While Paul the Apostle served as the human author of at least two other Biblical books that follow 2 Timothy, it is generally agreed that 2 Timothy is the last New Testament letter Paul ever wrote.
Tradition holds that Timothy served as a Bishop in the city of Ephesus during the latter half of the first century. He was also someone who worked closely with Paul as evidenced by the mention of his name in the New Testament books of Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and Philemon.
Nevertheless, there are a few mysteries that surround the circumstances of this letter. We can unravel a few of those mysteries with a look at the events of Paul’s life beginning around A.D. 63. You see, the Biblical book of Acts reports that Paul was under house arrest within the city of Rome during that period. However, it also appears that Paul was later released from detention and resumed his missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire.
Shortly thereafter, the city of Rome was devastated by a catastrophic fire in July, A.D. 64. Ancient historians tell us that The Great Fire Of Rome burned out of control within the city for almost a week. The fire was then subdued for a period of time but later broke out again in other areas and eventually destroyed large portions of the city.
This disaster inflicted great social and economic devastation upon the people of that area. It also plunged Roman leadership into a politically difficult position. To help deflect responsibility for this disaster, the Roman Emperor Nero elected to place the blame for the fire upon the members of the Christian church. That led to what has come to be known as the “The Neronian Persecutions,” the first large scale governmental action ever taken against the Christian community.
Since the letter of 2 Timothy indicates that Paul was imprisoned during the writing of this letter, it appears that he had been re-arrested following the events that took place in A.D. 64. As Paul will later indicate within this letter, he was fully aware that his execution was fast approaching. This, along with the conditions that likely accompanied his imprisonment, serve to account for the solemn and serious tone of this letter.
We’ll take a look at the environment conditions that Paul likely experienced as he awaited his fate in prison and see how those conditions may have impacted his message to Timothy next.
The Mamertine Prison of Rome was an ancient penal institution that had been used as a penitentiary for centuries prior to the events that led to the Neronian Persecutions. According to church tradition, this was the place where Paul the Apostle spent his final days prior to his execution in or around the year A.D. 67 .
The Mamertine Prison was essentially an underground dungeon for those condemned to die. It was a cold, damp place of incarceration with no windows or external light. A small opening in the ceiling allowed food to be dropped to the inmates who were confined below. The only amenities given to a prisoner were those that were brought by others who came to visit- if there were any.
If this traditional belief regarding Paul’s imprisonment is accurate, these were the conditions that reflected the harsh reality of daily existence for Paul the Apostle as the end of his life drew near. With these things in mind, it becomes easier to understand and appreciate some of Paul’s final words from this letter…
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6).
“Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13).
“Be diligent to come to me quickly… Do your utmost to come before winter” (2 Timothy 4:9, 21).
One Pastoral author offers a vivid description of this period of the great apostle’s life…
“If you were to visit the Mamertine prison in Rome today, you would appreciate the weight of every word in this letter. In the lower level of that prison there is a dungeon where it is believed the Romans held the Apostle Paul. The way he was chained amounted to continuous torture. That dungeon was a foul-smelling, horrible place to be incarcerated. It was reserved for Rome’s most hated prisoners.
Under these conditions, it is a mystery how Paul was able to write his second letter to Timothy and get it out of the prison. Everyone, it seems, deserted Paul, except an old man named Onesiphorus and Paul’s beloved physician, Luke. It may be Onesiphorus or Luke was able to smuggle this letter out. Paul certainly could not have written it with his own hand; he must have dictated it. As you read these last words of Paul, never forget the context of that horrible prison…” (1)
These conditions will serve as the backdrop for our look at the Biblical letter of 2 Timothy.
(1) Dick Woodward, Mini Bible College Study Booklet #14 Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus and Philemon (p. 36).
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:1).
As we open our study of the Biblical book of 2 Timothy, it’s important to note how Paul the Apostle began this letter: “From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…” (NET).
This tells us that Paul did not win his position through personal effort. He did not secure his role as an Apostle by virtue of his skills or talents. Paul did not inherit this responsibility nor was it conferred upon him by a human agency. Instead, Paul’s calling came through the sovereign will of God. That calling will serve as the foundation for all that follows within this letter.
This greeting is also in keeping with several of Paul’s other New Testament letters…
“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle…” (Romans 1:1).
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God…” (1 Corinthians 1:1).
