The Two Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy
- Introduction (2 Tim. 1:1-5)
This epistle has a greater personal nature than the first. A certain measure of emotion is also evident, likely due to St. Paul’s feeling that his departure was approaching, coupled with the harsh loneliness of his second imprisonment, and his separation from a close, trustworthy, servant, in whose sincerity of faith and sacrifice for the Lord’s sake, he had full confidence. St. Paul not only valued Timothy as a disciple fully molded after his teacher, but also saw in him a perfect continuation of Paul’s service, and dedication.
Despite his having been the last of the apostles, St. Paul boasted of the fact that the Lord of heaven Himself wrenched him from the path of perdition, joining him to the Lord’s elect and apostles. That is the reason he introduces himself as “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” appointed to preach the Gentiles with the promise of eternal life through “faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” Unlike the first epistle, St. Paul no longer addresses Timothy as “a true son in the faith,” rather, as “a beloved son” – [or “my beloved son” in other translations.1 Paul prays that this beloved son be granted “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (similarly to 1 Tim. 1:2)
As in 1 Tim. 1:12, St. Paul thanks God Whom he served with a pure conscience as did his forefathers; his upright intentions resulted in God granting him mercy by rescuing him from his ignorance and faithlessness, straightening his path, bestowing His salvation upon him, and joining him to His disciples. Despite the intervening distance, Paul remembers Timothy in his prayers “without ceasing,” “day and night,2“ for the success and growth of his service. Paul also expresses his yearning to see Timothy (such feelings do not reflect any weakness, rather, Paul’s Christian love and preoccupation with the service.)
Paul is overjoyed since God granted him a disciple such as Timothy who, despite his young age, was spiritually mature, devoted to the service, and was tearfully seeking the Lord’s support in his struggle and service.
In extolling Timothy’s unpretentious faith, Paul recall’s Timothy’s grandmother Lois and mother Eunice; both were righteous and had accepted Christ. St. Paul had met them at the beginning of his second journey, upon visiting Lystra, and had been introduced to their young, upright son, Timothy. Paul appreciated their influence on Timothy, which had led him to follow the Lord’s path, such that “He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.“ (Acts 16:2) Consequently Paul had circumcised Timothy (being of Greek descent) and chosen him to be his companion and co-evangelist. Godly homes constitute a significant blessing to their youth; also, righteous women “will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Tim. 2:15) Adults who ignore the Lord, and who neglect to raise their offspring within His fear, will end up with grown-up children modelled after their parents, and will not escape the Judge unless they learn from trials and heaven’s messages to repent and to turn to a life of holiness, thereby rescuing with them their sons and daughters.
- Kindle the gift of service and tolerate hardships for the Gospel’s sake (2 Tim. 1:6 – 12)
St. Paul reminds Timothy, Christ’s servant, to kindle within himself the gift of serving God, which he had acquired from the Holy Spirit, through Paul’s laying of hands. Timothy should thus not only contemplate the future as an extension of the kingdom of God, but should also aspire, accordingly, to the expansion and increased fervor of the service. This is because God “has not given us a spirit of fear,” withdrawal or despair, in times of adversity, rather, “of power and of love and of a sound mind:” a spirit of resistance, confrontation, initiative and struggle, relying on God’s grace and power, and on an open heart filled with the love of God, and the love for enemies and opposing parties, so that they may be defeated through our love; this is in addition to offering advice and the tranquil word of the Gospel, in order to win back apostates and help those who stumble.
Despite contrary winds and a resistive world, Paul exhorts Timothy to witness for the Lord proudly, and to have no shame acknowledging his ties to St. Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ. Rather, Timothy should share with Paul “the sufferings for the gospel” relying on “the power of God,” Who, through His blood, “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works.” Furthermore, according to God’s purpose, will, and grace, “… you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8 & 9) We were chosen “in Christ Jesus before time began” (“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” (Eph. 1:4)
Thus, our salvation, which was part of God’s plan before our creation, “has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ,“ incarnate through the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary; Jesus Christ “has abolished death [humanity’s enemy],” through His Cross and death. Jesus Christ has also “brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” He is “the light of the world,” and He granted us immortality and eternal life, provided we believe on the Gospel of salvation, as did St. Paul, who “was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” (See also 1 Tim. 2:7) Paul not only takes pride in his Master and His Cross (Gal. 6:14), but he also endures all suffering for His Master’s sake, rendering it impossible for him to be ashamed of following the Lord (Rom. 1:16). Paul furthermore explains his reasoning: “… for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (2 Tim. 1:12) He thus placed his entire trust in the Person in Whom he believed; he was absolutely certain of his eternal fate, since his eternal life is a consignment in the hands of the Omnipotent, until the Day of His coming to glorify His saints.
- Adhere to the Faith (2 Tim. 1:13 – 18):
Due to the apostle Paul’s experience with previous followers in his service, who had either deserted him or renounced the Faith, he exhorts Timothy “a true son in the faith,” to adhere to the correct teaching which he had heard from Paul in “faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” He exhorts him to keep and preserve the godly consignment, which is everything he had acquired through faith in Jesus Christ: salvation, a new life, and preaching the New Testament to the entire world, with the help of the Holy Spirit Who dwells in him and in us, knowing that “… let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12) St. Paul also urges Timothy to rely on God’s faithful-ness – God will never allow hardships beyond our endurance to befall us. Paul sees before him the regrettable example of having been abandoned by all those who had served with him in Asia “among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.” (These had never been mentioned previously). Having been influenced by the enemies of Christ’s Cross, they renounced all the apostle’s upright teaching. On the other hand, he was comforted by the presence of other faithful followers, among whom was Onesiphorus (who had apparently departed by the time this epistle was written.) St. Paul goes on to entreat the Lord for mercy to the family and household of Onesiphorus residing in Ephesus. Paul records his gratitude to Onesiphorus, who had no hesitation in supporting him while imprisoned, thereby risking adversity from the authorities; quite the contrary, Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s chains, and visited him many times whenever he came to Rome from Ephesus 3. It would also seem that he had sought Paul “very zealously,” and finally located him in prison and obtained the necessary permission from the authorities to see him. Since Paul never forgot Onesiphorus’ loving labor and other services in Ephesus, with which Timothy was quite familiar, he entreats the Lord to “grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day.” By “that Day” Paul is referring to Judgment Day, when the Judge “will reward each according to his works.” (Mat. 16:27) (To be contd.)
- Concerning Onesimus, Paul also said, “… my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains (of prison) … that is, my own heart,” (Philemon 10 & 12) ↩
- “…. in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often … besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:27 & 28) ↩
- Onesiphorus was probably a business man who shuttled between Ephesus and rome to carry out his business. ↩