2 Timothy 1:3-14


Scholars are agreed that 1 Timothy was written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. Paul was released and went back to Asia Minor. But things heated up again and Paul was imprisoned for the second time in Rome. It is agreed that 2 Timothy was written during this second imprisonment, shortly before Paul’s death. Only Luke was with him, 4:11, and Paul yearns to see Timothy, 4:9. We agree with those who conjecture that Paul had been accused of espousing an illegal religion and therefore was facing death.

2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.

Kretzmann: Without further introduction the apostle broaches the matter that is filling his mind. His heart is full to overflowing, and the thoughts gush forth in the eager effort to find expression. . . . This is a true Pauline beginning of a letter, for he always finds reason for thankfulness toward God, no matter how discouraging the circumstance with which he may be battling.

For what does Paul thank God? Nothing specific is mentioned. Very likely Paul is saying that he is thankful for everything mentioned in verses 3-5.

"Service" denotes religious service, a service which is by faith.

Kretzmann: The faith and hope of the believers of the Old Testament is identical with that of the Christians in the new Testament.
Lenski: The true God he learned to know from his fore bearers.
Bengel: There was a long continuance in the true religion from an earlier age of mankind, whether Paul’s ancestors were themselves godly, which is highly probable, or not.
Guthrie: The words ‘from my forefathers’ must be understood to mean that Paul thought of Judaism in such close connection with Christianity that his present worship of God is in a sense a continuation of his own Jewish worship.

Paul is conscious of no known or deliberate sin on his own part.

Kretzmann: His worship of God had been performed with a pure conscience, foolish as it was in view of the fact that the Messiah had already appeared; Paul offers this as an explanation,not as an excuse.
Lenski: Acts 24:14-16 is the true parallel to our passage. Neither in Acts 24 nor in our passage does Paul say that from childhood on he has served God ‘in clean conscience,’

It is not a denial of the sins mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:13.

Lenski: We may think of the long lonely nights and days spent in the dungeon.

2 Timothy 1:4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.

Paul was lonesome for Timothy who was in Ephesus. Whether or not this refers to Acts 20:37 is debated. It denotes the strong affection of Timothy and his dependence on Paul.

Bengel: He seems not merely to speak of Timothy’s former tears at bidding Paul farewell, Acts 20:27, but of his pious tenderness of feeling.

AAT renders the last part of the verse: "And so to be perfectly happy." Paul and Timothy loved each other dearly.

2 Timothy 1:5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

Rienecker-Rogers: The phrase ‘having received a reminder’ may suggest that Paul had just had news of Timothy.
Bengel: Some outward occasion, or message from Timothy, h ad reminded Paul of his faith.
Lock: This implies that he had lately heard news about Timothy.

Note that Paul mentions faith before he mentions Timothy’s other virtues.

Guthrie: The use of the word ‘first’ in this context has been supposed to indicate that Lois was a devout Jewess and was the first to inculcate religious faith in Timothy; in other words he had been subject to religious influences as far back as he could remember. Yet if Christian faith is intended, "first" may mean that Lois was the first to become a Christian, followed by Eunice and her son.
Lenski: Timothy’s grandmother and mother were true Israelites; from them Timothy inherited the true faith of Israel, which 3:14-17 corroborates. What faith in the true god means, Paul did not learn until his conversion; Timothy had learned it in the true Old Testament way.

Paul was very confident about Timothy’s faith, the most important asset for a Christian.

2 Timothy 1:6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

"For which reason" likely points back to verses 3-5 in their entirety. Paul appeals to what Timothy became and also to their close relationship in Christ.

Rienecker: Paul’s statement does not necessarily contain a censure. "to kindle afresh" seems to imply that Timothy was somewhat remiss in his attitude and duty. The other versions apparently do not imply criticism. Perhaps the fact that the infinitive is in the present tense indicates that Paul is merely saying that Timothy should continue to do as he has been doing. But we ought not rule out the possibility that Timothy needed criticism because verse 7 might imply that Timothy was timid by nature.