“Paul, an apostle– sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father…” (Galatians 1:1 NIV).
Since Timothy was surely aware of Paul’s Apostolic authority, this may indicate that Paul intended this letter to reach a larger audience right from the beginning. Thus, other readers would benefit from a reminder that God had ordained Paul to speak with authority as His commissioned representative.
We should also note that Paul referred to “…the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus” in this introduction. This serves to illustrate the balanced teaching that characterized Paul’s message of salvation in Christ. For instance, compare this statement with a portion of Paul’s message to the church in the ancient city of Corinth…
“Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction” (2 Corinthians 13:10).
While Paul undoubtedly preferred to edify his listeners with “…the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,” he did not neglect to use his authority for corrective purposes when necessary. We’ll see another example of this balanced approach later in 2 Timothy chapter two…
“…a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
“To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day” (2 Timothy 1:2-3).
These introductory verses contain three important elements that are worthy of our attention. Two of those elements are common to Paul the Apostle’s other New Testament letters while the final example is unique to the letters of 1 and 2 Timothy.
The first among these elements is grace. “Grace” involves God’s unmerited favor towards undeserving members of the human family. It also expresses His benevolence towards individual human beings without regard to the talents, capabilities, possessions, or social standing they possess.
The next element is mercy, a Pauline greeting that is exclusive to the Biblical letters of 1 and 2 Timothy. While justice may be defined as “getting what you deserve,” the qualities of compassion, good will, and kindness help reflect a merciful attitude towards others.
Finally, we have the concept of “peace,” a word that is generally defined by a sense of contentment and/or well being. It also reflects the absence of external hostilities or internal conflicts like anxiety or insecurity. While this may often seem elusive, we can find genuine peace in a relationship with God through faith in Christ…
“…since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
Paul then went on to make a seemingly unusual declaration: “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did” (CSB). This is an interesting statement from the self-proclaimed “chief of sinners,” and a man who once made the following admission: “…you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13).
We can reconcile these messages with a look at an excerpt from another of Paul’s Biblical letters…
“…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Since Paul had become a new creation in Christ, he was subsequently free to serve God with a clear conscience. The same is true for those come to God through faith in Christ today. Like Paul. the mistakes, bad decisions, and shameful things of the past have passed away in Christ, thus freeing us to serve Him with a clear conscience. As 1 John 1:9 reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
“Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy” (2 Timothy 1:4).
God-honoring men and women are sometimes caricatured as cold, unemotional human beings. However, that does not reflect the example set by the Apostle Paul. Unlike such parodies, Paul could easily demonstrate his feelings as evidenced by his admission in the passage quoted above. One author comments on this display of genuine emotion and considers the circumstances that may have prompted it…
“Such was the love of Christians for each other that strong men, in the face of danger and death to loved ones, openly wept; and there are a number of examples of this in the New Testament… Many speculations regarding the occasion of Timothy’s tears are left in the air by the brevity of the New Testament narrative. Some think Paul was remembering the occasion at Lystra when he was stoned; others just as logically suppose that he might have been remembering the occasion of his arrest by the imperial government. We can never know exactly.” (1)
Paul then went on to say…
“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5).
This implies that Timothy’s godly upbringing and the impact of other God-honoring family members exerted a positive influence upon his faith. Another source considers the family dynamics that contributed to Timothy’s spiritual growth and draws an important lesson for today…
“Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5) was Jewish, but apparently her father was not very orthodox: he violated one of the clear commands of the Law in arranging a match for his daughter with a Gentile (Acts 16:1). Later, when Timothy was born, he wasn’t circumcised (16:3). So it seems that neither Eunice’s father nor husband were observant of Judaism. But Eunice was. Paul praised her for her ‘genuine faith,’ which she shared in common with Lois, her mother (2 Tim. 1:5). Eunice imparted that faith to her son, Timothy, and more than anyone else equipped him for a lifetime of usefulness for God.
Eunice is an encouragement for every woman faced with the daunting task of nurturing the spiritual life of her children, especially if she can’t count on the help of a strong male. Eunice may have had no formal religious education and little encouragement from her family, except for Lois. But she had two crucial things going for her that offer hope for mothers today—the inherent power of being a mother and the dynamic power of a loving God.” (2)
(1) Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on 2 Timothy 1”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/2-timothy-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
(2) Word in life study Bible. (1996). (electronic ed., 2 Ti 1:5). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).
