I plan to post regularly over the next two weeks or so on fabulous verses in 2 Timothy. A visitor to our church this morning cited 2 Timothy 1:7 so I shall start with that. A while ago I started a verse-by-verse personal study of this letter, and I will bring the fruit of that – life lessons from a letter to a young Christian leader. When you drill down into any book of the Bible, you start to uncover astonishing riches that immediately start working in your life but also sow seeds for future growth.
As a starting point, some of my contextual notes:
Who wrote the book?
Paul wrote it.
To whom did he write it?
He wrote it to his beloved son, Timothy. v.2 Not to a church as such, as far as I can tell.
Where did he write it?
He wrote it from prison in Rome, I think. v.8 Paul is God’s prisoner. Also v.16 Onesiphorous sought Paul out and was ‘not ashamed of my chain’. v.9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains.’ v.10 he says “I endure all things for the sake of the elect”. Also there is a theme of suffering in the letter, v.11 he refers to afflictions at Antioch, Lystra, Iconeium.
v. 6 “I am already being poured out as a drink offering.” v.18 he will be preserved ‘from every evil work’.
What was the occasion of his writing?
He makes several very concrete requests towards the end, e.g. v.9 ‘Be diligent to come to me quickly.’ He has been abandoned by several saints, Demas, Crescens, Titus. Demas was with Paul during his first imprisonment. He wants to see Mark – Luke is with him. He wants his cloak and books and parchment. And he says v. 21 “Do your utmost to come before winter.” He is in touch with the saints, although in prison, as he sends greeting from folk in v.21. It sounds as if he has been on the move, and sending people, as he left Trophimus in Miletus, and refers to a trip to Troas in which Alexander the coppersmith harmed him, and he was forsaken by many and v.17 was delivered from the mouth of the lion.
What were the circumstances of the author when he wrote?
I think that Paul was not in a good way – he was praying much, ‘night and day’, v. 3. and calls for Timothy to share with him in his sufferings, v. 8. Due to his ministry Paul is suffering, v. 12, because v.11 he was appointed a preacher, apostle and teacher of the Gentiles. He has also been abandoned by all those in Asia, e.g. Phygellus and Hermogenes.
What glimpses does the book give into the life and character of the author?
Paul is late in his ministry, and is suffering for the faith. He seems to take comfort both in the fellowship of saints, 4:11 wants Mark for his ministry, but he feels that the end is near: 4:7 and 8, says he has fought the fight, and that the crown of righteousness is laid up for him. 4:16 in spite of being rejected by men, he is not bitter: “may it not be charged against them.” There is a weighty feel about the book, an awareness of every man’s responsibility before God. 4:1 “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing, and His kingdom.”
Early in the book we see his diligence in prayer, v. 3, and his joy in Timothy as a spiritual son, v.5, whom he commissioned, v. 6. He is relying on God’s grace, not on works, v. 9. He remains fully steadfast in God, v. 12 he is ‘persuaded’ of God’s steadfastness and reliability. He keeps on referring to ‘that Day’, v. 12. and v.18 of Onesiphorous, in ‘that Day’. Also, 4:8 ‘will give to me on that Day’, and the linked theme of Christ’s appearing, 4:1 and 4:8, as well as the ‘heavenly kingdom’, 4:18. There is a strongly eschatological feel to the book. As saints who have fought the fight, it is important to be straining after the day of the Lord. There is the sense of Paul preserving how he has operated with Timothy, of fatherhood and wisdom spilling from his pen, 2:2 “commit these to faithful men”. Paul is preoccupied with the faith being transmitted reliably, 1:13 “the pattern of sound words”. He warns about stray teaching and mistaken ideas, and time being wasted in ‘striving about words’ and also in ‘profane and idle babblings’, 2:14 and 15. He warns of pride and being quarrelsome as a minister. Although he doesn’t say it, v. 25, he is arguing that Timothy should have the mind of Christ, ‘in humility correcting those who are in opposition’.
There is also a sense of encroaching apocalyptic, of life becoming difficult for the believer.
What are the leading ideas of the book?
Paul is urging Timothy to lead well. He is also encouraging him to keep to the centre of the faith, through the Holy Spirit. He is encouraging him to endure suffering, to rely on the Word of God, and to reject the world, and fleshly believers, but to pursue the faith, v. 22, and pure believers.
What is the central truth of the book?
I think the central truth is that the Word of God is able to ‘make you wise for salvation’, 3:15, and that the earnest calling on Timothy (and all believers) is to ‘Preach the Word’, 4:2.
What are the characteristics of the book?
The characteristics of the book are encouragement even in the midst of suffering, and that suffering is par for the course if you are a believer, a ‘good soldier of Christ’, 2:3. Also, to ‘endure afflictions’, 4:5. Nonetheless, there is firm and real encouragement in God’s faithfulness and in his character which will vindicate his saints, 4:8 “not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”