For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

4:1.  “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick (living) and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;"

It is generally agreed that a better rendering of this verse is, “I charge (earnestly command) thee before God and Christ Jesus who shall judge the quick (living) and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom;”

Paul is here reminding Timothy that God and the Lord Jesus Christ were witnesses to his having given Timothy this command, the equality of their witness being indirect testimony to their equality as God: Christ is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father: they are One.

The reference to judgment reminds us that all judgment has been committed into the hand of the Son, as recorded in Jn 5:22, “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.”  It is to be noted, however, that here Timothy is simply being reminded that his response to the command will be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ at His judgment seat (the Bema), but it is not saying that that judgment will occur at the time of the Lord’s appearing, for Scripture makes it clear that the judgment of believers will occur after the Rapture, and before the Lord’s appearing, that is, His return to earth in power and glory with His saints to judge the nations, and inaugurate His millennial kingdom.  The reference to Christ’s judging the living and the dead is simply emphasizing that He is the Judge of all, and is describing what He will judge, but it is not saying that the judgment of these two groups will be at the same time (Scripture makes it clear in fact that they are a thousand years apart).

The mention of Christ’s appearing (to end the Tribulation, judge the nations, and inaugurate His millennial kingdom) is to remind Timothy that the reward given him at the Bema will be displayed for all to see when he returns with Christ at His appearing described above.  Such Scriptures as Lk 19:12-26 indicate that at least part of our reward given at the Bema will be the appointment of a place in the hierarchical administration of Christ, proportionate to the faithfulness of our service rendered here on earth.  This would be an incentive to Timothy to render his service in view of that day of judgment and reward, as it was to Paul, see verse 8, and as it should be also to us.

4:2.  “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”

Of paramount importance to God is the preaching of the gospel of salvation for sinners through faith in His crucified and risen Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; nor should we wonder why He is so anxious to have that gospel preached.  First, it cost His beloved Son a terrible price to make that salvation available to perishing sinful men.  It cost Him His life, but not in the form of natural death: it involved the awful agony of death by crucifixion, that agony being compounded by His having to endure the unimaginable wrath of God against sin, and the hiding of His Father’s face from Him during those hours when He hung on the cross enduring the taunts and mockery of the very creatures for Whom He was giving His life.

And second, unless men believe the gospel they are doomed to an eternity of torment, first in hell, and then in the lake of fire, following the judgment of the great white throne; but as Paul asks in Ro 10:14-15, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?  and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach, except they be sent?  as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

“... be instant in season, out of season;” means do this work with the zeal of urgency, seizing every opportunity, whether convenient or inconvenient, welcomed or rejected.

The preaching of the gospel also involves the pronouncement of reproof, so that the hearers may be convicted of sin, for until a man is convicted (shown that he is guilty before God) he can’t be saved.

It also involves rebuke, censure or admonishment.  The man who would be saved must be made aware that God disapproves of wrongdoing.

And it requires exhortation, i.e., the sinner must be appealed to, encouraged to accept God’s priceless gift of eternal life to save him from hell and fit him for heaven.

“... with all longsuffering” means simply “with very great patience.”

And last, but not least on the list, is doctrine, i.e., teaching.  The average unconverted man has little or no knowledge of God or of the things that pertain to eternity.  He must be taught; but if we are going to teach him, we ourselves must be students of Scripture.

The fact that the primary application of this section is to the preaching of the gospel, doesn’t exclude its application also to believers: we too at times need reproof, rebuke, exhortation, and teaching.

4:3.  “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;”

Many a reader has been puzzled by the KJ rendering of this verse relative to “itching ears.”  The correct rendering is “... they, having itching ears, shall heap to themselves teachers.”

“... will not endure sound doctrine” means that they will refuse to listen to the truth as declared in Scripture.

“... but after their own lusts” means that their motive for refusing God’s Word will be that they will be looking for teaching that will condone their evil conduct rather than condemn it.

As noted above it is the people, not the teachers, who will have itching ears, i.e., itching to hear teaching that will not condemn their evil lifestyles.

“... heap to themselves teachers” means that they will find many, or a continuously changing succession of false teachers.

