2 Timothy 4:7 (New International Version)
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Commentary: Verses 1-8 Observe, I. How awfully this charge is introduced (v. 1): I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom. Observe, The best of men have need to be awed into the discharge of their duty. The work of a minister is not an indifferent thing, but absolutely necessary. Woe be to him if he preach not the gospel, 1 Co. 9:16. To induce him to faithfulness, he must consider, 1. That the eye of God and Jesus Christ was upon him: I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ; that is, "as thou tenderest the favour of God and Jesus Christ; as thou wilt approve thyself to God and Jesus Christ, by the obligations both of natural and revealed religion; as thou wilt make due returns to the God who made thee and the Lord Jesus Christ who redeemed thee.’’ 2. He charges him as he will answer it at the great day, reminding him of the judgment to come, which is committed to the Lord Jesus. He shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom, that is, when he appears in his kingdom. It concerns all, both ministers and people, seriously to consider the account that they must shortly give to Jesus Christ of all the trusts reposed in them. Christ shall judge the quick and the dead, that is, those that at the last day shall be found alive, and those who shall be raised to life out of the grave. Note, (1.) The Lord Jesus Christ shall judge the quick and the dead. God hath committed all judgment unto the Son, and hath appointed him the Judge of quick and dead, Acts 10:42. (2.) He will appear; he will come the second time, and it will be a glorious appearance, as the word epiphaneia signifies. (3.) Then his kingdom shall appear in its glory: At his appearing and kingdom; for he will then appear in his kingdom, sitting on a throne, to judge the world. II. What is the matter of the charge, v. 2-5. He is charged, 1. To preach the word. This is ministers’ business; a dispensation is committed to them. It is not their own notions and fancies that they are to preach, but the pure plain word of God; and they must not corrupt it, but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, they speak in Christ, 2 Co. 2:17. 2. To urge what he preached, and to press it with all earnestness upon his hearers: "Be instant in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort; do this work with all fervency of spirit. Call upon those under thy charge to take heed of sin, to do their duty: call upon them to repent, and believe, and live a holy life, and this both in season and out of season. In season, when they are at leisure to hear thee, when some special opportunity offers itself of speaking to them with advantage. Nay, do it out of season, even when there is not that apparent probability of fastening something upon them, because thou dost not know but the Spirit of God may fasten upon them; for the wind bloweth where it listeth; and in the morning we must sow our seed, and in the evening not withhold our hand,’’ Eccl. 11:6. We must do it in season, that is, let slip no opportunity; and do it out of season, that is, not shift off the duty, under pretence that it is out of season. 3. He must tell people of their faults: "Reprove them, rebuke them. Convince wicked people of the evil and danger of their wicked courses. Endeavour, by dealing plainly with them, to bring them to repentance. Rebuke them with gravity and authority, in Christ’s name, that they may take thy displeasure against them as an indication of God’s displeasure.’’ 4. He must direct, encourage, and quicken those who began well. "Exhort them (persuade them to hold on, and endure to the end) and this with all long-suffering and doctrine.’’ (1.) He must do it very patiently: With all long-suffering. "If thou do not see the effect of thy labours presently, yet do not therefore give up the cause; be not weary of speaking to them.’’ While God shows to them all long-suffering, let ministers exhort with all long-suffering. (2.) He must do it rationally, not with passion, but with doctrine, that is, "In order to the reducing of them to good practices, instil into them good principles. Teach them the truth as it is in Jesus, reduce them to a firm belief of it, and this will be a means both to reclaim them from evil and to bring them to good.’’ Observe, [1.] A minister’s work has various parts: he is to preach the word, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. [2.] He is to be very diligent and careful; he must be instant in season and out of season; he must spare no pains nor labour, but must be urgent with them to take care of their souls and their eternal concerns. 5. He must watch in all things. "Seek an opportunity of doing them a kindness; let no fair occasion slip, through thy negligence. Watch to thy work; watch against the temptations of Satan, by which thou mayest be diverted from it; watch over the souls of those who are committed to thy charge.’’ 6. He must count upon afflictions, and endure them, make the best of them. Kakopatheson, endure patiently. "Be not discouraged by the difficulties thou meetest with, but bear them with an evenness of spirit. Inure thyself to hardships.’’ 7. He must remember his office, and discharge its duties: Do the work of an evangelist. The office of the evangelist was, as the apostles’ deputies, to water the churches that they planted. They were not settled pastors, but for some time resided in, and presided over, the churches that the apostles had planted, till they were settled under a standing ministry. This was Timothy’s work. 8. He must fulfil his ministry: Make full proof of it. It was a great trust that was reposed in him, and therefore he must answer it, and perform all the parts of his office with diligence and care. Observe, (1.) A minister must expect afflictions in the faithful discharge of his duty. (2.) He must endure them patiently, like a Christian hero. (3.) These must not discourage him in his work, for he must do his work, and fulfil his ministry. (4.) The best way to make full proof of our ministry is to fulfil it, to fill it up in all its parts with proper work. III. The reasons to enforce the charge. 1. Because errors and heresies were likely to creep into the church, by which the minds of many professing Christians would be corrupted (v. 3, 4): "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine. Therefore improve the present time, when they will endure it. Be busy now, for it is seedtime; when the fields are white unto the harvest, put in the sickle, for the present gale of opportunity will be soon over. They will not endure sound doctrine. There will be those who will heap to themselves corrupt teachers, and will turn away their ears from the truth; and therefore secure as many as thou canst, that, when these storms and tempests do arise, they may be well fixed, and their apostasy may be prevented.’’ People must hear, and ministers must preach, for the time to come, and guard against the mischiefs that are likely to arise hereafter, though they do not yet arise. They will turn away their ears from the truth; they will grow weary of the old plain gospel of Christ, and then they will be greedy of fables, and take pleasure in them, and God will give them up to those strong delusions, because they received not the truth in the love of it, 2 Th. 2:11, 12. Observe, (1.) These teachers were of their own heaping up, and not of God’s sending; but they chose them, to gratify their lusts, and to please their itching ears. (2.) People do so when they will not endure sound doctrine, that preaching which is searching, plain, and to the purpose; then they will have teachers of their own. (3.) There is a wide difference between the word of God and the word of such teachers; the one is sound doctrine, the word of truth, the other is only fables. (4.) Those that are turned unto fables first turn away their ears from the truth, for they cannot hear and mind both, any more than they can serve two masters. Nay, further, it is said, They shall be turned unto fables. God justly suffers those to turn to fables who grow weary of the truth, and gives them up to be led aside from the truth by fables. 2. Because Paul for his part had almost done his work: Do thou make full proof of thy ministry, for I am now ready to be offered, v. 6. And, (1.) "Therefore there will be the more occasion for thee.’’ When labourers are removed out of the vineyard, it is no time for those to loiter that are left behind, but to double their diligence. The fewer hands there are to work the more industrious those hands must be that are at work. (2.) "I have done the work of my day and generation; do thou in like manner do the work of thy day and generation.’’ (3.) The comfort and cheerfulness of Paul, in the prospect of his approaching departure, might encourage Timothy to the utmost industry, and diligence, and seriousness in his work. Paul was an old soldier of Jesus Christ, Timothy was but newly enlisted. "Come,’’ says Paul, "I have found our Master kind and the cause good; I can look back upon my warfare with a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction; and therefore be not afraid of the difficulties thou must meet with. The crown of life is as sure to thee as if it were already upon thy head; and therefore endure afflictions, and make full proof of thy ministry.’’ The courage and comfort of dying saints and ministers, and especially dying martyrs, are a great confirmation of the truth of the Christian religion, and a great encouragement to living saints and ministers in their work. Here the apostle looks forward, upon his death approaching: I am now ready to be offered. The Holy Ghost witnessed in every city that bonds and afflictions did abide him, Acts 20:23. He was now at Rome, and it is probable that he had particular intimations from the Spirit that there he should seal the truth with his blood; and he looks upon it now as near at hand: I am already poured out; so it is in the original, ede spendomai; that is, I am already a martyr in affection. It alludes to the pouring out of the drink-offerings; for the blood of the martyrs, though it was not a sacrifice of atonement, was a sacrifice of acknowledgment to the honour of the grace of God and his truths. Observe, [1.] With what pleasure he speaks of dying. He calls it his departure; though it is probable that he foresaw he must die a violent bloody death, yet he calls it his departure, or his release. Death to a good man is his release from the imprisonment of this world and his departure to the enjoyments of another world; he does not cease to be, but is only removed from one world to another. [2.] With what pleasure he looks back upon the life he had lived (v. 7): I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, etc. He did not fear death, because he had the testimony of his conscience that by the grace of God he had in some measure answered the ends of living. As a Christian, as a minister, he had fought a good fight. He had done the service, gone through the difficulties of his warfare, and had been instrumental in carrying on the glorious victories of the exalted Redeemer over the powers of darkness. His life was a course, and he had now finished it; as his warfare was accomplished, so his race was run. "I have kept the faith. I have kept the doctrines of the gospel, and never betrayed any of them.’’ Note, First, The life of a Christian, but especially of a minister, is a warfare and a race, sometimes compared to the one in the scripture, and sometimes to the other. Secondly, It is a good fight, a good warfare; the cause is good, and the victory is sure, if we continue faithful and courageous. Thirdly, We must fight this good fight; we must fight it out, and finish our course; we must not give over till we are made more than conquerors through him who hath loved us, Rom. 8:37. Fourthly, It is a great comfort to a dying saint, when he can look back upon his past life and say with our apostle, "I have fought, etc. I have kept the faith, the doctrine of faith and the grace of faith.’’ Towards the end of our days to be able to speak in this manner, what comfort, unspeakable comfort, will it afford! Let it then be our constant endeavour, by the grace of God, that we may finish our course with joy, Acts 20:24. [3.] With what pleasure he looks forward to the life he was to live hereafter (v. 8): Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, etc. He had lost for Christ, but he was sure he should not lose by him, Phil. 3:8. Let this encourage Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ that there is a crown of life before us, the glory and joy of which will abundantly recompense all the hardships and toils of our present warfare. Observe, It is called a crown of righteousness, because it will be the recompence of our services, which God is not unrighteous to forget; and because our holiness and righteousness will there be perfected, and will be our crown. God will give it as a righteous Judge, who will let none love by him. And yet this crown of righteousness was not peculiar to Paul, as if it belonged only to apostles and eminent ministers and martyrs, but to all those also that love his appearing. Observe, It is the character of all the saints that they love the appearing of Jesus Christ: they loved his first appearing, when he appeared to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:26); they love to think of it; they love his second appearing at the great day; love it, and long for it: and, with respect to those who love the appearing of Jesus Christ, he shall appear to their joy; there is a crown of righteousness reserved for them, which shall then be given them, Heb. 9:28. We learn hence, First, The Lord is the righteous Judge, for his judgment is according to truth. Secondly, The crown of believers is a crown of righteousness, purchased by the righteousness of Christ, and bestowed as the reward of the saints’ righteousness. Thirdly, This crown, which believers shall wear, is laid up for them; they have it not at present, for here they are but heirs; they have it not in possession, and yet it is sure, for it is laid up for them. Fourthly, The righteous Judge will give it to all who love, prepare, and long for his appearing. Surely I come quickly. Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus.