4:1-2 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
The Apostle Paul entrusted and instilled responsibilities to his son in the Faith, Timothy through charges (1 Timothy 1:6; 18; 6:13; 2 Timothy 2:3). Paul charges Timothy numerous times within his two epistles to him. Saying this, one may want to make this charge especially noteworthy because it is Paul’s last one recorded before the death of Paul.
Paul charges Timothy “therefore.” This charge is preceded in the prior chapter by reaffirming the doctrine and duties of his ministerial role. Now, that the nature of charge is clearly laid, so is the charge.
The charge is to Timothy and mediated by Paul; nonetheless, the charge is inspired and authored by God Himself. This final installment by Paul is a work committed by the Spirit to maintain and promote increase within the Body of Christ on the foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 4:11-12).
Functionally, Timothy’s charge is to maintain and promote sound doctrine, as given from Paul. Timothy would not be unfamiliar with similar instruction and moreover this would resonate as a charge of affirmation in the call that Timothy was already living out, as evidenced within earlier portions of Paul’s letters (1 Timothy 1:3-4; 1 Timothy 4:6-16; 2 Timothy 2:2; 14-16).
The first portion of the charge is to “preach the word.” This is a brief, emphatic declaration characterized with a proclamation similar to that of an official messenger or an ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20; Philippians 3:20).
As for being “instant,” the Greek here is ephistēmi and indicates someone who is present and able to move suddenly as if an assault. As for being “in season” and “out of season,” this indicates that Timothy is to be spiritually present and aware when it is opportunely convenient and also when it is not. Simply put, this means being present all the time. In 1 Peter 3:15, the Apostle Peter gives a great example of what this looks like practically by stating, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
As seen in the prior chapter, Paul expounds on the concept of reproval, which means to prove and therefore correct false doctrine (Ephesians 5:11-13; 1 Timothy 3:16). This is a role of a minister and layman alike.
With Paul, his model of spiritual correction is to reprove (Prove), rebuke (Silence), and exhort (Encourage). Scripture and the doctrine held within, is more than able to fulfill all three of these roles, especially, when presented patiently by Spirit-empowered ministers of the Word.
4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
This “time” is not referring directly to “the last days.” This reference is direct and literal to Timothy’s current ministry and possibly even to the Scriptural legacy that Timothy leaves behind himself. This is a seemingly grim truth that reflects the secular and or infidel position of what Paul elsewhere deems, “latter times” (1 Timothy 4:1).
We see now, in our current dispensation of the grace of God that humanity is degrading worse and worse into a rejective state of Scripture. Paul foretold this and even described by what nature this would happen. Society will not outright reject Scripture or truth in their lives. It will attempt to subvert with mistaken truth based on experience, gossip, fables, etc.
Naturally, humanity has an inept desire and affinity for truth (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Romans 2:12-15). Yet, being born in the nature of Adam, carnality and evil desires work contrary to genuine, Godly truth and promote acceptance of counterfeits. By Christ’s Gospel, we are restored to the image of Christ and are to desire His truth above all else (Ephesians 4:24).
It would be worth noting, particularly within the New Testament, how often the condition of consciousness is mentioned (Acts 24:16; 1 Timothy 3:9; Romans 2:15; 1 Peter 3:16). The Holy Spirit is not the same as human consciousness, although some ministers would wrongly have it be this way. Nonetheless, the Spirit’s role in regard to consciousness is to renew the mind so that the Christian’s will and intentions are aligned with the will and purposes of God. Being “present” and possessing “clear consciousness” should be attached indivisibly. This is impossible without the guidance of God’s Holy Writings (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, this charge is reaffirming and entrusting Timothy to rebuke this apostasy.
4:5-7 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Verse 4 strongly reflects Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3-4 to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Paul constantly promotes sober vigilance in the midst of trials. There are many reasons for this, but the prior warning to Timothy regarding the culture he lives in and Paul’s experience with persecution, reflects that the work of an evangelist can only be done in the common place of affliction and trial. This is partly because Scripture is radically counter-culture and opposed to the strongholds of Satan (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:12).
Being fully persuaded however by the Gospel of Christ, we can persevere, and our ministry be proof of God’s complete work in the lives of believers (Romans 14:5). Paul was fully persuaded of his Heavenly, eternal destiny and was ready to be offered into the hands of his enemies (2 Timothy 1:12).
With Timothy being a Gentile reader, Paul alluded his spiritual journey to two commonplaces within Greek and Roman culture: Fighting and racing. These allusions to Greek sporting events illustrate Paul’s spiritual (And physical for that matter) journey. Once again, we are viewing the words of a man, facing death with a clear consciousness in that he had kept the Faith well. Allow this to be an example to us on that day, as it was for his son in the Faith, Timothy, when eternity is mere moments away.
4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
In connection to sporting events, Paul makes it known that we will receive a crown as well upon his translation into God’s Heavenly realm. But it should be noted that for the victory that Jesus had secured for Paul, the crown that he was to receive was going to be non-perishable (1 Corinthians 9:23-25). Likewise, various New Testament authors reference spiritual crowns in numerous places and this portion of our Heavenly inheritance would be nothing unfamiliar to Timothy (James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4). He also pursued one himself.