Paul lived in a time not unlike our culture which bombarded people with false truth, causing many to turn away from the gospel and turn to self-absorption. Last week Courtney encouraged us to be ready to speak the truth whenever the opportunity arises while being willing to face uncomfortable situations when a rebuke or correction is appropriate. In such interactions speak clearly with patience and love. I do not know about you, but I could use a reminder of Paul’s message to Timothy in 4:1-5 weekly. Paul also reminds Timothy to urge listeners to believe and live according to the truth. So, what Paul is saying: speak truth and then share with people how it might be applied to their particular situations. Let’s now turn our attention to listen to Paul’s final words of encouragement to his friend before his impending death.
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing. 9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
Observation – what does the passage say?
- Paul compares his impending death to the pouring out of a drink offering.
- Secondly, Paul speaks of his death as a departure.
- In verse 7 reflecting upon his service to the Lord, he uses two metaphors:
- boxer or wrestler (I have fought the good fight) (I have kept the faith)
- runner (I have finished the race)
- Paul uses another metaphor a “crown of righteousness” given as a reward for finishing the race.
- The righteous Judge, the Lord will reward this crown of righteousness to him on that day and to all who have longed for His appearing.
- He urges Timothy to visit him in Rome soon since Demas had deserted him, Crescens left for Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia (4:9-10).
- Then Paul mentions that Luke was the only one still with him and instructs Timothy to pick up Mark and bring him to Paul because he is helpful to him in ministry.
Interpretation – what does the passage mean?
Knowing that his death would be soon under King Nero’s orders, Paul wanted his last words to his dear friend Timothy to be ones of encouragement to remain faithful to God. He uses two expressions in verse 6 to describe his impending death. First, Paul compared his life being “poured out” to the pouring out of the wine of the drink offerings according to the Old Testament sacrificial system (Num. 15:1-10; Num. 28:4-7; Phil. 2:17). The pouring of the wine after priests offered a lamb, ram, or bull was the last act in this sacrificial offering that symbolized the believer offering his life to God as an act of worship. Paul had lived his life offering all he had to God, so the last offering was life itself. Remember Paul is a prisoner about to be executed, and does not speak of himself as a victim but as voluntary offering of his life almost completed spilled out. Secondly, Paul speaks of his death as a departure of a traveler who leaves one country for another, sailor loosing his vessel, or soldier breaking up camp. Death does not mean losing but loosing. Paul will be loosed from the pain and hardships of this life as a ship would be loosed from the tumultuous storms at sea and as a solider breaks camp.
In verse 7 reflecting upon his service to the Lord, he uses two metaphors of a boxer or wrestler and a runner. First, Paul has fought the good fight. I think that many of us can identify with Paul that life is a fight. Paul has spent his life fighting a spiritual battle with the Lord’s help. Secondly, he has finished the race. According to Dr. Constable’s commentary, Sonic Light finishing the race meant “that he had run in noblest race of all, namely, the ministry of the gospel, not that he had done his best in the contest.” This implies that not everyone is engaged in this particular race of ministering the gospel. This metaphor of a runner Timothy would have heard before in Philippians 3, so Paul uses the same metaphor here to encourage Timothy to rely on Christ’s strength in ministering the gospel. Lastly, he has kept the faith. Paul guarded the deposit of faith (2 Timothy 1:14) and lived according to his faith (Romans 1:17).
Next Paul uses another metaphor a “crown of righteousness” given as a reward for finishing the race. The crown is not diadem, a physical royal crown but a stephanos, a wreath (1 Corinthians 9:25) given to Christians, like Paul who lived by faith seeking to honor God in their daily lives and longing for Christ’s return. Not all Christians long for Christ’s return because they know that their lives demonstrate more of a longing for the things of this world than Christ’s return. Referring to Christ as the “righteous judge” reminds his readers any reward Christians might receive is by God’s grace and not based on their accomplishments.
In his concluding remarks, he urges Timothy to visit him in Rome soon since Demas had deserted him, Crescens left for Galatia and Titus went to Dalmatia (4:9-10). Demas, like Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim 2:17) let the worries and pleasures of the world lure him away from following Christ (Matt 14:22). Crescens went to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia on ministry assignments implied by the Scriptures. Paul speaks of Titus as “my true son” (Titus 1:4) and earlier in 2 Corinthians 7:5-6 he describes how he was comforted by Titus who brought good news to him in Macedonia about the church in Corinth. Then he mentions that Luke was the only one still with him from most likely his inner circle. Next, he instructs Timothy to pick up Mark and bring him with him because he is helpful in ministry. The choice of Mark might be surprising since previously during Paul’s 1stmissionary journey, Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:13) and Paul refused to take Mark on his 2ndmissionary journey. Barnabas and Paul separated on that journey and Barnabas took Mark to Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41). In Colossians 4:10-11, Paul refers to Mark as “my fellow prisoner.” Mark is a great example of a quitter who made a comeback. God can work through our failure to restore us. Failure cannot take us too far where God’s grace cannot reach us.
Application – how does the meaning of the passage apply to me?
Last week in two different encounters, I shared insight applying the teachings of the Bible to their individual situations. In both situations I was not sure how my insights might be received. In these situations often right before I am speaking I feel like that I am starting to hit the hills during a long run. The first appreciated the insights while the second sat quietly and did not receive it quite as well. I wanted to hear the response of the second person, but I realized that the person was really listening and that was the response, listening. I did not need to hear their thoughts at that time. Just remember that listening is a good response and sometimes words are not necessary.
* How are you handling conversations when they feel hard, like you are hitting the hills or mountains on a run?
* How can you develop more spiritual muscle to help you to share your faith and speak truth when an opportunity arises in conversations with friends or family?
* Where do you feel like you are constantly fighting or struggling in your faith? Look again at 2 Timothy 4:7. The first metaphor Paul uses in reflecting on his life is: I have fought the good fight. Paul knows more than anybody that life is a battle against spiritual darkness. He is saying: I stayed in the battle and did not give up. This first sentence is no coincidence. Paul is saying to us: stay in the battle and run spiritually the race of life with the Lord’s strength and guard the deposit of faith that God has given you.
* When have you not listened to the Lord because you thought you knew better than Him? How does Mark’s story of deserting Paul and Barnabas on Paul’s 1stmissionary journey and then Paul requesting Mark to help in ministry at the end of his life encourage you?
– Mary Carmen