2 Timothy 1
We now begin what very well might be my favorite book in the Bible. 2 Timothy was Paul’s last letter, his swan song written right before his execution. In this letter we’ll see how Paul shares his heart, his care for the church, his passion for the purity of the gospel, and especially his love and concern for Timothy his son in the faith.
He begins by thanking the God whom he served and by letting Timothy know that he prayed for him, night and day. Paul had this deep desire to see Timothy once again before he died. Apparently the last time they parted, tears were flowing down the eyes of his spiritual son, one last meeting would bring Paul joy.
As Paul considers Timothy, he has nothing but fond memories, he goes back to the early days (Acts 16). Paul knew Timothy’s grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice, that they had a genuine faith, something they passed along to Timothy as well (2 Timothy 3:15). Sometimes you see it more clearly in certain Christians, there’s no doubt about it, they’re legit, real, there’s a genuine faith.
Building on his call to salvation Paul next deals with Timothy’s call to service. Timothy appears to be a bit timid, even fearful, and if he’s going to be the one to whom Paul passes the baton, that’s absolutely unacceptable! Paul’s letter would largely be an encouragement to Timothy to stir up the gift of God that was in him; to fan that flame into a raging fire for the glory of God. Timothy, “…God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” If only all of us would take this to heart – that we must not function on fear, we can’t make decisions because we’re afraid of him, or her, or this, or that. We have God’s love, His power, God’s given us a sound mind, let’s be mentally strong and fortified. I’ll be the first to tell you, the mind is a battlefield, we need to win those battles.
Paul encourages Timothy not to be ashamed or afraid to suffer for the gospel, not that we have martyr syndromes, but we must answer this call of Christ on our lives. I’ve always loved the way 2 Timothy 1:9 reminds us that this calling is not because we’ve earned it or worked our way up the spiritual ladder, it’s only because of God’s gracious purpose for our lives…something given to us before time began (see also Jeremiah 1:5).
That plan was set in motion when Jesus came (appeared) abolished death (I like that) and brought everlasting life to light through the gospel – a gospel that Paul was appointed to preach and teach, and for which he suffered. Paul, however, was not ashamed and he didn’t regret his labor of love, because he knew the Lord, and he knew this gospel was true for himself as well.
Paul prods Timothy to hold fast and tight to the truth of this Gospel – the people, the ministry, could only be protected and directed by the Holy Spirit. It’s heartbreaking to read how all those in Asia had turned away from Paul (they didn’t want to suffer). It’s beautiful to read about Onesiphorus who vigorously searched for Paul in his Roman prison, found him, and often refreshed him. Paul prays for blessings upon his family and that God would greatly reward Onesiphorus for his courageous ministry.
2 Timothy 2
This is probably my favorite book of the Bible and now – we enter in to what very well may be my favorite chapter. I think I could camp out all day on 2 Timothy 2:1, how we are to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus…and here’s Paul, writing this to his “son” in the faith…his final letter before his departure.
Be strong in the Grace – a good acronym would be God’s Reward At Christ’s Expense, God’s unequivocal and unmerited favor, we don’t deserve it, we cannot earn it, and yet He lavishes it upon us every single day of our lives as Christians. Paul wrote in Romans 5:20 that where sin abounds, grace abounds MUCH MORE! God help us to be good at using His grace, without abusing His grace – let’s let God’s grace make us strong to know we’re forgiven of our sin, but at the same time not to continue in sin (Romans 6:1-2). Paul tells Timothy to let God’s grace make him strong as a son, strong as a mentor to mentor other men who will pour into others, and others, and others; strong as a soldier enduring hardship in the war of eternity, strong as an athlete training to win and dedicated to competing according to the rules, strong as a hardworking farmer who eventually enjoys the crops, and even strong as a thinker (2 Timothy 2:7) so that God would grant him understanding in all things.
Timothy, always remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (He gutted the grave, defeated death, conquered the coffin). This message must always be preached, even though it will be opposed every step of the way. This is why Paul was facing death at this point in time, but the truth is, he’d been persecuted for the past 30 years for his faithfulness. To be honest, the ministry is hard in many ways; there are innumerable sacrifices to be made, there is mental, emotional and spiritual suffering that go with it, but we are to be obedient and go forward enthusiastically for the Lord our God and the sake of the elect (those who will be saved and built up).
The “faithful saying” found in verses 11-13 was probably an early Christian saying – maybe even song. There are many important “ifs” in this section; I think it’s wise to take them at face value. Paul was fighting through writing, he saw the way some were not enduring, even denying, and wanted Timothy to realize this and be that faithful servant of the Lord (pastor).
Timothy’s job as a pastor has a lot to do with preaching, teaching, and reminding the people the truth of God’s Word. It’s sad to see pastors bringing in other material into the pulpit, next thing you know arguments arise, no one is being built up – some are even being ruined! Timothy was to work hard at rightly interpreting and preaching the Scriptures – he had to have a heart for God’s approval not man’s! Timothy was to turn away from the foolishness that tries to find its way into the church. Paul shares with Timothy that those lies only increase to more ungodliness, and spreads like a disease among the disciples – Hymenaeus and Philetus were an example of this. No doubt there was a time when these guys seemed right-on, but now they had turned away.
