral matters this is simply the way things are.

            Alternate translations of “perilous:”  “difficult times” (GNT, NASB, NET), “grievous times” (Weymouth), “terrible times” (NIV).  They are times when a Christian hardly knows which way to turn or what to do.  He has to live under a constant sense of hindrance and difficulty of one sort or another.” (Pulpit)


            3:2       For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy.  This and all the extended description in the following verses revolves around a fundamental self-centeredness:  What is pleasing to them is all that really matters.   

              The priority is the unholy “me” (= “lovers of themselves”).  We aren’t talking about the desire to protect oneself or gain legitimate advantage.  We are talking about the obsession with self, when it becomes the virtual god we worship.  Anything and everything can “rightly” be sacrificed on its altar.

            What they love beyond themselves is the wealth (“money”) that affords them the luxuries.  This is the God they truly worship; all others are weak competitors (cf. “covetousness, which is idolatry” in Colossians 3:5). Having their wealth, they will still not be humble but will be “boasters” and exorbitantly “proud” of their accomplishments.  Perhaps this fact makes it even more fascinating that many of Jesus’ Pharisee foes were guilty of exactly this fault (Luke 16:14).   

            As to “parents:  what are they but ignorant hillbillies?  Their instructions to be ignored in youth and their moral scruples in adulthood.  Of course such self-centered people are “unthankful:  Aren’t they simply getting what they inherently deserve?  There is no need or wish to observe any moral criteria.  Hence they are “unholy” in whatever particular ways it satisfies them.  “Aren’t we supposed to ‘do our own thing?’   


            3:3       unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good.  This kind of self-centeredness means that other people don’t count.  “Unloving” because love implies weakness and taking others into consideration.  There is no need to forgive them their weaknesses even when they apologize.  Why shouldn’t they be slandered:  haven’t they gotten in our way?  Why cultivate “self-control?”  That might imply there should be limits on how I behave!  Nothing wrong with being “brutal:  I have the power and animosity to roll over you and I will.  Why should I respect the “good:  what has it ever done for me but provide a rebuke for my self-centeredness?  Of me, of all people!

            We have here the very reverse of what Jesus taught:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6:27-28).


            3:4       traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.  I betray others (“traitors”) . . . well the situation has changed hasn’t it?  Being arrogant in attitude (“headstrong”) and behavior (“haughty”) is justified because look how successful I am!  Look at how much money I’ve earned.  Yes, there is a God but why should I respect and love Him more than I do my own “pleasure[s]”?  I have the inherent right to do anything I want.  Anything else is Victorian and bigoted prejudice by outmoded moralists!


            3:5       having a form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!  The meaning is that by their life and character and conversation they gave the lie to their Christian profession.  Christianity with them was an outward form, not an inward living power of godliness.”  (Pulpit)

            Or to express the point a different way:  Oh I may well more or less “practice” my religion . . . After all, I am like everyone else (in their weakness) an acknowledger that God exists and one should wear a veneer of religious substance.  So I do!  I go to church every Christmas and sometimes Easter as well!  I occasionally even give a little.  And I positively love being in a large congregation.  In a small one people might even think I needed to actually do something to demonstrate my faith. 

            Hence the lifestyle of such a person denies the “power” of true godliness.  Paul describes people like these in Titus 1:16, “They profess (= claim) to know God (= to truly understand and revere Him), but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.”   

            Those “other [deemed to be] lesser folk” will have something he himself can never have--acceptance to God . . . all because of overwhelming self-centeredness.  The wise person looks at such deluded folk and avoids them:  “turn[s] away” from.  He comes in the front door and they go out the back.

            Some find a reference to churches disfellowshiping unfaithful members in the closing words.  But the admonition is not “turn them away.”  Rather the admonition is to the faithful to “turn away” . . . don’t imitate their behavior and actions.  They will ultimately answer to God.  Don’t put yourself in a situation of having to do so as well.    






Their Success Will Be Drastically Limited

Due to Many Recognizing

the Foolishness of Their Behavior




            For some of these insinuate themselves into households and captivate weak women who are overwhelmed with sins and led along by various passions.  Such women are always seeking instruction, yet never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.  And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people—who have warped minds and are disqualified in the faith—also oppose the truth.  But they will not go much further, for their foolishness will be obvious to everyone, just like it was with Jannes and Jambres.  --New English Translation (for comparison)



            3:6       For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts.  Those who are already blinded by sin (“loaded down” with it) are naturally led astray by a variety of desires (“lusts”).  Beyond the sexual variety, there could be the vigorous seeking after popularity and prestige.  There could be the cultivation of extravagant fashion--perhaps sexually revealing but, in that day, far more likely expensive and exotic attire that others could only dream about.  Compare 1 Timothy 2:9:  modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.

            They are led astray because they are morally vulnerable.  It has created an instability in their very way of thinking so severe that they will listen to and embrace claims that more clear minded women would laugh at.  Paul returns to this in 4:3, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires [note the parallel to ‘by various lusts’ in the current verse], because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers.”  Here there is no hint of women being specially in mind; all Christians are vulnerable when their faith and character are not well grounded in the truth.


