Timothy, Paul’s fellow worker and “beloved son” (1:2).
According to the testimony of the early church, Paul was imprisoned in Rome a second time and put to death by the Roman Emperor Nero. It was during this second Roman imprisonment (A.D. 66-67) that Paul penned his second epistle to Timothy. This was also the last of Paul’s epistles. It was written at the end of the apostle’s life.
By this time, Paul, a prisoner in chains (1:16, 2:9), knows that his execution is pending (4:6). He earnestly hopes to see Timothy and Mark soon (4:9-11, 21). He also asks Timothy to bring him the cloak he has left at Troas, the books, and the parchments (4:13). Apparently, Paul needs the cloak to keep him warm in the dungeon, and he wants to spend his remaining days reading and studying.
This epistle to Timothy is Paul’s last will to his beloved fellow worker. He urges Timothy not to be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord but share with him in the sufferings for the gospel. Knowing that false teachers will rise to resist the truth, Timothy must hold fast the pattern of sound doctrine and be strong. Finally, Paul gives Timothy the solemn charge to preach the word and endure afflictions. With these last words of exhortation, the apostle passes on the legacy and the divine commission to his son in the faith.
Compared to the other two pastoral epistles,
“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (4:5).
Read the entire epistle once for general impressions and the prevailing tone. Then go through each section as listed in chart C and record a heading for each section.
Minister of the Gospel
Paul reminds Timothy to stir up the gift of God, which is the ministry of the gospel, and not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord (1:7-8). This gospel is the power of God, bringing life and immortality through the Savior Jesus Christ (1:9-10).
Paul commands Timothy to hold fast the pattern of sound words which he had heard and keep what has been committed to him by the Holy Spirit (1:13-14). Moreover, Timothy has the responsibility to entrust the same commission to other faithful ministers (2:2). As a worker approved by God, Timothy needs to rightly divide the word of truth, shun profane and idle babblings, and cleanse himself of all iniquities (2:15, 16, 19-21, 22). Just as he has carefully followed Paul’s doctrine, Timothy must continue in it and be faithful to the Holy Scriptures (3:10, 11, 14-17).
With a most solemn charge, Paul urges Timothy to preach the word (4:2). Despite the hardships, Timothy must be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill his ministry (4:5).
For the sake of the gospel, Paul has suffered greatly (1:12), even to the point of being in chains, as if he were an evildoer (2:9). Not only so, he suffered the harm of opponents (4:14, 15), and was forsaken by his fellow worker and others (1:15, 4:10, 16). In the end, he will suffer death, being poured out as a drink offering (4:6). But Paul knows that he has been appointed to suffer afflictions, and he knows that he must endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation of Christ Jesus (2:10). He also firmly believes that his faithful endurance means eternal glory (2:11-13).
Therefore, Paul encourages Timothy to share with him in the sufferings for the gospel (1:8). Timothy needs to be strong in the grace of Christ Jesus and endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2:1, 3). He must continue to imitate Paul’s longsuffering in persecutions and afflictions (3:10, 14). He needs to endure afflictions, especially when men do not put up with sound doctrine (4:2, 5). Only with such attitude would he be able to fulfill his ministry as an evangelist.
Apostasy and Deception
Paul warns Timothy to shun profane and idle babblings, which promote ungodliness (2:16). He names two individuals, Hymenaeus and Philetus, as preachers of such false teachings (2:17). Paul also mentions the opposition of those who resist the truth (3:8), particularly that of Alexander the coppersmith (4:14-15). Thus, it is clear that the church is already facing the works of deceivers and apostates.
Paul asks Timothy to be aware of the coming of even greater threats. He points out that perilous times will come in the last days, when men will become increasingly evil even though they may carry an appearance of godliness (3:1-5). Timothy must turn away from such people. Paul also predicts that men will not endure sound doctrine but will heap up for themselves teachers according to their own desires (4:3-4). Timothy’s task will grow increasingly difficult. For this reason, he must be ready to preach the word at all times, convince, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and teaching (4:2).
Although Paul is in chains expecting his execution, and many have deserted him, he is not despondent. He is being surrounded by adversity, but he is far from defeated. His epistle is full of words of conviction, triumph, and glory.
Paul reminds Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (1:7). He tells Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel because of his chains, for the gospel is the power of God that brings eternal life (1:8-10). Paul is not ashamed, for he knows whom he has believed and is persuaded that He is able to keep what he has committed to Him until that Day (1:12). He looks forward to eternal life and reign with Christ, and gladly suffers for the gospel (2:10-13).
Even though he had been forsaken by others, Paul remains strong because the Lord has stood with him, strengthened him, and delivered him (4:17). Paul is confident that the Lord will never forsake him, but will deliver him from every evil work and preserve him for His heavenly kingdom (4:18).
Having passed on the commission to Timothy, Paul sings the song of Triumph (4:7-8). He has faithfully carried out the ministry, and he is certain that he will receive the crown of righteousness from the Lord.
Written in the midst of dire circumstances, Paul’s personal messages to Timothy in this epistle reveal his unwavering faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his conviction in the ministry. We learn of a man who knows whom he has believed and who knows that the Lord will not fail him. Never is his faith shaken by his sufferings and loneliness. As we study this epistle, it will certainly be beneficial to examine our own faith in the Lord as well as our commitment to the preaching of the gospel.
Before his death, Paul’s utmost concern is passing on the ministry. He charges Timothy to preach the word and be faithful to the word. Paul’s final wish serves as a clear calling to all Christians today. Have we been true to the sound doctrine? Have we fulfilled the charge to preach the word? Are we willing to endure affliction for the gospel? Only if we personally respond to the call of this epistle, as if it is written to each of us, will the study of this epistle be meaningful and fruitful.