In this closing section of the epistle, there are several interesting personal references, besides an allusion to the Apostle's appearance before the authorities, not elsewhere recorded. First, however, Paul desires to have Timothy with him: "Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me." v. 9. He longed for the presence of his child in the faith, one to whom he could freely unbosom his mind and thoughts, now that there were but few to attach themselves to the Lord's prisoner. Indeed, he would seem to have been alone, with the exception of Luke (v. 11). Timothy was thus not to delay, but to come before the storms of winter made travelling difficult, if not impossible.
Besides, the Apostle had just been passing through trial; "for," he adds, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world [age], and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia." v. 10. The two latter, Crescens and Titus, had gone; but they had not, like Demas, forsaken Paul. They had undoubtedly gone on the Lord's service; but Demas had become cold, yielding to the influences of the age; and, caring no longer to be a "partaker of the afflictions of the gospel," or to be identified with God's vessel of testimony, now a poor despised prisoner, he had, under some pretext or other, abandoned the Apostle and departed to Thessalonica. He loved this present age. What an epitaph! For he now passes out of Scripture history, and is no more seen. Once Paul had mentioned him conjointly with others as a fellow labourer again, he sends a salutation in his name, in conjunction with "Luke, the beloved physician" (Col. 4: 14); and now he has abandoned the testimony. This is not to say that he was not a Christian; but he was one who not only could not endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, but one also whose heart had been decoyed by the world. Alas! how many Demases the Church has seen since that day!
Then, after stating that Luke only remained with him, Paul gives a direction which contains in it a very precious instance of restoring grace: "Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry." v. 11. It will be remembered that Mark had once departed from Paul and Barnabas, from Pamphylia, "and went not with them to the work," on which account Paul did not think it good to take him with them on a subsequent journey (Acts 15: 37, 38). After an interval the Apostle wrote that Mark was to be received, that he was now serviceable for ministry. See Colossians 4: 10. Mark, once unfaithful, was thus restored. Grace wrought, and it is interesting to trace the stages of his restoration. Like Demas, he is mentioned three times; but what a difference! Mark is recovered, and the Spirit of God records it; Demas becomes a backslider, unfaithful to the testimony, and disappears as such from our view.
The next notice relates to a labourer in whom Paul had nothing but cause for gratitude: "And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus." v. 12. Writing to the saints at Ephesus, he describes Tychicus as "a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord" (see also Col. 4: 7) - no mean verdict, especially when we remember that it is one inspired by the Holy Ghost. And it was a singular mercy to the aged Apostle to have, at this moment, such a servant to send on his behalf to Ephesus.
The following verse contains a commission for Timothy, concerning a cloak that the Apostle had left at Troas, and books and parchments. In captivity these might be useful, and Timothy was to bring them with him. The Apostle then refers to "Alexander the coppersmith," whether the same mentioned in Acts 19: 33 cannot now be ascertained. He is here stamped with the unenviable notoriety of having been an uncompromising opponent of the truth, and in particular of the Apostle. He "did me much evil," Paul writes; and he adds, "The Lord reward ["will reward" is the more accurate reading] him according to his works" (v. 14). He thus left him in the hands of his Lord, who one day will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart, when every one will receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (2 Cor. 5: 10). But he takes the occasion also to warn Timothy of the true character of this adversary; "for," he says, "he hath greatly withstood our words" (v. 15). A successful disputant he may have been, and thereby he might have secured the applause of his hearers; but he was a tool of Satan to his own destruction, unless indeed he afterward repented.
We come now to the account of the Apostle's appearance before his earthly judge or judges. "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." vv. 16-18. The reference is undoubtedly to the trial of Paul and, as we should say, to his first hearing (for it is more accurately rendered, "my first defence") ; and we learn that not one was found to accompany him to the court. All men "forsook" him, and the word "forsook" is the same as is used of Demas, showing that these, as well as he, had yielded to the power of the enemy. But if they were wrought upon by their fears, grace was still operative in the heart of Paul, and, raising him above the sense of their unfaithfulness and his own desertion, enabled him to pray that the sin might not be laid to their charge.
How closely had Paul to follow in the steps of his Master! And how manifestly was he led by the same Spirit, whatever the difference in the degree of power! We thus read that, when the Lord suffered Himself to be apprehended, "all the disciples forsook Him, and fled" (Matt. 26: 56) ; and that before His death He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23: 34). Blessed correspondence! But how few are prepared for the sufferings of such a privilege!
If, however, he was forsaken of man, yet not of the Lord. And may we not say that it is precisely when any in the Lord's service, and for His name, have to experience the solitariness of the path of a faithful witness, that the Lord comes and manifests Himself in a special way? And thus, at this moment of trial, the Lord stood by Paul and strengthened him -- strengthened him inwardly (compare Phil. 4: 13) - so that the effort of the enemy might be turned into an occasion for the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles that filled the court of trial.
The enemy had sought to silence this devoted witness by stirring up the public authorities against him to secure his condemnation; but the Lord came in, and used the opportunity for a testimony through Paul to Satan's instruments and slaves. In this way the machinations of the foe were exposed and defeated. The Apostle tells us, moreover, that he was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. Satan, indeed, had now opened his mouth as a roaring lion against Paul; and if Paul had been unfaithful, Satan would have gained a victory. But the Lord preserved His servant, and he was delivered.*
*It has been much discussed whether the emperor Nero may not he meant by the lion. it seems established that Nero was the emperor at this time; but if so, and if he were the moving cause of Paul's persecution, he was but the instrument of Satan, and Paul would not speak of second causes. We hold, therefore, that Satan is the lion.
This deliverance vouchsafed to the Apostle becomes the pledge to him of continual deliverance from every evil work (compare 2 Cor. 1: 9, 10), as well as the guarantee that the Lord would preserve him unto His heavenly kingdom; that is, until he departed to be with Christ (for the time of his departure was at hand) in heaven, ere the Lord should return for His saints, and before therefore He should appear with His saints to establish His kingdom on the earth. This will explain the term "heavenly kingdom." The thought of all the blessedness thus in prospect fills the heart of the Apostle with praise; and he breaks forth with the ascription, "To whom be glory for ever and over" (unto the ages of the ages). "Amen" (v. 18).
Having told of his deliverance to the Lord's praise, he concludes the epistle with a few more personal references -- "Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus." v. 19. It will be remembered that the Apostle "abode with them, and wrought: (for by their occupation they were tentmakers)" (Acts 18: 2, 3). And he terms them elsewhere, "my helpers in Christ Jesus: who have for my life laid down" (or hazarded) "their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles." Rom. 16: 3, 4.
Onesiphorus has already been mentioned in this epistle (chap. 1: 16-18). After introducing the name of Erastus (see Acts 19: 22; Rom. 16: 23, but whether the same person is not known), he says, "Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick" (v. 20). "We learn here," says another, "that the miraculous power granted to the apostles was exercised in the Lord's service, and not for their private interests, nor as their personal affection might suggest." This should be borne in mind in a day when "faith-healing" is being so urgently pressed in ignorance of dispensational truth, as well as of the teaching of the scripture concerning the object of miraculous gifts.
Timothy is again exhorted to come, and to use diligence to come, to the Apostle before winter. The salutations of the other saints -- Eubulus, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren -- are added.
The epistle then concludes with the beautiful benediction, "The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you." v. 22. What higher blessing could the Apostle desire for his beloved Timothy? The presence of Him who is the Lord Jesus Christ, all that He is as expressed in these names, to be with Timothy's spirit, and also grace. May this same blessing be the portion of the beloved reader!