In our study of 2 Timothy, we will look at Paul's extreme loyalty to the gospel of Jesus Christ as he urges Timothy to share in that loyalty. This letter was written to Timothy who was a leader in the church at Ephesus at the time of Paul's second imprisonment in Rome. This was during the time of the emperor Nero's persecution of Christians and Paul was waiting to be executed for being faithful in the ministry that God had called him to.
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Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
As was usual with Paul's letters, he begins with his credentials as an apostle and reminds us that it was by "the will of God". This could be a personal reflection as he looked at his present situation on death row. He was probably reflecting on the fact that God is in control and that it was God's will that his personal ministry would come to an end. It seems that his life has come full circle as he started as one who hunted down Christians in order to kill them for their faith and now he is awaiting that same fate. With this in mind, he still holds onto the "promise of life" that is eternal through the blood of Jesus Christ. This, too , may be a reflection on the fact that, before he came face to face with Jesus Christ, he was trying to earn that eternal life through his own efforts.
To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is the usual way that Paul started his letters except for the fact that he added "mercy" to his normal "grace and peace" opening. That is interesting in the fact that, after all that Paul had done for the gospel, he still realizes that God's mercy is at the center of his life. It points to his extreme loyalty as he did not let his present circumstances change the way that he had conducted the ministry from the beginning. You get the sense of a calm resolution as he speaks of the peace that can only come from God. We also see the fact that Paul thought of Timothy as his son even though they were not biologically related. They had been constant companions as Paul had raised him up in the faith and we are reminded that that is the most important duty of any parent that has been entrusted with a child.
I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.
Paul continues his reflections by reminding his "son" in the faith that his present situation (death row) is not only the "will of God" but also it is in service to God. He reminds Timothy that his ministry continues even though he is in prison and that God is using him. We also see that he thanks God but it is not for the fact that he is on death row and still able to serve. Paul thanks God for the time that he had with Timothy and probably the fact that his ministry would continue through his efforts. He reflects on the fact that his ancestors (Jews) had also served God even though they had rejected Jesus Christ. This is a reminder that it is not our actions (service) that brings the gift of eternal life. He goes on to say that he has a clear conscience but, what does that mean? To understand what Paul was talking about, we must remember that he was a Jew of Jews. In Judaism, the concept of conscience speaks of the nature or essence of our being and the fact that we were created in the image of God. A part of this image (nature) is the inner voice that helps us to discern right from wrong and it is referred to as "yetzer tov". The other part of our nature is called "yetzer ra" and it speaks of our selfish side (our ways). These dual voices acting in our lives cause us to make choices and this is what is commonly called "free will". A "clear conscience" speaks of the fact that Paul was content with the choice that he had made to put his trust in Jesus Christ. His choice meant turning his back on his religion and embracing the gift of eternal life through grace. Now, looking back, he basically says that he does not regret his choice even though it probably cost him a lot of his family ties.
Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.
Paul continues by remembering the last time that he had seen his "son" and the tears that Timothy had shed as he watched his mentor go on without him. This is a sad note as you can almost feel Paul's yearning to see him before he is executed. This verse reminds us that there comes a time in the life of a Christian when they must live out their own faith much like a young bird being forced to leave the nest and fly.
I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
In Acts 16:1, we were introduced to this Christian family from Lystra which would have been located in the modern country of Turkey. Timothy's mother and grandmother were Jewish believers while his father was a non-believing Greek. Paul speaks of his "sincere" faith and it brings to mind the question of what that is talking about. With Timothy's Greek father, he would have been familiar with the way that Greeks were known for their great talkers (philosophers). They would do a lot of talking but actually back it up with very little action. Here, Paul is commending Timothy, as well as his mother and grandmother, for the fact that they did not only talk a good faith but their belief was backed up by their actions. Many times, people get this concept of actions and faith confused and it becomes more of a "religious" thing where the actions come as part of the process of being saved instead of being a result of salvation as it was with Paul and Timothy. A sincere faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ will cause us to be thankful and want to put it into action while the opposite of a sincere faith is a hypocritical "faith". A "hypocritical faith" is a false faith and speaks of one that just pretends to have faith in the work of Jesus Christ. They usually perform many "religious activities" to hide the fact that they do not really trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Now, Paul lets us in on one of his purposes for writing this letter to his "son" in the faith. He speaks of the fact that Timothy received a "gift of God" through the laying on of hands. This is speaking of the commissioning service that was apparently held in Lystra when Paul was led to take Timothy with him on his missionary journeys. In his first letter, Paul had reminded his "son" about the revelations (prophecies) that he had been given concerning Timothy. This refers to the fact that, prior to enlisting Timothy to be his partner in ministry, God spoke to Paul and told him to commission him. At that time, Paul probably had further words from God concerning Timothy and his ministry but they were not shared (we will look at this further as we near the end of this letter). The "gift of God" that Paul speaks of is the power of the Holy Spirit and, evidently, Timothy had been a Christian at the time that Paul met him in Lystra but he did not have the ability to hear the Spirit. In preparation for the ministry and the battle against Satan, Paul and the elders laid their hands on Timothy and prayed for God to allow him to understand the Holy Spirit. Now, Paul urges him to "fan into flame" that gift but, what does that mean? Just like blowing on the embers from a fire can cause flames to grow, Paul is urging his "son" to grow in his faith strength. This is talking about his ability to listen and follow the prompting of the Spirit in his life. As with anything else, the more that we do something, the easier it becomes and it finally becomes something that we do not even need to think about. In our last study, we saw that a sincere faith causes us to do things in service. Now, we see that we do not just go and do random acts of service but, instead, we listen and follow the direction of the Spirit to serve where and how God directs us.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self discipline.
