Paul's Final Word
His Dying Shout of Triumph
The book of Acts closes with Paul in prison in Rome about the year A.D. 63. The common belief is that he was acquitted, returned to Greece and Asia Minor, was later re-arrested, taken back to Rome, and executed about A.D. 66 or 67 . This Epistle was written while he was awaiting martyrdom.
Background of the Epistle
The Neronian Persecution. The Great Fire in Rome occurred A.D 64. Nero himself burned the city. Though an inhuman brute, he was a great builder. It was in order to build a new and grander Rome that he set fire to the city, and fiddled in glee at the sight of it. The people suspected him; and historians have commonly regarded it as a
fact that he was the perpetrator of the crime. In order to divert suspicion from himself he accused the Christians of burning Rome.
The Bible makes no mention of Nero's persecution of Christians, though it happened in Bible times, and is the direct background of at least two N T books, 1 Peter and 2 Timothy, and was the persecution that brought Paul to his martyrdom, and, according to some traditions, Peter also. Our source of information is the Roman historian Tacitus. He knew that the Christians did not burn Rome. But somebody had to be made the scapegoat for the Emperor's crime. Here was a new and despised sect of people, mostly from the humbler walks of life, without prestige or influence, many of them slave. Nero accused them of burning Rome, and ordered their punishment.
In and around Rome multitudes of Christians were arrested and put to death in the most cruel ways. Crucified. Or tied in skins of animals, and thrown into the arena to be worried to death by dogs, for the entertainment of the people. Or thrown to the wild beasts. Or tied to stakes in Nero's gardens, pitch poured over their bodies, and their burning bodies used as torches to light Nero's gardens at night, while he drove around in his chariot, naked, indulging himself in his midnight revels, gloating over the dying agonies of his victims.
It was in the wake of this persecution that Paul was re-arrested in Greece or Asia Minor, possibly at Troas (2 Timothy 4:13), and brought back to Rome. This time by the agents of Rome, not as at first by the Jews. This time as a criminal (2:9), not as at first on some technical violation of Jewish law. For all we know, it may
have been in connection with the burning of Rome. For was not Paul the world leader of the people who were being punished for the crime? And had not Paul been in Rome for two years just preceding the fire? Very easy to lay this crime at Paul's door. But whether that was the charge we do not know. The Christian religion, somewhere before this time, had been officially proscribed. It was one of the consequences of Nero's personal persecution and a face-saving device. Paul at any rate, was indicted. His trial had proceeded far enough that he knew there was no hope of escape. While waiting in the Roman dungeon for the "time of his departure" he wrote this Latter to Timothy, his bosom friend and trusted co-worker, begging him to be faithful, in spite of everything, to his trust as a minister of Christ, and to hurry on to Rome before winter (4:21)
Paul's Note of Triumphant Faith
In that dark hour is one of the noblest passages of Scripture. Being executed for a crime of which he was not guilty. His friends forsaking him, and leaving him to suffer alone. The cause for which he had given his life being blotted out in the West by persecution, and in the East going into apostasy. Yet no hint of regret that he had
given his life to the service of Christ and the Church. No hint of doubt but that the Church, though now apparently being defeated, would eventually be triumphant. And no hint of doubt but that the moment his head would be cut from his body he would go straight to the arms of HIM whom he had loved and served so devotedly. This Epistle is the exultant cry of a dying conqueror.
