2 Timothy 4:16

I. His DESERTION BY MAN. "At my first defence no one took my part, but all forsook me; may it not be laid to their account."

1. The apostle had to make his defence before the emperor. There is no record of the nature of the charge. It was probably a charge of sedition or disobedience to the pagan authorities, which, on account of the close complication of civil and religious duties in the state, could not be explained to the satisfaction of a ruler jealous of civil obedience.

2. The saints at Rome deserted the apostle through fear. They failed to support him either by their presence, their sympathy, or their witness in his favour. Their weakness and timidity must have been a sore trial to the apostle. Yet he could remember that his Divine Master had been similarly deserted in his last hours.

3. The apostle's prayer for these timorous saints. "May it not be laid to their account." This implies:

(1) That they had been guilty of a grave trespass in forsaking the apostle.

(2) That a single sin, unpardoned, would be destructive to the saints.

(3) That the apostle had a deep interest in their welfare.

(a) He would be concerned for the great weakness of their faith, with its accompanying depression and discomfort;

(b) for the effects of their weakness on the high repute of the gospel;

(c) and he would seek their restoration in the very spirit of his Divine Master.

II. IF MAN FORSOOK HIM, HE WAS NOT FORSAKEN BY GOD. "But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me; that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear." Like his Divine Master, he might say, "Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me."

1. The Divine support accorded to him. The secret but gracious presence of the Lord delivered him from all unworthy fears of man. He would feel, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" He was strengthened inwardly unto all long suffering with joyfulness; so that he could make his defence with all clearness and courage, with all presence of mind, and with all freedom of thought and expression.

2. The end of this Divine support was that the gospel might be still more fully known at Rome and elsewhere by all Gentiles.

III. THE EFFECT OF HIS DEFENCE. "And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." He had, for a time, escaped condemnation. Nero was the cruel lion out of whose power the Lord had delivered him.

IV. THE APOSTLE'S ANTICIPATION OF A STILL HIGHER DELIVERANCE. "And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom."

1. This is no declaration that the apostle shall escape death, for he had already spoken of himself as "already being offered. (Ver. 6.)

2. It is a declaration that he shall be carried beyond the sphere of evil in every form, and translated securely into the heavenly kingdom. All the evil influences at work around him would not affect him. There is not a note of fear in his last days.

V. ASCRIPTION OF GLORY TO HIS DIVINE DELIVERER. To whom be the glory forever and ever."

1. The glory is here ascribed to the Son of God, an express evidence of his Divinity.

2. There is no time more appropriate for such an ascription of glory as after deliverance from death and evil. - T.C.







All men forsook me.
I. PAUL FORSAKEN, AND YET FORGIVING THOSE WHO HAD WITHDRAWN FROM HIM.

1. The apostle was forsaken by his friends when most he needed them.

2. Paul's friends leaving him, made him the more helpless.

3. Paul's friends leaving him, discovered their frailty.

4. The apostle's forgiving spirit is particularly worthy of our notice.

II. PAUL UPHELD, AND THEREFORE PREACHING.

1. Paul was upheld by Divine grace.

2. The Lord was present with His servant.

3. The Lord stood by the apostle that his kind of preaching might be fully known.

4. We who are Gentiles have heard the apostle's kind of preaching.

III. PAUL DELIVERED, AND SO ACKNOWLEDGING.

1. This was a seasonable deliverance.

2. This was a great deliverance.

3. The Lord was the accomplisher of this deliverance.

4. Paul gratefully acknowledges his deliverance.

IV. PAUL ENCOURAGED, AND THEREFORE GLORIFYING.

1. The apostle was encouraged to look for a glorious destination — heavenly kingdom — the kingdom of glory.

2. The apostle was encouraged to look for Divine preservation — shall deliver still.

3. The apostle was encouraged in his expectations by former deliverances (2 Corinthians 11:24-27; 31-33).

4. In the whole, Paul glorified the Lord.Conclusion:

1. To those who question us with regard to our hope, we should be able to give an answer.

2. We should exercise a forgiving spirit towards our brethren.

3. When we feel our own weakness, this should lead us to look to the Lord for assistance.

4. We should glorify God for all our deliverances.

5. We should remember that the Lord alone can save and preserve us. What will those do who forget this?

(John Miller.)

Homilist.
I. THAT GREAT ADVERSITY FREQUENTLY BEFALLS THE REST OF MEN. This shows —

1. That neither adversity nor prosperity is any test of character.

2. That there must come a period of retribution.

II. THAT GREAT ADVERSITY EXPOSES THE WEAKNESS OF OUR REST FRIENDSHIPS.

III. THAT GREAT ADVERSITY DEVELOPES THE MAGNANIMOUS IN THE HEART OF THE GOOD. "I pray God," etc. Like Stephen under shower of stones, and Christ on cross.