4:4.  “And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

Rejecting truth, they will gladly accept any fiction invented by man’s corrupt mind, and the proliferating cults of Christendom testify to the fertility of man’s evil imagination.

4:5.  “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

“... watch” is variously rendered as “be self-controlled, composed, calm,” in other words, he was not to allow these evils to agitate him, but rather, with a calm mind he was to be prepared to endure afflictions (hardship), and to let nothing turn him aside from spreading the gospel.

“... make full proof of thy ministry” means “do everything that your God-given service requires,” the thought being that he was to be zealous, whole-hearted in spreading the gospel, for it is clear that that was the work to which God had called him: he had the gift of evangelism.

Having regard to the Lord’s command to us, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to everyone,” Mk 16:15, Paul’s instructions to Timothy are to us also.

4:6.  “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.”

Virtually every translation emphasizes that the sacrifice was already in progress, e.g., “I am already being offered:” “I am already being poured out as a drink offering:” “... already my life is being poured out;” “My life is already ebbing out.”  The truth is that from the moment of his conversion, Paul’s life had been a sacrifice poured out daily to God, but now the sacrifice was almost complete, the final act being the laying down of his life for Christ’s sake.

It is instructive also to note that wine is the biblical symbol of joy, and in Php 2:17, written about eight years earlier, Paul had declared, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.”  He doesn’t ever seem to have viewed his sufferings, or now his approaching death, with anything but joy at being counted worthy to suffer and die in the service of the Master Who had suffered and died in his stead to redeem his soul.

Significantly, connected with “my departure” is the thought of release.  The faithful service, the patient endurance of hardship and suffering were almost over.  In a little while Paul would be absent from the body and present with the Lord, which is far better, 2 Cor 5:6-10; Php 1:23.

We too may be nearer than we think to the end of our time on earth.

4:7.  “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:”

The KJ version suggests that Paul was boasting, but other translations make it clear that he wasn’t: he was simply declaring the privilege it had been to have been allowed to be a contestant in a noble contest; to have been allowed to fight on God’s side in a great battle; to have been permitted to run in a great race.

“I have finished my course” clearly implies his gratitude to God for the sustaining grace that had prevented him from becoming a drop-out, a failure.

Relative to his having kept the faith, the meaning is that he had kept a firm hold on the faith.  It was his faith in Christ that had fortified him in everything he did.  It wasn’t so much that he had kept the faith, but that the faith had kept him.

4:8.  “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown (garland) of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

“... crown of righteousness” doen’t mean that the crown (garland) consisted of righteousness, but that it was the reward for all the righteousness that had characterized Paul’s life, the value of the crown being determined by the infallible judgment of “Jesus Christ the righteous,” 1 Jn 2:1.  The same unerring Judge will determine the value of the crown we will wear eternally. 

Since “that day” is connected with the Lord’s giving each believer the reward earned by faithfulness in service, it can only be that day when we stand before Him at His judgment seat following the Rapture, and relative to which we are warned that, “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ,” Ro 14:10, and again, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” 2 Cor 5:10.

“... all them also that love his appearing” is also translated, “... who have set their hearts on his return,” and “... look with eager expectation for His return.”  In its proper context “his appearing” refers to the Lord’s return in power and glory to end the Tribulation, and inaugurate His millennial kingdom, but in this present context that glorious event is inseparably linked with His coming seven years earlier to the air to Rapture His Church to heaven, because the rewards given to believers following the Rapture, will be on display on that day when we come with Him at His return in power and glory.

4:9.  “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:”

4:10.  “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica: Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.”

The very human side of Paul shows here.  He loved Timothy deeply, and wanted if possible to see him one last time.

The only other scriptural references to Demas are in Col 4:14, “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you,” and Phm 23-24, ”There salute thee ... Demas, Lucas, my fellow- laborers.”  It is impossible to tell whether he was a true believer who had grown weary in the conflict, or whether, like Judas, he had never been born again at all.  Its being said that he loved this present world, may indicate that the latter may be true.

There is no other reference to Cresens, but his going to Galatia may indicate that he had gone there on the Lord’s business, as obviously Titus had gone to Dalmatia for the same reason.  There is no reason to believe that they, like Demas, had simply forsaken Paul in his hour of need.

