What Are Your Essentials? A Coat and Books
The physical and spiritual needs of ministry–2 Timothy 4:13
Certain days at lunchtime, Jean calls me out of my study and we talk, then sometimes watch a little of the world’s greatest disasters–volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and tornadoes . . . lots of fun. But it makes you think–are you ready? Some basic essentials for survival–carry a reliable communication device, let others know where you are, carry a sharp knife and keep moving.
If lost in the jungle, walk or float, but don’t swim–tropical waters are rife with crocodiles, piranhas, and anacondas who become aware of your presence by swimming. Travel at night. Don’t drink from streams or rivers, which contain horrific parasites and diseases, but do drink the rain water on large leaves. Do keep your feet dry, watch your step for snakes, and eat insects and fruit.
There are essentials to have and know about when attacked by a bear, being caught in an avalanche, getting lost in the desert and weathering through a hurricane. There are also essentials for your life and ministry as a Christian. And the apostle Paul shows you just how little he needs at the end of his life. Plus Paul even emphasizes what he highly values at the end of his life.
Open your Bibles to 2 Timothy 4 and follow along with your outline. As Paul wraps up his letter, he actually describes to Timothy what he really wants. What essentials does Paul ask for? Look at this sweet statement in verse 13a, “When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus.” Paul had probably been forced to part with his cloak in Troas after his arrest. Since it is cold in Rome and getting colder, he asked for this necessity, later adding this caveat in verse 21, “Make every effort to come before winter.”
In verse 13b, asking for his books [NASB], especially the parchments. NIV–and my scrolls, especially the parchments. ESV–also the books, and above all the parchments. Paul is emphasizing “the parchments”–Paul especially wanted the parchments. Most believe the parchments were describing a copy of the Old Testament Scriptures, and possibly some finished, but not yet collected, independent New Testament letters.
They might have been parchments containing his own personal notes or collected lists of the Lord’s teachings or early narratives of the Lord’s life. One Christian college professor speculates by asking this–“Could they have been early Christian documents, perhaps collections of sayings of Jesus or early versions of Christian preaching or Old Testament exegesis? Could these have been the materials Luke and Mark used later to put together their gospel accounts?
“We do not know, but it is not a completely implausible hypothesis that they contained early Christian literature–either of Paul’s own manuscripts or the sayings of Jesus or primitive accounts of the Lord’s life prior to the four gospel writers. Was Paul deliberately interested in a written record of Christ’s life? Would not this be consistent with the central theme of the Pastorals–to guard the deposit of the Gospel?”
Here is Paul, in a Roman prison, giving his final challenges to Timothy. Timothy is facing his own persecution from Rome and is under pressure from heretics in Ephesus. So as Paul wraps up verses 1 to 5, he calls Timothy to preach God’s Word and ends his command to preach God’s Word in verse 5 by commanding Timothy to fulfill his ministry.
Paul then describes the fulfillment of his own ministry by relating his present status as an offering to the Lord, his completed ministry of the past, and the future award that’s coming to him in verses 6 to 8. Then in verses 9 to 12, Paul details the current ministry assignments of his closest crew of ministers. One failed him, but the others were continuing the ministry of the Word to the churches around the world.
Now in the midst of these closing updates, Paul asks for his essentials. Paul wants Timothy to come quickly before winter, then says to Timothy–bring the necessities in verse 13. “When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.” Picture it–here you are in prison awaiting execution. What kind of essentials would you ask for? Paul asks for . . .
#1 PHYSICAL ESSENTIALS
Verse 13a, “When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus.” Paul seems to have no doubt Timothy would come to Rome. Timothy was dependable–and so was Carpus. But who is Carpus? Carpus surfaces here for a flickering moment–just long enough to get his name written in the Bible (so cool) and just long enough for us to gather he was one of Paul’s countless friends and a fellow servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yet this is a weighty verse, because it describes the grueling place Paul now finds himself in. Paul is suffering after a life of ministry which included massive and horrific physical abuse. And Paul is suffering now, as he is in a terrible and punishing Roman prison. Paul asks Timothy to bring the cloak which he left at Troas with his friend, Carpus.
Traos may have been the hometown of Carpus–Carpus obviously lived in Troas now. From the context, it seems probable Paul stayed with Carpus in Troas and had entrusted him with the care of several valuable possessions. It also may have been that the church in Troas met in Carpus’s house.
Most assume Paul was currently in the infamous, horrible Roman Mamertine prison. Can you picture the soldiers as they took Paul along the northeastern flank of the prison, down the stairs called the “steps of groaning,” and into the gloomy interior, where he was handed over to the public executioner? There, Paul would have been stripped of his outer garments, possibly left naked except for his tunic.
