What makes 2 Timothy special?
This second letter to Timothy is more personal than the first one. Timothy is like a “dear child” to Paul, who always remembers Timothy in his prayers (1.2-3). Timothy’s mother and grandmother are mentioned by name in this letter, and Timothy is reminded how Paul placed his hands on him as a special sign that the Spirit was guiding Timothy’s work.
Why was 2 Timothy written?
The situation of the early Christian church changed throughout the first century A.D. Eventually, the leaders of the church were in danger of being put in jail or punished by the Roman authorities. And within the church, people were coming up with new ideas that did not fit with the original message of the good news about Jesus’ death on the cross and his being raised from death. The writer tells Timothy to be a “good soldier” of Christ Jesus and to learn to endure suffering (2.1,3). Some who claim to be followers of the Lord are already trapped by the devil, so the writer warns Timothy to run from those temptations that often catch young people (2.20-26; 3.1-9). He tells Timothy to keep preaching God’s message, even if it is not the popular thing to do (4.2), and to be patient with the people in his care (4.3-5).
What’s the story behind the scene?
In this letter, Paul is pictured as being in jail as he writes to Timothy (1.8,16,17), and as someone who expects to be put to death soon (4.6). Timothy was like a son to Paul (1 Tim 1.2), because they had traveled and worked closely together (Rom 16.21; 1 Cor 16.10; Phil 2.19; Acts 16.1-3).
Like 1 Timothy, this letter may have been written toward the end of Paul’s life, or it may have been written in his name by one of his followers perhaps as much as a generation or two after Paul’s death. To write something in another person’s name was not dishonest or unusual in the first century, but was considered to be a way of honoring that person and his work.
How is 2 Timothy constructed?
The letter can be outlined in the following way:
- Encouragement and warnings for Timothy (1.1—2.26)
- Courage and faithfulness to the end (3.1—4.8)
- Final instructions and greetings (4.9-22)
Encouragement and Warnings for Timothy
Paul claims to be an apostle of Christ and warmly greets Timothy who has been like Paul’s own child. Paul reminds Timothy of how he came to be a follower of Christ and encourages him to join Paul in continuing to “speak for our Lord” no matter what happens. As a good follower of Christ Jesus, Timothy is instructed to teach the Lord’s followers what Paul has taught him, and to stay away from worthless talk and temptations that capture young people.
Courage and Faithfulness to the End
Paul warns Timothy that some of Christ’s followers will be fooled by evil teachers who will be disobedient, sneaky, and reckless. In the end their foolishness will be overcome by God’s truth. Timothy is encouraged to be faithful to what he has been taught. This teaching includes an understanding of the Holy Scriptures, which are useful for teaching people and for showing them how to live. Since the followers of Christ will be tempted to turn from the truth, they need to remain faithful and to be willing to endure suffering.
Final Instructions and Greetings
Paul asks Timothy to come visit him in prison. He also makes some remarks and passes on instructions about a number of people that Timothy would know. The letter ends with a series of greetings.
Questions about 2 Timothy
1. What three things does God’s Spirit give? (1.7) Why would these things be important to a young leader of the church like Timothy? How are they important for Christians living today?
2. In 2.3-7, three types of people are de-scribed as hard workers. What qualities did these different workers have that the author wants Timothy to imitate? Which type of worker do you think best depicts the life of a Christian? Why?
3. Read the advice given to Timothy in 2.22-26. Why is this advice important to someone who is a leader in the church? In your opinion, what difficult temptations do Christians face today? Where do you find strength to face temptations?
4. In 3.1-5, the author gives Timothy a brief description of how difficult the “last days” will be. What does the author say people will be like at that time? How are the behavior and thoughts of the “people” described here different from the kinds of behavior and thoughts Christians are to practice?
Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for nearly 200 years.
Help us share God's Word where needed most.
Sign up to receive regular email updates from the Bible Resource Center.