Today we will consider Paul’s second letter to Timothy. This was Paul’s final letter, written shortly before his death in the late 60s A.D. Many believe Paul wrote this from a Roman imprisonment subsequent to the first imprisonment recorded in the book of Acts (see 1:16-17). Paul knows his life is coming to an end, and we can feel that in this letter. Paul addresses some common themes from his first letter to Timothy, but also wants to make sure Timothy continues the Gospel ministry Paul had begun.
After greeting Timothy (1:1-2), Paul thanks God (v. 3). He says that the God he serves (or “worships”) is the same God his ancestors served with a clear conscience. In other words, Paul believes that worshiping Christ is worshiping the same God of the Old Testament. He also tells Timothy that the faith of his Jewish mother and grandmother is the same faith Timothy has (v. 5). Paul uses this to encourage Timothy to carry on the ministry to the one and only God (vv. 6-7). He wants Timothy to continue to bear witness to God’s works even though it means he will suffer for it (v. 8). This is Timothy’s “holy calling” according to God’s eternal purpose worked in Christ (v. 9), Who gave us eternal life (v. 10).
Paul says he himself was called as a preacher (v. 11) which has caused him great suffering, including this imprisonment (v. 12). Yet he unashamedly carries out his calling in faith, knowing that God will preserve him until the end. Paul literally says here “the deposit entrusted to me.” This is how he referred to Timothy’s calling in his first letter (1 Tim 6:20). Here, Paul refers to his own calling as an example for Timothy to follow by the power of the Spirit (vv. 13-14). In verse 15, Paul says hyperbolically that all ho are in Asia have turned away from him. You can feel Paul’s anguish and loneliness as he awaits execution. He gives an exception: Onesiphorus, who sought Paul in Rome and found him in prison and encouraged him (vv. 16-17). Onesiphorus was apparently from Ephesus, where Timothy was pastoring (v. 18 – see 4:19).
Paul encourages Timothy to find his strength in Christ (2:1 – see Phil 4:13). He tells him to do what Paul did for him: train men in the Gospel ministry, and teach them to train other men, so the mission will continue (v. 2). He encourages Timothy to endure suffering for the sake of Christ (v. 3). He uses the metaphor of a soldier because a soldier aims to please only his commanding officer without getting involved elsewhere (v. 4). He then uses the metaphor of an athlete, who can only win if he plays by the rules (v. 5). Then he uses the metaphor of a farmer, who because of his hard work gets to enjoy the fruit of his labors (v. 6). In all of these, Paul is encouraging Timothy to devote himself wholly to the ministry of the Word.
Paul then reminds Timothy of the simplicity of the Gospel. Christ rose from the dead and is the promised Greater Son of David (v. 8). Even in chains, Paul can still preach that Word (v. 9). And Paul endures suffering so that the elect can hear the Gospel and be saved (v. 10). Paul then offers an early creed to Timothy (vv. 11-13). God cannot deny Himself and must do what He promises. Therefore, those who die with Christ also live with Him (see Rom 6:8). Those who persevere to the end will reign with Him (see Rom 8:17). If we deny him (by abandoning our faith because of suffering) then He will deny us (see Matt 10:33). Even if our faith wavers, God is faithful.
Paul then tells Timothy how to train up elders (v. 14). They should not quarrel needlessly over words and cause division (which Paul taught Timothy in 1 Tim 6:4). They are to make sure they carefully interpret God’s Word correctly (v. 15). They are to avoid “irreverent babble” (or “pointless empty talk” – v. 16). That this leads people into ungodliness likely means that Paul is referring to what false teachers do. And false teaching spreads like gangrene (v. 17)! Paul then gets specific. He names two false teachers who were teaching that the final resurrection already happened (v. 18 – see 2 Thess 2:1-2). This was damaging the faith of some because the resurrection and the completion of our salvation is our hope. But lies cannot destroy the truth. In verse 19 Paul likens such false teachers to the rebellious Korah (see Num 16:5).
Paul goes on to warn Timothy that until the Lord comes, there will be in His visible church those who do not belong to Him (v. 20). Those who are His will be known by their holy lives and good works (v. 21 – see Luke 6:43-45). Only such people are useful to Christ. Paul therefore warns Timothy turn from immature desires and pursue what makes for holy living (v. 22). He should avoid ignorant arguments (v. 23), and should instead be kind and patient with sinners (v. 24) and gently correct those with poor doctrine in the hopes that God will save them (vv. 25-26).
Paul now warns Timothy about what is yet to come. Things will get difficult for the church (3:1). What Paul describes next are not just the results of sin, but the results of false teaching. We can look around at those who claim to be Christians in the world and see all of these sins in verses 2-7 being committed and approved of. Just as Jannes and Jambres (the Egyptian Magicians) were able to very closely replicate some of the true work of God, so false teachers who claim to be true Christians corrupt truth by offering something close to some elements of true Christianity (v. 8). But like those magicians, eventually, they will be revealed to be nothing but fakers (v. 9).
Paul reminds Timothy all he saw Paul endure personally (v. 10), and to remember that God preserved him through it all (v. 11). The same thing will happen for Timothy and all who live according to the truth (v. 12), while deceivers will seemingly be set free to get worse and worse (v. 13). All Timothy can do is remember what he has learned from Scriptures and continue to seek wisdom and sanctification in them (vv. 14-15). Paul then offers his famous commendation of the Scriptures. Keep in mind, this would be pretty much just the Old Testament at this point, though it would apply to the New Testament, as well. Every Word of the Bible is breathed out by God – they are His words (v. 16)! They will teach us, rebuke us, correct us, and train us for righteousness (sanctify us!). And the Bible does this that the man (or “person”) of God can have everything they need to do what God calls them to do in His Word (v. 17).
Paul then charges Timothy to use the Word in this way (4:1). He is to always be ready to patiently rebuke and teach according to the Word (v. 2). There will come a time (it had already started then and is continuing today) that people will actually desire teaching contrary to the truth, but will want be told only what they want to hear (v. 3). Imagine that! This will leave them susceptible to believing just about anything (v. 4). Imagine that!! But this doesn’t change what Timothy has been called to. He is to think rightly, endure the inevitable suffering he will face, continue to preach the Gospel, and fulfill his calling (v. 5).
And here is where my heart always breaks for Paul (and Timothy! Imagine how he felt reading this letter!). The reason he is telling Timothy all of this is because he (Paul) is about to die (v. 6). He has come to the end of his race in faith (v. 7). He now looks forward only to the resurrection when all the saints will receive their final salvation (v. 8).
Paul tells Timothy to come to him soon, because his death is imminent (v. 9). And he has been abandoned by Demas (see Col 4:14, Philemon 24) who has left the service of God because he cares too much about this present age (v. 10). Others have moved on to other ministries, and only Luke remains with Paul (v. 11). Paul asks that Timothy brings Mark with him. The young man who Paul felt once hindered his ministry (see Acts 15:37-39) is now very useful to the aged Paul.
Paul asks Timothy to bring some of his personal belongings (v. 13). As winter was coming (v. 21), he’d need his cloak to stay warm. The parchments are very possibly the Old Testament Scriptures. In verse 16 we again feel Paul’s great emotional anguish. He felt very alone. Except he knew God was always with him (v. 17) and will bring him safely to His presence (v. 18). Paul asks Timothy to greet all the fellow believers in Ephesus (v. 19) and sends greetings to Timothy from those in Rome (v. 21). And Paul’s final written words are “grace be with you” (v. 22). Note that the “you” is plural here. Paul’s final wish is that all would know the grace of God.