The word “therefore” should alert us to the need to pay attention whenever we encounter it within the Scriptures. You see, this word signals a transition from an earlier teaching or idea to an action (or list of actions) that build upon the foundation the author has established. In this instance, Timothy’s “genuine faith” (verse five) served as the foundation for verse six where Paul the Apostle encouraged him to put his God-given gift to use.
This involved “stirring up” that gift, a word-picture that invokes the image of a smoldering campfire, fireplace, or wood-burning stove. Just as the glowing embers of a fire can be stoked into flame, Timothy was similarly encouraged to “stir up” his gift and make use of it. We can turn to several other illustrations to underscore this idea.
For instance, we may lose the ability to communicate fluently in various languages if we fail to use those languages regularly. A muscle may atrophy if it is not put to use. A mechanical device, electronic component, or piece of machinery may fail to operate if left idle for long periods. Such is the price of allowing such assets to fall into disuse.
In light of this, Paul was diligent to remind Timothy to utilize the gift that God had imparted to him. In a similar manner, we also serve as stewards of the gifts, skills, talents, and abilities that God has given us. Like Timothy, we have a similar obligation to “stir up” those qualities in service to Him.
We can view these gifts as resources that God has given us to invest- and much like the servants in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, we are responsible to invest those resources in a God-honoring manner…
“This reminds us that God does not work His gifts through us as if we were robots. Even when He gives a man or a woman gifts, He leaves an element that needs the cooperation of their will, of their desire and drive, to fulfill the purpose of His gifts… Some are waiting passively for God to use them; but God is waiting for them to stir up the gifts that are within them. Some are waiting for some dramatic new anointing from God, and God is waiting for them to stir up what He has already given.” (1)
We’ll take a closer look at the word “gift” in the context of this passage over our next two studies.
(1) David Guzik, 2 Timothy 1 – A Spirit Of Boldness https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/2-timothy-1/
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6 ESV).
In the context of 2 Timothy 1:6, the word “gift” is associated with a supernatural empowerment that finds its origin in the will of God. Such gifts enable us to serve others and help fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.
Consider Paul the Apostle’s message on this subject from the New Testament book of Romans…
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8 NIV).
While some may associate “spiritual gifts” with the visibly miraculous, Romans 12:6-8 tells us that such gifts are often revealed in the ordinary responsibilities of everyday life.
We can take the first step in identifying the spiritual gifts that God has given us by simply asking Him in prayer. As we’re told in the New Testament book of James…
“If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it” (James 1:5 TLB).
We might also take note of any areas of interest that may serve to indicate God’s direction for our lives. For instance, are you a “take charge” person? Then perhaps you have the gift of leadership as mentioned in Romans 12. Do you empathize with others when they are feeling down? Then you may have the gift of mercy or encouragement. Do you like to work behind the scenes to get things done? Then you may have the give of helps mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28.
Do you excel at management and direction? If so, you may possess the gift of administration, also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28. Are you generous with your time and resources? Then you may have the gift of giving spoken of in Romans 12:8.
Finally, we might ask other Godly men and women to help identify our gifts. If God is exercising His gifts within our lives, others will be certain to notice and confirm them.
“Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6 HCSB).
As we close our look at the subject of spiritual gifts from this passage, we can turn our attention to another portion of Scripture from the New Testament book of 1 Peter…
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV).
These verses offer a good opportunity to review a series of questions that can help identify our gifts and discern God’s call upon our lives. For instance…
- Do you notice things that aren’t being done or could be done better? Do you see areas of ministry that are not apparent to others? What could you do to help in those areas?
- What are the things that burden or concern you? Is there anything that prevents you from acting upon those burdens and concerns? What steps have you taken to address those obstacles?
- What drives you, animates you, energizes you, or makes you feel as if you’ve accomplished something of value after you’ve completed it? How might you put that enthusiasm to use in God’s service?
- What would you do even if no one noticed? What kind of work would you perform even if no one paid you to do it? How would you invest your time and resources even if no one cared enough to support those investments?
The answers to these questions can often be useful in identifying our God-given gifts and helping us fulfill the work that God has given us. And even if we can’t immediately answer these questions, we can pray and ask God to provide His guidance and direction in those areas.
