2 Timothy 4
Verse 1: In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: (NRSV)
- ”In the presence” is more literally “before” but means the same basic thing. This is dealing more with making this plea with God in mind for both him and us than it is about a particular place or presence.
- There is a word here in Greek often translated “about” to judge.
- It conveys a sense of destiny, something that is inevitable to happen. It can also convey that this is going to happen soon (Arndt 500).
- This adds intensity to the request from Paul. We are urged to do this because there isn't much time left.
- ”living and dead” naturally encompasses everyone, that is the point. There is no distinguishing between believer and non-believer here, though of course we can assume that the judgments will be different.
- This is quite nearly the most solemn vow someone can make. Whether living or dead he can't get away from God's judgment. And it is placing himself in danger of judgment if he directed people wrong here.
- ”Kingdom” is part of the belief that not only would Jesus judge the world, but would rule it when he returns (Arichea 239).
- The word translated as “solemnly urge” means “to protest solemnly” or “to beg earnestly” (Liddell 191).
- It also appears as the first word in the chapter, which in Greek means it is the most important.
- Paul wanted us to hear this message, and he is begging us in the presence of God to listen to what he has to say.
Verse 2: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. (NRSV)
- Literally, Paul says “preach the word in good seasons and bad.”
- The same word is used for “seasons” both times, just with different prefixes attached.
- There is a lot of discussion about what sort of season is being meant here. It could be to preach whether it is a good time for Timothy or not. Or the sense could be more general and refer to whether it appears to be a good time to preach at all or not. The meaning is unclear.
- These are imperative verbs, conveying as much force as Paul can muster.
- ”Preach the word” is the focus of all the other verbs, and the key to this verse (Lea 242).
- ”Persistent” means “to stand by” (Arichea 240), and is here used to mean that you need to stay and no leave.
- It is unclear whether everything should be done with patience and through teaching, or whether it is with patient teaching.
Verse 3: For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, (NRSV)
- There is no indication of whether this is happening soon or later. It literally just says “Because there will be a season…”
- If this is referring to a specific event in the future, then we must interpret it as an event that would be occurring soon enough to be of trouble to Timothy and his teachings, so within a generation.
- The use of “season,” however, points us in another possible direction. This statement can easily be interpreted not as a point in time, but as a “season” in the life of faith. At some point in every group, people will start seeking out teachers who agree with them instead of those who tell the truth.
- ”Healthy teaching” is the more literal way this passage says “sound doctrine.” This isn't an abstract doctrinal issue to Paul, but one that can make someone sick or strong.
- The patience and the teaching is needed because people will be impatient with good teachings. Paul describes the cure before the illness.
- ”Itching ears” is an expression that only shows up here in the Bible and indicates curiosity (Arichea 242), in particular curiosity in the “spicy” or the new (Lea 244).
- This is not just about having one teacher who agrees with them, but “heaping up” teachers (Arndt 302), creating a whole pile of them like a collection.
- These are Christians who will be doing all of this, not unbelievers.
Verse 4: and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. (NRSV)
- ”Wander away” can also mean to eagerly seek them out (Arichea 242).
- Myth should not be taken in the technical term as a genre as there are some biblical sections that fit this category.
- Instead, it should be taken as equivalent to false teachings, things with no basis in fact.
- Anything apart from the truth, is myth.
Verse 5: As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. (NRSV)
- ”Sober” is literally refraining from alcohol, but also had the wider sense of being about an ascetic life, ie disciplined (Arichea 243). Part of this is undoubtedly about not running away to the newest ideas.
- What Paul is asking his young associate here is very difficult.
- Enduring suffering is not something to ask someone to do lightly.
- But Paul immediately demonstrates in the next verses that he himself has already lived up to what he is saying.
- ”Ministry” is literally “service to the Lord” (Lea 243).
- ”Fully” is not so much about putting all of himself into it as it is about finishing what he was doing. Completion as opposed to effort.
Verse 6: As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come (NRSV)
- ”Poured out as a libation” is one word.
- It is present passive, meaning that it is happening to Paul as he wrote, he was not the one pouring.
- This is a technical term for pouring out a drink offering, sometimes in honor of someone (Liddell 739).
- From the beginning Paul knew that serving God was taking time away from his life.
- His life was being drained, poured out, as a steady sacrifice to God.
- And some day he knew he would run empty, and the time had come.
Verse 7: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (NRSV)
- These are the words of a man about to die. But Paul can look back at his entire life and say that he did well.
- These aren't different metaphors, it is one.
- “Fought the good fight” generally means “I have contested the good contest” and can mean a gathering such as the Olympics (Liddell 10).
- This is about being in the greatest, most important contest ever, running your event, finishing, and standing tall at the end.
- The three ideas follow each other and flow into each other.
- ”Keeping the faith” is not another metaphor, it is what Paul was contesting. Paul succeeded by staying true to his faith the entire life(Spence-Jones 59). Paul knows he has finished because he's dying.
- It is such an amazing statement that Paul can look back on his life, and know that not only has he run but he has completed the race he entered for, and he did all he was required.
Verse 8: From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NRSV)
- “From now on” is about this very moment, not just some time in the future (Arichea 246). Paul considers himself to be dead already so that he can receive it from Jesus.
- This crown is the crown of victory, the winners laurels.
- It is important to note that Paul does not get this until he is already dead, or near death. He is not acknowledged as the winner in this life, but he ran and he kept his faith.
- This could be either the crown that comes from a righteous life, or that the crown itself is made of righteousness.
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