2 Timothy 1

Preparation for Service
2 Timothy 1
2 Timothy 1. Between Paul’s two imprisonments Timothy had become discouraged. Timothy himself was imprisoned at some point, and the writer of Hebrews (likely Paul) speaks of his release (Heb. 13:23). As one of Paul’s most trusted companions, now Timothy was seeing the ruin of all that Paul had labored for, and it would seem that he was giving up. Timothy had even neglected his gift which was now dormant. Paul begins by encouraging Timothy in those things that the ruin cannot touch! He deals with a number of things that would prepare Timothy afresh for service, because there was still much work to do, and there was still a path for faithfulness. He reminds Timothy of his calling in Christ Jesus, his upbringing, and his spiritual gift; however, Paul also exhorts him to be bold and courageous, and to keep sound doctrine, even when others were giving up. These words are instructive for any servant of Christ in our day as well, when much of the Christian testimony has turned away from Paul and his doctrine!

Salutation (1:1-2)

Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ by God’s will, according to promise of life, the life which is in Christ Jesus, v.1 Writer. Paul refers to himself as “Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ by God’s will”, which shows that even though it was a personal, pastoral letter addressed to Timothy, the warnings and instructions herein are applicable to all believers, at all times. Paul’s apostolic authority became more important, not less, with the decline of the church’s moral condition. Nor did Paul’s close relationship with Timothy enfeeble Paul’s authority. In the first epistle it was “by the commandment of God” but here “by the will of God”. It is a deeper and more general commission (see “word” and “commandments” in John 14). In the same vein, as the failure of the Church had become more evident from the first to the second epistle, Paul reaches further back even than the beginning of the Church; i.e. to “promise of life, the life which is in Christ Jesus”. This is something the ruin of the Christian cannot touch. We have a life – the life of Christ – that is able to stand up against the circumstances around us, no matter how difficult they may be. In Titus 1:2 we read about when that promise was made; “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began“. This would indicate that the Father, who always enjoyed eternal life, made a promise to the Son before the world was made that He would share that life with others; i.e. bring intelligent beings into that circle of fellowship (see John 17:2). It was the effect of Paul’s apostleship (and the others’, 1 John 1:2-3) to bring souls into the fellowship of eternal life. Paul, in His last inspired epistle, directs the saints into the ministry of the Apostle John, who takes up this very line of doctrine (1 John 5:4-5, 11-12). It is a life we have now, but will enter its fullness in heaven. If there is anything real in this day of ruin, it is the life of Christ in the believer. But beyond this, the promise of eternal life looks forward to an eternity of enjoying the love and communion of the Father and Son by the Holy Spirit! This is held out to Timothy for his encouragement.
2 to Timotheus, my beloved child: grace, mercy, peace, from God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord. v.2 Recipient. Just as Peter had a spiritual son (John Mark, 1 Pet. 5:13), so Paul also had a son; “Timotheus, my beloved child”. The highest relationships are not natural ones, but spiritual. In the first epistle Paul says “my true child” but in the second epistle “my beloved child”, and this shows the character of the second epistle is more personal. Paul prays for “grace, mercy, peace” for Timothy; things he would need to carry on in a difficult day. We too, if we are going to remain faithful in a day of declension, will need “grace” or enabling power, “mercy” or compassion in light of human weakness (only added in Paul’s letters when an epistle is addressed to an individual, because the saints collectively are never looked at as an object of mercy, but of grace), and “peace” which refers to settled peace in the soul in the midst of difficulties, “from God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord”. The Christian’s relationship to God as Father, and to Christ as Lord, are emphasized. 

Timothy’s Character and Upbringing (1:3-5)

