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Timothy Series

Introduction to 2 Timothy

 

John Baugh
January 9, 2009

 

 

A Letter To A Spiritual Son - 2nd Timothy

 

 

2nd Timothy is one of the three pastoral letters contained in the New Testament (1st Timothy, 2nd Timothy and Titus).  The name pastoral letters signifies the epistles were written from a pastor’s viewpoint. In the New Testament church, they have come to be seen by many New Testament scholars as a guide or handbook to pastors.  Paul was the author of all three of these letters. These books are sometimes also called filial epistles, since Timothy and Titus were essentially sons in the faith or disciples of the apostle Paul.

 

Although the two Timothy letters are very personal and complete with intimate remarks, Paul most likely wrote them to Timothy with the understanding they would be read by a large audience.  The church at Ephesus, which was the church that Timothy served as an apostolic representative when the two Timothy epistles were written. It was the first in a group of seven churches forming a rough triangle across Asia minor (now Turkey).  These were the “Seven churches in Asia” referred to by the Apostle John in Rev 1:11. These churches were Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.  Paul understood the reading of his letter to Timothy would start at Ephesus and would also be read at all of the other six churches (all the way around to Laodicea).

 

Timothy’s hometown was Lystra. His mother and grandmother (Lois and Eunice) were both Jewish. His father was a Greek man, whose name is lost to history. Timothy was probably no more than 16 when he first met Paul, perhaps during Paul’s visit to Ephesus with Barnabas on their 1st missionary journey.  Timothy accompanied Paul, on his second journey and remained a faithful minister and spiritual son in the faith with the apostle for the rest of his life.

Timothy himself was martyred in 97 AD.  Fox’s Book of Martyrs gives the following account of Timothy's death:

 

“Timothy was the celebrated disciple of St. Paul, and bishop of Ephesus, where he zealously governed the Church until A.D. 97. At this period, as the pagans were about to celebrate a feast called Catagogion, Timothy, meeting the procession, severely reproved them for their ridiculous idolatry, which so exasperated the people that they fell upon him with their clubs, and beat him in so dreadful a manner that he expired of the bruises two days later.”

 

Exact placement of the writing of the two Timothy epistles in time is difficult.  Both 1st Timothy and Titus were written during the time between the two imprisonments of Paul, probably during the period AD 61-63. Paul’s second epistle to Timothy was written just before his execution, probably AD 65-68 and perhaps from the Mamertine Prison in Rome.  Biblical scholars agree 2 Timothy contains the last words we have which came from Paul’s hand.

 

Paul’s first visit to Ephesus was recorded in Acts: 19. When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he found a city that was dedicated to the worship of the Greek goddess (Diana) Artemis (the goddess of sex) in a temple that was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Behind this idolatry the doctrine of demons and the widespread practice of magic held the people in spiritual bondage. And yet Paul and his disciples remained in Ephesus and taught the word of God faithfully for three years.  We know from the accounts in Acts that many were converted during the missionary team's stay in the pagan city.

 

The gospel of Acts closes with Paul imprisoned in Rome. He remained under house arrest there for two years.  This first imprisonment was a time of great evangelical activity for Paul.  The book of Acts and accounts from Paul's own hand tell us that he spent his days of incarceration, chained to a Roman centurion, confined in a hired (rented) house in Rome. Dr. Luke and Timothy most likely stayed with Paul during his arrest, along with others - see the book of Philemon and other references. The soldiers who guarded Paul were from the Praetorian, which was Caesar's select company of guards.  By his own account, Paul constantly ministered and witnessed to these men. Paul tells us that at least some of these solders were converted to Christianity through his evangelical efforts, along with some members of Caesar's household. Can you imagine being constantly chained to a minister and evangelist like the apostle Paul? How could they not have been converted? What a lucky assignment these solders were given - guarding the man, who introduced them to salvation!

 

Luke suggests Paul was eventually released from this first arrest and confinement.  Many scholars believe after his release, Paul traveled with Luke, Timothy and Titus around the Roman Empire before going into the East again.  He left his disciple Titus on the Island of Crete to guide the emerging church there and took Timothy with him to Ephesus where there was a church that had been established for some time.  Paul left Timothy to oversee the church in Ephesus and traveled, with Luke up into Macedonia.  Paul probably wrote the epistle 1st Timothy while he and Luke were in Macedonia.

 

After Macedonia, Paul may have traveled to Spain and perhaps Britain.  At any rate, after leaving Timothy, Paul was eventually arrested a second time (Perhaps after returning to Troas) and re-imprisoned in Rome, under the authority of the crazed Roman Emperor, Nero. 

 

After this second arrest, he was very likely incarcerated in the Mamertine Prison.  Mamertine, which is a known location in Rome, across from the Roman Forum and the Tiber River, was very much different from the hired house of his first detention.  Paul’s Mamertine cell would have been a 20-foot wide circular hole, with no windows, open at the top to the sky for ventilation.  The water from the Tiber River would have constantly seeped through the soil and the walls of the prison, making it constantly damp and chilled. It would have been damp and cold in the winter and subject to the elements. From that cold, dark hole, the aging apostle wrote his second letter to Timothy, his beloved son in the faith.  Shortly after the second letter, tradition tells us Paul was taken on the Ostian Way, just outside Rome and beheaded. To use his own words, Paul had "fought the good fight." he, "finished the race (and) kept the faith."

