2 TIMOTHY 1:1-7
Paul wrote this letter to Timothy from prison in Rome. He was released from the imprisonment we read about it Acts. He did more missionary work. Then he was arrested again. He was eventually executed.
Eusebius wrote in his book, Church History, that Nero executed Paul. If Eusebius was correct, Paul had to write the book before 68 A.D., the end of Nero’s reign. Nero’s persecution of Christians became intense in 64 A.D. Many people think this letter was written in 64 or 65 A.D.
Paul and Timothy had a very strong relationship. Paul thought of him as a son. Timothy travelled with Paul, served with him, took care of him during his first imprisonment in Rome, carried messages from Paul to churches and, ultimately, was sent by Paul to the church in Ephesus to lead it. 1 Timothy 1:3. This letter is likely from Paul in prison in Rome to Timothy in Ephesus.
1 Timothy 1:1-2
Paul referred to himself as an apostle of Christ by the will of God. (1) The apostles were special. God chose them and called them. Jesus told the Twelve: “You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you…” John 15:16. Paul’s conversion and appointment was a dramatic act of the Lord, not a volunteering by Paul. In fact, Paul (Saul) persecuted the church until the dramatic appearance of Christ in Acts 9. The Lord told Ananias about Paul “…he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles…” Acts 9:15.
Paul’s apostleship was to preach the gospel. Here in 2 Timothy he calls in the “promise of life that is in Christ Jesus”. In Acts 13:26, he said the message of salvation had been given to him to preach.
In verse 2, Paul called Timothy his “beloved child”. Paul and Timothy had a father-son relationship. Paul loved Timothy dearly: he called him “beloved”. In 1 Corinthians 4:17 he called Timothy his beloved and faithful child. In Philippians 2:22 he said Timothy served him as a son serves a father.
Paul thanked God for Timothy. He prayed for him day and night. (3) That is a good example for us. We all have friends. We do not see them all the time. But we can pray for them all the time. You like to get an email or note that says someone prayed for you. So do the same for others.
2 Timothy 1:3-14
Paul longed to see Timothy. He knew it would fill him with joy to see Timothy again. (4) Timothy must have felt the same way about Paul. Paul remembered his tears, probably when Paul sent him off to Ephesus and they were parted. So we see here that Paul is a real person. He got lonely. He needed support. He missed his younger friend and longed to see him before he died. He may have been a super apostle, but it was not without cost. He loved. He suffered.
Paul also used his greeting to encourage Timothy. First, he commended Timothy’s faith as “sincere”. (5) He had proved his sincerity by sticking with Paul through adversity and through faithfully fulfilling the assignments Paul gave him.
Paul also reminded Timothy of his heritage of faith. He mentioned Timothy’s grandmother and his mother, saying he knew their strong faith resided in Timothy as well. You may take comfort and strength from this as well. I often think of my grandmother, who had only a few years of education, but who never missed church, knew her Bible and passed on her faith to her children and grandchildren.
Paul wanted Timothy to know he thought well of him. He wanted Timothy to know he had a strong heritage and a strong personal faith to stand on as did Paul. Then he moved on to give specific encouragement.
Timothy evidently had the gift of preaching. The gift was given by God. This gift was given to Timothy when Paul laid hands on him. Paul compared it to hot coals ready to catch fire. He said Timothy needed to fan it into flame.
Here we get an idea that Timothy, despite his faithfulness, might have been timid. Paul told him in verse seven not to be timid or fearful, for God gave us a spirit that was not fearful, but a spirit of power and love and self control. The Revised Standard Version and the New American Standard Bible say “timidity” rather than fearful. Paul recognized Timothy’s gift and wanted him to use it boldly.
Because God gave Timothy the spirit of power, not fear, Paul told him not to be ashamed of the gospel or of Paul. (8) Many had turned against Paul. They were ashamed of him. In verse 15, he said “all who are in Asia turned away from me”. Can you imagine the pain of that? Paul preached the gospel to them. He started their churches. He taught them. Then, when he went to prison for the gospel, they abandoned him. Was it because they did not want to be put in prison also? Was it an opportunity to take over control? Imagine having invested your life in people who abandoned you when you needed them the most.
That is the way it goes, though. Jesus experienced it. The Twelve abandoned him when he was arrested. He told his disciples they would experience the same. He said “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my sake.” Matthew 24:9. He also said “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you….If they persecuted me, the will also persecute you.” John 15:18
Paul knew Timothy would take flak for being Paul’s protégé. He told him to stand his ground and not shrink back in fear or timidity because of that. Paul also knew persecution had begun and would get worse. He admonished Timothy not be to ashamed of the gospel. Rather he was to be ready to suffer for the gospel by the power of God. (8)
The gospel normally takes hold through suffering. We preach the gospel. We suffer for it. People believe it. This was the story of the early church. The church suffered until Rome broke under the weight of it. The Reformation was brought about by a return to the preaching of justification through faith and suffering for it. Men were killed for preaching the gospel in almost every country in Europe. Luther lived in hiding for years for his preaching. Calvin left France for Geneva to avoid death. The French slaughtered hundreds of Huguenots. The English garroted and burned men alive for translating the Bible into English and preaching the gospel. The Catholic Scots beheaded Protestants and displayed their heads or sent them to their families.