            3:7       always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  There are those to whom “learning” is the goal rather than coming to firm conclusions based upon that learning.  There are also those who, no matter how long they study, can never quite seem to grasp the truth though it seems readily apparent to just about everyone else.  I’m tickled by the description in Vincent’s Word Studies:  It is a graphic picture of a large class, by no means extinct, who are caught and led by the instructions of itinerant religious quacks.”


            3:8       Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth:  men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith.  Their names are unknown to the Old Testament text.  External (non-Jewish) opposition to Moses is certainly referred to as a fact and it is common to make the names refer to such individuals.  In fact such opponents even performed some fake miracles to discredit Moses (Exodus 7:11).

            However the foes Paul is denouncing are described as if counted among God’s own people, for which there is no evidence these Old Testament figures were.  Hence those under discussion are far more likely to have been fellow Jews upset with Moses’ leadership:  If even Aaron could fall into that trap (Numbers 12:1-2), surely others did as well!  In fact we know that the masses of people were so despairing of their strength to conquer geographic Palestine that there was a mass movement to replace Moses as leader (Numbers 14:1-4).

            Paul had just described those who were always trying to “learn” and yet never really grasp “the truth” (verse 7).  We may well have the reason brought out here:  they “resist the truth.”  Since they don’t want it to be the actual truth they must ever be pursuing some way of discounting or removing it.  They twist their intellects (“corrupt [their] minds”) in order to do this and land up rejected (“disapproved” so far as true faith is concerned).

            Historical context:  Efforts to identify the Jewish opponents in church and Jewish tradition:  Theodoret ascribes their names to an unwritten Jewish tradition. Their names are found in the Targum of Jonathan on Exodus 7:11; Exodus 22:22; and are also mentioned, in conjunction with Moses, with some variation in the name of Jambres, by Pliny ('Hist. Nat.,' 31:2). . . .”  (Pulpit)


            3:9       but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.  Their effort to discourage others from embracing the Divine truth will not go (“progress”) very far because their foolishness (“folly”) will ultimately be recognized by those they wish to gain acceptance from.  Even “foolishness” has its “credibility” limits and when they are breached the practitioner lands up looking like an idiot to other people.  This is true of virtually all forms of mental delusion including religious ones.

            In other words their hot air has its limits in persuadability.  Paul is not literally saying no contemporaries will find it enticing enough to brace.  That is shown by the very fact that they had made “progress” before it grinds to a halt.  Only at the return of the Lord will their folly be literally shown “to all:  those who have embraced it will forfeit their opportunity for a place in heaven.  In the interim reliable truth tellers will be exposing it to all who will listen. 

            With our current life in mind, the message would seem to be that no one who has thought the matter through carefully is likely to embrace it.  In other words the text works on the assumption that the rejecters are following the fundamental requirement to “test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  We need to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).  With that kind of folk “they will progress no further” because their error will have been exposed.

            The behavior of outsiders in Berea is a good commentary on these passages:  They “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).  Depending upon the subject, it may not only require studying but repeated studying to determine what the truth really is.  No matter how good and usually reliable your preacher may be, no one is infallible in this life.      

            Alternative translations for “folly:”  “their foolishness” (CEV); “how stupid they are” (GNT); “the/their stupidity” (GW, ISV); “their nonsense and ignorance” (Amplified)






All Who Imitate Paul’s Faithfulness

Will Suffer Persecution




            10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, 11 as well as the persecutions and sufferings that happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, and in Lystra.  I endured these persecutions and the Lord delivered me from them all.  12 Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  --New English Translation (for comparison)



            3:10     But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance.  Timothy had carefully followed both what Paul taught and how he lived.  “Doctrine” may well be mentioned first because in his teaching he told people about the kind of life they should follow--must live in order to be counted as faithful to the Lord.      

            But “doctrine” in the strict sense of what is truth was an inherent component of his teaching as well.  This is obvious in how opposed he is in both this epistle and other writings to any departure from it.  Hence important as it is to teach how to live a Christian life style, it is just as important to teach the doctrinal foundations of Biblical Christianity as well.  Abandonment of either abandons the concept of sound teaching that Paul held dear.

            The remainder of the verse mentions the lifestyle through which Paul manifested his allegiance to what he taught . . . beginning with the all encompassing “manner of life.”  The way he routinely behaved.  They could see the way they should behave by the way he himself acted.

            His “purpose” was also demonstrated through what he did:  persistent loyalty to the gospel under any and all conditions.  When dealing with friendly faces or encountering hostile foes.  His “faith” was similarly revealed in how he persisted on the right course no matter what happened.  On a deep, fundamental level he truly and completely believed what he taught.  So much so that he routinely lived it.

            Then comes “long suffering,” which we will let A. E. Humphreys go into depth about, “[It] occurs with ‘brave patience’ or ‘endurance’ in Colossians 1:11, where Lightfoot distinguishes thus:  ‘While “endurance” is the temper which does not easily succumb under suffering, “long-suffering” is the self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong.  The one is opposed to cowardice or despondency, the other to wrath or revenge (Proverbs 15:18 [A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention]).’  In 1 Timothy 6:11 this ‘endurance’ is coupled with ‘meekness of heart [gentleness, NKJV]’ which is rather the opposite of ‘rudeness,’ ‘harshness.’ ” 

            “Love” was shown in his constructive actions toward others.  We tend to lump people like Paul into the category of “preacher” and forget that they also have a full life as “human beings” as well, in which how they treat others will reveal their inner convictions and priorities.  They do many things not because they are a minister but because they are trying to be a loving brother in the Lord to those who need assistance.

