Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 1

Barclay's Daily Study BibleDaily Study Bible

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Verses 1-18

Chapter 1


1:1-7 This is a letter from Paul, who was made an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and whose apostleship was designed to make known to all men God's promise of real life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy his own beloved child. Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God, the Father, and from Christ Jesus, our Lord.

I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience, as my forefathers did before me, for all that you are to me, just as in my prayers I never cease to remember you, for, remembering your tears when we parted, I never cease to yearn to see you, that I may be filled with joy. And I thank God that I have received a fresh reminder of that sincere faith which is in you, a faith of the same kind as first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and which, I am convinced, dwells in you too. That is why I send you this reminder to keep at white heat the gift that is in you and which came to you through the laying of my hands upon you; for God did not give us the spirit of craven fear, but of power and love and self-discipline.

When Paul speaks of his own apostleship there are always certain unmistakable notes in his voice. To him it was always certain things.

(a) His apostleship was an honour. He was chosen to it by the will of God. Every Christian must regard himself as a God-chosen man.

(b) His apostleship was a responsibility. God chose him because he wanted to do something with him. He wished to make him the instrument by which the tidings of new life went out to men. No Christian is ever chosen entirely for his own sake, but for what he can do for others. A Christian is a man lost in wonder, love and praise at what God has done for him and aflame with eagerness to tell others what God can do for them.

(c) His apostleship was a privilege. It is most significant to see what Paul conceived it his duty to bring to others--the promise of God, not his threat. To him, Christianity was not the threat of damnation; it was the good news of salvation. It is worth remembering that the greatest evangelist and missionary the world has ever seen was out, not to terrify men by shaking them over the flames of hell, but to move them to astonished submission at the sight of the love of God. The dynamic of his gospel was love, not fear.

As always when he speaks to Timothy, there is a warmth of loving affection in Paul's voice. "My beloved child," he calls him. Timothy was his child in the faith. Timothy's parents had given him physical life; but it was Paul who gave him eternal life. Many a person who never knew physical parenthood has had the joy and privilege of being a father or a mother in the faith; and there is no joy in all the world like that of bringing one soul to Christ.

THE INSPIRING OF TIMOTHY ( 2 Timothy 1:1-7 continued)

Paul's object in writing is to inspire and strengthen Timothy for his task in Ephesus. Timothy was young and he had a hard task in battling against the heresies and the infections that were bound to threaten the Church. So, then, in order to keep his courage high and his effort strenuous, Paul reminds Timothy of certain things.

(i) He reminds him of his own confidence in him. There is no greater inspiration than to feel that someone believes in us. An appeal to honour is always more effective than a threat of punishment. The fear of letting down those who love us is a cleansing thing.

(ii) He reminds him of his family tradition. Timothy was walking in a fine heritage, and if he failed, not only would he smirch his own name, but he would lessen the honour of his family name as well. A fine parentage is one of the greatest gifts a man can have. Let him thank God for it and never bring dishonour to it.

(iii) He reminds him of his setting apart to office and of the gift which was conferred upon him. Once a man enters upon the service of any association with a tradition, anything that he does affects not only himself nor has it to be done only in his own strength. There is the strength of a tradition to draw upon and the honour of a tradition to preserve. That is specially true of the Church. He who serves it has its honour in his hands; he who serves it is strengthened by the consciousness of the communion of all the saints.

(iv) He reminds him of the qualities which should characterize the Christian teacher. These, as Paul at that moment saw them, were four.

(a) There was courage. It was not craven fear but courage that Christian service should bring to a man. It always takes courage to be a Christian, and that courage comes from the continual consciousness of the presence of Christ.

(b) There was power. In the true Christian there is the power to cope, the power to shoulder the back-breaking task, the power to stand erect in face of the shattering situation, the power to retain faith in face of the soul-searing sorrow and the wounding disappointment. The Christian is characteristically the man who could pass the breaking-point and not break.

