(A few weeks ago, I began a series of articles on Second Timothy for this website. However, after some reflection, I’ve decided not to do a laborious study on each verse, but to back off and take larger sections at a time, looking for key insights. Since the primary audience for our blog is pastors and other church leaders, if we light up someone’s mind with only one idea in what follows, we’re pleased.)
Verses 1-2 Greeting
How did Paul get to be an apostle? “By the will of God.” And who is Timothy? “My beloved son” (in the ministry). I have a few sons and daughters in the ministry, and I am the son of several godly men and women who poured themselves into me. (How did you get in the Lord’s work? Same way: God’s will.)
“Grace, mercy, and peace.” That’s a standard greeting, but I’ll take that any day of the week. I need all three–His grace for its gifts of generosity, His mercy for its restraint of judgment, and His peace for its guarding of my heart.
Verses 3-18 Some personal things to say before getting too theological….
ABOUT YOU, TIMOTHY.
Vs. 3 — I thank God as I remember you in my prayers day and night. (It’s a wonderful thing when just remembering someone fills you with gratitude and drives you to prayers!)
Vs. 4 — I remember your tears; seeing you would give me great joy. (Friendship is a great thing. That’s one reason the Lord put you in a church when He saved you. You and I are going to be needing companions for this upward climb!)
Vs. 5 — I remember your mother and grandmother and that faith of theirs (which I also see in you). Timothy was a rare thing in that First Century world: He was a second generation believer. Most Christians were the first of their families–sometimes, the first of their towns!–to believe in Jesus. But Timothy had two women who had taught him, prayed for him, and showed him the way of Jesus.
Vs. 6 — Speaking of their faith reminds me to urge you to keep that special gift God gave you stirred up. Do not let it grow stagnant. It must grow or it will diminish; there is no in-between. (Remember that spiritual gifts are given for special work. All those “gifts of the Spirit” which we read about in places like I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 are intended to be employed in the Lord’s work. He gives special adaptations, talents, gifts, and callings to none of us so we can frame the certificates and brag on ourselves. Use them in His work!)
Vs. 7 — And so there will be no place for timidity, fear, and cowardice. He has given us power (for ministry), love (for people), and a sound healthy mind (for all the unknowns and challenges). So, there is to be no retreat, but a full advance.
Vs 8 — Speaking of timidity, some are shrinking from me because I’m now in prison. I expect better from you, Timothy. Their prosperity-gospel theology has no place for an apostle who is languishing in jail and about to be executed. But, this suffering is for the gospel of Jesus Christ!
ABOUT THE GOSPEL
Vs. 9 — Speaking of that gospel (Paul is doing a little stream-of-consciousness here), He saved us, called us according to His own purposes and grace (not according to our works)–which have been in place from the beginning of the beginningless beginning….
Vs. 10 — But now, His purpose and grace are on display. We see them fully exposed when we look at Jesus Christ, our Savior. Look at what He did! He abolished death (that is, He defanged it, neutered it, rendered it harmless) and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Which is to say, life and immortality were there all along–we see glimpses of them throughout the Old Testament–but now they have been brought to the forefront by what Jesus did, through His coming, His teaching, His death, and His resurrection. (In the Old days, these wonderful promises were in the background; now they are front and center! And how we rejoice in that!)
Vs. 11 — For this gospel, Paul was appointed a preacher (proclaimer, announcer to one and all), an apostle (to the Gentiles, the outsiders), and a teacher (instructing those who turn to Christ of the practice and doctrine of the Christian life). Many of us have been called by the Lord to be preachers and teachers, but none to my knowledge as apostles in the sense of the original ones. (So, if I were a preacher and the sign outside my church called me an Apostle, I’d white it out. We have the first apostles and they were a-plenty.)
Vs. 12 — That’s why Paul was able to handle the suffering of the Roman jail. He knew! He knew Jesus, and had forever settled how his life would be spent. Paul knew he had been called and sent and equipped and accompanied, and that when the few earthly years were ended, the news was all good. Glory was straight ahead. So, he was unashamed.
Vs. 13-14 — So, Timothy is to guard these truths, keep the high standard of sound doctrine, and protect the treasure of the gospel of Jesus.
ABOUT SOME OTHER PEOPLE
Vs. 15-18 — It’s lonely in this cell. As Paul celebrates Timothy’s faithfulness and charges him with so much responsibility, he thinks of some who had turned away. “All who are in Asia,” he calls them. “Asia,” of course, is the Roman province by that name, in Asia Minor, present day Turkey. (Get your map down. So many of the churches to which Paul wrote were located there.) That’s serious stuff, for “all” to have deserted Paul. Yet, that’s what he says in Second Timothy 4:16, too (“all deserted me”).
And then, Paul remembers Onesiphorus who did come to him in the Roman prison. He didn’t just “drop by,” either. He “eagerly searched for me and found me.” This good brother “was not ashamed of my chains,” but “refreshed me.” Twice in verses 17 and 18, Paul wishes the Lord to grant Onesiphorus and his household mercy from the Lord “on that day.” (What day is that? The “day” when we shall all stand in need of great mercy. Judgment.)
I want to be one of those who refreshes the Lord’s faithful. In every church, there are some who load the preacher down, wear them out, use them up. An hour with them leaves the minister exhausted and drained. And yet….
Yet, there are some others whose presence is so sweet and uplifting. These people are not demanding, but rejoicing. They are not criticizing, but grateful. They are not fault-finding, but at great peace in their souls. They are people of love and prayer, of generosity and kindness.
Lord, make me one of those. Make me an Onesiphorous.