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The Final Words of a Great Apostle: An Introduction to II Timothy

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

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Introduction: Wisdom From the End of Life

Bonnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent many years working with those who were dying. During that time she found out from talking with them that there were at least 5 regrets that most of them talked about when looking back over their lives. She later put their thoughts into a book entitled: 'The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.' Here is what they said:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

"Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

The truth is that we can learn a lot from the dying because they tend to dwell more on the things in life that really matter. That is especially true of those who have spent many years on this earth before their death. We live in a culture that doesn't always respect the elderly. Our youth-obsessed age tends to forget that because these men and women have been on this earth many more years than we have, they just might have learned a thing or two along the way.

In the Epistle of II Timothy, we have both the wisdom of an older man and one who is about to die at the hands of the Romans. It wasn't much time after this letter that Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, was beheaded for preaching the Gospel of the Grace of God.

However, he wasn't expressing any regrets. Rather he was a man who had allowed himself to be used totally by the Lord Jesus Christ and had fought the good fight of faith. Further, like all of his life after he became a Christian, he spent it thinking about others, especially those to whom the Lord had entrusted him.

In this book we see a man settling accounts and getting his affairs in order. One of the things that Paul does is to write to his son in the faith, Timothy, and talk with him about how he should conduct his life and ministry when his spiritual father is no longer there to guide him. The great Apostle knew that life for Timothy would only become harder when he was gone and he wanted to prepare him for it.

In this Introduction to the book of II Timothy, I'd like to set the stage for all that Paul is about to tell his protégé. And by this we can begin to learn, not only what Paul wanted to say to Timothy before the Lord took him home to heaven, but also what we can learn today from the wisdom of this man of God who gave his entire life to the Gospel of the Grace of God.

Let us begin by giving the historical background behind this short epistle.

I. Background of II Timothy

Firstly, Scripture suggests that Paul was the man who lead young Timothy to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The new believer joined Paul when he was on his second missionary journey (A.D. 49-52), in the city of Lystra in Galatia (Acts 16:1-4).

Paul then took Timothy with him on his third missionary journey (A.D. 53-57), where they spent 3 years preaching and teaching in Ephesus and the surrounding areas. After a trip to Jerusalem for the Passover, Paul gets imprisoned in Rome for preaching the Gospel.

While in this imprisonment, Paul wrote what is known as the "prison epistles" of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Timothy was present with Paul in Rome when he wrote these letters.

After Paul's release, he and Timothy visited the churches around Ephesus and stayed there for some time. Paul then left for Macedonia while Timothy stayed on in Ephesus and continued to be a pastor/teacher there. Paul had hoped to return soon and wrote to Timothy, encouraging his friend in the ministry. Paul had also visited Crete and left Titus, the pastor/teacher there, with similar instructions. Later, Titus was asked to come to Nicopolis where Paul was wintering (Titus 3:12).

Unfortunately, after that Paul was imprisoned a second time. It was then that he wrote the 3 books that have come to be known as the 'pastoral epistles.' They are given that name because of their subject matter. which includes commands concerning church organization and pastoral responsibilities.

The 3 epistles, which include I and II Timothy, and Titus, were written after the end of the events covered in the book of Acts. This second imprisonment turns out to be Paul's last.

The event that lead to increased persecution of the church, and the death of Paul, as well as many of the other Christian leaders in the first century, was a fire that destroyed much of Rome. In 64 A.D. the fire broke out and burned 10 of the 14 city districts. The inferno lasted for seven days and six nights. It continued to flare occasionally for an additional 3 days.

The fire probably started accidentally in an oil warehouse, however, there were rumors going around that Nero had it lit himself so he could rebuild Rome according to his own liking.

So Nero looked around for someone else to blame. Two of the districts left untouched by the fire were populated heavily by Christians, so he used them as a scapegoat. They were accused of 'hating humanity' and the persecution began.

Roman historian and politician Tacitus wrote this concerning the ways that Christians were persecuted at this time:

"Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired."

It was to this same Nero that Paul had to appeal. The Apostle had little chance of getting out alive. And in II Timothy, he knew it. However, God wasn't finished with him yet. He was in a damp, dark dungeon of a prison but he could still write. And write he did! Thankfully, we can all benefit from it as much in this century as Timothy did in his.

With that in mind, let us look at the first chapter and see how Paul begins his letter to his young disciple.

II. Outline of II Timothy 1

If we had to give a major theme to the book of II Timothy, beginning with chapter 1, it would be commitment to the gospel and the teachings of God's Word. Paul himself remained faithful to these things his whole life and he expected Timothy to do the same.

Commitment can be defined as a dedication or obligation that binds an individual to a particular person, cause, or course of action.

When something is new and fresh it's easy to be sold out to it. But as the ups and downs of life come along and the excitement wears off that lead to the commitment in the first place, that which is important can be pushed aside. This can happen in all areas of life, whether marriage, a job, the church or anything else where one is required to dedicate himself.

