The ending of the second Epistle to Timothy is full of interest, in that we discover the character of a sound mind in the apostle where an unbeliever would see nothing but commonplace remarks. "Would the Holy Spirit," says the infidel, "record Paul's request to have his cloak brought to him?" Yes, indeed; for it shows care and order; even in worldly affairs it is no sign of power to ignore little things whilst one is occupied with great ones; and in God's ways nothing is too great or too small. It is a wonderful thing that after the miracle of feeding the thousands the fact of gathering the remains is recorded; wonderful, but very blessed, for God does not squander, though He gives to all richly to enjoy. Can a man, whose life was employed in teaching the highest truth and God's deepest counsels, think of a cloak and books? Certainly. Paul was not a fanatic, whatever Festus and others might say.
It is a very important passage for us; for if God in His grace has given us the highest and most blessed truths, and a spirit of power and love, there is the ballast - the spirit of a sound mind. (Chap. 1:7.) This character is seen all through the passage, from the 9th verse to the end of chapter 4 Demas had abandoned Paul, having loved this present age. The two things could not go on together; that is, following Paul and loving the world; and Paul was given up. The apostle's judgment is simple and clear as to this. His appreciation of the change in Mark (who had given up and left Paul many years before) is also to be noticed.
Now come the cloak and the books. A cloak is not to be thrown away; and I have no doubt it was as cold in a Roman prison then as it is cold in Rome now in winter; and the man of God can call for the useful covering. Many have thought that the "parchments" may include some of the inspired epistles; it is very likely, and the care taken should be a lesson to us in any work where writing is in question.
The discrimination of the apostle is a further proof of the sound mind. In that which follows we have an example of this; that is, in the distinguishing between the guilt of Alexander, who opposed the truth, and that of the poor Romans, who had not sufficient courage to stand with Paul. Alexander is an enemy of the truth, and there is nothing to be said but, "The Lord reward him according to his works!" The Roman converts were afraid to stand by the champion for the truth, and, at his first answer, left him standing alone. I recollect a sergeant, who had been in the Crimea, telling me of a battery composed of young soldiers who all ran away from the guns when the first Russian shot roared over their heads, and left only the captain and one or two old soldiers at the embrasures. The case here is similar; but there is a great difference between the coppersmith (the enemy) and the Romans, who were rather cowardly recruits. "May this be not laid to their charge!" says the apostle, very different to that which he had said in the other case. It is an important thing to distinguish between those who are opposed to the truth, and those who are afraid to stand for it; and this is what Paul does in this case. It would be well today to bear this in mind.
It has often been remarked that the epistles to Timothy do not treat of the mystery or of the church as the body of Christ; but this second epistle begins, as we noticed with God's resources, "the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus," and the Lord's faithfulness to those who are standing for Him, when many have given up the true testimony. Whilst suffering patiently the faithful apostle is an example of the calm spirit and sober judgment which should characterize the man of God; there is no exaggeration here, but true discrimination. With those who oppose and withstand the truth we have no authority to use violence; the Lord will reward them according to their works. When courage is needed mercy can be looked for from the Lord for the weak.
The simple confidence in the Lord, and the sense of His presence, are very blessed. "The Lord stood with me and strengthened me." There must have been a striking answer to Nero - "that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear." It is no stretch of imagination to see Paul standing before the scowling emperor, and giving a full account of the gospel confided to him from heaven.
The Lord was with His servant, and the lion was tamed for the moment: He can subdue the most terrible. May we so walk in our little service, that He may stand by us in all trial!
This was not all; there was a confidence in Paul that carried him on in spirit to the heavenly kingdom; that is, to the time when, far from Roman prisons and praetorian injustice, he should be crowned and acknowledged by the Lord - by Him who, unjustly condemned Himself and rejected upon earth, is waiting for us in His heavenly kingdom. He should deliver His servant from every evil work, and preserve him, as He delivers and preserves us, and shall keep us to the end. The preserving [saving] is the very essence of this epistle; it is a question of our serving the Lord amidst all the influences of evil, and of His protecting care all through the course.
"Guarding us through the deadly fight."
We can join in the apostle's tribute of praise: To Him "be glory for ever and ever!" It is a wonderful and blessed thing to find saints upon earth of sound mind (no fanatical enthusiasts) calmly counting upon the Lord's presence and the intervention of His divine power, knowing His full protection whilst they are in the very territory of the enemy. Praise be to the Saviour God!
The apostle's wish for Timothy, "The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit," is very blessed. May it be so too for us, that there may be more simple and full communion with our blessed Lord, as we discern His way in the present evil time.
E. L. Bevir.