The Two Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy
- Last days’ evils (2 Tim. 3:1-9)
Clearly, St. Paul continued to suffer from the severe wounds inflicted by some of his companions, through their falling prey to vainglory and Satan’s wiles, rebelling against him, and resisting sound doctrine. Consequently, he forewarns Timothy about difficult times he would face in his service, when a waning faith would be accompanied by degeneracy and the spread of perversion. Paul’s use of the expression “last days” covers both the short- and long-term.
Men’s fall start by their being “lovers of themselves,” by abandoning principles, by pushing back Christ into a secondary position in their lives, and by rejecting the Lord’s commandment placing self-denial as the first prerequisite for following Him (Mat. 16:24, Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23). This point marks the beginning of the slippery slope of degeneracy: hence, the love of money which is the root of all evil, boasting, pride, haughtiness, slander, brutality, blasphemy, unholiness, disobedience to parents – treating them lightly and neglecting them in their old age – thanklessness for any services rendered, unforgiveness, harshness in dealing with others, impurity in hearts defiled by lust, lack of self-control, treachery, spitefulness and despising good, loss of tenderness and loss of tendency to comfort the distressed, strife, tarnishing others’ reputation, prefer-ence to enmity and merciless violence over truthfulness and virtue, rejection of reconciliation and boasting in evil, corruption, stubbornness, impulsiveness, meddling in others’ affairs, and loving pleasure more than loving God. Such perverts will try to hide this wickedness, and attempt to project a “form of godliness but denying its power;” hence, they will pretend to be believers, outwardly committed to all the rites, while the conviction in their hearts, and their deeds, show that they neither know nor acknowledge the power of godliness.
St. Paul subsequently refers to incidents of which he was well aware: some of those hypocritical, perverse, teachers, “creep into households” with evil intentions, and establish relationships with gullible, weak-willed, young women who, driven by their lusts, are led astray and encouraged to reject the truth – just like their perverse teachers.
St. Paul then, referring to an incident that Moses had experienced, mentions “Jannes and Jambres,” Pharaoh’s sorcerers, who had challenged and resisted Moses through their sorcery, but eventually failed and their folly exposed (see exodus 7:11,12,22; 8:7; 9:11). Similarly, just as those two resisted Moses unsuccessfully, perverts resisting the truth because of their corrupt minds cannot progress further, since their folly will be exposed to all.
- Enduring suffering through the support of the word of God (2 Tim. 3:10-17)
Approaching his epistle’s conclusion, St. Paul reverts to counselling his beloved son, reminding him how, with open eyes and an open heart, he followed Paul’s sound doctrine. Timothy had also acquainted himself with all the details of Paul’s life, and how the grace of God had transformed him from an isolated fanatic persecuting the Church of Christ and defaming the truth, to a chosen vessel of the Lord, a good confident soldier of Christ, struggling to preach the Faith. Throughout this pursuit, Paul exercised longsuffering and perseverance towards all who resisted him, out of love for their salvation, enduring persecutions and suffering which included flogging and stoning – which is what had happened at Antioch, Iconium and Lystra [that is where Timothy was living, and where Paul was stoned: “they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.” He had returned the following day with Barnabas, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:19-22)]
Nevertheless, the Lord in Whose name Paul evangelized, was always present to deliver him from all hardships; such is the lot of those who walk in the path of salvation, hence, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Tim. 3: 12) But God is not unjust so that He forgets the labors of service; rather, He is just and “… it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you,” (2 Thess. 1:6) Also, “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” God will not neglect them.
Paul then resumes his exhortation of Timothy and all servants, concerning circumstances involving persecutions: “… continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of …” Put differently, do not waver in your steadfast faith, which is reinforced by your knowledge of your teacher: he struggled, never wavered, and faced suffering with unshakable confidence.
Furthermore, Paul reminds Timothy of what strengthens his resolve, namely, he is not a novice of the Faith, given that he is not a strange offspring amidst his pure family, because since his early childhood years he knew the holy scriptures of the Old Testament, and their prophecies concerning the Messiah – those are capable of granting him the wisdom and knowledge for salvation “through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15)
Finally, Paul adds his testimony concerning the truthfulness of the word of God. Therefore, similarly to what St. Peter said: “… for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit,” (2 Peter 1:20 & 21), Paul says: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof [which leads to] correction, [and correcting the path] for instruction in righteousness [or in accordance with righteousness],[and the purpose of the word of God] that the man of God may be complete [modelling himself after Christ, Whose example, if followed by a believer, will render him] thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16,17)
Genuine faith, and keeping the word of God, must be fully translated into a life completely directed towards God and our neighbour, hence, “let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) A Christian is a burning energy, salt of the earth, and light of the world.
- Perseverance in evangelizing (2 Tim. 4:1-5)
St. Paul, now in jail, sensing the approach of his last hour, and awaiting the proclamation of his martyrdom (= testimony, witness) for his Savior, entrusts his final commandments to Timothy. He uses strong language in order to impress on Timothy the significance of the task awaiting him, following his teacher’s demise. Calling upon the Lord to be his witness, he starts by saying “I charge you therefore [in other words, I urge you and ask you from the bottom of my heart] before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.” In order for Timothy to achieve the purpose of evangelizing and preparing for the appearance of the kingdom of God, his teacher demands that he “Preach the word!” In other words, he is to preach the Gospel of salvation, as a continual daily task, hence, “Be ready in season and out of season.” This is because this is the work of God, Who prepares hearts for receiving His word, while the Spirit produces the fruit – finally, God is the One Who rewards and condemns.
Throughout your service, neither attempt to flatter nor be accommodating; rather, “convince” the sinners, to steer them back to repentance, “rebuke” the unruly and opponents, regardless of their arguments, and “exhort” people, comforting them with the word, and opening for them the doors of hope in our loving God, Who died for sinners’ sake. Be tolerant and await your fruit patiently; serve and wait upon the Lord, and persevere uncompromisingly in sound teaching, in accordance with the Gospel. Be quite aware that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” There are some who will be fully controlled by their lustful minds and old cultures, influenced by superstitions, and lured by teachers consistent with their whims; this is what St. Paul encountered frequently amongst the Gentiles, who were significantly influenced by their past, and by their worship rites which were intermingled with wickedness. It was incumbent on Timothy to be aware of these issues, and be prepared to face them, hence, “be watchful in all things,” being capable of witnessing for the truth, and defeating all heresies and superstitions. Neither waver nor retreat, rather, “endure afflictions” (Paul mentions this for the fourth time in this short epistle – 1:8, 2:3,9 and 4:5), as a fighter who knows no truce; service will never be “like a walk in the park,” rather, it is toil and labor, hence, “do the work of an evangelist” – the evangelist who follows in the footsteps of our Lord, doing good, and preaching the word of salvation. In this way, you will “fulfill your ministry” and please the heart of God.
(To be contd.)
Verses for the present time of offences and controversies:
“And whoever does not bear his CROSS and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Lk. 14:27)
“Strive to enter through the NARROW GATE, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Lk. 13:24)
“SEARCH the Scriptures” (Jn. 5:39)