Biblical Commentary
(Bible Study)

2 Timothy 1:1-14



First and Second Timothy and Titus are often grouped together as the Pastoral Epistles, because they appear to deal with advice and counsel about dealing with pastoral issues.  However, the primary emphasis of these epistles isn’t how to help individuals with personal problems, but is rather how to deal with church polity (organizational structures, policies, and procedures governing the church).

Until the 1700s, the church believed that Paul was the author of these letters, as is stated at the beginning of each letter.  Critics have studied various characteristics of these letters (such as vocabulary and the issues discussed), and have concluded that they were written later by people closely related to Paul—or perhaps later by persons unknown.

However, unlike the uncontested letters of Paul, which were written to congregations, the letters to Timothy and Titus (and Philemon as well) were written to individuals.  The issues with which they deal tend to be different, and it therefore stands to reason that the vocabulary would be different.

For the purpose of this commentary, I will assume that Paul wrote these letters to Timothy and Titus.  However, in spite of the assurance with which particular scholars promote one position or another, the truth is that only God knows.  Another truth is that, regardless of authorship, the letters have value to today’s church, because we must deal with the same kinds of issues that the early church had to deal.


1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, according to the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus, 2 to Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God” (v. 1a).   It was customary for people of that time and place to begin their letters by introducing themselves (quite different from our letters today, with the name of the author at the end), and Paul follows that convention by introducing himself at the beginning.

Paul first states his name, and then his office. He is an apostle (apostolos)—sent with a message. In Paul’s case, the one who did the sending was Christ Jesus and the message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul is an apostle “through the will of God.”  His original name was Saul, and he was persecuting the church.  As he approached Damascus, he saw a blinding light and heard a voice from heaven asking, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  As a result of that encounter, Saul the persecutor became Paul the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:1-21).  In other words, he hadn’t sought the office of apostle—the office sought him, because God willed that he should be an apostle.

“according to the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus” (v. 1b).  God’s call was that Paul should proclaim the promise of “the life which is in Christ Jesus”—life in the kingdom of God both now and eternally.

Critics of Pauline authorship of this book have pointed out that Timothy was Paul’s closest associate.  Timothy knows that Paul is an apostle, so why would Paul open his letter to Timothy by recounting his apostolic status?  There are various possibilities:

• First, Paul usually opens his letters by mentioning his apostleship, so he is merely following his convention here.

• Second, Paul’s status as an apostle is so vital to his authority, that he feels it necessary to remind people of it—even if the recipient is a trusted colleague like Timothy.

• Third, while this letter is addressed to Timothy alone, it is possible that others might read it and need reminding of Paul’s unique authority.  After all, millions or billions of people have read this letter through the ages.  While Paul couldn’t have foreseen that, he could have foreseen that the letter might have a readership beyond Timothy.

“to Timothy, my beloved child” (Greek: teknon) (v. 2a).  Paul asked Timothy to accompany him on his Second Missionary Journey (Acts 16:1-3).  Elsewhere, Paul refers to Timothy as “my beloved and faithful child in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:17) and “my true child in faith,” (1 Timothy 1:2).

The Greek word for son is huios, but the word that Paul uses here is teknos, which is best translated child.  Most men would take exception to being addressed as child, but it would have been acceptable for a teacher or mentor (such as Paul) to address a student or disciple (such as Timothy) in this way.

“Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 2b).  This is a typical greeting for Paul.  He has been the recipient of God’s mercy and peace (1 Timothy 1:16, 18), and desires that Timothy share in God’s mercy and peace as well.


3 I thank God, whom I serve as my forefathers did, with a pure conscience. How unceasing is my memory of you in my petitions, night and day 4 longing to see you, remembering your tears, that I may be filled with joy; 5 having been reminded of the sincere faith that is in you; which lived first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and, I am persuaded, in you also.

“I thank God, whom I serve as my forefathers did, with a pure conscience” (v. 3a).  This is a curious statement on two counts:

• First, the Israelites were hardly a people with no stains on their consciences.  They lost faith when faced with danger, as they did at the Red Sea.  They grumbled against Moses—and God.  They married foreign women and worshiped foreign gods.  David, their most famous king, murdered his faithful servant, Uriah, to cover up his liaison with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife.

