Lecture 43: 2 Timothy | Free Online Biblical Library

Lecture 43: 2 Timothy

Course: New Testament Survey - Acts to Revelation

Lecture: 2 Timothy

2 Timothy, unlike 1 Timothy and Titus, is really not a pastoral letter, in that there’s nothing in this letter about deacons or elders, nothing about family relationships, etc. It’s more like an older pastor giving advice to this younger colleague of his. He refers to Timothy, his young colleague in v. 2 as, “my beloved child”. The salutation is somewhat unique. He says, “To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” The addition of “mercy” here is unusual, and it’s found also in 1 Timothy 1:2. But if you look in all the other letters (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Titus, and Philemon), you won’t see “mercy”; it’s just “grace and peace”. Does that mean Paul could not have written it? No, he just decided one day to add “mercy”. Furthermore, there are other letters from those listed above where Paul used the usual “grace and peace”, and the critics don’t accept those either (Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians are a few of those). So you can’t make that the concluding factor.

He talks about the faith of Timothy in v. 5, “I’m reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you.” His father is not mentioned. In Acts 16, we have Paul about to start on his missionary journey, not with Barnabas this time, but with Silas. And he comes in Acts 16:1 to Derbe and to Lystra, and there’s a disciple there “… named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.” So here we have reference to his mother being a believer, his father being a Gentile, and the impression here is that he [Timothy’s father] is not a believer, and that’s even more evident in the fact that Timothy is not circumcised. And so it looks like Timothy did not have a believing father, and this may be why Paul felt especially close to him – that he was his spiritual father. His natural father did not provide spiritual guidance for him, but Paul, in accepting him as a co-worker, takes him on as his own child.

In 2:1-7, Paul emphasizes (throughout the whole letter he emphasizes this issue) the issue of suffering with Christ. And talks about singleness of focus, vv. 3-4, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him.” And then he uses a different kind of illustration to follow (v.5) “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” And then he uses the illustration of a farmer (v.6), “It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” So he has these three illustrations -- a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer -- to demonstrate how to be a good Christian. It’s interesting that in 1 Corinthians 9:7, 24-27, he uses those same three illustrations (farmer, soldier, and athlete). If Paul wrote both 1 Corinthians and 2 Timothy, that makes good sense, because he probably had these as his favorite illustrations of commitment to service. But if 2 Timothy were written by someone completely different, it is amazing that those same three illustrations show up to demonstrate faithful service. It might be just a little incident here that suggests that the same author wrote both works.

In 2:11-13, we have a confessional creedal formula. In my Greek text, it’s in this format, though most English translations do not have it that way. It reads, “The saying is sure, for if we have died with him, we will also life with him; is we endure, we will also reign with him [so you have two statements that talk about faithfulness in following Christ – if we have died we will live with him; if we endure we will reign with him. Then you have a third statement]; if we deny him [which is the opposite now], he also will deny us; if we are faithless [then we have], he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” And the fourth of those passages doesn’t follow the way one might expect. We would expect two positive actions with positive responses (if we die we will live; if we endure we will reign); and then we have a negative action with a negative response (if we deny him he will deny us); and then we have another negative action (if we are faithless), but this time with a positive response (then he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself). The real issue is what is being meant here by the word “faithful”. Does it mean that he is faithful to us despite anything we may do, and he will continue to forgive us and overlook our sins? OR does it mean, if we are faithless he remains faithful and because he is just and holy, he will deny us and mete out punishment? I remember the first time I came to the second possibility (which has the probability of being the better interpretation), and I was surprised. Most people just like to read it the other way around. But, remember that the fourth “if” follows the third, and the third action/response corresponds to one another. It doesn’t work out so nicely with the fourth pairing. We can see an obvious match with “If we deny him, he will deny us.” But we can’t say “If we are faithless, he will be faithless.” You can’t say that about God, because he will be faithful, but he will be faithful to his character and deny us and punish us. To me, that seems to be the more likely interpretation, because then you’d have two positives and two negatives that match each other. Why doesn’t he simply say that in v. 13? Well, it’s the choice of the word “faithless”. You can’t use that equivalent word with regard to God. He is always faithful, but he is faithful to the promise that, if we deny him, he’ll deny us. And then he would mete out judgment and punishment accordingly. That’s the way I would tend to understand that.

