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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 1

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-6




2 Timothy 1:1-6

We now come to the second letter to Timothy, the last writing of Paul of which we have any account. In the general introduction to the pastoral epistles we have already considered the historical problem of Paul’s movements after his acquittal at Rome.

This letter finds him again at Rome and once more a prisoner, but under new charges and by a far different prosecution. Before, the Jews were his bitter accusers and the Roman judges his friends, but this time the persecution is heathen. Rome, in the person of that blood-crazed and beastly Caesar, Nero, now seeks his life. Seeking to avert condemnation for himself on account of his burning the Imperial City, and to divert thought from his own horrible brutalities, be charged Christians with burning the city. A conflagration of persecution greater than the ocean of flame which devoured the world’s metropolis is now kindled against Christians, and fanned by the flames of devilish passion spreads beyond the city to other shores and paints hell on the sky over the followers of Christ.

Croly, in his Salathiel, or Wandering Jew (which General Lew Wallace puts above all other human books), gives the most vivid description in all literature of the burning of Rome. It commences: "Rome was an ocean of flame." Often when a school boy I have recited that matchless piece of rhetoric.

We now consider, I say, a more awful, wide-spreading fire, the moral arson of time, which finds no parallel until Alva’s day in the low countries of Belgium and Holland. Philip II of Spain, and Nero, in persecution and hypocrisy at least, are par nobile fratrum!

When Christians are fed to the wild beasts of the amphitheatre, when, like parallel lines of lampposts they are staked out, tarred, and set on fire, to form an illuminated avenue through which Nero may drive, then all sycophants, all imperial appointees, whether executors or judges, all spies through neighboring lands, will court royal favor by affecting his spirit and following his cue in accusing and persecuting them.

Thus the lightning struck Paul. Our last account of him is his direction to Titus, when relieved by Artemas or Tychicus, to join him in Nicopolis, where he proposed to winter. But in this letter he is urging Timothy to join him in the Roman prison before that very winter comes, and to bring his cloak left at Troas with Carpus, to keep him warm in his winter cell, and to bring his books and parchments to cheer his loneliness. Not now does he live with liberty in his own hired house, and preach to visiting crowds.

Two circumstances detailed in this letter vividly suggest the great change wrought by this first great heathen persecution. First, its effect on his summer friends in Asia Minor and Achaia. Second, its effect on his summer friends at Rome. It is now a death circle which environs Paul. Whoever abides near him courts imperial disfavor and death. It is as if a general surrounded by a numerous staff found himself the focus of a converging fire of a suddenly unmasked battery. What a scattering when the chief is struck! How vividly it recalls an earlier scene in the crisis of his Lord: "They all forsook him and fled."

The thunder of the coming storm sounded in Asia, and at Ephesus.. Only after careful, long-continued study have I reached the conclusion that the beginning of this storm struck Paul at Ephesus. The usual argument against this opinion is Paul’s statement in Acts 20, when he bids the elders of the church at Ephesus goodbye at Miletus and says, "Knowing that you shall not see my face any more." In the main they did not, but unquestionably we cannot understand this second letter to Timothy unless we conceive of Paul at Ephesus. The first letter shows that he wrote it to Timothy at Ephesus, and now he seems to have gotten back there.

How pathetic his own account of the situation, and how tragic his loneliness! He writes in this letter to Timothy: "This thou knowest that all that are in Asia are turned away from me, of whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes." Now, it is a difficult thing to account for such a revolution toward. Paul in the place where his greatest labors were bestowed and his greatest triumphs achieved, and yet we must in some way account for it. There are three elements in the account:

1. The frown on Nero’s face toward Christians would take away from Paul, or any other Christian, sympathy and cooperation, or even justice on the part of Roman population.

2. Under the shadow of that frown, like wild beasts at night, come out the old Jewish opponents of Paul and attack him, the more incensed because of his recent letter to the Hebrews. So he says to Timothy: "Alexander, the coppersmith, displayed much evil behavior to me. The Lord will reward him according to his deeds, against whom be thou on thy guard also, for he strongly withstood our words." Then in another part of the letter he mentions Hymeneus and Philetus, apostates from the faith whose words eat as a canker. In the great discourse at Miletus, years before, he had warned them that from among them should arise wolves, not sparing the flock. So long as Paul had Roman favor, they could not proceed to extremities against him, but now that Rome is persecuting Christians, all of these Judaizing teachers came out in bitterest opposition against Paul.

3. This is now about the year A.D. 68. In the year A.D. 70 Titus destroyed the city of Jerusalem, so at this time war was just about to break out in Judea between the Jews and the Romans. Josephus is in command in Galilee. We find a full account in his Jewish wars. The spirit that led them to revolt against Rome became exceedingly aggressive and proscriptive.

In Christ’s time a publican was hated because he gathered Roman revenue. Jerusalem was always like a boiling pot and any one recommending submission to the powers that he was intensely hated. Everywhere Paul taught that Christians should pray for and be obedient to those in authority. These injunctions of Paul would naturally be intensely resented by what was at that time called the patriotic part of the Jewish people, those who wanted to rebel against Rome; "pay no tribute," they said, "but fight for natural freedom."

These things, together with the announcement in Hebrews of the abrogation of the Old Covenant and the impending destruction of the nation, account for the change of sentiment toward Paul in Proconsular Asia. Not only Christian Jews but Gentiles would be cowed by imperial disfavor, and so Judaizing teachers on the outskirts of each congregation would press the point that he was untrue to his own country in advocating submission to Rome. So all Asia was turned against Paul.

Hymeneus and Philetus, apostates from the faith, whose words eat like a gangrene, resume their profane babbling and overthrow the faith of others. Indeed, Paul might have starved, had not Onesiphorus in many things ministered to him at Ephesus, with the cognizance of Timothy. When Paul left Ephesus, according to this letter, he left Timothy in tears: "When I remember your tears." He first escaped to Miletus, a seaport, and from that place, in all probability, he hoped to get an outward bound ship that would take him far away. When he gets to Miletus, his staff begins to thin out.

