Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

This post begins with the bishop’s brief analysis of 2 Timothy chapter 4 followed by his notes on verses 6-8 and 16-18. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.


In this chapter, the Apostle earnestly conjures Timothy to apply himself to the zealous discharge of his duties, particularly that of preaching the word of God in all forms, and on all occasions. And he assigns as a reason for this earnest injunction, the near approach of corruption in morals, and instability of faith, among the faithful themselves (1–5). He predicts that his own death shall occur at no distant period, and consoles Timothy, by telling him that he is only going to receive a crown of justice, in reward for his past works (5–9). He invites Timothy to come to him, and brings the Epistle to a close with the usual salutations.

2Ti 4:6  For I am even now ready to be sacrificed: and the time of my dissolution is at hand.

(You cannot long enjoy the benefit of my counsels), for, I am now subjected to the immediate process preceding my oblation as a victim, and the hour of my death is just at hand.

“I am now ready to be sacrificed.” The Vulgate reading for “sacrificed,” (delibor), and the Greek, σπενδομαι, clearly expresses that immediate preparation for sacrifice, consisting in pouring out a libation on the victim, as if he said: I am sprinkled with wine, as a libation preparatory to my immediate immolation as a victim. This he says with a view of stimulating Timothy to greater exertions, during the very short period of his own existence; for, he will be immediately deprived of the benefit of his counsels.

2Ti 4:7  I have fought a good fight: I have finished my course: I have kept the faith.

(This should be for you a subject of congratulation rather than of grief). For, I have fought a glorious fight, on behalf of the gospel and faith of Christ. I have successfully finished my course, and I have kept inviolable my promise of fidelity.

“I have fought a good fight,” i.e., a glorious fight for the gospel; “I have finished my course.” In both these, he alludes to the athletic exercises of wrestling, and running, at the Olympic games. “I have kept the faith,” commonly understood of his promise of fidelity, in allusion to the promise, which a soldier makes to his commander. It would be no great matter for him to glory in having kept the faith of Christ, or in not having become an apostate. Hence, the word “faith,” refers to fidelity in the discharge of his Apostolic functions.

2Ti 4:8  As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming. Make haste to come to me quickly.

As to what remains, there is stored up and safely kept for me, now almost on the point of victory, the crown which I have justly merited, and which the Lord Jesus Christ, as a just judge, will award to me on the day of General Judgment; and not only to me, but to all who expect and love his glorious coming. Hasten to come to me, without delay, to Rome.

He continues his allusion to the Olympic games. As a prize-fighter, he had come off victorious in the glorious contest; as a runner, he had reached the goal, observing all the rules of the race course. It remained, therefore, for him to receive from the master or judge of the games, the crown which he merited, i.e., to receive from God the reward of eternal life, which is held out by our Lord Jesus Christ, to such as triumphantly struggle in the stadium of a Christian life. Then, this reward is not to be seen, but it is “laid up,” and faithfully kept by God. It is “a crown of justice,” or a crown justly merited; eternal life is, therefore, to be the reward of merit. It is also a grace, because grace is indispensable for merit; hence, as St. Augustine expresses it:—“In crowning our merits, God only crowns his own gifts.” And although eternal life be “a crown of justice,” because due to our good works, owing to the liberal promises of God, it is also “a crown of mercy,” because it is merited through the merciful grace of God, as being infinitely above the reach of our natural powers. “On that day,” the day of General Judgment, when the soul and body shall be publicly glorified, though it virtually commences, on the day of particular judgment. “And not only to me,” &c. “It is a crown reserved for all Christians who shall finish their course well.” “That love his coming,” i.e., who by good works are prepared for him, and show that they love his coming to reward them, as the faithful servant, who performs the wishes of his master, loves his coming.

What an exhortation this passage conveys to us to labour zealously for eternal life! The period of our exertions is but momentary; to the man on the point of death, his past life, no matter how long, appears but a mere point. We have the judge of the games, the author and finisher of our faith, who is to be judge and witness, at the same time, holding out from heaven, the crown, that will never fade, and animating us by the sure prospect of enjoying it.

