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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
2 Timothy 1

 

 

Verse 1

PAUL'S SECOND LETTER TO TIMOTHY

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, according to the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus, (2 Timothy 1:1)

To the promise of the life ... "This preposition denotes the object or intention of his appointment as apostle, which was to make known the promise of eternal life."[4] With the shadow of death hanging over him, almost the first words regard the promise of everlasting life to Christians.

ENDNOTE:

[4] Ibid., p. 218.


Verse 2

to Timothy, my beloved child: grace, mercy, peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

This verse is almost identical with 1 Timothy 1:2, which see.


Verse 3

I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers in a pure conscience, how unceasing is my remembrance of thee in my supplications, night and day

Commentators make a lot of this reference to his forefathers; but it would appear that the thing in the back of Paul's mind here is the fact of Christianity actually being no new, upstart faith, but the culmination of the legal faith (Judaism) so long recognized as vital, historical, legitimate, and absolutely unopposed to any legitimate government. In worshipping God through Christ, Paul was only doing the same thing which (in a sense) had been done by generations of his devout ancestors.

Nevertheless, it is not out of place to see in such a reference as this the just recognition of the influence of godly ancestry upon the lives of men.

In a pure conscience ... Paul had always been a conscientious worshiper of God, and later of God through Jesus Christ. He had even been, at first, a conscientious persecutor; but it is hard to believe that the reference in this context is anything else than a declaration of his innocence with reference to any action against the Empire.

My remembrance of thee ... In the doleful circumstances, Paul did not dwell morbidly upon his impending fate but took refuge in happy remembrances of past joys.

In my supplications night and day ... "The genitive which is used here denotes `time within which.' The accusative would have meant `all night and all day.'"[5] Thus some of Paul's prayers were uttered at night, some in the daytime, and this cannot mean that he spent all of his time praying.

Before leaving this verse, it should be noted again that "Paul always maintained that the gospel was the divinely ordained sequel to Judaism; not a new religion, but the fulfillment of the "promise made of God unto our fathers' (Acts 26:6)."[6] Carl Spain also agreed with this: "Paul was not guilty of propagating some illegal religion in the name of a strange deity, as he was so often accused."[7]

[5] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of Paul's Epistles to Timothy (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1937), p. 747.

[6] Newport J. D. White, Expositor's Greek Testament, Vol. IV (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 153.

[7] Carl Spain, Letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Company, 1970), p. 111.


Verse 4

longing to see thee, remembering thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;

Such was the love of Christians for each other that strong men, in the face of danger and death to loved ones, openly wept; and there are a number of examples of this in the New Testament. As Ward said, "We are not called to a hard Stoicism which condemns all emotional experience."[8] Many speculations regarding the occasion of Timothy's tears are left in the air by the brevity of the New Testament narrative. Some think Paul was remembering the occasion at Lystra when he was stoned; others just as logically suppose that he might have been remembering the occasion of his arrest by the imperial government. We can never know exactly.

ENDNOTE:

[8] Ronald A. Ward, Commentary on 1,2Timothy and Titus (Waco, Texas: Word Books, Publisher, 1974), p. 143.


Verse 5

having been reminded of the unfeigned faith that is in thee; which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and, I am persuaded, in thee also.

The great implication of this verse is that "Faith of God's people before Christ came is not different in kind from the faith after Christ has come."[9]

Eunice was a Christian of Jewish background (Acts 16:1); and, from this passage, it is inferred that Timothy's grandmother Lois was also among the "believing Jews." How natural it is, and how touching, that Paul under threat of impending death would have been thinking of those glorious days on the second missionary tour when he first became acquainted with this illustrious family. Timothy was a third generation Christian; and, contrary to the way it sometimes happens, his faith was not diminished.

Having been reminded ... There is no record of what constituted this "reminder." It could have been a personal letter or visit from one who knew Timothy. The veil of centuries lies over it.

ENDNOTE:

[9] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 154.


Verse 6

For this cause I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee through the laying on of my hands.