He says, "Trophimus I left at Miletus sick, and Tychicus I sent back to Ephesus." They at Ephesus, yet friendly, would want to know how he was getting along, and then, too, he wants to have somebody there to relieve Timothy, so that Timothy can join him. Finding no outward bound vessel, he, as may be conjectured, takes a coasting vessel for Troas, that from that port he may reach Europe across the Aegean Sea.

We infer that after reaching Troas he left it in a hurry. That is inferable from the fact that he left his books, parchments, and cloak, which constituted his bed as well as outer protection in bad weather. He reached Corinth, and there another adjutant dropped out: "Erastus abode at Corinth." The staff keeps thinning.

Titus, it is possible, acting upon the letter sent him, has ’joined him. Somewhere, perhaps in Achaia, the bolt struck him. It is now lightning where it had been thunder. Notice the effect: "Then Demas forsook me, having loved this present world." Demas struck out for Thessalonica. It seems that to stay by Paul’s side meant the next world, and Demas loved this present world. Crescens turns back toward Galatia, and Titus toward Dalmatia, only Luke is with him.

See how his crowd has thinned out, and how it answers the illustration I gave of the general and his staff meeting suddenly the fire of a masked battery. I have seen such a thing on the battlefield myself, and the "scatteration" that takes place, leaving the general alone, where just before the staff is parading all around him.

It is even worse at the other end of the line, that is, at Rome. When he gets there no friendly delegation comes out to meet and encourage him. Men through fear of Nero’s deadly hate turn from Paul as from a leper. At his examining trial he stands alone: "In my first defense no one came to my help, but all forsook me. May it not be laid to their charge. But the Lord stood by me and empowered me, in order that through me the message might be fulfilled and all the Gentiles might hear." That is, Paul cannot die until he completes the gospel for the nations that are alien from the commonwealth of Israel.

Though the Lord stood by him, the strain of loneliness was terrific, and the hunger for human sympathy and companionship. This scene recalls an incident in the life of our Lord after his hard doctrine discourse on the Bread of Life at Capernaum. The record says that many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more, and Jesus said therefore unto the twelve, "Would ye also go away?"

So Paul, in this dire case, with some trace of apprehension seems to plead: "Oh, Timothy, don’t you be ashamed of my chain; don’t you fail to guard the deposit of faith which God gave to you. Come to me quickly, before winter, I need my cloak and books. Bring them. Pick up Mark by the way and bring him."

One ray of light shines in the gloom: Onesiphorus who had protected and supplied him in dangerous times at Ephesus, followed him all the way to Rome, hunts him up, and ministers to him many times, not being ashamed of Paul’s chains. No wonder Paul says to Timothy: "May the Lord have mercy on the household of Onesiphorus, and reward him in that day." That was a plucky thing to do. There in Ephesus, when all Asia turned from him, Onesiphorus had said, "I will take care of you." And when he heard that Paul had been arrested and taken to Rome, he leaves his home and his business and goes to Rome. It is hard to find Paul now, not as it was before. Doubtless at this time he is shut up in a cell, but Onesiphorus finds him, and Paul says he came to him and refreshed him many times.

From this imprisonment Paul is not so hopeful of deliverance as before. He considers himself as already being offered up and the time of his departure at hand. He seems to consider that he has finished his course, and fought his fight, and yet later on in the letter he expects to winter at Rome. When he says, "At my first defense nobody stood with me," that seems to imply that he had a second examining trial, more favorable than the first one, and that somebody stood by him in that trial.

Whether Timothy finds him alive, this letter does not show. But it is sure that toward the last his condition is more favorable than at first. Indeed, there seems to have been quite a favorable reaction. How otherwise will you account for the letter’s ending this way: "Give diligence to come before winter. Eubulus saluteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren." And the preceding expression: "I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." It seems that the situation has moderated.

They could not connect Paul with the burning of Rome, yet it may be that was the first charge against him and nobody would stand by him under such an accusation. It is evident that in this first trial Paul was delivered from imminent death, though held on other charges. If the charge were arson, Paul might well show his absence from the city at the time of the burning, and everywhere he taught against lawlessness, sedition, arson, anything that would subvert society, anything like anarchy.

Now I will take up the exegesis: The first thing to determine is about when was this letter written? Probably late in A.D. 67. The "winter" of this letter must be the same as the winter referred to in Titus. Winter is coming and he wants Timothy to come before navigation closes.

The salutation set forth in the first two verses contains a note of special affection: "Timothy, my beloved child." Circumstances call for this tenderness. The analysis consists of only one thing: A faithful minister of Jesus Christ. That is the subject of the whole letter – fidelity in a preacher. We will consider that fidelity, however, from many viewpoints. Whatever the viewpoint, one thing runs through this letter – be faithful to Jesus Christ from conversion to death.

Note his thanksgiving and prayer: "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." He left Timothy in a pretty hard place, with that menacing coppersmith, all those Judaizing teachers, and with the hostile attitude of the Roman power.

Next thought: "Longing to see you." We may rest assured that that is not a formal statement. If there was anything on this earth that Paul wanted right then, apart from God’s favor, it was to see Timothy. What brought up that longing to see him? "Remembering thy tears." When Paul had to leave Ephesus so suddenly, he had left Timothy in tears. Remembering this, it makes Paul long to see him.

Now comes a second remembrance. He is in a position where memory would have much to do with both his prayers and his longings. "Having been reminded of the unfeigned faith in thee." Who brought that reminder? Somebody must have brought a message to Paul that Timothy’s faith was standing like a rock. I think it was Onesiphorus, whose coming constitutes a part at least of the occasion of the letter. When he contemplates the steadfastness of Timothy’s faith as repored by Onesiphorus, he thinks of its origin: "Which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice." Paul’s mind goes back to that first meeting held in Derbe, those Jewish women, the mother, the daughter, and the daughter’s little boy sitting in the audience, and under his preaching all were converted.

His mind, rapidly reviewing the past, comes to his second meeting with Timothy on the occasion of his ordination, hence the exhortation: ’"For which cause I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God [now, Timothy, I want your memory exercised] which is in thee through the laying on of hands." When Timothy was ordained, Paul was in the presbytery. After the prayer the presbytery passed by and each one laid his hand on Timothy’s head. When Paul’s hands touched his head the mighty power of the Spirit of God came upon him. "Timothy, stir up that gift; don’t let it rust from disuse. That gift was made for use."

That is a good exhortation for any preacher. Whatever gifts the Lord has given us, we can make them stronger by use, or we can enfeeble them by disuse. Sometimes a spirit of lethargy comes on a preacher; he seems to be spiritually about half asleep. He needs to stir up the gifts which have been given him. I remember once for about two or three weeks, while I could theoretically take hold of things, I could not take hold of them with my soul. When that time comes to us, let us stir up our gifts.


1. Give the circumstances under which this letter was written.

2. When and where written?

3. How account for the sudden revolution toward Paul?

4. Who entertained Paul on his last visit to Ephesus?

5. What route did Paul take when he left Timothy at Ephesus, what points did he touch, and what of his staff?

6. How received at Rome?

7. What one ray of light shines in the gloom?

8. What passage in this letter indicates his loss of hope of deliverance?

9. What indications that conditions were more favorable toward the end?

10. What the tenderness in the salutation and why?

11. Put the analysis into one great theme.

12. What are Paul’s remembrances as expressed in his thanksgiving?

Verse 3



Acts 21:39; Acts 22:3; Acts 23:6; Acts 23:34; Acts 26:4-5; 2 Corinthians 11:22; Romans 11:1; Galatians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:4-6; 1 Timothy 1:12-13; 2 Timothy 1:3.

This discussion does not make much headway in the text book, but it covers an immense amount of territory in its facts and significance. This section is found in Goodwin’s Harmony of the Life of Paul, pages 15-17, and the theme is Paul’s history up to the time that he enters the New Testament story. Saul, now called Paul, a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin, of the sect of the Pharisees, yet a freeborn Roman citizen, by occupation a tentmaker, by office a rabbi, and a member of the Sanhedrin, was born in the city of Tarsus, in the province of Cilicia, about the time of our Lord’s birth. Tarsus was situated on the narrow coast line of the eastern part of the Mediterranean, just under the great Taurus range of mountains, and on the beautiful river Cydnus, which has a cataract just before it reaches the city, and a fall, beautiful then and beautiful now, coming down into that fertile plain where the city goes into a fine harbor, which opens the city to the commerce of the world through the Mediterranean Sea. It was on the great Roman thoroughfare, which was one of the best roads in the world. There were two of these mountain ranges, one of them right up above the city through the Taurus range into the coast of Asia Minor, the other following the coast line, which leads into Syria. This is the way that the mountains came down close to the sea, making a certain point very precipitous, and there was a typical beach between those mountains and the sea. That road into Syria was called the Oriental way. Over the Roman thoroughfare passed the land traffic, travel and marching armies for centuries. It was in that pass that Alexander fought his first great battle against the Persians, and thus obtained an entrance into the East. It was through that pass that, marching westward, and before Alexander’s time, Xerxes the Great, the husband of Esther (mentioned in the Bible), marched his 5,000,000 men to invade Greece. I could mention perhaps fifty decisive battles in ancient history that were set and were successful conquests by preoccupation of that pass. That shows the strategical position of this city – that it commanded the passes of the Taurus into Asia Minor, and the pass into Syria, and through its fine harbor came in touch with the commerce of the world on the Mediterranean Sea.

Paul says that it was "no mean city," in size or in population. It was notable, (1) for its manufacture, that of weaving, particularly goat’s hair, for on that Taurus range lived goats with very long hair, and this was woven into ropes, tents, and things of that kind; (2) because it was the capital of the province of Cilicia; (3) because, under Rome, it was a free city, i.e., it had the management of its own internal affairs, which constituted a city a free city, like the free city of Bremer in the early history of Germany. Other cities would be under the feudal lords, but there were a number of cities free, and these elected their own burghers, and governed their own municipal matters – a tremendous advantage.

Tarsus received from the Roman Emperor the privilege of being a free city. Keep these facts well in mind, especially and particularly as regards the land and sea commerce. (4) Because it possessed one of the three great world-famous universities. There were just three of them at that time: One at Tarsus; one at Alexandria, at the mouth of the Nile; and one at Athens. It was not like some other cities, remarkable for its great buildings, its public games and its works of art. You could see more fine buildings in Athens or in Ephesus or in Corinth than you had any right to look for in Tarsus. It celebrated no such games as were celebrated in the May festivals at Ephesus, and in the great Greek amphitheater in that city, or in such games as the Isthmian, celebrated in Corinth. It was not remarkable for any of these. Its popular religion was a low and mixed order of Oriental paganism. There is this difference between the Oriental and Occidental heathen – the former in the East, and the latter at Rome, and the West. Ephesus had an Oriental religion, though it was a Greek city. Tarsus, too, was a Greek city, but was partly Phoenician and partly Syrian. There were more arts and intellectuality in western paganism than in the Oriental, which was low, bestial, sensual, in every way brutal, shameful, immodest, and outrageous. The Phoenicians, who had a great deal to do with establishing the city of Tarsus, had that brutal, low form of paganism. That infamous emperor, Sargon, celebrated in the Bible, the Oriental king of the original Nineveh, was worshiped in that city. There never lived a man that devoted himself more than he to luxury in its fine dress, gorgeous festivals, its gluttony, its drunkenness, its beastiality. Paul was born in that city, and he could look out any day and see the heathen that he has so well described in chapter 1 of the letter to the Romans.