(c) There was love. In Timothy's case this was love for the brethren, for the congregation of the people of Christ over whom he was set. It is precisely that love which gives the Christian pastor his other qualities. He must love his people so much that he will never find any toil too great to undertake for them or any situation threatening enough to daunt him. No man should ever enter the ministry of the Church unless there is love for Christ's people within his heart.

(d) There was self-discipline. The word is sophronismos ( G4995) , one of these great Greek untranslatable words. Someone has defined it as "the sanity of saintliness." Falconer defines it as "control of oneself in face of panic or of passion." It is Christ alone who can give us that self-mastery which will keep us alike from being swept away and from running away. No man can ever rule others unless he has first mastered himself. Sophronismos ( G4995) is that divinely given self-control which makes a man a great ruler of others because he is first of all the servant of Christ and the master of himself.


1:8-11 So, then, do not be ashamed to bear your witness to our Lord; and do not be ashamed of me his prisoner; but accept with me the suffering which the gospel brings, and do so in the power of God, who saved us, and who called us with a call to consecration, a call which had nothing to do with our own achievements, but which was dependent solely on his purpose, and on the grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus: and all this was planned before the world began, but now it stands full-displayed through the appearance of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and incorruption to light by means of the good news which he brought, good news in the service of which I have been appointed a herald, and an apostle and a teacher.

It is inevitable that loyalty to the gospel will bring trouble. For Timothy, it meant loyalty to a man who was regarded as a criminal, because as Paul wrote he was in prison in Rome. But here Paul sets out the gospel in all its glory, something worth suffering for. Sometimes by implication and sometimes by direct statement he brings out element after element in that glory. Few passages in the New Testament have in them and behind them such a sense of the sheer grandeur of the gospel.

(i) It is the gospel of power. Any suffering which it involves is to be borne in the power of God. To the ancient world the gospel was the power to live. That very age in which Paul was writing was the great age of suicide. The highest-principled of the ancient thinkers were the Stoics; but they had their own way out when life became intolerable. They had a saying: "God gave men life, but God gave men the still greater gift of being able to take their own lives away." The gospel was, and is, power, power to conquer self, power to master circumstances, power to go on living when life is unlivable, power to be a Christian when being a Christian looks impossible.

(ii) It is the gospel of salvation. God is the God who saves us. The gospel is rescue. It is rescue from sin; it liberates a man from the things which have him in their grip; it enables him to break with the habits which are unbreakable. The gospel is a rescuing force which can make bad men good.

(iii) It is the gospel of consecration. It is not simply rescue from the consequences of past sin; it is a summons to walk the way of holiness. In The Bible in World Evangelism A. M. Chirgwin quotes two amazing instances of the miraculous changing power of Christ.

There was a New York gangster who had recently been in prison for robbery with violence. He was on his way to join his old gang with a view to taking part in another robbery when he picked a man's pocket in Fifth Avenue. He went into Central Park to see what he had succeeded in stealing and discovered to his disgust that it was a New Testament. Since he had time to spare, he began idly to turn over the pages and to read. Soon he was deep in the book, and he read to such effect that a few hours later he went to his old comrades and broke with them for ever. For that ex-convict the gospel was the call to holiness.

There was a young Arab in Aleppo who had a bitter quarrel with a former friend. He told a Christian evangelist: "I hated him so much that I plotted revenge, even to the point of murder. Then," he went on, "one day I ran into you and you induced me to buy a copy of St. Matthew. I only bought it to please you. I never intended to read. it. But as I was going to bed that night the book fell out of my pocket, and I picked it up and started to read. When I reached the place where it says: 'Ye have heard that it hath been said of old time, Thou shalt not kill.... But I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment,' I remembered the hatred I was nourishing against my enemy. As I read on my uneasiness grew until I reached the words, 'Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.' Then I was compelled to cry: 'God be merciful to me a sinner.' Joy and peace filled my heart and my hatred disappeared. Since then I have been a new man, and my chief delight is to read God's word."

