Theme: Paul’s Last Letter to Timothy
In this week’s lessons, we look at three important charges Paul gives to Timothy.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
As we begin our study in 2 Timothy, we can say that this book has a lot in common with the one before it, and yet there are differences. All of the similarities are on the surface, as it were. Paul wrote both of them to Timothy, with the aim to instruct Timothy in the way he should proceed with his many responsibilities after Paul is gone. I pointed out as we were finishing the last chapter of 1 Timothy that there is a carryover to 2 Timothy in the idea that Timothy is to guard what has been entrusted to his care (1 Tim. 6:20 and 2 Tim. 1:14). In these areas there is an obvious similarity between the two books.
Yet there is this great difference. When Paul wrote 2 Timothy he was in prison for the very last time. He had no hope of a deliverance and therefore he writes with the urgency of a man about to appear before God. What people say on their deathbeds is important. If they have lived dissolute lives they’re likely to say something that corresponds with the lifestyle they’ve lived. Likewise, for those who have lived devout lives, they are inclined to say something that matches how they have lived. As Paul writes to Timothy, he writes with urgency and with what is very evidently a sense of concern that comes from his deep devotion to God. He was leaving Timothy behind. Timothy was a younger man and now he would have even heavier responsibilities than he did before. That is why Paul is encouraging Timothy to discharge the work of the ministry and to be strong, steadfast, and on guard.
Up to this point, even while Paul was in prison, Timothy knew that if he had any questions he could write to Paul and ask for advice on how to deal with a given situation. Now Paul was about to be offered up. He was about to give his life as a martyr for the faith and Timothy was going to be left behind. Knowing that Paul’s departure from this world is at hand makes this situation a poignant one, and Timothy is no doubt well aware of the increased responsibilities that will come upon him, and without Paul’s wisdom and experience to draw on. Paul wants to tell him to stand firm, guard the gospel and be strong.
John Stott wrote a book on 2 Timothy and he talks about the need for young men like Timothy in our own day. Stott is really writing to a new generation of young Timothys who will also guard the sacred deposit of the gospel, those who are determined to proclaim it, suffer for it, and who will pass it on pure and uncorrupted to the generation that will follow them. This need that Paul saw in his own day, and that John Stott saw in his day, is the need in every single generation of the church. It is the need for those who by the grace of God rise up to guard the gospel, carry it, and pass it on to those who follow them. Now that’s what we want to do as well, and so as we read and study this book together we can apply it in a very personal way.
As I read this first chapter of 2 Timothy, I see Paul giving Timothy three charges. First of all, he tells him in verse 6 to fan into flame the gift that God has given him. Secondly, in verse 8 he tells Timothy not to be ashamed to testify about our Lord. Then thirdly, in verse 14, Paul tells Timothy to guard the good deposit, that is, the gospel, that was entrusted to him.
When Paul tells him to fan into flame the gift of God which was given to him, let me confess at the beginning that I don’t know what this gift of God was, since Paul doesn’t mention it. Commentators speculate over what it may be. I suppose with some justification, they think since it was given through the ordination of this young man and the laying on of hands at that time, an ordination of which Paul himself took part, it might have been some special gift for the Christian ministry, such as proclamation, evangelism, shepherding the flock, or some such thing. Probably it was one of those, but we’re not told specifically. All it says is that Timothy was given a gift. Perhaps we are not told what the gift was because God wanted to teach us that he has given a gift to each one of us, and it is our responsibility to fan that gift into flame.
What characterizes Paul’s second letter to Timothy?
List the three charges Paul gives to Timothy.
Why might it be that we are not told what Timothy’s gift was?
Key Point: It is the need for those who by the grace of God rise up to guard the gospel, carry it, and pass it on to those who follow them.