Citizenship in a free city under Rome did not make one a Roman citizen, as did citizenship in Philippi, a colony. To be born in a free city did not make one a Roman citizen. It conferred upon its members, its own citizens, the right to manage their own municipal affairs. To be born in Philippi would make one a Roman citizen, because Philippi was a colony. The name of its citizens were still retained on the muster roll in the city of Rome. They had all the privileges of Roman citizenship. Their officers were Roman officers. They had processions, with the magistrates, and the lictors and with the bundles of rods. But there was nothing like that in Tarsus. The question came up in Paul’s lifetime, when the commander of a legion heard Paul claiming that be was a Roman citizen. This commander says that with a great sum of money he did purchase his citizenship in Rome. Paul says, "But I was freeborn." If freeborn, how then could he have obtained it? In one of two ways: Before Christ was born, Pompey invaded Jerusalem, and took it. He was one of the first great triumvirate, with Julius Caesar and Marcus L. Crassus. Pompey’s field of labor was in the East, Caesar’s was in the West, and he (Pompey) took Jerusalem and led into slavery many Jews of the best families. When these slaves were brought to Rome, if they showed culture, social position, educational advantages, they were promoted to a high rank or office, among slaves; and if they particularly pleased their owners they were manumitted, either during the lifetime of their owner, or by will after his death. In this way many noble captives from all parts of the world were carried as slaves to Rome. They were first set free and then had conferred upon them the rights of Roman citizenship. It could have been that Cassius, who with Brutus, after the killing of Julius Caesar, combined against Mark Anthony, and Octavius (Augustus), who became the emperor and was reigning when Christ was born, captured this city of Tarsus and led many of its citizens into Rome as slaves. Paul’s grandfather, therefore, or his father, might have been led away captive to Rome, and through his high social position and culture may have been manumitted, and then received as a citizen. Necessarily it occurred before this boy’s time, because when he was born, he was born a Roman citizen. It could be transmitted, but he had not acquired it.

There is a difference between the terms – Jew, Hebrew, Israelite, Hellenist, and a "Hebrew of the Hebrews." All these are used by Paul and Luke in Acts. We get our word, "Hebrew" from Heber, an ancestor of Abraham. Literature shows that the descendants of Heber were Hebrews, and in the Old Testament Abraham is called "the Hebrew." That was not the meaning of the word in New Testament times. We come to the New Testament meaning in Acts 6, which speaks of the ordination of deacons, and uses the word "Hebrew" in distinction from "Hellenist." They both, of course, mean Jews. While a Hebrew in the New Testament usually lived in Palestine, but not necessarily, he was one who still spoke or was able to read the original Hebrew language and who practiced the strict Hebrew cult. A "Hellenist" was a Jew who had either been led into exile, or who, for the sake of trade, had gone into other nations, and settled among those people and had become liberalized, lost the use of the Hebrew tongue entirely, and neither spoke nor wrote the Hebrew language, but who spoke and wrote mainly in Greek. "Hellenist" is simply another term for "Greek." Whether used in the New Testament Greek or the Hellenistic Greek, it means Jews living among Greek people, and who had acquired the language, and in the many respects had followed more liberal Greek customs. Then a Hebrew living in Palestine would not allow himself to be liberalized.

Paul lived out of Judea. He, his father, and indeed his grandfather, adhered strictly to all the distinguishing characteristics of the Hebrews. The "Israelite" and the "Jew" mean anybody descended from Jacob. "Israelite" commenced lower down in the descent. "Hebrew" gets its name from the ancestor of Abraham, but an Israelite was a descendant of Jacob. The distinction of "Jew" came a little later to those descendants of Jacob living in Judea. The "Hebrew of the Hebrews" means a Jew-who went to the greatest possible extreme in following the Hebrew language, cult, habits, training, and religion. He was an extremist among them.

Some people would suppose from Paul’s occupation – tentmaking (he worked at that occupation, making tents with Aquila and Priscilla) – that from this unskilled labor his family were low in the social position, and poor. The inference is wholly untenable. In the first place, every Jew had to have a trade, even though he were a millionaire, and Paul’s old teacher, Gamaliel, used this language: "Any kind of learning without a useful trade leads to sin." Paul took up this trade because he lived at Tarsus. There anybody could go out and learn the trade of weaving ropes and check-cloth made out of the long hair of Mount Taurus goats. The trade would not simply satisfy the Jewish requirement, but a man could make his living by it. We see Paul a little later making his living just that way. Well for Paul that he knew something besides books.

I am more and more inclined to follow an industrial idea in systems of education. We have our schools and universities where the boys and girls learn a great deal about books, and the girl goes home and does not know how to make bread. She does not know how to rear a brood of chickens; she does not know how a house is to be kept clean, nor how to keep windows clean. The floors in the corners and in places under the beds and sofas are unswept. Boys come home that cannot make a hoe handle. They have no mechanical sense, no trade. They can neither make a pair of shoes nor a hat nor a pair of socks, nor anything they wear. And thus graduates of universities stand with their fingers in their mouths in the great byways of the world – practically beggars – not knowing how to do anything.

The Jews guarded against that. Let Paul fall on his feet anywhere, and withdraw from him every outside source of financial support, and he would say, "With these hands did I minister to my necessities." He could go out and get a piece of work. He knew how to do it. All this is bearing on the social and financial position of Paul’s family. Everything indicates the high social position of his family, and that it occupied a high financial position. They did not take the children of the lowest abode and give them such an ecclesiastical training as Paul had. They did not educate them for the position of rabbi, nor let them take a degree in the highest theological seminary in the world. Paul’s family, then, was a good one.

Paul’s religious and educational advantages were on two distinct lines: Purely ecclesiastical or religious, and I can tell just exactly what it was. A little Hebrew boy five years old had to learn the Ten Commandments, and the hallelujah psalms. When six, he advanced to other things which could be specified particularly. His education commenced in the home and went on until he entered the synagogue, which trained him in all the rudiments of biblical education. When he was twelve or thirteen years old he was called "a son of the commandments." Just like the occasion suggests when Jesus was twelve years old he had them take him to Jerusalem, and he was allowed to go into the Temple and to be with the great doctors there.

