Survey of 2 Timothy

Book Type: Pastoral Epistle, 16th book of the New Testament

Author: The apostle Paul, directly named in 2 Timothy 1:1.

Audience: Second Timothy is one of only four letters in the New Testament written by Paul to specific individuals. The others are 1 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Timothy is the only individual to receive two individual letters from Paul in the New Testament. Second Timothy is traditionally accepted as Paul's final New Testament letter, since it refers to his impending death.

Timothy was from Lystra, in modern-day Turkey. He had a Greek father and Jewish mother. Timothy's mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, were also believers (2 Timothy 1:5), and had raised him to know the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:15). He was converted to Christianity by Paul (1 Timothy 1:2). In Acts 16:1–5, we learn that the believers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy. Paul wanted to take Timothy along on his missionary journey, but Timothy was not circumcised. In order to smooth over his participation in these travels, Paul circumcised him, and they traveled together.

Timothy is also mentioned as being with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment (Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1:1, 22–25). In 1 Timothy, Paul wrote to Timothy in Ephesus, where he had left him to serve as leader among the house churches which existed by the mid-AD 60s. In 2 Timothy, Paul wanted Timothy to come to him, meaning leaving Ephesus and coming to Paul in Rome. It is unknown whether Timothy ever made this visit. However, Timothy also served at least some time in jail for his faith and was later released, though the timing of this event is uncertain (Hebrews 13:23).

Date: Approximately AD 65—67, just prior to Paul's death under the Roman emperor Nero. This letter was written sometime after Christians were blamed for the fires at Rome in the summer of AD 64. This was shortly before Nero's death in the spring of AD 68.

Overview: This four-chapter letter focuses on Paul's final words to Timothy, emphasizing the need to persevere in the faith. Timothy was to be faithful in his work (2 Timothy 1:6), continue in sound doctrine (2 Timothy 1:13–14), and preach the Word (2 Timothy 3:15—4:5). Then, he was to pass on what he had learned to others (2 Timothy 2:2).

Chapter 1 includes a greeting (2 Timothy 1:1–2) and encouragement to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:3–5). Paul longed to see him, reminding Timothy of his faith that began with his grandmother to his mother and then to him. Timothy was to serve as a "soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:3).

Chapter 2 focuses on the character of the person who serves Christ. Several characteristics are given, mostly through examples and symbols. These include the example of Paul (2 Timothy 2:1–2), a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3–4), an athlete (2 Timothy 2:5), a farmer (2 Timothy 2:6–7), Jesus (2 Timothy 2:8–13), a worker (2 Timothy 2:14–19), a vessel (2 Timothy 2:20–23), and a servant (2 Timothy 2:24–26).

Chapter 3 offers various cautions to Timothy. The first alert includes apostasy (2 Timothy 3:1–9), which Timothy is strongly warned against. The second caution relates to ways to defeat or overcome apostasy and false teaching (2 Timothy 3:10–17).

Chapter 4 develops the importance of preaching the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:1–5) and then offers concluding thoughts (2 Timothy 4:6–22). Paul speaks about his perspective on the end of his life (2 Timothy 4:6–7), his future with Christ (2 Timothy 4:8), and his friends in this world (2 Timothy 4:9–18). This is followed by closing words, asking for Timothy to come to him (2 Timothy 4:21).

Key Verses:

2 Timothy 1:7: "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

2 Timothy 2:15: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."

2 Timothy 3:16–17: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."

2 Timothy 4:2: "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching."

2 Timothy 4:7–8: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing."