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2 Timothy 4:9-22: Practical Lessons from Personal Greetings Print E-mail
2 Timothy
Sunday, 21 August 2011

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Paul closes his letter to Timothy with some personal instructions and greetings.  He wants Timothy to come and visit him in Rome.  Thus, he gives some reasons he wants him to come and some instructions about who and what he is to bring.  In these verses Paul mentions 16 individuals, one household, and references the other believers in Rome.  We will look at some of these details in a moment, but I simply want to note the fact that all these names and references remind us that Paul was indeed a real person.  He is writing a letter from a real city (Rome), facing real charges due to his preaching the gospel, requesting help from real people (Timothy and Mark).  We must never lose sight of the historical reality of Paulís life.  Many scholars spend their whole lives trying to find holes in Paulís historicity and the likelihood that he wrote any letters at all, much less letters inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Thus, we do well to be reminded that a simple reading of the New Testament makes it clear that Paul did live and did write and did suffer for proclaiming the gospel.  We should not doubt that.

Rather, we should learn from his experiences, especially those that are recorded in the pages of the New Testament.  As we noted when we preached the book of Romans, it is tempting to rush through these verses as if they had no bearing on our lives today.  But that is a mistake.  We need to consider these personal instructions for Timothy and consider what principles we can learn for them that apply to our own lives.  In this passage in particular, I think we can identify at three least three practical lessons that apply to believers and our ministries today.  Letís consider these.

First, co-workers are valuable in ministry.

Paul was no lone-ranger Christian or minister, at least he never wanted to be.  The fact that he writes two letters to Timothy and one to Titus indicate this.  Likewise, his missionary journeys as recorded in the book of Acts, reveal that he did not minister alone.  He valued his fellow workers in the gospel.  We see this in at least two ways in this passage.

First, Paulís longing for Timothy to visit reveals the value he placed on fellow workers.  Look at verse 9.  Paul wanted Timothy to make the trip from Ephesus to Rome to visit him.  He loved Timothy and valued his presence.  In fact, he gives him the same command in verse 21.  Look at that with me.  Paul did not want Timothy to delay too long for he knew that once winter came Timothy would not be able to make the visit until warmer weather.  Such a delay would mean Timothy waiting several months to travel, since travel basically ceased during the winter months.  Also, Paul knew that facing the winter months in prison would be tough, which is why he asked Timothy to bring him his cloak.  Look at verse 13a.  Although someone could construe Paulís insistence on Timothyís haste as merely owing to the fact that he needed a cloak for warmth, I think the passage (and many others) make it clear that Paul desired more than just warmth.  He longed to fellowship with his fellow worker in the gospel.  He valued that relationship.

Second, Paulís instructions for Timothy to bring Mark also reveals the value he placed on fellow workers.  Look at verse 11.  Paul wanted Timothy to bring Mark with him when he came to Rome.  The Mark that is mentioned here is probably the same Mark that abandoned Paul and Barnabas and ended up splitting the pair on their next missionary journey (see Acts 15:36-41).  This is noteworthy because apparently Paul and Mark had been reconciled, since Paul requests him and refers to him as very useful to me for ministry.  Paul wants Timothy to bring Mark so that they can continue the ministry that Paul has been doing in Rome.  Paul mentions the fact that many had deserted him or gone to other places to minister and so he longs for Mark to come and fill that void. 

One commentator writes: ďBut Paul was anything but a Ďself-made man.í  The roots of his success and his perseverance lie in his humility and in his reliance on others.  Both in his ministry and for his personal support, Paul relied on colleagues, co-workers and friendsÖPaul was committed to people, trusted them to handle delicate situations and shared the burden of ministry with them.Ē 1  This is clear from this passage and all those where Paul speaks of fellow believers and his co-workers in the gospel. 

I firmly believe in the wisdom and value of co-workers in ministry.  If you are wondering why I have spent so much time teaching about elders and considering our Constitution (which has led to the upcoming vote), it is because of this truth.  I see my own need for fellow-workers in the ministry who will labor along side of me and share the burden.  Paul recognized his need for continual study (note his request for the books, and above all the parchments) and his need for help in ministry.  I pray that I will continually recognize the same.

Second, people will abandon/oppose gospel ministry.

Paul repeatedly calls for Timothy to embrace suffering.  He knows is will come, at least in part, because he has faced it in his own ministry.  Two particular individuals highlight different ways in which Paul faced difficult in his ministry.

First, he tells us that Demas abandoned him.  Look at verse 10.  Although others have left Paul and gone to different places to minister (Crescents, Titus, and Tychius), Paul notes that Demas left for another reason: he was in love with this present world.  What is sad about this report is that in other places Demas is identified as a fellow-worker with Paul (see Col. 4:14, esp. Philemon 24).  That is tough.  Unlike Paulís reconciliation with Mark, Demas walked away from Paulís ministry, seemingly abandoning the faith altogether (although we cannot be certain).  This had to be hard on Paul, but unfortunately not all will remain true to the end.  Some will abandon the ministry.  It is a harsh reality, but nonetheless true.

Second, he tells us of Alexanderís opposition.  Look at verses 14-15.  Although we do not know much about this individual, it is interesting that Paul notes his occupation.  He was not a minister, but he strongly opposed Paulís ministry.  So much so that Paul offers this warning for Timothy.  Alexander had taken drastic action against Paul and so Paul encouraged Timothy to avoid him.  Yet, because Paul knew that the Lord would deal with Alexander, he did not encourage Timothy to exact any revenge.  No, that would be left up to the Lord.  In dealing with others, be they co-workers who had abandoned Paul or enemies who had opposed his message, Paul was willing to leave them in the Lordís hands, which leads to our last lesson.

Third, the Lord will strengthen us for ministry and see us through.

Paul has said much about other people, but he does not forget the Lord.  Why?  Because he knows that the Lord has not forgotten him.  Look at verses 16-17.  It is hard to be certain about what event Paul is referencing in these verses.  It could be a reference to his first imprisonment, which is where we see him at the end of the book of Acts.  Or it could simply be a reference to a recent appearance in court (like our preliminary hearings).  Either way, Paul notes that he was alone during this time.  Even though all had deserted me, he did not want that to be counted against them.  We see in this Paulís mercy and forgiveness, which mirrors that of Jesus on the cross.  But even though Paul was deserted by people, he was not deserted by the Lord.  No, the Lord had been with him (stood by me) and strengthened him.  The Lord was his present help during that first defense, whenever that was.  The Lord did this so that Paul could fulfill his ministry and proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles.  We see again the connection between our call to ministry and the Lordís promise to give us strength (see 2:1-2).  The Lord had been with Paul and rescued him from the lionís mouth.

Because of the Lordís promises and his past experiences, Paul knew that God would see him through to the end.  Look at verse 18.  What a glorious reality!  Here Paul is, facing the trial that would ultimately end in his death, having faced in his lifetime terrible persecutions for the gospel, completely confident in the Lordís promise to save.  He does not have to be filled with worry and concern.  He does not have to fear the worst, or anything else for that matter.  No, he can trust in the fact that the Lord will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.  Even death cannot keep him from being safely delivered into the Kingdom of God.  The most powerful kingdom on earth at the time (Rome) was no match for Paulís King.  He will deliver.  He will save.  He will rescue.  Whatever men attempt, whatever they try to do, and whatever suffering they cause, they cannot keep us from entering the rest that is promised.  He will bring us safely home for our good and His praise.  Thus, He is worthy of all glory forever and ever.  Amen.

Paul ends his letter to Timothy with some personal instructions and greetings.  Although we might be tempted to rush past the passage, we need to stop and consider the lessons we can learn from Paulís words.  We need to see the value of co-workers in ministry.  We need to know that some will abandon the ministry and others will oppose it.  And we need to always remember that the Lord will give us strength and see us through to the end.  If I could sum up these lessons with one word it would be Ďreliance.í  We must be willing to rely on others and their help in ministry.  And most importantly, when we face difficulties and suffering, we need to rely upon the Lord. 

Our goal in ministry, like Paulís, is to preach the gospel to any and all that we can.  We want people to know of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sins.  We want them to turn from their sins and trust in His finished work.  This is our goal.  And in order to fulfill it, we must be willing to rely on one another and ultimately to rely upon the Lord.  He will see us through.  One commentator notes: ďThe greatest characteristic of Christís servants is not their personal strength, not their charismatic personality, not their gifts and talents.  It is their relianceóreliance on others, reliance on the grace of God.Ē 2  Paul wants Timothy to carry on in the ministry of taking the gospel to the nations.  And we are to do the same.  May we be a people who rely on one another and especially on the grace of God to finish our course.  To him be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

1 William B. Barcley, 1 & 2 Timothy (Webster, NY: Evangelical Press, 2005), p. 303.
2 Ibid., p. 303.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 31 August 2011 )

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