|The Apostle Paul at his books|
Paul knew how loneliness feels, too.
Contextual Notes:Second Timothy 4 leaves us with the last written words of the Apostle Paul, and the way it reads, something tells us he knew it. Paul had had a full, rich, hard, incredible life, but now, roughly 70-75 years old, Paul had come to persecution, pain, and loneliness.
THE BIG PICTURE: Here’s how it happened. Paul, about age 68, was released from his first imprisonment at Rome (Acts 28) in AD 64. He had anticipated winning his release (Philippians 1:19, 25, 26; 2:24), and his case was probably dismissed in the Imperial Supreme Court. The historian Eusebius writes: “After pleading his cause, he [Paul] is said to have been sent again upon the ministry of preaching . . . . It is indeed probable, that as Nero was more disposed to mildness in the beginning, that the defence of the apostle’s doctrine would be more easily received.”
Set free, Paul would minister abroad for three years until about AD 67 (2 Timothy 4:16-17). He wrote 1 Timothy during that time to Timothy in Ephesus. He wrote Titus in Crete at the same time. To fulfill his promise to the Philippians, Paul immediately sent Timothy to Philippi to tell the good news of Paul’s release (Philippians 2:19-23). Paul headed to Ephesus and on a circuit which included Colossae (Philemon 22).
When Timothy rejoined Paul in Ephesus, he spent some much-needed mentoring time with him. Paul then instructed his protégé to remain in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3; 3:14- 15) while he headed to the island of Crete to spend time with another younger leader, Titus. There in Crete they may have prayed through plans for a church planting tour in Spain.
After Paul’s mentoring and strategy was done, he left Crete to continue his work (Titus 1:5), writing back to Titus from Corinth. Zenas and Apollos took the letter to Titus in Crete (Titus 3:13). From there Paul headed to Nicopolis on the west coast of Greece, presumably his jumping off point for Spain. Titus had instructions to meet Paul in Nicopolis as soon as his replacement in Crete arrived (Titus 3:12).
While waiting for Titus in Nicopolis, Paul wrote 1 Timothy to encourage and assist him (1 Timothy 4:12; 6:20). Timothy was battling false doctrine and the mixing of occultism with the pure Gospel. Paul had given a prophetic word seven years earlier that the church at Ephesus would have grievous wolves to come and attack the flock there (Acts 20:29-30.) Now they were in full force, and had become young Timothy’s worst problem.
PAUL IN SPAIN?
Early Church tradition holds that Paul indeed went to Spain from AD 64 to 66. If Paul went to Spain as he had planned (Romans 15:24, 28), he had to wait through the winter in Nicopolis, departing with Titus as soon as spring and safer sailing weather arrived. Paul had been in two shipwrecks he didn’t want any more shipwreck stories! While we may never know for sure if Paul made it to Spain, we are certain that by AD 175, Christianity was a strong force in three places in central Spain on rivers feeding into the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
Further, early Church leader Clement claimed that Paul became a herald [of the gospel] in the East and West, and won the noble renown which his faith merited. To the whole world he taught righteousness, and reaching the limits of the West he bore his witness before rulers (1 Clement 5:6-7).
We know that when Paul returned, it was to Greece and Turkey (to Corinth, Miletus, and Troas (2 Timothy 4:13, 20). He may have been arrested in Troas where he left his valuable books and parchments (2 Timothy 4:13, 15). After his arrest, Paul was imprisoned in Rome where he wrote 2 Timothy from his cell.
2 TIMOTHY: Written AD 67. Paul’s age: about 71. If you were writing what you expected to be your last letter to someone you d poured your life into (2 Timothy 4:6), someone you had trained and mentored, someone you loved, respected, someone on whom the future of all your lifework rested, what would you say to them? Second Timothy is such a letter by Paul to his younger leader protégé Timothy. Paul looks back on his life with gratefulness to God, but his current condition in the Mamertine Prison was difficult.
He is finishing well. He is focused on Timothy carrying the Light to the next generation (2 Timothy 2:2). After all, when we think in light of eternity, only people and the Word of God will last. They are the most important. Paul was passing the baton. The early church father Clement of Rome reports that the Roman authorities beheaded Paul. Indeed, history tells us that beheading was the standard method of execution for Roman citizens.