On the "laying on of hands" read 1 Timothy 4:14.

Kretzmann: Timothy was to rekindle the gift of grace imparted to him. The fire of faith, of love, of confidence, of courage to open his mouth in joyful proclamation of the counsel of God was still in him, but he was in danger of neglecting it;hence the admonition to rekindle it, lest the work of the Lord suffer in consequence.

No commentators suggest that "gifts" here means "charismatic gift" in the modern sense. The laying on of hands simply denotes the time of ordination. No one suggests that it was a means of grace. Nor does Scripture anywhere command that it be continued in the New Testament Church.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

This verse explains verse 6. "Us" is of course, Paul and Timothy, but It includes all Christians.

"Spirit" here means something like "attitude" or "virtue." It does not mean "Holy Spirit."

"Power" immediately reminds us of Romans 1:16 where Paul calls the Gospel the power of God unto salvation. It is not His omnipotence but His gracious power. Lenski defines "Love" as "the love of full understanding coupled with mighty corresponding purpose, the supreme fruit of faith., called 'the greatest things in the world'." The commentators remind us that love drive out fear, 1 John 4:18. That is well said in this context which speaks of the "spirit of cowardliness."

"Self-discipline" is the power to keep one's self in hand, free from all excitement or hesitation.

Kretzmann: That enables the Christian pastor to use sound commons sense under all circumstances, to employ that tact and diplomacy which chooses the best methods in all situations and thus gains friends for the Gospel.
Bengel: Power is opposed to fear. Divine power in us, not our own, is intended. All these operate in us, and animate us to our duties toward God, the saints, and ourselves. These gifts are preferable to any miraculous powers.
Lenski: The trio is completed with 'self-discipline.' This is the exercise of a sane, balanced mind . . . The word is found only here in the New Testament.

2 Timothy 1:8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God,

The verse starts with "therefore" in Greek, "in view of what has been said in verses 6-7." Timothy has no right to be timid. He should be forthright in his work.

"Not" means not to begin doing something which has not been done before. Therefore, when Paul says in this verse he is implying that Timothy has not been ashamed of the Gospel. Paul's words warn him not to become ashamed.

"To testify about our Lord" is another term for the Gospel.

Secondly, Timothy is told not be become ashamed of Paul, the Lord's prisoner. When people are in prison we have a tendency to be ashamed of them. But if Timothy had become ashamed of Paul, he would have become ashamed of the Gospel and of his Lord.

"His" prisoner, refers to the Lord. The Lord Himself, in His providence, had caused or permitted Paul to be imprisoned. The meaning of the latter part of the verse is "but share with me in suffering for the Gospel."

"In keeping with" reminds us of Jesus' words at John 15:5 "for apart from Me you can do nothing. Unless He helps us and blesses us we are totally helpless.

2 Timothy 1:9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life -- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

Guthrie: This verse and the next are considered by some scholars to be cited from a Christian hymn, but if so that language and thought are thoroughly Pauline, and it would be necessary to suppose that the apostle had himself adapted his own teaching to a suitable liturgical form.

Why not allow for Paul composing poetry as did David? If the idea of "poetry" here is used in the interest of form criticism, the idea that it is not Paul's composition under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, then this idea of poetry must be resisted. It undermines our confidence in the doctrine of inspiration.

Note that Titus 3:5 is noted as a parallel to this verse.

In Greek, verses 8-12 are one grand sentence. Verses 8, 11, and 12 are plainly prose. It would be a rare phenomenon indeed for a person to compose poetry within prose.

The antecedent of the subject in verse 9 is God. Verses 9-10 plainly show us how God displayed His power. Christ and the Gospel are our power.

Bengel thinks "saved" here refers to conversion. He cites Acts 2:47. But we think that more is meant by "saved" than that. Of course, it concludes conversion.

AAT translates "called us to be holy." Thus also Lenski who maintains that here "calls" denotes the holy profession as in 1 Corinthians 7:20; Ephesians 3:20. Most of the English versions translate: "Which calling is entirely from God, and claims us entirely for God." This is a good translation because the context calls for the powerful monergism of God. "Not according to our works" is a constant theme throughout Scripture and we hardly need comment on it. Our spiritual powers do not depend on our works.

