2 Timothy

Jump to chapter: 1, 2, 3, 4

Chapter 1

(1-2a) Beloved, 2 Timothy was Paul’s last letter. He was in a Roman prison, yet he still felt compelled to encouraged Timothy, whom he counted as a son.

(2b) Let your own life be filled with my grace, mercy, and peace. When you understand the depths of my mercy and grace, you can live with peace from a settled place. I have everything in hand.

(3-5) You are not living an ephemeral faith that was plucked from the air, but one that is rooted in a long lineage. My Son’s story did not start at the first Christmas but stretches back into eternity. Paul reminded Timothy that his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice had a profound effect on his faith. Like Timothy, your faith was shaped by specific people and by a wider community of faith whose stories have been interwoven with yours.

I want you to be a person of prayer. Offer gratitude and thanksgiving. Rather than setting aside a few moments, let your life become prayer, living with a constant awareness of my presence within and round you. We are deeply connected, but you are also interconnected with others, which is partly why isolation and loneliness can be so hard to bear. I created you for belonging.

(6-7) Beloved, I have given you a gift, the unique working of my Son in you. You feel his spark; now stoke the flame. Let my Spirit burn brightly within you so that the whole world may see. People will tell you to mind your own business and keep your faith to yourself, but do not let that stop you from living a life of love. Live from your truest self, energized by the flow of my Spirit in you.

(8) I do not want you to feel ashamed of me or my Son. Every generation has its share of scoffers who have denied Jesus. Some believers have been imprisoned and killed because others felt threatened by the message of hope. Suffering is a part of the story, yet no pain can diminish the good news of my Son. Indeed, when you suffer faithfully, it often draws more people to the message of my kingdom.

(9) I have already redeemed your life, setting you on the narrow road with my Son. Live as a holy ambassador, reflecting the hope found in me and proclaiming the message of grace and peace, which are established in my Son. I set my plan in motion before time began. There were glimpses of redemption throughout the generations, but when my Son came to earth, what had been foreshadowed became manifest in him.

(10) He came to save and redeem. In him, death and darkness are no more, because he is infinite life and light. There is no better news for a world groaning in the pain of suffering and disintegration.

(11-12) Paul eagerly proclaimed the good news. No temporary suffering could dissuade him from the truth of the gospel. How would your life change if you fully grasped what Paul believed and proclaimed? How would you live differently if you had no doubts that true peace, true life, and true light are already yours? You could bear any suffering if you truly internalized the truth of my kingdom. Paul was utterly convinced by my Son. What about you? 

(13-14) So then what? Put into practice what you have heard. The words revealed in the Bible are trustworthy and true, but I do not want you merely to study them. Put them into practice and see what happens. Keep the faith. Live a life of love and peace just as my Son did. He promised you that my Spirit would be with you whatever might come your way.

(15-18) Living a life of faith is not always easy. In Paul’s case, several people abandoned him, though he specifically named two at this point in the letter—Phygelus and Hermogenes—though as he proceeded, he identified more. On the other hand, Onesiphorus was an encouragement to Paul, loving him and seeking him out despite his suffering and imprisonment. Some relationships are only for a season. You will be surprised at who is in for the long haul and who turns away in the face of suffering. Regardless, stay faithful to me and love well, praying that my kingdom would be evident.

Chapter 2

(1) Beloved child, let my grace be the fuel that drives you. Dallas Willard was known for saying that “The true saint burns grace like a 747 burns fuel on takeoff.”[1] My grace is always available to you; Live in it.

(2) You have heard my word proclaimed many times in the voices of the faithful men and women in your life. Likewise, tell my story, knowing that the gospel proceeds from generation to generation because people keep telling it. The gospel is the greatest story that has ever been written or told.

(3-7) As an ambassador in my kingdom, you are on mission. Paul described Timothy as a “good soldier of Christ Jesus.” You are not a soldier because I am calling you to fight, but because I want you to live a life of mission and purpose. You are my emissary; let the work of my Son define you. Your faith is not one pastime among many; rather, let everything that you do be done in love and for my glory. Consider the lives of soldiers, athletes, or farmers; they pattern their lives for a purpose. Do not simply drift; live with intention. Stay in constant communion with me as you seek to live and grow.

(8-9) During discouraging seasons, do not lose sight of my Son, who is the true King. Christianity is not merely a worldview, my Son has been resurrected and he now rules and reigns as Lord of the cosmos. The reality of the resurrection gripped Paul so deeply that he could not contain himself from talking about my Son to anyone and everyone. He willingly endured difficulty and even imprisonment to get the word out. Even jail could not silence Paul.

(10-13) There is nothing, beloved, that can stop the advancement of the kingdom of heaven. Any hardship is a momentary flash for citizens in my kingdom. Paul reminded Timothy of a short saying meant to encourage the faithful:

If we have died, we also shall live,
            if we hold fast, we also shall reign,
            we hold to Christ, and he holds to us,
            if we deny him, he denies us
            but if we are faithless, he remains faithful.