There’s so much here, to glean as Christian ministers. Who knows if a person is truly saved? God (2 Timothy 2:19). If you say you’re a Christian stop sinning (2 Timothy 2:19). Get right with God so He can fully use your life (2 Timothy 2:20-21). Flee youthful lusts; pursue Christ and His character, and that’ll happen a lot easier if you hang out with people who have the same heart (2 Timothy 2:22). Timothy, be faithful to rescue those who have been captured by the devil.
2 Timothy 3
The perilous times described by Paul in verses 1-5 sound a lot like the present times – don’t they? Lovers of money (yup), boasters (yup), proud (yup), blasphemers (yup), disobedient to parents (YUP), (I think you get the picture) lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (big time). In southern California more people go to the beach than read their Bibles on Sunday morning; they’d rather hit up the mall, than hear a message at a midweek service; they’re way more excited about Disneyland than they are discipleship; tragically, it’s become much more about pleasing self (pleasure) rather than pleasing God! The downward spiral starts with that selfish love described in v. 2 ‘cuz at the end of day, our problems are rooted in an ugly narcissism – and I think we all struggle with that to a certain degree.
Paul commands Timothy to turn away from such people, to withdraw from them. When he describes these guys who creep into households to take gullible women captive, he’s writing about men who come into the church (remember, they met in houses back then). They learn the truth intellectually, but they never come to the truth personally, because they resist the truth internally.
Timothy would be able to survive perilous times by being ready for them and by following the right examples. Paul had paved the way with his solid teaching and solid living. Timothy had witnessed Paul’s life, he heard God’s Word – lived out loud – in spite of the many, many persecutions, Paul never gave up, and God never let him down. Paul wanted to prepare Timothy for the persecutions he was sure to experience if he aspired to live a godly life (that’s the promise of v. 12). As a matter of fact, evil men and imposters would only grow worse.
How would Timothy get through these perilous times? How about us?
- Be ready for the trials and perilous times (1-9, 13)
- Follow good examples (like Paul) (10-12)
- Stick to the Scriptures (14-17)
As Paul closes this chapter he reminds Timothy that he had learned the Bible from his mother, from his grandmother, and from his spiritual father (Paul – v. 14). This is why it’s so important to plant God’s Word into the hearts of our children ASAP! The Scriptures have all the wisdom we need in life – even bearing the power of salvation. And it’s not just a portion of the Bible, it’s all the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God (God-breathed) and is profitable for us (see Psalm 119:160 and Isaiah 48:17-18)
Doctrine teaches us what’s right, reproof tells us what is not right, correction tells us how to get right, and instruction tells us how to stay right. If want to be complete, mature, and ready to serve, we need to love God and His Word with all of our hearts.
2 Timothy 4
The final chapter of Paul’s final letter, he’s passing the baton, on to Timothy…and he closes with an infinitely solemn charge that’s applicable to every pastor. It’s a charge before God the Father and God the Son, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom – Timothy – Pastors, preach the Word. Always be ready and willing to preach the Word. I love what Pastor Chuck Smith would tell us over and over again, “Simply teach the Word Simply.”If we do, we will convince them, correct them, rebuke them, encourage them, and challenge them – we need to do this faithfully and patiently.
The “time” that Paul speaks about is here. The vast majority of people do not want to hear the Word of God, they’re not interested in sound doctrine. On the contrary, most people want to hear preachers who tell them what their flesh wants to hear, this is why some of the largest church in the world are those churches where the messages are more topical than they are Biblical; they want humor, human psychology, sociology, not theology; they’re want to be entertained and pampered way more than they want to be instructed or convicted by God’s Word. They’re more interested in fables, theories, and the latest sensation, than they are the truth of God’s Word. For that reason, pastors must teach God’s Word passionately, accurately and faithfully to any that are still interested, even if the numbers diminish, we must not compromise the message!
Paul’s urgency is amplified because of the fact that he’s about to be executed, beheaded at the hands of the Romans. His death would be like an offering to God; his death was simply a departure. The Greek word translated “departure” was also used in ancient literature for a sailor who lifted his anchor, to sail home; or a camper who took down his tent, it’s time to leave; or a prisoner, who served his sentence, he’s now set free. Death for the Christian is not the end, it’s a departure, heading home – set free.
Paul had been faithful to the end. He fought the good fight (against the enemies of the gospel). He preached, protected, and preserved the Gospel, he kept the faith (I always tell people, “just keep believing till the day you die”). He finished His race. Paul had always described his life as a race (Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16; 3:12-14; Hebrews 12:1). Not everyone finishes, and not everyone finishes well. I think about this often, “O Lord, please help me to finish well.”
Paul looked to the crown, because he had endured the cross – I need to remember that before the crown, there’s always a cross. Paul knew, he was thoroughly convinced that the Righteous Judge would give him that crown (reward), along with any and all who loved the Lord Jesus. It’s so sad to see how in his final day the ranks were thinning out. I cringe when I hear the testimony of Demas, he left Paul (and maybe even the Lord) because he fell back in love with the world (see the warning of 1 John 2:15). And yet what an indescribable blessing to see Mark restored to ministry (see Acts 15:36-40). In the end Jesus stood with Paul, delivered him from the lion (the enemy) was faithful to the death and you can be sure he heard those words from the lips of Jesus, “Well done, my good and faithful servant, enter in to the joy of your Lord.”