The Formula of Concord, Tappert 557-35-36: We rightly reject the decree of the Council of Trent, (Session VI, canons 24.32) and anything else that tends toward the same opinion, that our good works preserve salvation, or that our works either entirely or in part sustain and preserve either the righteousness of faith that we have received or even faith itself . . . . It is safest to follow the advice of St. Paul to maintain the pattern of sound works as well as the true doctrine itself, 2 Timothy 1:13.

Look at Ephesians 1:11. God's purpose and grace are the sole cause of our salvation and conversion, as well as our preservation in the faith.

The Formula of Concord, Tappert 623,43: Thus far God has revealed the mystery of foreknowledge to us in his Word. If we stay with this and hold ourselves thereto, it is indeed a useful, salutary, and comforting doctrine, for it mightily substantiates the article that we are justified and saved without our works and merit, purely by grace and solely for Christ's sake. Before the creation of time, 'before the foundation of the world was laid,' Ephesians 1:4, before we even existed, before we were able to have done any good, God elected us to salvation 'according to his purpose' by grace in Christ, Romans 9:11; 2 Timothy 1:9.

The words "which was given to us in Christ Jesus" refer both to the purpose and the grace. Christ and Christ alone brought God's gracious purpose for me to fruition through Christ. Never think of election apart from Christ.

"Beginning of time." Paul mentions the present, created, era and its aeons and times. So complete is my salvation that it was completed, Revelation 13:8, before creation. I dare not depend on my works. I can rely entirely on my gracious Savior.

"Us" refers first of all to Paul and Timothy but by extension covers all Christians of all times in the history of the world, also Old Testament believers.

2 Timothy 1:10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

This verse tells us how our salvation was accomplished and how we came to know about it.

"Revealed" is found at the beginning of the verse, and "brought to light" toward the end. Also, we have "though" at the beginning at the end. This refers to God's grace. How did we learn about God's purpose and grace, given to us in Christ? Through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus. This appearing is far more than the incarnation. It includes everything He is and did and does for us from conception into all eternity.

"Death" includes all phases and kinds of death: physical, temporal, spiritual, eternal. Look at Hebrews 2:14.

Lenski: The Gospel shines in the Egyptian darkness of the world, drawing men from their death to life, from their death's corruption to life's incorruption . . . This life applies also to our bodies. Here we have the resurrection of the body, 1 Corinthians 15:53-57; Philippians 3:21. The 'life' itself assures also our blessed bodily resurrection . . . . The whole power of death is abolished.
Kretzmann: Death can no longer conquer us, who are in Christ Jesus. Instead of that, life and immortality are our lot through the work of our Savior . . . . Such is the blessed glory of the Gospel, as the apostle has briefly summarized it here for Timothy as well as for the Christians of all times.

Note the importance of the phrase "through the Gospel." Only the Gospel brings victory and life. If the Gospel is not clearly preached, there will be no forgiveness, no victory, no power, no life. Timothy was badly in need of it. So are we.

2 Timothy 1:11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.

"And" means "and for the purpose of preaching this Gospel."

Note Paul was appointed. It is passive. Paul did not call himself into his office. No pastor calls himself into his office. In fact, no Christian calls himself to be or become a Christian. Synergism, in all instances, is eliminated.

On this verse look at 1 Timothy 2:7 where we have almost the identical words.

Kretzmann: In bringing out his connection with the Gospel, the apostle now incidentally gives a reason why Timothy should not be ashamed of him . . . . Every word used by the apostle bring out a certain phase of his work. He is a herald, a proclaimer . . . He is an apostle; he belongs to the number of men who for all times were to be the teachers of the New Testament Church. And finally, Paul was a teacher, as all true ministers should be, his special field being that of the Gentiles.

The words "of the Gentiles" are translated only in the KJV and NKJV, of English versions.

