Lesson from II Timothy: Lesson 9 – Preach the Word! Lesson 10 – Paul’s Last Words

This series by Rev. Henry Vander Kam, pastor of Grace Christian Reformed Church, Kalamazoo, Michigan, is intended for church societies, study groups, and all others interested. Two lessons appear each month.


II Timothy 4:1–8

Preach the Word!

In the previous chapter Paul had warned Timothy concerning the nature of the times to come and how he should guard himself against falling victim to the evils which are to come. This is possible because God has given His Word which is able to give him everything he needs.

In this last chapter of this brief letter Paul shows Timothy what else is required of him. First this Word must have gripped his own heart and will then enable him to stand in the evil day. But, Timothy is also called to a very special office. He must preach the Word which His God has spoken and which he believes without a doubt. In other words: he will not be able to stand in that evil day if he does not hold fast to that Word in his own life, and he must attack the coming evil with the preaching of that Word!

Preaching—God’s method – Timothy must preach, herald, proclaim that Word. That Word must be expounded. It is not enough to give that word to another in some form or other, but it is to be preached! Where the Word is preached the Spirit has promised to be active. Things happen where the Word is preached. No substitute is permitted. Paul is familiar with the philosophy and poetry of his day; and, no doubt, Timothy is too. But, preach only the Word!

It might seem as though it is an oversimplification to imply that the preaching of the Word will be sufficient as a weapon against the evils which have been listed. Paul doesn‘t think so. This is the only advice he has for Timothy, but it is also far more than advice. He charges him in the sight of God and Christ Jesus that he preach the Word. He places him under oath. Men may think lightly of the effectiveness of the preaching of the Word (and many still think so today) it is the method and manner which God has chosen.

Let not Timothy dare to use a different method. He will have to answer to his God and to the Christ Who is Judge. His appearing and His kingdom are coming. That appearing and Kingdom is also Timothy’s hope. Looking forward to that, he must be faithful in preaching the Word which speaks of these things.

How to preach – The “how” of that preaching is also emphasized. Timothy should be ready to preach that Word at all times and should seek out the opportunities for preaching it. Let no opportunity be missed. He should apply it to the individual. He must reprove with the Word of God. He should rebuke sin and not allow it a place in the heart of the hearer.

The admonitions should be fatherly not toned down, but given in a spirit of love. The Word must be taught and that teaching has to be accompanied by patience. They will not immediately grasp or apply the truth. The teacher and preacher must be longsuffering. He must be willing to teach and teach; to sow and sow, and perhaps have someone else reap.

Itching ears” – Although the Apostle has also given a characterization of the coming times in the previous chapter, he now goes into greater detail to underscore the importance of the preaching of the Word. Timothy must realize that he is still able to preach it now and that there are also those who gladly listen to it. Therefore he must now use every opportunity to impress the truth of God on the hearts and minds of those he is able to reach. Because the time is coming when they will not endure the sound doctrine. That sound, or healthy, doctrine is the one in which men will find life.

People will not want that doctrine in the coming days. They will have “itching ears,” Paul says. They will want to hear that which seems pleasant to them. They will want to be entertained. Their “itching ears” will demand “scratching” to satisfy them. As a result, they will have many teachers. No one person is going to be able to satisfy their desires. No one person will be so “creative” as to be able to come up with all the new “gimmicks” desired. They will “heap” to themselves such teachers.

Paul had been able to satisfy the church in his day. Timothy could also do this for the church in his time. But, when “itching ears” are more prominent than believing and obedient hearts, they will have to have many teachers, and all of them will not be able to satisfy. These are teachers who agree with the lusts of those they teach. Their lusts determine their teachers—rather than the calling of God for the building up in the faith to that full manhood which is in Christ Jesus.

Turning to fables – Of course, these have turned away their ears from the truth. The truth is become their enemy. The Word of God is not honored. But, when one turns from the truth, where can he go? The Apostle replies that they will turn aside to fables!

