2 Timothy 4:6-18

2 Timothy 4:6-18

SERIES:  2 Timothy

Final Instructions for Paul’s Progeny


SPEAKER:  Michael P. Andrus                       

Note: This sermon is both a conclusion to a series on the Book of Acts and an exposition of 2 Timothy 4:6-18.  

Introduction:  I’ve enjoyed our study of Acts so much that this week I had withdrawal pains.  So, I decided to preach a postscript to the Book today.  We noted last Lord’s Day that Acts is an unfinished book and intentionally so, because every generation of the church has a chapter to write concerning the acts of the Holy Spirit in their day.  What I didn’t say, however, is that the NT itself gives us further information about what happened to the Apostle Paul after the last verse of Acts.  I listed as one of my texts today, Acts 29, which doesn’t even exist.  But I want you to think of the book as continuing into the Church age.  

I do want you to turn with me to the principal passage dealing with the end of Paul’s life—2 Timothy 4:6-18.  Even this passage doesn’t record his actual death, but it does bring us right up to the close of his ministry.  

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Make every effort to come to me soon; 10 for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. 12 But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.

16 At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

I want us to focus our attention this morning on two things: (1) The final days of Paul’s life, and (2) The final instructions he left for his spiritual progeny.  Rarely has a man left such a beautiful legacy in his final days.  This week R. Budd Dwyer, the State Treasurer of Pennsylvania, convicted in a bribery scandal, shot himself to death at a news conference before television cameras and dozens of reporters, photographers and aides.  What a tragic end to a troubled life, and what a memory for his wife and children to deal with!  In contrast Paul is the premier example of an observation made by an ancient pagan philosopher concerning the uniqueness of Christians.  He said simply, “They die well.”

Allow me to give a brief review of the best understanding we have of what happened to Paul between the close of Acts and the passage we read earlier, as gleaned from the NT epistles.  The two years he spent under house arrest in Rome may seem to have been an unnecessary waste of time.  But writing just prior to his release he declared:  “I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brethren have been made confident in the Lord because of my imprisonment, and are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear.” (Phil. 1:12-14). 

His reference to the praetorian guard reminds us that though he was treated with great leniency, he was chained constantly to a Roman soldier, and apparently many of them did not survive the experience as pagans.  Even some members of the emperor’s own household became Christians through Paul’s witness, according to Phil. 4:22.   

During the time Paul was confined, Emperor Claudius died and Nero assumed the throne.  Wholly given to a dissolute life of passion and wickedness, he had no intention of wasting time on a Jewish prisoner, especially one against whom the charges were so vague and insignificant.  So, Paul continued to minister as he could through emissaries who were free to travel and evangelize.  Disciples from many cities came and went, seeking Paul’s counsel and advice on matters of the Christian faith, and carrying his letters to the churches in the east.  Among the individuals who visited him were some who might be called special friends. 

First, there was Timothy, who came to Rome to be near the man who was his spiritual father and to do the Lord’s work in Rome under the direction of the great Apostle.  Secondly, there was Epaphroditus.  The Philippian church sent him to Rome with financial aid Paul, and he remained there preaching the kingdom of God with such great zeal and fervor that his own health broke and he hovered near the gates of death.  When he had recovered sufficiently to travel Paul dictated a letter to the Philippians in which he commended Epaphroditus and urged the church to esteem him highly for risking his life for the cause of Christ.  

In that same Epistle to the Philippians Paul made it clear that he did not know whether he would see death at the hands of the young emperor but that it really didn’t matter.  To live would only mean more work for Jesus, but to die would be a great gain and an abundant entrance into Heaven.  The letter was sealed and handed to Epaphroditus to take back to Philippi.  One less companion for Paul, but one more church with an effective minister in charge.

A third individual with Paul during his Roman confinement was Epaphras.  He was the missionary who had planted the church at Colosse, but he had come to Rome apparently to get advice from Paul about how to handle some of the difficult doctrinal issues that had come up in that church.  Paul had never visited Colosse, but to encourage the believers there and to warn them of false doctrine, he wrote a letter to the Colossians and gave it to Tychicus with orders to deliver it and return with news about the church there.

