18 October 2017

2 Timothy 4:5-17

"At my first defence no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth." (vv. 16-17)

Psalm: Psalm 145


You'd think that Paul would be pretty fed up at this point. Since his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-31) he has devoted his life to Christ and known real persecution because of it. He's been arrested and imprisoned, has become an outcast from his own Jewish community and to top it all off, his friends have deserted him and death is near. Only his trusty friend Luke remains by his side.

Biblical scholars debate whether Paul actually wrote this letter (along with 1 Timothy and Titus) or whether the three were written in his name after his death in a Church that had developed well beyond what it would have been during Paul's lifetime. But for me, their authorship is, to a certain extent, irrelevant. They are a key part of the New Testament and communicate important principles for Church life.

Here, 'Paul' is writing to Timothy, a young Church leader to whom he has been a mentor. 'Paul' senses that the end of his ministry is near and longs for his friend to join him and offer him comfort. You'd think that with all he's been through, 'Paul' would be just a little bitter. Though he mentions those who have done him wrong - Demas who has abandoned the ministry and Alexander who opposed Paul's message - he prays that God will not count their wrongs against them. And even though some abandoned him at the time of his trial, he is content that God has always stayed by his side.

One of the most striking elements of this passage is the list of the author's many friends and their various activities. It gives a real sense of the close-knit community of which 'Paul' and Timothy were a part. The author's ministry is not over as long as his friends continue to carry out theirs, doing "the work of an evangelist" (verse 5) and enduring the suffering they face.

To Ponder

  • What is "the work of an evangelist" ('evangelist' meaning someone who shares the good news of Jesus with others)? Do you have a role to play in this? What might it be?
  • Paul prays for those who have done him wrong. How difficult would this be for you? If you are able, think about those who have done you wrong and pray for them.

Bible notes author

Anna Drew

Anna Drew is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Canterbury. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Daily Service and Prayer for the Day and a freelance writer on faith issues.