            Finally there is “perseverance” in spite of hardships and difficulties.  When he urges others to manifest that mind frame, he is urging of them what he has already demonstrated in himself.  It can be done though sometimes it can be hard indeed.


            3:11     persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured.  And out of them all the Lord delivered me.  The apostle is referring to the events accompanying his first missionary work as an apostle.  Since Timothy is described as having “carefully followed” what Paul had done in this period (verse 10), it has reasonably been speculated that this pattern of consistent and steadfast behavior regardless of circumstances had been part of Timothy’s reason for desiring to work with him.  At the very least it shows that Timothy already knew at that time the standard Paul set for himself and, by implication, for anyone who worked with him.

            Nothing that happened was permitted to destroy his pattern of behavior.  He had continued to manifest his faith, good character, and convictions in spite of being persecuted not merely in one city but in several.  None of them had crushed his spirits and the Lord had “delivered me” from all their dangers.  This testifies to his confidence that the Lord would continue to do right by him.  None of the adversity had caused him to alter his teaching or how he lived.  However there was another fact about persecution that Timothy and Christians in general needed to recognize beyond seeing it as proof of his steadfastness and continued dedication. . . .


            3:12     Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  Persecution was not just a danger facing Paul because of his apostleship and leadership role in the early church.  It was a danger faced by all fellow believers who attempted to live in a moral manner in their following of the Lord.  A gentle way of reminding both Timothy and the locals that such will happen to them as well.  They have no need to overly fear it.  God had delivered him out of it and was quite capable of delivering them as well.

            The reminder that Paul gives is one that he had shared in other situations as well (Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:3).  Jesus Himself had warned that in the world “you will have tribulation” (John 16:33) and that some would even be martyred because of their allegiance (John 16:2).  There are still times when loyalty to the Lord can produce death, but in the so-called “civilized” West it is likely to take the form of insults, character assassination, and denied promotion.  If you will, “the death of a thousand cuts:  None killing you but each causing great pain and discomfort.         






By Relying on the Scriptures God Inspired,

Timothy Will Have the Standard and Tool

With Which to Oppose

Moral and Doctrinal Charlatans




                                                13 But evil people and charlatans will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. 14 You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about.  You know who taught you 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  16 Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.  --New English Translation (for comparison)



            3:13     But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.  Although those doctrinal deviants Paul had discussed in verses 8 and 9 would find their success highly limited, others would eventually be more successful.  These would be morally corrupt (“evil”) and pretend to an authority as prophet or church leader (= “impostors”) that they did not actually enjoy.  They would not only deceive others but they themselves would be on the receiving end of different delusions.  In other words Paul is warning Timothy that the problem was not going to come to an end anytime soon.  Successfully resisting the current round of deceivers would not cause the danger to permanently disappear.

            Alternate translations for “imposters:”  “who pretend to be what they are not” (CEV); “deceitful” (Phillips); “charlatans” (NET); “phony preachers” (GW); “swindlers” (CEB). 


            3:14     But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.  Obedience to God’s will should not be sporadic:  Timothy is to “continue” in it.  He could put full confidence in what Paul taught because it was inspired of God and he was well aware of Paul’s character.  Even faced with opposition, he refused to bend or twist his teaching to make things easier (3:10-11).  Neither should Timothy.

            However Paul was not his only teacher.  That learning had begun many years before the two ever met. . . .


            3:15     and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  There was a further source of spiritual learning for Timothy and that was the Old Testament.  Even “from childhood” he had been instructed in it:  it provided prophecies of the coming Messiah and fundamental moral teaching that was also part of the ethical foundation of Christianity.

            The reason that he should remain loyal to what the past generation taught (verse 14) lay not in the fact that they constituted some kind of authority equal to inspired teaching--think of Roman Catholic mythology about the authority of church tradition to understand what some have done to the preceding verse.  The reason their words were authoritative lay in the fact that their convictions, like Timothy’s, were rooted in “the Holy Scriptures” (verse 15).  Even well meaning parents err when they treat anything else as equally authoritative.

            The reason that the Old Testament could be viewed as salvational lies in the fact that it spoke of things that were only fulfilled in the first century:  the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of His kingdom.  It also provided doctrinal and moral instruction on a wide variety of matters where, due to our Christian upbringing, we seek out New Testament “proof texts.”  In reality a surprising amount of this “Christian” teaching already existed in the days of Moses and the prophets.  For examples of this see my four volume Torah Commentary on First Corinthians (486,000 words) and two volume Torah Commentary on James (279,000 words).  If one can find abundant substantiation of this in these two epistles it should come as no surprise that it can be found in other New Testament letters as well.