Mind you! The truth despised—and trust placed on fables! Yet, that is precisely the road of the unbeliever. When entertainment takes the place of worship, when philosophy and poetry become competitors for the Word of God, men have turned aside to fables and have left the truth.

Sober in all things – Seeing this is going to be the course of events, Timothy must preach the Word whenever opportunity is presented. When these times, as described by the Apostle, come, Timothy must remain sober. He must remain calm. He is not to feel as though all his work is now in vain. To harvest fruit is not his first calling; but, to be faithful. Let him then remain sober when sobriety has left all others.

Timothy must do the work of an evangelist. This is simply another term which the Apostle uses for the preaching of the Word. He must do his work, his calling, to the full. Even though he should have to suffer for it at the hands of men, nothing may cause him to swerve from his calling. Shall the preaching of the Word stem the tide of evil and apostasy? Yes, that Word will ultimately triumph, and therefore it must be preached!

Paul’s example – Once more Paul uses himself as an example to encourage his son in the faith and his successor in the ministry. Will Timothy not give up the struggle when he sees what that same struggle has done to Paul? Only if he misinterprets what is taking place with the Apostle. Therefore Paul will now give him the proper interpretation of his own life in order that Timothy may be spurred on to renewed zeal.

Timothy knows, of course, what the situation is with Paul. Paul is also fully aware of the things he can expect. Notice how he speaks of his coming death. He doesn’t use the term “death.” No, his life is being poured out as a thankoffering. That kind of sacrifice had no salvational value, but it was added to the sacrifices as a token of thanks. So is his life now being poured out—in gratitude to his God! The time of his “departure” has come. He is about to be loosed, released. He will depart from the chains which now bind him. He will be released from the body of this death.” But, he will also depart from those who are very dear to him! Throughout the New Testament both of these elements are emphasized. Departure will indeed be release, but he does not advocate the inhuman sentimentality as though there were no place for tears.

Looking back, he says that he has fought the good fight. It was the fight that had to be waged—therefore good. He had not wasted his life striving about things of no value, but, at the same time, he had not shirked his duty when the truth was not to be defended. He has finished the course. The course of life is coming to the end. That course of life had not been an easy one. Jesus had set him on the course, and he had kept his eye on Jesus, Who is also the finisher.

Of course, the Apostle is using metaphors from the area of athletics. However, dont pay so much attention to the metaphor that the thing illustrated is lost from sight! He has kept the faith. By this he means his subjective faith. All his experiences in life have confirmed the faith. There you see him now!—man about to be executed for the faith calmly telling Timothy to preach the Word so that others may share in that assurance!

A glorious future – But, the Apostle hasnt finished his word to Timothy. He says, because I have so fought and so run, and because I still have the true faith, therefore He will give me a crown when I will stand before Him! That is the crown of righteousness, that is, the crown which is rightly mine because He promised it! He is holding God to His promise! The Lord, the righteous Judge—He will give it to me in that day—the day of resurrection. Don‘t feel sorry for me, Timothy. I am departing to receive the crown!

Not only can the Apostle of the Lamb say this, No, Paul quickly adds: “and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.” All those who have kept the faith; all those whose cry of faith is: Come Lord Jesus; yea, come quickly; they shall receive that crown. What a glorious future! Therefore, Preach the Word! Nothing else can bring to this glorious end.

Questions for discussion:

1. Does “Preach the Word” include the many forms of “communicating” which are being used in many churches today? If not—is it then such an innocent method? 2. A few years ago many said that the day of preaching was past. The dialog was supposed to take its place. What do you think would be the answer of Scripture to these ideas? 3. The modern church has used “gimmicks” for years to get people to church. This failed Why then do many churches do this today? Or dont they? 4. What does it mean to “hold God to His promises”? Do we do this enough? 5. Some seem to believe that every Christian death is a joyful event. How do you react to that?    


