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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 2

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Paul continued to encourage Timothy to remain faithful to the Lord and to his calling by charging him to endure hardship. Then he stressed again the importance of faithfulness in his public ministry and in his personal life (cf. 1 Timothy 4:6-16).

Verse 1

Paul’s charge in this verse is a general one. Specific responsibilities follow. On the basis of what he had already written, Paul urged his son (Gr. teknon, lit. child, an affectionate term) to let Christ’s grace empower him. The present tense of the Greek passive imperative endunamoo indicates the need for continual dependence on God. One does this as he or she walks in submission to the Spirit of God and in harmony with the will of God. God then can and will provide strength.

"Christ is the dynamo for power only when and while we keep in touch with him." [Note: A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 4:616.]

Verses 1-7

1. Timothy’s duty 2:1-7

"Following the models of shame and courage (2 Timothy 1:15-18), Paul resumes direct exhortation to Timothy and the handover of the Pauline mission." [Note: Towner, The Letters . . ., p. 487.]

Verses 1-13

A. Charge to endure hardship 2:1-13

Paul continued to encourage Timothy to remain faithful to his calling to motivate him to persevere in his ministry.

"In this first section the subject particularly dealt with is the question of service and rewards." [Note: Harry Ironside, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, p. 182.]

Verse 2

Just as Paul had passed the torch of ministry on to Timothy, so now Timothy should do so to other men who gave evidence that they too would be faithful. These should in turn instruct others who would follow them.

"Faithfulness negatively consists in their not losing, neglecting, ignoring, or falsifying (like the false teachers mentioned in this letter) what Paul has said, and positively consists of their ’handling accurately the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2:15).

"Since the task committed to these faithful ones is that of teaching others also, it is certain that they are the same group of whom Paul wrote in 1 Timothy, the presbyters who ’work hard in word and teaching’ (1 Timothy 5:17), and also in Titus, the presbyters/overseers who are ’holding fast the faithful word that is in accordance with the teaching’ so that they are ’able both to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict’ (Titus 1:9)." [Note: Knight, p. 391.]

This discipleship process involved instruction in the truths of the faith and companionship in ministry. The reference to "witnesses" would have reminded Timothy of Paul’s bold preaching on many occasions. It would have encouraged him to renew his commitment to Paul’s life-changing gospel and to Paul personally.

"This is the true apostolic succession of the ministry: not an uninterrupted line of hands laid on which extends back to the apostles themselves so that all ordinations which are not in that line are null and void; but a succession of true apostolic doctrine, the deposit of what we still hear from Paul in his writings, this held by us in faithful hearts with competency to teach others the same things. The apostle did not evidently expect the future teachers of the church to produce new or different teaching." [Note: Richard C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon, pp. 778-79.]

Verses 3-4

Paul’s long ministry with Timothy had included many hardships. Now, as Timothy looked forward to training other younger men, he could expect more of the same. Paul urged him to submit to difficulties as a good soldier.

The apostle used three illustrations to help Timothy appreciate the logical consistency of this exhortation (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Corinthians 9:10; 1 Corinthians 9:24). The first illustration is the soldier (cf. Ephesians 6:11-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8). Paul’s emphasis in this illustration was on the importance of remaining free from entanglement with other lesser goals and activities while serving the Lord. This is something about which Paul had previously warned Timothy (1 Timothy 6:3-16; cf. Matthew 13:22; Luke 8:14). Obviously Paul did not mean that a minister should always give all of his time to preaching and teaching to the exclusion of any tent-making activities. He meant that he should not let other duties drain off his energies or interests or divert him from his primary responsibilities as a Christian soldier. Demas, whom Paul mentioned later, turned out to be a bad soldier in this respect (cf. 2 Timothy 4:10). As an ordinary soldier must be single-minded in his purpose, rigorous in his self-discipline, and unquestioning in his obedience, so must every soldier of Christ.

"Paul’s appeal shows the importance of developing an ability to distinguish between doing good things and doing the best things. Servants of Christ are not merely to be well-rounded dabblers in all types of trivial pursuits. They are tough-minded devotees of Christ who constantly choose the right priorities from a list of potential selections." [Note: Lea, p. 203.]

Verse 5

Paul’s second illustration, the athlete, emphasized the need to minister according to the rules that God has prescribed. To do this we must minister with proper motives, with purity of life, and obedience to all of God’s will to win His approval.

". . . competitors at the Olympic Games had to swear an oath before the statue of Zeus that they had been in strict training for ten months (Pausanias, Graec. deser. 2 Timothy 2:24. 9)." [Note: Kelly, p. 176. See Jerry M. Hullinger, "The Historical Background of Paul’s Athletic Allusions," Bibliotheca Sacra 161:643 July-September 2004):343-59.]

