November 30, 2014

Scripture and Comments, Week of December 1-6


Psalm 1, 3, Is.1:1-9, Mk. 1:1-13
Psalm 4, 8, Is. 1:10-20, Rev. 3:14

Commentary, Mark 1:1-13

Mark was a prominent person in the early Church.  His mother was a follower of Christ, who owned the house Peter went to after his miraculous release from prison.  Some believe her house contained the famous Upper Room where Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper.  Mark was a cousin of Barnabas, companion and helper of the Apostle Paul, and beloved enough to be called “son” by the Apostle Peter.  Thus, Mark was probably an eye witness to many of the events in the life of Christ and the early Church.  According to prominent leaders in the early Church, his Gospel was written under the direction of Peter, and consists of Peter’s account of the life of Christ.  The action oriented style of the Gospel corresponds with the personality of Peter, the man of action, as seen in the other Gospels. 

Mark 1:1-11 identify Jesus of Nazareth.  In Verse 1 He is the Son of God.  In verses 2 and 3 He is the One foretold by the prophets.  In verses 4-9 He is acclaimed by John the Baptist.  Each of these identifiers is an important person whose word carries great weight.  “Son of God” is the testimony of Peter, who knew and followed Christ during His earthly ministry.  The prophets are the called and inspired voice of God in the Old Testament.  Their testimony shows that Jesus of Nazareth is the message of the entire Bible.  John the Baptist is the first prophet to appear in Israel in four hundred years. He is universally regarded as the authentic voice of God in his generation.  His message is that Jesus of Nazareth is the One whose latchet John is not worthy to unloose , who comes to baptize with the Holy Ghost.

The most important witness to the identity of Christ comes from God Himself.  Twice, in verse 10 and 11, God identifies Jesus as the Messiah.  In verse 10 God the Holy Ghost descends upon Him.  In Verse 11 God the Father says, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

In verses 12 and 13, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, goes forth as a soldier into battle for the minds and souls of mortals.  His conflict is with Satan, who tempts Him constantly during the forty days. His weapon is the Bible and the ministration of angels. 

Mark wants us to know he is not writing about a mere human or human events.  His Gospel is about God, who became a Man yet still remained God.  It is about the things He did and the words He said while He lived, and died, among us. From the very start His life is shown to be a battle in which the souls of human beings are the prize.  This understanding sets the tone for the entire book.

Ps. 7, Is. 1:21-28, Mk. 1:14-28
Ps. 11, 12,  Is. 2:1-5, Rev. 4

Commentary, Mark 1:14-28
John’s ministry is conducted outside of Jerusalem near the Dead Sea.  John 1:28 tells us Jesus is baptized in an area south-east of Jerusalem called, Bethabara.  Its exact location is not known today, but it is on the eastern side of the Jordan near Jericho.  Jesus goes into the wilderness to fast and pray after His baptism.  This too, happens in the desert outside of Jerusalem.  But verse 14 shows Christ going back to Galilee, about a hundred miles north of Jerusalem.  It is there that He will preach the famous “Sermon on the Mount.”  This trip happens after John is imprisoned.

Verse 15 is a short summary of Christ’s message.  “The time is fulfilled” means the end times have begun.  The world has entered the era in which the prophesies and promises of the Old Testament are being fulfilled.  The One foretold by the prophets has arrived to begin His Divine Kingdom.  Therefore, turn from sin to God, and believe the Message of Christ.

Walking the shores of Galilee, our Lord now calls Simon and Andrew, and James and John.  These men will become the core of His disciples and the foundation of the Church after Christ’s Ascension.  Details of their lives and call are found in other places.  John’s Gospel, for example records that Peter and Andrew were with John the Baptist, and followed Jesus after hearing John point to Him as the Lamb of God (Jn. 1:36-42). But Mark moves rapidly to pivotal events which show the Divine essence and power of Christ.

First, is His teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum, found in verses 21-22.  The shocking thing about Christ’s teaching is that He teaches with the authority of God.  His is not the scholarship of a student of the Scripture.  His was the sure knowledge only possessed by the Author.  The hearers recognised this immediately.

Second, also happening in the synagogue, is the spiritual healing of the man with the unclean spirit (vss. 23-27).  The unclean spirit is a demonic presence in the life of the man.  So pervasive is the demon’s presence it is called in other places demon possession.  The man is completely unable to free himself of the devil’s grasp.  But Jesus is Lord, and even devils must yield to His absolute power.  That is the conclusion reached by the witnesses in verse 27.  If Christ has authority/power over unclean spirits, He is superior to them.  And who is superior to them, but God Himself?


Ps. 9, Is. 2:6-19, Mk. 1:29-39
Ps. 15, 19, Is. 3:1-15, Rev. 5

Commentary, Mark 1:29-39

There are two key verses in this passage.  First is verse 35, which tells of Christ going early to a solitary place to pray.  Why is this verse more significant than the previous verses about healings and exorcisms?  Because here Jesus has to make a serious decision about the essence of the Messiah and His ministry.  Christ knows He can do much good by using His Divine authority and power to relieve human suffering.  He has the power to heal every person of every disease.  He has the power to abolish hunger and poverty.  He can drive out demons.  He can ensure that every child goes to bed well nourished and in safety.  He can nearly eradicate war and crime.  He can create Utopia.  It will not quite be Eden, for fallen human beings will still sin, and their sins will still have terrible repercussions on themselves and others.  But He can soften sinful tendencies with His power to cast out demons and control the devil.  He can soften human suffering with His ability to heal all sicknesses and give universal prosperity.

This is exactly what most Jews want from the Messiah.  In fact, this is the idea of the Messiah Jesus confronts in the synagogue and the Temple, and in popular Jewish culture during His entire life.  If He uses His Divine power to be that kind of Messiah, He will be gladly received and welcomed by virtually every Jew, from the High Priest to the Pharisees to the “man in the street.”  He will be loved and honoured.  He will not face opposition.  He will not be crucified.

So Jesus needs to be reassured about the true nature and purpose of the Messiah’s mission.  How does He find reassurance?  Prayer.  His prayer naturally includes the liturgical prayers and  memorised Bible passages of His people.  It is likely that it includes much meditation on Bible passages that deal with the Messiah.  These would be the same passages He had relied upon in the wilderness temptations, which would also sustain Him over the next three trying years.  We can be sure that the same passages will be called upon in Gethsemane, and that the prayers of our Master this night in Galilee are deeply fervent and offered in complete willingness to obey the Father.