Remember, the time is always right to do great things for God in the daily routines of life. Those who desire to do something genuinely meaningful with their existence and seek to have an eternal impact upon this world can start today by using the talents, skills, abilities, and gifts that God has invested within them.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
One source defines the word “spirit” in this passage as “…the human personality under the Spirit’s influence as in 1 Cor 4:21; Gal 6:1; 1 Pet 3:4.” (1) Another commentary expands upon this idea with the following insight…
“in Greek ‘spirit of’ often meant simply ‘attitude of.’ The exhortation not to be afraid was one of the most prominent biblical assurances from God (e.g., Gen_26:24; Jer_1:8) and was a customary expression of assurance from others as well (Gen_43:23).” (2)
Nevertheless, we should acknowledge that different types of fear exist, some of which are healthy and others that are not. For instance, a healthy type of fear is one that considers the negative consequences that might arise from a particular course of action and responds in a Godly manner. Jesus also reminded us that a positive type of fear reflects an element of respect…
“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5).
On the other hand, unhealthy fears are often reflected in a “…spirit of timidity” (RSV) as mentioned here in 2 Timothy 1:7. This passage also brings to mind a well-known portion of Scripture from the New Testament book of Philippians…
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
While it may be easy to talk about fear in an abstract manner, it is much more difficult to put this counsel into practice when facing a potentially fearful situation. Therefore, we should be honest with ourselves and honest with God concerning those areas of fear that we experience. If we prayerfully acknowledge those fears and seek God’s help in overcoming them, we can live out the words of 2 Timothy 1:7 and apply them in our lives.
As Jesus also counseled us on this subject…
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NIV).
(1) NET Bible notes on 2 Timothy 1:7 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Timothy%201%3A7&version=NET
(2) Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary [2 Timothy 1:7]
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:8-9).
2 Timothy 1:8-9 continues with a reminder that God has saved us and called us to a holy life. This provides us with another opportunity to review two prominent Biblical concepts: salvation and holiness.
In a spiritual sense, the word “salvation” is associated with the idea of “deliverance.” It involves God’s liberation of human beings from their state of separation from Him. This state of separation exists because “…all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard” according to the Biblical book of Romans (3:23 NLT). For those who accept His sacrificial work on the cross. Jesus’ death serves to deliver sinful human beings from this state of separation from their Creator.
The word “holy” expresses the qualities of moral purity and ethical perfection. It also encompasses a person or thing that has been set apart from others. Taken together, these definitions tell us that God is morally perfect and completely separate from anything that is wrong, corrupt, or impure in any way.
This is important because this passage tells us that God has given us an assignment that predates time itself. That assignment involves living “…a life of holiness—not because of any of our achievements but for his own purpose” (Phillips). The achievements (or “works”) referenced in this passage comprise anything we might do to earn or merit God’s salvation.
Paul the Apostle addressed this subject in the Biblical book of Romans as well…
“Money paid to workers isn’t a gift. It is something they earn by working. But you cannot make God accept you because of something you do. God accepts sinners only because they have faith in him” (Romans 4:4-5 CEV).
As one commentator concludes…
“Many people assume that by trying to live a good life, they have done all that is necessary to get to heaven. They rest their confidence on the good works they have performed to satisfy the demands of God’s justice. This is a futile hope.
God’s law requires perfection. Since we are not perfect, we lack the necessary goodness to enter heaven. Thus goodness can never be achieved by living a good life. We can only receive it by trusting in the righteousness of Christ. His merit is perfect and is made available to us through faith.” (1)
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2231). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
“but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).
We often speak of “death” in a variety of contexts. For instance, we might use this word to describe a phone, a battery, an automobile, or other inanimate object that has ceased to function. But when it comes to death in a physical or spiritual sense, this word involves something considerably more.
You see, we can associate the word “death” with the idea of “separation” in a physical or spiritual context. For example, physical death occurs when a person’s spirit separates from his or her physical body, for “…the body without the spirit is dead…” (James 2:26). This also represents what has come to be known as the “first death” as mentioned within the Biblical book of Revelation (see Revelation 20:11-13).
The book of Revelation also references another type of death that is identified as the “second death” in Revelation 20:14-15. That form of death results in separation from God. Adam and Eve were the first to experience this type of death and it will ultimately affect those who wants nothing to do with God for all eternity.