2 TIMOTHY OUTLINE:
1. ENCOURAGEMENT TO TIMOTHY (2 Timothy 1)
a. Rekindle your gifts (1:3-7)
b. Share in suffering (1:8-14)
c. Heed good, bad examples (1:15-18)
2. DIRECTIONS TO TIMOTHY (2 Timothy 2)
a. To endure (2:1-13)
b. To concentrate on essentials (2:14-26)
3. THE LAST DAYS (2 Timothy 3)
a. Characteristics (3:1-9)
b. Safeguards (3:10-17)
4. PAUL’S FINAL INSTRUCTIONS (2 Timothy 4)
a. Solemn charge (4:1-5)
b. Paul’s situation (4:6-18)
c. Paul’s goodbyes (4:19-22)
THE TURBULENT SIXTIES
June 58 - Paul Arrested in Jerusalem, sent to Caesarea
AD 60 - Gospels of Matthew and Luke written
AD 60-61 - Paul heads for, arrives in Rome, under house arrest of Imperial Guard
AD 61-63 – Paul’s First Imprisonment in Rome
AD 61 - Paul writes Philemon, Colossians
AD 63 - Paul writes Ephesians, Philippians
AD 63 - Luke writes Acts in Rome
AD 64-67 - Paul Released from Prison, His Closing Days
AD 64 - Great Fire of Rome; Christians Persecuted
AD 64 - Paul writes two letters while traveling: at Corinth to Titus, and 1 Timothy at Nicopolis
AD 64-66 - Paul & Titus in Spain
AD 64 - Peter writes 1 Peter
AD 65 - Hebrews written
AD 67 - 2 Peter, Jude written
AD 67 - Paul’s Second Imprisonment
AD 67 - Paul writes 2 Timothy in Mamertine Prison in Rome
June 29, 67-68 AD - Peter and Paul Martyred in Rome under Nero’s Persecution
AD 70 - Fall of Jerusalem
AD 73 - Fall of Masada
WHY PAUL WAS LONELY
1. His Living Conditions:a. Paul didn’t write from a pastor’s study or peaceful mountain villa. He wasn’t even on some rugged missionary adventure. He was in a dungeon, the infamous Mamertine Prison of Rome, dictating his notes to Luke, the only one still brave enough to stay around a capital prisoner.
b. The Mamertine Prison was in a low, boggy part of Rome, infested with rats and malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Dark, dismal, underground chambers with low arches. Even on a hot summer day the cells were constricted with the low ceilings and damp. This was where the great apostle Paul would spend his final days writing out his last few letters.
2. The Time of Year (4:21)
a. It was autumn in Rome, and the chilly winds and gloomy skies had begun. Winter was creeping into the Mamertine’s dank cells. Now a dim, rainy gray dampened his spirit along with the damp and moldy walls and ground.
3. His Relationships (4:9-16)
a. For many years Paul led mission teams planting churches across the Mediterranean. He always had people around him. Now, with the work of the Church growing quickly and needing trained leaders and the danger of consorting with a capital prisoner, all but Dr. Luke had left him.
b. Tychicus (4:12) was the bearer of the letter since there was no Roman postal system for anyone but government use. He was with Paul in his first imprisonment at Rome.
c. Demas, who was among Paul’s friends in his first Roman imprisonment (Colossians 4:14), forsook Paul and the Gospel, loving the world more.
d. Crescens and Titus are away on ministry assignments.
e. Alexander may be the false teacher mentioned in Acts 19:33; 1 Timothy 1:19-20. He perhaps betrayed him to the Roman authorities.
f. CHURCH POLITICS? Clement implies that at least one reason for Paul’s re-arrest and Nero’s persecution may have been arguments between fans of Paul and fans of Peter among the believers. Perhaps this a reason Paul stresses the need to turn away from foolish and stupid arguments (2 Timothy 2:23). When believers fuss and fight, they do not reflect the glory of Christ. They turn people against the message of Jesus.
g. The hearing in 4:16 was his preliminary hearing (prima actio) before a Roman magistrate.
