I’ve included Father Callan’s brief summaries of verses 1-8 and 9-18 to provide context.
A LAST APPEAL TO TIMOTHY
A Summary of 2 Timothy 4:1-8
Now that the end is drawing near, the aged Apostle, feeling his days are numbered and his work is done, adjures Timothy incessantly to continue the labors of the ministry and to bear up under its trials, being prepared for the onslaughts of future false teachers. As for Paul himself, he is about to pour out his blood as a sacrifice for the cause; but he is ready and his reward is waiting for him. The just Judge will never fail him, nor anyone else who has lived and labored for the cause.
2 Tim 4:6. For I am even now ready to be sacrificed : and the time of my departure is at hand.
The secret of the Apostle’s anxiety about Timothy’s preparedness, zeal, readiness to suffer, etc., is now revealed; the old champion of the Gospel is going to leave him very soon, he is looking into his open grave.
Ready to be sacrificed. Better, “being poured out In sacrifice,” i.e., he was about to shed his blood as a sacrifice to God, as the drink-offering of wine used to be poured out as a libation to God in certain of the old Jewish sacrifices (Num 15:1-10); the Apostle’s death is at hand.
My departure. Another image to signify the imminence of his death.
The Vulgate resolutionis does not express the Greek, which means “departure,” as in 2 Mach 9:1; Luke 12:36.
2 Tim 4:7. I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept thefaith.
2 Tim 4:8. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which theLord the just judge will render to me in that day; and not only to me, butto them also that love his coming.
The metaphors are here drawn from the arena and the racecourse. Like a strong athlete, the Apostle has fought the good fight in defence of the faith (1 Tim 6:12); like a faithful runner in the race, he has completed the course ; he has fulfilled all his duties and preserved the deposit of faith entrusted to him. Now he is ready for the crown, the reward with which the Lord, his just Judge, will recompense him.
This reward is called “a crown of justice,” because it has been merited; it is something due the Apostle in justice. Here we have an explicit proof that the just, by means of good works performed in the state of grace, can merit eternal life de condigno. And yet it remains true that the joys of heaven are a gratuitous gift; for God from eternity has gratuitously predestined the just to life eternal, and in time He gratuitously confers on them the grace by which they work out their salvation and merit eternal rewards.
Cf. Conc. Trid., sess. VI, can. 32.
In that day, i.e., on the day of the Last Judgment. Immediately after death the Apostle, as is the case with all the just, received his crown, but the crown of life will not shine in all its splendor till the final judgment is over, when the body will have its reward along with the soul.
SOME PERSONAL MESSAGES
A Summary of 2 Timothy 4:9-18
St. Paul bids Timothy to make haste to join him in Rome; for Demas has deserted him, and all his other companions, save Luke, have been dispatched to other places. He requests Timothy to bring with him Mark and certain effects that had been left behind at Troas, and warns him against Alexander the coppersmith (ver. 9-15). At his first hearing all deserted him, but the Lord stood by him and strengthened him that he might have time to complete his work (ver. 16-18).
2 Tim 4:16. At my first defence no man stood with me, but all forsook me: may it not be laid to their charge.
At my first defence. It is remarkable that St. Chrysostom, St. Thomas, and many modern commentators take these words to refer to the Apostle’s first Roman captivity, and verse 17 to his preaching between the two Roman captivities. It seems more consistent with the context to refer them to his first hearing or the first stage in his trial before his judges (called in Roman law the prima actio) during the second and last imprisonment in Rome. At this crisis no one came to his defence, doubtless out of fear and
human weakness, as the words that follow would indicate.
2 Tim 4:17. But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me, that by me the preaching may be completed, and that all the Gentiles may hear; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
By the grace and help of God St. Paul was not condemned at his first hearing, but was given another chance of explaining himself and his cause, and thus of completing the preaching of the Gospel there in Rome, the official centre of the empire and of the world.
Out of the mouth of the lion expresses the extreme peril from which he was delivered, though many of the Fathers understood the reference to be to Nero. This same phrase is found in Psalm 21:21; Dan, 6:20.
18. The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
The Apostle is confident of his final liberation from all evil and his reception into Christ’s heavenly kingdom, though the gateway will be martyrdom.