Nevertheless, this passage may lead to an important question: if Jesus abolished death (as we’re told here in 2 Timothy 1:10), then why does it still exist? Here’s how one Biblical scholar addresses that question…
PROBLEM: Paul affirms in this text that Christ “has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” But death is not abolished, since “death spread to all men” (Rom. 5:12), and “it is appointed for men to die once” (Heb. 9:27).
SOLUTION: First of all, Christ did not abolish physical death immediately, but by His death and resurrection it will be abolished eventually. Christ is the first one to experience resurrection in an immortal body (1 Cor. 15:20)—the rest of the human race will experience this later, at His second coming (1 Cor. 15:50–56). Second, Christ abolished death officially when He personally defeated it by His resurrection. However, physical death will not be completely destroyed actually until He returns again and “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). For Paul tells us that “the last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1)
In the words of another commentator, “Jesus brought the truth about our immortal state to life through His own resurrection; He showed us what our own immortal bodies would be like and assured us that we would in fact have them. Jesus is therefore a more reliable spokesman regarding the world beyond than anyone who has a near-death experience.” (2)
(1) Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (p. 503). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
(2) Guzik, Dave, 2 Timothy 1 – A Spirit Of Boldness, https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/2-timothy-1/
“to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:11-12)
While the position of “preacher, apostle, and teacher” may sound like an enviable appointment, Paul the Apostle was sentenced to prison for that very reason according to the passage quoted above. In addition to what we read in these verses, Paul gave the Corinthian church some insight into what that appointment meant for him…
“They say they serve Christ? But I have served him far more! (Have I gone mad to boast like this?) I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again and again.
Five different times the Jews gave me their terrible thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I was in the open sea all night and the whole next day. I have traveled many weary miles and have been often in great danger from flooded rivers and from robbers and from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the hands of the Gentiles.
I have faced grave dangers from mobs in the cities and from death in the deserts and in the stormy seas and from men who claim to be brothers in Christ but are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food; often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27 TLB).
Just as Jesus counseled His listeners to “count the cost” associated with a decision to follow Him, Paul was someone who was willing to pay the price to do so. Thus, he serves as an example to anyone who is seeking to fulfill God’s call upon his or her life. As Jesus also reminded His disciples…
“‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life’” (Mark 10:29-30 NIV).
“I was chosen to tell people that message as an apostle and teacher. And I suffer now because of that work. But I am not ashamed. I know the one I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to protect what he has trusted me with until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:11-12 ESV).
Paul the Apostle was called to fulfill the office of a preacher (a person who exhorts others to righteousness), a teacher (one who communicates Biblical truths in a way that others can understand and apply), and an apostle (a commissioned representative of Christ). Despite the suffering he endured for his commitment to that calling, Paul went on to say “Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day” (NIV).
We should note that Paul did not say “I know what I believe…” in this passage. Instead, he said, “I know whom I have believed.” This reminds us that Christianity is not about an idea, a belief system, an organization, or a set of spiritual rules we must follow. Christianity is about a relationship with a Person, namely Jesus Christ. Since Paul knew the One he believed, he could say with confidence, “I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him.”
This enabled Paul to approach his circumstances with complete assurance despite their outward appearance. One Biblical scholar illustrates this idea with a reference to the original language of this passage: “‘I have believed,’ is in the perfect tense in the Greek text. It is in its full meaning, ‘I have believed with the present result that my faith is a firmly settled one.’ It is like hammering a nail through a board and clinching it on the other side. It is there to stay.” (1)
Another source offers a valuable reminder based upon this portion of Scripture…
“We must always remember that Paul does not say that he knew what he had believed. His certainty did not come from the intellectual knowledge of a creed or a theology; it came from a personal knowledge of God. He knew God personally and intimately; he knew what he was like in love and in power; and to Paul it was inconceivable that he should fail him. If we have worked honestly and done the best that we can, we can leave the result to God, however meager that work may seem to us. With him in this or any other world life is safe, for nothing can separate us from his love in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2)
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [2 Timothy 1:12] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(2) Barclay, William. William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible “Trust, Human And Divine (2Ti_1:12-14)
“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us” (2 Timothy 1:13-14).
There are several ways to understand and apply Paul the Apostle’s counsel to Timothy from this passage: “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.”
Paul first reminded Timothy of the value associated with the teaching he received: “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me…” These spiritual truths were not to be handled loosely or carried in a manner that might permit them to be lost or stolen. Instead, Timothy was responsible to “Hold firmly to the true words that I taught you…” (GNT). In like manner, we should hold fast to the teachings of the Scriptures by reading God’s Word each day and seeking His help as we apply those teachings in our lives.
