Lesson 28: "Do Thy Diligence to Come Before Winter" (II-Timothy 4:21)
Paul's Letters To Preachers. Welcome again! This is lesson #28 our final lesson in this series. The text is at the end of II-Tim. ch. 4, we have 14 verses left (v.9-22). This is Paul's personal instructions to Timothy. We touched most of these verses by way of introduction to this book. In our last lesson, we tried to give a brief summary of the book of II-Timothy. In this lesson, I would hope we could do a broader summary. What we learned in these three books, i.e. I-Timothy, II-Timothy and Titus is all we know about the period in Paul's life following his first Roman imprisonment and his release from Rome by Nero. The apostle began to travel again; but, as far as we are able to ascertain, his travels were mostly around the Adriatic Sea and the Aegean Sea area. It is thought by some that during this last period of freedom he spent time in Spain to the west. We know this was his intention at an earlier time (as mentioned in Rom. 15:28); but, whether the apostle actually accomplished a missionary journey to Spain (or not) we do not really have any scriptural information that would confirm or verify this. I would be inclined to think that if the apostle took the western tour at all, it must have been a rather brief excursion for the simple reason I do not see how you could account for (or allow for) more than a year or so at the very most for such a journey. It is quite clear that Paul worked more through liaison with other preachers like Luke, Timothy, Titus, Tychicus, Trophimus, John Mark, Erastus and others during this last period of freedom. In the books of I-Timothy, II-Timothy and Titus, we have only the tip of the iceberg (so-to-speak) as to the broader happening in the apostle's life. It is evident, as we close out this book, that several preachers (Paul's helpers) were scattered around over the empire as Timothy was at Ephesus, like Titus and perhaps Artemas were in Crete for a time and like Titus had since gone on to Dalmatia.
Because of the Roman fire, the instigation of the Roman-Jewish War and the date assigned to Nero's suicide; I am inclined to think Paul's last period of freedom was not much longer than about three years. All we know for sure about this period is gleaned from these three books. The apostle's life came down to a pitiful case at its close, in that he was largely forsaken. I started to say: forsaken by his friends; but, maybe I better leave that off. Not only was the apostle forsaken, it would seem that much of what he had worked so hard to build, the church in Ephesus and other places, he saw crumbling and dissolving right in front of his eyes to an alarming degree. Paul recognized that Satan and his aids, i.e. the enemies of Christ and his church were taking a devastating toll and especially were the blows of the false teachers destructive in this way. However, Paul recognized as he had already said to Timothy, "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (II-Tim. 3:13).
Just how long the apostle spent in this second Roman imprisonment we don't know and it would seem that even in the apostle's mind, he was not very clear as to how long it would take for those big wheels of the Roman legal system to grind out his case. But, he had already concluded that the outcome would likely be execution. Being a Roman citizen, the law was clear as to how he would die...at the hand of a Roman soldier by decapitation. Obviously there is much anxiety associated with such a situation; but, the apostle didn't sweat it. He knew that death would simply end his earthly miseries and as he expressed once before (Phil. 1:23), he had mixed emotions, if perhaps it might be easier in the long run if he was simply removed from all that prison suffering.
Let's read the rest of our text. Beginning in II-Tim. 4:9 and we'll read to the end of the chapter. Are you ready? Verse 9, here we go!
"Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: for Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus. The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. 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. 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. 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. Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick. Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren. The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen."
