It appears that after Paul was released from prison in 62 AD, after his first Roman imprisonment, he traveled to Spain and then back east where he did missionary work in Crete and various cities around the Aegean Sea. Most scholars believe that Paul wrote 2 Timothy at the end of his last missionary journey, after which he traveled back to Rome and was again imprisoned. This suggests a date for this letter of about 67 AD. Paul wrote from prison this time and not house arrest. He wrote out of concern for both personal reasons and for the churches. On the one hand he was isolated in prison and feeling abandoned. He was aware he was soon to die and he was eager that Timothy get to him as soon as possible. On the other hand Paul was alarmed at just how quickly heresy and factionalism had grown in the churches. He sensed severe persecution was about to begin. He used this letter as a final occasion to exhort Timothy and other missionaries to be faithful in preaching, to oppose false doctrine and cultic teachers, and to promote genuine godliness among the churches. As you read look for hints about Paul’s loneliness, suffering and future martyrdom…and for his hymn of hope. Even as Paul suffered he continued his role as a mentor to Timothy. Paul encouraged him by offering him practical advice regarding his role and responsibilities as pastor-teacher. Here are three themes to look for as well. First there is encouragement to persevere. Paul encouraged Timothy to continue the mission of evangelism. He directed him to hold fast to the traditions he had received and set himself up as a model for Timothy to imitate. This letter teaches that the truth is not just something to believe but a path to follow. Second is reliance on the authority of scripture. Timothy had been trained from early childhood in the scriptures which helped him respond to the truth of Jesus Christ. Paul emphasized correct handling of scripture, it’s authority, and it’s importance in developing disciples capable of serving others. Third, a warning against false teachers. Paul warned Timothy about false teachers who stir up quarrels over senseless controversies and seek to deceive. They indulge in godless chatter, and propagate muddy theology. In contrast, the Lord’s servants are to hold to sound doctrine and avoid pointless quarrels. They are to be kind to everyone, promote sound doctrine and gently and patiently instruct opponents in the truth, rather then seeking to crush them. Back in a Roman prison Paul realized that he had reached the end of his race. His life, modeled on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was nearing its conclusion, so Paul commissioned his right hand man Timothy to carry on his work. When Paul died at the hands of the Romans he had composed this letter as his own epitaph and he empowered the church to carry on in his absence.
This letter to Timothy celebrates Christ’s resurrection and the life which results from it as the answer to the suffering and death of the godly. Paul’s own life demonstrated this hope. The thanksgiving and prayers are standard sections of Paul’s letters and he reminds Timothy that he serves with a clear conscience. Paul knows he has been obedient to his call from the Lord. It doesn’t take long for Paul to urge Timothy to come visit. He knows his time is short and Timothy held a special place in Paul’s heart. He also reminded Timothy that if he remains faithful, suffering is almost certainly guaranteed, so Paul wrote to strengthen his resolve. Paul spoke of Timothy’s faith, here meaning his Christian faith, but Paul also knew Timothy had a rich heritage in his Jewish roots as well thanks to his mother and grandmother. But they too had put down Christian roots which they passed along to Timothy. The Spirit’s work is not automatic. It must be cultivated and the spiritual gift Timothy received is the Holy Spirit’s enabling Timothy’s ministry. Paul and the elders had laid hands on Timothy and ordained him for ministry. And when you read verse seven, these words are for us as well. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in each one of us. We are not to be fearful or timid in sharing the gospel with others. We have the Spirit’s power in us. We have been lavished with the love of Jesus Christ. And we have an example in both Jesus, and Paul of what self discipline looks like. Verse eight really sums up the letter, and Paul’s life. Timothy would experience suffering both in coming to Rome and in his subsequent ministry as Paul’s successor. Paul underscores the importance of obedience and strengthens Timothy for that. Here Paul interchanges God and Jesus in the role of Savior. He has also linked salvation and godliness. Everything we receive in Jesus Christ we have not earned nor do we deserve it. But out of His boundless love, Jesus has given us incredible gifts when we really deserved condemnation and the full measure of God’s wrath. All of this was God’s plan from the very beginning. Salvation is completely removed from human merit and located exclusively in the gracious working of God. Jesus Christ is God’s gift of grace. Salvation is provided by Christ but it’s effects are mediated through the proclamation of the Good News.