You are invited to follow my Son through thick and thin, a citizen and emissary of my kingdom, which will never fail. My Spirit is always with you. But you cannot live any way you please and tell people it is the kingdom of God. My Son does not rule in a kingdom of your own imagination, you are his ambassador in the true kingdom.

(14) Beloved, do not get into petty arguments about how people say things. If your goal is to be right and have the last word, you end up tearing others down. So what if you are right? If you win an argument, but destroy others in the process, what have you accomplished? Nothing good. Remember this when you are tempted to bicker and debate.

(15) Instead live your life as well as you can, modeling the love my Son taught and demonstrated. Try to remember that it is my opinion that matters, not anyone else’s. You are already approved and welcomed because of my Son. You have no need to be ashamed by my message of love, bought and paid for in Jesus. Let his name live on your lips.

(16-18) The world is full of irreverent babble and you will feel the pull to engage but it does not lead anywhere good, so do not get drawn into it. Stick with the message of love. Foolish talk is an infection that destroys and corrupts. This is abundantly clear in so much of social media today, where hatred and folly spread like wildfire.

Paul mentioned two people—Hymenaeus and Philetus—who engaged in this sort of foolish talk. They were confusing some believers, saying that the resurrection, not just of Jesus, but of all people, had already taken place. It is important to know my word so that you can correct falsehoods. As you look at the church and the world, there is no doubt that foolishness continues to run rampant.

(19) Stand firm upon the foundation of my word. Stick close to Jesus, filled with his truth, goodness, and beauty.

(20-21) Paul shared a metaphor with Timothy to help him understand the process of becoming like my Son. He said that in a great household, there are all sorts of vessels, some of gold and some of wood and clay. Some vessels are reserved for special occasions and some are for day to day use; some for honor and some for dishonor. In a fallen world, everyone is a mix of good and evil, but in my kingdom, all the evil shall be destroyed. Start living right now in a way that you reflect your precious construction and seek to rid yourself of all that is transient. Be who you already are. I know that it will take your whole life, but do not worry, I’m patient. Continually seek to rid yourself of all that is false within you, becoming authentically you.

(22) Turn away from the youthful drives and passions that motivated you in the past, which are often inflamed by self-centeredness, self-righteousness, and misplaced zeal. Instead, pursue wholeness, faithfulness, love, and peace, which are the marks of my Son. I have created you to live with integrity of heart, which means completeness.

(23) Do not chase after controversies. Every single day, you could engage in quarrels about many issues, but they are typically grounded not in truth, but in ignorance; not in wisdom, but folly.

(24-26) Instead, if you want to follow my Son’s manner of life, live in a different way. Be kind. Be patient. Be gentle. Evil and stupidity are the currency of a fallen world, not my kingdom. When you reflect my character, some people will see that you live and love differently and will turn away from their foolishness toward the truth found in my Son. Their eyes may be opened and ears may be unplugged to understand that there is a better way. Practicing evil leads to destruction, pain, and bondage; following my Son leads to peace and freedom.

Chapter 3

(1) In these last days, which include all the days from my Son’s crucifixion to his second coming, evidence of sin will be wide ranging. Nothing will work as it should, though the effects of sin will be seen most clearly seen in how people relate to one another. Paul shared a long list of evil’s effects with Timothy.

(2-5) Ponder Paul’s list of unholy traits: people will be narcissistic, greedy, prideful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, uncontrolled, brutal, evil, treacherous, reckless, conceited, and hedonistic. They may appear godly, but only on the outside. Avoid these things.

Beloved, as you read through this list, I have no doubt that it stirred thoughts about people you know and about yourself. Sin’s effects are pandemic and the opposite of what following my Son looks like. I want to pull this list together for you. Paul began with “lovers of self,” which is the driving force behind all sin. Sinful love of self cares nothing for others, but there is a good and holy self-love grounded in knowing you are my child. Healthy self-love is characterized by self-knowledge, self-compassion, and authenticity. It is living from your true self.

Paul was condemning the tendency to consider oneself as better than others and caring nothing for their needs. Self-centered people are characterized by greed, pride, lust, and evil. They seek their own pleasure with no thought about their impact upon others. They live to improve their own positions, even if it means harming or destroying others in the process. People like this often end up in positions of leadership, even within the church, but they are not following me in how they lead. They would rather go their own ways than submit to the promptings of my Spirit. Stay away from them. I do not want their attitudes to infect you.

(6-7) There are also people who manipulate others who are longing for love and wholeness, but who carry burdens of guilt and shame. They long to know that I accept them as they are and because their shame weighs them down, they are easy targets for these evil manipulators.

(8-9) Do not be mistaken, evil people are nothing new. Moses had to deal with Jannes and Jambres, the Egyptian magicians who opposed him.[2] Those who oppose the truth found in my Son reveal their corrupt minds. They are not representatives of the true faith. Despite all the self-centered scheming, when you are grounded in my truth, their foolishness will be clear.