• Second, Paul’s conscience was stained by his persecution of Christians.


• Israel’s experience of unfaithfulness was tempered by God’s discipline and forgiveness—and his unstinting acceptance of Israel as his chosen people.

• Paul’s pure conscience would be occasioned by the forgiveness he received through Christ—as well as his current service to Christ.  His pure conscience is justified.  Ever since meeting Christ on the Damascus road, he has served Christ faithfully and with no moral taint—both faithfulness and a strong moral compass being essential to effective ministry.

“How unceasing is my memory of you in my petitions, night and day” (v. 3b).  In the original Greek, this is a part of Paul’s thanksgiving.  His unceasing memory of Timothy occasions his thanks—as are his memories of Timothy’s tears (v. 4) and the faith of Lois and Eunice—and the faith of Timothy as well (v. 5).

Paul prays night and day for Timothy, who has been his most faithful companion—and who, given his youth, can be expected to carry the Jesus’ banner long after Paul has died.  In his prayers, Paul would give thanks, of course, but he would also pray for Timothy’s spiritual well-being.  The stronger our faith and witness, the more determined Satan is to derail us, so Timothy can expect to face temptations both subtle and treacherous.  He will require God’s help to avoid falling into Satan’s trap.

“longing to see you, remembering your tears, that I may be filled with joy” (v. 4).  Paul often expresses a longing for those whom he has discipled—or a longing to see again (Romans 1:11; 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 3:6; Philippians 1:8; 2:26-28; 4:1).  Paul spent a great deal of time traveling from place to place—establishing churches and winning new converts to the faith.  It would be difficult to leave people with whom he has established a deep spiritual connection, so he would naturally long to see such people again. That would be especially true of Timothy, with whom Paul has established such a strong relationship.  To see him again would be an occasion of great joy.

“having been reminded of the sincere (Greek: anupokritou) faith that is in you” (v. 5a).  The Greek word anupokritou literally means “without pretense” or “without hypocrisy.”  Paul has often dealt with people of compromised faith, and is a good judge of character. He knows that Timothy is free of hypocrisy.

Paul is also free of hypocrisy.  He calls ’em as he sees ’em—issues rebukes as well as compliments.  He stands his ground in the face of opposition.

Paul frequently offers compliments, but never lightly.  If Paul says that Timothy is without hypocrisy, we can be sure that is his studied opinion.

“which lived first in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and, I am persuaded, in you also” (v. 5b).  Timothy’s Jewish mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois are faithful Christians and have been influential in Timothy’s spiritual development, bringing him up in the knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15).  Timothy’s father is Greek—Gentile (Acts 16:1).

Timothy’s sincere faith was undoubtedly shaped first by his mother and grandmother.  That is often the case—as I can attest from personal experience.  My mother faced many challenges, but always found time to see that my brother and I were in Sunday school and church.  She taught a Sunday school class—and Vacation Bible School absorbed her attention for at least a week every summer.

Getting ready on Sundays wasn’t easy.  Mother would put a chicken in the oven for our noon meal, and would then make her two young sons presentable.  Money was scarce, but she always gave each of us a dime to put in the offering (in the early 1950’s, a dime would buy a loaf of Wonder Bread).  I particularly remember her carrying a Bible stuffed with the materials that she would use for her Sunday school class.  It took lots of planning and determination to get the show on the road every Sunday, but she did so without fail.

That, of course, was the beginning rather than the end of her caring for our spiritual welfare.  Without her influence, I would have become a very different person than I am today—and not likely a person of faith.

That won’t be every Christian’s story—I know a devout Christian whose mother was (and is) a total train wreck—but many of us can trace our spiritual foundations to our mothers’ influence.


6 For this cause, I remind you that you should stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. 8Therefore don’t be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but endure hardship for the Good News according to the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before times eternal, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Good News. 11 For this, I was appointed as a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12a For this cause I also suffer these things.

“For this cause (Greek: oun—therefore, accordingly), I remind you that you should stir up (Greek: anazopyreo) the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (v. 6).  Having been nurtured in the faith by his mother and grandmother, Timothy should stir it up (anazopyreo) and make the most of it.

The word anazopyreo combines two Greek words, ana (again) and zopyreo (to stir up a fire).  Paul is telling Timothy to be proactive in keeping the flames of faith burning.

