After writing his first letter to Timothy, Paul left Corinth and set sail with Titus for Crete. He then left Titus in Crete to set the church in order. (See Titus 1:5) On his return to the mainland, he wrote a letter to Titus, with plans indicating that Paul intended to spend the winter in Nicapolis. (See Titus 3:12) While there, he visited Troas where he was arrested in the house of Carpus and was hurriedly taken to Rome. His arrest was so sudden that he had no time to gather his precious books, parchments, or even his cloak to wrap himself. (See 2 Timothy 4:13) This was the beginning of Paul’s second imprisonment, yet it was different from his first experience of imprisonment. It is clear that in his first imprisonment, he had his own hired help and a full household, yet now he is kept in close confinement. Before, he had been accessible to all of the church and society, yet now he could only be found with difficulty and at great risk, as we see in the case of Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1:16-17. The first time he had been also very near the center of a large circle of friends, yet now he is almost alone, kept isolated and in conditions that cause him to suffer. (See 2 Timothy 4:10-12) In his first imprisonment he had hoped for a speedy liberation, yet now he was expecting to die. (See 2 Timothy 4:6-8)
Let us also look at Paul’s object in writing this letter. Paul had appeared before Nero once, but his case had been adjourned, so now he expected to appear before Nero during the winter season. (2 Timothy 4:16-17) He wrote urging Timothy, who had been liberated from prison to come at once with Mark and bring his cloak, books, and parchments, that had been left at Troas in the house of Corpus. Uncertain as to whether Timothy would arrive in time (we think he did not, for the trial and death of Paul most likely took place in June), he wrote this letter giving him a last warning as to the coming heresies and heretics, and sought to encourage him to greater zeal, courage and steadfastness.
Next, we should consider how this epistle is unique in many ways, apart from the fact that it is the last letter written by Paul. It expresses an extremely personal character, in which references are made of twenty-three different individuals. The style is also strongly emotional, calling the past vividly to remembrance and expressing some anxious thoughts for the future. We can almost hear the heartbeat of the apostle who, despite his own extenuating circumstances and impending death, emulated his beloved Lord in thinking of others and forgetting himself. It is also the only epistle that gives us the names of Timothy’s relatives, and the opponents of Moses. (See 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:8)
Now let us look at the text itself. In spirit, let us visualize two men in a dimly lit dungeon of a Roman prison: Paul and Luke, the beloved physician. Paul is dictating while Luke is writing. In his words we detect the out-breathing of a sensitive yet sustained soul, being inspired and supported by the Holy Spirit. We can almost see the tears in the apostle’s tired eyes. In his great physical weakness, he appears strong with the power of Christ undergirding him. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 he claims, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Though surrounded by agonizing distress and bitter disappointment, one can sense the indwelling and outshining of the peace of God. Paul had previously said, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) In short, it was evident that the indefinable, yet real sense of the presence of Christ turned Paul’s chamber of death into the palace of Christ.
2 Timothy 1:1-2 contains the usual apostolic salutation of Paul as “an apostle of Christ Jesus.” Then in 2 Timothy 1:3-4, note the intense spiritual ties that bind these two men together. Paul mentions recalling Timothy’s “tears” and expresses longing to see him. This conveys years of homesick yearning for seeing his beloved friend and greatly desiring fellowship with him. Paul also prays for Timothy night and day without ceasing. (See 2 Timothy 1:3) He then expresses his joy at remembering Timothy’s sincere and unqualified faith. It is clear that this sincere and unqualified faith first lived in Timothy’s grandmother and mother and had been passed on to Timothy. (See 2 Timothy 1:5) It is also clear that they must have expressed their faith through their lives, teaching Timothy from the Word, and this godly example and teaching resulted in Timothy believing and exhibiting identical faith. Paul then goes onto exhort his dear friend, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Timothy 1:6) Here Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit who has been bestowed on Timothy. Look at Acts 9:6, where Paul is in Ephesus and lays hands on a group of disciples, the Holy Spirit coming upon them. Paul is reminding a rather timid and sensitive Timothy to stir up that gift that he has received and use the Spirit in all His fullness and power. This should be a valid reminder to us and to all believers in every age. As Paul says, “God has not given us the spirit of timidity,” but of courage and fearlessness. The Spirit is powerful, and grants us the power to cope with every soul-searching sorrow and crippling disappointment. It helps us to pass a breaking point and yet not break. Paul also claims that He gives us the spirit of love, which is the power to love the unlovable. Lastly, Paul encourages Timothy that God has given us the spirit of a sound mind, self-discipline, and control of one’s self in the face of panic or passion. This helps us to have a well-balanced mind. In summary, 2 Timothy as an epistle helps us to see how Paul might have encouraged his fellow ministry worker and beloved friend, but it also gives every believer encouragement to know that when a believer becomes the true servant of Christ and master of himself, the Lord can use him mightily!