The Lord’s Day
June 12, 2005
II Timothy 4:9-22
“I’ll Never Walk Alone”
Dr. Derek W. H.
Amen. Now turn with me to II Timothy, chapter four, and
we’ll be reading from the ninth verse through to the end of the chapter. This
will bring to a conclusion this series of sermons on the Pastoral Epistles, and
as you were told a little earlier this morning, it is Dr. Duncan’s aim to move
after this to the Epistle to the Ephesians.
Before we read the passage together, let’s come
before God in prayer.
Once again, O Lord, we bow in Your presence. We
acknowledge that this is Your word. We are utterly dependent on it for every
aspect of our live, and of our existence. We need You to come, Holy Spirit, and
to grant us illumination, that that which we read might also be to our profit;
that we might read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Hear the word of God, beginning at the ninth verse
of II Timothy, chapter four.
“Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this
present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to
Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him
with you, for he is useful to me for service. But Tychicus I have sent to
Ephesus. When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and
the books, especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much
harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him
yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching. At my first defense no one
supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. 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. 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.
“Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus
remained at Corinth; but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. Make every effort to
come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and
all the brethren.
“The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”
Amen. And may God add His blessing to the reading of His
holy and inerrant word.
These are Paul’s very last words.
You remember at the end of Colossians and Ephesians,
Paul is in prison. He’s under house arrest in Rome. He is expecting a trial–a
trial that he expects to occur very shortly. He asks, you remember, for prayer;
he expresses a desire that he might visit the brethren in Macedonia and in Asia
once again. Those letters were written around the year 60 A.D. Tradition has it
that Paul was executed later, following the fires of Rome in A.D. 64. Tradition
therefore says that Paul was actually released from that imprisonment that we’ve
been reading of in Ephesians and Colossians, and at the end of The Acts of the
Apostles, and no doubt went on some more missionary work. We’re not clear where
he went. Perhaps, as we shall see in a minute, he passed through Troas once
He was evidently rearrested and brought this time
not to house arrest in Rome, but brought to a prison–a prison evidently that was
difficult to find. Onesiphorus has to take great pains to find the Apostle
Paul. (Some of you were name-dropping in between services and saying that it was
probably the Marmetine Prison, and that you had been there. Well, I will be
there in two weeks, God willing, so there!)
If indeed it was that prison, it was a dungeon, it
was a cave; there would probably be a hole in the roof from which the prisoner
would be let down. It would be almost impossible for anyone now to come and
visit him, and therefore the circumstances in which the Apostle Paul now finds
himself are probably very grim.
The fires of Rome occurred in A.D. 64. Nero wasn’t
there; he was at Antium, what we now call Anzio. He made his way back in a
hurry. He engaged in some relief work for the city. Gossip was that Nero had
actually begun these fires because of the craze of an emperor to want to rebuild
the central part of the city. A fire would accomplish some of that end. Nero
needed someone to blame for the fires: Christians were the ones that he blamed.
Christians were probably saying things like ‘This is the judgment of God.’ Some
were perhaps saying ‘This is the evidence that the end is in fact near.’
And Nero began his conflagration of the city,
arresting Christians, having some of them dressed in fresh animal skins daubed
with blood and sent into the amphitheaters with wild dogs, and maybe lions.
Others were set alight as human torches to provide light in the entrance points
to the city at night. Paul was not dealt with in that way, because Paul was a
Roman citizen. Tradition has it that Paul would be taken out of this prison and
he would be executed in the Roman way; that is, he would be decapitated.
Tradition also says that Peter was executed on the
same day. That’s unlikely to be true, although it probably was in and around
that period. It is unlikely that Peter was in the same prison as Paul;
otherwise Paul would have mentioned him. Peter was not a Roman citizen: he was
therefore crucified; and by his own request, according to tradition, he was
crucified upside down.
Now Paul is expressing his final words before his
execution, and four things come to the surface by way of four requests…or,
three requests and one assertion that Paul makes in these closing verses: A
request for human company; a request for warm clothing; a request for books
(which rings in my heart!); and an assertion of the presence of His Lord. Let’s
look at them in that order.
The first is the request
for human company. It’s not the typical portrait of Paul. You might
think of Paul as somewhat aloof. I certainly think Paul was a difficult man to
get on with…he was one of those people who always thought he was right!
Evidence the disagreement with John Mark; evidence somewhat of the disagreement
with Barnabas and Peter. It’s a beautiful thing that Paul now seems to have
made up with John Mark, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but it is wonderful
to see in these closing verses how important other people are, and how important
other Christians are to the Apostle Paul. Paul has evidently had some
visitors…whether they would have been able to come right down to him in this
prison cell is difficult to say, but he mentions some of them. Maybe these are
members, of course, of the church in Rome. He mentions Eubulus and Pudens and
Linus. Shortly after Paul and Peter were martyred, Linus…there was a
Linus…who became the Bishop of Rome. Rome assumed an enormous amount of
importance once Jerusalem fell (somewhat four, five years now into the future,
as Paul is writing). Once Jerusalem had fallen, then Rome would automatically
assume a greater importance, and therefore this Linus character from the church
of Rome is a significant person.
