1:1 From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to further the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 1:2 to Timothy, my dear child. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord!

An apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God‘These opening words show that Paul did not just have Timothy in mind but other people as well. If the letter was only meant for Timothy, there would not have been any need for such a lofty assertion of his apostleship.’ (Calvin)

According to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus – ‘Satan promises the best, but pays with the worst; he promises honour and pays with disgrace; he promises pleasure and pays with pain; he promises profit and pays with loss; he promises life and pays with death. But God pays as he promises; all his payments are made in pure gold.’ (T. Brooks.)

Thanksgiving and Charge to Timothy

1:3 I am thankful to God, whom I have served with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I remember you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day. 1:4 As I remember your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 1:5 I recall your sincere faith that was alive first in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am sure is in you.
1:6 Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands. 1:7 For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Ordination is the name we give to the setting apart of a person for a particular ministry. It is often carried out with the laying on of hands, and in some churches is done by a bishop, in order to ensure apostolic succession.

Allusions to ordination may be found in 1 Tim 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6.

The earliest mention of sacramental ordination is found in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus (c215).

God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control – The AV, RSV and NIV all have a lower-case ‘spirit’.  Fee thinks that this is ‘most highly improbable’.  That Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit (and not just an attitude) is supported by the following considerations: ‘(a) the explanatory for that begins this sentence gives it the closest possible tie to verse 6; (b) the close relationship between charisma (“gift,” v. 6) and the Spirit (v. 7) is thoroughly Pauline (see on 1 Tim. 4:14); (c) the words power and love are especially attributed to the Spirit in Paul; and (d) there are close ties between this verse and 1 Timothy 4:14, where the “gifting” of Timothy is specifically singled out as the work of the Spirit.’

1:8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, a prisoner for his sake, but by God’s power accept your share of suffering for the gospel.

Do not be ashamed to testify

We are so reluctant to displease men, and so desirous to keep in credit and favor with them, that it makes us most unconscionably neglect our known duty. A foolish physician he is, and a most unfaithful friend, that will let a sick man die for fear of troubling him; and cruel wretches are we to our friends, that will rather suffer them to go quietly to hell, than we will anger them, or hazard our reputation with them.

Richard Baxter

Hendriksen observes that this section (8-11) is characterised by duadiplosis, where the clauses are connected like overlapping tiles:-

WHO has saved us and CALLED US to a holy life
WHICH CALLING is 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 SAVIOUR, CHRIST JESUS,
WHO has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through THE GOSPEL,
AND OF THIS GOSPEL I was appointed  herald and an apostle and a teacher.


‘Timothy is urged not to be ashamed of the testimony or of Paul, the Lord’s prisoner ( 2 Tim1:8). Paul himself exemplifies not being ashamed of the gospel (2 Tim 1:12) and Onesiphorus, not being ashamed of Paul the prisoner (2 Tim 1:16). Given the potency of shame-honour systems in the first-century Mediterranean world, Bassler concludes that the author is constructing a new honour system, “to encourage bold proclamation of the gospel—in spite of the potentially ‘shameful’ consequences—among an honor-sensitive people.” So he avoids “shameful” components in the summary of the gospel (2 Tim 1:10) and infuses “shame-linked items” such as Paul’s imprisonment with “new categories of honor.” These insights from the Graeco-Roman environment are fruitful, but the “sacred writings” that he commends (3:16) and the traditions of Hellenistic Judaism also provided concepts of being ashamed/put to shame.’ (Wieland, The significance of salvation: a study of salvation language in the Pastoral Epistles, p110)

1:9 He is the one who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not based on our works but on his own purpose and grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 1:10 but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus.

‘In 2 Tim 1:9-10 we seem to detect five stages by which God’s saving purpose unfolds:-

  1. The eternal gift to us in Christ of his grace.
  2. The historical appearing of Christ to abolish death by his death and resurrection.
  3. The personal call of God to sinners through the preaching of the gospel.
  4. The moral sanctification of believers by the Holy Spirit.
  5. The final heavenly perfection in which the holy calling is consummated.’

