2 Timothy 4:1-22

Paul solemnly charged Timothy before God and Christ Jesus. Stressing the seriousness of Timothy’s faithfully discharging his commission, the apostle included mention of Jesus’ role as the one “about to judge the living and the dead, and his appearing and his kingdom.” Timothy was accountable to both God and Jesus Christ, but the Father had committed all judging to his Son. This judgment would be universal, including the living and the dead, and would commence at Christ’s appearing or his returning with royal authority as King of kings and Lord or lords. Appropriately, therefore, Paul mentioned both Christ’s appearing or return and his kingdom. (4:1; see the Notes section.)

The apostle continued with the responsibilities he solemnly charged Timothy to fulfill, “Proclaim the word; attend [to it in] favorable time [and] unfavorable time; reprove, censure (epitimáo), encourage (parakaléo), in all patience and teaching.” When fulfilling his commission, Timothy would be proclaiming the “word” or message that revealed the truth about God and Christ and how acceptance of this truth should be evident in the disposition, speech, and activity of believers. Developments within the community of believers might at certain times make individuals less favorably disposed to heed the message that Timothy had been charged to proclaim. Nevertheless, whether the time was favorable or unfavorable on account of the attitude of believers, he would still be obligated to preach the message that they needed to hear. (4:2)

Whenever fellow believers strayed from living as Christ’s disciples or began to spread teaching that conflicted with what Christ taught, Timothy would have to reprove and censure them, exposing the error of their ways and insisting on corrective action. The Greek term epitimáo conveys the thought of expressing strong disapproval, censure, or rebuke. (4:2)

There would be times when believers were in need of encouragement or comfort. The Greek term parakaléo literally means to summon or call to one’s side and can signify to appeal to, urge, implore, exhort, encourage, or comfort. (4:2)

Especially when the circumstances were not favorable for proclaiming the “word,” Timothy would have to be patient, calmly bearing up under provocation. The linkage of “patience” to “teaching” may denote patience in teaching or all the patience that is required when teaching or instructing. Accordingly, the manner in which Timothy would have to reprove, censure, and encourage would be with patience or forbearance, but what he would say would have to be instructive, reflecting sound teaching. (4:2)

Paul indicated that, in the future, the situation within the community of believers would deteriorate. The time would come when they would not be amenable to “healthful teaching.” Such healthful or sound teaching would be based on the “holy writings” and Jesus’ example and instruction. A significant number within the community of believers would become intolerant of sound teaching. “According to their own desires,” they would “accumulate teachers for themselves,” teachers who would impart the novel things they wanted to hear (literally, “tickle [itch or scratch] the hearing”). Instead of being satisfied with sound teaching that served to promote growth as Christ’s disciples and wanting to be taught by those who were capable and earnestly desirous of imparting this teaching, they would choose teachers to their liking, men who would satisfy their itch to hear new, tantalizing, exciting, and speculative bits of information. (4:3)

The straying professed believers would turn away from listening to the truth, the message that rightly focused on Christ, and turn aside to “myths,” worthless and utterly false stories of human invention. (4:4)

In view of these future developments, Paul urged Timothy, “You, however, be sober in everything, [be willing to] suffer evil, do the work of an evangelist, fully accomplish your service.” In view of the varying situations and circumstances he would be facing, Timothy needed to “be sober” or in full possession of his senses, manifesting reasonableness and self-restraint and avoiding rashness. Hostility toward believers among unbelievers would continue, and so he would have to be willing to endure the suffering that persecutors and opposers would inflict on him. As an evangelist, Timothy would be making known the good news about Jesus Christ and what he accomplished by sacrificing his life. Timothy’s service would include everything that he had been commissioned to do in advancing the interests of Christ, both within and outside the community of believers. (4:5; see the Notes section.)