As an athlete must deny himself or herself, endure hardship, and persevere to the end, so must every spiritual athlete.

Verse 6

Paul’s third illustration, the farmer, emphasized the toil necessary if one wants to enjoy the fruits of his or her labors. [Note: Cf. J. H. Bernard, The Pastoral Epistles, p. 118.] A farmer must continue to sow seed and water it if he or she wants to harvest its fruit. Likewise the farmer for Christ must plant and nourish the gospel seed if he or she eventually expects to reap the fruit of God’s Word in the lives of people.

All three illustrations imply dogged persistence and hold out the prospect of eventual reward for the faithful.

Verse 7

Paul encouraged Timothy to meditate on what he had just written knowing that the Lord (probably Jesus, cf. 2 Timothy 2:8) would help him see the wisdom of his words. Paul’s illustrations yield many practical lessons as one meditates on them.

"The apprehension of spiritual truth is not primarily a matter of mental acumen but of spiritual teachableness." [Note: Hiebert, pp. 57-8.]

Verse 8

Jesus Christ is, of course, the greatest example of suffering hardship for a worthy purpose. Paul urged Timothy to meditate on His example too. This is the only place in this epistle where Paul arranged Jesus’ names in this order (cf. 1 Timothy 6:3; 1 Timothy 6:14; Titus 1:1; Titus 2:13; Titus 3:6). He probably did so to stress Jesus’ humanity and thus His exemplary conduct.

Paul may have intended his references to Jesus’ resurrection and lineage to provoke meditation on our Lord’s vindication and reign following His sufferings. Jesus was the culmination of a line of rulers whom God’s enemies consistently opposed and persecuted (cf. Acts 7). The record of Jesus Christ was part of the gospel Paul preached and the gospel Timothy was in danger of neglecting (2 Timothy 1:8). Paul could call the gospel "my gospel" because God had entrusted it to him.

"The perfect tense of the participle for ’raised’ suggests that Paul was stressing the result of Christ’s resurrection, the demonstration of his lordship (Romans 1:4), rather than the fact of the resurrection. . . .

"Second, the mention that Christ ’descended from David’ shows that Christ has messianic qualifications and is the heir to the glorious promises of God for David. . . .

"The memory of Christ cloaked with resurrection power and messianic dignity is an inspiration for Christian service." [Note: Lea, pp. 206, 207.]

"The Davidic Messiah who suffered and was raised from the dead is the very essence of Paul’s gospel." [Note: Knight, p. 398. Cf. 1 Timothy 3:16.]

Verses 8-10

2. The examples of Jesus and Paul 2:8-10

Paul proceeded to undergird his appeal to suffer hardship with the examples of Jesus (2 Timothy 2:8) and himself (2 Timothy 2:9-10). 2 Timothy 2:8-10 form a single sentence in the Greek text, which has the effect of uniting Jesus and Paul in their respective examples. Paul replicated Jesus’ example.

Verse 9

Paul, too, was willing to suffer hardship for the gospel. He had done so all his Christian life and was presently in prison because of it. The Greek word translated "criminal" (kakourger) is a strong one and occurs only in Luke 23:32-33; Luke 23:39 elsewhere in the New Testament. There it describes the criminals crucified with Jesus. Under Nero’s persecution non-Christians viewed Christians as serious criminals. Timothy needed to remember that the Word of God was just as powerful to change lives as ever. Its power was as great as it ever was even though its champion defender was in chains. So Timothy should continue to proclaim it.

Verse 10

Because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation Paul was content to endure anything so long as this message went forth (cf. Philippians 1:12-20).

"The body they may kill;

God’s truth abideth still;

His kingdom is forever." [Note: Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.]

Paul had been the chief suppresser of the gospel (Acts 22:4; Acts 26:9-11). Now he was its chief promoter. He had been the greatest oppressor of the saints. Now he was the most greatly oppressed of them.

"While the majority of the commentators understand the ’elect’ to refer to the unregenerate who have not yet believed (but certainly will), there is good reason to understand the term in this context as a virtual synonym for a regenerate saint. First of all, in every usage of the term applied to men, in the New Testament it always refers to a justified saint. Conversely, it never refers to someone who was elect in eternity past but who has not yet entered into the purpose of their election, justification. . . . It is best to understand by ’the elect’ Timothy and the faithful men of 2 Timothy 2:2. Timothy is being exhorted to suffer in his ministry to the faithful men just as Paul has been imprisoned for his ministry to the ’elect.’ The idea of Paul suffering for the sanctification and growth of the churches is a common New Testament theme, and is easily seen in this passage as well.