Timothy should regard his faith as a gift from God “through the laying on of (Paul’s) hands.”  In the Old Testament, Moses laid hands on Joshua to commission him (Numbers 27:18-23).  In the New Testament, the apostles laid hands on people to heal them (Matthew 9:18; Acts 28:8), to impart the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17; 19:6), and to ordain them for a particular work (Acts 6:6; 13:3; 2 Timothy 1:6).

“For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear” (Greek: deilia) (v. 7a).  The Greek word deilia means fear, timidity, or cowardice.

“but of power (Greek:  dynamis), love (Greek:  agape), and self-control” (sophronismos) (v. 7b).  Consider Moses, called by God to confront Pharaoh and to demand that Pharaoh free the Israelites.  Consider David, a boy called by God to face the giant Goliath in a battle to the death.  Consider Gideon, called by God to reduce his army to 300 men before attacking the much larger Midianite army.  In each case, God asked people to take bold action in the faith that God would reward their faithfulness.

God still calls people to impossible tasks.  He calls us to trust his call, and to believe that he will be faithful to honor that call.

• The Greek word dunamis (from which we get our word dynamite) speaks of a special kind of power—the ability to do or to accomplish.  It is an enabling sort of power, because it equips us for good things while leaving us the freedom to exercise that power.

Agape love is more a “doing” than a “feeling” word.  It doesn’t require that we approve of the actions of the person whom we love—or even that we enjoy their company.  It does require that we act in behalf of that person—to demonstrate our love in some practical fashion.  An agape person will do what is possible to feed the hungry—and to give drink to the thirsty—and to welcome the stranger—and to clothe the naked—and to visit the sick and the person in prison (Matthew 25:31-46).  The agape person has little or nothing to gain by helping these hungry, thirsty, strange, naked, imprisoned people.  The thrust of his/her agape love is giving, not getting.

Sophronismos means restraint or self-control.

We can cultivate these virtues, but their full realization can be achieved only through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Therefore don’t be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner” (v. 8a).  This might better translated, “Therefore don’t be ashamed to testify (or to bear testimony to) our Lord.”

It seems odd that anyone would be ashamed to bear testimony to Jesus, but we have experienced shame (or timidity).  Even when Christianity was widely held to be virtuous in this country, people found it difficult to bear witness to their faith.  Now that Christians are increasingly under attack, it has become more difficult.  If we say that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), we are likely to trigger accusations of intolerance.

But it is easy to understand why Timothy might feel ashamed of Paul, who was a prisoner.  When someone is imprisoned, we tend to believe that that they have done something wrong and are thus suffering imprisonment justly.  A woman recently told me that she shouldn’t have been imprisoned.  I didn’t say anything, but I thought, “That’s what they all say.”

But Paul speaks of himself in this verse, not as a prisoner of the Romans, but as “his (the Lord’s) prisoner.”  Paul makes this even more explicit in his letter to Philemon, which he identifies himself as, “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus” (Philemon 1:1). The Romans might imprison Paul’s body, but Christ commands his total being—body and soul.

“but endure hardship (Greek: synkakopatheo) for the Good News according to the power of God”(v. 8b).  Synkakopatheo combines two Greek words, syn (together with) and kakopatheo (to suffer hardship), so Paul is saying, “Suffer hardship together with me for the Gospel” or “Share my suffering for the sake of the Gospel.”

Paul certainly endured suffering for the sake of the Gospel (Acts 9:16, 28; 13:50; 14:4, 19; 16:22; 21:30; 22:22; 23:1-10; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 2 Corinthians 4:8-12; 11:16-28; 2 Timothy 2:9; 3:10-13).  He is not making the point that Timothy should seek out hardship, but rather that, if need be, Timothy should be willing to endure suffering for the Gospel.

“who saved (Greek: sozo)  us” (v. 9a).  Sozo can refer to healing or delivery from danger, but the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) often uses it to refer to the salvation of the Israelites (Psalm 44:1-8; Isaiah 43:11; 45:21; 63:9; Hosea 14:3) and the New Testament uses it to refer to Christian salvation (1 Corinthians 1:21; 9:22; Ephesians 2:5).

