The contents of the Second Epistle to Timothy show that the Apostle’s circumstances had undergone a change for the worse since his first imprisonment. We do not definitely know what led to his arrest this time. We gather from the Epistle that during his liberty he had visited Troas, Corinth, and Miletus (4. 13, 20). Possibly he had attempted to visit Spain (Rom. 15. 24), but there is no evidence of his actually having done so. In all probability he had visited other towns in Western Asia besides Troas, and if so he would not have failed to go and see Philemon, as he had hoped that through his prayers he would be able to do so (Philm. 22). He also may be regarded as having visited Philippi, the church to which he had written expressing a confident expectation of being with them again. From the Epistle to Titus it would seem that he had spent a time with him in Crete. He may have gone direct from there to Achaia, and, having spent a time in Corinth, come eventually to Nicopolis in the Province of Epirus, for he tells Titus that he had determined to winter there (Tit. 3. 12). Probably here he was arrested, and from thence brought to Rome under a charge, not now of acting contrary to Jewish Law, but the more serious charge of political intrigue against the Imperial interests, with perhaps the additional accusation of having taken part in a conflagration in Rome.
It would seem that now he was no longer dwelling in his own hired house, but was actually in prison. The approaching crisis of his execution casts its shadow over this Epistle, his last–at least of those recorded in the New Testament. He was already being poured out as a drink-offering, and the time of his departure had come (4. 6). The letter was probably written in the year 67 A.D., and from his desire for Timothy to come to him before the winter (4. 21) we may conclude that it was written in the summer of that year. His faithful medical friend Luke was the only one with him of those who had been his travelling companions.
The circumstances intimated in this Epistle were, from the human point of view, gloomy in the extreme. Not only had his erstwhile associates in the Province of Asia turned away from him, but the faith of some was being overthrown by vigorous opponents of the truth (1. 15). Faithless Demas had become worldly. The prospects of the future too were far from encouraging. Grievous times were ahead. There would come a day when men would have a mere form of godliness, having denied the power thereof (3. 1,5); evil men and imposters would wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (3. 13); and as for himself the executioner’s sword was already bending over him.
Yet, amidst it all, there is through the Epistle a note not only of calmness and confidence but even of triumph, with which he is able to encourage his younger fellow-missionary and strengthen his faith. His feelings of assurance are not worked up in order to prevent Timothy from sinking in despair. The presence and power and love of the Lord, whom he delighted to serve, were all too real for that. He is not a mere Stoic, facing his dismal surroundings and prospects with grim determination and heroic fortitude. It is the Lord’s presence and deliverances and the force of his own example that he brings to bear upon the heart of Timothy, to enable him to meet the tremendous difficulties with which he was faced, and to continue in a spirit of steadfast endurance.
These circumstances are designed of God to have a very definite bearing upon those which we are experiencing in these troublous and perilous times. The Lord who manifested His presence and ministered His sustaining grace and comfort to His tried servants in those early days, is “just the same today.” May it be ours so to live that we may glorify Him by our steadfastness and faithfulness and rejoicing heart, no matter how great the trial, and how serious the difficulties.
Verse 1. Paul an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, – the last phrase was not used in the first Epistle, but is found in 1 and 2 Cor., Eph. and Col. How God’s will was made known concerning the Apostle in the first instances is recorded in Acts 9. 15, and detailed by the Apostle himself in Gal. 1. 1, 12. Cp. Rom. 1. 5. The consciousness of his dependence upon the Lord in virtue of his calling was a means of strengthening him in his ministry. He who is assured that the work in which he engages is God’s will for him will find therein a means of steadfast continuance, no matter how great the trials and difficulties he experiences. When the will of God is the foundation of our activities, it acts as a counteractive power against all self-glorying and should render His glory the inspiring aim of our whole being and service. It will lead us to say with Paul, “Not I, but Christ.”
According to the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus, – in the first Epistle he said, “according to the commandment of our Saviour and Christ Jesus our hope.” That is to say, according to the fulfilment-of the Divine counsel that life, which is in Christ Jesus, should be our portion. The special point here is not the promise of life, as proclaimed in the gospel, but life as ministered and enjoyed in the experience of the believer.
For the significance of the order “Christ Jesus” see on 1 Tim. 1. 1
Verse 2. to Timothy, my beloved child: – in the first Epistle he calls him “my true child” (1. 2). The change is indicative perhaps of the increased note of tenderness which characterizes this second Epistle.
Grace, mercy, peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. – exactly as in the salutation in the first Epistle, where see Notes.
Verse 3. I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers in a pure conscience, – the Apostle had always done this when he was an opponent of Christ. We may gather from his words that he had an ancestry of those who feared God; cp. Acts 22. 3; 24. 14. The verb rendered “serve" is latreuo, which primarily meant to work for hire, but was used to signify “to worship," as in Luke 2. 27, R.V., and Heb. 9. 9, R.V., but more frequently “to serve" as here.
how unceasing is my remembrance of thee in my supplications, – the word rendered “unceasing" is used only elsewhere in Rom. 9. 2 and is so rendered there in the R.V. There it is used of incessant heart-pain. The idea in both passages is not that of unbroken continuity, but without the omission of any occasion. For the corresponding adjective see Rom. 1.9; 1 Thess. 1.3; 2. 13; 5. 17. Literally, the phrase is ‘how unceasing is the remembrance which I make concerning you.’ Such phrases were frequently used in letters among the Greeks in the period covering the N.T. The Apostle lifts it out of the realm of common parlance and imparts to it a fervent Christian significance.
The word deesis primarily means a need, and denotes fervent entreaty. It is always addressed to God in the N.T. and is always suitably rendered “supplication” or “supplications" in the R.V.
night and day (Verse 4) longing to see thee, – it is possible to take the phrase “night and day” with “supplications," as in the A.V. Cp. 1 Thess. 3. 10. The R.V. takes it with the following clause. It may be taken both ways. For if the Apostle made his desire the subject of his prayers night and day, it involved the night and day longing of his heart. Our earnest desires should always be turned into prayer to God. If our motives in prayer are purely the Lord’s glory, our constant supplication for the same object does not constitute a vain repetition. See what the Lord says in the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18. 1-7).
remembering thy tears, – Timothy’s grief at parting from Paul had been great. The tears he then shed were constantly in the Apostle’s mind, and increased his longing to be with him again. Cp. Acts 20. 37. The fact of his tears lends no support to the idea that he was a weakling. That he was entrusted with the arduous responsibilities of pastoral work in Ephesus is evidence to the contrary.
that I may be filled with joy; – not to be connected with what follows, as the R.V. margin “joy in being reminded” suggests, but with “longing to see thee.”
Verse 5. having been reminded – lit., “having received a reminder”. Hupomnesis denotes, not a remembrance (A.V.), but a reminder, perhaps by a letter or special message.
of the unfeigned faith that is in thee; – Cp. 1. Tim. 1. 5. The word anupokritos, lit., “not hypocritical," is used elsewhere of love, e.g., Rom. 12. 9; 2 Cor. 6. 6; 1 Pet. 1. 22, and of the wisdom that is from above, Jas. 3. 17.
which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and, I am persuaded, in thee also. – we may gather that both these godly women, probably mother and daughter, had carefully instructed Timothy in the Scriptures. For Eunice, see Acts 16. 1. In the last clause the Apostle is perhaps referring to Timothy’s early years as a young convert.
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