From the present passage, it appears quite clear, that this Epistle was written, when the Apostle was at the very point of death, which he knew, either from revelation or from circumstances, to “be at hand.” The object of the Apostle in this passage is to excite Timothy to greater zeal, by telling him that these are the last written instructions he will receive from him—for, that he is now in the position of the victim, on whose head is poured forth the preparatory libation, his death, just at hand. He removes the grief which this might naturally occasion Timothy, by telling him that he is about to enter on the possession of the crown of eternal life. Looking, then, to the plain, obvious meaning of the words, they can bear no other interpretation than that which fixes his death as instantly to occur. This Epistle was, therefore, written during his second imprisonment.

2Ti 4:16  At my first answer, no man stood with me: but all forsook me. May it not be laid to their charge!

The first time during this imprisonment, that I pleaded my cause before Nero, none of my friends stood by me, they all forsook me. May this not be imputed to them as a sin, i.e., may God forgive them for this desertion of me.

“In my answer.” (In Greek, ἀπολογίᾳ, apology), i.e., the first time he pleaded his cause during this second imprisonment, either before Nero, or before some subordinate judge. “No man” (of his friends), stood with him, “but all,” i.e., almost all; for, Luke and others did not desert him, but all who could be of any service to him in the court of Nero “forsook” him, from a dread of that Emperor’s cruelty. “May it not be laid to their charge;” may God forgive them, because they sinned only through weakness.

2Ti 4:17  But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, that by me the preaching may be accomplished and that all the Gentiles may hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.

But the Lord did not abandon me, he stood by me, and supplied me with spirit and courage for my defence, in order that the preaching of the gospel would be accomplished by me, and that all nations might hear it, and, therefore, I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.

“The Lord stood by me;” he was not altogether forsaken—the Lord stood by him, encouraging him. “And strengthened me;” giving him strength and courage to go through his defence. Some persons interpret the Greek word corresponding with “stood by me,” παρεστη, to mean, appeared to me, and by his presence refreshed me, giving me strength and confidence. “That by me the preaching may be accomplished;” not that I deserved any such divine interposition; but, the end for which he stood by me, and for which I wished to have my life prolonged, was, that the preaching of the gospel might receive its consummation through me, and that all the nations might hear it at the centre of the greatest power then existing—viz., at Rome, and even in the palace of Nero, to which many had flocked from all parts of the then known world. Hence, it came to pass, that in his second imprisonment, as well as in his first, “his bonds were made manifest in all the court,” and to all the rest (Philip. 1); and, therefore, “he was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” Such was the appellation which Nero received for his savage ferocity and cruelty. He was delivered from Nero’s grasp, and permitted to live some time longer, perhaps comparatively free, under the custody of a single soldier, as had been allowed him, during his first imprisonment. This passage furnishes no argument against the opinion of the ancients, that the present Epistle was written during the Apostle’s second imprisonment. It is rather in favour of that opinion. Because, he says, that “in his first defence,” or as in Greek, apology, “all had forsaken him,” fearing the cruelty of Nero; and he calls him the “lion,” on account of his cruelty. Now, these expressions could not be used in reference to Nero during the Apostle’s first imprisonment; for, as Ecclesiastical writers tell us, St. Paul’s first imprisonment occurred during the early part of Nero’s reign, some say, in the second or third year of it. And it is quite certain that during the four first years of his reign, Nero was a most benevolent prince. So much so that Seneca declares, that when he was called upon to write the sentence for the execution of two robbers, he exclaimed, would I never knew letters! Why, therefore, should the faithful dread so clement and kind-hearted a prince?—why call him “a lion”? This would be true of him only in the subsequent part of his reign, during the Apostle’s second imprisonment. Then, he calls the defence his “first,” because he was often interrogated during his second imprisonment.

2Ti 4:18  The Lord hath delivered me from every evil work and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom. To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

But as he has rescued me from the earthly lion so I hope he will rescue me from the spiritual lion—viz., from sin, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom—to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

“The Lord hath delivered (in Greek, ῥύσεται, will deliver) me from every evil work,” from the incursions of the infernal lion, from all sin, and will grant me victory over all temptation, and transfer me to his heavenly kingdom.

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4 Responses to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

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