O.K. let's back up and go verse by verse. The request that the apostle made in v.9 (which is repeated again down in v.21) seems to be the main reason for Paul's letter. Paul wanted Timothy with him. As I have said, this was a request, not a command. The apostle dealt with Timothy as an autonomous individual. There were probably several reasons for Paul's making this request. (1) The apostle undoubtedly felt closer to Timothy than anyone and the feeling was mutual, I'm sure. (2) Timothy, had been at Ephesus for a good while. (3) Another factor that could have been involved, might have been the books, the parchments and the coat (mentioned down in v.13). Notice that winter was coming on (v.21) and the apostle may have desired this item of clothing for his own comfort in a cold prison cell. Some one in trying to discredit this asked the question: why would a man on death row be concerned about books or common papers. I, of course, do not know the answer; but, I do not see it as being preposterous. This is conjecture; but, I can conceive that it's possible, something among those materials might have had relevance to Paul's pending case before the emperor. Even if he just wanted to read to abide his time, they were his books. WHEN Paul left those things at Troas or WHO Carpus was, I do not know. However, this verifies that Paul had been traveling some in the more recent months. In winter, i.e. the dead of winter (we would say), everything on the high seas were sometimes shut down and all travel stopped. Thus, Paul was concerned that if Timothy delayed very long; he might be stalled for a time by bad weather. Then, in v.11, we learn that Luke, the write of the Gospel of Luke and also the writer of the book of Acts, was with Paul there in Rome and apparently the only one of his co-workers with him. Luke was a physician (you will remember, Col. 4:14). Some have surmised a medical attendant may have been permitted to stay with a prisoner in some cases and thus less pressure applied to him than to Demas (for example) that forsook Paul (v.10). I would conclude that Demas was under pressure in some way. Paul gave the reason that Demas loved this present world (v.10); however, the apostle (on the other hand) prayed to God (v.16) (very much like Jesus on the cross) that Demas and the others with him would not have this sin laid to their charge, i.e. "that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil," as Paul admonished Timothy to be patient and teach and encourage, back in the last verse of chapter two. We have talked about Titus (in v.10) already. Crescens was apparently another gospel preacher like Luke, Titus and Timothy (this is all we know about him) and I would assume that Crescens had gone to Galatia on a gospel misssion as Titus had gone to Dalmatia. If I read this correctly, Titus or Crescens were not among those who forsook Paul. Then, John Mark (mentioned in v.11), I trust you remember. His mother was Mary (Acts 12:12) and Mary's brother, i.e. John Mark's uncle was Barnabas (Col. 4:10). John Mark was the young man that Paul and Barnabas contented about (Acts 15:37ff). John Mark was also the man who wrote the second book of the N.T., known as The Gospel According to Nark. It's interesting here that Paul held no animosity toward Mark and it would appear this disciple had long before redeemed himself from Paul's disparagement. Paul commended this disciple as "profitable to me for the ministry" (v.11). The apostle also requested that Timothy bring John Mark to Rome with Timothy, this implies: if it was possible. It is not clear where John Mark was, possibly not at Ephesus with Timothy; but, working in someplace that Timothy would pass through on his way to that big capital city called Rome. Tychicus (v.12) was undoubtedly the one by which Paul sent this message and most likely a replacement to relieve Timothy so that Timothy could get going toward Rome.
Then (v. 14-15), Paul warned Timothy of a man named Alexander there in Ephesus that Paul said: "did me much evil." By occupation it says this man was a coppersmith, i.e. one who makes things out of copper. There was a Jew by this name at Ephesus mentioned in connection with the Silversmith's union and the riot (back in Acts 19:33), perhaps 6 or 7 years before Paul is writing this to Timothy. Also, there was a false teacher by the name, Alexander, which the apostle mentioned to Timothy (back in I-Tim. 1:20) along with Hymeneus of which Paul said they had "made shipwreck" concerning the faith. Paul said he had delivered both of them to Satan because they were blaspheming God. If you read that chapter real close and try to focus in between the lines on the false teachers at Ephesus, I get the impression they were perhaps Jews also. Now, we have no absolute proof the three Alexander’s (we have mentioned) were the same person or even that two out of the three were the same; except by way of the evidence that all three were from Ephesus, perhaps all three were Jews by nationality and all three opposed Paul. There is nothing I can find that distinguishes them as being absolutely different persons, thus leaving the distinct possibility they all might be the same one. Paul warned Timothy, "be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words." Paul, thus, had fears that this man might take advantage of Timothy in some way.