"Here then are saved people in need of salvation! The salvation in view is necessarily sanctification or, perhaps, more precisely, victorious perseverance through trials (2 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 2:3; 2 Timothy 2:9)." [Note: Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, pp. 127-28. Cf. Knight, p. 400; and Towner, The Letters . . ., p. 504.]

Verses 11-13

The first couplet (2 Timothy 2:11) is a comforting reminder that since the believer died with Christ (Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:1; Colossians 3:3) he or she has also experienced resurrection with Him to newness of life (cf. Romans 6:2-23, esp. 2 Timothy 2:8). This seems to be a better interpretation than the one that views this statement as a reference to dying as a martyr. [Note: Hiebert, pp. 62-3; et al.] The first class condition and the aorist tense of the verb synapethanomen, translated "died," argue for the former view. [Note: Cf. Newport J. D. White, "The First and Second Epistles to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus," in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 4:163.]

Knight suggested that since Paul wrote this epistle from Rome, it is possible that the church in Rome developed this first line by reflecting on Romans 6, especially 2 Timothy 2:8. Water baptism symbolizes the death and resurrection of the believer. [Note: Knight, p. 408.]

The second couplet (2 Timothy 2:12 a) is also a comfort. If the believer successfully endures temptations to apostatize, he or she will one day reign with Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:8; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 5:10). While all Christians will reign with Christ in the sense that we will be with Him when He reigns, the faithful will reign with Christ in a more active sense (cf. Matthew 10:33; Luke 12:9). [Note: See Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse, pp. 67-81.] The Bible seems to teach that there are degrees of reigning as there are differences in rewards (cf. Luke 19:11-27; Revelation 2:26-27; Revelation 3:21). The idea that all Christians will remain faithful is true to neither revelation nor reality (cf. Luke 8:13; 1 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 3:12; cf. 2 Timothy 4:4).

The third couplet (2 Timothy 2:12 b) is a warning. If the believer departs from following Christ faithfully during his or her life (i.e., apostatizes), Christ will deny him or her at the judgment seat of Christ (Matthew 10:33; Mark 8:38; Luke 12:9; cf. Luke 19:22; Matthew 22:13). [Note: Mounce, p. 517.] The unfaithful believer will not lose his salvation (1 John 5:13) or all of his reward (1 Peter 1:4), but he will lose some of his reward (1 Corinthians 3:12-15; cf. Luke 19:24-26). [Note: See Davey S. Ermold, "The Soteriology of 2 Timothy 2:11-13 - Part III," Journal of Dispensational Theology 15:45 (August 2011):71-89.] To deny Christ clearly does not mean to deny Him only once or twice (cf. Luke 22:54-62) but to deny Him permanently since the other three human conditions in the couplets are permanent.

"Denial of Christ manifests itself in various ways in the NT. It can consist in denying his name (Revelation 3:8) or faith in him (Revelation 2:13). It can thus take the form of forsaking or repudiating the Christian faith and its truths, particularly the truth concerning Jesus. In doing so one personally denies Christ (and the Father, cf. 1 John 2:22-23). The denial can also manifest itself in the moral realm. Some may ’profess to know God, but by their deeds deny him’ (Titus 1:16; cf. 1 Timothy 5:8)." [Note: Knight, p. 406. Cf. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2:245.]

The fourth and final couplet (2 Timothy 2:13) is another comforting reminder that if the believer is unfaithful to God Christ will still remain faithful to him or her. The Greek word apistoumen can mean either "unbelief" or "unfaithful." The context makes clear that "unfaithful" is the meaning here since the contrast is with "faithful." The present tense of the Greek word translated "faithless" denotes a continuing attitude. Christ will not renege on His promises to save us (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; et al.) even though we may go back on our commitments to Him (1 John 5:13). God’s dealings with the Israelites in the Old Testament are the great proof that God will not cast off or abandon those He has redeemed and adopted even if they prove unfaithful and unbelieving. Christ’s faithfulness to us should motivate us to remain faithful to Him (cf. Luke 22:31-32; John 21:15-22).

The point of this quotation is that Christians should continue to endure hardship and remain faithful to the Lord in view of what Jesus Christ has done and will do. [Note: See also Brad McCoy, "Secure Yet Scrutinized-2 Timothy 2:11-13," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 1:1 (Autumn 1988):21-33.]