This passage should also encourage us to personalize the Scriptures in adapting to the variables of life. For example, Paul did not instruct Timothy to replicate his messages in exact detail. Instead, Paul asked Timothy to adapt or pattern his life and ministry after the things he learned. This approach offered two benefits. First, it helped provide others with a living example of good spiritual doctrine. Next, it enabled Timothy to relate that doctrine to others on an individual level. It also followed Paul’s own model of personal interaction: “…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (see 1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
We should also note the reference to the “…faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (emphasis added). While many spiritual teachings seem beneficial, they may not originate “in Christ Jesus.” It helps to remember that the Bible is ultimately a book about Christ and any spiritual teaching that purports to help others must find its origin “in Christ.”
Finally, we should also observe the mention of “That good thing which was committed to you” within this passage. As one commentator observes in a highly personal and sobering reminder, “There is a day coming, when our souls will be inquired after. Thou hadst a soul committed to thee; how was it employed? in the service of sin, or in the service of Christ?” (1) This should cause us to prayerfully consider the good things that God has committed to our trust and ensure that we are handling those things in an appropriate, God-honoring manner.
(1) Henry, Matthew. “Concise Commentary on 1 Timothy 6”. “Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhn/2-timothy-1.html 1706.
“This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes” (2 Timothy 1:15).
Unlike the modern-day continent of Asia, the ancient Roman province of Asia occupied an area of the world that was roughly equivalent to the contemporary nation of Turkey. Here in 1 Timothy 1:15, the Apostle Paul turned to the literary tool of hyperbole to express the fact that others within that provincial region had deserted him.
While this was undoubtedly difficult for Paul, his New Testament letter to the church at Philippi helps reveal his attitude toward this situation. Within that letter, Paul spoke of his desire to know Christ “…and the fellowship of His sufferings…” (Philippians 3:10). We can see that desire fulfilled here within Paul’s letter to Timothy. Just as Jesus was deserted in advance of His pending death, so Paul was also deserted as well.
From an external perspective, there are several factors that might account for that mass desertion. The first involved the political climate of that era…
“Ever since Rome had burned in July of A.D. 64, and Nero had blamed the Christians, it had become dangerous to be a Christian. It was also dangerous to have contact with leaders of the church such as Paul. [a] Consequently many believers, including some of Paul’s coworkers, had chosen to seek a much lower profile and become less aggressive in their ministries. Timothy faced the temptation to do the same.” (1)
Another possibility is that others were simply too preoccupied with their own concerns. Paul lamented this unfortunate reality in praising Timothy to the members of the Philippian church…
“If it is the Lord’s will, I hope that I will be able to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be encouraged by news about you. He is the only one who shares my feelings and who really cares about you. Everyone else is concerned only with their own affairs, not with the cause of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:19-21 GNT).
In light of this, those who seek praise and recognition for their service to Christ should remember that the great Apostle Paul was virtually alone as he neared the end of his life. In like manner, we must continue to fulfill God’s call upon on our lives even if we receive little or no attention or recognition from others.
There is a third potential explanation that involves the doctrinal beliefs held by others of Paul’s acquaintance. We’ll consider that possibility in greater detail next.
(1) [a] See D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Timothy, p. 8. Quoted in Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 2 Timothy 2021 Edition https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/2timothy/2timothy.htm
“You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes” (2 Timothy 1:15 ESV).
Having already counseled Timothy to “Hold fast and follow the pattern of wholesome and sound teaching which you have heard from me…” (2 Timothy 1:13 AMPC), this passage offers two examples of individuals who chose a different path.
Paul the Apostle made note of two persons -Phygelus and Hermogenes- who did something that clearly disappointed him: they turned away from him in his time of need. Unfortunately, we know nothing further about these men other than the fact that they deserted Paul during a period when he needed their support.
Although Phygelus and Hermogenes are virtually unknown to us, it’s probably fair to say that they must have held prominent positions if Paul and Timothy knew them by name. This is especially intriguing if we stop to consider a warning that Paul had earlier given the church at Ephesus where Timothy served…
“I know full well that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some of you will distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out!” (Acts 20:29-31a NLT).