When Paul was twelve or thirteen his influential father sent him to the great theological seminary. There were two of these seminaries. One had a greater influence than the other in the city of Jerusalem. Therefore, he says, "I was brought up in this city. I was born in Tarsus, but brought up in the city of Jerusalem, at the feet of Gamaliel." He was a very noble character. The opposite seminary differed from this one. It was the Shammai Seminary, differing from the other on this point: The Shammai Seminary was very narrow; did not allow its pupils to know anything about literature whatsoever except religious literature. But the aged Gamaliel said to Paul and to all his other students, "There are certain classical lines along which you may study and learn." This is the kind which Paul attended, the school of Gamaliel, graduating there and becoming a doctor of divinity, or a rabbi. He studied profoundly. This religious part of his education he got in the original Hebrew. When he and Jesus met at the time of his conversion, they spoke in the Hebrew tongue to each other. "There came a voice which said in the Hebrew [the old Hebrew tongue], Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" And he answered in the Hebrew. Then, of course, he spoke and wrote in the Aramaic, which was the common dialect in Judea, and different from the Hebrew, since the Hebrew had gone altogether out of use in the ordinary speech, and almost in the ordinary reading.

The New Testament abounds in evidence of Paul’s general educational advantages. The city of Tarsus possessed one of the three great universities of the world. Did Paul take a course in that? There is no evidence that he did, and no probability that he did. For the universities in that day did not mean as much as they do today in a certain line, though I am sorry to say that the great universities of the present day are dropping back and adopting the old utterly worthless studies of the universities of that day; that is, speculative philosophy about the origin of things, and they do not know anything more when they get through than when they began. Also the Epicurean philosophy, which we now call "Darwinism," making a speculative study of biology, botany, geology, etc., trying to prove that everything came from a primordial germ, and that man not only developed from a monkey, but from a jellyfish, and that the jellyfish developed from some vegetable, and that the vegetable is a development of some inorganic and lifeless matter.

There never was at any time in the world one particle of truth in the whole business. None of it can ever be a science. It does not belong to the realm of science.

Saul never had a moment’s time to spend in a heathen university, listening to their sophistries, and to these philosophical speculations, or vagaries. If he were living now he would be made president of some university. We learn from the Syrians that one of these universities, the one in Tarsus, had a professor who once stole something, and was put in "limbo." Their university professors were also intensely jealous. They had all sorts of squabbles, one part in a row with another part; so that after all there was not much to be learned in the universities of those times, and after a while there will not be much in ours, if we go on as we are now going. I am not referring to any university, particularly, but I am referring to any and all, where philosophical speculations are made thee basis of botany, zoology, natural history of any kind, geology, or any kindred thing. Paul struck it in the city of Athens, its birthplace, and smote it hip and thigh.

I do not suppose at all that Paul was a student in the university of Tarsus, but that while he was at Jerusalem, and under the teaching of Gamaliel, he did study such classics as would be permitted to a Jewish mind. Hence we find in his letters expressions like this: "One of themselves, a prophet of their own said, Cretans are always liars," and when at Athena he says, "Certain, even of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." How could he become acquainted with those classical allusions if he had never studied such things? That chiliarch, who commanded a thousand men – a legion – said to Paul, "Do you speak Greek?" He had heard him speaking Greek. Of course he spoke Greek, and wrote Greek, All of his letters were written in Greek. He had learned that Greek language somewhere. He had not learned it in that university at Tarsus, but in the Seminary at Jerusalem. Take his letters and see his profound acquaintance with the Greek games of every kind. Some of them he may have attended, but he certainly knew all about them as though he had witnessed them. He may have seen only an occasional game. So he must have learned it from the literature, for he discusses every phase of it, especially the foot-racing, the combats in the arena between the gladiators, and the wrestling with the lions in the arena. His letters are full of allusions that indicate his acquaintance with the Greek literature. At Alexandria there was one of the other universities, a much greater one in its Greek literature than the university of Tarsus. Alexandria was founded by a Greek, Alexander the Great. One of the Ptolemies had a great library, the greatest library in the world, which was destroyed by the Saracens. But notice also how Paul puts his finger right upon the very center and heart of every heathen philosophy, like that of Epicureanism – our Darwinism; that he debated in Athens; and note the Stoics whom he met while there, and the Platonians, or the Peripatetics. You will find that that one little speech of his, which he delivered in the city of Athens, contains an allusion which showed that he was thoroughly and profoundly acquainted with every run and sweep of the philosophic thought of the day, and anybody not thus acquainted could not have delivered that address. This is to show the general culture of his mind.

Take the mountain torrent of his passion in the rapid letter to the Galatians. Take the keen logic, the irresistibility of its reasoning, which appears in the letter to the Romans, or take that sweetest language that ever came from the lips or pen of mortal man, that eulogy on love in 1 Corinthians 13. Then take the letter to Philemon, which all the world has considered a masterpiece in epistolary correspondence. It implies that he was scholarly. Look at these varieties of Saul’s education. He was a man whose range of information swept the world. He was the one scholar in the whole number of the apostles – the great scholar – and I do not see how any man can read the different varieties of style or delicacy of touch, the analysis of his logic or reasoning, which appear in Paul’s letters, and doubt that he had a broad, a deep, a high, and a grand general education.

As to Paul’s family the New Testament tells us in Acts 23:16 that he had a married sister living in Jerusalem, and that that sister had a son, Paul’s nephew, who intervened very heroically to help Paul in a certain crisis of his life. And in Romans 16:7-11 are some other things that give light as to his family: "Salute Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners . . . who also have been in Christ before me." Here are a man and a woman, Andronicus and Junias, Paul’s kinsfolk, well known to the apostles in Jerusalem, for he says, "Who are of note among the apostles." They were influential people, and they had become Christians before Paul was a Christian. Take Romans 16:11: "Salute Herodion my kinsman," and Romans 16:21: "Timothy, my fellow worker saluteth you; and Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen." So here we have found six individuals who are kinspeople to Paul, and who were all members of the church at Rome. We know that much of his family, anyhow.