Accompanying Tychicus on his journey was a young slave named Onesimus, the fourth individual named as one of Paul’s companions in Rome.  He had been a slave in the household of Philemon, a businessman in Colosse, and his heart had been rebellious.  He had waited his chance to rob his master and then fled, thinking he could lose himself in the crowded streets of Rome and begin life over again.  But he couldn’t lose himself from God, and in Rome he came under the influence of Paul and was gloriously converted.  Though Paul came to love this young man and appreciated his personal ministry to him, he knew that the only proper course of action was to return him to his master with a full confession.  To make Onesimus’ return a little easier Paul wrote a brief personal letter to Philemon with his own hand, which letter was also carried by Tychicus.  In the letter Paul even offered to personally make any restitution owed to Philemon by Onesimus. 

There was, however, still a third letter carried by Tychicus, and that was a general letter, a circular letter to be passed around among the many churches to strengthen their faith, to encourage them in the Christian life, and to deepen their understanding of their position and privileges in Christ Jesus. That letter, which we call “Ephesians” concludes with the exhortation, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily.”  By his side stood the ever-present Roman guard, magnificent with the armor of the Empire and proud to be among Nero’s chosen men.  One can just see a light come on in Paul’s mind as he turns to his secretary and begins dictating:  “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil, for we wrestle not against flesh and blood ….”  And as he looks at the soldier he comments on each piece of armor and compares it to the spiritual armor of the believer. 

Ephesians, along with Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, constitutes what are called the Prison Epistles.  Two years was the longest period of time a Roman citizen could be held without a disposition of his case, and apparently Paul was released from custody at the end of that time.  Many scholars believe that the evidence against him was so weak that his case never even came to trial.

Paul had always had a deep desire to take the Gospel to the western fringes of the Empire, even to Spain, and some believe he did just that following his release, though the evidence is not as clear as we might like.  It is virtually certain, however, that he visited the Church at Colosse for the first time and revisited some of the churches he had planted, such as Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus.  

Ephesus was such strategic a city that he asked his companion Timothy to stay there and assume the pastorate of that important church, making it a stronghold for the true gospel of God’s grace.  Moving on to Crete he left his companion Titus there for the same kind of ministry.  Later he wrote to both of these young pastors, in the letters known to us as I Timothy and Titus, to encourage them and to outline the qualifications for church office and the proper conduct of church members.  

Meanwhile an ominous event had taken place back in Rome.  In the middle of July, A.D. 64, a fire broke out at the north-east end of the Circus Maximus.  The fire raged for five days and before it was extinguished it had destroyed nearly 2/3 of the city.  Persistent rumor alleged that Nero himself had set the fire in order to remold it better to his liking, and soon he was looking around for a scapegoat.  Tacitus, the most reliable Roman historian of the day, wrote as follows:

         “To scotch the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians.  Christus, from whom they got their name, had been executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate when Tiberius was emperor; and the pernicious superstition was checked for a short time, only to break out afresh, not only in Judea, the home of the plague, but in Rome itself, where all the horrible and shameful things in the world collect and find a home.

         First of all, those who confessed were arrested; then, on their information, a huge multitude was convicted, not so much on the ground of incendiarism as for hatred of the human race.  Their execution was made a matter of sport:  some were sewn up in the skins of wild beasts and savaged to death by dogs; others were fastened to crosses as living torches, to serve as lights when daylight failed.  Nero made his gardens available for the show and held games in the Circus, mingling with the crowd or standing in his chariot in charioteer’s uniform.  Hence, although the victims were criminals deserving the severest punishment, pity began to be felt for them because it seemed that they were being sacrificed to gratify one man’s lust for cruelty rather than for the public welfare.”[i]

During this systematic and terrible persecution, Paul was evidently arrested again and sent to Rome.  This time he was placed, not under house arrest, but in a damp and cold dungeon.  It is there that he wrote his final treatise, the book of II Timothy, just prior to being beheaded by order of Nero, according to strong early church tradition.  

In the last chapter of his last letter, the chapter we read earlier, I find some of the most encouraging words in all the Bible, words which I have called “The Final Instructions for Paul’s Progeny” and have summarized by means of seven imperatives for our lives.  It is, if you will, his final will and testament, shared not by lecture but by example.  The first imperative is this:

Face the facts realistically.  (6)

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure has come.”  Paul didn’t try to fool himself regarding the seriousness of his situation, and he didn’t try to deal with pressure by denial.  Nor did he believe the gobbledy-gook we hear so much of today that if you have enough faith there’s no reason why you can’t be healthy, wealthy, and successful all the time.  God had performed miracles for him and through him, but he knew that this time was different, and he could accept it.

The Scriptures never encourage us to live in a dream world, but rather to face the facts.  God has not promised to rescue us from every trial–He has just promised to be there and to be faithful.  

