Thoughts on 2 Timothy: Chapter 1

I know I’m long overdue for an update and I plan to give one soon. But I wanted to share some thoughts from my personal Bible study for today.

In my Spiritual Formation class today we talked about the divine inspiration of the Bible. A seminal passage for this doctrine is 2 Timothy 3:16,17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Dr. Gombis talked about the phrase “inspired by God” literally meaning “God-breathed,” produced by His creative breath; His very Word. This is the same terminology used in Genesis 2:7 to describe God breathing His life into man, and in Psalm 33:6, which says, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, / And by the breath of His mouth all their host.” This is a powerful image. The very same breath of God which created the spark of life in you and me also breathed life into the Scriptures.

Paul has a lot to say in 2 Timothy about the gospel. What is the gospel? Paul describes it three ways: “the testimony of our Lord” (1:8), “the standard of sound words” (1:13), and “the treasure which has been entrusted to you [Timothy]” (1:14). Each description comes with an instruction: “do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel” (1:8), “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me” (1:13), and “Guard… the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (1:14). Paul takes the gospel very seriously and expects Timothy to do the same.

The gospel is the testimony of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through which He “brought life and immortality to light” (1:10). For this gospel, Paul was appointed “a preacher and an apostle and a teacher” (1:11); and for this gospel Paul is suffering (1:8,12,15). He calls Timothy (and by application, us) to do the same. Paul draws a sharp contrast with this instruction: “do not be ashamed… but join with me in suffering” (1:8, emphasis mine). He makes this contrast again, speaking of himself, in verse 12: “For this reason [the gospel] I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed” (emphasis mine). And later in the chapter he talks about two different reactions to the gospel and Paul’s suffering for it: those who “turned away” (1:15), and Onesiphorus, who “was not ashamed of [Paul’s] chains” (1:16). Paul seems to be drawing a picture that suffering for the gospel and being ashamed of the gospel are mutually exclusive: they are polar opposites. Later in 2 Timothy, Paul says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (3:12). We believe an unpopular message and we have to choose either to be ashamed of it and turn away or to suffer for it when the time comes.

Paul’s other instructions regarding the gospel show how it is to be treated. He instructs Timothy to retain it and to guard it. Retain, according to the dictionary, means to keep possession of, to continue to use or practice, and to keep in mind or remember. The gospel is the standard for how a man (or woman) of God is to live. But he must keep it in mind, or as Paul says in 1 Timothy he must be “constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine” (4:6). To guard speaks of protecting and watching over something and it also involves holding something close. Protection works in two ways. To protect something, you must keep outside influences from damaging it, but you must also not allow it to slip away. In applying this to the gospel, the man of God must not allow the gospel to be tainted or warped, but he must also keep it in mind so that he will not forget it. Paul is describing the gospel as a precious gift that has been entrusted to Timothy and that he must diligently guard “through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us” (2 Timothy 1:14). We as men and women of God are to do the same.

A final thought: In chapter 1, Paul gives five instructions, or four instructions and a reminder. The four instructions I have already mentioned. The reminder is in verse 6, where Paul says, “I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” What is this “gift of God” which is in Timothy? It could be a host of things, and the emphasis seems to be that Timothy is to approach his ministry with renewed intensity as Paul is passing him the baton. I think that part of this “gift” is the gospel, because 1) each of the other four instructions refer to the gospel, and 2) Paul spends a great deal of time in both letters to Timothy establishing the importance of being “absorbed” (1 Timothy 4:15) in the word of God. Kindle, being an analogy related to fire, evokes the idea of passion. Paul is instructing his protégé to renew his passion for the gospel so that he will be able to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (4:2). This is what I pray for myself. God has placed a new passion in me for His Word this semester, and I pray that I will continually renew that passion for the rest of my life, so that I might be “a good servant of Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 4:6).

*All Scripture quotations come from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.