Commenting on his own situation as a prisoner, Paul spoke of himself as already being “poured out” like a drink offering and the time of his “releasing” as having arrived. This indicates that he expected his life to end shortly, with the releasing signifying a releasing from his mortal body by having the death sentence imposed on him. (Compare 2 Peter 1:13-15.) He felt that the process that would end in his death had already begun as if he were being poured out like a drink offering. (4:6)

Paul had “fought” the “good fight,” which included all his struggles in advancing the interests of the Lord Jesus Christ and resisting those whose defiling conduct and ruinous teaching undermined the faith of some within the community of believers. The apostle had finished the “race,” having completed his course in life as one who faithfully adhered to Christ’s example and teaching when fulfilling his commission as an apostle. Paul had held to the faith, with its focus on the Son of God and all that his Father accomplished through him. The apostle did not waver respecting his faith or trust in God and Christ. (4:7)

Confidently, therefore, Paul knew that the “crown of righteousness” had been reserved for him. Like a victory wreath with which one who had successfully finished the race is crowned, Paul would be crowned or granted the absolute righteousness for which he longed. The “righteous judge” would give him this righteousness as if crowning him with a victory wreath. Jesus Christ is the judge, for his Father has entrusted him with all judging authority and all of his decisions will be impartial and absolutely just. Besides Paul, all other believers who loved Christ’s appearing would receive the “crown of righteousness.” The appearing on “that day” relates to the time when Jesus Christ would return in the capacity of Judge and King of kings and Lord of lords. Those loving his appearing would be all who looked forward to the time of his return and longed to be united with him, coming to enjoy the enduring relationship with him as persons in possession of absolute righteousness in the sinless state. (4:8)

With his death being close at hand, Paul wanted Timothy to hasten to come to him as quickly as possible. (4:9) Demas, because he “loved the present age,” had forsaken the apostle and gone to Thessalonica. Instead of choosing to be helpful and supportive to Paul, Demas abandoned him probably because of not wanting to risk his freedom or his life. He must have been more concerned about his own safety and welfare than about Paul, demonstrating greater love for the existing age in relation to his life than he did for an apostle and a brother in need. Crescens had left for Galatia (a Roman province in what is Turkey today), and Titus for Dalmatia (a mountainous region east of the Adriatic Sea). Paul did not explain why they had departed. The absence of any negative expression suggests that they departed with his approval or had good reason for doing so. (4:10) At the time, Luke was still with the apostle. (4:11)

Years earlier, Paul was highly displeased that Mark had not remained with him and Barnabas after leaving Cyprus and continuing to declare the good news about Christ in Asia Minor. Later, this caused a rift between Barnabas and Paul, with Barnabas choosing to work with his cousin Mark and Paul deciding to have Silas as his companion. (Acts 12:25; 13:13, 14; 15:37-41) When the apostle wrote to Timothy, his relationship to Mark had changed. He requested that Timothy have Mark join him in coming to see him, adding, “for he is useful to me in service.” This indicates that Paul had come to regard Mark highly as a fellow worker. (4:11)

The apostle had sent Tychicus to Ephesus. (4:12) Earlier, Tychicus, one of Paul’s beloved fellow workers from the Roman province of Asia, accompanied him in Greece, Macedonia, and Asia Minor. (Acts 20:2-4) During his first imprisonment in Rome, the apostle entrusted Tychicus with letters for the community of believers in Ephesus and in Colossae. At that time, Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave who had become a believer, accompanied Tychicus to rejoin Philemon as a brother in Christ. (Ephesians 6:21, 22; Colossians 4:7-9)

Sometime prior to his arrest, Paul seems to have stayed in the home of Carpus in Troas, on the northwest coast of Asia Minor, and appears to have departed during a time of warm weather. He left his cloak with Carpus and, therefore, asked Timothy to bring it with him. Additionally, he wanted to have his scrolls and particularly his parchments. The scrolls may have been either Hebrew or Greek manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures. Among these scrolls, some may have been made from parchment or animal skins, with the others being papyrus scrolls. Another possibility is that the parchments may have included copies of the apostle’s own letters to congregations and other then-existing Christian writings. With winter approaching (4:21), Paul would have wanted his cloak for warmth, and having the scrolls and parchments to read would have comforted him in his state of confinement. (4:13)

The apostle had suffered much harm from the metalworker Alexander. He did not doubt, however, that the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s appointed judge to whom all must render an account, would repay Alexander according to his deeds. (4:14) Paul warned Timothy to be on guard against him, for this metalworker had resisted his words. Alexander must have been defiant, doing whatever he could to undermine Paul’s labors or to hinder him from carrying out his commission as an apostle. (4:15)

When making his first defense as a prisoner, everyone who could have been of assistance to Paul abandoned him. He, though, did not reflect a spirit of bitterness or ill will toward any of them, but said, “May it not be reckoned against them.” (4:16)

