2 Timothy 1

1

There is little doubt that Paul wrote this letter while imprisoned in Rome. However, there is a diverse opinion on whether it was written during his first imprisonment or during a second one. Those who hold that this is indeed the second letter, written during a second Roman imprisonment, appear to have a stronger case. In brief:

  • During his first imprisonment, Paul was not as constrained. He lived in a house with a single guard (Acts 28:16-31). Many went to visit him, and he was able to write letters with the help of his friends. However, the second imprisonment was more like solitary confinement - Onesiphorus had to search diligently to find him (2 Tim 1:17). Paul also described himself as being in bonds and chains.
  • It is apparent that different charges had been leveled against him the second time (2 Tim 2:9).
  • During his first imprisonment, he expressed confidence in his release (Phil 2:24), but in this epistle, he is certain he is going to be executed (2 Tim 4:6).
  • Mark and Timothy had visited Paul in Rome during his first imprisonment (Col 1:1, 4:10), but now Paul asks Timothy to come and bring Mark with him (2 Tim 4:21). In 2 Tim 4:13, Paul asks Timothy to bring additional items that sound as if they were recently left behind in other cities.
  • Paul's changing relationship with Demas makes more sense with the traditional chronology (Col 4:14, 2 Tim 4:10).
  • The reference to events concerning Erastus and Trophimus in 2 Tim 4:20 provides evidence that Paul went on a missionary journey between the first and second letters to Timothy.
  • Some interpret 2 Tim 4:16 to indicate that Paul made a defense during his first imprisonment, was subsequently released, and then went on a missionary journey.

According to tradition, Paul was beheaded on the Ostian Way, west of Rome, on June 29, 66 A.D.


Paul, as was his custom, opens by introducing himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, that is, one who was specifically commissioned by Him to carry out the particular task of preaching the Gospel. Paul did not need to remind Timothy of his authority or purpose since he had worked with him on several occasions. It seems that Paul knew that others would be reading this letter, so it was appropriate to note his position for those who may have not previously read a letter from him.

Paul had preached in accordance with the divine will of God, and, as we shall see later, he was prepared to die according to that purpose as well. He would not change his ways now, however, because he was driven by the promise of eternal life with God that is granted to him by faith in Jesus. His work was not merely for the fulfillment of this promise in his own life, but also for the lives of everyone he was able to help find faith in Him.