            Historical context of early scripture learning:  It was a requirement of the Rabbis that a child should begin to learn the Law by heart when five years old.  Raf said to Samuel, the son of Schilath, a teacher, “Do not take the boy to be taught before he is six years old, but from that year receive him, and train him as you do the ox, which, day by day, bears a heavier load.”  Philo, a contemporary of our Lord, says, “They are taught, so to speak, from their very swaddling clothes by their parents, masters and teachers, in the holy laws, and in the unwritten customs, and to believe in God, the one Father and Creator of the world” (Legal. ad Caium, § 16).  At the age of thirteen he became a “son of the Law,” and was bound to practice all its moral and ritual requirements.’  Geikie, Life of Christ, i. 173.”  (A. E. Humphreys)       


            3:16     All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.  All scripture” is Divinely inspired . . . not just that in the ancient days but also that was provided by the contemporary apostles and prophets.  If Jesus stressed that the apostolic message would come from the Father through the Son and the Spirit (John 16:13-15), how could anything they wrote fall short of the authoritative “scripture” label as well? 

            Hence it is not surprising to find Paul emphasizing the Divine origin of his teaching:  If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37).  “We also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).  Indeed the apostle Peter explicitly labeled what Paul wrote as “scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-16).


            3:17     that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  The Scriptures provide all faithful servants of God the “complete” instructions that are needed--and not just preachers:  As the result, the scriptures create believers who are prepared (“thoroughly equipped”) for every honorable endeavor (“good work”).

            In taking this attitude toward scripture, Paul is clearly embracing the mind frame of Jesus Himself.  Jesus described scripture as so authoritative that it “cannot be broken” (John 10:35).  There is no way to legitimately deny anything it says.  The Contemporary English Version sums up the obvious point quite well, “You can’t argue with the Scriptures.”  Similarly the New Century Version, “scripture is always true.”

            Jesus challenged, “How can you be so slow to believe all that the prophets said?” (Luke 24:25, CEV).  In the NKJV it comes as a direct and outright rebuke, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!”  Not “some” prophets but all.  Whatever they had taught and prophesied was completely inerrant and without any mistakes.

            He viewed the scriptures as the absolutely reliable standard for establishing the truth, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).  They did not accept the teaching of scripture as authoritative nor concede the full scope of Divine power.  Oh, they were quite capable of reading it, but accepting it as the supreme religious authority was a far different matter.

            In such ways as these--and other ways as well--Jesus recognized the supernatural origin of Scripture and how it provides moral, spiritual, and doctrinal guidance for all humans.  If we blind ourselves to it, we are no better off than they were.    






Even If His Spiritual Brothers and Sisters

Drifted From the Truth, Timothy Was To

Permit None of That To Cause Him to Depart

From His Own Steadfast Commitment




            I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction.  For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching.  Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things.  And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths.  You, however, be self-controlled in all things, endure hardship, do an evangelist’s work, fulfill your ministry.  --New English Translation (for comparison)



            4:1       I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.  A judgment day is coming:  Not at the hand of the Roman Emperor but at the hands of the Father and His designated leader of Christians, “the Lord Jesus Christ.”  That judgment will not be merely of those who are alive at Jesus’ second coming (1 Thessalonians 4:17) but of those already dead as well (4:16).  In other words death does not mean that the faithful disciple will be denied the reward that is due.  Nor does death deny the reprobate and unbeliever the opportunity to answer for their behavior.

            At this point it should not be overlooked that Christ’s kingdom already exists in Paul’s day (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9)--in essence it is a synonym for the church.  He already reigns as king and will continue to do so until His ultimate triumph over all death itself in our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:24-26), at which point He will exile all reprobates and rebels out of it (Matthew 13:41; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).  Then the spiritual kingdom that already exists will be transformed into a heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18) that will never end.


            4:2       Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  Timothy has the imperative need to be consistent in his teaching--not just when it is convenient to preach his message (“in season”) but even when elements of it fall out of fashion or popularity (“out of season”).  Throughout both times he is to continue to persuade others about what the gospel demands his listeners embrace (i.e., “convince” them).  Paul once described this as “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).  They need to understand why this lifestyle is necessary and why it is the right way. 

            That will involve the need to criticize (“rebuke”), encourage (“exhort”), and “teach” in whatever variety of forms are necessary to accomplish his goal.  Every way of strengthening and establishing souls in the fear and love of God is to be tried. . . .”  (Pulpit)  Throughout these various forms of “teaching,” he is to exhibit patience (“longsuffering”) because there will be a wide range of reactions to what he has to say.  Even those he can successfully convince may require a good amount of time and effort to do so.


            4:3       For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers.  Timothy needs to lay the strong foundation of Divinely revealed orthodoxy among the church members because the day will come when scriptural truth (3:16-17) will become an irrelevancy.  They “will not endure sound doctrine” anymore but seek those who redefine truth into whatever meets their fancy.  This is because they will have “itching ears”--the inner compulsion to hear some insight, some wisdom, something new and different to feel like that they are always “advancing toward something better.”  Not realizing that, if they look about with true perception, they have already entered the Promised Land of full Divine revelation.

            It is not so much that they reject the idea of  truth in the abstract as find satisfying excuses why all they need is not yet available.  Worse yet, they decide that what they already have been taught by the Scripture has painful inadequacies and failings.  The passage of time “proves” it must be changed.  It no longer applies or “didn’t really mean what we thought it said in the first place.  We know better now.”