He mentions one woman, a woman by the name of
Claudia. And then, “all the brethren” from the church in Rome are sending their
greetings to Timothy. Timothy is, of course, in Ephesus.
Now, unlike the first time that Paul was under house
arrest in Rome, the conditions now are probably very dire. He mentions earlier
on in the epistle–you remember how Onesiphorus had made great pains to try and
find him–and that he wasn’t afraid of Paul’s chains (a reference to the fact
that associating yourself with the Apostle Paul in this prison could probably
get you locked up, and could probably incur your death).
He says that he misses four people in particular:
Demas, Crescens, Titus, and Tychicus.
Demas was a fellow worker of the Apostle Paul. He’s
mentioned in Colossians and in Philemon, but he has fallen in love with the
present world. Perhaps the threat of persecution and death was too much for
Demas, and he has gone. It pains the Apostle Paul. Bishop Ryle says of Demas
that ‘he was smitten with cowardice in that region of terror.’
Two others have left him, but not in any way like
Demas. Crescens is not named elsewhere, but he has gone to Galatia, and Titus,
who’s now finished his work in Crete, has gone to Dalmatia, which is on the
And then, Tychicus has been sent to Ephesus. If
Timothy is going to come from Ephesus to Rome, which is Paul’s request, then
he’s sending Tychicus to take charge of things in Ephesus once Timothy is gone.
Paul is lonely, and he wants Timothy to come to
him. Luke is evidently there. “Do your best to come to me quickly,” he says in
verse 9. And then in verse 21 he says, “Do your best to come to me before
winter, and bring John Mark with you.” Now, that’s a beautiful thing, because
by all accounts Paul and John Mark had not hit it off. There had been a
disagreement between them. Paul was deeply let down by John Mark when John
Mark, on the Island of Cyprus on that first missionary journey, went home
instead of going on with Paul. You remember that when it came to the second
missionary journey, Paul did not want to take John Mark with him, and if it
hadn’t been for Barnabas, ‘the son of encouragement,’ if it hadn’t been for
Barnabas, who knows what would have happened to John Mark. But now at the end of
Paul’s life, that rift–whoever’s fault it was–that rift has been healed. There’s
a lesson! There’s a lesson! That rift has been healed, and he says to Timothy,
‘Come before winter, and bring John Mark with you, because I want to see him
just one more time.’
Armand Walker was a student in the Jefferson Medical
College, and he heard a very famous sermon on this passage preached by Dr.
Clarence McCartney, and the text was “Do thy diligence to come before winter,
and bring John Mark with you.” And the text lingered in his mind as he walked
home that Sunday afternoon, and after lunch he said to himself, “I had better
write a letter now to my mother. Perhaps the winter of death is near her.”
Evidently there were things he needed to say to her. Perhaps there was an
apology that he needed to express to her. And so he sat down and he wrote his
letter. Two days later he was in class, and a telegram comes. And it’s his
mother, and she is gravely ill. And when he gets to his mother, he
says…hurriedly he went to the country where his mother was still living, and
he says a smile of recognition and satisfaction was on her face, and under her
pillow lay a treasured possession: the loving letter her son had written after
the Sunday service. It cheered and comforted her as she entered the valley of
the shadow of death.
Many of us (and I’m certainly one of them) have
regrets when loved ones have died and we haven’t been there. We haven’t been
able to say those last things we wanted to say. What an opportunity this
afternoon perhaps, to write that letter to someone in your family…to someone
perhaps with whom you’ve had disagreements…before winter comes, before it’s
too late to write that little word and do what Paul is desirous here…to see
John Mark once again before it is too late….Paul’s desire for human company.
Secondly, his desire for
warm clothes. Isn’t that a strange thing? That the Apostle Paul,
amongst his dying words, would say ‘Bring me that overcoat.’ He’s in this
prison…it’s cold. Those of you who have been to the Marmetine Prison in Rome
(and you can imagine it even if you haven’t been there)…in an underground
cavern of some kind where there’s no sunlight, it’s probably very damp and very
cold; the kind of chill, you know, that gets right into the bones, and once it
gets in there, it doesn’t get out. And Paul, even though he has expressed in
this very chapter that he has finished the course and that he is ready, as it
were, to go to his heavenly Father, yet he just may last through another winter.
Evidently some trial has already taken place. He
tells us that he has been delivered from the lion (and he’s not speaking of the
amphitheater, he’s probably speaking of the Emperor Nero). He’s been brought,
probably, before some magistrate in the first round of trials that would take
place; and his conclusion from that evidently is that he is a condemned man and
that he really has no future in this world, but he just may last through another
winter. ‘And Timothy…Timothy, if you’re going to be able to come and see me
before winter if possible, when you pass through Troas….’ Was that the place
that Paul was finally arrested and brought again to Rome?…because that’s where
he left his cloak…it would have been a poncho, circular with a hole in the
middle that you put round your head, and it would be made of a material that
would keep you warm in winter. What does that say to us?
