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Bible Commentaries

Contending for the Faith

2 Timothy 1

Verse 1

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,

Paul is an apostle, "one sent forth," of Jesus Christ (Vine 63). He is an apostle by the will and "commandment of God..." (1 Timothy 1:1).

according to the promise of life: Thayer defines the phrase "according to" as "of the end aimed at" (329). The thought intended here is that the aim of God in appointing Paul as an apostle was to fulfill the promise of life, eternal life.

which is in Christ Jesus: Jesus Christ is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1). Without Him there would be no hope of eternal life.

Verses 1-18

WORKS CITED

Clarke, Adam. Commentary: Romans to Revelation. Vol. 6. New York: Abingdon Press, n.d.

Coffman, James Burton. Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians , 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Revised Edition. Abilene, Texas: ACU Press, 1978.

Jamieson, Robert, Fausset, A.R., and Brown, David. Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Nashville, Tennessee: The Southwestern Co., 1968.

Johnson, B.W. The People’s New Testament: The Epistles and Revelation. Vol. 2. Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Company, n.d.

Lenski, R.C.H. The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961.

Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament: The Epistles of Paul. Vol. IV. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1931.

Thayer, Joseph H. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1977.

Vincent, Marvin B. Word Studies in the New Testament. Vol. IV. McLean, Virginia: McDonald Publishing Co., n.d.

Vine, W.E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966.

Verse 2

To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

my dearly beloved son: The Revised Standard Version renders this passage, "To Timothy, my true child in the faith." Paul, referring to Timothy as his "beloved son," indicates an attachment of reason based on merit (Jamieson 1373). Timothy had proved himself worthy of Paul’s confidence. Thus he refers to him as "his beloved child."

Verse 3

I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;

The introductions to Paul’s epistles always include expressions of gratitude to God as well as others. In this chapter, he includes Timothy, Lois, and Eunice. It seems that as Paul begins to write this very personal letter, memories of a life of service to God flood his soul.

whom I serve from my forefathers: Here Paul remembers his godly ancestry. He, like Timothy, had been trained as a child to serve God, and always his service had been rendered with a good conscience (Acts 23:1; Acts 24:14).

that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day: On this passage Lenski observes that "the genitive denotes time within which: ’By night and by day,’ the accusative would mean ’all night and all day long’ (746). Thus Paul prayed some prayers at night, some in the day.

Verse 4

Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;

One can almost see tears well up in the eyes of this great man as he writes to Timothy. The prospect of death is replaced with gratitude and the anticipated joy of seeing his beloved son in the faith.

Verse 5

When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.

When I call to remembrance: In the Greek, "Having received a reminder" seems to be a more exact rendering of the phrase (Robertson 611). No doubt something happened in Rome--whether it be something said or done, or a sight which provided an image to Paul--that reminded him of Timothy’s sincere faith.

unfeigned faith: Timothy’s faith was "undisguised" (Thayer 52), and "unhypocritical" (Lenski 750). Unlike Demas (4:10), Timothy had demonstrated the kind of faith that dwelt first in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice, a faith that was genuine, without hypocrisy.

Verse 6

Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

Lenski makes a point of the beautiful progression of expressions in this context. Paul first mentions his "remembering" (verse 3), then he records he had received a "reminder" (verse 5), and now he tells Timothy he is "reminding" him (753).

that thou stir up: This phrase provides a beautiful image Paul uses often in his letter to Timothy. There is something in Timothy that Paul wants "to rekindle, to stir into flame, to keep blazing," and Paul uses a tense that suggests "continuous action" (Robinson 612). The idea is to keep stirring into a live flame the gift of God. Lenski points out that to that point Timothy had experienced only the difficulties that were usually present with preaching the gospel. Times had changed, however. Rome once had tolerated this new religion but no more. Paul was about to suffer martyrdom, putting Timothy in the forefront of the battle. He must keep this flame burning brightly. He could not allow the mist of discouragement to cause the flame to burn lower.

the gift of God: Paul does not state precisely what spiritual gift he had given to Timothy by the laying on of hands; perhaps it was his ability to preach or teach the gospel.

by the putting on of my hands: This gift was conferred to Timothy in a miraculous fashion by the imposition of the Apostle Paul’s hands and accompanied by the elders. Only an apostle could confer a miraculous gift. The presbytery (the elders) did not, and could not, transfer the gift to Timothy. It was done "through" (dia) the laying on of Paul’s hands "with" (meta) the accompaniment of the elders. Paul did it, and the presbytery sanctioned the action. The Greek prepositions make that distinction clear (see notes on 1 Timothy 4:14).

Verse 7

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Fred D. Gealy explains that although "spirit" is here properly printed with a lower case letter as referring to the inner and abiding quality and character of Christians, this spirit is not native to man nor is it his achievement. It is God’s gift. The spirit of the Christian man," he explains, "is really God’s spirit" (Coffman 236).