It was the gospel which set the ex-convict in New York and the would-be murderer in Aleppo on the road to holiness. It is here that so much of our Church Christianity falls down. It does not change people; and therefore is not real. The man who has known the saving power of the gospel is a changed man, in his business, in his pleasure, in his home, in his character. There should be an essential difference between the Christian and the non-Christian, because the Christian has obeyed the summons to walk the road to holiness.

A GOSPEL WORTH SUFFERING FOR ( 2 Timothy 1:8-11 continued)

(iv) It is the gospel of grace. It is not something which we achieve, but something which we accept. God did not call us because we are holy; he called us to make us holy. If we had to deserve the love of God, our situation would be helpless and hopeless. The gospel is the free gift of God. He does not love us because we deserve his love; he loves us out of the sheer generosity of his heart.

(v) It is the gospel of God's eternal purpose. It was planned before time began. We must never think that once God was stern law and that only since the life and death of Jesus, he has been forgiving love. From the beginning of time God's love has been searching for men, and his grace and forgiveness have been offered to them. Love is the essence of the eternal nature of God.

(vi) It is the gospel of life and immortality. It is Paul's conviction that Christ Jesus brought life and incorruption to light. The ancient world feared death; or, if it did not fear it, regarded it as extinction. It was the message of Jesus that death was the way to life, and that so far from separating men from God, it brought men into his nearer presence.

(vii) It is the gospel of service. It was this gospel which made Paul a herald, an apostle and a teacher of the faith. It did not leave him comfortably feeling that now his own soul was saved and he did not need to worry any more. It laid on him the inescapable task of wearing himself out in the service of God and of his fellow-men. This gospel laid three necessities on Paul.

(a) It made him a herald. The word is kerux ( G2783) , which has three main lines of meaning, each with something to suggest about our Christian duty. The kerux ( G2783) was the herald who brought the announcement from the king. The kerux ( G2783) was the emissary when two armies were opposed to each other, who brought the terms of or the request for truce and peace. The kerux ( G2783) was the man whom an auctioneer or a merchantman employed to shout his wares and invite people to come and buy. So the Christian is to be the man who brings the message to his fellow-men; the man who brings men into peace with God; the man who calls on his fellow-men to accept the rich offer which God is making to them.

(b) It made him an apostle, apostolos ( G652) , literally one who is sent out. The word can mean an envoy or an ambassador. The apostolos ( G652) did not speak for himself, but for him who sent him. He did not come in his own authority, but in the authority of him who sent him. The Christian is the ambassador of Christ, come to speak for him and to represent him to men.

(c) It made him a teacher. There is a very real sense in which the teaching task of the Christian and of the Church is the most important of all. Certainly the task of the teacher is very much harder than the task of the evangelist. The evangelist's task is to appeal to men and confront them with the love of God. In a moment of vivid emotion, a man may respond to that summons. But a long road remains. He must learn the meaning and discipline of the Christian life. The foundations have been laid but the edifice has still to be raised. The flame of evangelism has to be followed by the steady glow of Christian teaching. It may well be that people drift away from the Church, after their first decision, for the simple, yet fundamental, reason that they have not been taught into the meaning of the Christian faith.

Herald, ambassador, teacher--here is the threefold function of the Christian who would serve his Lord and his Church.

(viii) It is the gospel of Christ Jesus. It was full displayed through his appearance. The word Paul uses for appearance is one with a great history. It is epiphaneia ( G2015) , a word which the Jews repeatedly used of the great saving manifestations of God in the terrible days of the Maccabean struggles, when the enemies of Israel were deliberately seeking to obliterate him.