Doesn’t it say to us how practical a man the
Apostle Paul is? Here is this man who has written half the New Testament,
this man who writes on doctrines that thousands and thousands and thousands of
books in RTS library are unable to fully explain, this man who has traveled all
around the world, and he’s concerned about a coat? An overcoat? It’s saying
that true godliness and true spirituality has a practical dimension to it.
You’re thinking of going on a mission trip? Then
pack some Tylenol™! Put some Imodium™ in there! Don’t drink the water!
Christianity is practical.
And then a third thing:
books! I can hear seminary students and would-be ministers
and others just ring with this: “Bring the books, and especially the
parchments.” Isn’t that an extraordinary thing? The Apostle Paul is in the
Marmetine Prison; he may well be chained to soldiers; the conditions are
probably disgusting; his life is almost certainly now at an end; there is
probably very little light; his ability to read and study and write would almost
certainly be curtailed, and he is concerned about books, or parchments–and
codices…that is, a collection of papyrus sheets with a cover, rather than a
scroll. What were these? What did they contain?
Some have conjectured that they might have been
Greek philosophers…I hardly think so. Some have conjectured — artsy types have
thought that Paul might be in need of books and poetry…I don’t think so. Some
have conjectured that it was probably the Greek Old Testament that he wanted.
And if Paul hadn’t had time to bring that with him when he was finally arrested,
certainly that would be one of the things that the Apostle Paul wants: the Greek
But he’d also want those notebooks, those parchments
in which there might well have been half-written letters, notes that he had
written on union with Christ and the doctrine of the resurrection…all kinds of
sayings of Jesus that had been passed down by oral tradition, and he had
scribbled them on this papyrus. Bring them to me, he says.
Listen to Spurgeon…a very famous sermon of Charles
Haddon Spurgeon on this text:
“Even an apostle must read. Some of our very ultra-Calvinistic
brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermons must be a
very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit,
professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense is
the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so,
and never produce what they call ‘a dish of dead men’s bones’–“Oh, that is the
preacher!” How rebuked are they by the Apostle. He is inspired, and yet he
wants books. He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants
books. He has seen the Lord, and yet he wants books. He’s had a wider
experience than most men, and yet he wants books. He had been caught up into
the third heaven and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter,
and yet he wants books. He had written the major part of the New Testament, and
yet he wants books. The Apostle says to Timothy, and so he says to every
preacher, ‘Give thyself unto reading.’”
Well, there’s a fourth
thing that the apostle alludes to in these closing words. Not just his desire
for good friends to be with him; not just a desire for warm clothes to keep him
warm in winter; not just the desire for good reading and writing materials; but
he gives a glowing testimony to the divine presence that sustains him.
He mentions first of all Alexander the
coppersmith, a metalworker who did him much harm, and he warns Timothy about
him. The Greek word can well mean ‘the accuser’, and it may well have been this
man Alexander who betrayed him to the Roman authorities…a Judas-like figure,
then…and he warns Timothy of him. He probably lives in Troas, and Timothy is
going to go through Troas to get the cloak. But you notice what he says: “The
Lord stood by me” (vs. 17); and again in vs. 18, “The Lord will rescue me from
every evil….”; and then in the closing benediction he says, “The Lord be with
Here is the Apostle Paul, and he’s in this terrible,
terrible condition. He’s in this prison, this dungeon beneath the streets of
Rome. He’s going to be executed shortly, and what is the source of all his
comfort? What is the source of all of his reassurance? “The Lord is with me.”
No matter how dark, and no matter how difficult, no matter how trying the
circumstances may be, ‘The Lord is with me, and He will be with you,’ he says.
Isn’t that a wonderful thing? As we think this
morning, we’re not in Paul’s condition, to be sure. Many of you dear people
have trials and tribulations. Many a cloud has descended upon your hearts, and
the reassurance that is yours in the midst of the unfolding providence of God is
the same as it was for the Apostle Paul: that the Lord is with you; that He will
strengthen you; that He will enable you just as He had enabled the Apostle Paul
at that first trial to give a good account of himself, and so further the
kingdom of God; just as the Apostle Paul desires books so that he might be once
more useful in the kingdom of God by the strength of God and the reassurance of
the presence of God.
And with some words of greeting to friends in
Ephesus — Priscilla and Acquila — and some instructions to Timothy about certain
folks: Erastus, who stayed in Corinth; and Trophimus…and note that…Trophimus
whom he has left behind sick in Miletus; (now, there’s the death-knell to the
‘health and wealth’ gospellers: that the Apostle Paul could not heal Trophimus,
but had to leave him behind in Miletus); Paul brings his epistle to a close with
the words of a benediction: “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”
And my friends, that’s the reassurance that means
everything to us who know Jesus Christ this morning: that the Lord is with us,
and that the grace of God can enable us to do exceeding abundantly above all
that we ask or even think.
Let’s sing to God’s praise from hymn No. 384,
[Lord, Dismiss Us with Your Blessing].
Now receive the Lord’s benediction.
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
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