II Timothy 4:9–22

Paul’s last words

The Apostle is coming to the end of this second letter he has written to Timothy. This was the last letter he wrote which was included in the canon of Scripture. There are many personal references now but his love for the church and his own relation to Christ shine through clearly.

Desires to see Timothy – Paul urges Timothy to make the long trip to Rome soon. Here indeed is the evidence of the Apostle’s loneliness and his strong desire to see Timothy once more. There isn’t too much time left so that Timothy should not postpone this journey any longer.

Although Paul’s personal desire is very evident, there is, no doubt, also further reason even though he does not express it in so many words. Paul will have a lot of advice and counsel for Timothy. He has written two letters, but there are certain things which are best communicated mouth to mouth. Come soon, Timothy!

Deserted by Demas – Paul’s loneliness -and thereby his desire for Timothy’s presence—has also been increased by the desertion of Demas. This man had been a helper to Paul. He had even followed him to Rome, but, in time, he was not strong enough to stand with the Apostle. Paul says: He left me in the lurch. Paul had counted on his help and presence but that trust was misplaced. Demas loved this present world and left to go to Thessalonica. Paul does not say that he had become a gross sinner. Demas saw all that this present world can offer and contrasted that with the confinement of Paul—and he made the wrong choice!

Another helper, Crescens, has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. These left for legitimate reasons. The work in the church of Jesus Christ has to continue. They cannot all stay with an imprisoned Apostle1 Only Luke “the beloved physician” is with him now. Luke is a great help to him. In him he even has a personal physician. But, Luke is especially a companion to him—an educated and cultured man who shares Paul’s deepest beliefs.

Asks for John Mark – Timothy is also asked to bring John Mark with him to Rome. The mention of this name brings back memories. At one time Mark had deserted Paul on his missionary journey. Seeing Mark was not dependable, Paul refused to take him on the second missionary journey. This even gave rise to some bitterness between Paul and Barnabas. As a result, Paul took Silas and Barnabas took Mark.

Later Mark proved himself, and the Apostle no longer holds the former experience against him but tells Timothy that Mark is useful to him in the work he is still able to do.

Sends Tyehieus to Ephesus – To do that which Paul desires, i.e., for Timothy to go to Rome to visit him, will bring many difficulties. It is a long and slow journey. It is not a matter of days or weeks, but of months! It may indeed be very profitable for Timothy to be able to speak with Paul face to face, but how can a minister be away from his work so long? Timothy will not leave the church that long and give his people a prey to all the evils which have been mentioned before. Paul realizes this.

Paul tells Timothy that he doesn’t have to worry about the church in his absence because he has already sent Tyehicus to Ephesus to take his place. This is a trusted servant of God and the Ephesian church will be well cared for in Timothy’s absence.

Needs cloak, books, parchments – In a letter such as this one there are naturally some things of a very personal nature which have little meaning for a later time. Thus Paul speaks later of greeting various individuals who are totally unknown to us.

Seeing that Paul expects Timothy to come, he asks him to bring the cloak which he had left at Troas with a certain Carpus. Winter is approaching and the heavy cloak will be very welcome. Besides, he should bring the books and parchments. It is useless to speculate which books and parchments these were. Timothy knew which ones he meant and we do not. These words are important only in that they reveal to us the Apostle’s concern for both his physical and mental well-being.

Beware of Alexander – Paul also refers to a certain Alexander who had done him much harm and had greatly withstood his words. This man is also unknown to us. Paul does not give us a detailed description of evil things this man had done. But, he had done “much evil”—he had brought great damage to Paul’s defense. He had “greatly withstood” the words of Paul. This man was a metalworker—not a scholar, but nevertheless a man on whom he had depended.

Paul has no vengeful spirit but simply says that the Lord will render to him according to the things he did. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. However, he warns Timothy to beware of this person. The way in which this man has treated Paul is on his own conscience; he will not seek vengeance, but will turn the other cheek. But, his past deeds should certainly teach Timothy not to trust him!