The great Apostle wanted Timothy to remember from where he came, from whom he learned the exciting news of life through Christ, and to carry out the ministry to which he was called.

Paul begins his letter by asserting, in the first 2 verses, his authority as an Apostle. Even though he and Timothy had a close relationship, he needed to let his young friend know that this message that he's about to give him comes from God Himself. This establishes the fact that he must listen to it. And listening also applies to anyone else who may read this epistle. Paul begins:

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus. To Timothy, my beloved Son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." (1:1-2).

The true gospel promises that all those who are spiritually dead but embrace Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection on their behalf will be united to Christ and be given eternal life.

Paul urges Timothy to persevere in the faith that he originally had. The apostle knows Timothy well, fondly remembering his tears and his genuine faith that he had.

Indeed Paul knew that this faith was passed down to him through a godly heritage which he had received by observing the good examples given by the faith of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (3-6).

Paul further remembers the gift that Timothy had been given by God through the laying on of his hands and doesn't want his spiritual son to neglect it and the power that it gives him for ministry. The flames of his passion for using the gift might have gone out. However, Paul wants Timothy to rekindle them (6).

Timothy must have been a little shy, so Paul reminds him that God has not given a spirit of fear but of power, love and discipline. He did not want his son in the faith to be afraid of God's empowerment to perform his ministry. Further he didn't want him to fear those who would intimidate and cause him to stay in the background, not performing his spiritual duties (7).

Also, Paul implores Timothy, not only to be bold concerning his own ministry and gift, but that he shouldn't be ashamed of Paul either, though he is in prison. That is because he is a prisoner of the Lord and is there for the proclamation of the gospel. Here is how the Apostle puts it:

"So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our LORD or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.

This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day." (8-12).

Paul goes on to tell Timothy, in verses 13-14 that he wants him to guard the sound words which he has heard from Paul and guard, through the Holy Spirit, who dwells in each of us, the treasure which has been entrusted to him.

Paul was the source of the divine revelation given to Timothy and the rest of the church. The Apostle wanted Timothy not to waver from God's revealed Word. Though many may seek, even today, to change and eliminate it, we should be cautioned not to allow anyone to do it, or to speak lies on behalf of God. We are the guardians of the truth of the Word of God today.

The last 4 verses of chapter 1, (15-18), give examples of those who deserted the faith and one who remained committed. Paul tells his son in the faith that all of those in Asia abandoned him when he was imprisoned.

The two people that are given as examples of what not to do are Phygelus and Hermogenes. Sadly, the only thing known about these two people in Scripture is the fact that they turned away from Paul in his hour of greatest need. Apparently, they at one time, showed promise as leaders and were chosen by Paul. However, probably out of fear of persecution themselves, they left him to go it alone (15).

You know your true friends when they stick by you when you are going through the storm. But probably all of us know some fair weather companions that only come around when all is going well. These are not the types of people we need to cultivate. Sadly, most of the time we can only find out a person's true nature when the bad situations actually happen to us.

One of those persons who stuck with Paul through the hurricane of prison that he was going through was Onesiphorus. He wasn't ashamed of his association with the Apostle but actually sought Paul out when he was in chains.

Onesiphorus, at great risk to himself, found the Apostle in prison and "refreshed" him. Paul prayed that the Lord would grant him mercy on the day when Christ returns. The Apostle didn't elaborate what his friend actually did but apparently Timothy was well aware of how Onesiphorus had helped him, as can be seen in verse 18.

With this commendation of a good and committed companion, chapter one ends. We will go on in further studies to find out more of the final words of the Apostle Paul to his friend and fellow-warrior for the gospel, Timothy. But for now let us wrap this chapter up by seeing how it can apply to us today.

Conclusion

It was William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, who said this about his successful ministry:

I will tell you the secret: God has had all that there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I, even with greater opportunities, but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart and caught a vision of what Jesus Christ could do with me and them, on that day I made up my mind that God should have all of William Booth there was. And if there is anything of power in the Salvation Army, it is because God has had all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life.

That, in a nutshell is what II Timothy 1 is all about: Total Commitment to the Lord. We need men and women who, like William Booth and like Paul the Apostle, commit themselves- body, soul and spirit- to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the furtherance of the Gospel of Grace to a world that truly needs it.

Sadly, there are too many people like Phygelus and Hermogenes and not enough like Onesiphorus in the Church of Jesus Christ today. In this day of trouble, may we not abandon our faith, or those to whom the Lord has committed us. Rather let us seek out the people that need Christ and need our help in times of trouble.

Then we, like Paul, can stand up and boldly say at the end of our lives:

"I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day."

May God make that sentence true for each and every one of our lives. Amen!

© 2020 Jeff Shirley