Paul was a notable prisoner, the acknowledged and self-confessed leader of the now-detested Christians–the jailer would never dare to be lenient in any way. Paul was led to a trapdoor in the floor. The door was lifted, ropes were passed under Paul’s armpits, then he would have been lowered into the terrible Tullianum dungeon. When his feet touched the floor, the ropes were drawn up, and the trapdoor was slammed into place so that he was now in the dark. In Paul’s day, the name of that dungeon was spoken in whispers. It was the current horror of its day. That dungeon was a black pit–a literal hole in the ground.
The Tullianum dungeon was damp and chilly. His bed was a clump of stale straw and the floor was deep with filth. There was water, but the air was foul. Food was lowered to prisoners from time to time–just enough food and minimal subsistence to keep body and soul together. There might have been an occasional kidskin of thin, sour wine. History tells us prisoners had actually been eaten by the rats in that dreadful hole.
Such was Paul’s last prison. No wonder he wanted Timothy to bring his coat. No wonder Paul valued Luke, who stood by him in his need and found a way to penetrate the tight security that surrounded Nero’s most important prison. Perhaps the rigors of Paul’s confinement were relieved a little after awhile, because he somehow found a way to write this last letter–2 Timothy. Maybe he was allowed a candle.
Perhaps Paul’s Roman citizenship afforded him some relief. Maybe Luke voluntarily shared his confinement. Nero doubtless wanted to get some political capital out of Paul’s execution and did not want him to die of hunger, disease, or neglect, like most did in the Tullianum–although Caesar would have enjoyed malicious satisfaction knowing Paul was in there.
In the chill of this prison, Paul remembered “the cloak which I left at Troas.” Troas was the place where Paul received the Macedonian call to invade Europe with the Gospel. Troas was a city and region in the northwest corner of Asia Minor. Troas was a seaport and could easily be on a route from Ephesus to Rome, which is why Paul can ask Timothy to pick up the cloak on his way to Rome.
Now there is a possibility the word cloak actually means a book wrap, a satchel, a receptacle to carry books–in Latin, the word cloak might be describing the document carrier for his books and parchments. But the Greek, the original language of the New Testament is strongly referring to a cloak.
The word translated cloak in Greek refers to a heavy mantle used by travelers to protect themselves against stormy weather. This coat-like garment was a large, sleeveless outer garment made of a single piece of heavy material with a hole in the middle, through which the head was passed–a thick poncho.
This garment, often made of goat’s hair, was stiff and cumbersome–it was large and heavy like the heaviest wool, serving as both a coat and a blanket in cold weather, which Paul was about to deal with in Rome in the coming weeks. Since it served as protection against cold and rain, Paul may have wanted it because winter was at hand and also perhaps because his prison was cold. Whatever the immediate reasons, Paul wanted to recover essential possessions he had left behind.
This coat was certainly not needed in the hot Mediterranean summer months. When Paul left this heavy coat with Carpus, he couldn’t have known he’d later need it. In the economy of that day, especially for Christians under Roman persecution, such clothing was extremely expensive.
So Paul says, “Bring the cloak which I left.” Paul literally asks Timothy to “bring my coat”–“carry my blanket with you, Timothy,” because the apostle is in a cold, damp dungeon with winter just around the corner. And in his mid 60’s, he feels the need for the warmth it will provide. So Paul asks Tim to bring the cloak along when he comes. Troas was not far from Timothy’s headquarters at Ephesus. “Get it and bring it, Timothy–I have some genuine physical needs.”
William Tyndale had a similar experience. The father of the English Bible, Tyndale translated the Scriptures from the Hebrew and Greek (unlike Wycliffe, who translated them only from the Latin). Tyndale’s goal was to “cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture than the clergy.” About 90 percent of his finished work passed directly into the King James Version.
Tyndale, however, was hated by the clergy–not wanted in England. So he fled to the continent, where his enemies continued to plot against him. Betrayed at last by a man who had wormed his way into his confidence, Tyndale was tried as a heretic by special commissioners of the Holy Roman Empire.
While awaiting trial, he languished for months in a comfortless prison. He was burned at the stake in Vilvorde, Belgium, on Friday, October 6, 1536. One of Tyndale’s letters from prison has survived. Written in Latin by his own hand during the winter of 1535, it was addressed to the governor of the castle.
In the letter, Tyndale begged that the commissary might be permitted to send him, from his personal effects, a warmer cap and also a warmer coat, because the one he had was very thin. In addition, he asked for a piece of cloth with which to patch his leggings. “My overcoat is worn out,” he wrote. “But most of all,” he continued, “I beg and beseech your clemency to be urgent with the commissary, that he will kindly allow me to have the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew grammar, and Hebrew dictionary, that I may pass the time in that study.” Doubtless, Tyndale was familiar with the way his situation paralleled Paul’s.
There are physical needs in ministry–and the New Testament instructs us to meet those needs in 1 Corinthians 9:14. The Lord directed those who proclaim the Gospel to get their living from the gospel. Then in 1 Timothy 5:17, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”
There are some basic principles that direct how we meet the needs of those who minister. This is for you who might be sent by God to another church and as you lead, this is how you care for your fulltime supported leaders. Our elders model this. Support first considers the basics of food, clothing and housing, plus safety when that is possible. There are some who minister in risky places–so safety is an act of faith.
Then there is the requirement of provision. They should be able to provide for their family’s food, clothing and housing. Support them so they are not distracted by finances. They must be good stewards and should clip coupons, but they should not be so strapped they constantly have to think about money, which is not why you pay them. You pay them so they can focus on Christ, His Word and His people, and not this world and money.
Then there is testimony–allow those who serve fulltime to be generous to others, representing the generous heart of Christ and the generous heart of the church family. Finally, there is refreshment/recharge/rest from the burdens of ministry–the church should make certain they don’t lose heart in the midst of being the main target of the enemy while they give themselves to people who are in the Spirit and in the flesh. Paul wanted his cloak–just an old, wooly, itchy, but warm, familiar blankey.
Those who serve the Lord without financial support also have needs. As a church, our elders have decided our children and students are a priority as the next generation. But every ministry has physical needs of supply in order to accomplish its purpose. And while seeking to be good stewards, the elders seek to supply each ministry with what is most necessary in order to glorify God and see people come to Christ and become like Christ.
Paul says, “Timothy, don’t hesitate to leave Ephesus under another trusted leader–namely, Tychicus. The work will continue. The cause of Christ and the Church won’t suffer. And when you leave for Rome, Timothy, bring along some items which will allow me to physically continue in my service to my Savior.” Verse 13, “When you come, bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus.” And along with the physical essentials, please bring those things which are . . .
#2 SPIRITUAL ESSENTIALS
Verse 13b, Paul also urged Timothy, “Bring the books, especially the parchments.” The word for books is biblion–a common word in the New Testament. We derive from it both our English word bibliography and our monumental word Bible. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Greek word books–βίβλοι is used in Daniel 9:2, referring to Jeremiah’s Old Testament prophecy and also used in Joshua 1:8, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth.” Plus, book is translated by the historian Josephus as referring to the Old Testament, and the New Testament uses the word to describe the Old Testament.
The original Greek word for book refers to the inner part of the papyrus plant. It came to describe the paper that the Egyptians made from the bark of a plant, and hence, to a written book. The books to which Paul refers here describe papyrus rolls, papyrus scrolls, written Scriptures on paper.
The next word, “especially the parchments,” is different. Parchments is membrana–sound familiar? “Parchments” only occurs here in the New Testament. This writing product was prepared from the skin of sheep and goats, and a more quality parchment was made from the skin of calves or kids. They are also called vellum sheets, made from specially treated animal hides.
Paul’s parchments were probably treasured copies of Old Testament Scriptures. His books were probably collections of other writings. Books and parchments were very expensive. They were only used for the most important documents–not merely any record. These particular parchments may have contained copies of Paul’s own letters, or they may have been blank sheets for Paul to write other letters. Paul was not planning to finish studying or to stop writing.
Unlike a cloak, these records could not provide any physical comfort or protection, but they were invaluable to Paul for the sake of the ministry and for the sake of his heart. You almost wonder why Paul didn’t take these costly possessions with him wherever he went. It’s hard to believe he would have parted with them voluntarily, because the risk of never seeing them again was very high.
The trouble in taking these documents along when they were not needed would have paled in light of the trouble of being without them when they were needed. For that reason, scholars suggest Paul was probably arrested in Troas and had no opportunity, or was not allowed, to take these incredible writings with him.
Read verse 13 carefully, “Bring the books, especially the parchments.” Paul is emphasizing “the parchments”–those animal-skin, precious vellum codices. These documents Paul mainly wanted. This is why most commentators believe these documents were probably a reference to a copy of the Old Testament Scriptures, and possibly some finished, yet to be collected, New Testament letters which were already in circulation and considered Scripture.
Yes, the parchments were probably a few of the 27 letters of the New Testament. We know that is completely within the realm of possibility, because Peter tells us that the Early Church knew Paul’s letters were Scripture and the Church recognized them and others as the living Word of God.
About the same time as Paul is writing 2 Timothy, Peter is writing 2 Peter, and he writes these words in 2 Peter 3:15b and 16, “Just as also our beloved brother Paul, …16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
Peter is not only informing us that Paul’s writings were Scripture, but they were already in circulation and understood as New Testament Scripture. So some of the early writings of the New Testament are already being copied and were available to churches. Paul may have had some copies of the New Testament Scripture.
