2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18


Paul's second letter to Timothy has been called his last will and testament. In this letter Paul gives his young helper a charge to do his work faithfully. At the same time he quietly tells him that Paul's death is near. But there is no sentimentality, no false humility, no boasting in himself, just simple conviction and faith in the Lord Jesus.

It is clear that Paul longed for Timothy to come before Paul would be put to death. See verses 9 and 21. Whether or not Timothy managed to get there, we don't know. Only Luke was with Paul. Demas had deserted him. Alexander did him much evil. Crescens and Titus had to leave for their work. Paul is so human. There is nothing wrong with that. But he is a Christian human, a man so like his Lord Jesus.

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.

In verses 6-8 Paul tells us about the struggle of his life and his final victory. There is a definite comparison between Timothy and Paul, evidently for the sake of encouraging Timothy.  "For" is explanatory.  "Already" denotes the idea of imminent death. "Poured out" occurs here and at Philippians 2:17. It means to pour out a drink offering at the time of a sacrifice. RSV translates: "For I am already on the point of being sacrificed." 

Kretzmann: As in Philippians 2:17, the apostle here uses the term for making a drink-offering to designate his approaching death.

Perhaps the "and" is somewhat epexegetical. The second part of the verse explains the first part. The genitive is adjectival, telling us what time is meant. "Departure" occurs only here in the New Testament and its cognate verb at Philippians 1:23. The metaphor is either from a sailor loosing from his mooring or a soldier striking his tent.

Kretzmann: Paul speaks of his impending martyrdom with all the quiet confidence in God which knows no fear of death.

Bengel compares Paul's premonition of death with that of Peter, 2 Peter 1:14.

Lenski: The sun is setting blood-red, but is shot through with golden glory. . . . These words have left an indelible impression upon all future ages. Socrates' attitude toward the cup of hemlock has been admired; it is the best that paganism can show. . . . This 'my' is devoid of all egotism as of all false humility. It is written in the face of death.

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

This verse amounts to a compound sentence with three short main clauses. In each the object is placed prominently forward. At the end of each we have a verb in the perfect active voice. Note also that in each case the noun object is articular.

The first two clauses are metaphorical but the last one is literal. In the first clause we have an athletic metaphor. Most versions have: "I have fought the good fight." Several have something similar to that of TEV: "I have done my best in the race." The word "fight" sounds like boxing or wrestling.

All our versions say that the second clause is speaking of running a race.

All versions render the third: "I have kept the faith" or words to that effect. But what is meant by "faith?" Is it qua or quae creditur, the faith itself or the doctrine behind it? Another suggestion is that it is metaphorical, speaking of the rules of the game. Another suggestion is that it denotes the soldier's oath of fidelity. Another suggests: "I have kept faith with my master." Another is: "I have been true to my promises." We think Bengel has a good idea here. He says that in this verse faith is expressed twice figuratively but the last time without figure.

Kretzmann: No matter whether he had often stumbled by the way, no matter whether he had often been on the brink of losing courage, the Lord had enabled him to endure to the end. . . . He had held his faith in his Redeemer secure against all attacks, in all persecutions.

This is not synergism. Synergism is the false teaching which says that the sinful flesh has innate powers to help the Lord. Paul is saying the very opposite.

Lenski: There is no regret, no sadness, only uplift, holy satisfaction, triumphant hope on the eve of final realization.

JB brings out the meaning of the perfect verbs here: "I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith." Faith here means the same as at Galatians 2:20.

2 Timothy 4:8 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.

Evidently the meaning of "Now there is" here is that nothing else awaits Paul except the crown. It is variously rendered "henceforth," "now," "finally," "in the future." Note the order of the words: "There awaits for me the crown of the righteousness." In this sentence we have "me -- me -- for me," dative of advantage, of indirect object, and again of indirect object. But no one would accuse Paul of egotism. Paul is here speaking of himself as an ordinary Christian, not as an apostle.

A number of suggestions have been made as to the type of genitive found here in "crown of righteousness." It has been called subjective, the righteousness resulting in the crown. It has been called possessive, the righteousness possessing the crown. Perhaps it is best to leave it at adjectival genitive. The genitive tells us that it is a certain kind of crown, one related to the righteousness of God, the imputed righteousness which declares Paul forgiven and then causes him to live a godly life.

Kretzmann: The prize and reward of grace is the crown of righteousness, the final declaration of righteousness by God, the final imputation of the righteousness of Jesus, by which we are free from all guilt and condemnation. . . . Since we shall appear before the judgment-throne of God with a firm reliance upon the imputed righteousness of Christ, it will be a merciful and yet a just judgment which will award to us the crown of righteousness.

The Lord is called a "just" judge. Perhaps here the word is used as at 1 John 1:9:  "He is faithful (just) to forgive us," etc. He will never deceive us. He will judge us according to our faith and His promise.

Note the correlatives "not only -- but also." Paul includes himself right along with other Christians. Paul looks at their love from the past, during their life. NIV and JB render this: "Who have longed for his appearing." Good. It is not wrong to long for everlasting life. This line reminds one of the line in the Christmas hymn:  "Oh that we were there!" 

We consider the "crown" an athletic metaphor, a victor's crown. The crown of righteousness is, of course, not a reward of merit.

Apology, Tappert 162, 362, 363: We grant that eternal life is a reward because it is something that is owed -- not because of our merits but because of the promise. We have shown above that justification is strictly a gift of God; it is a thing promised. To this gift the promise of eternal life has been added, according to Romans 8:30 'Those whom he justified he also glorified.' Here Paul's words apply 'There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give,' etc. (2 Timothy 4:8). The crown is owed to the justified because of the promise. This promise the saints must know.

