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Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Epistle

(2 Timothy 4:5-13)


Ministerial Duties; The Apostle's Joyful Expectation. A. D. 66.

5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.   6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.   7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:   8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown 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.

2. Because Paul for his part had almost done his work: Do thou make full proof of thy ministry, for I am now ready to be offered, v. 6. And,

      (1.) "Therefore there will be the more occasion for thee." When labourers are removed out of the vineyard, it is no time for those to loiter that are left behind, but to double their diligence. The fewer hands there are to work the more industrious those hands must be that are at work.

      (2.) "I have done the work of my day and generation; do thou in like manner do the work of thy day and generation."

      (3.) The comfort and cheerfulness of Paul, in the prospect of his approaching departure, might encourage Timothy to the utmost industry, and diligence, and seriousness in his work. Paul was an old soldier of Jesus Christ, Timothy was but newly enlisted. "Come," says Paul, "I have found our Master kind and the cause good; I can look back upon my warfare with a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction; and therefore be not afraid of the difficulties thou must meet with. The crown of life is as sure to thee as if it were already upon thy head; and therefore endure afflictions, and make full proof of thy ministry." The courage and comfort of dying saints and ministers, and especially dying martyrs, are a great confirmation of the truth of the Christian religion, and a great encouragement to living saints and ministers in their work. Here the apostle looks forward, upon his death approaching: I am now ready to be offered. The Holy Ghost witnessed in every city that bonds and afflictions did abide him, Acts xx. 23. He was now at Rome, and it is probable that he had particular intimations from the Spirit that there he should seal the truth with his blood; and he looks upon it now as near at hand: I am already poured out; so it is in the original, ede spendomai; that is, I am already a martyr in affection. It alludes to the pouring out of the drink-offerings; for the blood of the martyrs, though it was not a sacrifice of atonement, was a sacrifice of acknowledgment to the honour of the grace of God and his truths. Observe,

      [1.] With what pleasure he speaks of dying. He calls it his departure; though it is probable that he foresaw he must die a violent bloody death, yet he calls it his departure, or his release. Death to a good man is his release from the imprisonment of this world and his departure to the enjoyments of another world; he does not cease to be, but is only removed from one world to another.

      [2.] With what pleasure he looks back upon the life he had lived (v. 7): I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, &c. He did not fear death, because he had the testimony of his conscience that by the grace of God he had in some measure answered the ends of living. As a Christian, as a minister, he had fought a good fight. He had done the service, gone through the difficulties of his warfare, and had been instrumental in carrying on the glorious victories of the exalted Redeemer over the powers of darkness. His life was a course, and he had now finished it; as his warfare was accomplished, so his race was run. "I have kept the faith. I have kept the doctrines of the gospel, and never betrayed any of them." Note, First, The life of a Christian, but especially of a minister, is a warfare and a race, sometimes compared to the one in the scripture, and sometimes to the other. Secondly, It is a good fight, a good warfare; the cause is good, and the victory is sure, if we continue faithful and courageous. Thirdly, We must fight this good fight; we must fight it out, and finish our course; we must not give over till we are made more than conquerors through him who hath loved us, Rom. viii. 37. Fourthly, It is a great comfort to a dying saint, when he can look back upon his past life and say with our apostle, "I have fought, &c. I have kept the faith, the doctrine of faith and the grace of faith." Towards the end of our days to be able to speak in this manner, what comfort, unspeakable comfort, will it afford! Let it then be our constant endeavour, by the grace of God, that we may finish our course with joy, Acts xx. 24.

      [3.] With what pleasure he looks forward to the life he was to live hereafter (v. 8): Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, &c. He had lost for Christ, but he was sure he should not lose by him, Phil. iii. 8. Let this encourage Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ that there is a crown of life before us, the glory and joy of which will abundantly recompense all the hardships and toils of our present warfare. Observe, It is called a crown of righteousness, because it will be the recompence of our services, which God is not unrighteous to forget; and because our holiness and righteousness will there be perfected, and will be our crown. God will give it as a righteous Judge, who will let none love by him. And yet this crown of righteousness was not peculiar to Paul, as if it belonged only to apostles and eminent ministers and martyrs, but to all those also that love his appearing. Observe, It is the character of all the saints that they love the appearing of Jesus Christ: they loved his first appearing, when he appeared to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. ix. 26); they love to think of it; they love his second appearing at the great day; love it, and long for it: and, with respect to those who love the appearing of Jesus Christ, he shall appear to their joy; there is a crown of righteousness reserved for them, which shall then be given them, Heb. ix. 28. We learn hence, First, The Lord is the righteous Judge, for his judgment is according to truth. Secondly, The crown of believers is a crown of righteousness, purchased by the righteousness of Christ, and bestowed as the reward of the saints' righteousness. Thirdly, This crown, which believers shall wear, is laid up for them; they have it not at present, for here they are but heirs; they have it not in possession, and yet it is sure, for it is laid up for them. Fourthly, The righteous Judge will give it to all who love, prepare, and long for his appearing. Surely I come quickly. Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus.

The Apostle's Directions to Timothy.  A. D. 66.

9 Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:   10 For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.   11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.   12 And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.   13 The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.  

      Here are divers particular matters which Paul mentions to Timothy, now at the closing of the epistle. 1. He bids him hasten to him, if possible (v. 9): So thy diligence to come shortly to me. For Timothy was an evangelist, one who was not a fixed pastor of any one place, but attended the motions of the apostles, to build upon their foundation. Paul wanted Timothy's company and help; and the reason he gives is because several had left him (v. 10); one from an ill principle, namely, Demas, who abides under an ill name for it: Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world. He quitted Paul and his interest, either for fear of suffering (because Paul was now a prisoner, and he was afraid of coming into trouble upon his account) or being called off from his ministry by secular affairs, in which he entangled himself; his first love to Christ and his gospel was forsaken and forgotten, and he fell in love with the world. Note, Love to this present world is often the cause of apostasy from the truths and ways of Jesus Christ. He has gone off, has departed to Thessalonica, called thither perhaps by trade, or by some other worldly business. Crescens had gone one way and Titus another way. Luke however remained with Paul (v. 11, 12), and was not this enough? Paul did not think it so; he loved the company of his friends. 2. He speaks respectfully concerning Mark: He is profitable to me for the ministry. It is supposed that this Mark was he about whom Paul and Barnabas had contended, Acts xv. 39. Paul would not take him with him to the work, because he had once flinched and drawn back: but now, says he, Take Mark, and bring him with thee. By this it appears that Paul was now reconciled to Mark, and had a better opinion of him than he had had formerly. This teaches us to be of a forgiving spirit; we must not therefore disclaim for ever making use of those that are profitable and useful, though they may have done amiss. 3. Paul orders Timothy to come to him, bids him as he came through Troas to bring with him thence those things which he had left behind him there (v. 13), the cloak he had left there, which, it may be, Paul had the more occasion for in a cold prison. It is probable that it was the habit Paul usually wore, a plain dress. Some read it, the roll of parchment I left at Troas; others, the desk that I left. Paul was guided by divine inspiration, and yet he would have his books with him. Whereas he had exhorted Timothy to give attendance to reading, so he did himself, though he was now ready to be offered. As long as we live, we must be still learning. But especially the parchments, which some think were the originals of his epistles; others think they were the skins of which he made his tents, whereby he obtained a livelihood, working with his own hands.