4:11.  “Only Luke is with me.  Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry”

Luke seems to have been faithful, and a great comfort to Paul to the very end.

This is the same Mark whose departure from the work had resulted in the quarrel between Paul and Barnabas, and which caused their separation recorded in Ac 15:37-40.  There must have been a reconciliation between Paul and Mark, however, for years later during his first imprisonment, Paul writes in Col 4:10, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you, and Marcus (John Mark) sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him.)”  In Paul’s letter to Philemon, verse 24, he is also included in the list of those who were with Paul and who sent greetings to Philemon.  His being “profitable for the ministry” doesn’t indicate whether the ministry (service) was in the work of the gospel, or in personal service to Paul, though many take it to have been the latter.

His restoration to the work after his early failure ought to encourage those of us who have also failed, not once, but many times.

4:12.  “And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.”

4:13.  “The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.”

His having sent Tychicus to Ephesus makes it clear that Paul wouldn’t have the Lord’s work neglected, even though the departure of Tychicus left him with one less companion in Rome.

He possibly needed the cloak to keep him warm, for winter was approaching, see verse 21.  Nothing is known of the nature of the books and parchments (scrolls), or what the difference is between them.

4:14.  “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:”

It isn’t known whether this Alexander is the one mentioned in 1 Tim 1:20, but it has been conjectured that he had given false testimony against Paul at his trial, for one translation reads, “he charged me with much evil in his declaration.”  His perjury, however, would be dealt with by the Lord at the proper time.

4:15.  “Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.”

He appears to have been a particularly viscious opponent of the gospel, hence the warning for Timothy to be especially careful of this evil man.

4:16.  “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.”

At his first court appearance there wasn’t one to stand with him, reminding us that in the Lord’s case also, “all the disciples forsook, him and fled,” Mt 26:56.  Paul’s gracious spirit is revealed in his wish that God would not hold their cowardice against them.

4:17.  “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.”

The Lord was true to His promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Heb 13:5, and, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (age,)” Mt 28:20.

“... that by me the preaching might be fully known” seems to mean that in presenting his defence, Paul was able to give a full presentation of the gospel, so that all in the courtroom,  including many high officials, would hear it.

His being “delivered out of the mouth of the lion” is understood by some to mean that he had been delivered from being thrown to the lions in the arena; others, that it was a discreet way of saying that he had been delivered out of the hand of Nero, and of Satan.

4:18.  “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.”

Clearly Paul wasn’t anticipating acquittal and release, but rather resting in the confident assurance that his approaching death, see verse 6, would transport his soul to heaven where it would be safe forever beyond the reach of all the evil activity of men and demons.  And so is it with every believer.  The worst the enemy can do is to kill the body, but that is but the means by which the soul is released to enter heaven to await the resurrection of the body in a form suited to heaven: incorruptible, glorious, powerful, spiritual, 1 Cor 15:42-44, “fashioned like unto his (the Lord’s) glorious body,” Php 3:21.

Some take the deliverance to be from recanting his confession of faith in Christ.

4:19.  “Salute Prisca (Priscilla) and Acquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.”

Even with death impending Paul still thought of others, and wished to assure them of his undying love.

His addressing the greeting to “the household of Onesiphorus” has led some to speculate that Onesiphorus himself may have died.

4:20.  “Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.”

Erastus was chamberlain (treasurer) of the city of Corinth.

The fact that Trophimus was left sick at Miletum, even though Paul had the gift of healing, demonstrates that it isn’t always God’s will to heal, so that when we pray for recovery for ourselves or others, it should always be with the qualification, “If it be Thy will.”

4:21.  “Do thy diligence to come before winter.  Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren.”

From this it is apparent that Paul still had some contact with the believers in Rome, though it may have been limited.

4:22.  “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit.  Grace be with you.  Amen.

The first part of this closing greeting is for Timothy personally; but the “you” (plural) indicates that the second part is for all the believers in Ephesus.

With this last brief word of blessing, Paul concludes the last letter he is known to have written, and what a blessing this epistle has been to countless generations of believers.  Our prayer should be for the grace to live and die as he did.



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough