We’ve reached the end of Paul’s second letter to Timothy and the Bible scholars think that this is Paul’s last surviving letter. Although Titus comes next in our Bibles, the scholars believe Paul wrote his letter to Titus before his second letter to Timothy. And so, this is Paul’s last surviving letter and the verses before us today are Paul’s last written words. And, as he often does at the end of his letters, Paul refers to various people. Often we don’t know anything about the people he mentions, but sometimes we know a little about them. And there are examples of both in this passage.
He mentions Demas in verse 10 and his name is mentioned in Colossians and in Philemon. This is the only place where Crescens is mentioned and so we know nothing about him. But we know Titus because he’s mentioned in 2 Corinthians and in Galatians and there’s a whole book of the Bible named after him. Luke wrote the third gospel and the book of Acts and he appears in the book of Acts as one of Paul’s travelling companions. And Mark is probably the John Mark who appears in the book of Acts and he’s probably the person who wrote the second gospel. Tychicus is mentioned six times in the New Testament, but we don’t know much about him. This is the only place where Carpus is mentioned. Alexander the coppersmith could be the same Alexander mentioned in 1 Timothy and he could be the same Alexander who appears in Acts 19 when Paul was in Ephesus. Priscilla and Aquila appears a few times in the book of Acts and Paul refers to them in his letter to the Romans and in his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul referred to the household of Onesiphorus in chapter 1 of 2 Timothy. Since Paul mentions his household and not the man himself, the scholars think Onesiphorus may have died and only his family was left. The name Erastus appears in Acts 19 and Romans 16, but we don’t know anything about him. Trophimus is mentioned in Acts 20 and 21, but we don’t know anything about him either. And this is the only place in the New Testament where the names Eubulus and Pudens and Linus and Claudia appear. So, there are lots of names, but we don’t know a lot about some of them.
We do know, however, that Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter and he didn’t expect to be released. In fact, he was expecting to be executed soon. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. The time for my departure has come. That’s what we read last week. He knew that his life in this world would soon be over. And in these final words, which he wrote to Timothy, his co-worker in the gospel, he tells us a little about his life in prison.
And I think we get the sense from what he has written that Paul was lonely. We also get the sense that he was cold, because he asked for his cloak. Do you see that in verse 13? He needed a cloak to keep him warm. And he also wanted his scrolls so he would have something to read. But we get the sense from what he has written that he was lonely.
Now, in verse 21 he mentions Eubulus and Pudens and Linus and Claudia. They were obviously with him. But since this is the only place in the Bible where they’re mentioned, perhaps he’s only known them briefly. They’re not like the other people he mentions who were probably all co-workers with Paul in the gospel. For instance, Demas was with Paul when he wrote his letter to the Colossians and Philemon. And in 2 Corinthians 8 Paul refers to Titus as his partner and fellow worker. Luke accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys and so they have travelled together and worked together for some time. They were old companions. His relationship with Mark goes back a long time too, to the early days of his missionary work with Barnabas. You might know that things didn’t work out at that time, because Mark abandoned Paul and went home. However, since Mark is mentioned here at the end of Paul’s life, they must have worked things out. And Mark, who had once deserted Paul, was now regarded by Paul as helpful to his ministry. In any case, they had known each other for a long time. And then, in his letter to the Colossians, Paul refers to Tychicus as a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. And though this is the only place where Paul mentions Crescens, the fact that he’s named alongside these others suggests that he may have been one of Paul’s faithful co-workers.
But for one reason or another, all of them — apart from Luke — have gone. They are no longer with Paul. We’ll come back to Demas later on, but Paul says Demas deserted him. So, he’s gone. Crescens has gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia. Paul doesn’t say they have abandoned him, so presumably they had a good reason to go to Galatia and Dalmatia. Nevertheless, their departure means Paul is missing them. We don’t know where Mark is, but he’s not there, because Paul wants Timothy to get him. And Paul has sent Tychicus to Ephesus, where Timothy was working. So, for one reason or another, all of them — apart from Luke — have gone away. His co-workers have gone. His band of brothers has been disbanded.
And we all need a band of brothers or sisters, don’t we? Yvonne and I have started to re-watch The West Wing, an American TV drama about the President of the United States and his staff. Apparently lots of people around the world did the same during lockdown. Anyway, in the final episode of the second series, the president is in a crisis. He’s on his way to face the press. His political future is in the balance. But he’s not on his own, because as he makes his way from the White House to the place where the press conference is being held, he’s got the members of his staff with him, who have been with him for years, working with him, supporting him, helping him. And the Dire Straits song, ‘Brothers in Arms’ is played to underline for us that this is what they are. They’re brothers in arms. They’re a band of brothers, helping one another to face any crisis.
So, is Paul naming his band of brothers? If so, they have left him. And it seems he’s feeling lonely, because he wants Timothy to come and see him. Timothy was one of his co-workers. They’ve been through a lot together. So, do your best — he says — do your best to come to me quickly. The Greek word Paul uses means ‘make every effort’. Make every effort to come and see me. And do it soon, because the time of my departure has come. So, while there’s still time, come and see me, because everyone else — apart from Luke — has left and I’m on my own. And right at the end of the letter, he repeats his request. Verse 21: Do you best to get here before winter. Apparently in those days the travel routes across the sea would shut down for the winter. And so, if Timothy doesn’t arrive before winter, he won’t get there at all. And it will be too late. So, do your best. Make every effort. Come and see me.
And look now at verse 16 where he refers to his first defence. He was brought before the Emperor perhaps to stand trial and to defend himself. And yet, no one came to his support, but everyone deserted him. So, in his time of need, when he was looking for a friendly face, when he was looking for someone to encourage him, there was no one. He was on his own.
Do you ever feel like that? Some people are outgoing and some are quiet. Some people are extroverted and they like being around lots of people, while others are introverted and find being with lots of people tiring and stressful. We’re all different. But whether we’re outgoing or quiet, God made us in such a way that we need other people. We can’t manage on our own, but we need help from others. Think of the Garden of Eden. Everything was good, even very good. But there was one thing which was not good. It was not good for Adam to be on his own. And so, God made Adam a suitable helper. We all need people to help us. It might be a spouse. It might be a sibling. It might be a friend. But we all need people to help us and to stand with us and to encourage us. It starts when we’re born and we need to rely on our parents. And it continues throughout our life. That’s the way God has made us. That’s why lockdown was so hard, because many people were cut off from their family and friends. And, of course, God has given us the church, hasn’t he? He’s given us the church so that we’ll be with other people to support and encourage us through all the troubles and trials of life.
The problem is, of course, that we often fall out with one another in church. Instead of caring for one another, we hurt one another. Instead of encouraging one another, we criticise one another. And no doubt one of the Devil’s wicked schemes for wrecking the church is to drive believers apart.
And so, we need to withstand his wicked schemes. So, look at the example Paul sets us. First, he’s not afraid to ask Timothy to come and see him. Sometimes we don’t like to ask for help, but that’s exactly what we need to do. Secondly, though no one supported him at his first trial and though everyone deserted him, he did not resent it or hold it against them. He didn’t keep a grudge. Instead he said, ‘May it not be held against them.’ That’s in verse 16. That’s what we all need to do. Instead of holding a grudge, we need to forgive as Paul did. And then we need to look to the Lord to help us to love and serve one another. We need his help so that we will be there for one another. And if someone calls on us and says ‘do your best to come to me quickly’, we should be ready to respond as quickly as possible.
But before we move on, notice this. Though at his first defence, no one came to support Paul and everyone deserted him, nevertheless the Lord stood at Paul’s side and gave him the strength he needed to fulfil his calling to preach the gospel. We all have different callings in life, but we can always rely on the Lord to help us to fulfil our calling. The Lord Jesus Christ who loved us and who gave up his life to pay for our sins has promised never to leave us or to forsake us. And so, if you are feeling that you’re on your own and there’s no one to help you, and everyone else has abandoned you, know this: the Lord Jesus Christ will never abandon you. And he’s there to help you.
Think of all those psalms which mean so much to us. Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Why not? Because you are with me. Psalm 46: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord who watches over you, who watches over your life and your comings and your goings for evermore. He’s always with us, watching over us, to help us. How does he come to help us? Often he comes to us by sending other people to help us. But he also comes to us in his word with a promise to comfort and reassure us at just the right time. Or he reminds us at just the right time of one of his promises from the Bible. And so, in this way, he comes to us and he stays with us so that no matter what you’re going through, you’re not going through it on your own, because just as he was with Paul, so he will be with you.
Demas and Alexander
But let me move on to think about Demas and Alexander. Demas, we’re told, deserted Paul because he loved this world. I don’t know why the NIV does this, but the words translated ‘this world’ should really be ‘this present age’. The New Testament distinguishes between this present age and the age to come. This present age is characterised as being evil and foolish; and the god of this age is the Devil; and this present evil age is wicked. Paul refers to it in Galatians 1 as ‘this present evil age’. The expression refers to everything in this present life which is associated with rebellion against God. And then there’s the age to come, which has, in fact, already begun, because whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ is delivered from this present evil age and belongs to the age to come. And whoever belongs to the age to come has the hope of everlasting life in the new and better world to come.