4. His Future (4:6, 9)
a. Because of how the politics had changed since his first imprisonment, Paul seems to know his end is near. It’s plain from his words: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”
b. No matter how much Paul looked forward to heaven (Philippians 1:21), he certainly was not looking forward to dying. Every day might be his last as he waited for his execution. His life was in the hands of men who didn’t know or care about him.
c. 4:9: Paul urges Timothy to get to him as quickly as possible, mindful that his death could be at any time, and he wanted to see Timothy. Timothy had been an indispensable part of Paul’s team (Acts 17:14-15; 18:5; 20:4; Philippians 2:20-22). Paul had no one else who was as like-minded in their visions for ministry as Timothy (2 Timothy 2:3; 3:14).
PAUL’S REMEDIES FOR LONELINESS
Paul didn’t have a pity party. He worked against loneliness by asking for five things:
1. Remedy of Companionship (4:9, 11, 12)
a. Notice first that Paul did not give a wide open invitation for anyone to come see him. He wanted Timothy and specifically John Mark.
b. Remember John Mark? Paul fell out with Barnabas because of him (Acts 15:36-40). Now Mark is a trusted fellow worker in the Kingdom (Colossians 4:10).
2. Remedy of Bodily Comfort (4:13)
a. This cloak is like a blanket with a hole for one’s head, useful in cold or rainy weather. Paul had left it in Troas in warmer weather and did not apparently expect to be arrested and put in a damp, cold dungeon. With cold weather coming, Paul, between 70 and 75, was cold and needed it.
b. He was just human enough to want his favorite garment. He didn’t ask to borrow one or get Luke to pick him up one in the Roman market. Perhaps Paul had woven it himself of the black goat’s hair of his native province.
c. Charles Ryrie: “Look at that cloak for a moment. It was a traveling cloak with long sleeves. Perhaps Paul had woven it himself, . . . and now it was to serve its last purpose and keep an aged man warm during a cold winter.”
3. Remedy of books (4:13)a. Reading material. The word here is for a codex, an early form of a book, which Christians popularized as they copied the Scriptures. Perhaps they are notebooks for Scripture study.
b. Perhaps he got them when a student of Gamaliel in Jerusalem
4. Remedy of the Scriptures (4:13)a. Especially the parchments – He meant his old copies of the Scriptures from which he had taught so many times. He wanted his own familiar copy of the Word.
b. His precious copies of the old scrolls of the TaNaK.
5. Remedy of focus on Christ (4:17-18)a. The lion’s mouth: Paul may be alluding to Samson, David or Daniel’s exploits (Judges 6; 1 Samuel 17:37; Daniel 6:27).
b. He may be referring to the lion as the devil or to Nero as a lion in coded language to protect the bearer of the letter.
c. Paul focused on what the Lord had done for him (16-17) and
Nobody can escape from loneliness all the time. If you are not a believer, you can spend time with friends, and party, but at the end of the day when you put your head on that pillow, you ache, missing something. That something is not another beer or a friend with benefits. That something is Christ.
Seek out some close friends
When loneliness creeps in, we are tempted to withdraw from people and let ourselves drown in pity. It takes vulnerability and transparency to let people know you need them. It takes courage to ask for help, but if it is a close friend, they will be thankful you asked them.
Take care of your physical needs.
Get some sleep. Make sure you are eating healthy food. Don’t let yourself go. Get out and walk or exercise. Get out and get around people. Go to a ball game or ride to the mountains or beach. Do something for someone else and get your mind off yourself.
Expand your mind with challenging books.
Reading gets your mind off yourself, too. Good books broaden your perspective and help lift you out of the doldrums. They make you think. There’s more to life than watching reruns of American Idol with the lights turned out.
Get into the Word of God regularly.Returning to the Word helps us return to the Author, the One who did away with loneliness forever on the Cross. Romans 8:38-39
Turn your focus to Christ through prayer.
Remember how the Lord rescued you in the past and got you out of the pit. Thank Him for doing the same for you again.
Charles Swindoll, You and Your Problems, (Fullerton, CA: Insight for Living, 1989), 64-5. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, (II, 22). 1 Clement 5:6-7 The Reese Chronological Bible Charles C. Ryrie, “Especially the Parchments,” Bibliotheca Sacra (January-March, 1960), p. 243; quoted in Charles Swindoll, You and Your Problems, (Fullerton, CA: Insight for Living, 1989), 64-5. Frank J. Goodwin, Harmony of the Life of St. Paul, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1951), 192. Ryrie, in Swindoll, 66-7.