General Note on the Persecutions Under the Empire (EMB)
Persecution, in its most common sense, signifies a particular course or period of systematic infliction of punishment or penalty for adherence to a particular religious belief. Oppression is to be distinguished from it. Pharaoh oppressed the Hebrews; so did Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel and Jeremiah were persecuted. Systematic persecution
began with the Roman imperial government. Notably tolerant toward alien religious beliefs in general, the Romans clashed with the Christians over the formalities of Caesar-worship. In that fact, according to W. M. Ramsay, lies the prime significance of the persecutions. Persecution began as a social reaction, and became political later, a process which can be detected in the surviving documents (Acts of the Apostles; Tacitus' Annals; Pliny, Epistles X).The state's policy of repression was intermittent, and as the evidence of Tertulian shows, was visibly daunted by the growing numbers of the Christians. A considerable body of literature has gathered round the difficult theme of the legal basis on which the authorities pursued their policy, and on the incidence and severity of the persecutions themselves. Disregarding Claudius' anti-semitism of A.D 49 (Acts 18:2) , in which the Christians were not distinguished from Jews, Nero must be regarded as the first persecutor. In A.D. 64 (Tacitus, Annals 15:38-44) this emperor used the small Christian community as scapegoats for a disastrous fire in Rome and the charge of incendiarism which was popularly leveled against him. Domitian's execution of Glabrio and Flavius Clemens in A.D. 95, and the exile of Domitilla for "atheism," and "going astray after the customs of the Jews" (Dio Cassius 67 :44), was probably anti-Christian action, an incident which strikingly reveals the vertical spread of Christianity by the end of the first century. Pliny's famous correspondence with Trajan in A.D. 112 (Pliny, Epistles 10:96, 97) reveals the state more moderately but quite uncompromisingly in action. Trajan's policy, laid down for Pliny in Bithynia, was followed by Hadriah and Antoninus Pius (A.D. 117-161). Marcus Aurelius was guilty of a sharp persecution at Lyons (A.D 117 ). At the close of "the second, with the death of Septimius Severus, a long period of peace followed, broken by Maximinus Thrax, Decius, , and Valerian, but without widespread action or much determination. Diocletian continued a now established polity of toleration until A.D. 303 when, under the influence of Galerius he initiated the last short but savage period of persecution, described by Lactantius and Eusebius. (The historical questions involved are dealt with in W M. church Ramsay, The Church in-the Roman Empire before A.D. 170; E. G. Hardy, Christianity and the Roman Government. More briefly, the background and historical significance are dealt with in Tyndale Lectures 1951 and 1259 by E. M. Blaiklock: The Christian in Pagan Society and Rome in the New Testament) . The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary
Chapter 1. "I Know Him"
His Prayers for Timothy (3-5). Paul opens almost every Epistle thus:, prayers and thanks: Romans 1:9-10; 1 Corinthians 1:4-8; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Ephesians 1:3; Philippians 1:3, 9-11; Colossians 1:3-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; "Thy tears" (4): probably at their separation at Troas (4:13). When Paul wrote 1 Timothy he was in Macedonia and Timothy was in Ephesus. Possibly they later met at Troas, and possibly it was here that the Roman soldiers seized Paul and hustled him off to Rome on the humiliating charge of setting fire to the city.
Paul's Assurance (6-14). He had seen Christ. He had suffered for Him. Christ, though unseen, was the one unquestioned reality of Paul's life, his intimate actual companion, and "knew him,, (12), as one knows his best friend. "Preacher, apostle, teacher" (11):
"preacher," proclaimer of the Gospel to those who never heard it, foreign missionaries, "apostle," with direct personal authority from Christ; "teacher," instructor of settled Christian communities, our pastors.
The Disaffection at Ephesus ( 15-18). This was one of the saddest things in Paul's life. In Ephesus, where he had done his greatest work, and almost turned the whole city to Christ, the false teachers had so gotten the upper hand that they were able to make capital of Paul's arrest to turn the church against him, at the time of all times when he needed their love and sympathy.
Chapter 2. Advice to Timothy
Avoid Business Entanglements (I-7). Paul advises Timothy to take pay for his work as a minister, the very thing which Paul for the most part had refused to do, before the churches had become established. Possibly Timothy had been of a well-to-do family, and had by now lost his money in persecutions. Being reticent about the matter, he may have needed in this advice.
Endure Suffering (8-12) . Paul, at that time, was enduring the cruelest of all suffering for a good man, the charge of being a criminal (9) . But notice, his mind is on "eternal glory" ( 10) . The quotation (11-13), may have been from a hymn.
Handle the Word Aright (14-21). Do not distort its natural meaning to bolster pet doctrines. The Church will depart from the teachings of the Word. But within the historical visible Church God will have a remnant of true believers (19).