IV. THAT GREAT ADVERSITY DEMONSTRATES EVER MORE THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD. "Notwithstanding the Lordstood by me" (Job 5:19).

(Homilist.)

1. All men forsook me, but the Lord stood by me. Hence, observe: that man's extremity is God's opportunity, or when man's help faileth then God appeareth, He then cometh in as an Auxiliary. The Lord only is immutable, He never faileth His at their need. God's people are never less alone than when they are most alone; never less forsaken than when they are forsaken of all.

2. Strengthening grace is the gift of God. "And strengthened me." He doth not only give us renewing grace and then leave us to our own free-will, but He giveth us persevering grace also. As He is the Author of our grace by vocation, so He is the finisher of it by preservation.

3. Whilst God hath any work for His servants to do, He will assist and uphold them in spite of all oppositions. "That by me the preaching might be fully known." Though Nero rage against Paul, and all men forsake him, yet God will assist him that He may preach the gospel to the world. Our comfort is, that our times are not in our enemies' hands but in the hands of a gracious God.

4. God would have His truth revealed to the sons of men. "And that all the Gentiles might hear." He would have the gospel known — fully known — to the Gentiles. Truth is good, and the more common it is the better. Where it getteth ground, Satan's kingdom falleth like lightning from heaven suddenly and irresistibly (Luke 10:18). Let none then hide their talents, but as the sun freely communicateth its light and heat to us, so let us freely impart our gifts unto others.

5. The Church's enemies ofttimes are lions. "And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." Lions for potency, lions for policy (Psalm 17:12), lions for cruelty, lions for terror. Be serpents for policy, and not for poison, lions for prowess, and not for rapine. Be not familiar with these lions, come not near their-dens lest they make a prey of you, have no fellowship with such unfruitful works of darkness but reprove them rather.

6. God many times suffers His dearest children to fall into the mouths of these lions, so that to a carnal eye they seem hopeless and helpless.

7. That God will deliver His from this great danger. He that brought thee into the mouth of the lion will bring thee out again (Daniel 6:22).

(T. Hall, B. D.)

I. PAUL'S EXPERIENCE of God's loving care for him in his past deliverances.

1. The enemies of the truth are oft for power, always for malice — lions.

2. God suffers His dearest children to fall into the mouths of lions.

3. In their extremities God delivers them —

(1)By suspending the malice of their foes.

(2)By raising up one lion against another.

(3)By diverting them from their intended prey.

(4)By changing their nature to lambs.

(5)By showing Himself a lion.

(6)By making them lions to themselves.

(7)By making them friends, putting some conceit or fancy into their heart.

(8)By making His own people lions to their adversaries.

II. PAUL'S ASSURED HOPE, built upon his experience.

1. "The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work." God preserves from evil works by planting the graces of faith and fear in us.

2. "And will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom." By Himself, and by inferior agencies.

III. THE ISSUE OF BOTH HIS EXPERIENCE AND HIS HOPES. As they flow from God's grace, so he ascribes to Him the glory. We honour ourselves when we honour God; our praising God causes others to do so.

(R. Sibbes, D. D.)

"Deliver us from evil, for thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever. Amen." So our Lord taught us to pray. Is there not an echo of the prayer in these words of the prisoner? Surely it is not accident that so many of the keywords of the closing petitions of the Lord's Prayer recur here. And this burst of triumph is his very last word to his friend Timothy, with the exception of one or two closing personal salutations. That bird could sing in a darkened cage, and had the firmest and brightest hopes when all seemed darkest.

