Thinking home: Devotional Commentary for November 10-16
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
4:16 At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.
We already know that Paul was alone in prison, separated from his friends, and opposed by the enemies of truth. Now he told Timothy that his troubles worsened as he continued to face his persecutors without any support. He was brought before the court for a preliminary hearing without any formal charge. There in the court before the judge, he stood alone without friends or legal counsel.
No one spoke on his behalf showing the court that he did not commit any crime worthy of trial. Once again, he was deserted. But his response was one of genuine godliness.
Paul searched his own heart and was moved to intercede on behalf of his accusers and those who deserted him. Taking his cue from his Lord Jesus Christ and from Stephen whom he persecuted earlier, he wished that their disloyalty and betrayal would not be counted against them. He was disappointed but interceded for them, nevertheless.
17But 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.
18The 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.
Paul's anguish was real. He suffered from poor prison conditions. But he grieved more from being abandoned by his friends and the Christian community around him. Nevertheless, he responded with a phenomenal godliness. First, even though he was disappointed, he expressed forgiveness for those who abandoned him. Then, he took advantage of the forum before him and proclaimed the Gospel to the large mixed audience gathered to observe his trial.
Paul was a man of faith and sure hope in Christ his Savior and God his Father. He understood why God brought him to a public Roman court. So he discerned the moment and preached the Gospel as his defense, to a captive audience. He glorified God by his obedience in spite of the contrary environment where he had to answer the court.
Paul offered praises to God for rescuing him from his enemies which are delineated in our text as the "lion's mouth". He also expressed his confidence that God will rescue him from every evil deed perpetrated or devised against him. Paul was fully assured that his earthly trials shall pass. So he was able to fulfill his ministry against all odds, pray for those who deserted him, and openly affirm the reality of his faith and his hope in Christ. God strengthened him and stood with him.
19Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.
20Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.
21Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.
22The Lord be with your spirit Grace be with you.
After briefly telling Timothy about his terrible circumstances brought about not only by his physical imprisonment but also by his disappointment in his friends, Paul sent greetings to different saints, naming each individual, perhaps fondly remembering their love and support in times past. He sent greetings to Prisca, Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.
Prisca and Aquila were exiled from Rome and became ministry and trade partners with Paul, first in Corinth and later in Ephesus. They were special friends to Paul.
Paul was also thinking of Onesiphorus. Onesiphorus was one of Paul's closest friends. He was so captivated by the Gospel that he left everything and followed Paul everywhere. When Onesiphorus came to Rome looking for Paul and could not find him, he tirelessly searched for him until he found him in prison. When he realized Paul's poor conditions in prison, he took care of Paul’s needs and ministered to him for some time.
Paul also mentioned Erastus and Trophimus in his greetings. Both were known to Timothy. They travelled together to spread the Gospel in the region as Paul sent them out.
Erastus was once the Treasurer of the city of Corinth. But he left a lucrative employment in favor of joining Paul and Timothy in their ministry of spreading the Gospel. Paul told Timothy that he left Trophimus in Miletus and that he was sick. Perhaps, Paul was hoping that Timothy would stop to see Trophimus on his way to Rome and pray for him.
Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia were also on the list of those sending greetings to Timothy along with all the brothers and sisters in Rome. Even though Paul did not have support in court and was deserted by some, these names indicate that there were a few Christians in Rome who still ministered to him and kept him company. However, the disappointment caused by the desertions were so deep that his emotional oppression probably diminished the value of those who were with him.
Be that as it may, Paul deeply yearned to see Timothy in person. He strongly urged him to come before winter so nothing would hinder his arrival. He loved his son in the Spirit so much that he wanted to fellowship with him one last time before he was called home by the Lord Whom he served faithfully. Perhaps, Paul wanted to affirm and strengthen Timothy for ministry even as he himself was strengthened by God when he faced the court alone. Paul accomplished that when he invoked the Lord's Grace and presence upon Timothy. Paul knew that Timothy can do nothing without Christ.
Most scholars suggest that the closing verses of Paul's second letter to Timothy were probably his last words. A closer examination of what Paul said in these verses leads one to reasonably acquiesce with such supposition. His yearning to be with Timothy for one last time, his parting words of farewell, his mixed emotions of disappointment and praise, his anticipation of his execution, his self-assessment of his life and ministry, his open acknowledgement of all the things that God did in his life, his longing for heaven and his reward, all reflect the sentiment of one who is ready and content to breathe his last.
Paul was a man of faith and sure hope. He was faithful and honest. He spoke the truth, preached the truth, and taught the truth with wisdom, authority, care, and compassion. He lived to fulfill God's ministerial purpose for his life.
Started out jealously fighting for God in his own way, Paul ended serving Christ in God's Way. Once the persecutor of the church of Jesus Christ, he finished his course being persecuted for Christ. Paul suffered a great deal for the sake of the Gospel in every imaginable way. God rescued him each time setting him on his course to continue running the race.
Paul was resting at peace with a sure hope that God would still rescue him from the Roman authorities who were seeking to declare him guilty worthy of death. But this time, the Roman authorities were serving God's purpose unbeknownst to them, to bring the child of God home to his eternal rewards earned and secured for him by Jesus Christ his Lord, Savior, and Master. Paul rejoiced all the more and hastened Timothy to come to him without delay because his home-going was fast approaching.
Paul always offered praises to God for rescuing him from all the harm inflicted upon him by his enemies on numerous occasions. Each time, he joyfully continued his work for the Gospel without hesitation. But now his joy was even more overflowing. The rescue was final. He was going home to his Father never to suffer again. He was going home to his Father having fulfilled the ministry entrusted to him. He was going home to his Father having raised his son in the Spirit to be the man of God for the times. He was going home to his Father having been fully content with the life he lived for the Glory of God. His joy was overflowing because he knew that there will be a great reunion when all his brothers and sisters in Christ come home to receive the crown of righteousness prepared for those who love the Lord. Paul lived joyfully, served joyfully, and passed from life to life joyfully. Such is the example before us.