2 Timothy 1:12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

"That is why" means "for which reason." Because God had placed Paul into his office as herald, apostle, and teacher, he had to suffer. For the Christian, personal suffering is sent by God Himself. That is such a difficult lesson to learn.

Paul means here his present sufferings, in addition to all those that have come before. "That is the reason for my present plight." That is why I suffer as I do." Paul is stating this for Timothy's sake and for all Christians in the New Testament who read these words. God sends each Christian special sufferings. He should not be ashamed.

Now follows "Yet." This introduces what we would not have expected.

"I am proud." Paul is encouraging Timothy to be cheerful, not despondent. Now Paul explains his confidence. "I have come to believe and still do." Paul knows Christ personally. "Therefore, I am persuaded, there's no doubting."

Paul has already shows us God's power, which was able to save and convert us. Now Paul speaks about a specific power of God, the preserving and guarding power.

Does the verse mean "what God has entrusted to me" or "what I have entrusted to Him"? Those who take the second option include as entrusted his teaching, his apostolic work, his converts, his life, his soul, the salvation of his soul, etc.

Does the verse mean "until that day" or "for that day." The difference is not great. In any case the Apostle Paul is maintaining the utmost of confidence in the Lord Jesus to bring him to ultimate victory and to preserve the work which Paul has done. Paul does not cry out in despair because of what faces him.

Guthrie: He is not ashamed of his bonds, even if others are.
Kretzmann: The enmity of the world had struck him; he had been subjected to misery, persecution, imprisonment. . . . He does not in any way look upon them as a disgrace. To suffer for the sake of Christ is not a dishonor, but an honor. . . . He does not rely upon his feelings, upon his own ideas and notions . . . . He has gained a conviction which is more certain than all asseverations of mere men . . . . The apostle has entrusted the salvation of his soul to the heavenly Father. John 10:28. . . . we are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, 1 Peter 1:5.

2 Timothy 1:13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.

"Pattern" occurs only here and in 1 Timothy 1:16. Rienecker defines thus:  "model, example."  The word denotes an outline sketch or ground plan used by an artist or in literature the rough draft forming the basis of a fuller exposition.

"Sound" means healthy. Look at 1 Timothy 1:10; 6:3; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9 and 13; 2:1-2 and 8. It is used frequently in the Pastoral Epistles.

Kretzmann: A simple adherence to the words of Scripture is the safest way to avoid most of the difficulties with which sectarians are always grappling.
Guthrie: Had all loyalty to sound words been tempered by these great Christians virtues, faith and love, the bitterness of much ecclesiastical disputation would have been impossible.
Lenski: The sense is evidently that Timothy is not only to cling to the substance of what Paul has taught him, but, when stating that substance, is also to use the very form of expression which he learned from Paul, not indeed slavishly, in parrot fashion, but using it as a safe model. . . . All these 'words' we today have as Timothy had them.

Unless we have a faith toward God and a love for man grounded only in Christ Jesus, the words cannot be healthy. Only God's Word, unadulterated by man, is healthy. All other words are unhealthy so far as salvation and Christian living are concerned.

2 Timothy 1:14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you -- guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

This verse is plainly an amplification of verse 13. "Good deposit" means "the sound words" mentioned in verse 13. "Good deposit" is translated "the treasure," "the truth that has been entrusted to you."

Sinful people cannot guard, keep and protect the God-given treasure on their own. Unless the Holy Spirit dwells in them, all is for naught. Christians, and especially Christian teachers and preachers, must ever by on their guard again synergism. Synergism leads to false teaching and false security.

"In us" does not limit this indwelling to Paul and Timothy but assures Timothy that even the great Apostle Paul needed the constant indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Guthrie: Any person without the aid of the Holy Spirit is attempting the impossible.
Kretzmann: This precious deposit of the pure truth must be guarded against all contamination. . . The precious blessing of evangelical truth can be kept safe only through the Holy Spirit.

As we confess in the explanation to the Third Article of our faith: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, etc."

All aspects of Christian living are impossible apart from the Holy Spirit.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Epistle Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1985, pp. 99-104. Used with permission.

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