Lessons II Timothy: Lesson 1 – Greetings and Encouragement and Lesson 2 – Paul, an Example for Timothy

In this issue THE OUTLOOK begins a new series of articles or lessons on II Timothy and Titus by Rev. Henry Vander Kam, pastor of Grace Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

This series, intended for church societies, study groups, and all others interested, promises to be both interesting and profitable. Rev. Vander Kam has the knack of presenting his material briefly and clearly, as those who have used his outlines in the past will well remember. Two lessons appear each month.

LESSON 1 Greetings and Encouragement II Timothy 1:1–7

The second epistle to Timothy was written under quite different conditions than those which obtained while Paul was writing his first letter to Timothy. Paul is now in his second, and final, imprisonment. This second imprisonment was much more severe than the first. During his first imprisonment he was able to communicate with friends, was able to preach the gospel, and was even allowed to live in his own rented house.

Now all is different. Empel’or Nero is harsh in his treatment of prisoners. Paul is fully aware of the fact that he is awaiting execution. Nero will show no mercy and his haired of the Christians will insure the death of the greatest of Apostles.

Paul‘s concern – This epistle is the last Paul ever wrote. Understandably, it is written to Timothy, his son and successor. It is brief—there is little time to write. What does he write about? Does he write about his own sorry state as a prisoner and seek to elicit the sympathy of Timothy? Not at all. He is a true Apostle of Jesus Christ and the service of His Lord is his only concern.

The church, His body, is therefore Paul’s concern. Dangerous times are coming for the church. He warns and counsels Timothy to arm the church with the truth of God. Sound doctrine alone will safeguard the church of Jesus Christ. That Paul is in prison and that death awaits him—these are matters which are under the control of his God. He is willing to die for his Savior. But, the church must be protected and strengthened!

Salutation – The salutation at the beginning of this letter is very similar to the one at the beginning of Paul’s first epistle to Timothy. This salutation makes it clear that this is not merely a personal letter, but that it is intended as revelation. It is a letter written by Apostolic authority.

Christ Jesus through the will of God. He has been called to a task. That calling gave him authority. Not because he is doing the work does he have office, but because his God has given him the calling to do it. Paul then speaks of the content of the message he was to bring. He is called to labor with and in the gospel which he here characterizes as the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus. That is the gospel! John has often so characterized it. It is that fulness of life now, and such a complete and full life as is still to come.

Only the gospel gives true and full life. As in the first epistle, so now too Paul declares the grace, mercy, and peace of God upon Timothy. His address to Timothy is even more endearing than in the former epistle. He calls him “my beloved child.”

Thanksgiving – Immediately Paul begins the letter proper. As he does so often, so here too he begins with thanksgiving. This is understandable in many of the other epistles, but, he is now writing from prison and is staring death in the face. Yet, there is room for thanksgiving!

Paul is not cast down in spirit. He docs not say specifically what he is thankful for, although the immediately following words seem to indicate that he is thankful for Timothy! He states that he has served God from his forefathers in a pure conscience. We know very little about Paul’s early life. Evidently he was the product of a Godfearing home.

Paul’s view of life and his beliefs were in agreement with the true faith in Israel from earliest times. It was not the faith in Jesus Christ, but the faith of Old Testament Israel. He served his God zealously and in a pure conscience. His conscience was clear when he imprisoned men and women who believed in Christ. He thought he was doing God service.

Prayers for Timothy – Paul remembers Timothy in his prayers day and night. The prayers of this Apostle did much for the success and growth of the early church. He has a strong desire to see Timothy again. Whether or not this is possible, the writer does not say, but he hopes Timothy will be able to come before winter (4:12). Such a visit would fill him with joy. It would also be very profitable for Timothy.

Paul remembers the tears his spiritual son shed when last they parted. But, if there were tears when they parted the last time, it might be even worse when he sees Paul in his present condition. Despite that emotional difFiculty, they ought to meet so that Paul may show him that there are more important things to consider than the death of this Apostle.

Timothy’s faith – Paul has been reminded of the true and healthy faith of Timothy. This is the all important thing. This is the faith which his grandmother professed, his mother embraced, and is also found in him. Although faith is not inherited, God nevertheless works covenantly—he works in families.

This is not the same faith of which Paul spoke in verse 3 in which he had served his God as his forefathers did. Paul’s early faith was without the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Timothy had been brought up in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. He had never experienced that radical conversion such as Paul had experienced on the way to Damascus. He would not be able to say when or where he had been converted. Some believe that this lack of conversion experience impoverishes. Paul doesn’t. It was a shame that Christ had to intervene violently in his life. He had been going in the wrong direction, which made this conversion experience necessary. Timothy, on the other hand, had served Jehovah from his youth! That is beautiful!

Instructions for Timothy – Hopefully Paul and Timothy will be able to meet, and when they do, there will be much personal profit for both. However, the Apostle is writing this epistle as the one who has been charged with all the needs of the church and as the vehicle of revelation. Their personal needs and desires are not to be foremost, but the affairs of the church will have the most prominent place on the agenda.

Nor can these affairs of the church wait until the two may meet again. Very gently, but also very firmly, Paul tells Timothy how he is to conduct himself. He has so many fine qualities! However, he also has various weaknesses. If these weaknesses are allowed to dom inate, the church will suffer. From the first epistle it is clear that Timothy labored under various difficulties. He is not another Paul! He is timid by nature, and the troubles and persecutions which are about to come upon the church will not be overcome by timidity. He is relatively young, and the enemies of the cross are veteran warriors. He has a weak physique, and the affairs of the church will demand day and night work in the times to come. How will he ever be able to do the work assigned to him, and then, with Paul no longer on the scene?

Paul now reminds Timothy that his strength is not to be sought in himself. Nor his strength to be sought in his mentor. Then he would have to conclude that Paul was indispensable. The Apostle has never had that exalted view of his own importance. Christ, who is on the throne and ruling all the affairs of men, has decided to remove Paul from this earthly scene. He does all things well. Paul not only submits to this divine ruling, he is agreeable to it! Timothy may not go contrary to the divine will. Surely, there have been tears, and that is understandable. But, this may not continue! There is work to be done and the church is much more important than anyone person!

Gently and finnly Paul tells Timothy that he must stir up the gift of God which is in him. He has the true faith, handed down from grandmother and mother. Paul has laid his hands on him to symbolize the reception of the Holy Spirit and office. The gift of God is therefore present. He must not act as though he has not received it. Nor may he neglect that gift. He has a responsibility towards it. That gift was given him for a purpose—to feed and tend the church of Jesus Christ. Come on now! Stir up that gift! It must be fanned into a brightly burning flame! Dont dwell constantly on the sadness of the circumstances and your own inadequacies, but lay hold on the power which has been given you which is able to do the work to which you are called.

The gift which God has given is not a spirit of fearfulness. Timothy has such a fearful spirit. That was not God‘s doing. That was his own. He must take hold of himself to rid himself of his fears. He may not excuse himself by saying: that is the way I am. Every believer must realize that his faith must change his personality too. No, God gave him the spirit of power! That power he needs and he wishes that he had more power. Well, he has it—he only needs to stir it up. In that power of the Spirit he will be able to accomplish all his Savior has given him to do. The work is God‘s and He can use any vessel He chooses.

The spirit of power which God gives is never a raw power. It is also a spirit of love. He alone is able to combine these hvo forces and both are necessary in the work Timothy will have to do. Unlimited power combined with a most tender love! Mat a combination! He is able to do it, being Almighty God; and willing to do it, being a gracious Father! Besides, the gift which the Spirit of God bestows includes self-discipline. If Timothy stirs up the gift which has been given him, he will have the mastery over himself.

Questions for discussion:

1. What was the effect of Nero’s persecutions on the growth of the church? 2. What determines office—the calling or the work? Or both? 3. Do you wish you could state the hour of your conversion? Why not? Do we not often consider those to be heroes who were brought out of the gutter to faith in Christ? 4. We often say that everything must come under the influence of the gospel. Are our own personalities often the last to come under its influence?