Finish what you start.  (6)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”  What Paul is saying can be put very simply:  “be tough, develop a plan, walk with God.”  Durability, direction, and determination are the ingredients of strong finishes, whereas leaving tasks unfinished saps our emotional and spiritual energy.  Unfortunately, some of us will never be able to say, “I have finished my course,” because we don’t even know where we are going spiritually.  We’ve never taken the time to ask, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” or better, “Lord, what do you put me here for?”

On the other hand, there are those saints who believe they have been called of God to teach third-graders or to sing in the choir or to set up chairs on Sunday morning, and they are there like clockwork–week in and week out, month in and month out, year in and year out.  Praise or no praise, (and usually there is little), their goal is to finish the course until God gives them something else to do.  We need to finish what we start. 

A third imperative I see is to …

Focus on the future.  (7)

“In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”  Paul could realistically see that death was imminent, yet he chose to look beyond that fearful prospect to the hope that was his in Christ.  If you watch a suspenseful drama on T.V. you can feel yourself getting tense as the action moves toward a climax.  But if you’ve seen the show before you can enjoy it without any tension because you know how it’s going to end.  Well, Paul, by divine revelation, had seen the end of the drama and he knew the truth of the song, “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus.”  

The final imperative I find is this:

Be faithful as a friend.  (9-11)

The other three imperatives I have mentioned have come out of Paul’s actions.  This one is a lesson to be learned from his associates.  There are ten individuals mentioned in our text today, some with commendation and some with condemnation.  A great deal of pathos is connected with some of their names.

Timothy, of course, is the one who is addressed in verse 9.  A dear and faithful friend to Paul, he is urged to come to him from Ephesus as soon as possible to bring Paul his cloak which he left behind when arrested and the books, especially the parchments.  Undoubtedly, this refers to Paul’s personal copies of portions of the OT.  If he could just stay warm and have the Scriptures, he would be satisfied.

Demas is mentioned in verse 10, with the comment, “Having loved this present world, he has deserted me.”  Contrast that statement with the one in verse 8, where we are told that a crown awaits those who love His appearing.  Some love His appearing, but Demas loved this present world.  You know, friends, that statement frightens me, because there is a lot of the love of the world in me.  I can rationalize a lot of the evidence as well as you can, but the real issue is this:  when push comes to shove where are my loyalties?  If I ever have to face persecution will I stand or run?  Demas ran, and apparently so did Crescens.  Even Titus fled into the hills of Dalmatia to avoid the persecution in Crete.

The next one mentioned is Luke.  All that Paul says is, “Only Luke is with me,” but that speaks volumes about loyalty and faithfulness to the bitter end.  It can’t have been easy for this godly physician to remain there in Rome during this holocaust against the Christians, perhaps even staying in the dungeon with Paul to minister to his needs, but he did so.

In verse 11 there is another imperative that I have stated in this fashion:

Receive those restored by the grace of God.  (11)

Paul says to Timothy, “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.”  Now I want to dwell on that statement at length.  Many of you will recall that Mark is first mentioned in Acts 1:12 where we are told that when Peter was released from prison in Jerusalem he went to the home of “Mary the mother of John who was also called Mark.”  Later, Barnabas and Saul took him with them on their first missionary journey, but he left the missionary party at Perga, according to Acts 13:5, 13.  Because of this desertion Paul refused to take him along on the second missionary journey (15:36-41).  He felt so strongly that Mark had acted in a manner unbecoming a true disciple that he was willing to split up the great missionary team he and Barnabas had formed over the issue.  Yet here at the end of his life Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him because of his useful service.

I wish we knew the whole story of John Mark’s restoration.  Apparently, he repented of his desertion and proved himself over a period of time, for early in Paul’s second Roman imprisonment Mark is there as a prisoner with him, according to Philemon 24.  Later he was sent by Paul on a special mission and now just before his execution Paul wants to see him once more.

Restoration of a fallen believer to fellowship is, unfortunately, a rare occurrence in the church of Jesus Christ.  One of the reasons it’s rare is because there is so little discipline in the church in the first place.  Obviously, a person cannot be restored by the church if he has never been judged to have fallen.  But the Bible demands discipline in the Body of Christ.  In I Cor. 5 the Apostle Paul rebukes the Corinthian Church for allowing a man who was living in an immoral relationship to remain a member in good standing.  Listen as he speaks of some prior correspondence he had had with the Corinthian church: 

         “I wrote to you in my previous letter not to associate with immoral people, but you misunderstood me.  I did not at all mean with the immoral people who are unbelievers, for to do that you would have to be hermits.  But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—no, don’t even socialize with such a person.  What busines do we have judging unbelievers when we aren’t even disciplining those within the Church?  God will judge the unbelievers.  Now remove the sinning Christian from your church!”  