In 2:22 he goes on and says to Timothy, “Shun youthful passions….” We usually think of a young person in his 20’s, or maybe a teenager working in the church when we read this. But remember that already in Acts 16:1 he’s referred to as a disciple – probably not the kind of word that you would use for a teenager – and that incident is some 16 years before this, at least. So whatever his age was there (if he was 20 or so), he’s now at least 16 years older, which means that he’s 36 or so. But he’s still Paul’s “child”. I find it interesting how people’s “youth” keeps on getting older as I get older. Children remain children for a much longer time than I realized when I was 30 or 20. You realize how young 30 is when you’re older. So the command to this “young man” is really not to a teenager or a young adult, but to someone who could be a middle-aged adult.

In 3:16 we have this famous passage about Scripture, “All Scripture is God-breathed [or given by the inspiration of God in the KJV].” The word “theopneustos”, “theo” meaning God and “pnesutos” meaning breathed – God-breathed or spirit-breathed – all Scripture is inspired by God. There have been some who have tried to interpret that to say, “All inspired by God’s Scripture is profitable.” But this seems strange, because if it’s Scripture, it’s inspired by God by definition, and the way this words it, all God’s inspired Scripture seems to indicate that it’s non-inspired Scripture. And I don’t think that’s what Paul was thinking about.

Now, the Scriptures that are inspired are the ones that he has been taught from childhood (v. 15), “… from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God.” I think these sacred writings are the Scripture that’s being referred to, and these would have been taught to him; he would have been instructed in them in two areas. One would be the synagogue, and the other would be in the home, by his mother. This phrase must refer then to the Jewish Scriptures. Now, this is going to raise an interesting question. What did that Scripture consist of? We have the issue of what we call the Canon of Scripture, and the Books of the Apocrypha. Are they part of those sacred writings? In our very last session together, we’ll discuss that. I think the tendency would probably be to say that the Jewish Scriptures of that day did not tend to have the Apocrypha. And therefore what we’re probably talking about is what would come to be called the Old Testament. And we might say that, along with the Old Testament, there were other additional “Scriptures”, which would be the Jesus traditions. You remember that we just looked in 1 Timothy, where he refers to Scripture including the phrase from Deuteronomy 25:4 (“You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain”) AND “The workman deserves his wages”, which is a Jesus tradition. So, you already have those, but the Apocrypha as such would probably not have been understood by Paul at this point as Scripture.

In 4:6, he then looks back at his life and begins to evaluate it, and says, “I am already on the point of being sacrificed, and the time of my departure has come.” Compare this with his time in Philippians, as he is in prison -- what’s his expectation? That he’ll be released. Here, he has no such thought. Verse 7 continues, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” His appearing is that Day that we just referred to. I trust that you will, in your ministries and in your life, seek to be able to live so that, as you look back at the end of your life, you’ll be able to say something like this. It’d be wonderful – that you’ve fought the good fight and kept the faith.

There is additional news that he talks about in vv. 9-18, and then when he comes to v. 13, ff. “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” Again, I can’t imagine somebody who’s a pseudonymous author writing things like that. They’re just too personal. And I don’t think that was the art of pseudonymity in those days, especially with regard to letters, to forge that kind of thing. That looks awfully personal, and when we talked about the pastorals, these kinds of passages have caused those who argue that Paul did not write the Pastorals add “but there are genuine fragments in these”. This would be one of those “genuine fragments”. They cannot think of this as not being something Paul wrote. The problem with all of that is, where do these fragments come from? What happened to the letters from which these fragments originally came? That makes the whole “fragmentary hypothesis” rather difficult. But he says, “… bring also the books ….” This word is biblia, referring primarily to papyrus kinds of things. Papyrus was the main material used; it was quite cheap, “…and above all, the parchments ….” Parchments would be scrolls that came from animal membranes (that’s the word – membranas), and they would be much more expensive. It would be delightful to know what these were. He’s asking that Timothy bring his own personal library of the Scriptures – the Books of Moses, etc. It’s doubtful that he had his own personal library that he brought with him. It’s not as if he could just take a Bible like you have and bring it with him. He’d have all these different scrolls that he’d have to have of the Old Testament books, etc. Some say maybe the parchments were those kinds of things that were selected books. Others have suggested that when Paul wrote letters, he probably had copies made, and he retained those copies. Maybe these are what he’s referring to here – the copies of the letters he had written. We just don’t know. But it’s interesting that even in prison, awaiting a sentence which he believes will be death, he still wants those for some reason. There’s no TV here, so I think I’ll keep studying, and do something of that nature.

This then ends again with greetings (v. 19), “Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.” Even in the midst of his imprisonment there is a certain amount of freedom, that he can entertain guests, and the like. Why? What allows him this? He’s a Roman citizen, so he’s not an “average prisoner”, so even up to his death he’ll be treated with special privileges.

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