On the word "crown" compare Revelation 2:10; 1 Peter 5:4; James 1:12.

Kretzmann: All true Christians long for the redemption of their body, for the coming of their Lord to take them home. The words of the apostle therefore contain an earnest admonition to the believers of all times to be faithful and patient to the end.

The following verses are not included in this pericope.

 2 Timothy 4:9 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. 12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 1 3 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. 14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. 

2 Timothy 4:16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.

Paul is speaking about a hearing, at which time he defended himself against the charges brought against him. Among the commentators there are two opinions as to which occasion Paul is speaking about. One school of thought says that this verse is speaking about Paul's hearing, his defense, during his first Roman imprisonment in about the year 61 A.D. He was acquitted and allowed to go out and preach the Gospel again. According to this view, verse 17 lies between the first and second imprisonments.

The other school of thought says that verse 16 speaks of Paul's preliminary hearing during his second imprisonment and that, therefore, verse 17 speaks of Paul's testimony to the Gentiles during his preliminary hearing.

Both theories have able defenders and both views are plausible. We shall not try to decide which of these views is the correct one. It would seem that AAT favors the first view, and, perhaps NIV favors the second view, but we cannot be dogmatic in either case.

"No one came to my support." RSV reads: "No one took my part." NASB: "No one supported me." According to Roman Law a condemned man was allowed a patronus, one who would speak for him when he was tried. The fact that all abandoned Paul shows how serious and dangerous the charge against him was. No one had the courage to assist Paul. Paul is not complaining. Like Jesus at Luke 23:34 and Stephen at Acts 7:60 Paul prays that the charge not be reckoned against them. He uses the plural number which seems to indicate that at least one of several people could and should have stood at his side when he was tried.

Bengel: 'First defense,' it was now therefore the second, in which he wishes Timothy to be present with him, and is confident that the Lord will stand by him, that he may prevail.

Franzmann prefers the earlier trial of 61 A.D. Lenski prefers the preliminary hearing during the second imprisonment.

Guthrie: The desertion of his friends is mentioned to bring into greater prominence the divine assistance.

2 Timothy 4:17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth.

Paul was abandoned by all his friends and patroni but the Lord stood by him. The first "and" is somewhat epexegetical or resultative. The Lord put strength into Paul. On the verb compare Philippians 4:13. "The message" is the proclamation: "In order that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished." 

The second "and" is epexegetical. The following subjunctive clause shows what this proclamation involved: "In order that all the Gentiles might hear." Lenski takes this as a result clause. He thinks that this verse means that many Gentiles, representing all the Gentile nations, heard the proclamation of the Gospel by Paul in the preliminary hearing. Others feel that this verse speaks of what Paul did after he was released from his first Roman imprisonment. Bengel clearly prefers the preliminary hearing during the second imprisonment, and that Paul preached in Rome before the officials. Kretzmann has a different idea:

God gave Paul the courage to proclaim the Gospel-message in the very midst of his enemies. . . . He was give some respite, thus being enabled to gain time for a very necessary piece of work, namely, that of completing arrangement to have the Gospel sent out into all the countries of the known world. The mission of Crescens in Galatia and that of Titus in Dalmatia were but a beginning for the carrying out of plans by which all nations should hear the glorious news of their salvation through Jesus Christ.

And now for the final clause in verse 17. RSV, JB, and NEB make the final clause resultative: "And so I was rescued from the lion's mouth." This rendering likely means that the strengthening of the Lord resulted in Paul's being rescued. Note the different forms of the same verb are used at the end of verse 17 and the beginning of verse 18.

Bengel: The lion signifies either Nero, or some one who threatened danger. It is at all events a figure; for he would have said 'from the mouth of the lions' if he had literally meant beasts.

See Psalm 22:22. Some think that Paul is referring to that reference.

Kretzmann: It does not seem that Paul had actually been condemned to be thrown to the lions.
Lenski: The sense of the figure is simply this that at his first hearing the Lord kept him from being at once sent to execution.
Guthrie: Paul is using a common metaphor to express deliverance from some extreme danger.

2 Timothy 4:18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

According to the Nestle Greek text, there should be no "and" at the beginning of this verse. This verse is the result and expression of confident faith in the Lord Jesus. It reminds us the seventh petition in the Lord's prayer (Matthew 6:13).  "Evil" means that which is actively evil. "Heavenly" here plainly points to the Kingdom of Glory.

Lenski: Here we have one of the clear passages of Scripture regarding what happens when our souls leave their bodies at death, compare Philippians 1:23.
Guthrie: His mind is clearly centered more on eternal realities than any hopes of further release.

It hardly needs be said that Paul is not referring to any of his own works when he says "every evil work." Lock suggests: "From anything that may harm me." This expression of faith calls for a simple doxology, Paul's very last, so far as we know.

Note the serenity in the words which follow our text. Paul asks that he be remembered to Priscilla and Aquila and to the family of Onesiphorus. Then he lists some facts about Trophimus and Erastus. For the second time he asks Timothy to come and see him. Then he sends greetings from four persons "and all the brethren." And then a simple farewell. He says not one word about informing the people in Ephesus that he is about to die. There is no complaining. There is no panic. There is no sentimentality. For Paul the great crisis had passed long ago. And for us too. Long ago Christ died for us and redeemed us. That was the great crisis. Our temporal death is no longer a great crisis. Paul witnessed even in death. We ought to do the same.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Epistle Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1985, pp. 114-117. Used with permission.

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