5. Of what Significance was the laying on of hands?

    LESSON 2 Paul, an Example for Timothy II Timothy 1:8–18

Although Paul does not refer to himself or his condition to stir up a feeling of pity in the heart of Timothy, he is not afraid to call attention to himself as an example to be followed. This is characteristic in all of his writings. This does not reveal a spirit of pride, but of complete honesty. He is so thoroughly convinced of the genuineness of his beliefs and the lifestyle which flows from it that he calls others to imitate him.

Not ashamed of the gospel – Paul counsels Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a rather negative approach but it will bring the various problems Timothy and others may have into clear focus.

Look where that gospel has led! That gospel has been foolishness to the Greeks; and arc they not being confirmed in their views? The greatest of all who have followed this gospel is now a prisoner in a miserable dungeon in Rome. Dont be ashamed of me either, continues Paul. Be sure to see these things in the proper perspective. I am not Nero‘s prisoner, first of all, but the prisoner of Jesus Christ! He has regulated all things in such a way as to make me a prisoner and halt my usual work. He is still in control.

Suffer hardship – Instead of being ashamed of the gospel and of the Apostle of Christ, Timothy should be ready to suffer the persecutions which attend the gospel. The power of God will enable him to do it. The gospel is worth it. Despite hardship, persecution, and imprisonment, Christ saved us!

We are saved in spite of outward appearances. Paul refers to the complete salvation through the blood of our Lord. He called us to service. No, not because of our own innate goodness, for this we did not have. He chose us for our tasks according to His own wise purpose—and in His grace. He fulfills His purposes and shows His grace in Christ Jesus.

This plan of God is not of recent date, no, it is a plan which was already framed before time began. Whenever Paul speaks of the salvation of His people and of the all-wise plan of God in His dealing with His people, he goes back before the world was. The election of God is the fountain out of which the present happenings flow. This election of God is always placed in the framework of grace. Election is not the “horrible doctrine,” as some have thought, but it is the root out of which the stream of grace flows. If He had not chosen me—I would never have chosen Him!

Consider the “mysteries” made manifest – The results of God’s work in eternity are now brought to light with the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. So often Paul speaks of the “mysteries” which were hidden before but are now made manifest. Such is also the thought here.

The saints of the Old Testament had true faith and an assured hope, but things were not yet clear they were dwelling in shadows. With the first coming of Christ the sun has risen and the full light shines. Christ has abolished death, i.e., made it of none effect. These words come from the lips of one who is awaiting death by execution at the hand of Nero!

Really, says Paul, death isn’t death anymore. Nero will be able to kill the body, but that isn‘t death. When Paul’s body is slain he will be ushered into the very presence of his Savior where a fulness of life will be his as he has never experienced before. To be with Him is far better. He has abolished eternal death and has brought life and immortality to light.

This radical change in the lives of men is brought to light in the gospel. No one else has ever come with a teaching or a philosophy which has such power. Now, of that gospel Paul had been appointed a preacher, and an Apostle, and a teacher. What higher position or honor can come to any man? Paul always stands in awe of that grace of God which appointed him to his life’s work! To me, unworthy, persecutor, chief of sinners, was that grace given to make known the riches of God’s grace and the will of God concerning their redemption! It should cause every minister of the gospel to quake!

It is because of that gospel that Paul is now in chains, he realizes it. But, the gospel is worth it. He has urged Timothy not to be ashamed of that gospel. Timothy is still free. What the future holds for him is, of course, not known. However, he may also have to suffer for it in the days to come. He should now look at the example of Paul. The Apostle is already suffering greatly; yet, he is not ashamed of the gospel. Regardless where it has brought him, he holds to the gospel and testifies to its adequacy whenever he can.