            The standard is no longer “God’s desires” but “their own desires.”  They themselves become the criterion of establishing truth.  The measure of the number or the quality of their self-chosen teachers will be their own insatiable and ever-varying fancies and mental appetites, not the desire to be taught God's truth by teachers sent from God.  Compare Jeroboam's conduct in ordaining a feast ‘in the month which he had devised of his own heart’ (1 Kings 12:33).”  (Pulpit)  

            The time has not yet arrived when this mind frame has a large body of support and he was to do everything he could to keep that from happening while he is still alive.  And by doing so, prepare the next generation to be alert to the same danger.


            It is easy to take this warning--in light of the moral drift that drowned America beginning in the late 1960s--as an allusion to sexual misconduct.  It is a principle that is far broader in application however.  For example people become an expert in “theology” rather than scripture, drawing from the later enough tidbits to spawn systems that have only the minimal contact with the original.  But they created it; it sounds good to their ears.  So surely it must be the truth!

            Church empire builders arise.  Building their institutions to spread the gospel, provide welfare functions, and education.  They unquestionably mean well.  At least in the beginning they have a major Biblical component.  But they create new “centers of gravity” allowing major innovations in ways of thinking and action far removed from anything having much of a connection with scripture.  Since they had roots in faithful Christians it becomes overlooked that they now have created something far different in practice and conviction from where they had begun.


             4:4      and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  Blinding themselves to the truth paradoxically “opens” their mind--but in the most harmful manner:  it makes destructive “fables” acceptable and pleasing to their taste.  Paul doesn’t bother to define what these fables are, probably because they would vary from audience to audience.  But for all who abandoned scriptural orthodoxy, there will be something used to replace its comforting and assuring eternal truths. 


            4:5       But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.  What is Timothy to do about the terrible apostasy that lies in the future (verses 3-4)?  He is not to despair but to do what is within his power . . . to continue to faithfully and reliably teach the gospel of Jesus Christ no matter what difficulties come his way.

            In doing this he is to exercise caution about what is happening around him (“be watchful”).  Others may be blindsided but he is not to permit it to happen to him. In Biblical usage, “evangelist” is the same thing as being a preacher or minister.  The kind of distinction made today was not made back then.  And why should there be a difference?  Call him whatever label you prefer, but his ongoing duty is to build up the knowledge and faith of the membership and lead others to Christ . . . preach and convert and build them into a yet stronger spiritual edifice.

            When doing this wisely and well he would be “fulfill[ing the purpose of] your ministry.”  The post existed for these purposes and when he did these he would be carrying out the reason for its existence.  James B. Coffman’s commentary on this verse says it well, “To fulfill one's ministry is to be faithful and loyal to all of its obligations, not to stint the service, nor abridge the message, nor to shrink from giving the full measure of fidelity and devotion.”






Paul Sees His Own Steadfast Commitment

--And All Who Share That Loyalty--

Being Rewarded by God




            For I am already being poured out as an offering, and the time for me to depart is at hand.  I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith!  Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me.  The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day—and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.  --New English Translation (for comparison)



            4:6       For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  Paul realizes that his own death is not far in the future (“at hand”) and that his death will be like a sacrificial “drink offering” made to God.  In fact it is so close that he feels like he is “already” being poured out as such an offering.  The colloquialism “I feel it breathing down my neck” sums up the sentiment well.

            But he was not pessimistic as the following verses show.  Paul had written to the Philippians (2:17) that if this situation were to occur he would count it as an honor.  His mind frame is still that even if this must occur, there is no question that he will still receive the promised reward from the Lord (verse 8).  Though he will walk “through the valley of the shadow of death” he will “fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4).

            Paul’s sacrificial death:  “ ‘The libation always formed the conclusion of the sacrifice, and so the apostle’s martyrdom closed his apostolic service’ (Huther), which had been a continual sacrifice, in which he had been the ministering priest (Romans 15:16).  So that the use of σπένδομαι [‘offering’] here exactly agrees with that in Philippians 2:17.  ‘My sacrificial work,’ St. Paul says, ‘being now finished and ended, I am performing the last solemn act, the pouring out of my own life in martyrdom, to which I shall pass out of the prison where I now am.’ "  (Pulpit)


            4:7       I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Paul chooses not to rely upon the grim aspect of approaching death (verse 6); he prefers to stress how he has remained faithful throughout everything he has gone through.  He has completed “the good fight”--bringing the image of a wrestler or boxer who had encountered a major opponent and come out of the battle having given it the best anyone possibly could.

            Then he speaks of having “finished the race.”  He might be thinking of horses and chariots finishing their competition.  But it seems more likely that he is thinking in terms of a prolonged foot race.  Today we might say that he had run a marathon of faithfulness:  think of a long distance racer who through mile after mile has fought tiredness and weakness and overcome it all.  Yes through all this he has retained intact his “faith”--what he believes and his commitment to it. 

            Perhaps we would describe this as how he could die with honor because he had lived with honor . . . done his duty in spite of difficulty and obstacle and had let none of it destroy his spiritual commitment.  This isn’t bragging; it is simply pride in having successfully accomplished what he had set out to do.  Many would have given up in frustration.  Paul did not.