¶ 3 I am thankful to God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, how unceasingly I have the remembrance of thee in my supplications night and day, v.3 Thankfulness and Prayers for Timothy. Paul was thankful to God for Timothy, and Paul made supplication “night and day” for Timothy, and at those times he was filled with thanksgiving at the very thought of Timothy. Paul could speak about God as Him “whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience”. A purged conscience has to do with a path of consistent and faithful conduct. But conscience isn’t enough. It was obtained by the fall, and therefore imperfect at best. We need faith, which clings to the Word of God to guide and direct. Perhaps Paul was setting himself forward as an example to Timothy in this, but Timothy had an even better legacy. Paul mentions his forefathers in advance of Timothy’s mother and grandmother (v.5). Paul’s forefathers were generations of Jews who maintained an outwardly righteous conduct (Phil. 3:6; Acts 23:1; 24:16), although not necessarily personal “unfeigned” faith as with Lois and Eunice.
4 earnestly desiring to see thee, remembering thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; v.4 Timothy’s Tears, Paul’s Joy. Paul earnestly desired to see Timothy, not only because he missed his son, but because he remembered Timothy’s “tears”. Whether Timothy was present at the time of Paul’s arrest, or whether he heard about it second-hand, it would appear that Timothy was filled with deep sorrow. It meant a lot to Paul that Timothy loved him so much, and when they were reunited, Paul would be “filled with joy”. Timothy had a compassionate heart (Phil. 2:20), and he was attached to Paul. This is an important prerequisite for service. It is very possible that Timothy’s tears were in connection with the state of the church in Asia, similar to how the Lord wept over Jerusalem (Luke 13:34).
5 calling to mind the unfeigned faith which has been in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded that in thee also. v.5 Unfeigned Faith. When Paul thought about Timothy, his “unfeigned faith” came to mind. This faith is a deep, personal confidence in God. Timothy was what we would call “a real Christian”. There was no hypocrisy about him. He was genuine. What a precious quality to be found in him, and in every servant of God! Paul remarked that the “unfeigned faith” that was in Timothy resided “first in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice”. Timothy was from a family of godly women, who had real faith in God, albeit they were Jews by ethnicity. We find in Acts 16:3 that Timothy’s father was a Greek, and he is entirely passed over here. It would seem that Timothy’s father did not have unfeigned faith, but that did not stop his mother and grandmother from raising Timothy as a godly young man, established in the scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15). How wonderful that Timothy’s mother was able to overcome the difficulties of a marriage to a Greek! What a great provision also for Timothy, to be raised in a home with a mother and grandmother who taught him the Word of God.

Courage to Serve in the Face of Opposition (1:6-12)