Rely on Christ – The reason for Paul’s perfect confidence is now stated in words which have become very familiar to the Christian church in a very popular hymn. He knows whom he has believed. This is not a knowledge of acquaintance, but far more. The One whom he has learned to know is the God who has never put him to shame and the Savior in whom he has everything.

There is simply nothing which can obscure Paul’s view of Christ. He has committed something to Him. Several times in the pastoral epistles he speaks of something which has been entrusted to either Timothy or himself. Here he speaks of something which he has entrusted to His Savior. He does not say what it is. It is, however, clear that it is the most important thing for him. It is so important that he will suffer all the pain and indignity of the present.

Paul has entrusted himself and his eternal salvation—all his hopes—into the hands of Christ. He has the confidence that Christ will guard this for him. It would not be safe even in his own hands. Persecution might then shake it loose. However, Christ will keep it safely for him until the day he appears before Him to claim it. This is the kind of trust which cannot be placed in any other. Our faith and hope are to be anchored in Jesus Christ.

Hold the pattern of sound words – On the basis of the foregoing he now counsels Timothy to follow his example again. He must hold “the pattern of sound words” which he has been taught by the Apostle. By this he means the true doctrine which will give the confidence that he possesses. One has to know the truth well to be able to have no fears when execution for the sake of the gospel is approaching. Then you cannot “get by” with only a very shallow acquaintance with the gospel. It is brought to the test!

That gospel is able to give strength according to need, but only when there is a thorough knowledge of it. Time and again Paul stresses the importance of sound doctrine. How is it possible that there are still many today who minimize the importance of it! Not only is it necessary for a strong personal faith to be able to stand in the day of persecution, but it is also an absolute necessity for the building up of the church. Timothy has been taught the true doctrine by Paul. Paul was not satisfied with skimming the surface. He gave, not only to Timothy and Titus, but also to the churches, a strong diet!

That good thing, the gospel, guard! Don’t let anyone take it away from you, but let no one dilute it either. That is the greatest danger. Many have kept a “skeleton” gospel. Then there is no life or power. Let us realize that it can only be kept through the Holy Spirit.

Disloyalty and loyalty – The Apostle concludes this moving chapter with a reference to his own state at the present time. Although he certainly does not refer to these things to stir to pity, the entire epistle is written against the background of his imprisonment.

Paul now mentions the fact that he has been disappointed in fellow believers. All those of Asia have turned away from him. There was the possibility in the Roman system that friends of the accused might come forward in his defence. However, this was not without danger. There was always the distinct possibility of being charged with the same crimes as the prisoner. The believers of Asia considered the danger to be too great. No doubt they loved Paul and had, perhaps, been converted under his ministry. However, to love someone or to put your life or liberty in jeopardy, are two different things. They did not have the confidence which Paul had. Two of these are mentioned by name although we do not know who they were.

On the other hand, Paul was refreshed by the coming of Onesiphorus. This man was not ashamed “of my chain” and was not fearful for his own safety. When he came to Rome he looked for Paul and found him. Many questions have been raised concerning these two verses. Did he have to look for him? The fact that Paul hopes that mercy may be granted to “the house of Onesiphorus’” raises the question in the minds of some whether he might have died before Timothy receives this letter. Such questions are fruitless because there are no answers—only speculation. Paul says that Onesiphorus proved to be a dedicated disciple. He ran risks for the sake of Paul the prisoner. May God reward him at the last day for the good deeds he has done and may that reward also be extended to his household.

Some, though believers, do not possess that Christian heroism which may be required. The Apostle Peter didn‘t have it the night Jesus Christ was tried. Others, such as Daniel and Onesiphorus, do have that heroism. Why the difference? Cling to the sound words—that only makes heroes!

Questions for discussion:

1. How important is the doctrine of election? If you did not believe in election would you have any assurance for the future? 2. Could we have chosen for God if He had not chosen us? What do you think of the question: Wont you accept Christ? 3. Which is the more important—doctrine or life? Or is this a faulty contrast? 4. What makes a person heroic in the time of trial? Can you tell whether or not you would be heroic at that time before that time arrives?