            He had truly “kept the faith.”  Not only retained his belief but adhered to all that faith demanded of a Christian.  All that it taught and instructed is under consideration.  As Jude verse 3 puts it, “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”  Paul did so till he died.


            4:8       Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.  Because Paul is looking forward to Jesus’ return (“His appearing”) and has fulfilled his duties and commitments, he is convinced that he will be granted “the crown of righteousness” at that time:  He will be recognized as righteous by his benevolent acceptance into the eternal kingdom.  He has lived righteously and now the Lord will publicly acknowledge that he is such.

            There are other descriptions of this crown as well:  The analogous phrases are, ‘the crown of glory’ (1 Peter 5:4) and ‘the crown of life’ (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).  The righteousness, the glory, and the life of the saints are conceived as displayed in crowns, as the kingly dignity is in the crown of royalty.”  (Pulpit)

            It will be a day of judgment in which the Lord confirms that we have been faithful and loyal in spite of all the stresses and distresses.  In verse 1 Paul had already broached the topic when he referred to how Jesus “will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.”  The idea of ongoing and persistent faithfulness the apostle had stressed in the preceding epistle as well:  “that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing” (6:14)

            Paul is centered on how he personally will fare in that great day.  But he has no desire to leave the impression that he will be the only one to receive the recognition.  Instead he provides encouragement to everyone else by stressing that every other Christian can also enjoy that same reward as well.  Paul is not so superbly “great” that no one else can share in the same recognition.  All faithful Christians will be so honored.

            And it will not be some empty “participation award” as is too often given today.  It will be one of genuine and unquestioned victory but--paradoxically--it is also one that every participant can gain . . . if he or she has successfully completed it.  Perhaps one of the best modern parallels would be the twice yearly U.S. military physical fitness tests.  Everyone must meet them to stay in the service and, obviously, it is the desire of “the brass” that as many successfully do so as possible.  Just as God is “rooting” for our passing the test of spiritual loyalty as well.  

            There is an inevitable link between “lov[ing]” His return and “righteousness.”  Unless one has both characteristics, the only rational reaction to the return is fear and dread.  Or, as we say colloquially, “the chickens are coming home to roost.  And the eggs are going to break on our head.”

            For many it will be a day of horror.  They will discover their casual (or “sophisticated”) causes of rejection to have been delusional.  But for all the rest . . . ah it will be a day of happiness and joy like nothing ever seen on this planet Earth!






Paul Wishes Timothy To Rejoin Him




            Make every effort to come to me soon.  10 For Demas deserted me, since he loved the present age, and he went to Thessalonica.  Crescens went to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia.  11 Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is a great help to me in ministry.  12 Now I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus.  13 When you come, bring with you the cloak I left in Troas with Carpas and the scrolls, especially the parchments . 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me a great deal of harm.  The Lord will repay him in keeping with his deeds.  15 You be on guard against him[s] too, because he vehemently opposed our words.  --New English Translation (for comparison)



            4:9       Be diligent to come to me quickly [“soon” in many other translations].  This is not something Timothy is to take his time about.  He is to make every effort to return to Paul as “quickly” as he can.  In that pre-technological age, travel was slower and far more limited than today.  Hence even with the best of intentions, delay could easily be encountered.  But so far as it was within his power nothing should delay him any longer than essential.


            4:10     for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.  Three people have left Paul but only one is singled out for criticism for having “forsaken” him, arguing that Paul had no problem with the others leaving.  Demas’ action, however, deeply pained him for it had grown not out of love for God and the opportunity to serve Him in other places, but from having a preference for what “this present world” offers.

            Hence he uses the word “forsaken” to describe his action.  It implies abandonment . . . but is that just of Paul (and the ever present possibility of persecution) or of Christianity itself?  Either way it reflected a fundamental shift in loyalty away from strict loyalty to the gospel.     

            From earlier epistles the brethren in Ephesus would know that in the past they had been very close.  So much so that the apostle shared greetings on his behalf to Philemon (verse 24).  The Colossians were informed that “Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you” (4:14).  But Paul felt it imperative to spread news of his fundamental change in priorities.  This argues that word of what this epistle contained and/or copies of the text itself needed to be circulated in other places as well . . . and in the very near future at that.  After all epistles were written to be shared rather than kept strictly by the recipients:  indeed Paul was known to specifically urge it (Colossians 4:16).

            At least at the moment he is particularly concerned that the Ephesian brethren be informed and warned.  This argues that he believes Demas could easily land up there and try to hide his change in priorities.  After all hadn’t he “been a faithful co-laborer with the apostle?”  Rather than risking them having to go through the turmoil of learning the hard way how much he had changed, the apostle wants to give them advance warning.                     


            4:11     Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.  Only one Christian from his missionary work is still with him and that is the author of the two volumes of Luke and Acts.  Since Timothy will be traveling through wherever Mark was located, Paul wants him to join them in Rome as well.  How he will be “useful to me for ministry” the apostle does not specify, but the very fact that he would be tells us much of his skill and dedication.