Be Gentle (22-26). God's Word, in the hands of t ministry possessed of true Christian gentility will break down opposition and hold the Church in its true course.
Chapter 3. Grievous Times
Coming Apostasy ( 1-14). The determined effort of mankind to corrupt the Gospel and thwart the work of Christ is one of the burdens of the New Testament. It is spoken of again and again (Matthew 7:15-23; 2 Thessalonians 2; 1 Timothy 4; 2 Peter 2; Jude;
Revelation 17) . The terrible picture (2-5 ) , with the exception of temporary periods of reform, is a fairly correct picture of the Visible Church as a whole to this present time. "James and Jambres" (8), traditional names of the magicians of Pharaoh (Exodus 7:11-22).
"Lystra" (11) , was where Paul was stoned, the home of Timothy, which stoning Timothy may have witnessed. "All shall suffer persecution" (12): we are told that over and over (Matthew 5: 10-12; John 15:20; Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:4); so that when it comes we may be prepared for it.
The Bible (14-17), is the one antidote against Apostasy and Church Corruption. The Roman Church pushed the Bible aside, and brought on the Dark Ages. The Protestant Church rediscovered the Bible, but now neglects it. Widespread disregard of the Bible
by the present day Church is simply appalling. - Many prominent church leaders not only neglect the Bible, but with great intellectual pride, in the name of "modern scholarship," resort to every conceivable means to undermine its Divine Origin, and toss it aside as patchwork of "Hebrew Thought."
Chapter 4, Paul's Last Words
Solemn Farewell Charge ( 1-5 ) . Paul knew the day of his execution was approaching. Not sure that he would ever see Timothy again, or even have the opportunity to write him another letter. He begs him to keep his mind on the day of the Lord's appearing, and to preach Jesus unceasing diligence. Again false teachers ( 3 , 4); O how that bothered Paul ! The perverse determination of men to corrupt the Gospel of Christ.
Paul's Valedictory (6-8). Grandest utterance of the grandest mortal man that ever lived. The battle-scarred old warrior of the cross, looking back over t long and hard and bitter fight, cries out in exultation, "I have won." Not long afterward the executioner's
ax released Paul's soul from his worn and broken body to be borne away by flights of angels to the bosom of his beloved Lord. We imagine' his welcome home to heaven surpassed any triumphal procession he had ever witnessed in Rome to returning conquerors. Our guess is that when he got to heaven, his very first act, after a rendezvous with the Lord, was to hunt up Stephen to b"g his forgiveness.
Personal Matters (9-22). Whether Timothy got to Rome before Paul's martyrdom (9), we do not know. The first stage of Paul's trial had already passed (16) . Things looked so bad for him that even three of his - four companions in travel fled, and Luke alone remained ( 10-11) . Whether Titus went to Dalmatia (10) , of his own accord, or was sent by Paul, as he and Paul may have planned in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12) , is not stated. Those were dark days in Rome. Known Christians had been murdered. Now they had the great Christian leader himself on trial. It was dangerous to be see with him. "Mark" ( I 1) : Paul wanted him. They had separated years before (Acts 15:36-41), but he had been with Paul in his first Roman imprisonment (Colossians 4:10). Mark and Peter worked together, and if Mark got to Rome, possibly Peter did also. One of the traditions is that Peter was martyred in Rome about the same time as Paul or soon after. The "cloak" (13) : winter was coming on (21), and Paul needed it. The "books" (11), probably were parts of the Scripture. "Alexander" (14), was no doubt the same Alexander whom Paul had "delivered to Satan" (1 Timothy 1:20), who now had his opportunity to get even. And he did. He had journeyed all the way from Ephesus to Rome to testify against Paul, which he did with considerable success. The "lion" (17), may be a veiled reference to Nero, or it may refer to Satan (1 Peter 5:8). "Trophimus" (20) : this is e very interesting side-light on Paul's power to work miracles. He had in various places healed multitudes. But here was one of his own beloved friends he could not heal.