In the days of Onias the High Priest there came a certain Heliodorus to plunder the Temple treasury at Jerusalem. Neither prayers nor entreaties would stop him carrying out this sacrilege. And, so the story runs, as Heliodorus was about to set hands on the treasury, "the Lord of Spirits and the Prince of Power caused a great epiphaneia ( G2015) .... For there appeared unto them an horse with a terrible rider upon him... and he ran fiercely and smote at Heliodorus with his forefeet.... And Heliodorus fell suddenly to the ground and was compassed with great darkness" ( 2Ma_3:24-30 ). What exactly happened we may never know; but in Israel's hour of need there came this tremendous epiphaneia ( G2015) of God. When Judas Maccabaeus and his little army were confronted with the might of Nicanor, they prayed: "O Lord, who didst send thine angel in the time of Hezekiah king of Judea, and didst slay in the host of Sennacherib an hundred fourscore and five thousand (compare 2 Kings 19:35-36), wherefore now also, O Lord of Heaven, send a good angel before us for a fear and a dread unto them; and through the might of thine arm let those be stricken with terror, that come against thy holy people to blaspheme." And then the story goes on: "Then Nicanor and they that were with him came forward with trumpets and with songs. But Judas and his company encountered the enemy with invocation and prayer. So that, fighting with their hands and praying unto God with their hearts, they slew no less than thirty and five thousand men; for through the epiphaneia ( G2015) of God they were greatly cheered" ( 2Ma_15:22-27 ). Once again we do not know exactly what happened; but God made a great and saving appearance for his people. To the Jew epiphaneia ( G2015) denoted a rescuing intervention of God.

To the Greek this was an equally great word. The accession of the Emperor to his throne was called his epiphaneia ( G2015) . It was his manifestation. Every Emperor came to the throne with high hopes; his coming was hailed as the dawn of a new and precious day, and of great blessings to come.

The gospel was full displayed with the epiphaneia ( G2015) of Jesus; the very word shows that he was God's great, rescuing intervention and manifestation into the world.

TRUST, HUMAN AND DIVINE ( 2 Timothy 1:12-14 )

1:12-14 And that is the reason why I am going through these things I am going through. But I am not ashamed, for I know him in whom my belief is fixed, and I am quite certain that he is able to keep safe what I have entrusted to him until the last day comes. Hold fast the pattern of health-giving words you have received from me, never slackening in that faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard the fine trust that has been given to you through the Holy Spirit who dwells in you.

This passage uses a very vivid Greek word in a most suggestive double way. Paul talks of that which he has entrusted to God; and he urges Timothy to safeguard the trust God has reposed in him. In both cases the word is paratheke ( G3866) , which means a deposit committed to someone's trust. A man might deposit something with a friend to be kept for his children or his loved ones; he might deposit his valuables in a temple for safe keeping, for the temples were the banks of the ancient world. In each case the thing deposited was a paratheke ( G3866) . In the ancient world there was no more sacred duty than the safe-guarding of such a deposit and the returning of it when in due time it was claimed.

There was a famous Greek story which told just how sacred such a trust was (Herodotus 6: 89; Juvenal: Satires, 13: 199-208). The Spartans were famous for their strict honour and honesty. A certain man of Miletus came to a certain Glaucus of Sparta. He said that he had heard such great reports of the honesty of the Spartans that he had turned half his possessions into money and wished to deposit that money with Glaucus, until he or his heirs should claim it again. Certain symbols were given and received which would identify the rightful claimant when he should make his claim. The years passed on; the man of Miletus died; his sons came to Sparta to see Glaucus, produced the identifying tallies and asked for the return of the deposited money. But Glaucus claimed that he had no memory of ever receiving it. The sons from Miletus went sorrowfully away; but Glaucus went to the famous oracle at Delphi to see whether he should admit the trust or, as Greek law entitled him to do, should swear that he knew nothing about it. The oracle answered:

"Best for the present it were, O Glaucus, to do as thou


Swearing an oath to prevail, and so to make prize of the


Swear then--death is the lot even of those who never swear


Yet hath the Oath-god a son who is nameless, footless and


Mighty in strength he approaches to vengeance, and whelms in


All who belong to the race, or the house of the man who is


But oath-keeping men leave behind them a flourishing offspring."

Glaucus understood; the oracle was telling him that if he wished for momentary profit, he should deny the trust, but such a denial would inevitably bring eternal loss. He besought the oracle to pardon his question; but the answer was that to have tempted the god was as bad as to have done the deed. He sent for the sons of the man of Miletus and restored the money. Herodotus goes on: "Glaucus at this present time has not a single descendant; nor is there any family known as his; root and branch has he been removed from Sparta. It is a good thing therefore, when a pledge has been left with one, not even in thought to doubt about restoring it." To the Greeks a paratheke ( G3866) was completely sacred.