(10-11) Paul commended Timothy for following the way of my Son. He valued his protégé and invested time instructing him and inviting him to observe his manner of life. Beloved, consider the lives of people who love well even in difficulty. You will live through many challenging times; seek to live with patience, love, and perseverance. Regardless of what you endure, I am always with you.

(12-13) If you are truly seeking to walk the narrow road, you will meet opposition and persecution. If you move against the flow of evil, expect resistance.  Those who go with the flow end up further and further from me and fail to see their distorted thinking. They will believe that they are the ones who are truly blessed.

(14-17) Regardless, continue following my Son. Live out what you have learned about my kingdom. The seeds of my word have been growing in you for a long time. Keep cultivating those truths. Let your life be continually shaped by my word and my Spirit in you, which is true wisdom. The Holy Spirit blows across the pages of scripture and gives it life. A solid grounding in my word is essential for living a godly life.

Chapter 4

(1-2) Beloved, though you do not see him, my Son is always with you. One day, he will physically return to redeem everything. In the meantime, let my word guide you. Regardless of circumstances, whether the time feels right or not, let the wisdom of my Spirit guide you. Do not concern yourself with judging others. Simply teach, be patient, and let the light of my Spirit shine in the darkness.

(3a) You will meet people who will gnash their teeth at the truth of my kingdom because it opposes their own self-centered kingdoms. You know what it is like to be immersed in darkness and someone flips on the light. The contrast is painfully blinding, and you shout, “Turn off the lights!” That is what it is like to be confronted by the truth of my word.

(3b-4) Some people allow their curiosity to lead them into a forest of deception. The world is filled with many competing stories and worldviews, but there is only one truth. Every worldview must answer some basic questions: 1) Where did everything come from? 2) Why is there pain and suffering? 3) Is there a way to fix it? and 4) How should people live in the meantime? My word provides the only true and satisfactory answer.

(5) Keep digging deeper in your search for truth. Persevere when things get hard and tell others what you learn.

(6-8) Paul knew he was nearing the end of his earthly ministry. He was committed to living faithfully, but he was also committed to dying faithfully. He never lost sight of the finish line, which is the entrance to my eternal kingdom. Paul understood that crossing that line meant life with me and that he would finally experience the way things should be.

(9-12) Paul switched from a mentoring tone to sharing some of his personal challenges. Beloved, Paul was not a disembodied theologian who was disconnected from real life. He was a real person who experienced the same joys and difficulties you face, albeit in a different culture and time. Do not let his wonderful writing lead you to believe that he was somehow superhuman.

Alone in a Roman prison, he longed for the companionship of his friends. One of his friends, Demas, deserted him and went to Thessalonica. Other friends left too, Crescens to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia, though Luke remained. Paul wanted Timothy to find Mark and bring him along to Rome, knowing that he would continue spreading the gospel while Paul was in prison. Paul told Timothy that he had sent Tychicus to Ephesus to continue the work of evangelism. As you read these New Testament accounts, you no doubt can see many of the same names repeated. When you read them, let it remind you that these were real people living real lives and sharing a real story.

(13) Paul asked Timothy to bring him a few things—a coat left behind in Troas and “the parchments,” which were writings important to Paul. Beloved, it is okay to need things. It is okay to want things. I never said that true believers should avoid anything that provides pleasure or comfort.

(14-17) Paul also warned Timothy about Alexander, a coppersmith who betrayed him. In your life, you will experience all sorts of relational pain. Sometimes, circumstances will take people away, and at other times you will be abandoned or betrayed. Continue leaning upon my Son, knowing that everything will be set right in the end. Because of Alexander’s betrayal, Paul faced a trial, but none of his friends came to his side. Although he felt alone, he knew that my Spirit was with him. In the pain of isolation and loneliness, I will never leave you. Let your difficulties press you deeper into your dependence upon me. Stay faithful to the good news. Demonstrate my love so that everyone may know the hope found in Jesus.

(18) I am your rescuer. Even when everything is crashing down around you and it seems as though the whole world is falling apart; I will never leave. I will bring you through the war-torn ground into the safety of my kingdom where you will join in worship with all of the saints, glorifying my name both now and forevermore.

(19-21) Paul extended his greeting to a few others who were part of my church: Prisca and Aquila, Onesiphorus and his household, Erastus, and Trophimus. He also passed along the greetings he had heard from Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia. Even though the church was spread out over a vast region remained deeply interconnected.

(22) Paul concluded his letter to Timothy with a short benediction, or blessing:

The Lord be with your spirit
Grace be with you.

Beloved, remind others about my constant presence. Life is dark and hard sometimes. Remember that I will never abandon you and that you are forever and always my beloved child. 

[1] Dallas Willard, The Great Omission (New York: Harper One, 2006), 162.

[2] Exodus 7:8-13.