            This indicates that the previous rupture with Paul had been healed.  For unknown reasons he had not been willing to go where the apostle was next heading to preach (Acts 13:13).  When the next opportunity came for him to join Paul on a different preaching tour the apostle refused to have him (Acts 15:36-41).  Hence Mark’s actions in the interim afterwards must have removed the lack of confidence.

            As to Luke, they had repeatedly worked together.  His connection with Paul appears first in Acts 16:10.  He remained at Philippi after Paul’s departure, and was there seven years later, when Paul revisited the city (Acts 20:5-6).  He accompanied Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 21:16), after which we lose sight of him until he appears at Caesarea (Acts 27:2), whence he accompanies Paul to Rome.”  (Vincent’s Word Studies)   


            4:12     And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus.  Timothy does not have to worry about there being no one available in Ephesus to take over his preaching leadership.  Paul not only knew that Tychicus was on the way, but also clearly endorsed him since he was behind the man coming at all (“I have sent”).  Presumably he was also carrying Paul’s letter as well.  He was from the province of Asia (Acts 20:4) where Ephesus was located; if not literally “a local man” pretty close to it.  He calls him “a beloved brother” and “faithful minister” in both Ephesians 6:21 and Colossians 4:7.  


            4:13     Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.  People like Paul were not clothes abundant and, being effectively in prison and with limited finances, he was even less so.  Perhaps the “cloak” was one of those garments he especially cherished from the past.  Perhaps he realized just how cold a nasty winter night could be in the capital of the Roman Empire and desired a little extra warmth.

            Note that Paul was a “book worm”--that “books” is in the plural.  The emphasis however is on the “parchments”--“especially the parchments”--which argues that they were something he valued far higher than whatever book collection he had.  Copies of his writings?  Copies of the Torah and prophets?  Both scenarios would explain their great value to him.

            Why he left these items with Carpus we have no idea.  However we can be certain that he had great trust in him in order to do so.  Furthermore even at this later date he had absolutely confidence that Carpus would still have them prepared to return.  The act of holding these things “in storage” may seem a little act in itself, but when they are things of importance to the recipient it becomes something deeply appreciated.


            4:14     Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm.  May the Lord repay him according to his works.  Perhaps the greatest revenge is not what we wish would happen to an enemy but that he be visited with what he deserves . . . which is the standard Paul presents:  “according to his works.”  How could that possibly be excessive--except to the poor soul who suddenly realizes that all his self-deceptions and excuses were totally worthless?  There is no ranting and raving, no vehement accusations, not even any obvious bitterness.  It is part of past history.  Now it is left in the hands of the Lord to do the just and appropriate thing.

            All we know for certain about this man is his trade, that he was a “coppersmith.”  Since this epistle is written to the preacher and congregation at Ephesus, there is unquestionably the temptation to link this to the advocate of the Jewish cause who presumably wished to speak to the rioters in that city (Acts 19:29-34).  He could have wished to do so to vehemently disassociate the Jewish community from “that heretic Paul” or to support the rioters’ conviction that the only appropriate treatment for Paul was death.  However that Alexander was not able to do “me much harm”--since the locals refused to listen to him--in contrast with the Alexander mentioned here.  Hence it was a different person and the probability is further increased by the fact that the name was one of the more common ones of the day.      


            4:15     You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.  Alexander was not a danger only to Paul but also to anyone maintaining friendly relations with him.  Hence he feels the urgency of warning Timothy of the danger.  That implies that the apostle is full convinced that this Alexander will be coming to Ephesus.

            That he is a church member--and preacher?--seems likely for he had refused to accept what Paul taught:  he had “greatly resisted our words” and he fully expects him to be in contact with the believing community in Ephesus.  As to an outsider, such opposition would be automatic and he would be very unlikely to be seeking out the company of Christians in the first place.

            As to what subject matter they had “locked horns over” we do not have the slightest idea.  To the extent we can even attempt to make a cautious judgment on the matter, it sounds like it was deep, passionate, and on a variety of matters.  In other words he could easily become a “cancer” eating away at Paul’s support--and the truth he taught--in the Ephesian congregation.

            Furthermore he is not even a “mere heretic.”  He is not only a doctrinal dissident but a dangerous foe as well:  he “did me much harm” (verse 14).  What might he do to them if they disagreed?  Forewarned, they would be forearmed.   






In Spite of Having Been Abandoned

At His Trial, the Lord Still Saw

That Paul Escaped Death




            16 At my first defense no one appeared in my support; instead they all deserted me—may they not be held accountable for it.  17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed for all the Gentiles to hear.  And so I was delivered from the lion’s mouth!  18 The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.  To him be glory for ever and ever!  Amen.  --New English Translation (for comparison)



            4:16     At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me.  May it not be charged against them.  At the time of Paul’s first appearance before the Roman court, no one had the courage to join with him.  Hurtful as it must have been to Paul, he still wished God not to hold it against them.  They hadn’t set out to harm or undermine Paul; in vehement contrast Alexander had (verses 14-15).  Theirs was a sin of omission not commission; a sin of negligence not intentional abuse.


            4:17     But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear.  Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.  At first it seems hard to reconcile this description of escaping death with how Paul had earlier looked upon it as the trial’s ultimate outcome (4:6-7).  The description of this as having happened at his “first defense,” however, provides the explanation.  It implies that he is going to stand before the judge yet again and that he has no expectation of surviving at that time. 