 

2nd Timothy

 

Paul’s second letter to Timothy may be included with Paul’s prison epistle, since it was written at a time when the Apostle was imprisoned for the cause of the Gospel.  There is a tremendous difference in this second letter to Timothy and the first Timothy epistle.  The first letter was written (probably from Macedonia) after a time when Paul had been released, after his two year house arrest in Rome.  Though he was chained to a Roman guard at all times, he still had freedom to move about the hired house where he and his companions lived.  While under arrest, awaiting trial, he was able to have friends in to visit him.  He held meetings and had companions who lived with him and assisted him.  He also had a great hopeful belief that he would be released. During his time of house arrest (AD 60-62), he penned the epistles we know as Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and the letter to Philemon.

 

Paul was likely released from his first imprisonment and resumed his travels around the Roman Empire, taking Timothy, Titus and Luke with him.  He went to the island of Crete, where he left Titus to set things in order for the new church that was growing there.  Then he traveled to Ephesus again, where he left Timothy to set in order certain things in the church, there.  Paul probably wrote his first letter to Timothy from Macedonia, where he went after leaving Ephesus. The second letter to Timothy was probably written about four or five years after the first letter. In the second letter however, everything has changed.  At some point after his visit to Macedonia, Paul may have traveled to Spain, to fulfill his lifelong desire to preach the gospel there.  Regardless, upon his return to the eastern part of the Mediterranean, he was rearrested; probably in the city of Troas, north of Ephesus, this time, under the terrible atmosphere of the Neroian persecution.

 

The Emperor Nero had tried to blame the Christians for the great fire, which destroyed over 70% the city of Rome.  In fact, he may actually have had the fire started himself, since he wanted to do “urban renewal" and the buildings that were burnt in the great fire were in the way. Many Romans died in Nero’s fire and the city was outraged.  In any event, Nero blamed the Christians for the fires and the people believed him.  Under Nero, opposition broke out against the Christians all across the Empire.  For the first time, Christians were subjected to bitter persecution.  They were accused of being cannibals, because it was said they talked about eating the body and blood of Christ.  They were accused of atheism because they did not worship the pagan idols. They were said to be revolutionaries because they denied the ultimate authority of Caesar and said that Jesus was Lord.

 

In response to this, Nero committed many horrible acts against the Christians. He had the Christians dressed in clothes which had been soaked in tar and wax, hung on crosses in his gardens and burned as living torches to light his social gatherings.  They were wrapped in fresh animal skins and thrown to the lions.  They were forced to face death in The Coliseum by the Gladiators.  They were crucified and beheaded.

 

The Mamertine Dungeon, where Paul was taken was beside the river, across the street from the old senate building in the Roman Forum.  You can still visit the prison there, today.  There is a circular cell you enter by descending a series of stone steps.  The only light comes from an open hole in the roof, which also lets in the rain and cold.  In a cell there, beside the river, in the dank darkness and cold was very likely where the aging apostle, who was now in his 60s wrote his last letter to Timothy.  Scholars agree that 2nd Timothy is probably the last correspondence penned by Paul.  Tradition tells us that on an April morning, shortly after this letter was written, Paul was removed from his dungeon cell, taken a few miles outside Rome on the Ostian Way, and beheaded.  The atmosphere in the letter to his disciple reflects his situation.

 

Paul’s second letter to Timothy centers around the message it has to convey - the great theme of the epistle is the Gospel and Timothy’s relationship to that Gospel.

 

 

2 Timothy

 

Chapter 1

2Tim 1:1-2 - Identification of the authorship of the letter and greetings to Timothy. In 1st Timothy, Paul says “My own Son” - Now, “My dearly beloved Son”. Paul again wishes Timothy – “Grace, Mercy and Peace”.

2 Tim 1:2-5 - Prayers of Thanksgiving for Timothy.  Paul longs to see him. He has remembrances of him (unfeigned faith), his mother, Lois and grandmother, Eunice.

2 Tim 1:6-14 - Remember your gifts, forget fear, remember love and power and sound mind. Don’t be ashamed. Remember the power of God through Jesus Christ. Hold fast to what I have told you.

"For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able

to keep that which I have committed to him against that day."

2 Tim 1: 15-18 - Remembrances of certain people and their households in Asia.

 

Chapter 2

 

2 Tim 2:1-7 - Be strong in Christ’s grace, endure hardness, be a good soldier, stick to the fight.

2 Tim 2:8-14 - Remember Jesus, God’s word, salvation, rewards       

2 Tim 2:15-26 - Remain in study, shun babblings (resurrection is past already). Remember - The foundation of God remains sure, regardless of man. Flee from youthful lusts, follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace. Avoid foolish questions. Be gentle, apt to teach and patient.

 

Chapter 3

 

2 Tim 3:1-9 - Paul speaks of the coming apostasy - describes the failures of men in verses 2 - 9.

2 Tim 3:10-15 - You know me and the scriptures.  Follow these things.

2 Tim: 3:16-17 - Paul tells Timothy why we have the scripture.

 

Chapter 4

 

2 Tim 4:1-5 - Charges Timothy to preach the word though he may encounter resistance. Do the work of an evangelist.

2 Tim 4:6-8 - Paul states that he is ready to see the end. He has fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith. He has earned is reward “crown of righteousness.”

2 Tim 4:9-13 - Asks Timothy to come (quickly). Paul has been deserted by all of those who have been with him. Only Dr. Luke remains.  He asks his disciple, "Can you bring Mark, also?" Bring my Cloak? (Paul was likely cold and damp). Bring my Books? (He was bored, lonely)

2 Tim 4:14-18 - Alexander obviously hurt Paul greatly.

2 Tim 4:19-21 - Remembers the faithful, mentions his old friends and attempts to tie up loose ends.

 

“Do thy diligence to come before winter.”

 

Paul knew the end was at hand, either he would be executed or would not make it through the winter. Either Nero or the cold would get him.

2 Tim 4:22 - Christ be with you, May you have God’s grace, Amen

 

 

 

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