Believed to be some of Paul’s last words of his long ministry, 2 Tim. 4:6ff are Paul’s closing remarks to his beloved disciple, Timothy. Imprisoned in Rome by this point, Paul concludes his letter by requesting his presence (4:9) in his final days (4:6-8). Having just charged Timothy to fulfill his own ministry duties, Paul reflects on his pastoral career. Paul is confident that he has given everything for Christ and that at Christ’s second coming and final judgment he will be found to have been faithful to his vocation (2 Tim. 4:7-8; cf. Acts 9:15-16), both as an evangelist and in his suffering. While most others have deserted Paul (all except Luke), Paul is sure that Christ will abide with him till his death and beyond (2 Tim. 4:16-18).
One of the crucial contexts that must be applied to our understanding of 2 Timothy, and in particular Paul’s final sentiments of loneliness and need, is Paul’s Roman imprisonment. Paul is being held by the Romans following his initial charges and arguments (2 Tim. 4:16; cf. Acts 24). The backdrop of Paul’s imprisonment and trial enlighten the imagery of Christ’s advocacy, standing at Paul’s side as if present at his trial in 2 Tim. 4:17. Likewise, Paul’s deliverance “from the lion’s mouth” should be viewed more literally than metaphorically, as prisoners of Rome were often given over to be mauled by beasts as a public spectacle and execution
Key Words and Phrases:
2 Tim. 4:6 – ἐγὼ γὰρ ἤδη σπένδομαι – Paul says “For I am now poured out [as a drink offering/sacrifice],” alluding to the finality of his service to Christ. Paul is offering his life to Christ, as he earlier in his ministry instructed the Roman church (Rom. 12:1). The only other use of this particular imagery of drink offering to describe one’s faithfulness is used in Philippians, where Paul seems to know his future imprisonment and martyrdom is a possibility: “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” (Phil. 2:17). Hughes notes that “Paul borrowed the vivid image of ‘being poured out like a drink offering’ from the Jewish custom of pouring out wine at the base of the altar as part of the ritual sacrifice of a lamb (cf. Exodus 29:40, 41; Leviticus 23:13; Numbers 15:1–12; 28:7, 24).” R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: To Guard the Deposit, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), 250.
2 Tim. 4:6 – ἀναλύσεως – Paul tells Timothy his “departure (ἀναλύσεως) is near”(2 Tim. 4:6). This wording, rather uninspiring in its English translation, references something far more poetic in the Greek. The word ἀναλύσεως refers to the unstaking of a tent or the disarmament of the soldier after battle. Paul’s “fight” (4:7) has been fought and now, using this military language, Paul is like a soldier finally packing up his tent and taking off his armor because his battle for God’s kingdom has finally come to an end.
There are precious few examples of the final moments of the life of believers in Christ from the New Testament. Paul, aware he will be martyred, reflects on his life given in service to Christ. Every believer, no matter the threat of persecution they may or may not be faced with, should be able to look back on their lives (and perhaps each of their days) with the satisfaction and certainty of having offered all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength to Christ as living sacrifices. Too many of us look back at our efforts with continual, low-lying regret that we had not been as self-sacrificing and bold in building God’s kingdom. Instead, taking on a daily charge like Timothy and Paul (4:1-6), we can know we too will be received into Christ’s kingdom with joy (4:8).
Perhaps the other application of this passage is to emulate Christ’s faithfulness to Paul, as Timothy was called to. Paul is indubitably lonely from the desertions he faced while in prison and on trial (4:9-15). Jesus “stood at [Paul’s] side” faithfully, something Timothy could embody in the flesh when he would visit Paul. Similarly, aging can be a lonely season of life, particularly for those who find themselves in the care of others. Remaining faithful to visit those in their late age reflects the faithfulness of Christ who never deserts those He loves.
Charles Teixeira was born just south of Boston, Massachusetts, becoming a believer just before college. Charles attended the University of Connecticut and then later Gordon College (MA), earning a degree in Biblical and Theological Studies. Following college, Charles served as a social worker for three years in a group home setting for teenagers who had been removed from their homes.
From 2012-2019, Charles also worked for XXXChurch (xxxchurch.com) as a contributor and a pastoral counselor to men experiencing sex addictions. Charles’ first ordained call in Midland, TX as Assistant Pastor of Congregational Care. He has just transitioned into being the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Albert Lea Minnesota.
Charles is married to Elizabeth and they have two sons, AJ and Isaac, and one very orange cat named Ginny Weasley. In his spare time, Charles loves reading, traveling, and watching the Red Sox win.
“The sacrifice of Christ, complete and perfect, is nevertheless the historical focus of a continual obedience; the obedience of Christ which must be in all suffering accepted in his name and in all praise and worship and self-dedication whatever.” C.F.D. Moule
“A memorable line by Frederick Langbridge pictures two men who are both in prison but are a universe apart in their thoughts.
Two men looked through the bars.
One saw the mud, the other, the stars.
As Paul languished in Rome’s cold, dripping, subterranean Mamartine prison, mud and dust coated his existence and seemed an appropriate symbol for his life. He was now a nobody, having lost his highborn status by following Jesus. He was a poor man, shivering in inadequate clothing. And apart from Luke he was bereft of the presence of friends and was forsaken by his onetime followers. Charged with sedition, he suffered contempt and abuse from his jailers. Paul had become a joke among his enemies. They reasoned that his final miseries were proof that God was not with him. And as he languished in his dungeon cell, his work in Ephesus was being torn by religious wolves like Hymenaeus and Philetus, who taught that the future resurrection of believers was past and that all the prosperities of Heaven were present now.
Name it and claim it, that’s what faith’s about!
You can have what you want if you just have no doubt.
Therefore, Paul’s plight and imminent death were due to his own errant theology and sin, they said. “Shame on Paul.”
So there was plenty of mud around—enough to fill anyone’s horizons. But amazingly, the old apostle looked up and saw the stars!
Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: To Guard the Deposit, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), 249–250.
Prayer of Invocation:
“Give us, O Lord, steadfast hearts, which no unworthy thought can drag downward, unconquered hearts, which no tribulation can wear out, upright hearts, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside. Bestow upon us also, O Lord our God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Prayer of Adoration:
“Lord Jesus, you are worthy of our gaze in every moment of this earthly race, this good fight for your glory. Keep our eyes fixed on you until our last days, when we are poured out as a final, joyful offering to you.” Charles Teixeira
Prayer of Confession:
“Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us. But thou, 0 Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent; according to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, 0 most merciful Father, for his sake, that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous and sober life, to the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.” Thomas Cranmer, The Book of Common Prayer, Great Confession for Morning and Evening Prayer.