Some interpreters believe the references to denying the Lord and being denied by him refer to unbelievers. However, there is nothing in the context to indicate that Paul had unbelievers in mind. On the contrary he used "we" and "us," which without further explanation would naturally include Paul and Timothy. In the context Paul made frequent references to the judgment seat of Christ (2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 4:8). This whole epistle constitutes an exhortation for Christians to remain faithful to the Lord in view of that coming event.

Verse 14

This verse is transitional. Timothy was to keep reminding his "faithful men" of the things Paul had just brought back to his own recollection (i.e., 2 Timothy 2:3-13, but especially 2 Timothy 2:11-13). Furthermore, he should warn them against emphasizing hair-splitting controversies in their ministries since these do more harm than good (cf. 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:7; 1 Timothy 6:4-5).

"In the end disputing about words seeks not the victory of truth but the victory of the speaker." [Note: R. W. Ward, Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus, p. 171.]

Verses 14-18

1. Faithfulness in public ministry 2:14-18

Verses 14-26

B. Charge to remain faithful 2:14-26

Paul turned from his emphasis on the importance of enduring hardship in the preceding verses (2 Timothy 2:1-13) to continue to emphasize Timothy’s need to remain faithful to the Lord. He did this to motivate him further to persevere.

"In this section, there is a shift in the didactic strategy from an emphasis on models to instruction with maxims and specific commands." [Note: Towner, The Letters . . ., p. 516.]

Verse 15

Positively, in contrast, Timothy should be "diligent" (lit. zealous) to make sure that when he stood before God he would receive the Lord’s approval and not be ashamed (cf. 1 John 2:28). [Note: Cf. White, 4:165.] Most important in gaining this goal was the way he would proclaim God’s truth. He must teach it consistent with God’s intended meaning and purpose. "Handling accurately" (lit. cutting straight) is a figure that paints a picture of a workman who is careful and accurate in his work. The Greek word (orthotomounta) elsewhere describes a tentmaker who makes straight rather than wavy cuts in his material. It pictures a builder who lays bricks in straight rows and a farmer who plows a straight furrow. [Note: Robertson, 4:619.] The way a minister of the gospel presents the Word of God was of primary importance to Paul, and it should be to us. The Greek word ergaten (workman) stresses the laborious nature of the task rather than the skill needed to perform it.

Verses 16-17

Timothy should turn away from meaningless discussions that characterize the world, on the other hand (cf. 1 Timothy 1:3-4; 1 Timothy 4:7; 1 Timothy 6:20). These only provide an atmosphere in which ungodliness grows.

"It may be that these people regarded themselves as ’progressives’ and that Paul picks up the verb from their usage, ironically indicating that their progress is in ungodliness." [Note: Knight, p. 413.]

Those who engage in such discussions spread poison that eventually corrupts the body of Christ. Gangrene is decay of tissue in a part of the body when the blood supply is obstructed by injury, disease, or some other cause. Medical writers of Paul’s day used this term (Gr. gangraina, only here in the New Testament) to describe a sore that eats into the flesh. [Note: Earle, p. 402.]

Verses 17-18

Paul cited concrete examples of two men, probably from Ephesus (cf. 1 Timothy 1:20), whose verbal speculations were derailing other sincere Christians from the track of God’s truth.

"Perhaps due to some confusion over the Pauline teaching that believers even now participate in the death and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:4-5; Romans 6:8; 2 Timothy 2:11), they believed and taught that the resurrection of believers had already occurred in a spiritual sense . . .

"That such a mistake could be made may seem strange to us. But the fervency of the first-generation church’s hope of Christ’s return and certain carryovers from the pagan religions out of which believers came . . . could have led some to the conclusion that all of salvation’s blessings were to be experienced now. A modern parallel is what we might describe as Christian triumphalism (or the ’health and wealth’ gospel), which tends to present the Christian message as the quick solution to all of life’s problems. The same basic mistake seems to be involved." [Note: Towner, 1-2 Timothy . . ., pp. 44-45. Cf. also pp. 158-59, and 183; and Knight, p. 414. Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:12.]

Verse 19

Even though some in the Ephesian church were upsetting and being upset, the universal church itself had stood and would continue to stand firm (Gr. perfect tense; cf. 2 Timothy 2:20-21; Isaiah 28:16 LXX; 1 Corinthians 3:10-12; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Timothy 6:19). The witness (seal) to this was the truth contained in two passages from the Old Testament (Numbers 16:5, and Isaiah 52:11 or possibly Numbers 16:26; cf. Joel 3:5). The first passage assures that God differentiates between His faithful servants and those who are unfaithful. The second calls on those who choose to identify themselves with the Lord to abstain from wicked behavior. Seals in New Testament times indicated ownership, security, and authenticity.

