Chronologically, 2 Timothy is the last of Paul’s letters that we have. In it we meet a lonely, suffering servant of God who nonetheless looks to the future with great anticipation. I can only hope that God would grant me the same desires as Paul had: to see the gospel spread and to see my Saviour when my work’s done.
Timothy stood in a line of faith that had come to him from his mother and grandmother (1:5), and from Paul (1:2). For this reason, Paul exhorts him to feed the flame of God’s gift (1:6)—Timothy wasn’t to take things for granted, and neither are we.
How is the flame fed? By not being ashamed of Christ, of His apostle and of His gospel (1:8a). Why shouldn’t we be ashamed? Because God saved and called us and gave us grace before the beginning of time (1:8b-9). In his sufferings, Paul wasn’t ashamed because his focus was not on his present circumstances, but on ‘that day’ (1:12).
Paul charges Timothy to guard the faith and to pass it on. Paul gives two personal examples of ministry, one bad and one good. He also gives three illustrations to press his point: a soldier, an athlete and a farmer. These three have two things in common:
- their reward is in the future (a victory, a prize, a harvest)
- they run the risk of failure (soldier may get distracted, athlete may break the rules, farmer may be a slacker)
A good Bible teacher …
- Reminds people of Christ (2:11-14a)
- Avoids quarrels and warns others against them (2:14b, 23-24)
- Does his/her best before God (2:15)
- Rightly handles the word of truth (2:15)
- Avoids godless chatter (2:16-18)
- Knows that the church belongs to God (2:19a)
- Practices repentance (2:19b) and cleanses him/herself (2:20-21)
- Flees the evil desires of youth and pursues righteousness, faith love and peace (2:22)
- Is kind, able to teach and not resentful (2:24b)
- Gently instructs opposers while desiring their good (2:25-26)
- Knows the real enemy is the devil (2:26)
3:1-5 is descriptive of the church, not of the world. These professing Christians love themselves, money and pleasure rather than God (3:2,4). They prey on vulnerable people (3:6) and oppose the truth (3:8). But their fake Christianity will be shown up in the end (3:9).
Paul, in his work for the gospel, faced persecution (3:10-11). Timothy, along with all who desire to live a godly life in Christ, should expect the same (3:12).
How can we be equipped for God’s work? By knowing the God-breathed Scriptures. The Bible makes us wise for salvation through faith in Christ (3:15). The Bible speaks to both our belief and our behaviour (3:16).
Timothy, therefore, is to preach this same word. Why? Because of God’s presence and of the coming risen Christ (4:1). When? In season and out (4:2). How? By correcting, rebuking and encouraging (4:2). How? With great patience and careful instruction (4:2). Why? Because many won’t be willing to listen (4:3-4).
Timothy is to keep at it faithfully (4:5), just as Paul had done (4:6-8). Paul had initially wasted his life, but he’d received mercy and grace from the Lord. That grace was available to Timothy to help him run the race. The same grace is ours today.
Paul requests his younger friend to come for, of all the people in the apostle’s inner circle, only Luke was with him (4:9-11). He asks that Timothy bring Mark with him. Imagine that: Paul, Luke and Mark —men responsible for over half of the New Testament—in one place! Oh, to have been a fly on the wall!
Paul also asks for a cloak and books to be brought to him (4:13). The inspired, Holy Spirit-led apostle had books! If Paul had to read, how much more do we and our church leaders?
He gives one last name for Timothy to be aware of (4:14). Both 1 and 2 Timothy, though addressed to him personally, were to be read in public (the last ‘you’ in 1 Timothy 6:21 and 2 Timothy 4:22 is in the plural). Paul names and shames these people so that Timothy doesn’t have to. Incidentally, he doesn’t mention names in 4:16, because these were true believers unlike all the rest.
From these closing verses we learn this about Christ:
- He’s always with us. Even though we’re alone, we’re not alone (4:17)
- Christ is determined that all hear the gospel (4:17). In Paul’s life, this was a fulfillment of Acts 9:15-16.
- Christ will get every Christian home safely (4:18). I join Paul in saying, “To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Sources: TGC Conference 2009 (Mark Driscoll, Ligon Duncan, John Piper, Phil Ryken), Christopher Ash, Chris Green.