Paul says that he has made his deposit with God. He means that he has entrusted both his work and his life to him. It might seem that he had been cut off in mid-career; that he should end as a criminal in a Roman jail might seem the undoing of all his work. But he had sowed his seed and preached his gospel, and the result he left in the hands of God. Paul had entrusted his life to God; and he was sure that in life and in death he was safe. Why was he so sure? Because he knew whom he had believed in. We must always remember that Paul does not say that he knew what he had believed. His certainty did not come from the intellectual knowledge of a creed or a theology; it came from a personal knowledge of God. He knew God personally and intimately; he knew what he was like in love and in power; and to Paul it was inconceivable that he should fail him. If we have worked honestly and done the best that we can, we can leave the result to God, however meager that work may seem to us. With him in this or any other world life is safe, for nothing can separate us from his love in Christ Jesus our Lord.

TRUST HUMAN AND DIVINE ( 2 Timothy 1:12-14 continued)

But there is another side to this matter of trust; there is another paratheke ( G3866) . Paul urges Timothy to safeguard and keep inviolate the trust God has reposed in him. Not only do we put our trust in God; he also puts his trust in us. The idea of God's dependence on men is never far from New Testament thought. When God wants something done, he has to find a man to do it. If he wants a child taught, a message brought, a sermon preached, a wanderer found, a sorrowing one comforted, a sick one healed, he has to find some instrument to do his work.

The trust that God had particularly reposed in Timothy was the oversight and the edification of the Church. If Timothy was truly to discharge that trust, he had to do certain things.

(i) He had to hold fast to the pattern of health-giving words. That is to say, he had to see to it that Christian belief was maintained in all its purity and that false and misleading ideas were not allowed to enter in. That is not to say that in the Christian Church there must be no new thought and no development in doctrine and belief; but it does mean to say that there are certain great Christian verities which must always be preserved intact. And it may well be that the one Christian truth which must for ever stand is summed up in the creed of the early Church, "Jesus Christ is Lord" ( Php_2:11 ). Any theology which seeks to remove Christ from the topmost niche or take from him his unique place in the scheme of revelation and salvation is necessarily wrong. The Christian Church must ever be restating its faith--but the faith restated must be faith in Christ.

(ii) He must never slacken in faith. Faith here has two ideas at its heart. (a) It has the idea of fidelity. The Christian leader must be for ever true and loyal to Jesus Christ. He must never be ashamed to show whose he is and whom he serves. Fidelity is the oldest and the most essential virtue in the world. (b) But faith also has in it the idea of hope. The Christian must never lose his confidence in God; he must never despair. As A. H. Clough wrote:

"Say not, 'The struggle naught availeth;

The labour and the wounds are vain;

The enemy faints not, nor faileth,

And as things have been they remain.'

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,

Seem here no painful inch to gain,

Far back, through creeks and inlets making,

Comes silent, flooding in, the main."

There must be no pessimism, either for himself or for the world, in the heart of the Christian.

(iii) He must never slacken in love. To love men is to see them as God sees them. It is to refuse ever to do anything but seek their highest good. It is to meet bitterness with forgiveness; it is to meet hatred with love; it is to meet indifference with a flaming passion which cannot be quenched. Christian love insistently seeks to love men as God loves them and as he has first loved us.


1:15-18 You know this, that as a whole the people who live in Asia deserted me, and among the deserters are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord give mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain. So far from that, when he arrived in Rome he eagerly sought me out and found me--may the Lord grant to him mercy from the Lord on that day--and you know better than I do the many services he rendered in Ephesus.