Paul had complete confidence as he faced his own death and it was an example for Timothy to follow. That which Paul had entrusted to Timothy was either the Good News that had been entrusted to Paul that he had passed along or, Paul’s life and ministry that he had committed to God. He cautioned Timothy to guard the Good News as well and faithfully proclaim it, preventing false teachers from distorting it. Chapter one ends with Paul giving Timothy examples, both good and bad, of what being faithful looks like. For just a brief moment we see Paul’s humanity. He tells Timothy everyone had deserted him. This may have happened in Rome or when he was arrested in the province of Asia. He may well have seen this as yet another way in which his life looked like Jesus’. The two mentioned in verse 15 are mentioned only here and nothing is known about them except they deserted Paul. They may have been church leaders who sided with Paul’s opponents.
Chapter two begins with Paul once again exhorting Timothy to be strong and to endure suffering along with him. Timothy’s obedience should be motivated by reflecting on the Good News and on Paul’s example. Many reliable witnesses would confirm the validity and veracity of Paul’s teaching, and Timothy is called to not only preach the Good News but to entrust it to people who are also faithful. In rapid fire sequence verses 4-7 find Paul quoting maxims about single minded struggling and laboring. Paul reminds again that his life and suffering reflects the life and suffering of Jesus Christ and he points to the cross and resurrection as the meaning of the Good News. He teaches that Jesus, who was a descendant of King David was raised from the dead and suffering with Christ should be viewed from the perspective of the resurrection to come. Jesus was treated like a common criminal and Paul was as well. But Paul would bevictorious through the power of Christ’s resurrection. Christ remains faithful even when we are not. Perhaps this means He allows those who have stumbled, an opportunity for repentance. It could mean He faithfully judges unbelievers in accord with His unchanging will. He Himself is an example for His people to follow. Jesus will faithfully accomplish His purposes in history, to save those who trust Him through the Good News. Paul insists that Timothy teach 2:8-13 and steer clear of the teaching and conduct of the false teachers. The talk of the false teachers was spreading like gangrene and Paul was concerned. Hymenaeus was earlier teamed with Alexander and both of them were still wreaking havoc. They had become false teachers, claiming the resurrection had already come. They have twisted Paul’s own teachings on the resurrection of the dead by teaching they have already participated in the heavenly life and perhaps physical resurrection would not occur. There are several other options the false teachers were using but what ever it was, Paul dismissed them as teaching worthless and foolish talk.
Paul assured Timothy that the false teaching will not win and he again reinforced the call to purity. God’s truth is like a foundation stone. This is meant to assure Timothy and the church in Ephesus that the Good News is immune to destruction. All who belong to the Lord, the believers, are cautioned to stay away from evil. Paul moved from the foundation to utensils that one would find in the home of the wealthy. Within God’s household one should endeavor to be like a utensil that is cherished rather than one that is treated with contempt. Believers are to pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Servants of the Lord are not to argue or quarrel but be kind to everyone, even those who are not kind to us. Gently guide and correct and maybe they will come to their senses Paul believed.
There will be difficult times at the end, but by the time Paul was in prison again, the persecution under Nero was heating up. Paul knew it was going to get bad. The first five verses in chapter three detail what the bad at the end would look like. From people being focused solely on themselves and their money, to scoffing at God and being disobedient, to cruelty, hate, and pride, these are the signs of the end times. Believers and especially Timothy are called to avoid these people at all costs. Paul is constantly worried about the effects of the false teachers on both households and women. Whether or not they targeted women, it seems like they were successful with some of them. And according to tradition, Jannes and Jambres are the names of the Egyptian sorcerers who opposed Moses. Paul reminded Timothy of what and how he taught and encouraged Timothy to do the same. Timothy was from Lystra, near Antioch and Iconium so he was well aware of what Paul had suffered there. It was in Lystra that Paul was stoned, dragged out of town and left for dead. It was after these acts that Timothy was recruited. In spite of the challenges and suffering Paul kept his faith in Jesus and the Lord rescued him. God would accomplish His purposes through His faithful servant Paul. Again Paul brought upTimothy’s mother and grandmother, reminding him that they were the ones who provided his education in the Old Testament scriptures and because he trusted them, he knew their teachings to be true. These gave him the wisdom to receive Jesus Christ and in turn Jesus is needed to fully understand the Old Testament scriptures.