In any case, Paul wanted to read and study his books and his Bible while the countdown to his execution continued. Perhaps he wanted to leave them as his legacy to Timothy and Luke. Probably he wanted to be refreshed by God’s Word, continue studying the Bible, and probably resume writing to instruct and encourage the churches.
It’s natural to assume the Lord’s prisoner desired to spend his last remaining months meditating on the Word of God. As for the rest of the documents and their exact contents, no one knows what they were with certainty. Those letters and writings, along with his cloak were all that Paul had to leave to anyone. Paul ministered, God provided what he needed. This morning, think about what you are leaving here on Earth. Your Lord had even less to leave.
All that Paul had left was a cloak and some books. Charles Hadden Spurgeon once said, “Paul was an inspired apostle; yet, he wanted his books. Paul had been preaching for at least thirty years; yet, he wanted his books. Paul had seen the Lord; yet, he wanted his books. Paul had been caught up into the third heaven; yet, he wanted his books. Paul had heard things untranslatable; yet, he wanted his books. Paul had written a major part of the New Testament; yet, he wanted his books.”
Paul wants to study, to read, to meditate, to memorize, to commune with Christ through his books. Paul is modeling what he told Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
Here, Paul was motivating Timothy to be an example of study and dependence upon the sufficiency and authority of the Scriptures, by interpreting the Bible accurately, so Timothy will not be ashamed when he stands before Christ. Timothy was to study, allowing the Bible to speak for itself, using sound hermeneutics, so that when Timothy stood before Christ, he would do so without any shame.
Timothy was to study the Bible so that he would please His Savior. Timothy was to correctly handle the Word. To handle the word means to treat the Word as carefully as you would cutting out a pattern for a tent or dress–cut it straight. Let the Word speak for itself. Seek only the author’s intended message, so that God’s Word alone is heard and God’s people are truly fed.
In his closing months, Paul also wants to study God’s Word. He wants to feed on truth, commune with His master, look beyond the printed page into the face of Christ. And Paul desires to represent Christ and continue to feed others God’s Word. So Paul says, “Bring the books, especially the parchments.”
First Pursue BALANCE
Be aware of your physical and spiritual needs–body and spirit. It’s clear that any believer yearning to provide for their intellectual and spiritual needs (books and parchments) is not called upon by God to ignore their physical needs (the cloak).
Our world has gone nuts physically, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore physical needs, physical supplies and physical help. While we live on Earth, we have physical bodies. And support those in ministry at other churches–speak to elders about freeing up their supported leaders so they can minister unhindered.
Second SIMPLIFY your life and ministry
Learn to get along with less. AW Tozer writes about the blessedness of possessing nothing. Listen friends, anything you own that you can’t give away–you don’t own it, it owns you. Hold all you have with an open hand, never a closed fist. And never make anything more important than anyone.
Things are not eternal–only people are eternal. Do you value people more than things? And one of the keys is to own less, not more. Simplify your life. Purge your things. Give more, then get more. Acts 20:35b contains the words of the Lord Jesus, “‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
What and who do you love more? Look carefully at 1 John 2:15, where John makes a comparison between loving the world and loving the Father–if you love the world you will not love the Father. And if you love the Father more, it would seem you will love the world less. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
If there is less to love from the world in your life, it can actually aid you in loving the Lord more. Think about Paul with very few possessions. Consider the Lord Jesus owning very little. If our Lord owned little, if Paul owned little, maybe you and I should own less than what we do. Simplify.
Third TREASURE what is most important
Spend more time over the Word than over things. Spend more money on listening to the Word than listening to the world. Invest more effort into focusing on the Word than in focusing on the world. Purchase what you need, but invest your treasure into eternity.
Matthew 6:19 to 21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Second Corinthians 9:6 and 7, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Treasure that which is most important. Invest into eternity, give faithfully, stop clinging to the temporary and start investing into the eternal. Stop collecting that which is earthly and start giving to that which is heavenly.
Fourth Give THANKS for what the Lord has provided for you
Your heavenly Father has been so generous to you. Thank Him for His amazing provision, but make certain you seek His will, His Kingdom, His plans, His Word over yours. Matthew 6:31 to 33 says, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Give thanks for what the Lord has supplied to you–be specific–“Thanks for my bike.” But seek his Kingdom above all.
Fifth REPENT to receive the greatest gift
Would you be content with a cloak and a Bible? Do you desire things so you’re not distracted from your pursuit of Christ? Or do you desire money and material things for other reasons? Do you love the world more, or do you love Christ more? Is it obvious? What do your money and material things say you about your first love?
When Christ truly saves someone, they live for Christ, not for the things of this world. They love Christ more than money and material things. They realize this world is temporary and all that matters, all that lasts is Christ. Repent from your sin and turn to Christ in dependent faith. Let’s pray.