Forsaken by men – The following verses present somewhat of a problem regarding the time of which Paul is speaking. Is he speaking of the present imprisonment in which there may have been more than one defence? I believe, however, that he now refers to his first imprisonment from which he had been set free. He refers to that time as an example for the present imprisonment. At that time no one came to his defence. There was the provision in Roman law for friends, family, or acquaintances to plead the cause of the accused. This could, of course, be a great help for a prisoner. It also involved danger for those who would defend him because the “link” between them and the accused might make them suspect.

No one defended Paul at that time; no, they all forsook me! They were no heroes1 Paul prays that these deeds—or this negligence—may not testify against them when they stand before their Judge. Here he assumes a different attitude than the one he took against Alexander. These, who could have spoken the proper word at the proper time, loved Paul and his cause. They were simply afraid. Alexander, on the other hand, was an enemy of the cross.

Not forgotten by the Lord – Although no one stood by Paul during that first defence, the Lord had not forgotten him. He always remains faithful. He is also the most important Helper. He stood by me and He strengthened me, says Paul.

That strengthening was necessary for Paul too.

One would certainly lose all hope and courage if he had to rely on self or fellow-men. Because of the Lord’s aid at that time the message of the gospel could again go forth through the instrumentality of Paul. He had used the time given him. He had not toned down the gospel to prevent further difficulty with the authorities, but had boldly declared the Kingship of Jesus Christ by word of mouth and by epistle. He had indeed been rescued out of the mouth of the lion.

The present imprisonment is quite different from the first. Paul is fully aware of this fact, but, nevertheless, boldly states that the Lord will deliver him again. The former time he had been delivered to take up his Apostolic work again; now He will save me unto His heavenly kingdom. This too is deliverance. The Lord remains faithful. That is the God Who is to be praised forever!

Sends greetings – Timothy must give the greetings of Paul to various people who have labored with him in the gospel. First of all, Prisca (or Priscilla) and Aquila. These people had been a great help to Paul in the past and had instructed Apollos in the truth as it is in Christ. Greet Onesiphorus, a man who had befriended Paul and sought him out when he was in Rome. Erastus, whose name is also mentioned in Acts, is now in Corinth, so he cannot send greetings. Trophimus was left behind in Miletus, sick. This is an interesting observation. Paul healed many sick and even raised some from the dead. However, he was not able to use that power at will nor was the faith of the sick person decisive. The miracles were performed for the purpose of revelation and redemption! Paul would not have left this trusted helper at Miletus sick in the time when every help was needed in the church.

He pleads with Timothy to come before winter. The long sea journey will be far more dangerous during the winler; Paul’s time is running out; and he needs the cloak. Do everything in your power to come before winter.

In closing he mentions four persons who send their greetings to Timothy. We do not know anyone of them, but, of course, they were known to Timothy. It doesn’t help us to know the meaning of the names because those names in the Creek and Latin world of that day had no more meaning than today. All the brethren at Rome salute Timothy.

Final benediction – Paul now lays a final benediction on his beloved son. The Lord be with thy spirit. Then you won‘t need anything else. This is a declaration—not a prayer. Grace be with the church. Paul is brief, but everything is included in these few words. He hopes to see him—but God’s will be done and His faithfulness will always uphold Timothy and the church.

Questions for discussion:

1. Do you think we would have known the personality of Paul as well if he had not written the verses 9–22 of this chapter? 2. How does Paul show a forgiving spirit regarding Mark? Does it detract from a forgiving spirit if we demand proof of change? 3. Do you think the teaching of Christ concerning the turning of the other cheek and going the second mile is often misinterpreted? Would you say that a misinterpretation of this teaching can make Christianity absurd? 4. What do you think of the efforts of some to find a “deeper meaning” in the cloak and books and parchments? 5. Paul is lonely, yet fearless in the face of death. Is this logical? Explain.