Now that’s my paraphrase of I Cor. 5:9-11, but I believe that’s exactly what Paul is saying.  

The Corinthian Church had apparently decided to love the sinning man back to the Lord rather than discipline him.  But sometimes love must be tough; sometimes the only way to really love someone is to discipline him.  But they accepted Paul’s rebuke and, according to 2 Cor. 2, they agreed to discipline the immoral man.  In fact, they over-disciplined him.  They not only judged him to be fallen but they rubbed his face in it and prided themselves in their vigorous anti-sin stance.  Here’s what Paul says in 2 Cor. 2:6ff:  

         “Remember that man who was living in open sin?  He caused trouble and grief for the whole church.  But I want to warn you not to carry your discipline too far.  The act of open disapproval and removal from the Body is sufficient punishment for him.  Now I urge you to express your forgiveness and compassion to him, lest somehow he become overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  In fact, I urge you right now to reaffirm your love for him.  If you refuse, Satan may take advantage of you, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”

That last point about Satan is a most important one, for Satan can take advantage of the church at either extreme.  If the church refuses to discipline sin in the Body, Satan gets the victory.  If the church over-disciplines and kicks the repentant believer when he is down, Satan also gets the victory.  

Now I know of no evidence to indicate that John Mark was an immoral person, but he did conduct himself in such a manner that the Apostle Paul felt he had to be disciplined—removed from the missionary team.  Yet Paul didn’t write him off.  After he had proved himself and demonstrated repentance for his actions, the Apostle accepted him as a brother and even wanted him with him at the very end of his life.  He also bore witness that Mark was useful to him for service.  Mark thus became one of the great restorations in Scripture, of which there were many, which shouldn’t surprise any of us who know God.

Back in Wichita about ten years ago we had a lady in the church, a wife of one of the Elders, who had to be disciplined for conduct unbecoming a Christian.  After being counseled regarding her behavior numerous times, both by the pastoral staff and the Elders, we were forced to take the very regrettable action of removing her from the membership and announcing such to the Church.  She was not forbidden to attend services, though that was considered as a further possible step of discipline, but she was removed from all ministry and was not allowed to receive the Lord’s Supper.  Five full years later we had the exciting privilege of receiving her back into membership, her sinful behavior finally abandoned and her repentance made public.  That was, without a doubt, the most satisfying new member addition during the decade I served in that church.

We have had another situation here in St. Louis that I want to tell you about. Some of you know the story but most of you do not.  I do not relate it to you for any sensational effect and certainly not to bring notoriety to the individuals involved, for that is the last thing they want.  But I do it because I believe there is an illustration here of God’s grace that can have a powerful effect on our Church.  

About 19 months ago a family came to our church to visit.  They felt at home right away and decided they wanted to make this their home church.  They hadn’t been here but a few weeks, however, when the husband and wife both came to me individually to share their story, basically saying, “Before we try to put down any roots, we want you to know who we are and what we have done so that if we aren’t welcome, we’ll know it right away.”

Theirs was as troubling a story as I’ve ever heard.  He had been the pastor of an evangelical church in St. Louis County and she had been his secretary.  They got involved in an immoral relationship with one another, and when it was discovered, they separated from their spouses, eventually divorcing their spouses and marrying each other.  That is a very brief description of a very complicated and drawn-out process, but I think I’ve said enough to establish that they were guilty of sin that was very heinous in God’s sight, as well as very destructive to the Body of Christ.  As was most appropriate, both the local church and the denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America, carried out discipline against this couple.

In His great grace God refused to turn His back on them and through the conviction of the Holy Spirit they began to desire to be restored to fellowship with God and with God’s people.  They started attending a church in the area which welcomed them and gave him an adult Sunday School class to teach.  It wasn’t long, however, before they realized that the doctrinal integrity of that church was suspect.  After all, if they were so readily accepted without any concern for their recent past actions, it was not surprising that serious heresy was being tolerated in other areas in that church.

So, they left and showed up at our church in the early summer of 1985.  When I heard this story, I said to myself, “Lord, why us?  We’re a new church in a denomination that is new to St. Louis.  We’re trying hard to build relationships with the P.C.A.  What we don’t need is an issue like this to divide us.”  But then I realized something I have known all along intellectually, but perhaps never before accepted so practically, and that is that the Church is a hospital, and if the hospital shuts the doors of its emergency room, where are the desperately broken supposed to go?  