I. Consider then, first, THE PRISONER'S CONFIDENCE. It is quite clear that he expected nothing but death. Only a few verses before he has said, "I am now in the very act of being offered, and the time of my departure is at hand." And yet, with death staring him in the face, and with nothing more clear to his anticipation than that his work was done, and that there only remained for him to wait for the crown, he breaks into this rapture of triumph, and says, "The Lord will deliver me from every evil world, and will preserve me," or, to take the pregnant expression of the text, "save me into His heavenly kingdom." May we not learn from this what the true meaning of deliverance from evil is; and what therefore is meant by the petition when it occurs in the pattern prayer? It is not exemption from trial, not escape from even the uttermost severity of it. Whosoever is able in the midst of all, to keep firm hold of his faith and, by his faith, of his Saviour, has received deliverance from the evil which pours all its vials of plagues upon his head. For the only thing that really does us harm is that which drags us away from God. "He shall deliver me from every evil work"; not because the sword will not fall upon my neck, but because, when it does, it will not part me from my Christ. "He shall deliver me from every evil work"; not because I shall not taste the full bitterness of the cup that is commended to my lips, but because in the very act of drinking the most nauseous potion I shall take it as a cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. That is deliverance. The same line of thought may be suggested in reference to the other clause of this expression of confidence, which teaches us to look at the last of the so-called evils. Paul expects to be "delivered from and to be saved into. The former phrase contemplates removal from the sphere of evil, the latter, the bringing safely into another sphere where evil is unknown, even that kingdom in the heavens over which Christ serenely held sovereign sway, while Nero afflicted the earth with a delirium of blood and lust. And what was the prose fact which presented itself to Paul's faith, thus radiantly clad in robes of triumph? Nothing else than that grim form of Death, feared and hated of men as the worst of all calamities, seems to him a deliverer and angel-messenger of salvation, who came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them," not to drive them into the gloomy dominions of the grave, but to lead them safe into the heavenly kingdom of his Lord and theirs. For Christ's servants Death is the lackey who opens the doors of the presence-chamber of the King. The apostle employs in my text a different preposition to describe this ultimate deliverance from that which he does when he says, "I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." In one case he represents the peril as though he was, as it were, dragged from between the teeth that threatened to devour him. In the other case the deliverance is more complete, and implies complete removal away from the sphere in which evil works. Taken together, the two prepositions in the two clauses, from and into, present the idea of change of place, or, as we may say, a migration from one realm and order of things to another. Thus the final saving is here regarded as a deliverance which lifts us out of the lower levels of the atmosphere, where evil, like some wild cyclone sweeps howling and destroying, and carries us into the quiet regions above, where loud winds never call, but "all the air a solemn stillness holds," though stagnation is as far away as tumult.

II. A second consideration is suggested by these words — namely, THE GROUND OF THE PRISONER'S CONFIDENCE. The "and" at the beginning of the text is very probably spurious, but none the less is the confidence expressed in the text based upon the experience narrated in the preceding sentence. There Paul thankfully tells Timothy, "I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." Therefore he is sure that the future will be like the past — "I was delivered" — "the Lord shall deliver." That experience, then, is the first ground of his confidence. God's "hitherto" has always wrapped up in it a "henceforth." All that He has been He will be. There are no tenses in His verbs. The past and the future are smelted down into one eternal and unchangeable present. But there is another ground of confidence on which I may touch for a moment. If I am at all correct in tracing any kind of connection between the words of my text and the Lord's Prayer, that very prayer is the basis of the confidence which is here expressed, and Paul is sure that God will deliver, and that he will come to Christ's heavenly kingdom because Jesus Christ taught him to pray, "Deliver me from evil." So he makes his prayer into a promise, and out of all these Christ-taught petitions he wins the assurance of Christ-given hopes. Happy they who so pray as that out of their prayers they can construct confidences!

III. Lastly, note THE PRAISE THAT SPRINGS FROM THE CONFIDENCE. "Unto Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Paul's thankfulness arises from his anticipation, and not from the realisation, of deliverance. So completely did this man's faith make real to him at the moment the future deliverance that irrepressibly there bursts from his lips this great thanksgiving and doxology. If the anticipation led to such sweet music of praise, what would the reality do? Ought we not to entertain our yet unreceived blessings with as full a welcome and credence, and with as lively a gratitude, as speaks here? Should we not draw them to ourselves before they come, in the exercise of a hope based upon God's faithful promises which will open our lips to show forth His praise? We should note still further in this doxology the unconditional attribution of Divine honour to Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who is here called "the Lord," and while the word does not necessarily imply Christ's divinity, the ascriptions of praise here unhesitatingly laid at His feet can neither be explained nor justified, unless the speaker owned Him as Divine. Paul's Christ was not a Christ who had once done sweet and great things, and could do such no more, but a Christ working to-day for His servant. Note, too, that the ascription to Jesus of glory that shall shine through ages of ages is here connected with Paul's salvation. He did not think himself as of such exceptional importance that his salvation would bring more glory to Jesus Christ than that of others would do. Lowly self-oblivion and wondering gratitude, not arrogance, speak here. Precisely because he is so unworthy and weak does the apostle think that the power and love which would and could save him call for endless praise. The poorer the material the more the artist's glory. For ever and ever the praise of the glory of God's grace in Christ will ring through the universe.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

1. The experience of God's former deliverances must make us rest upon Him for future? "From every evil work." Though God doth not save His people from suffering, yet He will save them from sin; and though He leave in them infirmities, yet He will free them from enormities, and from total apostasy.

