These are Paul’s last words. He is within weeks, or even days, of being martyred. For roughly 30 years he has exercised apostolic ministry – evangelising new towns, villages and cities with the gospel, planting churches and then visiting to support and appoint elders. He has fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith, v.7. He’s awaiting his crown of righteousness – his reward in heaven and the “good and faithful servant” from the Lord he has loved and served.
So he issues his charge to his apostolic son, Timothy, and to us by extension.
The basis of the charge is threefold…
- In the presence of God, and Jesus who is coming back, v.1. We are a people of the presence, the presence of the Spirit who indwells and guides us in paths of righteousness, who fills us with power and gifting to be witnesses. His second coming is Paul’s expectation, and ours hundreds of years later. He will come as judge, with reward for those who serve Him, v.8.
- The days in which we live, v.3-5. Now, just as then, people have itching ears – not for the truth and sound teaching, but for teachers who will suit their passions. Paul doesn’t want him to give up – “but as for you…” Because people are unstable in their minds, Timothy is to be sober-minded and steady. Because people will not listen to sound teaching, Timothy is to persist in teaching. Because people are woefully ignorant of the gospel, Timothy is to do the work of an evangelist. Even if people desert him for fickle ministries, he is to fulfil his ministry.
- Paul, the aged apostle, v.6-8. Paul is about to die, so Timothy must carry it on, pick up the baton and keep running with it. When Paul spoke for the last time to the Ephesian elders (where Timothy is now serving), he said “I do not account my life of any value, nor as precious to myself, if only that I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts20:24). That he has now done!
What is the charge? To preach the word of God, the gospel. He is to preach sound teaching, v.3, the truth, v.4 and the faith, v.7. He is to do it urgently (‘be ready’, v.2). Paul wants him never to lose his sense of urgency. (Finney tells the story of preaching to hundreds one night and not making an appeal. That night the great fire of Chicago killed many who would have been there. That sparked a sense of urgency in him.) At the same time, he is to do it with great patience – helping people fully grasp the message and not using human techniques to manipulate a decision.
Timothy, and we too, must convince, rebuke and exhort as we follow Paul’s lead.
Having laid the charge, Paul is desperate to see his friend once more – “Come to me soon”. His prison confinement is a lonely time and cold too! He needs his cloak and books and papers.
Paul greets Priscilla and Aquila, that amazing couple who keep popping up in church plants to support them, exhorting, teaching and encouraging as they visit different situations. Not everyone called to planting is the leader – teams are needed. Could you be a Priscilla or Aquila in different settings short term or long term?
Grace and peace!