As a prisoner waiting to be sentenced to death, Paul reveals his various needs. In so doing, he reveals a godly and balanced perspective of human life.
Firstly, Paul refers to the cloak that he had left with Carpus in Troas (probably when he was arrested; v.13). With winter approaching when the nights could be bitterly cold, Paul requests that Timothy bring the cloak to keep him warm. As retired Presbyterian minister Gary Demarest reflects, “How comforting to know that this spiritual giant didn’t find any virtue in needless shivering!” The body must not be abused through extreme ascetic practices (self-denial) or indulged through sinful lifestyles. The “harsh treatment of the body” will produce ill-health rather than holiness, and is not a biblical prescription (Colossians 2:23).
The body must also not be allowed to become a slave to sin (Romans 6:12–13). Jesus taught that it is “better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:30). The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and must be consecrated as a living sacrifice in submission and service to the Lord (Romans 12:1). Secondly, Paul refers to his scrolls and parchments (v.13). These were probably books, writing material, and the Scriptures. Even in his final days, Paul wanted to meet his intellectual needs. There are two extremes to be avoided: anti-intellectualism and sterile intellectualism. Paul had a healthy and good mind that he used for God’s service. He read widely and deeply. Such reading brings useful knowledge, healing, and transformation.
Thirdly, Paul reveals his social needs. He needed friends in this crisis. Some, like Demas, had deserted him, while others were away on mission (v.10). Only his old and trusted friend Luke was with him (v.11). Paul wanted very much to see Timothy (v.9) and Mark (v.11). He had problems with Mark in the past (Acts 15:36–41), but was now reconciled with him. During his ministry, Paul had developed many deep friendships (cf. Romans 16, Colossians 4:7–18). Before his death, he longed to see some younger friends, perhaps to see that the gospel would continue to be preached faithfully and for mutual encouragement.
The most important need is dealt with in the next section.
Why are both extreme asceticism and the indulgence of the body unhelpful? How should Christians handle their bodies in a world saturated with physical pampering and addictions?
Review the various needs you have. How would you differentiate between legitimate needs and sinful wants? Are there needs you tend to neglect because of busyness, laziness, or distraction?