(Stott, numbering added)

Who has saved us– In context, ‘salvation’ includes not only forgiveness, but also a calling to a holy life (v9) and a bringing to light of life and immortality.  So, suggests Stott, ‘The term ‘salvation’ urgently needs to be rescued from the mean and meagre concepts to which we tend to degrade it. ‘Salvation’ is a majestic word, denoting that comprehensive purpose of God by which he justifies, sanctifies and glorifies his people: first, pardoning our offences and accepting us as righteous in his sight through Christ, then progressively transforming us by his Spirit into the image of his Son, until finally we become like Christ in heaven, with new bodies in a new world. We must not minimize the greatness of ‘such a great salvation’ (Heb. 2:3).’

This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time – ‘This may be a reference to the earliest promise of triumph to the woman’s seed (Gen. 3:15), or to the grace of the pre-existent Christ’ (Guthrie).  Mounce, however, says that Paul cannot be thinking of Gen 3:15 here, since the context shows that this occurred before creation.  The statement, as Mounce remarks, assumes a pre-existent Christ.

He has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!

Who has broken the power of death – ‘One of the most searching tests to apply to any religion concerns its attitude to death. And measured by this test much so-called Christianity is found wanting with its black clothes, its mournful chants and its requiem masses. Of course dying can be very unpleasant, and bereavement can bring bitter sorrow. But death itself has been overthrown, and ‘blessed are the dead who die in the Lord’ (Rev. 14:13). The proper epitaph to write for a Christian believer is not a dismal and uncertain petition, ‘R.I.P.’ (requiescat in pace, ‘may he rest in peace’), but a joyful and certain affirmation ‘C.A.D.’ (‘Christ abolished death’).’ (Stott)

Christ is not only the destroyer of death; he is also the revealer of immortality.  ‘In the Old Testament the doctrines of eternal life, death, resurrection, and the eternal state were in the shadows. Here and there you find glimpses of light; but for the most part, the picture is dark. But then Jesus Christ shone His light on death and the grave. Through the Gospel, He has given us assurance of eternal life, resurrection, and the hope of heaven.’ (Wiersbe)

Immortality means incorruptibility, and refers to the resurrection body.

Philip Hughes argues that immortality is not innate, but rather the gift of the immortal God to those whom he has redeemed in Christ:-

‘The immortality…of which the Christian is assured is not inherent in himself or in his soul but is bestowed by God and is the immortality of the whole person in the fullness of his humanity, bodily as well as spiritual. This immortality, unearned by us, has been gained for us by the incarnate Son who, by partaking of our human nature in its fullness, both bodily and spiritual, and by dying our death, nullified the power of the devil and removed from us the fear and the sting of death (Heb 2: 14f.; 1 Cor 15: 55f.). Our new life in Christ, which includes our ultimate resurrection to life and immortality, is owed entirely to God and his grace. It is God who alone has immortality and thus who alone may properly be described as immortal (1 Tim 6: 15– 17; Rom 1: 23). And it is for us to confess, as did the Apostle, that by virtue of God’s purpose and grace “our Savior Jesus Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim 1: 9f.). The immortality that was potentially ours at creation and was forfeited in the fall is now really ours in Christ, in whom we are created anew and brought to our true destiny.’  (in Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, Joshua W. Anderson. Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism (pp. 188-189). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

1:11 For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher.

If life and immortality have been brought to light by the gospel then it is imperative that this wonderful message be proclaimed.

‘Perhaps we can relate the three offices of ‘apostle’, ‘preacher’ and ‘teacher’ by saying that the apostles formulated the gospel, preachers proclaim it like heralds, and teachers instruct people systematically in its doctrines and in its ethical implications.’ (Stott)

Hendriksen summarises: ‘As a herald Paul must announce and loudly proclaim that gospel. As an apostle he must say and do nothing except that which he has been commanded to say and to do. And as a teacher he must impart carefully instruction in the things pertaining to salvation and the glory of God, and he must admonish unto faith and obedience.’

