1: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
- Here is Paul, beginning his letter in typical fashion, with his identification as an Apostle and his credentialing. Some, as I mentioned in the introduction to the book, have tried to use this to say this means Paul was not the author of the letter, because it was too official. I disagree. I believe Paul understood his situation all too well, and understood that a certain gravitas would be required.
- Paul reminds Timothy (and all of us) that his own Apostleship of Jesus Christ was “by the will of God.” Paul is reminding everyone that he was not initially a willing volunteer for this. If you recall, Paul was a violent persecutor of the church, hunting down, imprisoning, torturing, and even executing followers of the Way of Jesus. He was on his way to Damascus with warrants to do that very thing from the High Priest himself when he met the living, risen Lord Jesus Christ. You can see it in his constant use of the phrase Christ Jesus. That’s How Paul met him, on the day when God ended his persecuting career.
- “According to the promise of life in Christ Jesus.” – As a part of the reminder, Paul is telling us that there is a promise that goes with being a servant of Christ, and that is life in Him. That is an eternal life, with Him, the one who saved us from the penalty of our sins by a change of mind and an acceptance of His payment of our redemption.
2: To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
- The letter is clearly addressed to Timothy, who Paul saw as a child in the faith. The word for “son” here is teknon, meaning a child of either gender, one who was born from a union of some kind. It was well known that Paul had been looking to Timothy as a successor, and now that time was upon them both.
- Paul’s typical greeting is here, along with a little extra. After all, it was Timothy, his son in the faith he was greeting. It wasn’t just grace and peace, it was mercy as well. Is there a significance to that? Some say yes, some say know, but the one thing all commentators agree on is that Paul thought more of Timothy than any of his other closest friends, and he loved them.
- To understand this, remember that Timothy’s father was likely dead from Timothy’s childhood, and that Timothy, Eunice, and Lois (his mother and grandmother) were likely standing in the crowd in Lystra when Paul performed a public healing and was then stoned and left for dead. Tradition has it that this was the occasion of timothy’s conversion, although there is no evidence I have seen for it.
3: I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,
- Paul begins his main text by telling Timothy that he is praying for Timothy daily. I think that’s a great example that is instructional for us – we can pray for each other daily. And at night when sleep seems elusive. At times where I have been unable to sleep, I have begun to pray quietly. Sleep finds me soon enough, because the enemy hates it when we pray. [wink]
- “Clear conscience.” – Paul had no hidden sins or agendas before God. He simply believed God, the way those born before him did. Paul told Timothy about how his own faith had come from his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois in verse 5, and Paul is saying his own faith came the same way – from those who came before and walked in that salvation that comes through faith by means of grace.
4: longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy.
- Paul here expresses the longing we have all felt at times. I have dear Christian friends I have not seen in about 15 years that I am still in contact with, and I certainly would like to see them again and catch up, and fellowship Christ with them once again. It must have been a powerful longing, because Timothy cried at their parting of as some shared spiritual thing they encountered. The kind of joy that meeting another child of the faith brings is usually “better felt than telt,” as it were.
5: For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.
- Paul is simply culminating his thought here, the one that began in verse 3.
6: For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
- “For this reason.” Certain phrases are kind of key when reading Scripture. This is one of those that is used to begin new thoughts. Sometimes they are related to what has come before, as is the case here. The reason that Paul is reminding Timothy anything at all is because Paul knows of Timothy’s sincere faith. Here he is encouraged to “kindle afresh” the gift of God.
- It is possible (and likely if we have read this verse correctly and the scriptures are giving us information on more than one level, not just a narrative only) that Timothy was beginning to grow faint, because he was no doubt tired of the persecutions from the world and from its servants, particularly those were now leading Ephesus where he was stationed.
- “Laying on of my hands.” – Thee are those that are big on the physical touching being involved in the relaying of spiritual gift. Even if that is true, you need to leave that stuff to church leadership. Elders, pastors, and deacons should be the ones doing this. If they are simply offering to lay a comforting hand on you, that’s good too. There is something comforting in the touch of another. Personally, I don’t think spiritual gifts are communicated by the laying on of physical hands, even if that is what happened. I think that it is the province of God the Holy Spirit, and He uses servants to convey knowledge, authority, accountability, and circumstances of use of spiritual gift. What Paul is saying here is that he was involved in training Timothy.
