Priscila and Aquilla come up a fair amount, that wonderful couple that befriended Paul in a hard time and then trained up Apollos. They were still in Ephesus and no doubt a great aid to Timothy. Those wonderful and encouraging saints in the church can get a pastor through hard times and bring great joy to a sometimes lonely heart. I wonder if they were ever aware of their impact on Christendom. Apollos taught many. Paul mentioned them at different points. Their legacy has lasted thousands of years, these tentmakers. I’ll never know this side of heaven the impact the Lord may work through me. That’s ok. Occasionally I hear from a former student or parishioner and I love it. It is so heartwarming. Quite a few have spoken up since I left GBC. Many wrote wonderful notes while I was there also. I’ve kept most of them. Paul left elders and ministers wherever he went. He was an evangelist, an apostle, but he didn’t just preach and move on. He made sure a church was established and there was leadership to continue reaching and training people. That concept was lost for a lot of at least the American Church, I think, for a while, but I’m glad to see the emphasis on church planting and plugging new converts in with a church growing. Paul was also forgiving. He said he wanted forgiveness for those who’d abandoned him at his Roman trial and he listed them as those sending greetings. They were good. And those words of forgiveness after the quick reminder to try and come before winter (either for the cloak or travel conditions or perceived time remaining) and blessings of grace may have been the last words Paul ever wrote. Not a bad way to go out. Lord, help me by You Spirit to finish strong!
On a WAY smaller scale, I’ve experienced some of what Paul’s talking about here. As soon as I read verse 14, some people came to mind who have hurt and betrayed me very deeply. Paul trusted the Lord to take care of it, not taking vengeance for himself or claiming a right to it. Some may think that means Paul didn’t even care about or think about vengeance, but I’m not sure. Perhaps he was just that focused on Jesus. I want to let go of bitterness and anger toward those who’ve harmed me deeply and intentionally, but it isn’t easy. I trust the Lord will do the right thing. I pray He’ll warn others about them to protect them. I don’t know that it’s my place to do so, but Paul did warn Timothy. More than just being against Paul, He was against the message, be it the gospel or some other message shared, so that’s beyond personal. That was from within the church. Outside of the church Paul was facing other problems and he had no defense except by the Lord. His defenders deserted him, much like Jesus was deserted. I pray I’d be one to stand strong and faithful by another Christian during persecution. But for Paul this was the culmination of his mission. He stood before Caesar with the gospel and a host of others on the way. We’re all told the Holy Spirit will give us what to say and such times so we don’t have to worry, but we should prepare to tell the reason for our hope at any moment. I know the reason and pray for those moments to share. The defense the Holy Spirit gave him at that time was enough to get him by, but eventually he’d die for the gospel, no doubt honorably and proudly. He had confidence not so much in this life, although he trusted God to work His plan in Paul in this world, too, but his hope and confidence was eternal. Why should we fear? Ultimately, what can man or any evil power do to us in Jesus? Our eternity is secure! Everything here is fleeting. Praise God!
Paul didn’t want these to be his last words to Timothy, but knew they might be. Today we could get an email like this from Paul and be on a flight the same day. Then, it would take potentially months on its own, especially coupled with Timothy’s travel time even if he did leave immediately. There wasn’t time to delay as Paul knew his time on earth in this life could be up very soon. Paul had Luke by his side, but he’d sent other on to build up churches and continue evangelism in Galatia (Crescens), modern day Yugoslavia (Titus), and Timothy in Ephesus. Demas abandoned him, perhaps reminiscent of the disciples abandoning Jesus at His trial and crucifixion. He wrote to Timothy and Titus. I’m sure he wrote to Cresencs and probably others as well, but we don’t have those letters in Scripture. He asked for Mark to come to him, too, because he was “useful in ministry.” I love that line! He and Barnabas split over Mark being less than committed much earlier in his ministry. Now he sees him as a useful and desirable companion. Apparently Barnabas really was able to turn his cousin around, no doubt a work of the Holy Spirit through each of them. People do change and grow. Luke was still with Paul, which is why we have the book of Acts. Luke shared in the prison time in Rome the first time. He wasn’t afraid of persecution. It’s not really said why Tychicus was sent to Ephesus. Very likely he delivered the letter, and I would guess he was there also to fill in for Timothy so he could visit Paul in prison. It’s hard for a minister to get away without suitable relief. It bugs me when people decide to visit other churches or just not show up when the main pastor isn’t preaching…but that’s not really the point here. These men were tight, and in his last days, Paul wanted time with those he’d mentored so closely. Wherever we end up, I want those close relationships as a protégé and as a mentor. I want those lifelong relationships where we at least still chat every so often and where when the end comes we want to be together. It’s like family. And I love family. And, oh, Paul says not to forget his coat and good reading material. I’m sure a Roman dungeon was cold and boring in winter. I’m sure they knew what parchments he wanted and why they were important. It brings more regular life to the letter, I think, to see those basic personal wishes included and that helps bring Scripture to life.