Pastors in China today vanish or go to jail. Muslims bombed a church in Nigeria recently. Christians in Iraq are bombed, beaten and killed now that the control of Saddam Hussein has been removed. Iran hangs believers. Christians in Afghanistan have lost their church buildings and live in fear of death. Indonesian churches are bombed and burned.
Yet, Christ calls us to stand for him in the face of persecution. Jesus said “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23. That is a scary verse. But verse 26 is even scarier. He said “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
Paul was always able to launch into a little sermon about the gospel at any given time. Here he did it describing God in verse 9. He described both God the Father and God the Son.
First, Paul saved us and called us to a holy calling. He did not do this because of our works. In Ephesians 2:9, he said it is not the result of works so that no one may boast. Isaiah said “…all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment”. (Isaiah 64:6) Titus 3:5 says “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…” Our works can never save us.
Much of the Bible was written to point this out to us. God created Adam with a free will and no sin nature. He placed him in a perfect place. He gave him a wife. He walked with them daily. Yet, they rejected God and chose to elevate themselves. God created the nation of Israel, redeemed it from slavery in Egypt, made a covenant with them and blessed them. Yet they rejected him in favor of gods of stone and wood.
Rather, God saved us because of his own purpose and grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began. (9) It might humble you a little to reflect on the fact that God saved you for his own purpose, not just for your sake. There are larger things going on than your life. God has a purpose in this creation and in humanity.
What was that purpose? That is a big discussion. But, we start with the simple proposition that God created humanity for God’s glory. He made Adam in God’s image. He was to rule the earth as God’s representative. He was to reflect the glorious character of God. He was to spread the knowledge and glory of God over all the earth. Paul portrayed Jesus the Second Adam because he accomplished what Adam failed to do.
God chose and created Israel for the same purpose. In Isaiah 43:7, God referred to his people as: “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made”.
God chose us, we who believe, before the foundation of the world, to be holy. (Ephesians 1:4) That is, he chose us and saved us to reflect his glory. He is holy. He says be holy as I am holy. He is saying because he is holy, we must be holy to reflect his nature and bring glory to him. (1 Peter 1:15-16) We are to reflect his glory of holiness. Romans 8:29 says “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” The result is the “praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6). When we live holy lives, we reflect God’s perfect nature and bring glory to him. This is our holy calling (8).
We are to spread his glory over all the earth, just like Adam. Psalm 37:29 says “The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever”. Jesus told his disciples to make disciples in all nations. Matthew 28:19.
And what is the picture of eternal life at the end of the Revelation? It is a new earth, made like the Garden of Eden, over which the glory of God is permanently manifested. Revelation 21:23 describes it this way: “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and its lamp is the Lamb (Jesus).”
In other words, we were not saved because we did good things. We were saved because it was God’s purpose to save us and he did it through his grace. He planned this all before the world began, but later manifested it when Christ appeared. So, to an extent, Paul was speaking of God’s election of believers. God knew what he was going to do for us before he made any of us.
Next Paul described God the Son. (10) He, Christ, abolished death and gave us eternal life. This is the heart of the gospel. Christ through his death on our behalf brought eternal life to those who believe in him. Jesus said it this way: “For God so loved the world (or God loved the world this way), that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. (John 3:16)
This is the message of the gospel Christ appointed Paul to preach (11). This gospel is the reason he was persecuted. (12) He suffered terribly. Yet, Paul was not ashamed. He said this in his introduction to the book of Romans: “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16. The gospel is the only message for salvation.
In verse 12 (2 Timothy 1:12), Paul stated the reason he was not ashamed, the reason he did not back away from the gospel when he was persecuted. The reason was that he trusted Christ to preserve him and the gospel. He said this in verse 12: “for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (ESV) Other versions say “what I have entrusted to him”, and the hymn you know is written for that translation because it is based on the KJV. However, the context here and later in the letter is Timothy’s guarding the gospel that was entrusted to him as it was to Paul. Paul will later tell Timothy to entrust the gospel to other faithful men as it was entrusted to him. It is the same idea of Paul’s saying he was made a steward of the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).
Christ entrusted the gospel to Paul, then to Timothy, then to us. We are pretty weak. We do not spend enough time concentrating on what the Bible says. Many redefine the gospel. But Paul says God is able to guard the gospel, to keep it undefiled. He has many times brought revival or reformation to accomplish that. He raised up men and women who read the Bible and cry out against those who have corrupted its message.
So, in verses 13-14, Paul exhorted Timothy to guard that deposit of the gospel. He could do this by the power of the Holy Spirit. As can we.