The things which distinguished a Pharisee from a Sadducee were of several kinds: (1) The latter were materialists, whom we would call atheists. They believed in no spirit; that there was nothing but matter; that when a man died it was the last of him. (2) There were Epicureans: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die," they said. (3) Also in their political views they differed from the Pharisees. The Pharisees were patriotic, and wanted the freedom of their nation. The Sadducees were inclined to the Roman government, and wanted to keep up the servitude to the Romans. (4) The Pharisees also cared more about a ritualistic religion. They were Puritans – stern, and knew no compromise, adhering strictly to the letter of the law, in every respect. If they tithed, they would go into the garden and tithe the cummin and the anise. The phrase, "Pharisee of the Pharisees," means one who would whittle all that down to a very fine point, or an extremist on that subject. He said (Galatians 1:14), "I advanced in the Jews’ religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers." They were just Pharisees – he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He went all the lengths that they would go, and he topped them. It meant something like this: "I am a son of Abraham; I am freeborn; I have never sinned; I need no vicarious expiation for me; I need no Holy Spirit; I was never in that bunch; you need not talk or present regeneration to me; I am just as white as snow." It followed that they were not drunkards, they were not immoral; they were chaste, and did not have any of the brutal vices.

Paul had perhaps never met Jesus. They were about the same age. Paul went to Jerusalem when he was thirteen years old, and stayed there until he graduated in the same city. Some contend from certain expressions, as, "I have known Christ after the flesh; henceforth I will know him . . . no more," that he had known Jesus in the flesh. It will be remembered that in the public ministry of Christ he was very seldom in Jerusalem. He stayed there a very short time when he did go. His ministry was mainly in Galilee. Even in that last mighty work of his in Jerusalem – there is a big account of it – but it just lasted a week. And Saul may have been absent at Tarsus during that time. I think when he saw Jesus the fact that he did not recognize him is proof enough, for if he had known him in the flesh he would have recognized him. But he said, "Who art thou?" when he saw him after he arose from the dead.

Paul, before conversion, was intensely conscientious in whatever he did – free from all low vice, drunkenness and luxurious gluttony and sensuality of every kind. He was a very chaste man, a very honest man, a very sincere man, a very truthful man, and all this before conversion. I take it for granted that he was a married man. An orthodox Jew would not have passed the age of twenty unmarried. He could not be a member of the Sanhedrin without marrying; and in that famous passage in Corinthians he seems to intimate clearly that he was a married man. Speaking to virgins (that means unmarried men and women and includes both of them that had never married) he says so and so; and to widows and widowers, "I wish they would remain such as I am." It seems to me that the language very clearly shows that at that time he was a widower. Luther says that no man could write about the married state like Paul writes if he was an old bachelor. I think Luther is right; his judgment is very sound. Paul did not marry again; he remained a widower, and in the stress of the times advised other widowers and widows to remain in that state; but if they wanted to marry again to go ahead and do so; that it was no sin; but the stress of the times made it unwise; and he boldly took the position that he had a right to lead about a wife as much as Peter had, and Peter had a wife.


1. What the theme of this section?

2. What Saul’s name, nation, tribe, sect, citizenship, occupation, office, birthplace, and date of birth?

3. Give an account of Tarsus as to its political, strategical, commercial, manufacturing, educational advantages, and its popular religion.

4. Did citizenship in a free city under Rome make one a Roman citizen as did citizenship in Philippi, a colony?

5. How, then, could one obtain it?

6. Distinguish the difference between these terms: Jew, Hebrew, Israelite, Hellinist, and a "Hebrew of the Hebrews."

7. What the social and financial position of Paul’s family, particularly in view of his occupation?

8. What Paul’s religious and educational advantages?

9. What New Testament evidences are there of Paul’s general educational advantages?

10. What do we know about Paul’s family as seen in the New Testament?

11. Was Paul a rabbi? If so, where did he probably exercise his functions as a rabbi?

12. What is the meaning of the phrase, "Pharisee of the Pharisees?"

13. Did Paul ever meet Jesus before his death? If not, how account for it in view of the interest and publicity of the last week of our Lord’s life?

14. What was Paul’s character before conversion?

15. Was he a married man, and what the proof?



2 Timothy 1:7-2:5

We closed the last chapter with the statement that when Paul laid his hands on Timothy’s head, the power of the Spirit came upon him. He reminds Timothy of the fact that the gift of the Spirit has for one of its purposes to confer boldness and courage. That leads us to see the application, verse 7: "For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love, and discipline."

We see the force of the "therefore" with which 2 Timothy 1:8 commences: "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." Paul did not know but that Timothy over there, with all that outgoing tide might do like some of the others – get scared and be ashamed of the gospel and its testimony. I have known preachers who were ashamed of it in what is called "polite society."

Paul illustrated by referring to God’s salvation and calling, "Who saved us and called us, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal [he never loses sight of the doctrine of election and foreordination], but hath now been manifested by the appearing of our Saviour, Jesus Christ." Now comes a great text. I have preached from it about thirty times in my life: "Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."

When the Southern Baptist Convention met in New Orleans, I was appointed to preach at a Presbyterian church at night. I took that text and for just about one hour, without stopping, and with great fervor, I preached on it. The Presbyterian preacher’s wife said she knew I had written it and memorized it word for word. But I had not. My heart was in it, and speaking of the King my tongue became as the pen of a ready writer.

"Jesus Christ, who abolished death." Very few people believe that. He said to Martha: "Whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die. Believest thou this?" What is meant by it? Not altogether as death was abolished in the cases of Enoch and Elijah, and the living who are to be changed at the second coming of Christ, as it was originally intended that man should, by access to the tree of life, be freed from all susceptibility to weakness and death and mortality, and become immortal. That is not the meaning here. What is meant is that in the separation of soul and body there is a difference between the believer’s case and the sinner’s case. To one, in a true sense, death is abolished, and to the other it is not abolished.

The meaning can more accurately be conveyed by an illustration: In the Pentateuch Canaan is the Land of Promise, and Egypt is this world. There are types running all through the pilgrimages. The last barrier intervening between them and the Promised Land is the river Jordan. When they got to the river it was at its flood – no bridges, no boat. They had to cross that – men, women, children, flocks, and herds. Without any explanation God commands them to go straight forward: and it came to pass that when the feet of the priest who went before the ark of the covenant, touched the brim of the water, the river divided. God stayed the waters, and the waters backed up against his will, his will being the dam that stopped it, all the water below ran off, and they crossed over dry-shod. In that illustration we see that when they came to the last barrier separating them from the Promised Land, that dreadful river was no river to them. The channel was there, but they passed over dry-shod. It is represented this way in our hymnology:

Could I but climb where Moses stood and view the landscape o’er Not Jordan’s stream, nor death’s cold flood could fright me from the shore.