Those who think that the PEs are pseudonymous might suggest that it was superfluous for the historic Paul to say to Timothy that he has been appointed to these roles.  But ‘it need not to be taken that Paul is informing his lieutenant, which would admittedly be inconceivable, but that, as in 1 Tim 2:7, his mind is so carried away by the thought of the greatness of the gospel that the wonder of his own call to preach it dominates him here.’ (Guthrie)

Furthermore, ‘if the great apostle, with his clear sense of mission, has nevertheless been called on to suffer, Timothy must not be surprised if the same happens to him.’ (NBC)

1:12 Because of this, in fact, I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day.

That is why I am suffering as I am– Stott asks why this link between the gospel and suffering?  What is it about the message of Jesus Christ that so often leads to violent opposition.  ‘Just this: God saves sinners in virtue of his own purpose and grace, and not in virtue of their good works (9). It is the undeserved freeness of the gospel which offends. The ‘natural’ or unregenerate man hates to have to admit the gravity of his sin and guilt, his complete helplessness to save himself, the indispensable necessity of God’s grace and Christ’s sinbearing death to save him, and therefore his inescapable indebtedness to the cross. This is what Paul meant by ‘the stumbling block of the cross’. Many preachers succumb to the temptation to mute it. They preach man and his merit instead of Christ and his cross, and they substitute the one for the other ‘in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ’ (Gal. 6:12; cf. 5:11). No man can preach Christ crucified with faithfulness and escape opposition, even persecution.’

Of course, Paul was not the only one who had been badly treated in a good cause.  He can have taken comfort from the examples of Joseph, Jeremiah, Daniel, and John the Baptist.  And his Saviour was executed between two criminals! (Hendriksen)

I am not ashamed – Although in prison, his conscience was clear.  ‘It is an unbelievable comfort for us when we can meet the unjust opinions of men with a good conscience.’ (Calvin)

I know whom I have believed – We are saved, not by giving assent to certain doctrines, but by trusting in Jesus Christ.

‘This passage should be carefully noted, as it explains perfectly the power of faith. It teaches us that in our most desperate situations we should give glory to God by not doubting that he will be true and faithful and that we should accept the Word with the same assurance as if God himself had appeared to us from heaven.’ (Calvin)

Personal faith and doctrinal assent

Some think that in the PEs personal faith has been replaced by doctrinal assent.  But both here (‘I know whom I have believed’) and in the following verse (‘the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus’), personal faith and formal creed are intimately connected.

What I have entrusted – Lit., ‘my deposit’.  This could be (a) what God has entrusted to Paul, i.e. his commission or his doctrine, and this would be in agreement with the use of the same word in v 14. Or it could be (b) what Paul has entrusted to God, ‘i.e. himself and the success and continuation of his mission, everything in fact that is dear to him.’ (NBC)

If, with many commentators, we take the second view, then we have a twofold entrusting: we entrust to God our souls, in confidence that he will guard us and protect us until the day of the Lord; and he entrusts to us the message of the gospel (v14) which we are to guard and protect by the help of the Holy Spirit.

Safe in God’s hand

‘From this we learn that our salvation is in God’s hand, just as we might entrust a trustee with holding property for us. If our salvation depended on ourselves, it would be constantly exposed to many dangers, but as it is entrusted with our Guardian, it is out of danger.’ (Calvin)

That day – The day of the Lord; the day on which he will have to give an account of his stewardship.

‘Let us not fear the opposition of men; every great movement in the Church from Paul down to modern times has been criticised on the ground that it promoted censoriousness and intolerance and disputing. Of course the gospel of Christ, in a world of sin and doubt, will cause disputing; and if it does not cause disputing and arouse bitter opposition, that it is a fairly sure sign that it is not being faithfully proclaimed.’ (Machen, What is Faith? p41)

Michael Faraday, the great scientist, was taken ill. When it became evident that the sickness that had fastened itself upon him would soon result in his death, a group of fellow scientists came to see him-not so much to talk about science as to talk about death. One of them said to him: “Mr. Faraday, what are your speculations about your future?” With evident surprise to them he replied: “Speculations! I have none. I am resting on certainties.” Then he quoted 2 Tim 1:12 “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (“Choice Illus.” W.W. Clay pg. 63)