2 See commentary on 1 Tim 1:2.
3 Paul first assures Timothy that is praying for him every day. While it is true that Paul was in prison with not much else to do, his behavior is no different from when he was living the life of a busy missionary. We should all be praying for one another.
Paul is truly grateful to have one of his dearest disciples ministering to one of the churches he spent the most time with. Even though he is in prison, Paul continues to serve God with a pure conscience, according to what he had learned from his ancestors through the Scriptures. It is clear that he is implying that Christianity is not a separate religion from what God taught Israel through Moses, but it is a transformation that was supposed to happen with the coming of the Messiah, Jesus.
4 Paul felt like a father to Timothy, and very much desired to have a joyful reunion with him, especially during these dark hours. Paul knew that Timothy also cared much for him because of a tearful separation they had, perhaps the lat time Timothy had visited him in prison.
5 Luke gives a brief account of Timothy's spiritual heritage in Acts 16:1-3. Paul, obviously better acquainted with Timothy and his family gives a more detailed picture here. Timothy's mother, Eunice, was a Jewess, as was her mother, Lois, by extension. Both women had Greek names, so they were apparently of the Hellenist Jews, who wanted to fit in with the Greek society of the day. Lois was the first in the family to accept Christ. She probably was a great influence on her daughter, and as Christians, both raised Timothy in the faith. His father, however, was a Greek, and apparently had not accepted Christ, and had obviously not accepted Judaism earlier since Timothy had grown up uncircumcised. Timothy matured into a faithful Christian, and Paul is comforted when he remembers his prots progress.
6 Because of the true faith that Timothy had, Paul asks him to "rekindle" the spiritual gift he had received when he was ordained (1 Tim 4:14). Paul was obviously one of the elders who laid hands on Timothy during that ceremony. We are no told exactly what the gift was, but apparently Timothy was not using it much while ministering in Ephesus. Paul seems to encourage Timothy to find opportunities to use it and make it more prevalent in his life, just as a fire becomes brighter when fresh fuel is stirred in.
7 Timothy was apparently easily intimidated because of his youth (1 Tim 4:12). He had seen the trials and hardships that Paul went through as a direct result of preaching, and possibly was afraid that similar things would happen to him. Paul tells Timothy that God has not made us cowards, but gives Christians a spirit of power - the ability to do difficult tasks and face uncertainty and persecution, love - the pure motivation that causes people to take risks and endure personal loss for the benefit of others, and discipline - the commitment to practice what one believes. All Christians have these characteristics if they allow the Holy Spirit to work through them. No matter what spiritual gifts we have, we should do them with enthusiasm and confidence, no matter what shortcomings or fears we may have.
8 Timothy dealt with other sources of ridicule. The Gospel itself is nothing to be ashamed of, but many of the Greeks, for instance, thought it was foolish to think that the all-powerful God would allow Himself to be mocked and killed by people (1 Cor 1:23). Timothy possibly retreated from the scorn that preaching the Gospel tended to arouse. Undoubtedly, there are still more skeptics than those open to the teachings of Jesus.
Paul's preaching had also provoked intense emotional responses from people, often resulting in riots in the cities he visited. It is natural that the civil authorities, in an effort to keep their cities in peace, would arrest Paul and put him in prison, even though he had not broken any laws (2 Cor 11:23). As a student of Paul's, Timothy probably dreaded having to admit that his mentor was in prison. There is always a stigma with being taken into custody, even if the person is eventually exonerated. It would be difficult for people to believe that if Paul was following his own teachings of religious, moral, and civil obedience that he would be in prison so often. It is easy to see that even the open-minded would be hesitant to join a group that looked like outlaws. Even worse, those wishing to mock Christianity could easily take advantage of this kind of situation.
Paul does not sugar-coat his response to these issues. Those who are outspoken about the Gospel will likely always be social outcasts and objects of ridicule. However, the power of God is not that doing the right things and sharing the Gospel results in an easy life, but rather that good deeds can still be accomplished during times of adversity. Jesus Himself told his disciples to expect to suffer (Mat 10:16-42).
9 Paul reminds Timothy that God has saved them through Christ and called them to live a "holy," or "separated," life - that is, one that has a completely different worldview than secular or pagan people. No person ever "earned" salvation by doing the right things, but God calls people to Him despite the fact that they do not deserve such an honor. However, His purpose is to have people be with Him forever, and that could only be accomplished through the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. This was God's plan from "before the times of ages," which is probably equivalent to "before time began," as we understand it. Before God created the universe, He already knew that sin would happen and what He would need to do to provide the only cure for it.
10 The plan of salvation was hinted at through the prophets of old, but few really understood what it meant until the most important part began working itself out through the birth, life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In the Bible there are records of those who had been raised from the dead, but they had ultimately died again. Such miracles were amazing demonstrations of God's power, but were not permanent. However, the Resurrection illustrates God's purpose to abolish death forever by giving us immortal bodies. Paul is so certain about this that he speaks of it as if it had already happened. On the spiritual side, we are also guaranteed that we will not suffer the "death" of separation from God. All of this is much clearer in the Gospel, although there are several things that will still remain a mystery until the Last Day occurs.
11 Jesus specifically appointed Paul to be a herald of this Good News. He also took the time to instruct others about the implications that salvation had on one's life, relationships, and thoughts.
12 Preaching the Gospel had brought suffering into his life, but he willingly endured it because God had appointed him to this ministry. He was not ashamed of his suffering, but rather he was honored to receive such an important responsibility in ministry (1 Cor 15:8-11). Furthermore he felt he identified more with Christ as he endured these hardships (2 Cor 12:9-10). He does these things because he had met Jesus and had a continuous relationship with Him. Paul was convinced that He would prosper this Gospel that he had preached, no matter what the circumstances were. He also believed in the power of God's salvation to preserver the spirits of believers for all eternity, so he entrusted all those he had preached to into His hands (Rom 1:16).
13 Paul reminds Timothy to teach in accordance with the basic outline of the Gospel. It is not an exhaustive teaching that gives all the details about how God works or how each Christian should live his or her life, but the principles of the Gospel remain the same for all people of any time, and they should not be diminished or overshadowed by "unhealthy" doctrines. The Gospel should always be preached out of one's faith in it. Many people can detect insincere words, and even those who believe the Gospel from such a person might later feel hurt or betrayed if it is found out that the speaker did not really believe in it, but had other motives for preaching. Sharing the Gospel should also be done out of genuine love. This is not merely sentimental feelings for others, but a true concern for their spiritual welfare, and the willingness to benefit others at one's own expense. Both faith and love stem from one's relationship with Jesus, so remaining close to Him will ensure that both the message and the motivation for sharing it are honest.
Paul indicates that he had taught Timothy the principles of the Gospel orally, which was common since writing supplies were scarce and too expensive for general educational purposes. Obviously, however, the expense was justified when Paul wanted to teach, remind, or encourage people that he could not immediately reach in person.
14 The Gospel is a treasure each Christian receives. We must not allow worldly interpretations to taint its meaning or the purpose in life it gives us. However, we are not strong enough to do this on our own. We must work in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, whom God also gives us as a gift, to keep our understanding correct as the circumstances in our lives continually change. The Holy Spirit counsels our inner being, much like our conscience does, but He also gives us understanding about spiritual things that we cannot merely attribute to mental processes. He helps provide us with strength to remain true to our convictions.
15 Paul gives a contrasting example of those who are, apparently, ashamed of the Gospel, or at least fearful of risking the kind of suffering Paul willingly endures. It appears that certain people from Asia (specifically, Asia Minor, which is now Turkey) either were assigned or volunteered to care for Paul in prison. Paul mentions two men by name, but we know no other information about them other the others than this action of leaving Paul feeling abandoned. Ephesus was the capital of Asia Minor, and undoubtedly Timothy, as the apostle's representative in the city, understood the situation well.
16 In contrast, Onesiphorus, who apparently lived in Ephesus, took the risks and visited Paul often. Paul was refreshed by his visits, and Paul asked for a special blessing on him and his family.
17 Onesiphorus may have been a merchant or had some kind of business that required him to frequently travel to Rome. At this time, Paul was apparently under tighter security than he was during his first imprisonment (Acts 28:16, 30). It is clear that Onesiphorus had to put some effort into finding him, and thus proving his genuine friendship and love.
18 Onesiphorus had already proven himself to be an outstanding servant in the Church of Ephesus, and he continued to prove his faith and character in his ministry to Paul. Again, Paul asks that God would grant him special favor on the Last Day.