With these things in mind, let’s consider the possibility that Phygelus and Hermogenes may have been two notable church leaders who held questionable doctrines. Since bad doctrine inevitably leads to poor decisions, it would not be surprising to learn that these men expressed their mistaken beliefs in deciding to abandon Paul. If that was the case, then Paul’s imprisonment offered a prime opportunity for each of these men to amass a greater following.
So just as Paul had earlier counseled the Corinthian church to “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), 2 Timothy 1:15 reminds us that we can also look to others for examples of what not to do. Much like Phygelus and Hermogenes, it’s important to remember that everyone teaches and influences others through the examples of their lives. Some (like Paul the Apostle) teach us what to do while others (like Phygelus and Hermogenes) teach us what not to do.
While it’s possible to learn a good lesson from a bad example, it’s certainly better to watch and learn from a positive influence. This passage should thus prompt us to ask two questions: which of these examples are we following and what kind of example are we setting for others?
“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:16-18).
In contrast to the examples of Phygelus and Hermogenes, Paul the Apostle mentioned another man named Onesiphorus in the passage quoted above. Onesiphorus was someone who went out of his way to locate Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome. Whether Onesiphorus offered emotional support, financial support, or simply encouraged Paul through his presence, he clearly offered a great deal of comfort to the aged Apostle.
Onesiphorus’ task was made even more difficult when we stop to remember that he did not have the advantage of modern-day communication and location technology. In order to find Paul, it’s likely that Onesiphorus first had to seek out the local Christian community in Rome. He would then have to move forward using only the information he could gather, information that may or may not have been correct.
In fact, Paul made special mention of the fact that Onesiphorus had to “search hard” for him. But that effort was well worth it for Paul said, “…he often refreshed me.” Nevertheless, we should note that these were more than just social visits for Onesiphorus. Given the political climate that existed for Christians during that era, it’s clear the Onesiphorus took a substantial risk in visiting Paul…
“There is no doubt that, when Onesiphorus sought out Paul and came to see him again and again, he took his life in his hands. It was dangerous to keep asking where a certain criminal could be found; it was dangerous to visit him; it was still more dangerous to keep on visiting him; but that is what Onesiphorus did.” (1)
Another source outlines the options that Onesiphorus might have chosen…
“When Onesiphorus arrived in Rome, he had at least three choices. First, he could have avoided any contact with the Christians. Secondly, he could have met with the believers secretly. Finally, he could boldly expose himself to danger by visiting Paul in prison. This would bring him into direct contact with the Roman authorities. To his everlasting credit, he chose the last policy. He sought Paul out very zealously and found him.” (2)
(1) Barclay, William. “The Faithless Many And The Faithful One (2Ti_1:15-18)”. “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible“.
(2) William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, pg.2114
“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me–may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!–and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:16-18 ESV).
Onesiphorus’ ministry to Paul the Apostle demonstrates the importance of acting upon the opportunities that God makes available to us. This recalls Jesus’ message from the Gospel of Matthew…
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
‘Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me’” (Matthew 25:31-45 NIV).
“May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my imprisonment. But when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me. May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day! And you know very well all the ways he served me in Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:16-18 NET).
Tucked away within this heartfelt expression of praise and appreciation for Onesiphorus is an important statement: “May the Lord grant that Onesiphorus finds mercy when that day comes” (GW). “That day” is a reference to the day when Onesiphorus stands before Christ to give an account for his service. (1) The Biblical book of 2 Corinthians offers some further insight into this reference…
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV).
This passage tells us that there will be a day when God will call His people to account for how they made use of the skills, talents, abilities, gifts, and opportunities He provided. That evaluation will take place before the judgment seat of Christ where our choices and decisions in life will be assessed. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 uses the analogy of a building contractor to illustrate two potential outcomes from that judgment…
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
Therefore, a person who humbly invests his or her life for Christ with the right motivation now can look forward to that day as a time of rejoicing and reward. One author closes with an important observation on this subject…
“The Bible indicates that all believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of their lives (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). It’s critical to understand that this judgment is a judgment of works, not of faith (1 Corinthians 3:13-14). Our works do not affect our salvation, but they do affect our reward. Rewards are about our work for God, empowered by his Spirit. Rewards arc conditional, dependent on our faithfulness (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26-28; 3:21)” (2)
(1) See NET Bible Notes [2 Timothy 1:18] http://netbible.org/bible/2+Timothy+1