6 For which cause I put thee in mind to rekindle the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. v.6 Stirring Up Dormant Gift. Every believer has been given a special gift to aid them in their service for the Lord, and to benefit the whole body of Christ. In a normal case, a person’s spiritual gift is given to them by God when the believer is sealed with the Spirit, and it is something that the believer never had before; i.e. it goes beyond the range of natural ability. For instance, it does not follow that if a man was a schoolteacher before salvation, he will automatically be a teacher in God’s assembly. But then, the gift must be developed over time. Read more… The believer is responsible not to neglect their gift, as Timothy was reminded in 1 Tim. 4:14, or else it can become dormant. Now in this second epistle, Timothy is told to “rekindle” or to stir it up (2 Tim. 1:6). Gift can never be ultimately lost (Rom. 11:29), but it can become unprofitable. How does one “rekindle” their gift? By using it! A special note is made about Timothy’s gift; “which is in thee by the putting on of my hands”. Timothy’s gift was conferred on him by apostolic power, but ultimately it was “of God”. As we read in 1 Tim. 4, there were prophecies that preceded this, designating Timothy for that work (e.g. Acts 13:2-3), and also the elders joined with the apostle Paul in laying hands on Timothy.1 Although Timothy’s case was special, we can still take a practical lesson from this: we are responsible to use whatever gift God has given us. This can be very difficult in a day of moral and spiritual declension – when others are turning away – but it is crucial.
For God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of wise discretion.
v.7 Courage. Next we have the spirit in which gift is to be used. Something that can hinder the believer from stirring up their gift is a “spirit of cowardice”. Having a cowardly spirit leads to inaction (Ecc. 11:4). It takes real moral courage to press forward in a time of declension. It is one thing to serve alongside our brethren when the world is turning against us, but it is another thing to serve alone when our brethren turn against us! These circumstances test us as to our foundation. But it we live in the sight of God, and walk in communion with Him, our courage will be drawn not from the crowd around us, but from God Himself, who “has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of wise discretion”. These are three great principles of service. Power is needed to use our gift. Remember who gave us the gift; it is God Himself, and His Spirit is within us as the power to use our gift according to God’s mind.  Love is the proper motivation for the use of gift; “by love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). Wise discretion is the discernment about how and when to use our gift; so we must follow the leading of the Spirit. Compare these three with 1 Cor. 12, 13, and 14. Notice that Timothy was a timid person (1 Cor. 16:10), but natural timidity is no excuse for cowardice.
Be not therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but suffer evil along with the glad tidings, according to the power of God;
v.8 Willingness to Suffer. One of the greatest challenges to the man of God in a day when the public profession of Christianity is in poor condition is the shame or reproach connected with it. The tendency is to make Christianity into a religion that is acceptable to or even admired by the world. The cross, in its true context, is a scandal before the world (Gal. 5:11). But the man of God must not allow these worldly sentiments to creep into his mind. There are two things Paul told Timothy not to be ashamed of: (1) “the testimony of our Lord” which would be that which concerns Christ in general, in other words the revelation that forms the  basis of Christianity (e.g. Acts 28:22), and (2) “nor of me his prisoner”, which refers specifically to the shame of association with Paul. The answer to both things is in vv.9-11. We must understand that the Judaizing teachers had made great inroads in the early church, and had some success bringing the saints into an earthly mode of thinking, in which Paul and his doctrine had no place. Although it can be hard to imagine, Paul was largely looked down upon by many in his day. When Paul was imprisoned by the Romans, his enemies portrayed this as the judgment of God against him. This added to the shame of being associated with Paul, and many Christians turned their backs on Paul (v.15). We can take an application of this to ourselves even in the twenty-first century. Paul’s doctrine is still unpopular in Christianity today, mainly because it separates the Christian from the world in a very practical way. The exhortation for us is to not be ashamed of Paul, but rather embrace the truth he lays out by inspiration. The point here is that the servant of God must be willing “suffer evil along with the glad tidings”. We must accept suffering as the part of the servant of God, following in the footsteps of Christ. But we are not left helpless in our suffering for Christ; we can endure “according to the power of God”.
who has saved us, and has 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 the ages of time, 10 but has been made manifest now by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has annulled death, and brought to light life and incorruptibility by the glad tidings;
11 to which “I” have been appointed a herald and apostle and teacher of the nations. vv.9-11 Remember Your Calling. The answer to the reproach that the faithful endure in association with the testimony of Christ, and even with Paul, is to remember what we are a part of, i.e. to remember our calling! God has “saved us” from our lost condition as sinners, “called us” by His grace. Our calling in Christ is called “high” (Phil. 3:14), “heavenly” (Heb. 3:1), and “holy” (v.9). In 2 Timothy the holiness is emphasized, perhaps because of the moral darkness of the day. There is no excuse to relax our moral standard. All of this is not through “our works, but according to his own purpose and grace”. Our calling brings before us God’s purpose “in Christ Jesus”, and His including us in the purpose, to bless us in association with His Son! This purpose was “given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages of time, but has been made manifest now by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ”. As part of the eternal counsels of God, this purpose was “given” before time even existed, but was “made manifest” when our Savior Jesus Christ appeared in this world the first time. The sending of Christ into this world to “annul death”, etc. showed that God was putting that plan into action, so to speak, and taking out the great barrier to its accomplishment, i.e. death and the power of Satan. The death and resurrection of Christ annulled (or rendered powerless) death (Heb. 2:15; 1 Cor. 15:55). But it also “brought to light life and incorruptibility by the glad tidings”. A resurrection life for the soul, and incorruptibility for the body (1 Cor. 15:42) of everyone who receives the glad tidings! What a calling we have! How this encourages us to not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord! And how this would help Timothy to not be ashamed of Paul or his chain, because Paul was in connection with these glad tidings “appointed a herald and apostle and teacher of the nations”. The wall of partition was now gone, and the gospel was carried out to whosoever will. Such was his ministry, and it was for this that Paul suffered.
Life and Incorruptibility Brought to Light by the Gospel. There is a progression of understanding through scripture with regard to the body in relation to death and resurrection. Old Testament saints knew of a resurrection from the dead in a general way, that is all (John 11:24; 1 Samuel 2:6; Job 14:7,14; 19:25-27;1 Psalm 16:9,10; Psalm 17:15; and Daniel 12:22). They did not know death as a defeated foe. Christ had life in Himself, but that life could not be shared with His elect until the death and resurrection were accomplished. The full truth of life and incorruption could only be revealed when death was annulled, and with a risen and glorified Man seated at God’s right hand. This is the truth that that gospel presents; thus God has “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”. In other words, the gospel brings with it the making good of the “promise of life” (v.1), which brings the soul and body beyond the power of death.2 Our hope is that of being with Christ and like Christ, which includes a physical body changed to be like His body of glory. But in the meantime, He shares His resurrection life with us, which we enjoy by the power of the indwelling Spirit.
12 For which cause also I suffer these things; but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep for that day the deposit I have entrusted to him. v.12 Confidence in God. Although Paul was suffering for the gospel, he was not ashamed because he had committed his matters to the Lord, like entrusting a “deposit” to a bank.3 Paul had confidence in the Lord because he had come to know Him; “for I know whom I have believed”. It is knowledge of the Person (not ‘what’ but ‘whom’) that gives confidence,4 and so Paul was “persuaded” that the Lord would not forget all he had done. In in scene there would be no right evaluation of his service, so Paul would commit it to the Lord and wait for “that day”, the day of manifestation when the Lord appears.

