by Darrell C. Porter
“…the books especially the parchments…” 2Tim 4:13
The apostle Paul, note-worthy for writing over half the New Testament, was well learned before his conversion to Christ. Afterwards, and throughout his ministry, it is apparent that he took much pleasure in reading Godly literature.
Recently, in “The Christian and His Books” writers Rob Ventura & Jack Buckly wrote:
“Christianity is, as one has rightly observed, “…a religion — not only of one Book, the Bible –but of books.” Standing infinitely above all others, the Bible is the only book that is God breathed and infallible. It is our only inerrant and final authority for what we must believe and how we must live. Yet, while in no way diminishing this truth, we also believe that there are many other good books from which Christians can greatly benefit. Both should have their proper places in the redeemed’s reading regimen.”
The Wide Range of Good Christian Books
A good Christian book can, in so many ways, help you better understand the truths of God’s Word. Good Christian books can range all the way from empirical Bible study tools to historical, biographical, devotional writings, books on marriage and family, teens and youth, books on Christians in business, politics, sports, arts and more.
Reading absorbs the mind in truths based on God’s Word. The Holy Bible itself is the living core of all Christian literature. Therefore, a good Christian book can be a gleaming treasure house of riches to the mind and heart. It stirs the reader to reflect more deeply on things that pertain to both God and His personal and integral relationship with us in this world as well as the one to come.
Protecting the Church from Error
The apostle Peter wanted to protect the Christian from those who would try to distort God’s Word and lead them away from His truth. To do so he charged them, in 2Pe 3:18, to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” This was not a mere suggestion on his part. It was an imperative command. He literally orders the Christian believer to be constantly growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The command is so that they will never be static or stagnant in their faith. Instead, they will always be growing. Here, the apostle here lays out a two-fold remedy against error. First, the believer is ever to be enriching and develping his Christian life. Second, he is to be found continually growing in both intellect and the heart knowledge of their Lord and Savior.
Driving home this point, as he commented on Ephesians 4, Sinclair Ferguson, in his booklet, “Read Any Good Books?”, wrote:
“Even those who are dead may yet speak to you and by their expositions of God’s truth help forge you into the kind of man or woman that was produced in early days by their living testimony and ministry.
Christ’s Literary Treasures to His Church
It is note-worthy that Christ has given these treasures to the Church from the beginning. We’d do well to enrich ourselves by this grace, and make devoted use of these inspiring works. Books that are faithful to that living core, the Holy Bible, are given for our good and for the spiritual increase of God’s people.
When one’s days are near to an end what treasures will you want to have near you? For sure it is that which has nurtured you. That which has filled you with hope and comfort, and has helped you along life’s pathways.
Paul felt this way. He knew his last days were near. He was as a man sitting silently on death row. Yet what did his soul desire as far as this world’s possessions go?
Surprised are we to discover, in 2 Timothy 4:13, that the apostle’s parting request to Timothy, his beloved son in the faith, was that he “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come–and the books, especially the parchments.”
Knowing that the time of his departure from this life is close, and that he is about to receive that blessed gain of entering into the glory of his Lord Jesus Christ, he yet says there are a few worldly treasures near and dear to him. These included “the books, especially the parchments.”
What specifically were these literary treasures? It’s very likely they were the scrolls on which Paul wrote to the different individuals and to the churches. Some of his letters were divinely inspired writings, we call epistles, and which now comprise part of our New Testament Bibles.
The Books Paul Read
But what about the books? Some scholars suggest these were Latin or Greek works or, perhaps, Hebrew commentaries of his day, called Targums. In either case the passage plainly reveals that Paul was a man or reading, even to his last days.
Charles Spurgeon’s comments on this passage are memorable:
“Even an apostle must read…. Paul is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching for at least 30 years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, “Give thyself unto reading.”
Calvin sounds a harmonious note in his commentary on this passage. He writes:
“It is evident from this, that the apostle had not given over reading, though he was already preparing for death. Where are those who think that they have made so great progress that they do not need any more exercise? Which of them will dare to compare himself with Paul? Still more does this expression refute the madness of those who–despising books, and condemning all reading–boast of nothing but their own divine inspirations. But let us know that this passage gives to all believers a recommendation of constant reading, that they may profit by it.”
Yes, Paul was a reader. If we take up his charge to follow him as he followed Christ, we will likewise envelope the treasures of Christian books and be enriched by them. The Spirit of God surely had His reasons for imparting these inspired words to us.
Comfort comes to those who consume the Word of God. The habit of reading it and writings based on the Scriptures offers spiritual wealth, wisdom and comfort. Even in the face of death, such is a well of life.
Writing from his cold, wet cell before his exectuion, William Tyndale begged the governor of Vilvorde Castle for a warmer cap and cloak, a woolen shirt, but “most of all my Hebrew Bible, Grammar and vocabulary, that I may spend my time in that pursuit.”
Where else is their greater treasures than in the comfort of the Holy Scriptures?