When the Christian dies, no matter what suffering his body may seem to go through, in the hour of dissolution of his soul and body, there is no death, no matter whether he is a young Christian or an old one. It is no more than stepping over a chalk mark on the floor; it is no more than stepping through a door into another room. It is to him all light – no darkness.

Take the case of Lazarus: "And it came to pass that the beggar died [no pause at all], and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom." Abraham reclining at a banquet in the kingdom of heaven, many coming from the north, south, east, and west, and reclining with him; one of them is Lazarus, who was starving on earth, begging the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. At the very instant of his death he passed to the heavenly banquet, and received the honorable place next to Abraham, so that his head is against Abraham’s bosom, as John at the Lord’s table rested his head on the bosom of Jesus.

That is what Paul means by abolishing death. There is no sting. My soul has so taken possession of that thought, and I have witnessed so many cases where dying Christians realized it, that I have not had any fear of death whatever for many years. There is nothing horrible in it to me, not a bit more than just lying down and going to sleep. Jesus has abolished death to his people.

I have before quoted the testimony of a Methodist bishop, who all of his lifetime feared death; it was a terrible thing to him. He was afraid that when he came to die his agitation would bring reproach on the cause of Christ. He was not afraid of any external enemy, but was afraid that in dying his fear might reproach Christ’s name. But just as he was dying his eyes were opened) his face was shilling, and looking around the room he said, "Brethren, brethren, is this death – this light, this glory? Why should I have dreaded it?" That is the thought. "Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, hath abolished death." The bearing of this on Timothy’s case was this: "Persecutors are seeking your life, as they seek mine. Remember that the Lord said they cannot kill the soul. They cannot even bring terror to the soul, in the dissolution of soul and body." There is no sting in death to the Christian. The sting of death is sin, and sin has been blotted out. The strength of sin is the law, and the law has been satisfied. The power of death is the devil, but he has been conquered.

Now look at the second part: "Who hath abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." What is life? Life everlasting for the soul. A man dies and there lies his cold body. Where is that which a few moments ago warmed and animated that body? As Job said: "Man dieth and giveth up his spirit. Where is he?" When Jesus brought life to light, and he himself entered into the realm of death, that bourne from which no traveler has ever returned, and came back from it, he flashed a flood of light upon the status of the spirits of the departed saints. That status existed before, but had never been brought to light.

The river Niger has many mouths and empties itself into the Gulf of Guinea. It has always had them, ever since it has been a river, but the fact was not brought to light until a few years ago. Travelers inland would speak of a great river flowing southwesterly) which must somewhere empty into the Atlantic Ocean. But sailors who had coasted along the coast of Africa and finding no such great river emptying into the Atlantic, were positive that it was all a lie – that there was no such river) for a river must flow somewhere. Finally Dr. Lardner went inland and struck it. He got in a boat and determined to follow it to the ocean to find out where the river went. Thus by actual experiment he discovered that before reaching the Atlantic the river divided into a great many small streams) reaching the ocean through a delta.

Just so, Jesus, having entered personally into the disembodied state, and returned to the embodied state of his resurrection, opened up to us the path of life – that is, the path of the soul. It goes right to heaven. Now, immortality is quite a different thing; that concerns the body. When he came back he brought to light the immortality of the body through his resurrection, that God intended to save the whole man, not only his soul, but to raise and glorify his body.

In view of the fact that our Saviour had abolished death and brought to light the life of the soul and the immortality of the body, by the power of his resurrection, why should we be afraid of death? What is there frightful in it? Paul says, Jesus having brought back these messages, concerning both the state of the soul, and the future redemption of the body, the next thing is the gospel, the story of God, or glad tidings. He says, "I was appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and & teacher."

Look at these three words. I was appointed to go out and preach these things to the people intimidated by formidable adversaries, in bondage to the fear of death, the sting of sin, the strength of the law, and back of it all the power of the devil which pressed to pallid lips the cup of death. I was appointed to go out and tell everybody these good things. That is preaching.

Then he says, "I was appointed an apostle." That is a very different idea. An apostle must be a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He testified that he was an eyewitness. How? "I have seen the Lord since he came back. He appeared to me on the road to Damascus. He has stood by me many times since. I saw him in his glory, and therefore I am an apostle. I am a witness to that resurrection."

The other thought is that he was appointed a teacher. That is somewhat different from a preacher. A teacher instructs and expounds; a preacher proclaims. The teacher takes the word of God and rightly divides it, giving to each one his portion in due season, administering the sincere milk of the word to young converts, and the meat to the more mature Christians. That is the distinction between preacher, apostle, and teacher.

He goes on: "For which cause I suffer all these things, yet I am not ashamed." "These things have not come upon me because I have done wrong. How can there be shame unless I have sinned? I have robbed no temples, I have committed no murder, I have violated neither the Jewish nor the Roman law; but these sufferings have come upon me because I have preached these glad tidings, witnessed these glad tidings, and taught these glad tidings."

He continues the thought (Paul’s thoughts are always connected) : "am not ashamed." "If I had stolen something, or had killed a man and had been convicted therefore before the court, I might be ashamed. But these things have come upon me because I have done what I ought to do, and I am not ashamed and you ought not to be."

That brings us to the next great text: "I know him whom I have believed." Faith is not credulity; it is founded on knowledge, as Dr. Taylor so well put it in a sermon, the outline of which appears in chapter 3. "Knowledge brings you near to the kingdom, faith puts you in it." Knowledge precedes faith. "I know him whom I believed. I never would have attained this serene confidence by some kinds of knowledge. It is not what I know, but whom I know, the personality of Christ, and I am persuaded, I have assurance in my mind, that Jesus is able to guard what I have committed to him."

