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16 At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them!
The Apostle's Directions to Timothy; Salutations and Benedictions. (a. d. 66.)
16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. 17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 19 Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. 21 Do thy diligence to come before winter. Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren. 22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.
Here, I. He gives Timothy an account of his own present circumstances.
1. He had lately been called to appear before the emperor, upon his appeal to Cæsar; and then no man stood with him (v. 16), to plead his cause, to bear testimony for him, or so much as to keep him in countenance, but all men forsook him. This was strange, that so good a man as Paul should have nobody to own him, even at Rome, where there were many Christians, whose faith was spoken of throughout the world, Rom. i. 8. But men are but men. The Christians at Rome were forward to go and meet him (Acts xxviii.); but when it came to the pinch, and they would be in danger of suffering with him, then they all forsook him. He prays that God would not lay it to their charge, intimating that it was a great fault, and God might justly be angry with them, but he prays God to forgive them. See what a distinction is put between sins of presumption and sins of infirmity. Alexander the coppersmith, who maliciously withstood Paul, he prays against: The Lord reward him according to his works; but respecting these Christians, who through weakness shrunk from Paul in time of trial, he says, The Lord lay it not to their charge. Observe, (1.) Paul had his trials in his friends' forsaking him in a time of danger as well as in the opposition made by enemies: all forsook him. (2.) It was their sin not to appear for the good apostle, especially at his first answer; but it was a sin of weakness, and therefore the more excusable. Yet, (3.) God might lay it to their charge, but Paul endeavours to prevent it by his earnest prayers: Let it not be laid to their charge.
2. Notwithstanding this God stood by him (v. 17), gave him extraordinary wisdom and courage, to enable him to speak so much the better himself. When he had nobody to keep him in countenance, God made his face to shine.—That by me the preaching might be fully known, that is, "God brought me out from that difficulty that I might preach the gospel, which is my business." Nay, it should seem, that he might preach the gospel at that time; for Paul knew how to preach at the bar as well as in the pulpit. And that all the Gentiles might hear; the emperor himself and the great men who would never have heard Paul preach if he had not been brought before them. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion, that is, of Nero (as some think) or some other judge. Some understand it only as a proverbial form of speech, to signify that he was in imminent danger. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work. See how Paul improved his experiences: "He that delivered doth deliver, and we trust he will yet deliver, will deliver me from every evil work, from any ill done to me by others. And shall preserve me to his heavenly kingdom." And for this he gives glory to God, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. Observe, (1.) If the Lord stand by us, he will strengthen us, in a time of difficulty and danger, and his presence will more than supply every one's absence. (2.) When the Lord preserves his servants from great and imminent danger, it is for eminent work and service. Paul was preserved that by him the preaching might be fully known, &c. (3.) Former deliverances should encourage future hopes. (4.) There is a heavenly kingdom, to which the Lord will preserve his faithful witnessing or suffering servants. (5.) We ought to give God the glory of all past, present, and future deliverances: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
II. He sends salutations to Aquila, and Priscilla, and the household of Onesiphorus, v. 19. He mentions his leaving Trophimus sick at Miletum (v. 20), by which it appears that though the apostles healed all manner of diseases miraculously, for the confirmation of their doctrine, yet they did not exert that power upon their own friends, lest it should have looked like a collusion.
III. He hastens Timothy to come to him before winter (v. 21), because he longed to see him, and because in the winter the journey or voyage would be more dangerous.
IV. He sends commendations to him from Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren. One of the heathen writers at this time mentions one Pudens and his wife Claudia, and says the Claudia was a Briton, whence some have gathered that it was this Pudens, and that Claudia here was his wife, and that they were eminent Christians at Rome.
V. He concludes with a prayer, that the Lord Jesus would be with his spirit. We need no more to make us happy than to have the Lord Jesus Christ with our spirits; for in him all spiritual blessings are summed up. And it is the best prayer we can put up for our friends, that the Lord Jesus Christ may be with their spirits, to sanctify and save them, and at last to receive them to himself; as Stephen the proto-martyr prayed, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, Acts vii. 59. "Lord Jesus, receive that spirit which thou hast been with while it was united to the body; do not now leave it in its separate state." Grace be with you. Amen. This was our apostle's token in every epistle; so he wrote. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen, 2 Thess. iii. 17, 18. And if grace be with us here to convert and change us, to make us holy, to keep us humble, and to enable us to persevere to the end, glory will crown us hereafter: for the Lord is a sun, and a shield; the Lord will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from those that walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee, Ps. lxxxiv. 11, 12. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God our Saviour, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.