"What is intended is the ’seal’ of ownership that the architect or owner would have inscribed on the foundation stone (similar in some ways to our modern cornerstones)." [Note: Fee, p. 257. Cf. Guthrie, p. 150.]

Verses 19-21

2. Faithfulness in personal life 2:19-21

Verses 20-21

Paul employed a different illustration to emphasize the same point. In the church there are individuals who honor the Lord as a result of their dedication to follow His truth. These people are useful to the Lord in His work because their commitment to His Word prepares them for His service. However there are also Christians who because of their lack of commitment to God’s truth bring dishonor on Him while they seek to be His instruments of service (e.g., false teachers). If someone avoids the defilement of this second group (2 Timothy 2:16), he or she can be a member of the first group (cf. Romans 9:21).

The major argument for identifying the "large house" as the church is the context. Paul was speaking of faithful and unfaithful Christians (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15). [Note: Lea, p. 218.]

Verse 22

Paul urged Timothy to run away from the attractive desires that appeal especially to the young. In view of the context he was probably thinking of the desire to argue, to develop a unique theology, to make a reputation for oneself by being doctrinally innovative, and the like. All of these are desires that the individuals Paul warned Timothy to avoid indulged. Nevertheless "youthful lusts" is certainly a broad enough term to include sexual passions as well (cf. Genesis 39:12). [Note: See "How Common Is Pastoral Indiscretion?" and "Private Sin of Public Ministry," Leadership 9:1 (Winter 1988):12-13 and 14-23.] In contrast, Timothy should run toward the goals of right behavior, faith in God, love for all people, and peace with his fellow committed brethren. Other Pauline virtue lists with more than three items are in 2 Timothy 3:10; 2 Corinthians 6:6-7; Galatians 5:22-23; and Colossians 3:12-15.

"V. 22 does not simply reiterate what precedes it but gives, rather, a wider perspective on what true sanctification means. It is added to forestall the false impression that avoiding fellowship with false teachers, essential as that is, is all there is to sanctification." [Note: Knight, p. 420.]

Verses 22-26

3. Summary applications 2:22-26

Verse 23

Timothy needed to refuse to participate in unwise and immature debates since these generate arguments that prove divisive (cf. 1 Timothy 1:7).

"Such questions will be brought before you: refuse to discuss them." [Note: White, 4:168.]

Those who participate in this activity as a type of sport are ignorant (apaideutous). The same Greek word means undisciplined, uneducated, or rude.

"The irrelevancy of much of the controversy then prevalent among Christians seems to have deeply impressed St. Paul; again and again he returns to this charge against the heretical teachers, that their doctrines are unprofitable and vain, and that they breed strife about questions either unimportant or insoluble." [Note: Bernard, p. 126.]

Verses 24-26

Such behavior is inappropriate for a servant of the Lord. He or she must promote peace and unity among the brethren (cf. 1 Timothy 1:5). The emphasis in the word translated "able to teach" in the Greek (didaktikos, cf. 1 Timothy 3:2) is on the teacher’s ability to bring out the best in his students rather than on his knowledge. [Note: Kelly, p. 190.]

He must also gently correct the erring with a view to their restoration to correct doctrine and correct practice. Thus they may escape the devil’s trap and be able to do God’s will again. [Note: Robertson, 4:622.]

". . . the three characteristics just named, ’gentle,’ ’able to teach,’ and ’forbearing,’ correspond respectively to the three elements in the task to be performed-’in meekness,’ ’instructing,’ and ’those in opposition’ . . ." [Note: Knight, p. 424.]

"If men will not be the servants of God they inevitably become the captives of the Devil. Man’s freedom is his freedom to choose his master." [Note: Hiebert, p. 80.]

"This remarkable and helpful section [2 Timothy 2:24-26] sets forth the duty of the Lord’s servant and the attitude with which he should conduct himself. The central focus of this duty is teaching and correcting those in opposition so that they may repent and learn the truth (2 Timothy 2:24-25). The Lord’s servant must seek to communicate this truth in such a way that opponents embrace it and abandon their error with proper remorse. God’s servant thus seeks to be the instrument through whose efforts God brings them to himself." [Note: Knight, p. 427.]

In this second chapter Paul compared the believer-minister to seven things: a son (2 Timothy 2:1), a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3), an athlete (2 Timothy 2:5), a farmer (2 Timothy 2:6), a laborer (2 Timothy 2:15), a vessel (2 Timothy 2:21), and a servant-slave (2 Timothy 2:24). [Note: See D. Edmond Hiebert, "Pauline Images of a Christian Leader," Bibliotheca Sacra 133:531 (July-September 1976):213-28.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-timothy-2.html. 2012.
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