Stir up the gift of God ... This does not mean that Timothy had let the gift die. As Gealy said: "Although the Greek verb may mean `rekindle or re-light,' it also may mean `agitate or stir up.'"[10] This "gift of God" was the office Timothy held as an apostolic representative. Lenski noted that "The idea that Timothy's `charisma' was NOT his office is evidently not correct."[11]

Through the laying on of my hands ... Paul also mentioned in this connection the laying on of the hands of the presbytery" (1 Timothy 4:14), but it is not certain if this was the same occasion as that conferring the gift mentioned here. Lipscomb was of the opinion that "This gift seems to have been bestowed upon Timothy by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, Paul joining them in it."[12] It may have been, however, a special apostolic gift through Paul, the same being another of the countless unsolved questions that arise from a study of the New Testament.

In any event, the admonition to Timothy was that he should be diligent and unwavering in the service of the Lord. Disaster should be faced, not by giving in to it, but by stirring up God's gracious gifts within men and by redoubling all vigorous effort.

[10] Fred D. Gealy, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. XI (New York: Abingdon Press, 1955), p. 463.

[11] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 754.

[12] David Lipscomb, Commentary on New Testament Epistles, Vol. V (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1976), p. 200.


Verse 7

For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline.

Spirit ... Gealy's comment on this is pertinent, thus:

Although "spirit" is here properly printed with a lower case letter as referring to the inner and abiding quality and character of Christian men, yet this spirit is not native to man, nor is it his achievement. It is God's gift. The spirit of the Christian man is really God's Spirit.[13]

Fearfulness ... Timidity and cowardice are also implied by this word. "Christians do not need to have such feelings, for God wishes them to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might (Ephesians 6:10)."[14]

Power and love and discipline ... At least two of these are named as "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22). They are standard earmarks of Christian character.

[13] Fred D. Gealy, op. cit., p. 464.

[14] E. M. Zerr, Bible Commentary, 2Timothy (Marion, Indiana: Cogdill Foundation, 1954), p. 187.


Verse 8

Be not ashamed therefore of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but suffer hardship with the gospel according to the power of God;

Interestingly enough, Paul did not consider himself Nero's prisoner at all, but "the prisoner of the Lord," a line of thought also in evidence in Ephesians 3:1; 4:1, and Philemon 1:1:9. The meaning of this is that Paul considered it the will of God that he should thus suffer and that he left everything safely in the hands of the dear Saviour.

Be not ashamed ... does not mean that Timothy was ashamed. "Had Paul meant that, he would have used the present imperative, which with the negative forbids an action already going on. Here he used the aorist subjunctive with the negative which forbids the doing of an act not yet begun."[15]

Testimony of our Lord ... This means the true apostolic gospel as delivered to us through the apostles, not the impressions and subjective thoughts of Christians. As Nute put it: "The phrase emphasizes the testimony borne, the message itself."[16]

Suffer hardship with the gospel ... Every Christian should be aware of the doctrine of suffering as it concerns the Christian life. Many people have erred with reference to Christianity through their eternally seeking the easy, convenient, popular or man-pleasing course of action, rather than adhering strictly to what is known to be the will of the Lord.

The problem that precipitated these words was that of the storm of imperial opposition to Christianity following the counterfeit charges initiated by Nero. There were powerful friends of Paul in Asia, such as the Asiarchs of Ephesus, who would have found it very difficult and politically suicidal to have supported Paul in his appearance in Nero's court. Timothy is not to be influenced by such shameful and unchristian conduct.

[15] Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), Vol. II; 2Tim., p. 119.

[16] Alan G. Nute, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 518.


Verse 9

who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal,

The word "God" at the end of the preceding verse precipitated here a typical Pauline digression, the next few clauses being devoted to extolling the grace and purpose of God from before times eternal.

Who saved us ... The past tense here indicates that Paul had reference to the primary or initial salvation of Christians, an act referred to by the apostle Peter as being "cleansed from our old sins" (2 Peter 1:9). Paul never taught that salvation subsequent to that first cleansing was irrevocable.

Called us with a holy calling ... This may be understood as a synonymous reference to being saved. In the New Testament, call is always understood as a call obeyed.

Before times eternal ... Both the heavenly plan for man's salvation and the means of its accomplishment have existed eternally, being therefore beyond the ruin of time or of anything that might happen in human history. It is a gross error, of course, to apply this to individuals as regards their personal salvation, except as they are united with and in Christ and fully identified with our Lord. Eternally, it has been the will of God to save those who shall be found in Christ Jesus, it being implicit in this, of course, that those who desire to remain "in Christ" shall certainly be able to do so.