The fact that scripture is inspired by God, literally God breathed, does not negate the active involvement of human authors. But it does affirm that God is fully responsible for His Word. Scripture is true, reliable, authoritative, permanent, and powerful because it comes from God Himself. It’s message is coherent, and it is consistent in its testimony about Jesus Christ. That means it has the power to bring salvation and elicit faith. It must not be abused as the false teachers had been doing but it must be taught properly. As a consequence of inspiration, all scripture is useful. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are together our guide and teacher in life. Paul makes it clear that salvation results in godliness and that scripture is used to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.
Chapter four is Paul’s charge to Timothy. He charges him in the presence of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is God who will one day judge the living and the dead. Timothy is to preach the Word of God. He is to be always prepared. He is to patiently correct believers who stray, rebuke those who are blatant sinners, and encourage the believers with good teaching.In effect, Paul is handing over the mantle of leadership to Timothy. He needs to be alert and ready to preach God’s Word. Sound teaching is essential for spiritual maturity, but will not always be tolerated. There will be a time when people seek out teachers to tell them what they want to hear and what makes them feel good. People will turn their ears to avoid the truth. This is the sixth time in this short letter that Paul has used the word truth. And he used it five times in his first letter to Timothy. As Paul faced execution he seemed to be concerned that the false teachers would get to Timothy and he would be tempted to depart from the truth. Paul pictured his death as a drink offering that is poured out to God. Again this offering participates in Christ’s own sacrifice. Paul’s life was already being poured out in service to Jesus Christ. But he was also confident that no one could touch him until his Heavenly Father ushered him into his eternal home with a victory celebration.
Paul had been vigilant in his service to God. Notice that Paul didn’t make these comments until the end of his race, as he was about to die. He didn’t presume or rely on his past service. Instead Paul persevered, struggled, and served God until the end. Paul also understood the eternal potential of a lifetime of faithful service to Christ. Jesus would return with rewards for those who stick it out over the long haul. The crown of righteousness was a special reward given to those who serve God faithfully on this earth. There will be as many crowns as there are runners who finish the race well. And those who are waiting for His appearing are those believers in Christ who have lived faithfully in the hope of His return. Paul asked for Timothy to come to Rome as soon as he could, knowing his time was short. And Paul needed his cloak so he could keep warm in the dark and dank jail cell. The only person with Paul was Luke. Everyone else had deserted him. Some returned to life in the world and others were on their own missionary journeys. Paul also asked that Mark come to him. This is John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas who had left Paul early on. This is a story of redemption and forgiveness. It appears that Tychicus was headed to Ephesus to take over for Timothy so he could go to Rome. The papers Paul asked for could have been scriptures, personal notes, letters addressed to Paul, copies of Paul’s own letters, and other Christian and Jewish materials. Alexander in verse 14 is most likely the same Alexander from 1 Timothy. The harm done was more than just opposing Paul. He may well have had a hand in Paul’s arrest.
A Roman trial was divided into three parts: an initial trial or hearing, a preliminary investigation, and the trial itself. Paul was most likely referring to the first of these three. It also sounds like in this first hearing God gave him the strength, the words, and the opportunity to preach the Good News to those in the courtroom. Paul was faithful until he drew his last breath. Paul turned his defense into proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, just like before. He acknowledged that God had rescued him from the lions. Think Daniel and the lions den here. One of the punishments for capital crimes was being taken into the arena and set over and against the lions. However, Roman citizens were exempted from this. Lions here could have also referred to the emperor, the false teachers, or to the evil one. Paul contrasts God’s kingdom where glory is with the earthly kingdom that was about to pass judgement on him. But he ends here with a doxology, giving all the glory to God. As always Paul sent a list of greetings to those whom he had ministered to and with, and asked again that Timothy come before winter set in. Winter closed travel across the Adriatic Sea between November and March and Paul would freeze in prison without his coat. The last verse is phrased somewhat uniquely, perhaps to emphasize what had already been said earlier. By praying for God’s grace for all of them this indicates the letter would be read publicly. We do not know if Timothy made it to Rome before Paul was beheaded but he wasn’t completely alone. The good doctor Luke was with him to the end.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W