So, what began that day was a process of confrontation, confession, forgiveness, and healing that has taught me something new about the marvelous grace of our loving Lord.  I am not going to go through the whole story, but I do want you to know that our Elders decided right from the beginning that while we would welcome this family into our church, we would not ignore the discipline of another evangelical church.  We told them that if they wanted to join our church, they would have to take steps to seek forgiveness and restoration from their former church and denomination, which would also require confession and perhaps even restitution to their former spouses.  

When I first suggested this to them, I remember getting looks of unbelief and protests like “You’re asking the impossible!  We could never go back to those people after the way they rubbed our faces in the dirt.”  But God specializes in things thought impossible, and slowly changes of attitude began to take place.  It started with letters to the former spouses, expressing repentance and seeking forgiveness.  Not surprisingly those letters were received with considerable skepticism, but we refused to let that stop us. 

Later, meetings were scheduled with the Elders of the former church and more meetings with the Presbytery, where public confession was made and where spiritual leaders from our church also bore witness that there had been true repentance in this couple’s lives.  Forgiveness and restoration did not come easy for the former church or denomination, and that’s understandable, for the consequences of this sin had been devastating for them.  But though they moved slowly, they did move deliberately.  They appointed a committee to consider the issue of restitution to the former spouses and they worked with us to resolve a number of difficult issues. 

On Wednesday, January 14, the Elders of that church voted unanimously to rescind the excommunication and to commend this family to the care of our church.  Two days later, on Friday, January 16, the local Presbytery of the P.C.A. also voted to remove the censure and to commend them to our care.  Yesterday our Elder Board voted unanimously to receive Nap and Phyllis Easterbrook into the membership of our church.  

It is, admittedly, highly unusual to discuss such a matter with an entire church, especially in a worship service.  But the public nature of the sin and the widespread publicity it received, demanded, we felt, a public restoration.  We didn’t want anyone to hear of this matter by gossip or grapevine and wonder whether the Elders knew of it or wonder whether the Easterbrooks had ever repented.  We were also concerned that other evangelical churches and denominations know that we do not consider ourselves an independent group doing our own thing.  Instead, we view the Free Church as part of the Body of Christ, working with the rest of the Body of Christ to present a united front for the Gospel in the city of St. Louis.

I have shared these things only with the permission and agreement of our entire Elder Board and with Nap and Phyllis’ permission. And now I’m going to ask them to come forward as I extend to them the right hand of Christian fellowship.  I want you to know that they are being accepted as full-fledged members and they are not under any kind of probation.  The Elders would not have accepted them into membership if they were not convinced that their repentance is real.  As repentant and restored Christians we will treat them as eligible for service in the Body as we do all other members. 

Nap or Phyllis, is there anything you would like to share?  (Their words are not preserved here).  

I’m going to ask the Easterbrooks to return to the front at the close of the service so that you, too, can welcome them.  

Obviously, my time is almost gone this morning, though we are by no means through the passage.  May I take just a few more moments?  A sixth imperative is found in verses 14-16:

Be on guard, but don’t be vengeful. (14-16)

In these three verses Paul speaks of how he has been disappointed and hurt by two classes of people.  He has been hurt by enemies of the Gospel, particularly Alexander the coppersmith, and he has been hurt by fellow-believers who deserted him during his trial.  His attitude toward both of these is exemplary in that there is no room for bitterness and anger.  Regarding the enemy he simply says, “The Lord will repay him according to his deeds.”  “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord, and Paul accepted that.  Regarding faithless friends he prayed a prayer of forgiveness:  “May it not be counted against them.”  What a beautiful spirit!

The final imperative is found in verses 17-18.

Trust the One who is always trustworthy.  (17-18)

“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.  And the Lord will deliver me from every evil deed,” not necessarily from death, however, for death is not to be viewed as evil by the believer.  Why not?  Because “He will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.”  Nero may dispatch him from his earthly kingdom, but Jesus will welcome him to a far greater kingdom.  “To Him be the glory forever and ever!  Amen.”

Let’s Pray.  Father, teach us this morning that it’s never too late to start being faithful, whether as a friend, as a spouse, or as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.  You are a God of grace and a God of restoration; if You weren’t, there wouldn’t be a one of us who could stand in your presence.  May we never forget the pit from which we were digged.  Amen!

DATE: January 25, 1987








[i]Unfortunately, this citation has been lost.