Online Bible Commentary
Fight the Good Fight
2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. (NIV)
The Apostle Paul is writing to Timothy from his prison cell in Rome. Timothy is in Ephesus, helping at the house churches there. Paul has just instructed Timothy on how to carry himself as a minister of the Gospel, especially in the light of the false teaching that was now prevalent in the churches of Ephesus and all of Asia Minor. Paul is handing over this part of his ministry to Timothy, for the time being.
Paul realizes that his time on earth, along with his ministry, is coming to an end. He writes his last will and testament in verses six though eight. The phrase “being poured out like a drink offering” (v. 6) is a reference to Numbers 15: 5, 7, and 10. The “drink offering” was an Old Testament offering of wine poured out before the Lord in the Sanctuary. Paul writes that this is “already” happening, which points to a concern that his life, his ministry, or both are coming to an end.
Paul has “fought the good fight” (v. 7a). “The good fight” refers to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is not commending himself, but rather honoring the Gospel, for which he gave his life. The term “fought”, in this context, is not that of warfare but rather an athletic contest, specifically a “race” which he has now faithfully “finished” (v. 7b). The Lord assigned Paul to take the Gospel to the gentiles. So, in saying that he has finished the race he is likely saying that he has finished his ministry to the Gentiles, but not necessarily his ministry, itself. Paul seems to have more to do for the Lord.
Paul is now looking forward to his victor’s “crown of righteousness”, which the Lord Jesus Christ, upon His second coming, will bestow upon all who complete the race. This is a metaphor for the crown given to the victor in the athletic races of the day. In this case, it is the reward for those remaining faithful to the Lord until the end of their lives on this earth (v. 8).
At this point Paul turns his attention to one of the major reasons for the writing of the letter. He instructs Timothy to “come to me quickly” (v. 9). Previously, Paul had several fellow ministers (Demas, Crescens, and Titus), along with Luke, helping him with his personal and ministry needs in Rome. Now, only Luke remains. Demas appears to have forsaken the ministry, while Crescens and Titus have left to minister in other areas (v. 10-11a).
So, Paul is lonely, and in need of support to meet both his personal and ministry needs. He specifically asks Timothy to bring Mark with him, to help with his ministry needs (v. 11b). He is sending this letter by Tychicus, who will take over Timothy’s duties in Ephesus when Timothy departs to Rome (v. 12).
Paul also asks Timothy to bring his heavy, woolen “cloak” (v. 13a). Later, in verse twenty one, he asks Timothy to arrive before winter. The cloak is his winter attire. Obviously, Paul does not believe his death is imminent. He is preparing to get through the winter, and he is asking for help, and materials, to continue his ministry work. He asks Timothy to bring his scrolls (Old Testament writings) and “especially the parchments” (v. 13b), likely blank parchments for writing another letter.
Even though he has written his last will and testament, these are not the words of one who is convinced that his death is imminent, or his ministry is over. Paul has more to do. He has devoted his life to the Lord and that devotion will only end with his death. He intends on continuing his ministry. He has asked for Mark to come help with his ministry needs. He has asked for Timothy to come help with his personal and ministry needs. He still has Luke, who Clement of Alexandria said, in the second century, translated the letter to the Hebrews into Greek. He has asked for Scripture writings and writing materials. He has not finished his ministry, only his ministry to the Gentiles, who have rejected him. All the churches in Asia Minor have turned to the false teachers, deserting Paul (2 Timothy 1:15). But Paul has one more letter left in him, before Nero beheads him. That letter is the Book of Hebrews, written to his own people.
This passage is a tribute to a man who literally gave his life to his Lord. He is an example for every Christian to follow. Obviously, few, if any, of us can be as devoted as was Paul. But, we all can do better. We all can find more time to do the things of God. We can serve with our time, and our finances. We can serve our local church and ministries, such as this. Ministers who do the Lord’s work, like Paul, are always in need of help. They need the support of their fellow Christians. They need help to fight “the good fight”.