Second is verse 38.  Here Christ has reached a decision.  He is not sent to dispense physical healing and material prosperity.  His calling is to heal souls the only way that can be done, by going to the cross.  Meantime, rather than devoting Himself to physical healing, He will spend His time preaching about the true mission of the Messiah, and the true will of God as revealed in the Bible.  As He said in verse 38, “therefore came I forth.”

What is the point, then, of the miracles?  First, they show the compassion of Christ.  We often read that He was moved with compassion, and, therefore, healed, and blessed, and even raised the dead.  Second, they show our needs and our inability to solve our greatest problems.  Sickness comes.  Evil grips us.  Death takes us all away.  There is nothing we can do to prevent these things.  We are completely helpless before them.  Third, they show the identity of Christ.  Who can heal miraculously?  Who can command devils?  Who can do these things?  Only God.  Therefore, if Jesus of Nazareth can do what only God can do, then Jesus of Nazareth is God.  

Jesus continues to heal during the rest of His ministry.  But He does not allow Himself to be reduced to a healer only.  He uses healing to show His power and identity, and to point to the greater healing of the soul to eternal life, which He will accomplish on the cross.


Ps. 10, Is. 4:2,  Mk. 1:40
Ps. 24, 30, Is. 5:1-7, Rev. 6:1-11

Commentary, Mark 1:40-45

Leprosy is easily cured today, but in the time of Christ it was incurable by human means.  Besides being a horrible disease, it made a person unfit to participate in the community and religious services of Israel.  There is a fearful meaning in this; it means a leper is separated from God.  Leprosy, then, is both a physical and spiritual condition, which can only be cured by a miracle of God.        

Leprosy, in this passage, is a symbol of sin. Sin makes us unfit for fellowship with God, and unfit to participate in the life and fellowship of His Church.  An amazing thing about sin is that it often leads us to voluntarily excommunicate ourselves.  We willingly reject the Church’s ministry and service, because we value other things above the Church.  But separating ourselves from the people of God is the same as separating ourselves from God.  Just as a cell outside of the body dies, a cell of the Body of Christ dies when separated from His Body.

But isn’t it possible to worship God at home, or in a beautiful forest or at the seaside?  Yes, and we should worship Him in these places.  But this does not mean we are to neglect the assemblies of the Church.  Nor does it mean worshiping God in other places is a replacement for worshiping Him in a Biblical Church, whenever possible.  We are not to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb. 10:25).  Note that this verse in Hebrews places neglecting the Church in the category of willful sin after appearing to become a Christian, for the following verse says, “if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgement and fiery indignation.”

Mark emphasises Jesus touching the leper.  This is symbolic of the fact that God comes to us while we are yet sinners.  He does not wait for us to make ourselves righteous.  We cannot do that: we cannot heal our souls of the leprosy of sin.  But Jesus comes to us in our sin to cleanse us from it and bring us back into full fellowship with Him and His Church.

Notice Jesus tells the man to go to the priest and make an offering in the Temple.  The man was excluded from the Temple.  Now He is instructed to go into it and participate fully in its services.  The priest will pronounce him clean, and he will be able to take His place again among the people of God and in the house of God.  He has been made clean in body and soul.  He has been restored to God.  In the same way, becoming a Christian means becoming a member of the Church.  We are restored to the fellowship of God’s people as we are restored to fellowship with God.  One necessarily includes the other.

Contemporary evangelicalism lays much stress on “witnessing” for Christ, meaning, telling others about Jesus and inviting them to become Christians.  Thus, Jesus’ command to tell no one about this healing surprises and confuses many.  At the time of this healing, the popular idea of a health and wealth Messiah prevented many from receiving the real message and ministry of Christ.  If people heard about this healing they would come to Jesus in huge numbers, looking for their own miracles and healings.  They would continually try to force Jesus to be a health and wealth Messiah, rather than a healer of souls.  So Jesus compels silence from the former leper.  But the leper published it much.


Ps. 22, Is 5:8-29,  Mk. 2:1-12
Ps. 6, 13,  Is. 6:1-11,  Rev. 7:1-17

Commentary, Mark 2:1-12
Due to the leper’s publication of his healing, a crowd gathers in the house where Jesus is staying.  It is a small crowd compared to the vast multitudes that will soon follow Him.  Still, the house cannot hold it and the people continue to gather on the lawn around it.  The house probably belongs to Peter’s mother.  What do the people want?  Healing,  What do they get?  A sermon.  It is probably similar to Christ’s sermon in the synagogue, which surprised the people with its ring of authority.  But they wanted healing.  Mark records the healing of the palsied man, but there were sick people present.

Jesus uses the palsied man to proclaim His real nature and ministry.  He doesn’t say, “you are healed.”  He says, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”  This raises an important question which the scribes rightly asked, “who can forgive sins but God only?”  The scribes realised Jesus was claiming the authority to forgive sins.  If He is not God, He has no such authority.  To claim it is blasphemy, for it is a claim to be nothing less than God.  If He is God, then He is exercising His Divine authority in forgiving the man’s sins.

So Jesus is presenting us with a decision.  We must decide whether He is a blasphemer or God Incarnate.  Many have shown that it is impossible to say Jesus was just a good teacher or a moral/religious reformer, for His claims went far beyond that.  He must either be who He claims to be, or He must be a liar and a deceiver.

His actions prove His words.  He heals the man’s paralysis, thus doing again what only God can do.  The point is simple: healing the man is something only God can do.  If Jesus heals him, He, Jesus, is God.  If He is God, He has full authority to forgive sins.

This is important to us because we are sinners who need forgiveness.  This passage is a great encouragement to trust Jesus to forgive us.  If He is who He says He is, and His actions prove He is, then He has authority to forgive our sin completely.  Let us, therefore, seek His forgiveness.


