Biblical Commentary
(Bible Study)

2 Timothy 2:8-15



Timothy was a believer when Paul first encountered him in Lystra.  Paul’s mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, were both believers (2 Timothy 1:5).  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).  Timothy became Paul’s most faithful associate.

In chapter 1, Paul encouraged Timothy to “stir up the gift of God which is in you” (1:6), and not to be ashamed of the Gospel, or of Paul, who was writing from prison (1:8).  He called Timothy to “hold the pattern of sound words (teachings) which you have heard from me” (1:13).  He mentioned two men who had turned away from him—and one who had served Paul well in prison (1:15-18).

In chapter 2:1-7, Paul encouraged Timothy to teach others what he had learned from Paul (2:2).  He warned Timothy that he must be prepared to endure hardship for Christ even as a soldier endures hardship (2:3-4)—and to compete by the rules even as an athlete does so to win the crown (2:5).  He says, “The farmers who labor must be the first to get a share of the crops” (2:6)—implying that Timothy has a right to expect financial support from those whom he serves.  He tells Timothy to reflect on these things, and prays that the Lord will give Timothy understanding (2:7).


8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my Good News, 9 in which I suffer hardship to the point of chains as a criminal. But God’s word isn’t chained. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the chosen ones’ sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (v. 8a).  Paul draws Timothy’s attention to the core of the Christian faith, “Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.”  Christ’s resurrection serves as a promise that the God who raised Jesus “will also raise us up by his power” (1 Corinthians 6:14; see also 1 Corinthians 15).

“of the seed (Greek:  ek sperma) of David” (v. 8b).  The scriptures state that King Jesus was a direct descendant of King David.

• Matthew’s genealogy identifies Jesus Christ as “the son of David, the son of Abraham,” and proceeds to trace Jesus’ lineage from Abraham through David to “Joseph, the husband of Mary, from whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matthew 1:1-16).

• Luke’s genealogy does much the same, tracing Jesus’ lineage from Adam through Abraham and David to Joseph (Luke 3:23-38).

• Jesus was born in Bethlehem, because “he was of the house and family of David” (Luke 2:4.  For David and Bethlehem, see also 1 Samuel 16:1; 17:15, 58; 20:6, 28).

• Crowds cried, “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:10).

“according to my Good News” (Greek: euangelion) (v. 8c).  The Greek word euangelion combines the words eu (good) and angelos (angel or messenger) and means “good news”—the Good News of a salvation made possible by the grace of God—by the gift of his Son on the cross.  Euagellion is often translated “Gospel”—a word that comes from the Old English “god spel,” which means “good news.”

In the New Testament, euangelion is used for the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Paul uses some form of that word nearly fifty times, using it to incorporate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“in which I suffer hardship to the point of chains as a criminal” (v. 9a).  Having warned Timothy to be prepared to suffer hardship for the Gospel (v. 3), Paul points here to the fact that he has done so (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)—and is doing so.  His jailers have put him in chains as a criminal, because he persisted in preaching an unpopular Gospel.

“But God’s word isn’t chained” (v. 9b).  God’s word is powerful.  In the creation, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).  By his word, God created an expanse, gathered the waters together in one place, brought forth vegetation, put lights in the sky, and created animals and humans (Genesis 1:6-27).

God’s word cannot be held by prison walls.  It cannot be tamed by chains.  It penetrates to our hearts and breaks the bonds its’ enemies would impose on it.

We have seen that happen.  The Soviet Union and China have done everything possible to restrict Christianity, but when restrictions were loosened a bit after the Soviet Union dissolved, churches were filled to overflowing.  Underground house churches are active in China.

“Therefore I endure all things for the chosen ones’ sake” (Greek: tous eklektous) (v. 10a).  “Chosen ones” is a good translation of tous eklektous, but there is no Greek word for “sake” in the original text.

When we hear the word chosen, we should recall that Israel was God’s chosen people or chosen nation (Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 7:6-8; 14:2; Jeremiah 7:23; 30:22; Ezekiel 36:28; Amos 3:2; Isaiah 44:1).  With the advent of Christ, the church became the people of God (Ephesians 2:12)—the household of God (Ephesians 2:19; 3:15; 4:6)—God’s children (Galatians 4:6-7; Romans 8:15).

Paul is saying that he is willing to endure all things, including the many things he has suffered, as well as his current imprisonment, for the sake of God’s chosen people.

“that they also may obtain the salvation (Greek: soteria) which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (v. 10b).  The word “also” suggests that Paul believes that he (and probably Timothy) have obtained salvation.  However, the salvation of the rest of the chosen (or the elect) is still in question.  Paul is willing to make any and all sacrifices personally so that those whom God has chosen might be faithful and obtain the prize of salvation and eternal glory.

The idea of salvation is especially important in Paul’s letters (Romans 1:16-18; 3:23-25). While this salvation has an eschatological (future) dimension, it also has a present dimension.  The salvation which Christ offers gives us freedom from the power of sin now, because we have died to sin (Romans 6:2) and have become new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17).


11 This saying is faithful:

“For if we died with him,
we will also live with him.

12 If we endure,
we will also reign with him.

If we deny him,
he also will deny us.

13 If we are faithless,
he remains faithful.
He can’t deny himself.”

Scholars believe that these verses constituted a hymn familiar to Timothy.  It isn’t a scripture quotation.

“This saying is faithful: ‘For if we died with him, we will also live with him’ (v. 11).  This is the first of four if-then statements (Paul doesn’t use the word “then,” but the idea is there):

• “IF we died with him, (THEN) we will also live with him” (v. 11).
• “‘IF we endure, (THEN) we will also reign with him” (v. 12a).
• “IF we deny him, (THEN) he also will deny us” (v. 12b).
• “IF we are faithless, (THEN) he remains faithful” (v. 13).