Whereas humans forsook him, the Lord Jesus Christ stood by him. Paul sensed within himself the Lord’s strengthening so that, through him, the proclamation of God’s message might be fully made and that “all the nations might hear [it].” In making his defense before the highest authority in the Roman Empire, Paul, as he had before other rulers, would have proclaimed God’s message as it related to Jesus Christ. (Compare Acts 24:10-21; 26:1-29.) What the apostle then said in his defense would have become widely known, resulting in people of “all nations” hearing what he had proclaimed. Subsequent to his first defense, Paul was rescued “from the lion’s mouth.” In this case, his being delivered from the “lion’s mouth” may signify his escaping from mortal peril instead of his not being thrown to lions in the arena. (4:17; compare Psalm 22:21; 35:17; 57:4.)

Paul did not doubt that the Lord Jesus Christ would continue to rescue him from everything harmful and save him “for his heavenly kingdom.” This did not mean that the apostle believed that he would be delivered from all suffering or from being condemned to death, for he had endured many hardships and difficulties. But, as in the past, he would not be harmed by any evil attacks against him but would be strengthened and sustained in remaining faithful to his Lord, assuring that he would have a permanent place with him in the heavenly realm. This is the realm where Jesus Christ is recognized as King of kings and Lord of lords by his Father’s appointment. The Son of God is, therefore, in possession of surpassing glory, splendor, or magnificence. Appropriately, Paul made the prayerful expression, “To him [be] the glory forever and ever [literally, ‘into the ages of the ages’]. Amen [so be it].” (4:18)

The apostle then requested Timothy to extend greetings to Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. (4:19) In view of the earlier reference to the service Onesiphorus had rendered in Ephesus, his household and Prisca and Aquila must have been in Ephesus at the time. (1:16-18) Paul had first met Prisca and Aquila in Corinth and worked with them in the tentmaking trade. Later, they accompanied him to Ephesus, where they remained after Paul traveled back to Jerusalem. (Acts 18:1-3, 18-23) For a time, they returned to Rome (Romans 16:3-5) and, from there, appear to have come back to Ephesus. Some have thought that Paul mentioned Prisca first because of her having a higher social standing in the Greco-Roman world than did her husband. It seems more likely, however, that the apostle mentioned her first because she excelled her husband in being able to explain the message about Christ to others and in taking the initiative to assist fellow believers. This possible reason seems to be more in keeping with the lesser value Paul placed on position or status. (Compare Galatians 2:6.)

The Erastus who remained in the city of Corinth may be the one with whom Paul sent Timothy to Macedonia some years earlier. (Acts 19:22) Trophimus, a believer from the city of Ephesus, accompanied Paul on the trip to Jerusalem with a contribution for needy believers there. While in Jerusalem, Paul was falsely accused of having brought Trophimus beyond the Court of the Gentiles, which accusation was a contributory factor in the apostle’s being mobbed and coming to be a prisoner under Roman authority. (Acts 20:3-5, 17, 22; 21:26-30; 24:6) It appears that after Paul’s release from his first imprisonment in Rome (Acts 28:16-31), Trophimus again accompanied him but became ill, making it impossible for him to continue laboring with the apostle in advancing the interests of Christ. Paul then continued on his way, leaving the ill Trophimus in Miletus, likely with fellow believers who could look after him. (4:20)

After requesting Timothy to do his utmost to join him before winter, the apostle conveyed the greetings of Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, “and all the brothers,” or all other fellow believers with whom he then had association. (4:21)

The apostle concluded with the prayerful expression that the Lord Jesus Christ be with Timothy’s spirit, followed by the words, “The favor [be] with you.” Timothy’s “spirit” would be his disposition as a believer devoted to Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ would be with his spirit, supporting him and strengthening him in his godly desire to be faithful in fulfilling the commission that had been entrusted to him. (4:22)

“Amen” (so be it) is the last word in numerous manuscripts, whereas other manuscripts end the letter with the plural “you.” This would seem to indicate that what Paul had written was to be shared with fellow believers, for other believers besides Timothy are included in the apostle’s payer, “The favor [be] with you.” All believers are fellow sharers in gracious favor or unmerited kindness, which includes the guidance and aid which God and Christ provide. (4:22; see the Notes section.)


In verse 1, numerous manuscripts read “according to his appearing” (not “and his appearing”).

In connection with suffering (verse 5), fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus adds, “as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

After “Lord” (in verse 22), many manuscripts add either “Jesus” or “Jesus Christ.”