Verse 10

but hath now been manifested by the appearance of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

As Gealy accurately stated:

The assumption is that before he was born Christ existed with God. Birth in his case did not mean the beginning; it rather signified the appearance in history of the divine Saviour previously existing but until now concealed.[17]

The appearing ... is not merely a reference to the birth of Christ, but to the whole thesis of the incarnation, together with the life, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord.

Abolished death ... This is too strong a translation here. Wuest stated the true meaning to be, "He made death ... of none effect."[18] The Christian gospel indeed robbed death of its terrors and enabled the Christian to face it with sanity, composure and hope.

Life and immortality ... Due to the erroneous and hurtful notions of the Greeks regarding immortality, Paul did not here use the usual Greek term, but instead chose a word which actually means "incorruption" (American Standard Version margin (1901)). This inherently demands the conception that the body itself shall be raised to eternal life. As Lenski commented, "This assures also our blessed bodily resurrection." The word Paul used thus means more than a mere immortality, after the Greek notion, but eternal life for both soul and body of the redeemed.

[17] Fred D. Gealy, op. cit., p. 469.

[18] Kenneth S. Wuest, op. cit., p. 123.


Verse 11

whereunto I was appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher.

In these brief words, Paul reviewed the years of ceaseless activity on the mission field and all over the world of that era. Now, with the looming prospect of death, the apostle lets his thought dwell upon the blessed hope of everlasting life following the resurrection, a doctrine that Paul had extensively taught throughout his mission on earth. See 1 Corinthians 15, etc.


Verse 12

For which cause I suffer also these things: yet I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day.

The problem of this verse regards just what Paul committed, or entrusted to God. As Hendriksen phrased it, "Is it the gospel or is it myself and my complete salvation?"[19] We shall not argue this point, simply because it is true both ways and was possibly intended by Paul himself to be understood in both ways. Approaching the end of life, Paul found no nagging uncertainty, no shadow of doubt, no waning confidence in the Lord, but an overwhelming certainty; and the basis of that certainly shines in this verse. It was grounded, not primarily upon what he believed, but upon WHOM he had believed, namely the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Saints of all ages have found in this marvelous text sufficient confidence and trust to fortify them against all the misfortunes of life and to enable them to face death itself in the beautiful serenity of full confidence in the Lord.

The thought of this verse ...

Is expressed in a metaphor drawn from the common action of one person entrusting another with some precious deposit, to be kept for a time and restored whole and uninjured. All the words in this sentence are part of this metaphor.[20]

As Ward noted:

The Greek reads literally, "my deposit," which some scholars regard as the gospel or as souls in Paul's pastoral care; others see in it a reference to Paul himself, his soul.[21]

Although, as noted above, the passage is true any way it may be interpreted, the thought of the Last Day, as well as the impending execution of the apostle, seems to suggest that it was particularly Paul's own soul that he probably had in mind in this metaphor.

[19] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 235.

[20] A. C. Hervey, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 21,2Timothy (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 4.

[21] Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 155.


Verse 13

Hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

Based upon the fact of the Greek word for "pattern" having sometimes been used to describe the rough draft or sketch used by artists as a preliminary to a painting, some have concluded that Paul merely meant that Timothy should cling to the general outline received from Paul and then go ahead and fill in the details according to his own imagination. However, this conception of what this passage means is rejected. Hendriksen pointed out that just the opposite is intended here. The model or sketch is "the faith and love which is in Christ Jesus," and this is neither uncertain nor elastic. The meaning of the root form of this word ([@tupos]), according to Vine, "is the impress of a seal, the stamp made by a die, a figure, image, form or mold."[22] The great disaster which has befallen modern Christianity is precisely that of departing from the pattern, despite the frequent warnings in the New Testament against it, some even going so far as to affirm that there is no pattern given. Hebrews 8:5 and Acts 7:43 should be studied in connection with the admonition here.

ENDNOTE:

[22] W. E. Vine, Greek Dictionary, Vol. II (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1940), p. 33.


Verse 14

That good thing which was committed unto thee guard through the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us.

"The good thing" here is the gospel which long ago had been committed to Timothy when he became a preacher of the word of God; but at the time of this letter, with the death of the apostle looming ahead, there was a special sense in which the propagation of the truth would be left in the hands of Timothy, committed to his trust.

