A Few Notes on the Obscure Epistle: 2 Timothy

ImageI will be leading a study on the second chapter of 2 Timothy this morning. In this short post, I will be offering some suggestions on introductory issues, a short breakdown of ch. 2, and a few applications.

1. 2nd Timothy is a prison epistle (1:16; 2:9; 4:16). Paul is not hoping to visit another congregation (or in this case, his delegate Timothy). One actually gets the impression that Paul is giving, more or less, a farewell message to Timothy in the final chapter. 

2. Location of imprisonment: Rome (cf. 1:16-17). In biblical scholarship there is some debate on the location of Paul’s imprisonment based on a number of factors which I won’t get into here. Neither are without some measure of interpretive difficulty. However, the final two verses of the Book of Acts gives an attractive consideration for situating Paul in Rome, under house arrest: 

“And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.” -Acts 28:30-31

3. Both in Acts and in 2 Timothy we can observe that Paul was able to receive guests in his imprisonment (1:16; 4:21). This allows him to continue his ministry of preaching the gospel, despite his chains (see esp. 2:9).

4. Who is the recipient of this letter? His name is Timothy, who was a regular traveling companion of Paul (cf. Rom. 16:21; 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10; 2 Cor. 1:19; Phil. 2:19; 1 Thes. 3:2, 6). His extensive traveling experience and exposure to the mission field made him an excellent candidate for ministry.

5. The majority of Paul’s commands are given (in Greek) in the second person singular form, as if to Timothy. However, Timothy is implored to entrust Paul’s teaching to faithful men and women (2:2). The final verse of the letter, where Paul wishes “grace to you,” is given in the second person plural (4:22). 


Short breakdown of ch.2

-Follow the example of others (2:1-13)

-The positives and negatives of our speech (2:14-26)


A few applications:

1. The importance of living as an example to others. Paul pointed to a handful of examples for Timothy to look at, consider, and to imitate their good behavior. Paul spent many years in ministry developing his relationship with Timothy, so that example was very real to both of them. Paul lastly points to Jesus, the best example available (2:8). The question is, are we living in ways so that others can point to us as good examples of appropriate Christ-like behavior? Or would some have reservations about our personality quirks, dysfunctions, or even sinful behavior? We should consider how we could live in such a way so that others could point to us as a positive example in a world full of less than reputable people.

2. We need to learn how to discern conversations which have the potential to turn ‘ugly’, and then avoid such topics. Paul commanded Timothy to “refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2:23). This seems simple, in principle. However, the topic which I might feel is important to discuss is potentially the topic my neighbor thinks is foolish and ignorant. So, while I wish to press the issue, they try to refuse the conversation (or vice versa). We need the discernment, from God, prayer, and regular study of the Scriptures, to decide which topics are really important (albeit controversial) and what topics are foolish and ignorant.

3. Our tone needs to be in check when we turn to lovingly rebuke/correct our fellow brother or sister in Christ. Paul reminds Timothy to “correct those who are in opposition, but with gentleness” (2:25). Often times we feel the need to stand up and defend our favorite biblical truths. Often times, these ‘defenses’ turn heated, loud, and into a fierce debate. Paul, who was no stranger to fierce debate (cf. Galatians 2 w/ Peter), instructs Timothy to use the fruit of the Spirit ‘gentleness’ when he corrects others. In order for Christians to observe this command, we first need to learn to love our enemies, be patient, kind, and refuse to be rude. No inappropriate behavior can be justified in attempts to correct others. The end never justifies the means.     


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