Ps. 28, 29,  Is. 7:1-9,  Mk. 2:13-22
Ps. 27,  Is. 7:10-20,  Rev. 10

Commentary, Mark 2:13-22

Christ leaves the house in Capernaum to walk the shore of Galilee.  One day He will still a mighty storm on this sea.  One day He will walk upon its turbulent waves as easily as we walk on dry ground.  But on this day He simply walks along the shore.  He has probably left the house to escape the crowds, who continue to gather seeking healing.  Leaving them emphasises again that Christ is no mere faith healer.  His true ministry is the healing of souls.  But the people find Him, and He stops to teach them (2:13).

It is noteworthy that He does no healing this time.  His ministry is confined to proclaiming that message encapsulated in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel.”

When the “sermon” is over, our Lord goes back into the city and confronts Levi with the command, “Follow Me” (2:14).  Levi is identified as the son of Alphaeus, “sitting at receipt of custom.”  Levi was a tax collector for the Romans.  Mark calls him a publican.  The Jews considered him a traitor and an apostate.  Verse 15 calls him a sinner, meaning he is outside of the people of God, and, therefore, outside of God.  We would say he is “lost.”

Jesus agrees.  He includes Levi when He says, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners unto repentance.”  But our Lord has plans for Levi.  Levi will indeed follow Christ, and will be known forever as Matthew (Mt. 9:9), Apostle, and author of the Gospel that bears his name.  He will write his Gospel to show the Jews that Jesus is their Messiah, and all their hopes and desires are fulfilled in Him.  Many believe Matthew’s was the first Gospel to be written, and that it was originally in Hebrew or Aramaic, which he later translated into Greek.  We know Mark’s Gospel was written by A.D. 50.  Matthew’s is considered to be much older.  Both were written during the active ministry of the Apostles, and during the life time of many eye-witnesses to Christ.  This is a powerful testimony to their truth and reliability.
The same Lord who called Levi to be His disciple continues to call sinners today.  The great physician continues to heal souls and change lives. The door to His Kingdom is open to all who “Repent… and believe the Gospel.”

Christ’s words in 17-20 do not mean Christians should not fast.  They do mean fasting is not the measure of Godliness.  Fasting is a time of putting aside the world and seeking God.  It is also a time of self-discipline, denying certain needs in order to gain more control over the desires of the flesh.  Perhaps some of the prevalent spiritual laziness we see today could be helped by some prayer and fasting.
One of the main points of fasting is growing closer to God.  But God is with the disciples in the Flesh.  So, rather than fasting, they will spend their time learning from Him, memorising His words and deeds.  There will be plenty of time to fast when He is taken away.

The new cloth and new wine in 21-22 is the Gospel of Christ.  The old garment and old wineskins are the Pharisees and the entire Old Testament system of sacrifices and worship.  They cannot hold the Gospel.  It will burst out of Israel to form the Church, which includes all believers, both Jew and Gentile.  Christ fulfills the Old Testament promises and prophecies.  He gives not just a patched up Jewishness, but an entirely new garment.

November 22, 2014

Scripture and Commentary, November 24-29

Monday, Nov. 24

Morning - Psalm 124 & 128, Joel 1:13, 2 Pet. 1:1-11
Evening - Psalm 131, 133, 134, Prov. 1:1-19, Rev. 1:1-8

Commentary, 2 Peter 1:1-11

The exceeding value of faith is shown in the very first verse of St. Peter's letter.  He calls it "precious faith."  It is to be valued above all things in this earth.  Faith is the means by which we receive the grace of God.  By faith we know Christ as Lord and Saviour.  By faith we receive the forgiveness of sins.  By faith we walk with Christ in this life.  By faith we see our Heavenly home.  Truly faith is more precious than any of the worldly trinkets we chase so tirelessly and display so proudly.
  The two parts of faith are shown in the description of the faithful in verses 2-9.  Part one is belief; part two is action.  More accurately, faith is belief that, first, forms our personality and being, and, second, guides our actions.  This kind of faith adds to itself virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, and godliness.  These things are so essential to Biblical faith that "he that lacketh these things is blind" (2 Pet. 1:9).  Let me state this as clearly as I am able; anyone whose faith in Christ does not move him to the diligent, life-long pursuit of virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, and godliness, has a defective faith.  It is dead faith (James 2:26).  It is vain faith, which means it is only a shadow of real faith. Like a shadow, it has no substance, and it will not get anyone into Heaven.
  Real faith, which seeks, rather than lacks, these things is the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Pet. 1:11).  Those whose faith moves them to seek and possess these things are the ones who have real faith which makes their election sure. "If ye do these things ye shall never fail" (2 Pet. 1:10).  

Tuesday, Nov. 25

Morning - Psalm 129 & 130, Joel 2:1-11, 2 Pet. 1:12
Evening - Psalm 132, Prov. 1:20-33, Rev. 1:9

Commentary, 2 Peter 1:12

Peter sees his approaching death (2 Pet, 1:13). What will be his legacy to the Church?  He is mentioned often in the Gospels, so his name and deeds will be remembered as long as the world exists and people read or hear the Bible.  But his legacy is not that he walked on water with Christ, or denied Him at His trial.  His legacy to the Church is the Gospel of Christ which he preached faithfully, lived daily, and died for gladly.  His desire is to put the Church in continual remembrance of the things of Christ.  Remembrance means more than memorisation.  It means to "hold in remembrance" in such a manner that our connection to Christ by grace through faith will always be a part of who and what we are.  It means to keep the connection alive, and to allow it to influence and direct our present and our future. 

Wednesday, Nov 26

Morning - Psalm 136, Joel 2:12-19, 2 Pet. 2:1-10
Evening - Psalm 139, Prov. 2: 1-11, Rev. 2:1-11

Commentary, 2 Peter 2:1-10

Have you ever thought of yourself as merchandise?  Merchandise is something to be bought and sold for the enrichment of the merchant and the buyer.  In much of the transactions of the world, we, the "consumers" are the real merchandise, constantly bought and sold by various interests who make our resources their own in the transaction.  We are also often used as merchandise in the spiritual realm, where false prophets and teachers seek to buy and profit from our loyalty with easier and more popular "gospels" than the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 2:3).  Sadly, people gladly "sell their soul" for the false security of heresy and error. But the Gospel of Christ is truth.  Peter offered no cunningly devised fable (1:16).  He saw the majesty of Christ; he knew the truth of His Words.  It is of what he saw as an eyewitness that he desires to put us in remembrance (1:16-21).  The price of following false teachers is terrible. Even angels that sin are cast down to hell (3:4-10).  Let us read these words in reverence, asking God to keep us in His truth.