In Romans 6:1-11, Paul dealt with the question, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”  In other words, if forgiveness is free, shouldn’t we do anything we want and milk grace for all it is worth?

He answers, “May it never be” and goes on to explain that “we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” and have been resurrected as new people for whom wanton behavior is no longer appropriate—no longer possible.

So if we have died with Christ through baptism, we also live with him, both now and through eternity.

‘If we endure (Greek: hypomone), we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us’(v. 12).  This verse presents a clear choice:  Endurance or denial.

Hypomone is endurance in adversity—the ability to stand one’s ground when challenged—persevering in the faith in spite of difficult circumstances.

All clergy who have been in ministry for more than 30 minutes have experienced the need for hypomone.  Wherever two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ name, they are likely to have four opinions.  That is natural and can be healthy.  Clergy need to learn to deal with that level of conflict—and to keep it healthy

But sometimes there is a stinker or two in the congregation.  They block.  They undercut.  They oppose.  Sometimes they lie and slander.  G. Lloyd Rediger wrote a book about the worst of these people.  He calls them “Clergy Killers,” and says that they are pathological—emotionally and spiritually sick—evil.

Congregations and denominational officials are loath to help clergy to fight clergy killers—the pastor usually faces them alone.  The stakes are high.  Clergy killers kill congregations as well as pastors.  A congregation with a clergy killer will experience a steady decline.

Endurance in the face of clergy killers doesn’t mean cowering before their blows.  Clergy faced with a clergy killer need to seek the advice and counsel of trusted clergy, both within and outside their denomination.  Talk with key church members privately to nurture relationships and to garner support for specific programs.  When faced with a clergy killer, consider seeking legal counsel to insure that you don’t make a mistake that will give the clergy killer grounds for a legal suit.  Buy copies of Rediger’s book and encourage key leaders to study it.  Teach classes based on it.  Read Rediger’s book (available on Amazon) for more ideas. Google “clergy killers” and you will get page after page of links.

Consider educating key leaders in your congregation about Clergy Killers even though you aren’t faced with one at present—alerting them to the potential danger before it arises.  That will seem less self-serving than waiting until you have a CK opponent.

Paul has already spoken of “enduring all things” for the sake of those to whom he has been sent to minister (v. 10).  He has provided the model for Timothy to follow.

The promise is that, if we endure for Christ, we will also reign with him.  What a promise!  Just consider the glory that Christ has on his heavenly throne.  We shall share that glory—if we endure.  We shall be “priests and kings.”  We will reign with Christ forever and ever (Revelation 5:10; 20:4, 6; 22:5).

‘If we are faithless (Greek: apisteo), he remains faithful  (Greek: pistos). He can’t deny himself'” (v. 13).  Note the wordplay between apisteo and pisteo.  The a at the beginning of Greek words such as apisteo means “not”—reverses the meaning of that which follows.

We could translate this verse, “If we are not faithful, (Christ) remains faithful—because he cannot deny himself—cannot act in a way opposed to his nature.”

While some would take this as Bad News, assuming that Christ will condemn the unfaithful, I take it as Good News!  Christ has come to save us—that is his mission and nature—and we need saving.  Who among us is always faithful?  Who among us doesn’t need forgiveness?  While it isn’t my place to draw the line between the sheep and goats (see Matthew 25:31ff.), I feel a good deal better about Christ’s mercy than about my own faithfulness.


14 Remind them of these things, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they don’t argue about words, to no profit, to the subverting of those who hear.

“Remind them of these things” (v. 14a).  Who is “them”?  Most likely, the church at large.

But looking ahead to verses 16-17, Paul talks about those who engage in empty chatter, which has the potential to “consume like gangrene.”  As examples, Paul names Hymenaeus and Philetus, who are claiming that “the resurrection (of the faithful) is already past, overthrowing the faith of some.”  Timothy needs to warn the church about people such as these, but he should also address them personally to give them a chance to repent and receive forgiveness.

“charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they don’t argue about words, to no profit” (v. 14b).  Paul amplifies further in verses 23-26:

“Refuse foolish and ignorant questionings, knowing that they generate strife. The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient, in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the devil’s snare, having been taken captive by him to his will.”

“to the subverting (Greek: katastrophe) of those who hear” (v. 14c).  The Greek word katastrophe means catastrophe or ruin.  Those who engage in idle chatter or false teachings have the potential to destroy the faith of those who would otherwise remain faithful.  This is often a problem in churches today.  We should address it in our teaching and preaching.


15 Give diligence to present yourself approved by God, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed, properly handling the Word of Truth.

“Give diligence to present yourself approved (Greek: dokimos) by God, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed” (v. 15a).  The Greek word dokimos means approved, acceptable, proven, or tested and determined to be without flaw.

Everyone who teaches or preaches in the church needs to reflect on these words.  God is watching, so we need to conduct ourselves in such a way that God will approve of our actions, teaching, and preaching.

We will all need forgiveness at some point in this regard, but need to keep in mind that our words and actions have consequences, both for ourselves and for those who hear and observe us.  We also need to remember that God is watching.

“properly handling (Greek: orthotomeo) the Word of Truth” (v. 15b).  The word ortho means straight or upright.  The Greek word orthotomeo, in this context, means handling the Word of Truth in an upright fashion—carefully, skillfully, and correctly.  Some have translated it as “rightly dividing.”

The Word of Truth can be understood in two ways:

• The Scriptures.  We need to treat the scriptures with reverence as holy writ.
• The Gospel message of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension.

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