2 Timothy 4:9-15
People Like Us
Today’s devotion finds us closing out both the “Pastoral Epistles” and Paul’s letters. Though Hebrews has traditionally been credited to the Apostle, even few conservative scholars entertain such a view today. And it seems most fitting that we should finish Paul’s letters with that one which was more than likely his last.
It must have been cold in his cell, if we can call it a cell; perhaps it was a dark dungeon with rats. We assume this because he asked Timothy to bring his cloak which he “left with Carpus at Troas,” perhaps where he was hastily arrested and so unable to grab it, along with his books and parchments, before he was carried away. Whatever the case, he needed and wanted these things both to keep warm and keep studying and writing. Throughout history, some of the best writing has been done when Christians were in prison.
As with all Paul’s letters, his last few lines mention those “lesser” individuals who played a major role in the Apostle’s ministry. But first we must learn of a sad case, that of Demas, who “in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” We found Demas earlier in the church in Colossae (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24) sending greetings, but the last word we hear of him is that he did not finish the race or keep the faith. Such words could have been uttered over many at our funerals, but we are not as honest as the Apostle, or exhibit more social reticence, perhaps to our detriment. Oh, let us be sure that this is not the last word that is said over us. But then there is John Mark, the young man with whom Paul had a falling out over his immaturity (Acts 15:36-40). But now Paul tells Timothy that when he comes, he is to “bring [John Mark] with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” Isn’t it wonderful that these two great saints, Paul the Apostle and missionary and John Mark the writer of the first gospel, should reconcile. Mark grew up and stayed the course such that the last word over Demas was not the last word over the Evangelist.
Paul also mentions Luke, the later writer of the Gospel and the Acts, the beloved physician who was apparently with him to the end. Others like Titus and Tychicus he dispatched to other places showing that even in his last days, Paul was still fulfilling his apostolic duties to the churches. We read of faithful believers he salutes like Prisca and Aquila with whom he had served side by side from the early days. There are others we hardly know, only that none of the apostles, and certainly not Paul, were lone rangers but were surrounded by others as committed as they serving the church of Jesus Christ.
We should not overlook that Paul mentions Alexander the coppersmith who caused Paul great harm, perhaps in is being arrested. He tells Timothy to “beware of him,” indicating that believers need not walk into harm’s way unless specifically called upon by the Holy Spirit. Of course, we must bear witness, and may be thrown into the lions’ den for doing so; but we are not called upon to jump into the lions’ den unbidden. Exercise discretion.
Though Paul says Alexander will be judged according to his deeds, he does this simply to state the fact, not out of anger. On the contrary, he forgives those who deserted him at his “first defense,” perhaps before Caesar in his first imprisonment in Rome, and he bears no grudge against those in Asia who deserted him, presumably when he was arrested this last time (1:15). Paul goes to his death forgiving those who hurt him, just like all the martyrs in imitation of our Lord. May we be as faithful who may be called upon to give our lives for the faith; and even if not, may we take up the cross daily, dying daily, forgiving daily, and imitating daily our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.