2 Timothy

2 Timothy 4: Paul’s Last Words

If it is true that 2 Timothy is Paul’s last preserved letter, today we read Paul’s last recorded words.  This passage especially captures the moment:

For I am already being poured out as a drink-offering; my departure time as arrived.  I have fought the good fight; I have completed the course; I have kept the faith.  What do I still have to look for?  The crown of righteousness!  The Lord, the righteous judge, will give it to me as my reward on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing. (4:6-8)

What hit home with you as you read the letters to Timothy?

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2 Timothy 3: Inspired for Godly Living

But you, on the other hand, must stand firm in the things you learned and believed.  You know who it was you received them from, and how from childhood you have known the holy writings which have the power to make you wise for salvation through faith in King Jesus. All scripture is breathed by God, and it is useful for teaching, for rebuke, for improvement, for training in righteousness, so that people who belong to God may be complete, fitted out and ready for every good work. (3:14-17)

As a teacher of the Bible, I love this passage.  This is exactly what I want my students to want for their own life.

It was actually a student who helped me see this passage in a new way.  Growing up this was the proof text one can run to “prove” that the Bible was inspired by God.  But this student saw these same words in a whole new light.  She was getting ready to graduate high school and her desire for herself was that she would remember and hang on to the lessons she had learned about God ever since kindergarten at our school so as to stay strong spiritually and live a life that glorifies God.  When I read her thoughts, I immediately realized she understood this passage so much better than I did.

Can a person extrapolate from this passage that the Bible was inspired by God?  Absolutely, though I will say that this passage is not nearly as clear as some think on how God inspired the Bible, how much is inspired, or whether God’s inspiration of the Bible also means it is truthful and literally factual about all it discusses.

But to make this passage all about inspiration misses the point.  Paul has a much bigger point, and one more immediately practical than an intellectual idea about truthfulness.  Timothy needs to hang on to the Scriptures because they are a significant way God equips us for godly living.  There is a life we need to live and the Scriptures lead us to that life.  The Scriptures are the vehicle not the point in this passage.  Sadly, it would be entirely possible to adopt a belief about inspiration from this passage and miss that God is actually looking for something else.

What do you think?

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2 Timothy 2: There Is Work to Do

Soldier.  Athlete.  Farmer.  Workman.  Servant.

These are the five sorts of people Paul calls Timothy to become like (2:3, 5, 6, 15, 24).  Why?  What do these roles have in common? What is Paul trying to say?

Paul tells us some of his point.  Soldiers are called to suffer for a higher calling (2:3).  Athletes have a strict code of conduct by which they must compete (2:5).  At harvest time, farmers get paid back for their hard work (2:6).  Workmen “carve out” straight paths from the wilderness (2:15).  Servants do the will of their master and do not compromise his interests (2:23-24).  But even more basic than that is this: all of these five have work to do.  They are fundamentally laborers, and can’t get off track lest they shirk their responsibilities.

In particular there are a handful of things Paul tells his “worker” Timothy to avoid:

  • Stir away from “civilian activities,” that is purely frivolous pursuits that do not advance the kingdom (2:4)
  • Avoid quarrels and disputes that don’t accomplish anything (2:14, 23)
  • Flee from anything that would leave one ashamed and dishonored (2:15, 21)
  • Resist the urge to run one’s mouth in pointless gossip (2:16)
  • Run away from the wicked gratification of youthful passions (2:19, 22)

There is simply too much to do.  There is no time to get off track.  Get back to work.

What did you notice in this chapter?  

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2 Timothy 1: Don’t Give Up!

Paul has come to the end.  Most scholars who believe that Paul wrote 2 Timothy think this is his last surviving letter.  Some date it within a year of his death, traditionally thought to have taken place around 68 AD in Rome by beheading.  Every line drips with the emotion of a man who sees the end coming and so wants his life’s work to continue on with strength after he is gone.

Sadly, most in Asia Minor — the province in which Ephesus was found — had turned on Paul (1:15).  It seems they looked to his imprisonment as evidence that he was not favored by God and they pushed on to other versions of Christianity.  Paul’s fear is that Timothy will join their ranks.  Timothy is already losing his spiritual steam (1:6), and being the spiritual son of a “prisoner” isn’t exactly a great thing to put on your resume (1:8).

A person can only make it through trying times like these by faith, and this passage drips with Paul’s faith.  He is confident of Timothy’s faith, maybe even when Timothy is not:

I have in my mind a clear picture of your sincere faith — the faith which first came to live in Lois your grandmother and Eunice your mother, and which I am confident, lives in you as well.  (1:5)

Paul has faith that the Spirit is one of power:

After all, the spirit given to us by God isn’t a fearful spirit; it’s a spirit of power, love and prudence. (1:7)

Paul trusts in God’s purpose and grace, not his or Timothy’s own power:

God saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace. (1:9)

Paul anchors his faith in the power of the resurrection:

[God] has now made it [grace] visible through the appearing of our savior King Jesus, who abolished death and, through the gospel, shone a bright light on life and immortality. (1:10)

And Paul knows God is trustworthy:

But I am not ashamed, because I know the one I have trusted, and I’m convinced that he has the power to keep safe until that day what I have entrusted to him. (1:12)

When you come to the end, when death is looming and your friends have turned against you, the only way forward is by faith.

There are several great lines in this chapter.  What was your favorite?

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BONUS: An Introduction to the Pastoral Epistles

We come now to three books that are typically called the Pastoral Epistles — 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus — because they are addressed to two men who were leading churches Paul had started and because of the attention given in these letters to ministry issues.

Paul wrote the Pastoral Epistles toward the end of his life.  As we read through the letters we will likely get the sense that these are the letters of a man who is about to hand his life’s work over to his protégés.  He is reflective and slightly anxious.  He pours every ounce of cautionary wisdom into his words.  Paul wants to push westward past Rome and on to Spain, however Paul seems to know with prescience that he may not even get that far.  Either way, it is time to entrust his work in Ephesus to Timothy and his work on the island of Crete to Titus.  By the time 2 Timothy, Paul’s last preserved letter, is being written Paul is, in fact, imprisonment in Rome in a cold dungeon (2 Tim. 4:13) unable to be visited by friends.  Tradition says Paul is killed by the Romans within a year.

The Pastoral Epistles are highly instructive.  So much of these letters rotation around instructions about what makes a good leader, the threat of false teaching, the corruption that can easily come to church leaders when money is involved, and how to live as Christians in a decadent and immoral culture (idolatry in Ephesus, and sexual immorality and raucousness in Crete).

This Timothy was the same young Jewish man mentioned in Acts 16 who became Paul’s traveling companion and “son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2).  Six of Paul’s letters were co-authored by Timothy (2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon).  Titus is never mentioned in Acts, yet he does show up in various other places in the Letters as a loyal companion to Paul.  He evidently was an uncircumcised Gentile who Paul proudly took with him to the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15) to support his stand against attaching law observance to faith in Jesus (Gal. 2:1-3).  Titus was especially important to Paul in Crete and he is left there to ensure the churches stayed strong.

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