The words of this epistle are 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.
How sad the words of verse 15 are. They present the personal hurt Paul feels because of 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. Therefore, 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 loves Paul, and shows his love in his actions as well as in his words. As Paul suffers and sacrifices to share the word of life with Onesiphorus, Onisiphorus shares good things with Paul. This, naturally causes Paul to rejoice, but he rejoices even more to know that Onesiphorus walks 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 (1), and to commit what he has learned from Paul to "faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." The primary calling of every minister is to teach the Scriptures; 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. 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 thing 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.
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 until 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. Those in places bereft of a faithful church will be unable to unite with a local congregation, but should take all possible steps to be part of a faithful denomination and congregation, by long distance if necessary.
Paul illustrates our work with examples from military service, athletic competition, and agricultural labour (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. Likewise, 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 verse 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; 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" (12).
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. 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 (17). Instead of fighting over trivialities, Christians must pursue and actively work for faith, charity, and peace with one another (22). Timothy himself is charged to be a man of peace.
He is to study the Scriptures (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 (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 like Hymenaeus and Philetus. He is to be gentle and meek (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 (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" (19).
"Given by the inspiration of God" (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?
Since the Bible is the Word of God, Timothy, and all clergy, are to "preach the word" (2). Yes, there are some very wise people whose thoughts and lives have benefited humanity down through the ages. But they were still only human, and their words and views suffer from human limitations and defects. Their views of God and their directions for living a good life are also 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 the things of 3:16 and 17. Preach the word... reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2).
When God commands ministers to preach the word, He also commands the people 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). Again, such a warning to 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.
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" (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.
The charge to Timothy is ended. What remain 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 zones, 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 (12). Unlike Demas they have not deserted Paul or Christ; they continue to serve. Timothy also remains true, and will want to come to Paul, though being in Rome at this time will endanger his life. With autumn and winter approaching, Paul wants his coat. He also wants his books and papers (13).
Verses 14 and 15 are about Alexander, possibly one of the Ephesian craftsmen who persecuted Paul. Timothy is to beware of him. The "first answer" (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.
The Lord delivered Paul from the lion's den for a while, that he might be allowed to continue to preach the Gospel, even if from prison (17). But, Paul knows the time of his death is near, and trusts Christ to "preserve" (save and deliver) him "unto His heavenly kingdom" (18).