3. God is the preserver of His people. "And He will preserve me to His heavenly kingdom." But especially He keeps their souls in an holy frame till He bring them to glory. It is not sufficient that we light a lamp, but there must be a continual supply of oil, else the light will go out. So it is not sufficient that we have preventing, preparing, renewing grace, but we must also have subsequent, conserving, perfecting, persevering grace daily given in to preserve us from apostasy. We have always need of a Divine maintenancy till we have finished our course (Psalm 73:23). And this He will do in despite of all our enemies; if anything destroy us it is sin, and for that we have God's hand here that He will deliver us from every evil work that might any way ruin us, and so preserve us till He have brought us to heaven. He keeps heaven for the saints, and the saints for heaven.

4. God's goodness to His people is wholly free. All His dispensations to His are free grace and pure mercy.

5. God is a good and bountiful Master to His people.

6. In our deepest distress we should have an eye to this heavenly kingdom. So doth Paul here. Whatever thy sorrows or sufferings be here, yet remember there is a heavenly kingdom will pay for all.

7. God will bring His people to a kingdom, to an heavenly kingdom.

(T. Hall, B. D.)

Paul might have said, as Socrates did, My friends, I have never a friend. And as Plato, A friend is a very mutable creature.

(J. Trapp.)

"See, father I" said a lad who was walking with his father, "they are knocking away the props from under the bridge; what are they doing that for? Won't the bridge fall?" "They are knocking them away," said the father, "that the timbers may rest more firmly upon the stone piers which are now finished." God only takes away our earthly props that we may rest more firmly upon Him.

(Elon Foster.)

In the Indian legend a mighty, wicked sorcerer seeks, with very poor success, to keep the sun, moon, and stars in three separate chests; and those who have sought to suppress God's servants have succeeded no better. John was banished to Patmos, but, far from sinking out of view in the solitary sea, he stands before the world amid sublimest illuminations, like his own "angel standing in the sun." They drove Luther into the Wartzburg; but there, in translating the Scriptures into German, he became the cynosure of all eyes. Bunyan's enemies consigned him to Bedford Gaol, and so he became known to the race, one of the foremost of the immortals of Christendom.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

Mr. J. G. Oncken was the Baptist pioneer in Germany, and in his younger days suffered for the truth's sake, both fine and imprisonment. We remember his pointing out to us the spot upon the Alster where he baptized his converts at dead of night, and we shall never forget his story of the burgomaster of Hamburg, who held up his finger and said, "You see that finger! As long as that can move I will put you down." "Sir," said Oncken, "I see your finger, but I also see an arm, which you do not see, and so long as that is stretched out you cannot put me down."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

John Wesley once stood out very nobly in disregarding the eyes of men so long as he stood acquitted in the sight of God. Among his many persecutions are to be numbered the falling back of former friends, including his wife. These turned against him, and published many spiteful things, even defaming his character in a shocking manner. Brother Charles hastened off in alarm and indignation to inquire what defence Brother John would set up. There was no time to lose! The eyes of the world were upon him, and God's enemies and his own would be glad to make capital out of so contemptible a business What was Charles's surprise to find that John was resolved on doing simply nothing! The great preacher was calm and comfortable in mind, being entirely free from any concern for the future. Why should he be perplexed when he had entrusted God with his all — even with his reputation? None are so safe as those whose characters are in God's keeping. Such often consider that they dishonour God by setting up puny defences of their own against the cavils of the wicked. They think more of that one eye of God which is ever looking on them than of the eyes of men.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

It is recorded of a good man that his last day, with the exception of a few intervals, was passed in unconsciousness. Seeing a look of returning intelligence, one asked, "Are you thinking of Jesus to-day" His reply of loving trust was never to be forgotten: "When I am conscious I am thinking of Jesus; when I am unconscious Jesus is thinking of me."

One morning, not long after my arrival at Llandrindod, the artist was showing me a "printed proof" of a likeness of myself recently taken, when, in reply to a remark, he said, "You see, sir, you have such a habit of looking up." The words came to me with a meaning he did not intend them to convey. I quite rejoiced to hear them.

(J. T. Wrenford, M. A.)

This is the true inmost essence of prayer — not that we should prescribe to Him how to answer our desires, but that we should leave all that in His hands. The apostle Paul said, in his last letter, with triumphant confidence, that he knew that God would "deliver him and save him into His everlasting kingdom." And he knew, at the same time, that his course was ended, and that there was nothing for him now but the crown. How was he "saved into the kingdom" and "delivered from the mouth of the lion"? The sword that struck off the wearied head that had thought so long for God's Church was the instrument of the deliverance and the means of the salvation. For us it may be that a sharper sorrow may be the answer to the prayer, "Preserve Thy servant." It may be that God's "bowing down His ear" and answering us when we cry shall be to pass us through a mill that has finer rollers, to crush still more the bruised corn. But the end and the meaning of it all will be to "rejoice the soul of the servant" with a deeper joy at last.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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