7: For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
- Back to the main topic, Paul is strongly encouraging Timothy to not only “kindle afresh” that spiritual gift that Paul was involved in somehow imparting to him, but to live in power, love, and self-control (literally, “a sound mind”), instead of letting fear paralyze and limit him. The word for Timidity can also be translated as “cowardice.” Oh boy, that’s me. I know I can stand up here and talk a good fight, but I’m at heart a coward, God help me. Fortunately, there is good news for us!
- Power [dunamis, miraculous power, might, or strength]. It seems that our Lord has not abandoned us to simply giving in to cowardice and to becoming one of the shrinking violets that never speak up. We must be filled with His Spirit daily for this. I’m not talking about receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit here, that happens when God saves us, I’m talking about the constant refilling of that power that keeps us moving when everyone else wants to stand still and let the wrath of God overtake them.
- Love [agape, divine, self-giving, self-sacrificing love]. This is the Love of God, and isn’t an emotional feeling. This is the kind of love we are commanded to have for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Phileos, brotherly love is by comparison that brotherly affection, Storge is family love, like a father or mother for their children, and Eros is more of a lustful, visually based urge (without reference to sex, though sex is one of the possible objects of this kind of urge). We are to choose to love the way God commands – divinely, sacrificially, without emotional entanglement.
- Discipline [sophronismos, self-control]. This is what we should be using to love like God. How do you love someone who screams at you in a parking lot for poor reasons after a sermon you’ve preached? I would say that involves a lot of self-control, personally. (I witnessed a congregant lose his temper at the pastor and shout at them in the parking lot once. There were about 30-35 people that saw that incident, and all of us were both thoroughly disgusted with the congregant, and amazed at the pastor’s kind and loving response.)
- These are the things that should characterize all believers, by the way. I’m not saying we don’t struggle. But if you’re even worried about this, it is evidence of God working in your life. Have YOU been justified by His grace? Think about it, and you can reach me after if need be.
8: Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,
- There’s that word “Therefore.” Let’s see what it’s there for. [Yes, I know, a preposition is a poor word to end a sentence with.] Remember, this is a conclusion word, meaning that it draws a point or conclusion from the information immediately before it. This is a word that gives context, and context gives meaning. What is Paul saying because of Paul’s call to kindle afresh the gift of God and to live in Power, Love, and Discipline instead of raw cowardice?
- Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. You know, I can empathize. I know the numbing fear that paralyzes me when a perfect opportunity to preach the gospel (the testimony of our Lord) arises. Sadly, I have given in, though not so much anymore. Did you know that this is the number one reason for church decline? Failure to preach the truth. When we attempt to become “culturally relevant” we fail the culture which desperately needs the redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we try to “unhitch” or “unhinge” the New Testament from the Old Testament, we remove the very thing that gives the New Covenant context in history. The New Covenant or Testament IS the Testimony of our Lord Jesus. It tells us the reason He came – to die as a substitute for us, because we were unable to redeem ourselves. In his death, our sins were paid for by Him. It’s theologically called the substitutionary penal atonement. In His resurrection, it shows that not only have our sins been paid for, but that their power over us is broken. The power of sin is death, and death no longer holds fear for those that know Christ – the sting of death has been removed. It tells us that He ascended to heaven, where he now sits at the right hand of the Father. And it tells us that we are His body on earth, the church, meant to do His will on earth while we live. This is the Testimony of our Lord.
- Or of me His prisoner. – Do hear Paul here? He is not saying that he is a prisoner of Rome. His is the Lord’s prisoner. If the Lord wants me to be free, I will be. If He wants me to die, I will be with Him forever. There was no downside with Paul. It’s really a radical outlook, isn’t it? This is also an implication of living with one’s gift stirred up and in power, love, and discipline. We will not be ashamed of other believers when they get themselves into trouble like this. There could be a price now for identifying with Paul, and one that could cause a very painful and ignoble death.