            Whoever is carrying out the trial on behalf of the Emperor apparently had the discretion to act immediately and whatever had been said or done during the hearing convinced him not to do so.  The fact that the delay to the second hearing would be prolonged is argued from the fact that Paul is confident that there will be enough time to get a letter to Timothy and to have him come to Rome.  Since he was expected to arrive “before winter” (4:21), that surely argues that the next hearing would be some time in the spring of the next year.

            Old Testament precedent:  “Deliver Me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog.  Save me from the lion’s mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen!  You have answered Me  (Psalms 22:20-21).  The Psalmist David had faced danger from the wild lions of his country and God had rescued him from it.  Since this is a Messianic Psalm as well, it should be noted that God also rescued Jesus from the “wild lions”--not during life necessarily (though that is far from impossible), but by rescuing Him through the resurrection from the death they or humans could cause.


            4:18     And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.  To Him be glory forever and ever.   Amen!   He doesn’t really expect to literally escape death when the trial is played out to its conclusion (4:6), but he is convinced that the Lord will help him escape from every temptation to do evil (“every evil work”) and thereby be “preserve[d] for His heavenly kingdom.”  For what the Lord has and will do on his behalf, He deserves honor (“glory”) not just today but permanently (“forever and ever”).

            In a very real way even death itself will not be triumphant.  Remember how the same Lord who gave the warning of death (“You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death”--Luke 13:16) also gave the promise of ultimate escape from it (“But not a hair of your head shall be lost”--verse 18).  Such is also the case with the apostle Paul.  May we also remember that to the day we ourselves die!






Final Personal Remarks




            19 Greetings to Prisca and Aquila and the family of Onesiphorus.  20 Erastus stayed in Corinth.  Trophimus I left ill in Miletus.  21 Make every effort to come before winter.  Greetings to you from Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brothers and sisters.  22 The Lord be with your spirit.  Grace be with you.     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            4:19     Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.  We know that Aquila and Prisca were tentmakers like Paul and that he had worked them in Corinth at that contemporary trade as the result (Acts 18:1-4).  While in Ephesus the two had successfully shared the gospel with the able orator Apollos (18:24-28).  We know that Onesiphorus had often helped Paul and had not been ashamed to do so even though the apostle was a prisoner (2 Timothy 1:16).  He did not wish this old friend--and his family--to think that he had forgotten them. 


            4:20     Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick.  The fact that this information is shared with Timothy shows that Paul was convinced that Timothy would have interest in this data.  Having known these people, what else would we expect?  Erastus was a city treasurer at one time (Romans 16:23), quite a prestigious and responsible position!  We read of how Paul sent him in a team with Timothy into Macedonia while Paul himself remained for a while behind in the Roman province of Macedonia (Acts 19:22). 

            However these two mentions could be referring to two different individuals.  That a man as high ranking as a city treasurer would become a traveling companion would be laudable indeed but the self-sacrifice that would be required would be so great that it would also be extraordinary.  As Jesus Himself taught His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23).  “Terribly hard,” CEV; “with difficulty,” WEB, Weymouth.  There would also be the press  of family responsibilities that might make it impossible.

            The nature of Trophimus’ illness we are not told.  Clearly miracles were provided only for special reasons and for special occasions.  In the New Testament we do not have the modern attitude that they will automatically be performed.  He was part of a team of coworkers who had traveled with Paul (Acts 20:3-6).  He was a Gentile from the city where Timothy was now preaching--Ephesus (Acts 21:29)--thereby assuring a special interest among Timothy’s listeners as to his well being. 


            4:21     Do your utmost to come before winter.  Eubulus greets you, as well as Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren.  Farewell.  Whatever season it is, Paul is convinced that Timothy has an excellent chance of reaching him in Rome “before winter” and it is within that target date that he wishes the preacher to time his departure from Ephesus.  A number of people in Rome are clearly known to Timothy and Paul passes on their greetings as well.  So far as we are concerned, they are little more than footnotes to history.  (None of the four are mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament.)  But so far as Timothy was concerned, they were people he had known and thought well of.

            Beginning with Irenaeus in 180 A.D., later church tradition identifies Linus as the first bishop in Rome.  Biblically speaking, however, bishops/elders are used in the plural number, arguing that even if he was one of the first bishops, he certainly never occupied that position alone.  The “Apostolic Constitution” first appeared in the 370s and it identified Claudia as his mother.  That she was someone’s mother is overwhelmingly probable; that she was Linus’ mother is speculation backed only by the fact that they were both alive at the same time.    


            4:22     The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Grace be with you.  Amen.  Paul was convinced that by His presence the Lord would bring assurance and comfort to Timothy’s “spirit.”  Since this was Paul’s desire, it was inevitable that he also wished Divine “grace” (favor / acceptance) remain with him as well.





Sources quoted:


A. E. Humphreys.  Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Timothy and Titus (1895).  Internet edition at:


James B. Coffman.  Commentary on Titus.  Internet edition at:


Marin R. Vincent.  Word Studies.  Internet edition at:


H. D. M. Spence, editor.  Pulpit Commentary on 2 Timothy.  Internet edition at: