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Forbidden Bible Verses — 2 Timothy 4:19-22

The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

2 Timothy 4:19-22

Final Greetings

19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. 21 Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.[a]

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.[b]


Last week’s post discussed Paul’s mention of several associates and friends, although Demas had deserted him, returning to Thessalonica to pursue the world rather than the Church.

In the conclusion of 2 Timothy, the last letter he ever wrote, he mentions several more friends, some old and some new.

John MacArthur describes the prison in Rome from which Paul wrote (emphases mine):

He was in a stinking, rotten, wretched, smelly, filthy, gross dungeon, probably with 20, 30 men. It’s a hole in the ground. I’ve been in the one at the Mamertine Prison is the place where they say he was. Stench would be inconceivable. No sanitation, no nothing. City sewage system running by, only a door separating it, which would leak the sewage of the city in there. Filthy, vile, wretched place, cold, dark, damp and here he is praising God who’s gonna deliver him from every evil deed and bring him safely to the heavenly kingdom. And when he starts to think about heaven, he just waxes eloquent and in a paean of praise lifts the glory forever and ever to Jesus Christ and then says, “Amen, so let it be.” The punctuation, the seal of assurance all this came to him from his faithful Lord, his faithful Lord.

MacArthur is referring to the preceding verses, which are in the Lectionary:

16 At my first defence no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 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. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Paul is eager for Timothy to finish getting rid of the false teachers in Ephesus, stop off in Troas to pick up some of his belongings and get to Rome as soon as possible.

He tells Timothy to greet Prisca and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus (verse 19).

Prisca is another name for Priscilla. We met her and her husband Aquila in Acts 18:

Acts 18:1-4 — Paul, Corinth, Aquila, Priscilla

After he left Athens, Paul travelled approximately 70 miles to Corinth, a city filled with vice.

There, he met a married couple of fellow tent makers Aquila and Priscilla, with whom he stayed and worked.

Every Sabbath, he faithfully preached — ‘reasoned’ — in the synagogues to both Jews and Greek Gentiles about Christ the Lord.

This post has a history of Corinth in Paul’s time and biographies about both Aquila and Priscilla. Priscilla was the dominant one of the couple and is thought to have also had the greater spiritual development. Some biblical scholars think she wrote the Book of Hebrews.

Also, Aquila and Priscilla’s move from Rome indicates there was a church there long before the arrival of Peter and Paul.

Acts 18:18-23 — Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, Ephesus, Syria, Nazirite vow, churches in Syria, Galatia and Phyrgia

After his ministry in Corinth, Paul gave thanks through a Nazarite vow — thought to have been completed at the temple in Jerusalem — then completed a visit to churches that he founded around Syria and Asia Minor.

Acts 18:24-28 – Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila, Ephesus, Achaia

Apollos, a Messianic Jew from Alexandria, Egypt, sailed to Ephesus to save souls. He knew only about John the Baptist’s prophesies. When Priscilla and Aquila — ministers to the new church in Ephesus — heard Apollos preach in the synagogue there, they knew he was missing an important part of the Messianic story. They took him to one side and explained the Gospel story to them, with the truths that Paul had received during his own conversion. The result was incredible. Apollos became an important part of the church in Achaia, across the sea, particularly in Corinth, where he ended up.

MacArthur says:

Prisca or Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned six times in the New Testament. Paul met them in Corinth in Acts 18, lived with them, worked with them in the same trade. They left Corinth with Paul and went to Ephesus, according to Acts 18:18. Having learned from Paul, they taught Apollos, Acts 18:26 says. When Paul wrote Romans about six years later, they were living in Rome, according to Romans 16:3, but they left under persecution of the Jews by Emperor Claudius. And when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, likely from Ephesus, they had a church there in their house, 1 Corinthians 16:8 and 9. Now they’re living in Ephesus, perhaps due to the persecution of believers. So here’s a couple, they’ve been all over the place. Wherever the church needed them, wherever God wanted them to go they’ve been very available. Dear old friends, fellow workers.

I am curious as to why Paul did not mention them before in his two letters to Timothy. Surely they could have helped shore him up in ridding the congregation of the wily and sophisticated false teachers?

Paul also mentions Onesiphorus, who also lived in Ephesus and visited him in the Mamertine Prison:

2 Timothy 1:15-18 – desertion by elders in Asia Minor, Phygelus, Hermogenes, Onesiphorus

Paul tells Timothy that all (elders) who are in Asia (Minor) have deserted him, among them Phygelus and Hermogenes, no doubt because of Nero’s persecution. However, Onesiphorus stayed faithful and even sought Paul out in prison in Rome.

This was the last letter Paul wrote. The post explains his second imprisonment in Rome under Nero that led to his beheading.

MacArthur reminds us:

He came to Rome and when he found Paul was in prison, he came and saw him and often refreshed him. And Paul just wants Timothy to greet the dear family of Onesiphorus, precious people to him, people who cared about him, who would be rewarded in glory for their friendship. So you have a faithful couple and a faithful family.

Paul updates Timothy on two other associates in ministry: Erastus, who remained at Corinth, and Trophimus, who became ill and had to stay in Miletus (verse 20).

We first read of Erastus in Acts 19:

Acts 19:21-22 – Paul, Timothy, Erastus, Ephesus, Macedonia, Archaia, Jerusalem, Rome

Paul prepares to leave Ephesus for a visit to the churches in Macedonia (e.g. Philippi) and Achaia (home province of Corinth), then Jerusalem once Timothy and Erastus are able to raise money from the church in Macedonia for the impoverished church in Jerusalem. Ultimately, Paul wanted to visit Rome, a journey in the future.

Of Erastus, MacArthur says:

… he mentions Erastus, not the one in Romans 16:23 but perhaps the one in Acts 19:22, the same Erastus. He ministered to Paul along with Timothy in the former years as well as now. He’s been around a while. He’s been sent by Paul into Macedonia to minister. He’s kind of an old pal of Paul and Timothy, an old friend. He’s now following up the work in Corinth. Corinth was a hard place, by the way; he must have been a good man.

Trophimus first appeared in Acts 20:

Acts 20:1-6 – Paul, third missionary tour, Timothy, Sopater the Berean, Thessalonians Aristarchus and Secundus, Gaius of Derbe, Asians Tychicus and Trophimus, Luke, Greece, Macedonia and Troas

Paul leaves Ephesus after the riot for his third missionary tour, revisiting churches he either founded or helped to build. He took with him the above companions. A plot by Jewish leaders was launched in Greece as Paul planned to leave for Syria from there. Consequently, Paul and Luke left via Philippi in Macedonia, meeting up with the others in Troas — Luke’s hometown — five days later. Luke and Paul spent seven days in Troas with Paul’s chosen evangelists.

Acts 20:13-16 — Paul, third missionary tour, Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Miletus, Timothy, Sopater the Berean, Thessalonians Aristarchus and Secundus, Gaius of Derbe, Asians Tychicus and Trophimus, Luke

Luke documents the cities and islands he, Paul and their companions visited on the way to Miletus. From Miletus, Paul arranged to sail south on his way to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost.

Acts 21:27-36 – Paul, completion of Nazirite vow, riot, Ephesian Jews, Asia Minor Jews, Trophimus the Ephesian

Paul was attempting to complete his Nazirite vow and that of the other four men (see previous entry), when Jews from Asia Minor, perhaps Ephesus specifically, called for help from ‘men of Israel’ during the Festival of Weeks (the Day of First Fruits until the Exodus), which celebrated the reception of Mosaic Law.

Jews had gathered — as they had for Passover — from every nation in Jerusalem to celebrate this important feast. This is why the Jews from Asia Minor, who would have known of Paul’s preaching, were so intent upon sowing discord and upheaval. They did not consult with religious or secular authorities. They appealed to raw emotion, which resulted in a mob scene. Not only did they lie about Paul’s preaching, they also lied about the presence of Trophimus the Ephesian in a Jewish part of the temple, outside the Court of the Gentiles. If that had been true, the Romans would have killed Trophimus to preserve civil order.

What happened to Paul at the riot was no different from what happened to Jesus on Good Friday, the day of the Crucifixion.

