What a heartfelt letter from Paul to Timothy. What insights we now have into some of the personalities and actions of God’s people who lived about AD68. I have had some time while on holidays in the south of France so have delved into history to track these relationships and now they have become more than names in a list. The same personality traits as we see in our 21st century times are evident in these people from so long ago.
It seems that Paul is almost alone. Verse 10. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Demas had been a trusted friend of Paul. The first time Paul was in prison in Rome, Demas supported him well. When writing to Philemon Paul refers to Demas as one who worked with him (Philemon 24), now Demas had left him. It appears Demas left because he “was in love with this world.” I imagine being aligned with Paul would have been a dangerous choice and maybe Demas was not prepared to risk his life, or share the same kind of suffering that Paul was enduring. Perhaps he just wanted an easier life, or to be financially better off. Whatever the reason, he did leave Paul when Paul needed him. Paul doesn’t complain that Crescens has gone to Galatia or Titus to Dalmatia. Perhaps he sent them to continue the work of the gospel.
Only Luke remained with Paul. Luke had travelled widely with Paul and probably cared for him as we know Luke was a doctor. Paul refers to him as the much loved doctor in Colossians 4:14.
Timothy was also asked to bring Mark from wherever he was living. Mark and Paul had clashed during their first journey and Mark had returned home (Acts 13:5). Because of this Paul refused to take Mark on his next journey (Acts 15:36-40). It seems that although Mark had at first failed, he later proved his worth and Paul was keen to have him back.
Tychicus is mentioned next. He had been with Paul on his last visit to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4) and Paul refers to him as a brother he loved. He also calls him a man who served the Lord. Paul had relied on Tychicus to deliver his letters to Ephesus (Eph 6:22-23) and to the Colossians (Col 4:7-8). Paul has now sent him with this letter to Timothy in Ephesus. Imagine if Tychicus had not delivered these letters from Paul…
Alexander the coppersmith has been a problem for Paul. Apparently Alexander was a common name. A Jew called Alexander tried to stop the angry crowd in Ephesus (Acts 19:33-34). There was another man called Alexander whom Paul put out of the church there (1 Tim 1:19-20). It could have been either of these men Paul mentions here, or neither! Paul doesn’t ask the Lord to punish him, his words are not a prayer, but a statement of fact. Verse 14 The Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Confident that the Lord is the decider of retribution, Paul does warn Timothy in verse 15 that Alexander is a dangerous man 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. As he has troubled Paul, he could well attack Timothy. He opposed the Christian teachers as they taught the truth of the gospel and may also have spoken in the courts against Paul.
In verse 16 Paul mentions he was alone when he had to appear the first time in front of a judge. In the court system in Paul’s time it was appropriate that some of his friends attend the proceedings as character witnesses. It seems that all his friends deserted him, perhaps too afraid of the possible consequences of aligning themselves with this outspoken man of God. 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. It seems Paul even took this opportunity to give the gospel message to the court officials!
Priscilla and Aquila were old friends of Paul. When he first arrived in Corinth, he lived and worked with them. Like him, they made tents (Acts 18:2-3) to support themselves. They had not been in Corinth long but had come from Rome then went with Paul to Ephesus and stayed there (Acts 18:18-19). Some time later they went back to Rome and Paul sent greetings to them (Rom 16:3-4). Now they were once more in Ephesus. Paul also sent greetings to the family of Onesiphorus. Earlier in this letter he had asked the Lord to be kind to them (1:16).
Erastus is mentioned in other letters of Paul a couple of times. One had an important job in Rome (Rom 16:23) and another who, with Timothy, helped Paul when he was in Ephesus (Acts 19:22).
Trophimus went with Paul when he took the gifts to the poor Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). The Jews had seen him there with Paul and they thought that Paul had taken Trophimus into the temple where he should not go (Acts 21:29).
Paul finishes with greetings from four members and then the rest of the congregation of the church at Rome, a blessing to Timothy and then to all the Christians in the church at Ephesus he prays for the Lord’s grace.
Paul was certainly putting his faith into action every day. The familiar words from today’s Isaiah reading were probably familiar to him:
10 fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
11 Behold, all who are incensed against you
shall be put to shame and confounded;
those who strive against you
shall be as nothing and shall perish.
12 You shall seek those who contend with you,
but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
shall be as nothing at all.
13 For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.”
I pray that we fear not in our daily walk with Jesus so we can be used the way some of these people were, to support, encourage, provide for other’s needs while sharing in the joy of knowing Him and wanting to spread that knowledge.