Keeping Sound Doctrine, Even When Others are Giving Up (1:13-18)

13 Have an outline of sound words, which words thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. v.13 An Outline of Sound Doctrine. Paul turns to a new point for Timothy’s attention; keeping the Word of God. It is very instructive that Paul would commit Timothy, not to the hope of further revelations, but to the Word of God (Acts 20:32) already revealed to Paul and communicated by him. This is exactly where we find ourselves today. The path forward lies in obedience and faithfulness to God’s Word; we have no other guide. Timothy was to “have an outline” of these “sound words”. The sound words are the inspired words of God, which have been communicated through Paul; “which words thou hast heard of me”. What does it mean to have an outline? It means to have a systematic understanding of the Word of God, especially in the “big-picture” view of it. Timothy was not being told to learn the outline, because he already had “fully known” Paul’s doctrine (2 Tim. 3:10), but rather to have it in a way that he could lay it out in an orderly way.5 To get an outline of scripture, we must first read it, sometimes over and over again, then meditate on it. The Spirit of God will help us to understand the meaning of the inspired words, and we can benefit greatly from the ministry that Christ has provided for His Body. A few practical tips would be: (1) read the Word in an accurate, word-for-word translation, and possibly use several to compare, (2) take notes, jotting down the main points and arguments, (3) read or listen to sound expository ministry from trusted sources, and (4) water what you read with prayer, asking God to illuminate your mind and heart. These things will help you to understand the “outline of sound words”. Notice that here it is particularly Paul’s doctrine that is in view. Paul gives us the doctrine that is proper to the church of God, and it is especially important to have an outline of those truths.6 The last part of the verse is equally important; “in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus”. This gives us the twofold attitude in which we are to hold the outline of scripture. First, we should hold it “in faith”; i.e. with a heart that wants to believe what God has said. This is the opposite of a skeptical mind. Second, we should hold it “in love”, which means to have the heart involved. We are to treasure the Word of God as a love-letter from Him! The truth God has communicated ought to be precious to us. The Word of God, in expressing the truth, reveals a Person who is the Truth, who is the only real object of faith and love.
14 Keep, by the Holy Spirit which dwells in us, the good deposit entrusted. v.14 Keeping the Entrusted Deposit, by the Holy Spirit. Next we find that Timothy would not be alone in keeping the truth, but there was a Person resident within him that would be the power in his life to hold fast to the outline of sound words. The “Holy Spirit which dwells in us” functions as the Spirit of truth, bearing witness to our spirit, and communicating to us the things of God. But it was Timothy’s responsibility to keep “the good deposit entrusted” to him by Paul. This expression conveys the thought of sacred responsibility, as one entrusted with a valuable object. This is a contrasting reference to v.12. Paul had two deposits: one he committed to God’s sovereignty and was confident that God would keep it, the other to Timothy as he pressed home the young man’s responsibility (expression also used in 1 Tim. 6:20). An illustration of thus might be how the priests and Levites were instructed to carry the gold and silver vessels from the river Ahava in Babylon all the way back to Jerusalem in Ezra’s day. The vessels were weighed before the journey when given to the priests and Levites, and they would be weighed again “by number and weight” in the chamber of the House of the Lord to show that nothing committed to each one had been lost in the journey (see Ezra 8:29, 34). This is how we are to hold the truth entrusted to us!
15 Thou knowest this, that all who are in Asia, of whom is Phygellus and Hermogenes, have turned away from me. v.15 Those Who Turn Back. Not all who take the name of Christ are faithful to keep the entrusted deposit. Paul reminded Timothy of what he already knew, that “all who are in Asia” had turned away from Paul. This deeply troubled Paul as Asia Minor was the sphere of his greatest labor. Nowhere had the gospel had such a powerful effect as in that region, and nowhere did Paul deliver a greater deposit than the letters to Ephesus and Colosse. There Paul suffered, fought with beasts at Ephesus, faced the opposition of the Jews in Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:50), Iconium, and Lystra (Acts 14:5-19). But there the gospel flourished brightly, and many were saved and became Paul’s companions; men such as and Gaius, Timotheus, Tychicus, and Trophimus (Acts 20:4). And yet, the whole region had now turned their faces away from Paul. The apostle singles out two men whose turning away from him was particularly painful; “of whom is Phygellus and Hermogenes”. We know nothing about these men, other than what Paul says here. How deeply he felt the pain of rejection! It doesn’t say these ones in Asia abandoned the profession of Christ, but  only that they had turned away from the imprisoned apostle. We can take a practical application of this: how many Christians are willing to accept certain parts of scripture, but then “turn away” from Paul’s doctrine?