MacArthur summarises his involvement with Paul:

… Trophimus, he was an Asian according to Acts 20, verse 4. That is in Asia Minor. He was an Ephesian from the city of Ephesus, Acts 21:29. He worked alongside Paul. He helped carry the Gentile offering to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He had been at Troas with the apostle. He was there when Eutychus fell out of the window and was resurrected. He was the unwilling cause of Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem, according to Acts 21. He too was a good friend, beloved old friend.

Our commentators have different opinions as to why Paul did not heal Trophimus of his illness.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

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.

However, MacArthur posits that that the divine gift of healing in the apostolic era was waning by this time:

He was sick at Miletus, which was tough ’cause his home was Ephesus. He was 36 miles from home, probably too sick to get there. And you can believe that Paul would have healed him if he could, but here is a classic illustration of the fact that the sign gifts were ceasing. Paul would have healed him if he could’ve healed him, but he couldn’t. That was not God’s plan.

As the apostolic era came to a close and the Scripture began to be pulled together, the sign gifts began to cease, and the beloved apostle Paul who had such great healing power all of a sudden couldn’t heal his own dear friend, because those things were ceasing; they were passing away. The signs of an apostle were ending with the ending of an apostle. And even in Paul’s later years they disappear. If you study the book of Acts, you see many miracles in the beginning, and they’re gone at the end as that part of God’s redemptive history ceases. So he left his dear friend sick at Miletus. No longer was it within his power to heal. That was not God’s plan.

Paul again urges Timothy to come soon, here specifying ‘before winter’ (verse 21). Paul had mentioned this earlier in this chapter:

Do your best to come to me soon.

Winter meant harsh travel conditions, especially at sea.

MacArthur says:

Only Luke is with him. And so he says in verse 21, “Make every effort to come before winter.” Again, the pathos, the melancholy, “I want you to be here, Timothy.” If you wait beyond October it’s too late, because it’s too dangerous to travel. Please come soon. And then he knew the day of his departure was at hand and if Timothy delayed they’d never see each other face to face and he couldn’t say all that was in his heart to say.

Paul mentions more people in verse 21, all of whom send their greetings along with the church in Rome: Eubulus, Pudens, Linus and Claudia.

Henry has an interesting bit of information about Pudens and Claudia:

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.

Of the people Paul mentions in that verse, MacArthur says:

Those are Latin names, which indicate they were Roman Christians, part of the church in Rome … He sends greeting from the believers in Rome who haven’t been scattered in the persecution. These are his new friends. You say, “Where were they in his trial when they needed him?” I don’t know. But even if they weren’t willing to step forward and take up his cause, he forgave them; we already saw that. But he had some new friends, and he wanted Timothy to hear of his friends. See, that’s network. Our life is made up of these kinds of people: New friends, old friends, faithful people, unfaithful people, friends, enemies. It’s part of life. And so in a sense, he sets the whole team down in front of Timothy. This is the state as it were of the team as you come to take over.

Paul sends Timothy a closing prayer, a benediction asking that the Lord be with his and the Ephesians’ spirit along with divine grace (verse 22).

MacArthur points out that the request is for the whole congregation:

… it’s a plural “you.” With you means he assumed the whole church at Ephesus would read the letter.

Henry discusses the prayer:

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 7 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 3 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 84 11, 12. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God our Saviour, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

MacArthur concludes:

And signed off, that’s the last thing he ever [wrote] on this earth. Beloved, teamwork is crucial; that’s what we see here. And it’s wonderful to know that people even like Paul have to deal with the strong and the weak, the faithful, the unfaithful, the friends and the enemies. And without them we can’t do the ministry. We are dependent on all those that God brings into our lives. And they all make a contribution, positive, negative one way or another. And they are the priceless, most-valuable commodity we have, for God does his work in us through those he brings around us.

I am sorry to finish studying these two letters of Paul to Timothy, especially this second one. I really took Paul’s advice to heart and am putting it into practice, even though I am but a layperson.

Next week, I will begin looking at the Apostle’s letter to Titus. It will be similar to his letters to Timothy. However, it signals that my in-depth study of the New Testament’s missing verses is coming to an end in the next several weeks. Then it will be time for me to begin one on the Old Testament.

Next time — Titus 1:1-4

This post first appeared on Churchmouse Campanologist | Ringing The Bells For, please read the originial post: here

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Forbidden Bible Verses — 2 Timothy 4:19-22


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