- Instead, Paul tells Timothy to join him in suffering for the gospel. You know, as I get closer to becoming a pastor, I see the unlovely people that God tells me to love like He does in His power and discipline. It’s pretty ugly sometimes, and cases involve very difficult and complex moral and spiritual decisions. And I say to myself in my head, “Yeah, but that’s the job. Lord help me. Let’s get on with it.” Some day here in Canada, it will be against the law to preach Christ in public. What happens when the police come into one’s congregation on a Sunday morning and arrests the pastor as he preaches? Well, if Paul is any example, he preached to the people he was imprisoned with, some of whom no doubt came to know Christ in a saving way. It sounds to me like God gave Paul a prison ministry. Can you say captive audience? Yeah, but Ger, those are all violent people and criminals! Yes, they are. Who needs the gospel more? And do you think I can do this kind of thing in my own strength? No! That’s what the POWER is for… “…according to the power of God.”
9: who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,
- The “who” here is referring to God from verse 8, and likely God the Father, because the Lord Jesus Christ is mentioned in the same verse, which indicates the Son and Father have the same standing. God the Father has saved [sozo] us and called [kaleo, to call] us with a holy calling. This is important, because of how Paul continues with the verse. This holy calling is not according to our works. Paul has said this before. Look for a moment at Ephesians 2:8-10.
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” It is important to understand what the gift of God actually is in this passage. Fortunately, in Greek, the word uses identify this. I once saw a Facebook “debate” (more like a nasty argument complete with name-calling, ad hominem attacks on each side, and animosity galore) over whether it was the grace or the faith that was the gift of God. So I cracked open my Greek New Testament. If you don’t understand a little Greek grammar you might be confused, but the thing that is being referred to as the gift is the whole thing. It’s ALL the gift of God – the grace, the faith, the salvation.
- Did you catch Paul’s phrase in both places? “Not according to our works.” This is something God gave as a gift. Why? Well, for His own reasons! And He chose NOT to tell us about those. “According to His own purpose.” Paul doesn’t mention what they are here…or really anywhere…and we can’t find them out unless God Himself tells us what they are. I admit I am not studied enough after about 34 years to discern those reasons from Scripture. But I’m still working on it, so who knows?
- “And grace which was granted to us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” – This is a theological goldmine. Let me try to unpack this at least a little. First, grace [charis]. It is something that God the Father granted to us in Christ Jesus. Think about the meaning of that. It is something that is a result of the Messiah. His work (the cross) is responsible for this grace being granted to us.
- And when was this grace granted to us? Literally before the ages of time began. We talked about this when we studied Ephesians. This concept is called foreknowledge and predestination. Many people today seem afraid of these words, but they are biblical words and concepts. The short and uncomplicated version is this – God had perfect knowledge of what would happen before it did and then made it happen. There are no accidents, there are no mistakes, there are no random events, there is not one stray atom in the universe for God. He wrote the script ahead of time, and He had an active hand in seeing it all happen, right up to today. Why is this important to us at this point?
- Paul is trying to remind Timothy (and us as his spiritual descendants) of God’s absolute sovereign power, and that everything is in His hands, and that He in His great mercy and grace, has called us to His faith, and should we become His, He has prepared works for us to walk in – that’s right, He gave us a JOB! You DID realize that resting in Jesus meant work, right? And you thought that all there was to this was you went to heaven when you die? Oh, my, there’s SO much more…
10: but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
- That eternal set of foreknown and predestined events have now been revealed to us in time and space by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, according to Paul. If you think about that, it also sounds like things Paul has said before. Colossians 1:15-17 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” So the Creator became part of the creation (John 1:1), and represented the Eternal One in bodily form. But there’s more. Romans 16:25-27 says, “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.”
- Paul is saying here that when Jesus came, and then became the Saviour, He did a bunch of things. First, He revealed the mystery. Second, He took away the power sin has – death – and removed its negative consequence for the believer, and replaced it with the promise of eternal life for all of those who would believe the Gospel. John 3:16.
11: for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.
- Paul here is simply telling us that God appointed him as a preacher (one who proclaims), an apostle (a messenger with a mission), and a teacher (one who instructs by word and example).
12: For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
- And Paul fully acknowledges that these things brought suffering in his life. I mean, he is writing from Mamartine Prison, after all. It was, by all reports, a hole. And not a nice hole. Paul was treated as a criminal, unlike his first imprisonment. And yet, he could stand unashamed, because he knew, in his clear conscience he spoke of in verse 3, he had done nothing wrong before his Master and Lord.
