Understanding The Bible
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BY THE AUTHOR
Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
(Paul's last letter)
Date: Written during the second imprisonment, about AD 67.
Occasion: This is the last of Paul's epistles; it is written in anticipation of his early departure from this life (4:6).
"Paul was in prison again awaiting his trial. He was now subjected to more rigorous confinement, 'like a malefactor.' His case had already come on for a first hearing. On appearing before the court, over which it is possible that Nero was presiding in person, he found himself absolutely friendless. No one stood forth to act as his advocate, to advise him as to legal forms, to cross-question the witnesses, none to speak to his character (4:16). The last persecution had struck such terror into those who survived it that no one whose presence could have been of use to him dared to appear for him.
"The evidence, however, was not deemed sufficient to condemn him without further inquiry, and he was remanded. His own language shows that he recognized (the votes of the judges may have been nearly equal) that he had had a very narrow escape (4:17c); and it is evident that he did not expect that he would be allowed a long respite from death (4:6). He was, indeed, martyred (by beheading, according to tradition) soon after this letter was written.
"Timotheus was now at Ephesus, bearing his heavy burden of responsibility; his difficulties were increased by the activity of false teachers. Paul seems to have instinctively felt that his friend, in his grief, depression, and self-distrust, needed all the encouragement, all the advice, that he could give him. He foresaw that Timotheus would henceforth have to stand alone. His one hope was to see him once more before he died. His asking for the cloak is a significant touch. He was in a tireless cell and it can be bitterly cold in Rome in the winter." (Arthur S. Way in The Letters of St. Paul)
Theme: The Church's departure from the truth. In the first epistle it is the individual's departure. It has come to a point where most of the Church as such has departed from Pauline purity of doctrine (e.g., 1:15). There are only two possibilities remaining:
1. As concerns OTHERS
He is to teach sound doctrine to men who will carry on faithfully and preach sound doctrine (2:2; 4:2).
2. As concerns HIMSELF
He is to continue in the things he has learned (3:4; 2:8).
The book, the last of Paul's before his martyrdom, has been called "Paul's Swan Song."
EXHORTATIONS GROWING OUT OF THAT THANKSGIVING 1:6-18
To stir up the gift 6-12 ("to fan into flame")
To guard the deposit 13-18
HIS DESIRE FOR TIMOTHY 2
THE LAST DAYS OF THE CHURCH 3:1-4:5
THE EXULTATION OF PAUL 4:6-8
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