Here is a passage in which pathos and joy are combined. In the end the same thing happened to Paul as happened to Jesus, his Master. His friends forsook him and fled. In the New Testament Asia is not the continent of Asia, but the Roman province which consisted of the western part of Asia Minor. Its capital was the city of Ephesus. When Paul was imprisoned his friends abandoned him--most likely out of fear. The Romans would never have proceeded against him on a purely religious charge; the Jews must have persuaded them that he was a dangerous troublemaker and disturber of the public peace. There can be no doubt that in the end Paul would be held on a political charge. To be a friend of a man like that was dangerous; and in his hour of need his friends from Asia abandoned him because they were afraid for their own safety.

But however others might desert, one man was loyal to the end. His name was Onesiphorus, which means profitable. P. N. Harrison draws a vivid picture of Onesiphorus' search for Paul in Rome: "We seem to catch glimpses of one purposeful face in a drifting crowd, and follow with quickening interest this stranger from the far coasts of the Aegean, as he threads the maze of unfamiliar streets, knocking at many doors, following up every clue, warned of the risks he is taking but not to be turned from his quest; till in some obscure prison-house a known voice greets him, and he discovers Paul chained to a Roman soldier. Having once found his way Onesiphorus is not content with a single visit, but, true to his name, proves unwearied in his ministrations. Others have flinched from the menace and ignominy of that chain; but this visitor counts it the supreme privilege of his life to share with such a criminal the reproach of the Cross. One series of turnings in the vast labyrinth (of the streets of Rome) he comes to know as if it were his own Ephesus." There is no doubt that, when Onesiphorus sought out Paul and came to see him again and again, he took his life in his hands. It was dangerous to keep asking where a certain criminal could be found; it was dangerous to visit him; it was still more dangerous to keep on visiting him; but that is what Onesiphorus did.

Again and again the Bible bangs us face to face with a question which is real for every one of us. Again and again it introduces and dismisses a man from the stage of history with a single sentence. Hermogenes and Phygelus--we know nothing whatever of them beyond their names and the fact that they were traitors to Paul. Onesiphorus--we know nothing of him except that in his loyalty to Paul he risked--and perhaps lost--his life. Hermogenes and Phygelus go down to history branded as deserters; Onesiphorus goes down to history as the friend who stuck closer than a brother. If we were to be described in one sentence, what would it be? Would it be the verdict on a traitor, or the verdict on a disciple who was true?

Before we leave this passage we must note that in one particular connection it is a storm centre. Each one must form his own opinion, but there are many who feel that the implication is that Onesiphorus is dead. It is for his family that Paul first prays. Now if he was dead, this passage shows us Paul praying for the dead, for it shows him praying that Onesiphorus may find mercy on the last day.

Prayers for the dead are a much-disputed problem which we do not intend to discuss here. But one thing we can say--to the Jews prayers for the dead were by no means unknown. In the days of the Maccabean wars there was a battle between the troops of Judas Maccabaeus and the army of Gorgias, the governor of Idumaea, which ended in a victory for Judas Maccabaeus. After the battle the Jews were gathering the bodies of those who had fallen in battle. On each one of them they found "things consecrated to the idols of the Jamnites, which is forbidden the Jews by the law." What is meant is that the dead Jewish soldiers were wearing heathen amulets in a superstitious attempt to protect their lives. The story goes on to say that every man who had been slain was wearing such an amulet and it was because of this that he was in fact slain. Seeing this, Judas and all the people prayed that the sin of these men "might be wholly put out of remembrance." Judas then collected money and made a sin-offering for those who had fallen, because they believed that, since there was a resurrection, it was not superfluous "to pray and offer sacrifices for the dead." The story ends with the saying of Judas Maccabaeus that "it was an holy and good thing to pray for the dead. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin" ( 2Ma_12:39-45 ).

It is clear that Paul was brought up in a way of belief which saw in prayers for the dead, not a hateful, but a lovely thing. This is a subject on which there has been long and bitter dispute; but this one thing we can and must say--if we love a person with all our hearts, and if the remembrance of that person is never absent from our minds and memories, then, whatever the intellect of the theologian may say about it, the instinct of the heart is to remember such a one in prayer, whether he is in this or in any other world.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 1". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". 1956-1959.