Now, Paul begins to describe what it looks like when that ember has become a full fledged flame of fire. We see that he speaks of three things that we receive through the power of the Spirit and we are reminded that, throughout the Bible, that number is associated with the earthly display of God's will for men. He begins with the fact that the presence of the Spirit does not make us "timid". That word basically means lacking courage and Paul is speaking of the fact that, as a Spirit-filled Christian, we are given confidence that replaces our fear. As we will see later in this letter, Timothy was known for being timid even to the point of fear causing him to have stomach problems. Fear is basically a feeling that is caused by a belief that something is able to cause harm to us and this comes from the devil. It is the opposite of faith and confidence in the fact that God is ultimately in control of ALL things. As Christians, we grow in our faith and confidence through service that is led by the Holy Spirit. This Christian confidence gives us the three things that Paul listed and the first is power or strength. This strength allows us to see past our present circumstances and to hold onto the promises of God. This strength is increased with every struggle that we go through as we remember how God got us through our previous troubles. The second thing that Paul lists is love and it speaks of the ability to serve those that may persecute us while the third is self discipline which is training ourselves to follow the prompting of the Spirit even when there may be "serious consequences" for doing so.
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
Paul continues to encourage Timothy to stand strong in the faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. We may wonder about what Paul was talking about when he urged him to not be ashamed of the "testimony about our Lord". This is speaking of the fact that Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross on our behalf. To many people (including the Jewish people) this is a stumbling block because it is looked at as a sign of weakness. Paul goes on to say that Timothy should not be ashamed to be associated with Paul because of the fact that he was in prison in Rome awaiting his execution. Instead, Paul urges him to embrace the suffering that is soon to come for Timothy and he reminds him that it is only through the strength from our confidence in God that it is possible. In our world today (even among many Christians), the idea of being persecuted like Paul or Jesus is a foreign concept and we often wonder why this is so. The answer is pretty simple in that many come to faith with the idea that, once they make the decision, everything is going to be easy and that everyone will embrace them. That is not the biblical pattern and we see this in the connection between confidence, persecution, and courage. As we saw before, our confidence in God will cause us to stand up and stand out (be different). This difference (non-conformity) will bring persecution from those that do not know Jesus as well as many within "church" walls. The purpose of this persecution is to get others to conform to the standards of a certain group. As we see with Paul's words to Timothy, we have the courage to face this pain or grief because of the strength that we have gained through trusting in the Lord.
He has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
Paul continues to encourage Timothy in his faith by reminding him of the fact that he was called to a "holy" life but what did that mean to Paul and what does it mean to us today? The Hebrew word for "holy" is "qadosh" and it means to be set apart for a special purpose. Paul continues and is quick to point out that this calling is not because of our own actions but for God's purpose and grace. So, if we are set apart for God's purpose, what is that purpose? That purpose is bringing salvation to the rest of mankind and the work was actually accomplished with Jesus on the cross. That speaks of grace and Paul reminds us that this was not some kind of backup plan but was the plan right from the beginning of time. Our purpose, then, is to tell others of this finished work and that is what Jesus was telling the disciples to do in what is known as The Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19) This all sounds very simple and, in fact, it is but the whole concept of a "holy life" has been twisted by religious authorities. Today, if you would ask someone what it means to live a holy life, they would probably give you a list of things that they do as well as a list of things that they do not do. Some would have sharing the gospel on their to-do list but it would be only one of a long list of religious duties. We must remember that, throughout Paul's ministry as well as Jesus', he faced a constant battle to keep religion out of the gospel of grace. It is the same with us, today, as we must constantly remind ourselves and point out to others that we are not made holy by our actions but only through the grace of God.
but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Paul continues to remind Timothy that our salvation through grace had been hidden but was made apparent to all by the "appearing of our Savior". This is speaking of the resurrection of Jesus Christ which is the foundation of the gospel (good news). Why is that fact the foundation of the gospel? Jesus had promised that He would be raised from the dead and that we would as well. If He had not been seen alive after His crucifixion, then, that would have been a lie and we would be without any hope. He goes on to remind Timothy that, because of the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead, we can be assured that death has been defeated and we see that mankind has been made immortal. Even today, there are many people that believe that our life in this body on the earth is all that there is and, after it is over, we just cease to exist. The fact that Jesus walked the earth again even after he had been physically dead shows us that we do, in fact, live forever. That brings up the question of who lives forever and whether it is all men or just those that believe in Jesus and we see the answer in the fact that Paul does not say that it is for believers only. Why does Paul go into this topic in this his final letter to Timothy and the rest of the Christian world? God had revealed to Paul that Timothy was going to have to make a choice of whether to be bold and stand up against idolatry or to let it pass. Timothy was known for being quiet and somewhat timid but, by reminding him of the fact that we will live forever with Jesus, He was hoping to prepare him to make the right choice.