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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 1

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Verses 1-2


As usual, Paul wrote what he did in his salutation partially to set the tone for his emphasis in the rest of the epistle. There are only three particulars in which this salutation differs from the one in 1 Timothy.

First, Paul attributed his calling as an apostle to "the will of God" (2 Timothy 1:1) rather than to the command of God. The wording here is what Paul used in several of his other epistles (1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians). The two terms are very similar in meaning. When friends desert us and opposition becomes intense there is nothing that gives Christians confidence like the assurance that we are doing God’s will.

Second, the apostle said his calling as an apostle was "according to" (i.e., "because of," or "in harmony with," or both) "the promise of life in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 1:1). This promise is part of the gospel message, and here the phrase probably refers to the gospel as a whole (cf. 2 Timothy 1:9-11).

". . . Paul in his circumstances probably thinks of ’life’ (eternal) as something yet to be fully obtained-thus the reference to a promise (compare 1 Timothy 6:19)." [Note: Philip H. Towner, 1-2 Timothy & Titus, p. 155.]

In this epistle Paul emphasized the importance of faithfulness: God’s faithfulness, Paul’s faithfulness, Timothy’s need to remain faithful, and the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of Paul’s fellow workers and other servants of Christ. Paul was counting on God being faithful and providing what He had promised, namely, eternal life in Christ. God had called him to proclaim this promise as an apostle.

Third, Paul referred to Timothy as his "beloved son" (2 Timothy 1:2). This description emphasized the affection Paul felt for Timothy and his relationship to him as a spiritual son and protégé whom he had nurtured in the faith. Paul mentioned Timothy in all 13 of his inspired epistles except Galatians, Ephesians, and Titus.

Verses 3-4

Paul voiced in his first epistle to Timothy thanks for his own salvation and ministry (1 Timothy 1:12). In this second epistle he began with thanks for Timothy’s salvation and ministry.

Paul’s reference to his forefathers (God-fearing Jewish believers who lived before Christ’s death) seems unusual. However throughout this epistle Paul looked backward into the past and ahead into the future, when he would no longer be alive. This reference reveals that Paul regarded his own ministry as part of the continuation of God’s great ongoing plan of the ages. He was one of the faithful throughout history that have loyally served God sincerely, with a "clear conscience."

"These two themes-association with Paul and a spiritual heritage-form the basis of Paul’s encouragement in the first half of the epistle and are woven throughout the second half. They provide a personal look into Paul’s heart and reveal his love and concern for his good friend Timothy." [Note: Mounce, p. 468.]

Paul undoubtedly prayed for Timothy often, and when he did he thanked God for his friend. Timothy had been one of Paul’s closest associates, and he was evidently still laboring in Ephesus (cf. 2 Timothy 4:19-20), the city where Paul had spent so much time. Paul had plenty of time to pray since he was again in prison (cf. 2 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:21). It is not only good to pray for individuals, but it encourages them when we tell them that we do, as Paul did here.

Even though Paul rejoiced continually his life was not "filled with joy" when he wrote this letter. He longed for Timothy to visit him. Evidently when they had parted last-perhaps the event referred to in 1 Timothy 1:3 -Timothy had taken their separation very hard. A reunion would encourage Timothy too.

"One of the fascinating aspects of Pauline studies is the very real humanity of this man of God. Paul was a stalwart soldier, but he had a tender heart." [Note: Ralph Earle, "2 Timothy," in Ephesians-Philemon, vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 394.]

Verses 3-7

A. Timothy’s past faithfulness 1:3-7

Paul gave thanks to God for Timothy’s past faithfulness to his Lord and encouraged him to continue faithful to strengthen Timothy’s resolve in view of ever increasing apostasy and the decision of many to abandon Paul.

Verses 3-18


In this first major part of the epistle Paul thanked God for Timothy and encouraged him to remain faithful. He recalled the unfaithfulness of other fellow workers and used their example to challenge Timothy to remain faithful to the Lord and to his calling.

Verse 5

Paul rejoiced over Timothy’s genuine faith that his remaining faithful to the Lord for so long had proved. Timothy’s faith was pure, unmixed with distrust and unbelief. His mother and grandmother had also demonstrated sterling faith in Christ. Undoubtedly they were instrumental in Timothy’s salvation. Spiritual as well as physical traits often come down from one generation to the next. The more personal the letter of Paul, the more often he mentioned personal names. [Note: Gordon D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, p. 223.] He mentioned 22 in this letter and nine in Philemon.

Verse 6

In view of the quality of his faith Paul urged his younger friend not to neglect the use of his God-given abilities for the service of Christ. Any person can become less effective in the exercise of his abilities if he or she does not use them regularly. This was Paul’s concern. He wanted Timothy to keep active. He was not implying that Timothy’s gift had left him.