In what sense does God save us?  He saves us:

• By assuring us of his love for us and his accessibility to us.
• By answering our prayers, not necessarily as we asked, but in accord with his greater wisdom and love.
• By transforming the world in which we live, using us as leaven to leaven the whole loaf.
• By his promise of eternal life.

“and called us with a holy (Greek: hagios) calling” (Greek: klesis) (v. 9b). The Greek word hagios means holy or set apart for God.  The tabernacle and temple were holy, because they were the dwelling places of God.  Sacrificial animals were holy, because they were set apart for God.  Timothy is holy, because God has set him apart for ministry.

The Greek noun klesis is related to the verb kaleo which means to call.  Klesis means a call or an invitation.  The New Testament uses klesis to speak of God’s invitation to become a member of the kingdom of God—to experience adoption into God’s family—to gain salvation and the hope of life eternal.

“not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace” (v. 9c).  It has been said that God calls whom God calls.  That’s as close as we can get to explaining why God calls certain people.  Sometimes God calls well-educated people (such as Paul), but he also calls people of modest ability.  Sometimes he calls people whom we would call saintly (such as Mother Teresa), but he also calls people who could be classified as borderline scoundrels (such as Jacob).  Sometimes he calls people whose lives manifest impeccable moral behavior, but he also calls people who do despicable things (such as David).  God calls whom God calls.

But whomever God calls, he calls them to a holy purpose and a holy life.

To what does God call us?  He calls some to pastoral ministry. He calls some to teach in seminary or to write scholarly commentaries.  But he also calls some to be carpenters or plumbers or schoolteachers or whatever.  He calls all of us to love God and neighbor.  He calls us “according to his own purpose and grace.”

“which was given to us in Christ Jesus before times eternal” (v. 9d).  The Gospel of John begins with these words:

“IN THE BEGINNING was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was IN THE BEGINNING with God” (John 1:1-2).

God’s purpose and grace were manifested through Christ before times eternal—before time—in the infinity that stretches beyond time both before the creation and after the world comes to an end.  And perhaps God has a plan for each of our lives, established from “before times eternal.”

“but has now been revealed by the appearing (Greek:  epiphaneia) of our Savior, Christ Jesus” (v. 10a).  God’s purpose and grace (v. 9c) were revealed in Christ Jesus.

The Greek word epiphaneia means an appearance.  In the New Testament, it means a divine appearance or a manifestation of the divine will.  We use the word Epiphany to speak of the Wise Men coming to the baby Jesus—an early manifestation (or appearing) of the Lord to Gentiles.  Paul typically uses epiphaneia to speak of Jesus’ Second Coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:1, 8; Titus 2:13).

“who abolished  (Greek: katargeo)  death” (v. 10b).  The Greek word katargeo means “to abolish” or “to put an end to” or “to render inactive.”  With his death and resurrection, Jesus abolished the power of death over us.

In the Bible, the word “death” is used in two ways:

• It is used to describe the end of physical life on earth.

• It is also used to describe a kind of spiritual death—alienation from God—separation from God.  When a person dies physically, he/she is separated from loved ones who are still alive.  There is a great chasm fixed between the living and the dead so that the dead person cannot reach across the chasm relate to the living—and the living cannot bridge the chasm to relate to the dead.  In like manner, a person who is dead spiritually is separated from God—and is therefore subject to “the course (aion—age) of this world” and “the ruler of the power of the air”—a demonic power (Ephesians 2:2).

It is this second kind of death—this spiritual death—that Christ brought to an end with his death and resurrection.

“and brought life and immortality (Greek: aphtharsia—incorruptibility) to light through the Good News” (v. 10c).  The Greek word aphtharsia means incorruptibility.  Our bodies are corrupted by disease, injury, and death.

As I get older, I experience this happening.  I think of it as dying by inches—slow death.  Then death brings about the final corruptibility.  We have dealt with that by paying embalmers and cosmeticians to restore the appearance of life and to delay the decay.  They do a wonderful but superficial job, and have no power to restore life itself.

But Christ reveals the twin blessings life and incorruptibility—not for the life we know on earth, but for the life that we shall experience after death.  Elsewhere, Paul explains “that flesh and blood can’t inherit the Kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:50).  He goes on to say that, at the last trumpet, “the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” The corruptible shall be rendered incorruptible, and death will be swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).

