The typical first century letter began by stating the author and rank, the recipients of the letter, and an opening salutation. Because of this structure we are able to learn that Paul is the author of this letter to Timothy. Paul gives a slightly different salutation than his previous letters, but the same salutation found in 1 Timothy: “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” The next section we would expect to read in this letter is an offering of thanksgiving. While 1 Timothy was lacking this section of thanksgiving, Paul’s second letter to Timothy does contain a section of thanksgiving in verses 3-7. Paul is thankful for Timothy’s faith that was instilled in him from his mother and grandmother from the beginning. We need to stop here for a moment and note that this is important. We have the ability to transmit our faith to a degree. Obviously, every person is a free moral agent and cannot be made to have faith. But we can teach our children through our actions and decisions that the Lord is the priority. Too often we transmit that school is the most important, or work, money, sports, or other things are more important. The sincerity of the faith will be seen by our children. They will see how important God truly is in our lives.
The body of the letter begins in verse 8 as Paul will describe the characteristics of the man of God. This letter will contain some final instructions to his beloved son in the faith.
Perseverance of the Man of God (1:8-18)
Paul begins by exhorting young Timothy in verses 8-11. Notice that these verses are really one long sentence. The exhortation is to not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord (or of Paul) and join in suffering for the gospel. Paul goes on to speak about the suffering he has endured. He tells Timothy about how all of Asia has turned away from Paul. How demoralizing and depressing this must have been while sitting in Roman prison. Specifically, Paul names Phygelus and Hermogenes as notable citizens of Asia Minor who have turned away from Paul. Verse 16 tells us that these people had become ashamed of Paul because he was imprisoned for the gospel. By contrast, Paul prays for mercy to the house of Onesiphorus because he has come to Paul and has refreshed him. Even the great apostle Paul needed encouragement and uplifting. Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment and spent time with Paul when he came to Rome.
Examples of Perseverance of the Man of God (2:1-26)
Paul in chapter 2 uses numerous examples to explain the nature of the man of God to Timothy. Let us consider each of these figures Paul uses.
Soldier (2:3-4). “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” A soldier is called to sever himself from the normal affairs of civilian life, fully dedicated to the service of the country. So Paul instructs that the person of God should be removed from the distractions of the world and fully dedicated to the service of the Lord.
Athlete (2:5). “Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” This seems to be an unusual application of this analogy. Paul in other letters speaks about running the race and disciplining the body as an athlete to win the race. But none of these things are the point. The point is that all the hard work of the athlete is for nothing if the athlete does not kept to the rules. We have just recently seen this truth in the Tour de France. The cyclist seemed to have made one of the greatest comebacks in cycling history only to have tested with elevated testosterone levels. It appears that he cheated and his trophy will be stripped from him. To win the race one must follow the rules. So it is with the race of life. We cannot say that we have fought the good fight and finished the race if he has not run the race according to the rules God have revealed.
Farmer (2:6). “The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.” This is another way of saying that we need to work hard to receive the prize. The farmer labors intensely to have a bountiful crop which he enjoys. We are to labor intensely in this world so that we will receive the reward from God for our labors.
Jesus Christ (2:8-13). Paul also encourages Timothy to remember Jesus Christ. Of course, Jesus is the ultimate example and who we must keep our eyes upon as soldiers, athletes, and farmers in the kingdom of God. Verses 11-13 are important words that we must always be mindful. If you have died with Christ (which is what Paul has been picturing in the last three illustrations) then you will live with Christ. If we endure with Christ (again, the point of the three illustrations), then we will reign with Christ. However, if we deny Christ, he will also deny us. But verse 13 is not what we would expect to read. We would expect the scripture to say: “If we are faithless, He will be faithless toward us” or “He will not keep His covenant.” But here is where we read the superiority of God. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” We may prove ourselves false, but Christ cannot prove himself false nor will he be proven false. He will keep his word. If you deny him, he will deny you. If you endure with him, you will reign with him. These are unchangeable truths.
Worker (2:14-19). We are called to present ourselves approved to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed. Paul tells us how to present ourselves as an approved worker of God. (1) Accurately handle the word of truth. (2) Avoid quarrelling about words and empty chatter. Paul now brings up two more people, Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have engaged in worldly, empty chatter and thus have gone astray from the faith. An approved worker of God knows the word of God and uses it and speaks its words wisely.
Vessel (2:20-23). Paul describes the person of God as a vessel of honor. To be a vessel of honor with God we have must cleanse ourselves so that we are sanctified, useful, and ready for good works. Therefore pursue righteousness and run away from youthful lusts. Avoid foolish arguments because the end result is quarrelling.
Servant (2:24-26). Finally, Paul describes the person of God as the Lord’s servant. The servant is gentle, kind, able to teach, patient, and corrects in gentleness. The servant of God is always aware that his or her words can be used to bring people to their senses and help them escape the Devil’s snare.
The Perils of the Man of God (3:1-17)
But difficult times were going to come that Timothy would have to endure. People are going to be worldly and immoral. But this is not just unbelievers who would act this way. The warning is that Christians would act this way. We see that this is the case in a couple of places. First, in verses 4-5, “…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.” We see that these are supposed Christians as well as unbelievers in verse 7, “…always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” There will be people who are more interested in their pleasures than obeying God. This is no surprise if we are talking about the world. The warning is apostasy, that there will be supposed Christians engaging in these behaviors and activities.
Therefore, we are called to continue in the word of God because it is the very breath of God. The word of God is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. This will equip the man of God to be complete and equipped for every good work.
The Preaching of the Man of God (4:1-5)
Finally, the person of God preaches at all times, when it is convenient and when it is inconvenient. Paul is certainly a great example of this truth while he sits in a Roman prison for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Preach with patience knowing that people will want to hear things that are pleasing to their ears. They will not want to hear about stopping their sinful ways. But we must keep teaching the message of Jesus.
Concluding Remarks (4:6-22)
At the end of the letter we are now able to see that Paul realizes his end has come. In other letters he spoke of his confidence of being released from prison. But not so in this letter. Now Paul requests people to come see him because he is not going to make it out of this circumstance. The time of his departure has come (4:7). We can see that this is a time when Paul needs support. Demas has loved the present world and has left him. Crescens and Titus have also left. Only Luke remains with Paul in Rome. Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him. Also Paul asks Timothy to stop in Troas and get his cloak and bring the parchments. Alexander has done him much harm and Paul asks God to repay him according to his actions.
In verse 19 Paul begins to offer his greetings to the various Christians where Timothy is located. Greetings were typically placed at the end of first century letters. Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the house of Onesiphorus. The final words of Paul: “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.”
The man of God must be prepared for every situation. We are to see ourselves as solders, athletes, farmers, workers, vessels, and servants in the kingdom of God. But be aware that many people who claim to be Christians will cause you pain by their actions. They will love the present world more than the Lord. They will be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. Pursue righteousness and preach the word of God at all times. Avoid empty chatter, quarrellings, and youthful lusts. In the end, we will receive our reward.