It was especially necessary that in those days before the New Testament was available the utmost concern should have been exercised on the part of men like Timothy in order to be positively certain that they preserved and transmitted to posterity the true teachings and writings of the inspired men. We may surely believe that Timothy lived up to this trust.

Through the Holy Spirit that dwelleth in us ... Supernatural guidance through the blessed Spirit gave the apostles possession of "all truth"; and this is a promise that the same Holy Spirit would aid men like Timothy in the guarding of it.


Verse 15

This thou knowest, that all that are in Asia turned away from me; of whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.

All that are in Asia ... This does not refer to any general desertion of the faith by Christians throughout Asia, but to the turning away from Paul of any who might have been of help to him in his trial before the imperial government of Nero. The two men named here are examples of those who refused to help Paul. No one knows anything at all about these men, their names standing here in the sacred text and bearing the perpetual infamy which is their deserved reward. Were they among Paul's friends among the Asiarchs (Acts 19:31) of Ephesus? Whoever they were, it seems that Paul had hoped for their support, hence the disappointment evident here.

Turned away from me ... This does not refer to deserting the truth, but to the refusal to stand by the apostle in his trial. Christians who might have been guilty of such a thing would, of course, have suffered the most bitter pangs of sorrow and remorse. The savage persecution under Nero would sorely test the strongest; and there were many who simply would not be able to give up their lives for the holy faith. It is doubtless in view of this extenuating circumstance that Paul here expressed no criticism of those who turned away from him, no bitterness, no resentment, only the tragic fact itself being narrated, taking comfort in the blessed remembrance of one who had not forsaken him (2 Timothy 1:17).


Verse 16

The Lord grant mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus: for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but, when he was in Rome, he sought me diligently, and found me

The house of Onesiphorus ... This plea that the Lord would grant mercy to this man's house seems to imply that mercy had not been granted to Onesiphorus; and, from this, many have speculated that he had already been put to death, but there is no way to be certain about this. It is just as possible that Onesiphorus, like the apostle,, had been imprisoned and was awaiting execution, and that the mercy Paul hoped would be extended to his house would be that of their not being arrested and charged similarly, that is, mercy from Nero's persecution. The latter view of course would explain the omission of his name in Paul's plea for mercy "for his house."

It is idle speculation to dwell upon the long and diligent search, through many frustrations and dangers, which Onesiphorus conducted before he found Paul, or upon the manner of his refreshing the apostle, etc. True knowledge of all these things has not been given.


Verse 18

(the Lord grant unto him to find mercy of the Lord in that day); and in how many things he ministered at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.

The parenthesis here is alleged by some to be an authentic New Testament example of prayers offered for the dead, but there is no proof at all that Onesiphorus was dead; and, even if he was, the expression of this fervent hope on Paul's part cannot be called a prayer, except in the most accommodative sense. It is not in the form of a prayer, qualifying rather as a prayerful hope, and not as a petition in the form of a specific request. Carl Spain wisely observed that, "If Onesiphorus was awaiting trial, Paul avoids language that might be used against him."[23] Before any proposition that justifies prayers for the dead could be supported by this passage, it would have to be proved that Onesiphorus was dead, and Paul's omission of his name in 2 Timothy 1:16 simply does not constitute any such proof. As DeWelt noted:

Where was Onesiphorus when this letter was written? If he was in Rome, and Paul was writing from Rome to Ephesus, how could Paul (in a letter addressed to Timothy in Ephesus) greet someone who wasn't there? Does this prove he was dead? How ridiculous![24]

Lenski affirmed that "The analogy of Scriptures is solidly against anything in the nature of prayers for the dead,"[25] a fact no student of the word may deny. A further word on this from Hendriksen will suffice:

Paul at times expresses the wish that eschatological blessings be granted to those who, while the apostle is writing, are still living on earth (1 Thessalonians 5:23b); (and therefore) the conclusion that Onesiphorus had actually died is not necessary.[26]

It is best, therefore, to view this rather difficult passage, not as any kind of prayer on behalf of the dead; but, as Gealy suggested, "It may be that we should see in the prayer - it is not in the form of direct address - merely a gracious fervent wish or expression of hope."[27]

[23] Carl Spain, op. cit., p. 123.

[24] Don DeWelt, Paul's Letters to Timothy and Titus (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1961).

[25] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 776.

[26] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 240.

[27] Fred D. Gealy, op. cit., p. 477.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 1:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-timothy-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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