A letter written from a loved one is something that is held as a prized possession. This is especially true if the letter contains encouragement or sound life advice from someone who is no longer living. Such a document contains a connection to the past and words of inspiration for the future. The reader of Second Timothy discovers, rather quickly, that this is the case for this body of work. In Paul’s final letter to Timothy, one will find an imprisoned mentor writing to his protege encouraging him to continue the good work and to instill confidence in his Savior.
Paul stresses in this letter, and particularly in 3:10-17, for Timothy to remain secure in his faith and look to the Word of God for every issue that might arise. While this letter was written to a young minister in the first century, there are vital points for believers to take note of today. History Second Timothy is believed to have been written between the years of A. D. 64 and A. D. 67, likely occurring after the events of Acts. Paul writes this letter while enduring his second Roman imprisonment, realizing that his death was imminent.
Paul, as a spiritual father to Timothy, writes to his son in the faith one final time to warn against false teaching and to provide instruction to the church at Ephesus through Timothy’s conduct and church life. Even though false teaching is addressed, Second Timothy differs slightly from the other two pastoral epistles in that this letter is written on a much more personal level than the others. Timothy, the intended recipient of Paul’s letter, served as one of Paul’s inner circle and accompanied him on his second and third missionary journeys.
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he provides encouragement in his role as minister and addresses his responsibilities for that office. He also warns against false teachings and exhorts Christians concerning their conduct. The encouragement provided to Timothy in the second letter implores him to suffer alongside the apostle (2 Tim. 1:8), hold firm and guard the faith, faithfully pass the Gospel message along, handle the Word correctly and to allow it to guide his teaching and life.
Included in the closing chapter of Second Timothy, Paul also makes requests concerning travel and personal effects. As a final letter to a friend and co-laborer in ministry, Paul seeks to inspire steadfastness in the faith despite the degradation of society and harshness of persecution. Tradition ascribes full authorship of the pastoral epistles to the Apostle Paul, but many contemporary scholars have questioned whether this is the case. Many academics have pointed to variations in literary form and doctrinal emphases, as compared to other known Pauline writings, to substantiate their claim.
Based on this argument many believe the pastorals to be written under pseudonymity, meaning some later follower wrote these letters and attributed them to the apostle. While pseudonymity was more commonplace in the Gospels and the apocalypses, letters written in this way are very rare. If one were to take the position that the pastoral epistles were written by anyone but Paul, a more likely scenario would involve the use of an amanuenses, or secretary. Paul is known to have used secretaries (Rom. 6:22; 1 Cor. 16:21; 2 Thes. 3:17; Phm. 19) and, given his present imprisonment, the writing of Second Timothy by use of a secretary is understandable. Further evidence suggests that Luke could have been the secretary in question as Second Timothy refers to him being present and the writings of Luke and Acts are stylistically similar. If a secretary was utilized, it is likely that whoever it was had been given freedom to write the letter based upon Paul’s specific instruction in regard to content. Literature
Second Timothy, as a Pauline epistle, bears the traditional markings of a New Testament letter. Within the opening verses, Paul’s standard salutation of “grace” and “peace” is noted alongside the naming of the sender and addressee. Paul then transitions into a statement of thanksgiving for Timothy and his sincerity in faith, calling to mind the faith demonstrated and passed down by his mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:3-5). Paul goes on to call Timothy to exhibit courage and be willing to partake in suffering, just as he himself was enduring (vv. -12). In chapter two Paul equates Christian service to that of a teacher (2 Tim. 2:1-2), soldier (vv. 3-4), athlete (v. 5), and farmer (v. 6), each comparing the Christian life with a depth of dedication to their trade. Reading on, Paul summarizes the Gospel message, his purpose of suffering and the promise of a future reward (vv. 8-13). The text between verses 2:14 and 3:9 tackles the continuing issue of false teaching and the proper response Timothy should have toward those who seek to spread falsehoods.
Going into chapter three Paul paints a grim picture of humanity’s condition in the last days which are riddled with complete moral bankruptcy. Contained within the latter half of chapter three, and the focus pericope of 2 Timothy 3:10-17, Paul highlights the need for endurance against the harsh oppression and struggles Timothy will face as a believer and leader in the church. In verses ten through seventeen, as a response to these evil men, Paul gives Timothy two vital resources to help him defend against any kind of attack.