Thursday, Nov. 27

Morning - Psalm 138, Joel, 2:21, 2 Pet. 2:10 -22
Evening - Psalm 140, Prov. 2: 10-22, Rev. 2:12-17

Commentary, 2 Peter 2:10-22

How subtle are the ways of false teachers who deny the Gospel of Christ, of which the Apostles are eyewitnesses and commissioned by Christ to proclaim.  Like the tempter of Eden they distort to word of God with swelling words of vanity, and allure through the lusts of the flesh.  Promising liberty they are servants of corruption.  If such people troubled the Church in the days when the Apostles were yet on earth, how much more can we expect to see them in our day of radical hatred of tradition and authority?  But their enticing words give false hope.  They are wells without water, and the soul that tries to drink from them will die.

Friday, Nov 28

Morning -Psalm 142 & 143, Joel 3:1-8, 2 Pet. 3:1-10
Evening - Psalm 144, Prov.3:1-12, Rev. 3:1-6

Commentary, 2 Peter 3:1-10

The Second Coming of Christ is certain.  The question is not will, but when will He return?  For the Lord is not slack concerning His promises.  The day of the Lord will come, and, in His own time, He will melt away this creation like wax, and burn the things of it.  Like a thief in the night, it will come unexpectedly to those deep in the slumber of sin.  It will catch them by surprise and destroy them.  Those in Christ will not be surprised.  We are watching, even longing for His coming.  For us He comes not as a thief to kill and destroy, but as the Bridegroom to carry His beloved Church to His mansion in Heaven.  Though it is highly unlikely that any of us will see the return of the Lord in our physical lifetime, it is certain that we will see the putting off of our earthly tabernacle (2 Pet. 1:14), and that will be the end of the world for us.

Saturday, Nov. 29

Morning - Psalm 146 & 149, Joel 3:9-17, 2 Pet 3:11-18
Evening - Psalm 148 & 150, Prov.3:13-20, Rev. 3:7-13

Commentary, 2 Peter 3:11-18

St. Peter is bringing his letter to a close.  He writes about the new heavens and the new earth, but these are only briefly mentioned.  His few remaining lines are more concerned with the question of verse 11, "what manner of persons ought ye to be?  His answer is in two basic parts.  First, beware of being led away with error (3:17). Second' grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Christ (3:18).  In the first place he warns us to do all in our power to remove ourselves from the influence and teaching of those who compromise the teachings of Scripture.  In the second place he tells us to do whatever is necessary to place ourselves under the teaching and influence of those who faithfully proclaim the things of Christ.

November 15, 2014

Scripture and Commentary, November 18-23


Morning – Psalm 18:21-36, 2 Kings 17:1-18, Titus 1
Evening – Psalm 20, 24, Dt. 4:1-9, Mt. 24:15-28

Commentary, Matthew 24:15-28

Our Lord addresses the coming destruction of Jerusalem.  He uses the sack of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes, written about in Daniel 9, as a warning.  Antiochus conquered Jerusalem and offered a pig on the altar of the Holy of Holies.  Christ is saying that when the disciples see the Romans preparing to attack and desolate Jerusalem as the Greeks did under Antiochus, they are to leave the city (see Mt. 23:38, “your house is left unto you desolate).  The danger is so great they should not even stop to gather belongings (vss. 17-18).  The flight will be especially hard on women and children (24:19), and they are to pray that it will not happen in winter or on a Sabbath (24:20). The tribulation of verse 21 is not a period of intense trouble after the “rapture.”  It is the trouble experienced in Jerusalem during the time of the siege and conquest of Jerusalem.  This occurred in 70 A.D.

Our Lord again warns against false Christs and prophets claiming to be the deliverer sent to fight the Romans.  The disciples are not to believe their reports.  When He does come, it will not be a man to fight the Romans.  It will be as God.  He will come as the lightning flashing across the sky.

Our reading closes with another reference to the devastation of Jerusalem, “wheresoever the carrion is, there will the eagles [vultures] be gathered together.  One of the Roman symbols was an eagle.  Our Lord is saying that Jerusalem is spiritual carrion and the Roman eagles will gather around it.


Morning – Psalm 25, 2 Kings 21:1-18, Titus 2
Evening – Psalm 29, Dt. 4:15-24, Mt. 24:29-41

Commentary, Matthew 24:29-41

Before we attempt to discern the meaning of these verses let us remind ourselves of two landmark verses within it.  First is verse 29, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days.”  Second is verse 34, “this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”  From these verses we learn two things.  First, whatever our Lord is speaking about in these verses will happen immediately after the tribulation He has just described in 24:1-28. If verses 1-28 describe the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the events of tonight’s reading follow immediately after.  Second, the generation of the Apostles will not pass, will not die, until all these things be fulfilled.  This means the darkening of the sun and moon, stars falling from heaven, and the Lord’s coming in the clouds happens before the Apostles’ generation dies.

Obviously, then, these events are not about the Second Coming.  Remember, the Apostles didn’t even know there will be a Second Coming.  What, then is described in these verses, especially in verses 29-30?  Fortunately, the Bible sheds some light on its own symbolism here.  Isaiah 19:1 describes the Lord coming to Egypt riding “upon a swift cloud.”  Revelation 1:7, refers to Christ, saying, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him.”  Isaiah refers God coming in judgment upon Egypt.  Revelation 1:7 refers to Christ coming in judgment to Israel and Rome.  So, the events of Mt. 24:29-30 must refer to the same events.

Verse 31 refers to the advance of the Gospel in the world.  Christ coming in the clouds may also have some application to this, since the Gospel judges people by marking them as those who belong to Christ through faith, and those who do not.  Certainly the angels gathering God’s elect from the earth is accomplished through the preaching of the Gospel.

The time of the Roman’s advance on Jerusalem is not known (vs. 36), and it will catch most people unaware as the Flood did in the days of Noah (Noe).  Two in the field (24:40) refers to one taken in the battle and one escaping, as does the two women of verse 41.   The ones who escape are the ones who heed the Lord’s warning to leave Jerusalem as the Roman army approaches.