Paul by faith received Christ, and then by faith committed to Christ his life: "Now I have turned that over to the Lord; it is in his keeping. If you say that I am not a skilled swordsman and am therefore unable to defend my life, I will admit it. If you say that my powers are below the powers of the devil, who seeks my life, I will admit it. But I have this persuasion: The very day I believed in Christ I committed all to him, and my life is hid in Christ with God, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard it today, tonight, tomorrow, next week, next year, when I die, after I die, and clear on until that day, i.e., the time when he will come back, and when he comes he will bring it with him. He will guard what I have committed unto him through all peril periods. There will be no after perils when Jesus comes again."

1 Timothy 1:13: "Hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus." Modern people say, "Don’t have much creed, and when you state it, don’t let it take any particular form. Somebody might object." Paul said, "I delivered you a pattern of sound words, and you are to take it just as I gave it to you. You are not to change it." No man is true to the faith who departs from the pattern.

Suppose, for example, baptism, the pattern is this: "They both went down into the water; John baptized him and they both came up out of the water." What did he do when he baptized him? Christ was buried in baptism, and we with Christ were buried in baptism in the likeness of his death and raised in the likeness of his resurrection. That is the pattern. Why not just sprinkle a few drops on one’s head? That changes the pattern. It changes the thought. Let it stand as it was given.

We may apply that pattern to the Lord’s Supper. We notice how carefully a Baptist preacher, when he administers the Lord’s Supper, quotes Christ’s very words, and the words that Paul used in repeating the ordinance. Why? He must stick to the pattern. He must present the ordinance just as we received it.

He refers to the same thing again in 1 Timothy 1:14: "That good thing which was committed unto thee, guard through the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us." Some say it makes no difference what a man believes if his heart is all right. If his heart is all right he will not believe all sorts of things. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is." It is the faith we have that forms the life we live.

In the introductory chapter I expounded 1 Timothy 1:15-18. What Paul refers to here is what took place when the storm broke on him. All Asia turned away from him. Only Onesiphorus and Timothy stood by him. Speaking of Onesiphorus: "How many things he ministered at Ephesus thou knowest very well." Then when he heard that Paul was a prisoner at Rome, he went to Rome and many times refreshed him there. That closes the chapter.

1 Timothy 2:1: "Thou, therefore, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Jesus Christ." When Paul wrote this he knew that the time of his departure was at hand, and he knew that he had given to Timothy a pattern of sound words, he had given him the faith. But he knew that Timothy would die after a while, and what then? "And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." That is the way the gospel is handed down.

A truly sound preacher is possessed with the desire that somebody who hears him will receive the gospel in full from him, and long after he has passed away will transmit that very thing to somebody else, and that one in turn to his successor, and then to another, and just keep it going. That is succession, and I believe in the succession of the past, but especially in the succession of the present. No matter what we believe about succession back yonder, this is my day and I have the deposit of faith and the injunction is on me to transmit it to somebody else. I am more concerned about present succession than in spending my life trying to prove that there was one way back yonder, though there was one way back yonder, too. Remember the soldier hymns: "Am I a soldier of the cross," and "My soul, be on thy guard."

Listen to Paul’s soldier talk: "Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." Soldiers do not sleep in the parlor (by the way, that is the worst room on the place to sleep in) ; he does not attend many banquets. Sometimes we see him with just one shoe, and sometimes none. Sometimes he has to stand guard all night, and sometimes "double quick." Sometimes he is cold and sometimes hot. Sometimes he is hungry and sometimes gorged. The army that can endure such hardships is going to win.

The fashion soldiers in times of peace, with their hurrahs, gorgeous uniforms, flags flying, drums beating, attending receptions, making speeches, these we call "holiday soldiers"; but the soldier who goes into the fight when the command, "charge!" is given, never stops to consider the wisdom in it, but storms the fortress crowned with belching artillery and bristling bayonets, is the real soldier.

"No soldier on service entangleth himself in the affairs of this life; that he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier." When a man enlists he is on service as a soldier. He cannot go to the exchange to gamble; cannot go to the farm to make a crop; he cannot entangle himself with the affairs of this life; he is committed to a special line of duty. "Now, Timothy, you are a soldier on duty; beware of entangling alliances."

I knew one preacher who ran fifteen kinds of secular businesses, and was then surprised that he was not equal to Paul as a preacher! He had that many irons in the fire. I would advise the preacher not to try to ride, at the same time, two horses going in opposite directions. But that is as easy as it is for a preacher to entangle himself with the affairs of this world. If he makes a good deal of money, he will take the sore throat, and every time one sees him he will explain how he had to quit preaching on account of his voice failing; that his physicians advised him to stop.

But let a preacher be nearly barefooted, with not much of this world’s goods, and with the fire burning in his heart that he must preach, and he will preach. But if he is able to go in a coach and six, he always says, "Put up some of the other brethren."

I knew one preacher who was doing well as a pastor until a rich man called him to be his private secretary. Since then he has quit preaching, and is now only a millionaire.

"And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned except that he contend lawfully." Every man must conform to the law relating to the line in which he is engaged. If he is a farmer he must be ready to go to work just as the sun rises. There are some other occupations that do not call for such early rising. But whatever his line of work, he must conform to the laws governing it.


1. What the force of "therefore" in 1 Timothy 1:8?

2. How does Paul illustrate here?

3. What great text follows, and what the meaning of "abolished death"?

4. Illustrate by Canaan and Egypt; also by the case of the Methodist bishop.

5. What the bearing of this on Timothy’s case?

6. What the meaning of "life" here? Illustrate.

7. What the meaning of "immortality"?

8. What effect should the teaching of this text have on a child of God?

9. Distinguish between the meanings of the words "preacher," "apostle," and "teacher."

10. What are some causes for shame, and what not a cause for shame?

11. What the relation of faith to knowledge?

12. What kind of knowledge brings salvation?

13, What had Paul committed to Jesus Christ, and what his confidence?

14. What the meaning of "pattern of sound words"? Illustrate.

15. What God’s method of preserving the truth and keeping it always before men?

16. What was Paul’s idea of a good soldier of Jesus Christ?

17. What general principle cited here by Paul?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Timothy 1". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/2-timothy-1.html.
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