"General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, once sent this message to those under him: ’The tendency of fire is to go out; watch the fire on the altar of your heart.’ Anyone who has tended a fireplace fire knows that it needs to be stirred up occasionally." [Note: Earle, p. 395.]

Timothy may have received special abilities from the Lord through Paul at his ordination (cf. 1 Timothy 4:14). The bestowal of these may have been a unique apostolic ministry that ceased with that office (Ephesians 2:20; Hebrews 2:3-4).

"Every Christian minister needs at times to return to the inspiration of his ordination, to be reminded not only of the greatness of his calling, but also of the adequacy of the divine grace which enables him to perform it. Indeed, every Christian worker engaged in however small a task requires assurance that God never commissions anyone to a task without imparting a special gift appropriate for it." [Note: Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 126.]

It seems more likely, however, that what Timothy received was divine enablement to do the work into which God was leading him. We could understand the gift, then, as a special endowment or enablement by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Timothy 1:7). [Note: George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, p. 371.] Paul may have been referring to Timothy’s conversion at which time Paul laid hands on him and he received the Holy Spirit. [Note: Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, pp. 462-63.]

"The laying on of hands was not the cause of Timothy’s receipt of a spiritual gift but was a visible representation and symbol of it." [Note: Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin Jeremiah , 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, p. 81. Lea wrote the commentaries on 1 and 2 Timothy in this volume.]

Verse 7

Timothy had apparently held back from some ministry because of timidity. Paul reminded him that such a spirit is not from God. God makes us spiritually powerful (i.e., having a forceful character that uses authority boldly, cf. 1 Corinthians 2:4), loving (Galatians 5:22), and self-disciplined (Galatians 5:23). Self-disciplined refers to a person who has a "wise head." [Note: Fee, p. 227.]

"He [Paul] is obliquely chiding Timothy for his timidity, but softens the blow by lumping himself with him." [Note: J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, p. 160.]

Verse 8

In view of the Holy Spirit’s enablement just mentioned, Paul instructed Timothy not to let others intimidate him. The aorist tense of the Greek verb translated "be ashamed" (epaischunthes) indicates that Paul was not implying that Timothy was already guilty of this. Because of opposition Timothy had evidently experienced temptation to demonstrate some sign of embarrassment with the gospel and with Paul, perhaps because he was in prison. [Note: See my comments on 4:16.] The apostle reminded Timothy that he was in prison as Christ’s prisoner. Paul consistently referred to himself as Christ’s prisoner (cf. Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 4:1; Philemon 1:1; Philemon 1:9). He viewed himself as in prison for no other reason than that he served Christ. The Lord had placed him there, so there was no reason to feel ashamed about that. Rather, Timothy should join his mentor in suffering for the gospel, not by being imprisoned with him necessarily, but by proclaiming it boldly (cf. Romans 1:16). God would empower him to stand tall by His grace. [Note: See Gregory S. MaGee, "Paul’s Response to the Shame and Pain of Imprisonment in 2 Timothy," Bibliotheca Sacra 165:659 (July-September 2008):338-53.]

"Paul categorizes this behavior very strongly in terms of the values of honor and shame that were central to that culture. . . . In this setting, the point is not so much that Timothy feels embarrassment or shame and so fails to give a witness, but more that by his failure he is discrediting or shaming the ones mentioned" [Note: Towner, The Letters . . ., p. 463.]

"What the Spirit provides is power to endure the stress that comes from bearing witness to God, not removal to some safe place." [Note: Ibid., p. 466.]

Verses 8-12

1. Exhortation to be courageous 1:8-12

Verses 8-14

B. Charges to remain loyal 1:8-14

Paul gave his young protégé exhortations to encourage him further to remain faithful to the Lord.

Verses 9-11

Paul enlarged on the glory of the gospel to rekindle a fresh appreciation of it in Timothy. This is one of the seven so-called liturgical passages in the Pastorals all of which expound the essentials of salvation (cf. 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Titus 2:11-14; Titus 3:3-7). [Note: For a brief discussion of these passages, see Mark L. Bailey, "A Biblical Theology of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles," in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, pp. 349-54; or for a more detailed explanation, see Philip H. Towner, The Goal of Our Instruction, pp. 75-119.] God has delivered us from the penalty and power of sin. He has called us to a special purpose, not because of us but by His free choice. He enables us to achieve this purpose by His sufficient grace that comes to us in Christ. Our calling took place before the creation of the universe (cf. Ephesians 1:4; Romans 16:25; Titus 1:2), but God has revealed its full dignity only since Christ has come. Jesus Christ destroyed the effects of death and made it possible for us to live with God eternally. The gospel is the revelation of this plan, but Timothy appears to have felt ashamed of it! Paul proudly acknowledged that God had appointed him, of all people, a herald (announcer), an apostle (establisher), and a teacher (perpetuator) of this good news. What an honor and privilege it is to communicate the gospel!