Morning – Psalm 28, 2 Kings 22:3-13, Titus 3
Evening – Ps. 34, Dt. 4:25-31, Mt. 24:42-51

Commentary, Matthew 24:42-51

We are still looking at Christ’s words to His disciples on the Mount of Olives.  This “Olivet Discourse” probably occurs on the Tuesday before Good Friday.  So time is short for Christ, and He wants His disciples to be as prepared as possible for the coming events.  We recall that this discourse began as the answer to the disciples’ question regarding the denunciation of the Pharisees in chapter 23, and His prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, found in 24:37-39.  Even the Temple will be destroyed, according to the Lord’s words (24:2).  The disciples want to know when this will happen and what will be the sign that it is about to begin (24:3).

Our Lord has patiently answered their question as well as their limited understanding would allow.  But they still don’t understand, and will not until after His resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Tonight’s reading shows Christ’s warning to be ready.  The goodman of the house in verse 43 is the one in charge of a house that belongs to another.  There is a great hint here that the Apostles, and other clergy after them, will have charge of the Saviour’s house, which is the Church.  The Apostles will basically reside in Jerusalem until its destruction.  They will be responsible for telling the Church when to leave that city to avoid the massive death and destruction the Romans will visit upon it.  Since they don’t know when this will happen, they are to “Watch therefore” (24:42).

Many have noticed that this same counsel applies to the ministers of God’s Church through history.  As the Lord’s judgment came upon Jerusalem, it will also come upon all the earth.  As the disciples did not know the day or hour when the Lord would “return” to judge Jerusalem, the Church also does not know when He will return to judge the earth.  It is the clergy’s task, therefore, to continually watch and warn His people to be constantly ready.  Thus, our Lord’s words to the disciples are as relevant to us today as they were to them; “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man [Christ] cometh” (24:44).

Verses 45-51 are addressed first to the disciples regarding their new role as Apostles in the New Testament Church.  They are to be faithful servants, preaching the Gospel and establishing the Church in the doctrine and practice He gives unto them.  He promises to make them rulers over all His goods (vs. 47).  That includes overseeing the Church, while they live on earth, and having thrones of glory in Heaven.  It applies, secondly, to the bishops and clergy that come after the Apostles, continuing to keep the Church in the Apostolic/Biblical faith and practice.  It applies, thirdly, to all Christians in all times and in all places.  It is the task and duty of each of us to keep the Church faithful, keep ourselves faithful, and proclaim the faith given to us by Christ through the Apostles and preserved in the Bible.  Evil servants, those who do not keep the Apostolic faith and practice, who lead others into sin, who no longer exhort people to believe the Gospel and watch for the coming of our Lord, shall be cut asunder (cut out of the Church) and have their portion with the hypocrites (Pharisees) where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (24:51).


Morning – Psalm 30, 2 Kings 22:14, Philemon
Evening – Psalm 37:1-25, Dt. 4:32-40, Matthew 25:1-13

Commentary, Matthew 25:1-13
Tonight’s reading continues to warn the Apostles to watch.  But there is a broadening in the focus here.  The parable includes the destruction of Jerusalem, but looks beyond it, or maybe uses it, to talk about the Kingdom of heaven.  The disciples are to watch for it in the same way they are to watch for the attack on Jerusalem.

The parable is very straightforward.  Some of the virgins were prepared for the groom’s arrival, some were not.  Those who were not were shut out of the wedding, meaning, shut out of the Kingdom of Heaven.   The conclusion is the same as the one previously, given, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”


Morning – Psalm 40, 2 Kings 23:1-23, 2 John
Evening – Psalm 37, 26, Dt. 5:1-21, Mt. 25:14-30

Commentary, Matthew 25:14-30

This passage has been called the parable of the talents, and the parable of the unprofitable servant.  The story is very easy to follow.  A man intends to travel to “a far country,” leaving his goods in the care of his faithful servants during his absence.  Quite obviously Christ is beginning to talk about things beyond the disciples’ question about the destruction of Jerusalem.  Yes, the destruction of Jerusalem is in this parable.  Christ, the owner of the house is going away, leaving the care of His “goods” in the hands of the Apostles.  It will be their task to teach and guide the Church, and get it out of Jerusalem before the Romans attack.  Yet the parable seems to look beyond this, as though Christ is using the judgment of Jerusalem to illustrate a far greater time and event.

Christ is not just going into the desert for a while to pray, as the disciples probably think.  He is returning to the right hand of the Father in Heaven.  While He is gone, He will leave His “goods” in the care of the Apostles, and the clergy who follow them until the His return.  His “goods” are the Church.  His goods are the people who trust in Christ as Saviour and love Him as Lord and God.  It is the task of the Apostles to teach the Bible to these people, organize them into congregations and diocese, and to teach and ordain clergy to carry on the work of the ministry.

The talents are great measures of wealth, far beyond what even wealthy people could accumulate in a life-time.  Here they represent the Gospel and all the blessings of God on His people.  The Apostles are stewards of this wealth (see 1 Cor. 4:1).  A major part of the Apostles’ task is to “invest” this wealth in such a way that it brings a return to the Owner.  The return is the growth in faith and Godliness in the Church.  It is also the addition of souls to the Church as the Apostles spread the Gospel and receive believers into the Church.

The faithful Apostles are those who bring a return to Christ.  The faithful ministers are those who continue the faith they learn from the Apostles, and teach it to the succeeding generations.  But this is not the domain of clergy alone.  It is the task of the entire body, and every member of the Church.  Just as a ship has many people doing different jobs, but all are united in the primary task of getting the ship to its next port, so the Church has people in different callings and jobs, but all united in the task of being the Church and proclaiming the Gospel.

The unfaithful servant probably refers first to Judas the betrayer of Christ.  He will renounce his calling to be an Apostle, and show that he has no real faith in Christ.  His fate is the same as that of the unbelieving Pharisees; to be cast into the outer darkness where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt. 25:20.  See also Mt. 24:51, Mt. 21:45, Mt. 22:13).  It refers also to the clergy who renounce Christ by preaching another gospel and another Christ, who leave the faith given by Christ to the Apostles.  No matter how noble their intentions, there is one faith once for all delivered unto the saints.  No man is authorized to change that faith.  Finally, it refers to every person who believes himself to be a member of Christ’s Church, yet has buried the Gospel by changing or ignoring the Faith.  Such people show themselves to be unprofitable servants, and theirs is the fate of 25:30.


