Formations 06.21.2015: Legacy

2 Timothy 4:1-18

Adolf Eberle, The Natural History Lesson, before 1914

Adolf Eberle, The Natural History Lesson, before 1914

I’m part of what has been dubbed the “sandwich generation”: people of an age where they’re caring for aging parents while still supporting their own children. Though there are challenges with this particular phase of life, I’ve got to admit it has largely been a blessing. I’m appreciative of how our three generations interact. We go to church together, eat Saturday supper together, and are there for each other however we can be.

Mostly, I find I am blessed to watch my teenage daughter get along with her grandparents. I like to watch her help them around the house. I like to watch my folks attending her choir concerts and sharing in my pride at the young lady she is growing up to be.

There is something satisfying in knowing that she will have many fond memories of her grandparents to carry with her throughout her life. I’m grateful my mom and dad are still around to help teach my daughter the lessons in life that they first taught me.

First Timothy 4 is about life lessons as well. Mostly, it is about the importance of legacy. Paul knows his death is near, and he is keen to make sure Timothy will faithfully carry the baton that is being passed to him.

At least the apostle knows he has finished well. He has done everything God has required of him. He has fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith (v. 7). Though he has faced rocky times, he has not lost heart. Rather, he looks to the Lord to continue to stand beside him, come what may.


• What are the most important lessons about life and faith you learned from your parents?
• What legacy do you hope to leave for those who come after you?
• What gives your convictions staying power?

Reference Shelf

Paul’s Final Testimony

Taken as a whole, 2 Timothy is quite distinct from the other two Pastorals. The concern for church organization has slipped into the background, and the primary exhortations to Timothy deal with his personal example and leadership in combatting the false teaching. There is an emphasis on enduring persecution which is lacking in the other two (2:3; 4:11-13). The false teaching is treated at much greater length, and the situation seems more threatening. The Epistle is rich in personal detail and is written in a livelier, less wooden style than the others.

Paul’s situation has changed. He is now in prison in Rome (1:8; 2:17) and writing Timothy, who is evidently still in Ephesus (4:12). His style is quite personal. Timothy is no longer his “child in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2) but his “beloved child” (1:2), and the apostle speaks fondly of Timothy’s mother and grandmother (1:5). He speaks of his opposition in Asia…. He has reason to believe that his death is imminent, but he has fought the good fight and is ready with confidence to face the righteous judge (4:6-8)…. The whole passage 4:6-18 reads like a final testimony of the apostle.

John B. Polhill, “Pastoral Epistles,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 651.

”I Have Fought the Good Fight”

1. “I have fought the good fight.” Here Paul employs familiar military imagery. It was not uncommon to speak of soldiers and/or armies as having fought the good fight. Paul draws on the classic agon- motif. This motif, popular in Stoic philosophy and with Hellenistic rhetors, made use of an athletic contest or armed conflict to portray the struggle on behalf of the truth. Just as victory on the battlefield or in a contest in the arena requires an intense struggle to the end, so faith is the characteristic quality of the Christian life that must be maintained throughout one’s life and ministry in spite of the inevitable struggles. He has fought the good fight. He has been faithful to his mission. This mission “has a definite telos and direction in which it cannot result in defeat or stalemate but only in the triumph of knowledge over ignorance. This means that the antithesis which determines the existence of man can be understood only dynamically and teleologically.”

2. “I have finished the race.” Now a familiar athletic image is employed. The image of the race was often employed by Hellenistic moralists to speak of the struggle for truth and the moral life. At times the athletic image was combined with the military image in such discussions. Paul has run the race God set before him. He was faithful to complete the course, and he has done this by “looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Heb 13:2a).

3. “I have kept the faith.” On the one hand, Paul may be saying that he has preserved the teaching and the message and has kept it free from error. On the other hand, he could be speaking of the trust entrusted to him, i.e., he had been faithful to the ministry and the message entrusted to him. In the final analysis, Paul under- stands both of these things to be true. He has been faithful to the end! According to Acts 20:24, when speaking to the Ephesian elders for the last time, Paul said, “I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course [teleiosai ton dromon mou] and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.” Years later as he writes to the pastor of the Ephesian church, he says he has finished that course (ton dromon teteleka) and been faithful to that ministry! Now, continuing the image of the games, he passes the baton to Timothy and looks ahead to the victor’s reward.

W. Hulitt Gloer, 1 & 2 Timothy–Titus, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2010), 304–305.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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