- See what he says? “For I know whom I have believed!” Who has he believed? God the Father, the Lord Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit of God. And not just that, but he was “convinced that He is able to guard what Paul had entrusted to God until that day.” What had Paul entrusted? That God would complete His work in Paul of sanctification, so that He could stand before God. That’s the “inheritance” that some like to speak of.
- Until that day. What Day? Revelation 19. THAT day. The day of the return of Jesus to Earth. The Parousia.
13: Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
- This is a related thought to me, it is the reason that Paul is speaking about general eschatology, “that day.” It’s like a “therefore” without using the word. And what is he saying? Retain the form of sound words you heard from me. Remember the things I said. The doctrines. The instructions. The warnings. And remember them in THE faith – that firm persuasion or opinion held about the work of Christ Jesus on the cross, and love [agape] that are in Christ Jesus. Faith and Love here are the subjects of the clause. They are specific – THE Faith and Love. Paul is essentially saying to Timothy, and essentially to us, to retain our Christianity. To Remember who we are, and to remember WHOSE we are!
14: Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
- Again, another imperative that is part of the same thought. The word means to literally stand guard over something – a treasure that Paul is mentioning here in this verse. The treasure has already been entrusted to us. What is it? From the context here, it is that standard of sound words from verse 13. Listen to what Bible commentator Matthew Henry says about this treasure: “The Christian doctrine is a trust committed to us; it is of unspeakable value in itself, and will be of unspeakable advantage to us. It is committed to us, to be preserved pure and entire, yet we must not think to keep it by our own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us; and it will not be gained by those who trust in their own hearts, and lean to their own understandings.”
- How are we to guard it? We can ONLY guard it properly through the Holy Spirit. Humans are by nature tainted with sin. How is that we could guard the truths of right doctrine and right practice in Spirit and Truth without the help of a holy God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, God Himself guarding His work in us, our sanctification? There is a theological point here. Justification by faith is something God alone does in the life of the believer. That is to say, this justification is monergistic, it is performed by only one party, and that party is God. Sanctification, the process by which we are made holy so that we may stand in God’s holy presence ourselves, requires our cooperation, and is said to be synergistic, or coming from both parties. Some have called sanctification the salvation of the soul, and only happens to committed believers as they cooperate and grow in Christ.
15: You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.
- We have no data on Phygelus or Hermogenes other than this verse, so little can be known about them. The main point of Paul’s thought here is that these were two of the individuals in Asia Minor that had turned away from him. It does not say that they left the faith as some have suggested, and to say that is merely speculation. It must be remembered that Paul was arrested as one of the arsonists that burned down the city of Rome, and was therefore hated throughout the empire, as were all that were called Christians. It should not surprise us that humans, weak by nature, would respond as humans and like rats leaving a sinking ship. Even Paul understood, and tells Timothy later in the letter in 4:16, which says, “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.” We are all weak. It would be less than loving to condemn them for such action, even if they were as clearly wrong as they were.
16: The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains;
- We also know very little of Onesiphorus. We do know that he was the head of a household in Ephesus from 4:19, where he tells Timothy to greet his house by name. Timothy was stationed in Ephesus at the time of this writing, so I think it safe to assume that is where the household of Onesiphorus was. We also know that this was a faithful brother, who was apparently not afraid to ask after Paul and visit him there in Mamartine Prison.
17: but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me—
- In fact, it tells us that this brother searched for Paul in Rom, and he did so eagerly. And apparently, he even found him!
18: the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day—and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.
- Paul must have appreciated this brother. Look at how he speaks well-wishing toward him. He asks for mercy from the Lord on “that day.” We have already mentioned that this is likely the second coming of Christ, the Parousia, though what part I’m not certain, nor does it matter. He makes reference to “services” he rendered in Ephesus. We don’t know a lot about what he did, but it was likely something concerning the gathering there because Timothy knew “very well” about those services rendered in Ephesus. I suspect that this was one of those brothers that is just happy to serve Christ any way he can. You know the type, because chances are you are one of them if you are either reading or attending this study.
And that is chapter 1!