Morning – Psalm 31, 2 Kings 23:24-30, 3 John
Evening – Psalm 27, Dt. 5:22, Mt. 25:31

Commentary, Matthew 25:31-46

“When the Son of man shall come in his glory” (vs. 31).  Usually interpreted as referring to the Second Coming, even these words could refer first to Christ’s “coming” to Jerusalem in judgment (see 24:27, 30).  Separating the sheep from the goats could refer to distinguishing between believers and unbelievers to save the Christians from the coming devastation of the city.  Inheriting the kingdom (vs. 34) could refer as much to being in Christ and having eternal life now as to being in Heaven or in the Kingdom in its full revelation in the new heaven and earth.

Yet our Lord does seem to at least hint about something beyond Jerusalem, and even beyond this world.  It is as though the destruction of Jerusalem is a precursor to and symbol of His Second Coming, and the language of these verses may apply to both.  Certainly the Kingdom prepared for God’s people from the foundation of the world includes God’s people in this world and in Heaven.  Israel was the visible manifestation of that Kingdom in the Old Testament; the Church is its manifestation in the era between the crucifixion and return of Christ.  Yet neither Israel nor the Church is the Kingdom in its fullest sense.  It will not appear in its fullest sense until Christ returns and brings in the new Heaven and new earth.  Only then will all things be gathered together in Christ, and the purpose of God for His creation be accomplished (Eph. 1:9 and 10).

Meanwhile, we are to care for one another, and ministering to those in the Church/Body of Christ is spoken of as ministering to Christ Himself; “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (25:40).  Those who refuse to care for God’s people show themselves to be goats and cursed rather than sheep; “Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me” (25:45). 

Caring for the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned also has a direct reference to the Church’s ministry in the world.  There is a spiritual sense to the word, “hungry,” which refers to a deep hunger in the soul that can only be fed with the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:35).  There is a thirst in the soul that can only be quenched by Living Water (Jn. 4:10).  There is a nakedness that can only be covered by putting on Christ (Gal. 3:27).  There is a prison that can only be opened by Christ Himself (Lk. 4:18).  The Gospel of Christ is the means by which the Church gives this spiritual food, drink and clothing to the hungry, thirsty and naked.  The Church must proclaim the Gospel of Christ.  Those who do not proclaim it are goats, not sheep. 

November 10, 2014

Scripture and Commentary, November 10 - 15

Morning - Ps.2, 3,  2 Kings 6:8-14, 2 Timothy 1:1-14
Evening - Ps. 4, 8, Eccles. 5:8, Mt. 22:15-33
Commentary, 2 Timothy 1:1-14
Today we begin reading Paul's final letter to Timothy.  Written from the Mammertine prison in Rome, Second Timothy shows the courage and faith of Paul in the face of death, and his concern for the continuing ministry of Timothy.  By this time, early in the year 69 A.D., Timothy is in Ephesus, where he has probably served since Paul sent him to that city in 61 or 62 A.D.  Meanwhile, Paul has travelled westward, possibly as far as Spain and Britannia, and the Apostle John has assumed Apostolic oversight of Ephesus and the area known as Asia Minor.  We do not know how Paul came to be imprisoned in Rome a second time, though we know that Rome's general hostility to Christianity became a full-fledged persecution after Nero blamed Christians for burning Rome in A.D. 64.  By the time Paul wrote 2 Timothy, he was in prison facing execution, John was imprisoned on Patmos, and Peter had been executed in Rome.
Yet Paul's letter begins with encouragement to Timothy.  His words are those of deep friendship and love; words like, "my dearly beloved son," "I have remembrance of thee in my prayers day and night," and "greatly desiring to see thee."  He reminds Timothy of his ordination (1:6), and asks him to stir up the gift of God, meaning the calling and ability to perform the ministry of the Gospel of Christ, in spite of opposition and persecution (1:7-11).  As Paul has suffered for the Gospel (1:12), he encourages Timothy to be willing to partake of the afflictions of the Gospel (1:8), having the same faith Paul has, that Christ is "able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (1:12).  What has Paul committed unto Christ?  His life here and now, and his soul forever.  "That day" is the Day of the Lord when all will be judged and those in Christ will be taken into Heaven forever.  Paul's faith that Christ will take him in on that day sustains him now in trials and death on earth.  Our reading ends with another exhortation to hold to sound words (doctrine) received from Paul, and to remain true to his calling, the "good thing committed unto him by the Holy Ghost.
The words of this epistle were written to Timothy, but their application to all Christians is evident.  All are called to the service of Christ, to endure hardship, and to remain true to their calling in Christ even unto death.  This charge is not just for those in the offices of ordained ministry, it is for all Christians.
Morning - Ps.5, 2 Kings 6:15-23, 2 Timothy 1:15-2:13
Evening - Ps. 11, 12, Eccles. 6:1-12, Mt. 22:34
Commentary, 2 Timothy 1:15-2:13
How sad the words of verse 15 are.  They present the personal hurt Paul felt by the rejection of Phygelus and Hermogenes.  Having devoted himself to these very people, having brought the Gospel to them, nourished them in its teachings, suffered beatings, stonings, and prisons for their sakes, and having established a church in which they can worship God and hear the truth, he now sees them forsake him.  Surely he must feel here what he wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:15, "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved."  But Paul's words also express a deeper sorrow, for these people are deserting God to follow their own desires and ideas. So Paul's pain is more for them than for himself.  In their heresy and rebellion, they have sealed their fates as enemies of God.  Contrast verse 15 with verses 16-18.  Onesiphorus, because of his love for God and God's truth, also loved Paul, and showed his love in his actions as well as in his words. As Paul suffered and sacrificed to share the word of life with Onesiphorus, Onisiphorus shared good things with Paul.  This, naturally caused Paul to rejoice much, but he rejoiced even more to know that Onesiphorus walked in Biblical faith rather than following vain babblings (2 Tim. 2:16:-17).
In chapter 2, the epistle turns to the ministry again.  Timothy is to be strong in grace (2:1), and to commit what he has learned from Paul to "faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."  We err when we ask our ministers to spend their time planning social gatherings and recreational activities for us. We err when we ask our clergy to organise soup kitchens and homeless shelters.  Their calling is to teach the Scriptures to us; to "commit" the Apostolic teachings to us.  Our responsibility, just as Timothy's, is, first, to receive their teaching.  Timothy had to be a learner before he could become a teacher.  We, also, must be willing learners of the word of God.  We are, as Peter wrote, to "desire the sincere milk of the word" that we "may grow thereby" (1Pet. 2:1-2). Primary among God's appointed means for this is the ministry of men called and consecrated to teaching us.   Clergy, there is a legitimate sense in which your people may and should become followers of you, and in following you, become followers of the Lord (1 Thes. 1:6). Laity, there is such a things as a legitimate and good attachment to those who serve you in the name of Christ. Often laymen become sermon critics and develop an attitude of consumerism and entitlement toward the Church and her ministers.  This is as great an offense to God as a minister preaching false doctrine. 
Second, we are to transmit the Christian faith to others.  Having it committed to us, it becomes our task to commit it to others, who will commit it to others, on down through the generations.  The Christian faith is not an individualistic faith.  It unites us to the whole company of faithful people.  We are part of a Family, a Temple, a River flowing into God.  We are like runners in a relay race.  Others have gone before us; others will come after us.  We have received the torch from those who have gone before.  We now run our course with perseverance and faithfulness, and pass the torch to others to carry on till the Lord Returns. While it is true that we are part of the fellowship of all faithful people, we can never allow ourselves to believe we can be a part of that broader fellowship without also being faithful in the local fellowship, which is the local church. And it is in the local congregation that our worship, fellowship, learning, and service primarily take place.
Paul illustrates our work with examples from military service, athletic competition, and agricultural labour (2:3-6).  All three require learning complex skills, self-discipline, and self exertion.  A soldier ignorant of the use of weapons will soon be dead.  An athlete not dedicated to his sport will soon be a spectator.  A farmer too lazy to plow the fields and gather the harvest, will soon have no harvest to gather.  Like wise, a minister who does not apply himself to teaching the Bible will soon have a congregation of heathens, and the layman who will not hear and learn the word will soon be one of them.
In 2:8, the epistle turns to the historical reality on which our hope is based; "Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead."  We do not hope in feelings or experiences.  We hope in a historical fact; that God came to earth, died for our sins, and rose from the dead. Paul would not suffer and die for a feeling or an emotional experience.  He would not die for a theory, or even a religion, and neither should we.  We live for, hope in, and serve a real, living God who has made Himself known in history and in flesh and blood.  For Him alone we will suffer, knowing that if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us" (2:12).