The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he has often refreshed me, and has not been ashamed of my chain; 17 but being in Rome sought me out very diligently, and found me18 the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord in that day — and how much service he rendered in Ephesus “thou” knowest best.
vv.16-18 Those Who Overcome. In contrast with those of Asia, Paul recounts one brother who had real devotion to himself. Onesiphorus was a brother (probably from Asia Minor “in Ephesus”, v.18; 2 Tim. 4:19) who had a history of refreshing the apostle Paul and serving him (which Timothy knew “best”, also having resided in Ephesus for some time), and whose devotion to Paul did not wane in the slightest when Paul was imprisoned. Paul could say Onesiphorus “has not been ashamed of my chain”, the chain being a symbol for Paul’s imprisonment. Onesiphorus made a visit to Rome, and sought out Paul “very diligently” until he found him. It would have been a tiring and humbling task to find Paul in the Roman prisons. Onesiphorus would have suffered reproach for it, not only from the unbelievers, but from the enemies of Paul, and also from his local brethren in Asia, who had turned against Paul. The apostle prayed for mercy on Onesiphorus and his house. Perhaps some of the reproach of association with Paul would have fallen on Onesiphorus’ family, so Paul prays for them as well. Certainly, Onesiphorus could expect a bright reward “in that day”, referring to the day of manifestation when Christ appears! What an encouragement it would be to Timothy.
Preparation for Service. There are a number of things Timothy already had going for him that prepared him for service, and some things he would need going forward. The things Timothy already had:
  1. He had eternal life (v.1)
  2. A spiritual father in Paul (v.2)
  3. A prayer-warrior on his side (v.3)
  4. A compassionate heart (v.4)
  5. Unfeigned faith (v.5)
  6. A godly mother and grandmother (v.5)
  7. A spiritual gift (v.6)
  8. A holy calling (v.9)
  9. An outline of sound words (v.13)
  10. The Holy Spirit indwelling (v.14)
Things Timothy needed to do:
  1. Use his gift (v.6)
  2. Not be ashamed (v.8)
  3. Be willing to suffer (v.8)
  4. Have an outline of sound words (v.13)
  5. Keep the entrusted deposit (v.14)
Child of God, by Christ’s salvation,
Rise o’er sin, and fear, and care—
Joy to find in every station
Something still to do or bear;
Think what Spirit dwells within thee—
Think what Father’s smiles are thine—
Think that Jesus died to win thee—
Child of God! wilt thou repine?
Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith and winged by prayer,
Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee,
God’s right hand shall guide thee there;
Soon shall close thine earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.7
  1. The case of Timothy is, no doubt, peculiar. He was designated by prophecy to a certain very peculiar work — that of guarding doctrine. And the apostle and the presbyters laid their hands upon him, by which a spiritual gift was communicated to him which he did not possess before. It is evident that there is no man now living who has been similarly endowed and called to such a work. — Kelly, William. Notes on Galatians.
  2. While Christ Himself was alive, although life was in Him, this purpose of God was not accomplished with respect to us. The power of life, divine power in life, was to manifest itself in the destruction of the power of death brought in by sin and in which Satan reigned over sinners. Christ then in His resurrection has annulled death, and by the gospel has brought to light both life and incorruptibility, that is to say, that condition of eternal life which puts the soul and the body beyond death and its power. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  3. By “my deposit” is to be understood all that I as a believer entrust to the safekeeping of God, not only the security but the blessedness of the soul and the body, of the walk and the work, with every question conceivable to be raised in the past, present, or future. – Kelly, W. The Second Epistle to Timothy.
  4. It is faith, but it is the Person Who is believed, and a real inward knowledge of Him thereby formed. No other knowledge has such sterling value for eternity; yet there is communion with God in it now, as now the Holy Spirit communicates it through the word. – Kelly, W. The Second Epistle to Timothy.
  5. Concerning the word “outline”; The Greek means a systematic expose, in outline, of any system of doctrine or philosophy, as 1Tim. 1.16, ‘delineation.’ – J.N. Darby Translation Notes
  6. Many have found it a little harder to grasp and communicate an outline of John’s ministry. Paul’s ministry “which thou has heard of me” is particularly suited to making an outline. That said, we should still have an outline of all scripture!
  7. Lyte, H. Child of God, by Christ’s Salvation. Hymns for the Little Flock #13A