And here’s Demas. And he was once Paul’s companion and co-worker in the gospel. But instead of persevering in the faith, he has given up and deserted Paul, because he loved this present evil age. He reminds me of the Israelites who has escaped from Egypt and who were on their way to the Promised Land. But the journey through the wilderness was difficult. And the people began to miss what they’d left behind in Egypt; and they started to talk about turning around and going back. They were on their way to the Promised Land, but they yearned to go back. And that’s like Demas. He was on his way to the true Promised Land. But maybe he was finding the going tough. After all, if he was with Paul, he was no doubt suffering persecution and the other trials and troubles which Paul had to suffer because of his ministry. And perhaps Demas began to think back to the way things were before he believed when life was so much easier. And instead of keeping his eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, who has gone before us into eternal life, Demas turned back. Back to his old life. Back to his old friends. Back to his old existence, before he had heard of the Saviour.
And yet the thing he needed to remember — and the thing that we need to remember if ever we’re tempted to turn back — is that this present age, as well as being evil, is in its last days. It’s in its last days and it’s destined to perish. So, while it might sparkle and glitter right now, and while life in the present age may look easier and more rewarding than life in the age to come, in the end it will perish and only those who persevere in the faith will live forever in the new age.
Are you familiar with Psalm 73? I envied the arrogant, says the Psalmist. I envied the unbeliever, he means. He envied the unbeliever when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. The have no struggles. Their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man. They are not plagued by human ills. They are always carefree. They increase in number. And surely in vain I have kept my heart pure. He’s thinking to himself: Would I not be better off living the life of an unbeliever? Life is so easy for them. That’s what the psalmist was thinking and he was tempted to give up his faith. But then he entered the sanctuary. He went into the temple and he understood their final destiny, because God has put them on slippery ground. For a while they may be fine, but eventually he will cast them down to ruin. This present evil age is in its last days and all who belong to it will perish. And that’s why we must all trust in Christ the Saviour, because he gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age. We must trust in him and keep trusting him always.
And then there’s Alexander the coppersmith. Paul mentioned someone called Alexander in 1 Timothy and how he handed over Alexander to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. Presumably he meant that he imposed some form of church discipline on Alexander. If it’s the same man, the discipline did not have the required effect, because Paul now refers to the great deal of harm Alexander did to Paul. And while he warns Timothy to be on his guard against Alexander, notice how Paul leaves it to the Lord to repay Alexander for what he has done. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay. That’s from Deuteronomy, but Paul quotes it in his letter to the Romans. And it applies here as well, doesn’t it? What should they do about Alexander? Well, we’re not to take revenge and we’re not to repay him for the harm he has done. We’re to love our enemies. And we’re to do good to those who hate us. We’re to be kind to them. And we’re to leave it to the Lord, because vengeance belongs to him and not to me.
And then the last thing I want to mention today is from verse 17 and 18. At his first defence, no one came to help him. But the Lord stood at his side and strengthened him. And so, he was delivered from the lion’s mouth. Perhaps he’s referring to the Emperor. Perhaps the Emperor wanted to kill him immediately, but Paul was delivered. Or perhaps he’s referring to the Devil, who is like a roaring lion who seeks to destroy God’s people. In either case, Paul’s life was in danger, but the Lord kept him alive for a little while longer.
And then Paul confesses his faith that the Lord will rescue him from every evil attack. But he doesn’t mean that the Lord will prevent him from being killed. He doesn’t mean that. Paul knows that the time of his departure has come. He knows he will die soon. What he means is that the Lord will rescue him by bringing him safely through death and into his heavenly kingdom in the life to come. For the believer, death is not the end. It’s not the end. That’s why we’re not afraid to die. Other people are afraid. For those who love this present age, all they have is this life. All they have is this life and they’re afraid to give it up, because this is as good as it gets for them. And perhaps they’re also afraid to die because deep down inside they know there’s a judgment to come.
But for those who believe, death is not something to be feared, because death is the entrance into the presence of God. And being in the presence of God in his heavenly kingdom is better by far than anything we might experience in this life. In the presence of God, there is no more sorrow or suffering. There is no more disease or death. There is no more war and there are no more tyrants to frighten us. In the presence of God, there is life and joy and peace. In the presence of God there is fullness of joy and there are pleasures forevermore. In the presence of God there is the Tree of Life for healing and there’s the river of the water of life and the invitation to drink from it. What would you give to be there? What would you give to be in the place where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore? What would you give? The good news is that you don’t have to give anything to be there. You don’t have to give anything, because Christ has given everything necessary on your behalf. He gave up his life on the cross to pay for your sins. With his life he has purchased your salvation. And he gives it to his people for free. And we receive it from him by trusting in him as the only Saviour of the world.
And in the presence of God, and in the presence of Christ, we’ll never be alone. We’ll never be lonely. We’ll be surrounded with thousands and thousands, a great multitude of people from every nation and tribe and people and language and all of us will join our voices to praise the Lord God Almighty who made us and Jesus Christ his Son who saved us by his blood. And in that happy land, we’ll praise God’s name forever.