“For this, I was appointed (Greek: tithemi) as a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles”(v. 11).  The Greek word tithemi means “appointed” or “set in place.”  Through his encounter with Saul (Paul’s original name) on the Damascus road (Acts 9), Christ set Paul in place “as a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.”  Paul didn’t initiate that appointment.  He didn’t submit a resume that had to be vetted.  He didn’t apply for the job.  Christ chose him—called him—appointed him to preach, lead, and teach.

“and a teacher of the Gentiles” (v. 11b).  God “called (Paul) through his grace, to reveal his Son in (Paul), that (Paul) might preach him among the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15-16).  Paul became “a servant of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, serving as a priest the Good News of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).

In other words, God assigned Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles, and that became the mission that consumed the rest of Paul’s life.

“For this cause I also suffer these things” (v. 12a).  As noted above, Paul endured suffering for the sake of the Gospel (Acts 9:16, 28; 13:50; 14:4, 19; 16:22; 21:30; 22:22; 23:1-10; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 2 Corinthians 4:8-12; 11:16-28; 2 Timothy 2:9; 3:10-13).


12b Yet I am not ashamed, for I know him whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed to him against that day.

“Yet I am not ashamed” (v.12b).   Paul called for Timothy to be unashamed (see v. 8 above), and now states that he is unashamed—unashamed of his life’s work in Christ’s service and unashamed of his imprisonment.

“for I know him whom I have believed” (v.12c).  The focus here is on Christ rather than on doctrine.  Paul knows Christ.  He encountered the risen Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9), and has served him faithfully ever since.

“and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed to him (Greek: partheke mou—my deposit or trust) against that day” (v.12d).  Paul is using the language of a banker.  The deposit or trust in question could be that with which Christ has entrusted Paul—or Paul could be talking about the service that he has rendered to Christ. In either case, Paul is confident that Christ has both the power and the will to safeguard that deposit “against that day.”

“that day.”  When Paul uses this phrase elsewhere, he is speaking of the day that Christ will come again (1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:10).  Paul is convinced that Christ will safeguard his deposit or trust until Christ comes again.  On that day, when the vault doors open and the accounts are tallied, Paul’s deposit will be found secure and intact.


13 Hold the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

“Hold the pattern of sound words (Greek: hugiaino logos) which you have heard from me” (v. 13a).  The Greek word logos (word) means word, but can also mean that which is conveyed by a word.  In this case, the “sound words” which Timothy has received from Paul are Paul’s teachings.  Paul is asking Timothy to be faithful to that which he has learned at Paul’s feet—both to teach it and to live it faithfully.

“in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (v. 13b).  Paul encourages Timothy to hold Paul’s sound teachings “in faith and love.”  It is all too easy to get so wrapped up in doctrinal orthodoxy that we forget to trust God and to love our neighbor.  When that happens, we severely compromise our witness.

The same is true when we become overly concerned with programs or administrative details.  I have seen too many people leave the church because of conflict with other people.  Many years ago, I was active in the young adult ministry at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City.  We had two big programs every week—one on Thursday evening and the other on Sunday evening.  We would have 50-100 people present for each meeting.  The pressure to produce interesting programs was enormous.  The mantra that we recited over and over again was “People are more important than programs.”  True—but hard to remember when you were on the hot seat.

“in Christ Jesus” (v. 13b).  Paul uses this phrase often (Romans 6:11; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 3:28; 1 Timothy 1:14).  Being “in Christ” involves an all-encompassing relationship with Christ Jesus—a relationship that has saving power.

In this instance, it is through Christ that we receive faith and love—and it is Christ who enables us to express faith and love to others.

“That good thing which was committed (Greek: partheke—deposited or entrusted) to you, guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us” (v. 14).  The good thing entrusted to Timothy is the Gospel—the Good News of salvation through Christ Jesus.

For the word partheke, see the comments on verse 12d above.  In that case, Paul was trusting Christ to safeguard the partheke that Paul entrusted to Timothy.  Now Paul asks Timothy to safeguard that trust.

But Timothy is not on his own to accomplish this.  The Holy Spirit dwells in him (and us), and will make it possible for him (and us) to do this.

SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.


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Copyright 2016, Richard Niell Donovan