The first resource being Paul’s personal lifestyle example, and the second being the Word of God. Paul begins unpacking Timothy’s arsenal of resources by bringing into remembrance nine specific qualities that the young minister had observed in the life of the apostle, and that stand in contrast to the list in the preceding verses. Heading the list are teaching (doctrine) and conduct, both of which are at the root of the problems faced in Ephesus and as a result are “the most significant aspects of Paul’s ministry relative to Timothy’s historical situation. It is also important to note that the remainder of the list: purpose, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, persecutions and suffering, are an outflowing of these two and make up a complete package of Paul’s character. It is not with pride, but excessive humility, that Paul offers his life as an example to Timothy and wishes him to emulate it. By pursuing a godly lifestyle, Timothy will be able to stand against any assault on his character. Paul follows this by noting locations where he had received harsh treatment for proclaiming the Gospel.
The second, and arguably the most important, resource that Paul offers to Timothy was to remain firmly committed to the Word of God. Contained within the Scriptures is everything one needs to understand the will and heart of God, especially what is necessary for salvation. This, like the listing of Paul’s character, stands in stark contrast to the behavior of the false teachers and opponents to God’s Word. Guthrie puts it in these terms, “In contrast to the false teachers with their constant endeavor to advance to something new, Timothy may be satisfied with what he has already received. Timothy had received the one true message of Christ through teaching, study and experience. While those who proclaim false doctrine are willing to jump from one new idea to the next, Paul encourages Timothy to not waver from the firm foundation he already knows.
Paul has thoroughly worked up to the one message he desires for young Timothy, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. :14-15 [NASB]). Paul is letting Timothy know that it is for the Gospel he has suffered, it is for the Gospel that false teaching must be sternly dealt with and because of the Gospel a righteous lifestyle is vital. Pouring all into this final letter to his protege, Paul is stating that the heart of the Gospel is the reason for his existence, and Timothy should be willing to surrender all for the call placed on his life. Just as Paul gave two resources to combat the false teachers, he now gives Timothy two confidences to help bolster his faith.
The first is seen in verse fourteen as Paul encourages Timothy to persist in all matters of faith that he has become certain about, recalling all the instruction he has received since childhood as well as from him. It is from their teaching that Timothy was made aware of the Gospel and his love for God nurtured. The second source of confidence Paul refers to are the “sacred writings” (2 Tim. 3:15). In this context Paul is referring to all of the Hebrew Scriptures that Timothy had learned from as a child and the message of the Gospel.
Armed with knowledge of the Old Testament alongside the Gospel, Timothy will be able to fully defend faith. Paul further qualifies his preceding statement by proclaiming that “all Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). In this verse, the Scriptures “ascribe to themselves divine authorship,” and this is how Timothy can rest assured that what he has believed in is true. There is no room for human fallacy in the Word of God. Knowing this, Timothy can be confident in and draw boldness from the message he proclaims because it is not man’s words, but God’s.
The claim found in verse sixteen that all Scripture is profitable is substantially qualified because God is the author of it. Based on this fact, Paul proceeds to list the ways in which Scripture is profitable: teaching (doctrine), reproof, correction and training in righteousness. Based upon the context of the passage, Paul is explaining how Scripture serves as a blueprint for correction and growth in the life of a believer and for the church. Following in verse seventeen is the assurance that the one who adheres to Scripture will be “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). Theology
Paul’s letter to Timothy brings a message of encouragement that is applicable to all believers, this is especially true for anyone holding a ministerial office. His words to Timothy continue to ring true thousands of years after it was penned, followers of Christ should be willing and expecting to share in struggles and suffering on behalf of His name. The Christian life does not come without cost. If one is to be able to stand against persecutions, false teaching and a vile and unmoral society, he or she must be firmly rooted and steadfast in the knowledge and truth imparted by Scripture.
It was important for Timothy to have full assurance that the things he had “become convinced of” (2 Tim. 3:14) through teaching and Scripture were indeed factual and trustworthy. This is of no less importance for believers today. The Holy Scriptures are mankind’s primary source of understanding the will of God and the plan that He has for their lives. To know that the Scriptures are inspired by God affords Christians a strong confidence that they can set their lives on a course governed by It’s contents. Just as a tradesman utilizes a plumb line to ensure accuracy, the believer employs the God inspired Scriptures to perform the same purpose.
Paul is summarizing to Timothy here that if false teachings are to be corrected, if a righteous lifestyle is to be maintained and if one is to face and endure persecution, a perfect standard must be used. Only the Word of God can serve as a perfect standard because God Himself is perfect. Modern believers face the same challenges as Timothy did in his day. Methods and technology may have changed across the millennia, but humanity at its core is still vile and abominable. The perfect plumb line of Scripture is vital for every aspect of the believer’s life.