This is the last letter that Paul wrote. He wrote it from prison in Rome, prior to his execution at the hands of Nero, the Roman Emperor.
Timothy was one of Paul’s long-time associates. He had joined Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:2), having become a believer of good standing in his home city of Lystra (modern day Turkey), possibly when Paul had preached there. His mother was a Jewess, his father a Greek, and he was well schooled in the Scriptures (3:14-16).
Timothy was with Paul toward the end of the apostle’s first Roman imprisonment (Philippians 2:19-24). When Paul was released, he took Timothy and Titus back to Asia Minor, and left Titus on the island of Crete.
They travel to Macedonia, and stop in Ephesus on the way. But they discover false teachers who had seemingly taken over the church. Paul had predicted this (Acts 20:29-30). It was necessary for two of these men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, to be told to leave the church by Paul (1 Timothy 1:19-20).
Paul needed to travel to Macedonia (Philippians 2:24), but felt that the church needed help. So he left Timothy to deal with those who were leaders but preaching a false message (1 Timothy 1:3-4).
After being in Philippi, and Corinth (4:20), Paul apparently spent the winter at Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). After the winter of 63-64AD, it seems that Paul tries to return to Ephesus by going by Troas. But he was re-arrested. It is possible that Paul had been captured because of Alexander the metalworker (4:13-14), who had been asked to leave the church of Ephesus because of his false teaching.
There has been a preliminary trial (4:16-18), and Paul doesn’t expect to be freed (4:6).
It is a tough time for the apostle. He is in chains, and in a cold dungeon. Paul just has Luke with him (4:11) and wants Timothy to come to Rome (1:4; 4:9, 21) ‘before winter’, bringing parchments and a cloak. He wants to encourage Timothy to stand firm in the Gospel, for which he would soon die.
It is thus written shortly before his death. We don’t know that date for sure, sometime between 64AD and 67AD has been suggested.
The letter is Paul’s invitation for Timothy to visit him, but a reminder that he needs to stand firm in the faith too. Preaching the Gospel has led to Paul’s imprisonment and likely death, but Timothy must not be deterred from preaching it too. We read in Hebrews 13:23 that Timothy was himself imprisoned at some point.
Why read it?
The letter tells us that those who seek to live a godly life will suffer persecution in one way or another. We must stay faithful to our calling when it comes, like Paul and as he exhorts his young friend.
Know the truth
Timothy needed to be clear on the Gospel that he was defending. What matters, and needs challenging, and what is unimportant and can be left? There is no substitute for reading and re-reading scripture so we can be sure of the faith we profess.
Paul didn’t change his message when it was unpopular, even when facing execution. Instead he urges his young friend to join him in suffering. This was the way of Jesus, who was also deserted by His close friends, and it is the way that the Gospel will be understood and progress.
|1:6-2:26||Encouragement to loyal ministry|
|3:1-4:5||Exhortation to faithful preaching|
|4:6-18||Request to come quickly|