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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
2 Timothy

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4

Book Overview - 2 Timothy

by Arno Clemens Gaebelein

THE SECOND EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY

Introduction

This is the last Epistle the Apostle Paul wrote. He was once more imprisoned in Rome, and shortly before his martyrdom he wrote this second letter to Timothy. His movements between his first and second imprisonment may be traced as follows: After having written his first Epistle to Timothy he returned to Ephesus, as he intended, by way of Troas. Then he left the books he mentions (4:13) with Carpus. From Ephesus he went to Crete, and after his return wrote the Epistle to Titus. Next he went by Miletus to Corinth (4:20), and from there to Nicopolis (Titus 3:12) and then on to Rome. If he visited Spain, as tradition claims, it must have been immediately after his release.

Timothy was evidently still in Ephesus, obedient to the charge of the Apostle delivered to him in the first Epistle. That Timothy must have been in Ephesus when he received this second letter may be learned from the persons mentioned in this Epistle. Onesiphorus is mentioned in chapter 1: 16-18 as having sought out the apostle in Rome, and also having ministered to him at Ephesus. In chapter 4:19 Paul sends greetings to the household of Onesiphorus, and they lived in Ephesus. Priscilla and Aquila are also saluted, and they lived generally in that city. Hymenaeus is stigmatized as a teacher of false doctrine (2:17). There can be no doubt that he is the same person mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20. And so is Alexander the coppersmith another evil teacher whose residence was also in that city.

The Object of the Epistle

The Apostle knew that the martyr’s death was soon to be his lot. He has a great and deep desire to see his beloved Timothy once more. He therefore wrote him to that effect, “greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy” (1:4). “Do thy diligence and come before winter” (4:9, 11, 21). Being uncertain how it might be with himself, whether he should live or be offered up before his arrival, he wrote this letter with his final warnings, exhortations and instructions.

The Contrast

There is a marked difference between this second Epistle and the first. In the first Epistle the house of God, the Church, is seen in order, and the fullest instructions are given how this order in all godliness is to be maintained. The house as such is no longer mentioned in the second Epistle, though we read of “a great house” in which are vessels to honor and some to dishonor; the believer is urged to purge himself from the vessels of dishonor. The professing church is foreshadowed as becoming now a great house; as the little mustard seed became a big tree, sheltering in its branches the fowls under heaven. And this great house no longer manifests the order as laid down in the first Epistle. It has become dilapidated and is in disorder. What has happened in the history of the Church is foreseen in this Epistle, in fact the beginning of it was even then noticeable when Paul wrote this last Epistle. Paul had to see before his departure the beginning of the ruin of that which as a master workman he had been used to build, and over which he watched so faithfully. He had labored more than all the other apostles, and now he had to be a witness of the decline of that which he had loved so much; departure from the faith he had preached, and with it corruption set in. The power of God had been at work and he was the channel of that power, but man fails in it.

Because the professing church, the house of God, is anticipated in its failure and disorder, not a word is said of elders and deacons. Nor is there a promise made, nor instruction given, about a recovery from these conditions. They continue to the end of the age. It is true revivals, partial recoveries there have been, but only to show that man fails again after each renewed action of the Holy Spirit. It goes from bad to worse in the professing church, till the hour strikes when the Lord takes His faithful remnant, the true Church, out of the great house (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). What happens then to the great Babylon-house is written in Revelation 18:2. The house completely abandoned by the restraining Spirit becomes “the habitation of demons and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”

Paul before his departure is alone. It is a mournful record--”all they in Asia are turned away from me”; “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present age”; “only Luke is with me.” It also foreshadows the position of the individual believer in the midst of disorder and confusion. The sure foundation of the Lord abides forever, and as we shall learn from our brief annotations, the individual believer under these conditions is to be faithful and maintain the true testimony for the Lord.

The Division of Second Timothy

The opening chapter contains the loving greeting of the apostle, and exhortations to faithfulness, especially to hold fast the form of sound words which Timothy had heard from Paul. Then follow other exhortations to be strong, to endure hardness, to strive lawfully, to labor, to consider and to remember. It is the conflict which the true servant has in the world, in which he is to be as a good soldier of Jesus. This is followed by a description of the departure from the faith, and the path the believer is to follow. In the third chapter the last days are prominently brought into view by the Spirit of God, and all that these days mean in the manifestation of evil. The fourth chapter contains the final words of the apostle; faithful to the end, and the Lord’s faithfulness to him.

I. PAUL’S PERSONAL WORD TO TIMOTHY (1)

II. FAITH’S CONFLICT AND THE BELIEVER’S PATH (2)

III. THE LAST DAYS AND THEIR PERILS (3)

IV. THE LAST WORDS OF THE APOSTLE (4)

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, January 18th, 2020
the First Week after Epiphany
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