Morning - Ps. 9, 2 Kings 9:1-16, 2 Tim. 2:14-26
Evening - Ps. 13, 14, Eccles. 8:12-9:1, Mt. 23:1-12
Commentary, 2 Timothy 2:14-26
Both of Paul's letters to Timothy are about Timothy's charge as a minister and bishop in the Church of Christ.  Timothy is charged to do two things.  First, he is to keep himself pure in faith and life.  Second, he is to preach and teach the pure faith and life to others.  This means he will commit this charge to the ministers, who will then commit it to the churches.  It also means he will carry this charge directly to the churches in his capacity as their bishop.
We see both aspects of this in our reading for today.  Verse 14 continues the charge Timothy is to give to the ministers and laity over whom the Lord had made him a shepherd and an overseer.  Look back at 2:2, and you will see that our reading is a continuation of Paul's instruction to commit the Apostle's teachings to the ministers and churches.  Part of this ministry is to instruct them to walk together in peace.  Verse 14 requires them to refrain from striving about words that do not profit.  The key words here are, "strive not," which means don't fight about things that are unimportant.  Such babblings are profane and vain, increasing ungodliness in the people and the Church like canker (2:17).  Instead of fighting over trivialities, Christians must pursue and actively work for faith, charity, and peace with one another (2:22). Timothy himself is charged to be a man of peace.
He is to study the Scriptures (2:15).  Again Paul emphasises that learning comes before teaching.  The implication is that divisive babblings come from those who are either immature in the faith and the ways of Christ, or are complete strangers to them.  Hymenaeus and Philetus are examples of this (2:17). Wanting to become teachers before they have been learners, they have spread error and dissent throughout the Church in Ephesus. By contrast, Timothy, who has studied with Paul and has been ordained and sent to Ephesus to teach, is not to be aggressive and divisive as Hymenaeus and Philetus are. He is to be gentle and meek (2:24-25).  This does not mean he cannot take a firm stand for truth.  He has been encouraged to do so throughout this epistle.  It means his methods must be as kind and helpful as his motives.  The goal and hope is always that people may be recovered out of the snare of the devil (2:26). Paul intertwines his charge to Timothy, with the charge Timothy is to give to the clergy and the charge the clergy are to give to the Church.  This is because the same things apply to all.  The same faith, the same faithfulness, the same pursuit of peace, the same abhorrence of strife, the same meek and cooperative attitude, the same teachable attitude, and the same character traits are for both clergy and laity.  Our functions in the Church may differ, but our calling to holiness of life is the same; "Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2:19).  
Morning - Ps. 10, 2 Kings 9:17-28, 2 Tim. 3
Evening - Ps. 16, 17, Eccles 9:11, Mt. 23:13-23
Commentary, 2 Timothy 3
In the last days, Paul warns, people will be lovers of self, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4). This is a sad state of affairs, but it is not the timing that makes it so sad, for Paul's description fits people of all times and eras.  It is not even the wickedness that makes it so sad, though such wickedness breaks the heart of all who love God and love people.  The thing that makes this so sad is that it describes the Church, not the world.  It describes people who call themselves Christians, and have a form of godliness (3:5).  These people may be well schooled in the doctrines of the faith.  They may know the basic teachings of the Bible, and may even read the Bible regularly.  They may be regular attenders of public worship, but their hearts are not about God.  In their hearts they are as far away from God as the devil himself.
Paul says such people are like Jannes and Jambres who rebelled against Moses (3:8).  How are they like these Old Testament people?  In their resistance to the truth.  In their resistance to the Gospel.  In their idea that they can go on living in opposition to God while buying Him off with a few dollars and ceremonies.
Let none try to comfort himself with delusions that such people only exist in the Church right before the Lord's Return.  The "last days" are those days from Pentecost to the Return of Christ, and such people have been, and will continue in the Church throughout this era.  Paul's point is that we must not be those people.  Like Timothy, we know the doctrine and life of Paul (3:10-12).  Timothy knew them by knowing Paul personally; we know them through the pages of Scripture.  But knowing them is not enough.  It is "continuing" in them (3:14) that matters. The beautiful words of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, make no difference to a person unless he continues in the Bible's teachings.  To "continue" is to live in, to dwell in, to abide in the Bible in such a way that it shapes our thoughts and actions.  It molds us.  It changes who and what we are, right down to our very essence.
"Given by the inspiration of God" (3:16), means "God breathed," or from the mouth of God.  It is a picture of speech.  Our words come out in our breath.  So Paul is saying Scripture is the very word of God as truly as if it came out of His own mouth.  If this is so, how can we claim to love God, yet not continue in it?
Morning - Ps. 22, 2 Kings 9:30, 2 Tim. 4:1-8
Evening - Ps. 6, 26, Eccles. 11,  Mt. 23:25
Commentary, 2 Timothy 4:1-8
The Scriptures are the word of God, as though they came from the very mouth of God.  They are, then, the authority of faith and life.  2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 begin by telling us the Scriptures are the source of profitable doctrine, and end by telling us the Scriptures furnish God's people unto holy living, "good works."  "Profitable" implies first, that the Scriptures are the source of true knowledge of God, and true knowledge of how to love and serve Him.  It also implies that other sources of doctrine, instruction, and furnishing people for the task of knowing God and living life, are unprofitable.  They are defective, whether they come from the wisest of men, or our own inner thoughts.  Only the Bible is inspired by God.