In issuing this admonition, Paul realizes that Timothy needs to be made aware of the changing attitude of Imperial Rome. Soon this attitude would spread to the provinces, putting Timothy and the Cause for which he fights in much danger. Thus Paul tells Timothy that God does not give us the spirit of fear. Vine points out that "the word deilia denotes cowardice and timidity and is never used in a good sense" (Vine 84). But God has provided means by which Christian men can rid themselves of fear. God would have us to be "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" by putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesian 6:10-20). So Timothy, says Paul, must maintain the spirit of power. But Paul goes a step further and says, "and of love." As John points out, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear ... He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18). This love is agape. As Lenski says, it is "the love of full understanding coupled with mighty corresponding purpose. This love faces and conquers the world’s hostility with its power. It burns on and on. It sees all the sin and woe, and its one purpose is that of Jesus, to seek and to save" (Lenski 755).

and of a sound mind: The Revised Version translates this phrase as "discipline" while the Revised Standard Version submits "self-control." Lenski calls it "sensibly-minded," then further adds: "The exercise of a sane, balanced mind guides our power, applies the intelligence and purpose of our love, and while it is needed at all times, is most needed in dangerous times" (755). In the world outside his prison cell, Paul can see dangerous clouds gathering overhead. Time is short. Timothy, his son, must be prepared.

Verse 8

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

B.W. Johnson sees this passage as a gentle rebuke because Timothy had failed in boldness (Johnson 276). However, Coffman, A.T. Robertson and Lenski disagree. Coffman quotes Kenneth S. Wuest as saying, "’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 subjective with the negative which forbids the doing of an act not yet begun" (Coffman 236). Paul emphasizes that Timothy can never become ashamed of declaring the testimony of our Lord, even though Imperial Rome declares that doing so is promoting an unlawful religion. To be ashamed of the Lord’s testimony is to be ashamed of the Lord Himself.

nor of me His prisoner: The apostle sees himself as a prisoner of the Lord, not of Nero (Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; Philemon 1:9).

At this time, many disciples had defected. So Paul warns Timothy not to be ashamed of the soul-saving Cause, though it had become the object of governmental scorn. Timothy must maintain the zeal and faith that the Lord’s disciples demonstrated in the early days of the church, a zeal so strong that they rejoiced "that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name" (Acts 5:41).

While God would supply strength and power--as Paul affirms in his grand declaration: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13)--God would not do it all. Timothy must do his part. Man has responsibility in his conversion and in maintaining a life loyal to Christ and to His Cause.

Verse 9

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

Paul now reminds Timothy of the principal reasons why he must not be ashamed. (1) God has saved us. (2) God has called us with a holy calling by the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14).

not according to our works: In affirming that God saves us "not according to our works," Paul is not teaching that works have nothing to do with salvation as many believe today. Rather, he is teaching that God did not decide to save us because of our works but because of what He did for us. Our works do not give us a reason to boast about our salvation (see Ephesians 2:8-10). Paul excludes works that would permit a man to boast, works of merit. But in the next verse, he shows that God has ordained works that are essential to our salvation, not meritorious works but works of obedience.

Meritorious works did not prompt God to call us, but, rather, His holy purpose and grace given us in Christ. Only those in Christ have access to God’s grace. One must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17) and believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God (John 8:24). One must repent or perish (Luke 13:3). There must be a confession of faith in Christ, that He is the son of God (Matthew 10:32; Acts 8:32) followed by baptism, immersion in water, which permits our entering into Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27). Paul tells Timothy this plan was put into place by God’s wisdom long before Paul or Timothy ever declared it from their own lips, even before the world began.

Verse 10

But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:

But is now made manifest: The benefits of God’s grace are manifest or "made known" by Christ’s appearing or coming.

by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ: This expression has reference not only to Christ’s birth but to His life, death, resurrection, and ascension (Coffman 238).

who hath abolished death: By His coming forth from the dead, Christ rendered death ineffective. As Coffman suggests, "The Christian gospel indeed robbed death of its terrors and enabled the Christian to face it with sanity, composure, and hope" (Coffman 238).

hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: Christ showed mankind how life and "incorruption" (RV) may be achieved through obedience to the gospel, God’s glorious light.

It, indeed, is refreshing to see Paul, awaiting death in a Roman dungeon, still basking in the light of the glorious gospel. The apostle is still unashamed of the gospel, the power of God unto salvation.

Verse 11

Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

Having mentioned the gospel in the last part of verse 10, Paul shifts into a discussion of that which he seemed to love most: the glorious gospel of which he was appointed a preacher ("herald"), apostle ("one sent forth"), and a teacher of the Gentiles. As a preacher, he heralded the good news, being sent by the Lord with special gifts and signs to confirm the word he taught. Paul was one of the world’s greatest teachers, giving instruction both by letter and by word of mouth. Paul here remembers his mandate by the Lord to be a "chosen vessel ... to bear my name before the Gentiles" (Acts 9:15). Certainly it is appropriate that Paul remember his role and function in the work of the Lord and use it as a basis for the instruction he is about to deliver to Timothy.

Verse 12

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

For the which cause: The "Cause" here is the Cause of Christ, the great gospel Cause presented by the apostle beginning in verse 6.

I also suffer these things: As a preacher, apostle, and teacher, Paul had suffered often for the Cause he loved (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). And now for the same Cause he is confined on a false criminal charge, expecting to be executed any day. Others, even some who had worked with Paul in spreading the gospel, were saying, "What a shame." But listen to Paul, "Nevertheless, I am not ashamed."

nevertheless I am not ashamed: In verse 8, Paul had admonished Timothy to continue to be unashamed of the testimony of the Lord. The apostle wants his "son in the faith" to know that in spite of the present circumstances, he is not ashamed. What Paul demanded of others, he demanded of himself.

for I know whom I have believed: Notice Paul does not say "I know what I believe," but more personally, "I know Him whom I have been trusting" (Lenski 766). "Trusting all along," Lenski adds, "and trusting still" (767).

and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day: The term "to keep" means "guard, watch, keep watch" (Vine 287). The image Paul uses is literally that of a deposit, as in a bank, "the bank of heaven," says Robertson, "which no burglar can break (Matthew 6:19)" (Robertson 614).

Lenski translates the sense of the Greek in this way: "For I know Him whom I have been trusting and am persuaded that He is able to guard the deposit of mine against that day" (766).

What was "committed"? Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown explain that it was "my deposit," the body, soul, and spirit, which I have deposited in God’s safekeeping (1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Peter 4:19). God commits two "deposits" to us: one that we are to keep and transmit to others (verses 13-14; 2 Timothy 2:2) and the other that we should commit to His keeping--ourselves and our heavenly portion (Jamieson 1375).

The three most commonly accepted interpretations of this committing to God, according to Clarke, are his life, his soul, and the gospel (626). Coffman suggests that in view of thoughts of the last day as well as the impending execution of the apostle, Paul probably had his own soul in mind in this metaphor (240).

Three times, however, Paul combines the word "committed" (deposit) with "keep" (guard). In addition to this verse, Paul uses the metaphor in 1 Timothy 6:20, "O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust," and in 2 Timothy 1:14, "that good thing which was committed unto thee keep." Beginning in verse 6, it is evident that Paul’s mind is not ridden with concern for his life but for the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Scholars generally agree that in 1 Timothy 1:20 and 2 Timothy 1:14 Paul is talking about the "gospel." There is no reason to believe that here in verse 12 he speaks of anything other than the gospel. The gospel will be guarded, even though Paul is put to death. "For I know whom I have believed, and am sure that He is able to guard unto that day what has been entrusted to me" (RSV).

against that day: God is able to guard the gospel entrusted to Paul whether after Paul’s death or until the day of judgment.

Verse 13

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

Hold fast the form of sound words: The Revised Version translates "form" as "pattern." Vine defines "sound" as "to be healthy, sound in health ... used metaphorically of doctrine" (Vine 55).

which thou hast heard of me: Timothy was to hold fast the pattern of healthy words Paul had taught him. Paul received these words by inspiration and taught them to Timothy. Lenski says, "all these words we have as Timothy had them, to be used as the pattern in all our preaching" (Lenski 769). We may not deviate even a little from the pattern. Veering to the right will take us into extremism; to the left, we fall into liberalism.

in faith and love: Paul delivered these sound words, and Timothy was to receive them and hold them fast in faith and love.

Verse 14

That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.

That good thing which was committed unto thee keep: The good thing committed (deposited) to Timothy, which was to be guarded by him, is "the gospel." Since the written word as we have it was not available to Christians in that day, Timothy must be careful to preserve the teaching and writings of inspired men.

The Revised Standard Version translates this command to Timothy this way: "... guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us."

by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us: The fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian is seldom disputed. Please see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and Romans 8:9-11.

Verse 15

This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.

all they which are in Asia: Paul does not refer to all Christians in Asia. However, there had been some who could have been helpful (perhaps in his defense before Nero’s government) who refused to aid him. These were ashamed of Paul’s chains.

turned away from me: Paul did not say that these brethren had turned away from the truth, but away from him. Paul names two: Phygellus and Hermogenes. Notice Paul was not afraid to call names, a practice that would be unpopular in today’s time.

Verses 16-17

The Lord give 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 out very diligently, and found me.

Paul implies that Onesiphorus might now be a prisoner in Rome when he asks that the Lord give mercy to his house. But the apostle credits Onesiphorus with two compliments: one, he refreshed Paul whenever he most needed it, and, more than that, he was not ashamed to be associated with Paul while he was in chains. Even though Paul was not that easy to find while imprisoned in Rome, Onesiphorus persisted in his search until he found him and ministered to his needs.

Verse 18

The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.

Some have suggested this as an example of prayer for the dead, speculating that Onesiphorus had died. First, there is no proof that Onesiphorus had died; and, second, even if he had died, this scripture does not substantiate the doctrine of praying for the dead. As Coffman states, "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 request" (Coffman 242).

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Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 2 Timothy 1". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/2-timothy-1.html. 1993-2022.