Verse 12

Paul suffered imprisonment and the discomforts associated with it because he preached the gospel. Nevertheless, he was not ashamed of the gospel or of himself (cf. Romans 1:16). His confidence lay in the person of God. He believed that God is faithful. God would protect something that Paul had placed with God for His protection and preserve that until the day he would see Christ face to face at the Rapture or death (cf. 2 Timothy 1:18; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10). The "deposit" (2 Timothy 1:14) in view may refer to the truth of the gospel (cf. 2 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 6:20). [Note: Guthrie, p. 132.] Probably it refers to Paul’s life, including his work. [Note: Fee, p. 232.] Another less likely view is that it refers to the faith entrusted to Paul that he would figuratively hand back to God when he saw Him. [Note: Kelly, p. 166.] Paul used the "deposit" in this last sense in 2 Timothy 1:14 and in 1 Timothy 6:20.

Verse 13

Timothy felt temptation to modify his message as well as to stop preaching it. Paul urged him therefore to continue preaching the same message he had heard from Paul and to do so with trust in God and love for people, which Jesus Christ would supply.

"With his usual skillful way with words, Paul is saying in effect that as God has guarded the deposit of his life (and will guard Timothy’s) so also Timothy must guard the deposit of the faithful account of the gospel that God has entrusted to him." [Note: Knight, p. 380.]

Verses 13-14

2. Exhortation to guard the gospel 1:13-14

Verse 14

He should guard God’s revelation that God had entrusted to him as a minister of the gospel (cf. 1 Timothy 6:20). The indwelling Holy Spirit (as well as the Son, 2 Timothy 1:13) would enable him to do so.

"The appeal has come full circle. It began with God’s Spirit and his power and it has ended with the Spirit’s enabling power." [Note: Ibid., p. 382.]

Verse 15

The Christians in Ephesus and in the province of Asia where Ephesus stood had so thoroughly abandoned Paul that he could say all had turned from him. Paul may have meant all the leaders or his former colleagues who had left him by himself in prison in Rome. Probably not all of these people had turned from the gospel; the statement is probably hyperbolic. [Note: Guthrie, p. 135.] Timothy was the last to maintain his loyalty to and support of Paul among that group, and he was now feeling temptation to abandon him. Phygelus and Hermogenes’ names occur nowhere else in Scripture. They had been strong supporters of the apostle in the past but had eventually turned from him like the rest.

"These verses [2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 1:15-16] show that Paul’s current imprisonment was decidedly more severe than the one in Acts 28:23; Acts 28:30-31." [Note: Mounce, p. 492.]

Verses 15-18

C. Examples of faithful and unfaithful service 1:15-18

To further impress upon Timothy the need for him to remain faithful to his calling Paul cited records of the ministries of other Christians who were mutual acquaintances.

Verses 16-18

Some have suggested that Onesiphorus (lit. help-bringer) may have been dead when Paul wrote this epistle since Paul spoke only of his household. But that seems unlikely to me in view of 2 Timothy 1:18.

"In the Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, Onesiphorus is spoken of as a convert of Paul’s who gave him hospitality on his first visit to Iconium." [Note: Guthrie, p. 135]

Onesiphorus’ household was an exception to the "all" above (2 Timothy 1:15), or perhaps they had felt differently and had later reaffirmed their loyalty to Paul. In any case his family had diligently and unashamedly sought out Paul and had ministered to him during his current imprisonment. For this Paul wished the Lord would show Onesiphorus "mercy" at the judgment seat of Christ (cf. "that day" in 2 Timothy 1:12). Because Onesiphorus had "found" Paul, Paul hoped that Onesiphorus would "find" mercy from the Lord. Paul seems to have been envisioning a scene in which all his brethren would stand before the Lord, Onesiphorus among them, namely, Christ’s judgment seat. God would express displeasure with the failure of the others, but Onesiphorus would escape that shame (cf. 1 John 2:28). Paul again used the possibility of shame to motivate Timothy (cf. 2 Timothy 1:8). Timothy knew about Onesiphorus’ earlier faithful ministry in Ephesus. Paul referred to this as well to encourage Timothy to throw in his lot with Onesiphorus and his family rather than with those who had turned against the chained apostle.

"Moral behavior is best learned by observing such commitment in others. Children learn this behavior from parents. Young Christians learn it from older Christians. Ultimately moral behavior cannot be taught merely by character-building courses in the public schools. Christians must see moral commitment as a sterling example in others.

"Paul was not ashamed to present himself as the initial example he gave to Timothy. He had no doubt that his behavior was worth imitating. Christian leaders today need to have such a commitment to Christ that they are unashamed to say in humility, ’If you want an example to follow, look at me!’" [Note: Lea, p. 200.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-timothy-1.html. 2012.
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