Verse 16, I believe we have adequately covered (accept that the idea carries on into v.17-18). Let's look at those verses a minute. Paul's words in v.16, "at my first answer," I would infer to mean Paul had already had one hearing before Nero (or his deputies) and that another hearing was pending. Although some of Paul's companions had forsaken him at that first hearing or in connection with it in some way, the apostle was encouraged in that he had actually performed well and for the time had been "delivered from the mouth of the lion," i.e. Nero. He said "the Lord stood with me." If we go back and examine Paul's hearings before Felix and Festus (Acts ch. 24 & Acts ch. 26 of which we do have a transcript) the closest thing I can liken to this occasion and trying to analyze Paul's presentations on those occasions; they were in effect gospel sermons. I'm inclined to think Paul's presentation in Rome at this time took on that same general style. He was able to present the gospel to some Gentiles (v.17). We don't have time to pursue this; but, I trust you catch on, this fulfills the prophesy about Paul in Acts 9:15 and follows Matt. 10:19 as to how Jesus instructed the apostles to handle such occasions. Now, whether v.17 (here) implies that the Lord actually appeared to Paul on this occasion as is recorded back in Acts 18:9-10 at Corinth and Acts 23:11 in Jerusalem, I am not exactly sure. The apostle had confidence the Lord would take care of the situation and he would sooner or later reach that heavenly kingdom (v.18), i.e. the church, on the other side of the grave (let us say).
Then in v.19, Paul sent a final greeting to his friends Aquila and Priscilla which were from Rome (you will remember) and also to that brother that came to visit Paul in prison, name Onesiphorus and a greeting to his household or family. The name P-R-I-S-C-A in the KJV, I would infer is a shortened form of Priscilla, the name used other places. Erastus and Trophimus were also gospel preachers very much like Luke, Timothy, Titus and others. This is most probably the same Erastus mentioned in Acts 19:22; but, whether this was the treasurer of the city of Corinth (Rom. 16:23) I would be more inclined to doubt. Trophimus was sick, we have no details. Miletus was only a few miles southwest of Ephesus and Paul had left Trophimus there which again confirms Paul’s travels in recent months. The man Trophimus was an Ephesian. This was the disciple that was with Paul in Jerusalem when Paul was arrested at the temple (if you remember Acts 21:29). The fact that Paul LEFT Trophimus in Miletus SICK shows the apostle did not employ miraculous powers to relieve suffering except when there were other spiritual implications involved. Keep in mind, all miracles were done for teaching purposes and miracles ceased after revelation was complete and the New Testament was written (I Cor. 13:10). The names mentioned (here) in v.21 are lumped in with "all the brethren" that send greetings to Timothy. I'm inclined to think these were Christians of the congregation(s) in Roman and possibly some that may have visited Paul there in prison.
AND it's time for us to say good-by in this study. It is my prayer that you found this study (or review) helpful, useful, enlightening and motivating. Thanks for your time and your interest and your fellowship in this study. Beyond that, I hope you enjoyed the study. Please pass it on! Enroll others, teach others, encourage others let's get the word out. If you are not a Christian AND you DO believe in Jesus and want to turn you life around and be a good soldier for Jesus Christ, call me, I'll make arrangements to have you baptized into Christ. If you are a Christian and you have not been faithful, please go back to your commander and chief, Jesus the Christ, the Lord of Glory, confess your sins, ask for forgiveness and get back in his service. John the apostle explained how to do this (I-John ch. 1 and the last two or three verses in that chapter). Jesus is waiting with open arms. I hope we can soon be together in spirit AGAIN in another study, the study of Hebrews. Until then, may I say (along with the apostle Paul) "The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit." (v.22). "Grace be with you. Amen." Please help us keep the studies flowing to every postmark in every state. Let us know if we can help you or your friends. Enroll your neighbors in the appropriate course. Please visit us as you have opportunity. You are always welcome. It's a great treat for us to meet and hear from Bible student. Have a good day.