It is for this reason that Timothy, and all clergy, are to "preach the word" (4:2).  Yes, there are some very wise people whose thoughts and lives have benefited humanity down through the ages.  But they were simply human, and their words and views are filled with human defects.  Their views of God and their directions for living a good life are flawed, including Timothy's.  This is why ministers are to preach the word, rather than their own views.  This is why ministers are to stay with the tried and true Biblical faith rather than blaze their own trails through the Bible.  The current demand for new ideas, practical sermons in place of "tired" and "boring" doctrines, and for creative and culturally informed worship are not new.  Timothy faced them in Ephesus in the first century A.D.  Paul faced them in Corinth. He writes to remind Timothy, and all who read this epistle, that those things cannot furnish the man of God.  The Word, the Bible, is God's appointed means to accomplish these things.  Preach the word... reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (4:2).
When God commands ministers to preach the word, He necessarily commands the Church to hear the word preached.  But verses 3 and 4 warn that some people will not endure sound doctrine.  They will want sermons that entertain them, and tell them how to get ahead in life and feel good about themselves.  Paul says such people turn their ears from the truth, and turn them to fables (4:4).  Again, such a warning to the preachers is also a warning to hearers not to be among those who reject the word for fables.  Ministers may not offer trivialities to God's people, even if the people demand them.  Ministers are to preach the word, they must "watch in all things."
To watch is to be on guard.  Those who give themselves to fables and heap up teachers who preach what they want to hear rather than the Word of God, are like people who allow alcohol and drugs to cloud their judgment, making themselves easy prey for those who would rob and harm them.  By contrast, God's true ministers are to be sober and on guard.  They are to do only that which furnishes God's people for Godliness.  Paul is especially concerned about this because he knows his time on earth is short.  "The time of my departure is at hand" (4:6-8).  He is not afraid.  He looks forward to Heaven.  But he wants to do his best to ensure that those coming after him in the Church know the truth, and have every opportunity to live according to it.
Morning - Ps. 21, 23, 2 Kings 11, 1-16, 2 Tim. 4:9-22
Evening - Ps. 18, Eccles. 12,  Mt. 24:1-14
Commentary, 2 Timothy 4:9-22
The charge to Timothy is ended.  What remains in the epistle are personal remarks.  Yet, even they say much to those who have ears to hear.  Demas, for example, was a close friend and fellow labourer with Paul in Colossians 4:14.  But in 2 Tim. 4:9 he has deserted Paul.  What has caused his defection, which is not only from Paul, but also from Christ Himself?  He "loved this present world."  He loved his life and was unwilling to risk it by helping Paul in his imprisonment.  Our Lord said the greatest and most important commandment of all is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  But Demas, after years of seemingly following Christ, has now decided he loves himself more than Christ.
Many have followed Demas' path.  Appearing to faithfully serve Christ, they really only follow as long as He allows them to have their own way.  The moment following Christ begins to require them to get out of their comfort zone, and to do a little giving instead of taking, they run away.
Crescens and Titus have been sent to Galatia and Dalmatia by Paul, and Tychicus has been sent to Ephesus, probably carrying the letter of 2 Timothy with him (4:12).  Unlike Demas they have not deserted Paul, and Christ; they continue to serve.  Timothy also remains true, and will come to Paul, though being in Rome at that time will endanger his life.  With autumn and winter approaching, Paul wants his coat.  He also wants his books and papers (4:13).
Verses 14 and 15 are about Alexander, probably one of the Ephesian craftsmen who persecuted Paul.  Timothy is to beware of him. The "first answer" (4:16) may refer to a hearing after which Paul was put into the Mammertine prison.  He faced that alone.  This man who gave so much of himself, who suffered so much to take the Gospel to people, had to face the Roman authorities alone.  The sadness of this is palpable.
But the Lord was with him (4:17), and delivered him from the lion's den for a while, that he might be allowed to continue to preach the Gospel, even if from prison.  Yet, Paul knows the time of his death is near, and trusts Christ to "preserve" (save and deliver) him "unto His heavenly kingdom" (4:18).
Paul closes with a few words to those who have worked and prayed and suffered with him in the service of Christ. "The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit" is a prayer for Timothy himself.  "Grace be with you" is for all the people, and clergy of Ephesus.  Neither Timothy nor the Ephesians ever saw Paul again in this life.