1:13 Hold to the standard of sound words that you heard from me and do so with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 1:14 Protect that good thing entrusted to you, through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

The pattern of sound teaching – AV ‘The form of sound words’.  Guthrie says that the underlying word for ‘pattern’ means ‘an outline sketch such as an architect might make before getting down to the detailed plans of a building.’  If so, then it might imply that Timothy (and others) are not merely to repeat Paul’s teaching, but use that teaching as a basis, expanding it and applying it to new situations as required.  This, however, may be reading a little too much into the text.  What is clear is that Timothy is to faithfully convey both the content and the spirit of Paul’s teaching.

Pattern also implies ‘standard’.  If so, ‘Paul is commanding Timothy to keep before him as his standard of sound words, or “as a model of sound teaching” (NEB mg.) what he had heard from the apostle.’ (Stott)

We may infer from this that there is not only an important place for ‘doctrine’ in the Christian faith, but also that there is a place for that organised approach to formulating doctrine that we call ‘systematic theology’.  Christian truths are not separated and isolated from one another, but inter-related, like the pen-strokes on an architect’s sketch of a building.

‘Sound’ means healthy, as opposed to maimed or diseased.  See also 2 Tim 4:3; Acts 20:27.  ‘In contrast to the diseased words peddled by false teachers, Timothy’s ministry must be firmly based upon the “healthy” words of the apostle’s doctrine.  But this must be done in that spirit of faith and love, which is the fruit of living in union with Christ Jesus.  For without the enlivening presence of faith and love even the purest teaching is bound to degenerate into a dead orthodoxy.’ (Wilson)

With faith and love in Christ Jesus – Timothy is to combine robust belief with tender compassion.  He is to ‘speak the truth in love’, Eph 4:15.

‘Had all loyalty to sound words been tempered by these great Christian virtues, faith and love, the bitterness of much ecclesiastical disputation would have been impossible.’ (Guthrie)

It is thought by some that the primitive church taught the elements of the faith by catechising. Thomas Watson comments, ‘I fear one reason why there has been no more good done by preaching, has been because the chief heads and articles in religion have not been explained in a catechistical way. Catechising is laying the foundation. Heb 6:1: To preach and not to catechise is to build without foundation. This way of catechising is not novel, it is apostolic. The primitive church had their forms of catechism, as those phrases imply, a ‘form of sound words,’ 2 Tim 1:12, and ‘the first principles of the oracles of God,’ Heb 5:12.’ (A Body of Divinity)

Guard the good deposit – Such an expression would commonly have been used for safeguarding money that had been entrusted to another.  ‘Good’ means ‘precious’, ‘costly’.

‘The verb (phylassō) means to guard something ‘so that it is not lost or damaged’ (ag). It is used of guarding a palace against marauders and possessions against thieves (Lk. 11:21; Acts 22:20). There were heretics abroad, bent on corrupting the gospel and so robbing the church of the priceless treasure which had been entrusted to it. Timothy must be on the watch.’ (Stott)

At face value, the NT does not seem to have a clear doctrine of the canon of Scripture. This verse, however, does evince ‘at least an incipient “canonical consciousness” (Gaffin). See also 1 Tim 6:20.

With the help of the Holy Spirit – Note the close association of word and Spirit in this verse.  ‘We can neither keep our minds sound in the faith, as to the doctrine of it, nor our souls steady in the exercises of faith or love, without the assistance of the Holy Spirit.’ (Poole)

How are we to guard this good deposit?

‘We must be careful that what God has given to us is not lost or taken away from us because of our laziness, ingratitude, or through our abuse of it. Many people reject God’s grace, and many more people, after they have received it, deprive themselves of it.’ (Calvin)

Conservative evangelicals?

‘The proper use of the word “conservative,” when applied to evangelicals, is that we hold tenaciously to the teaching of Christ and the apostles as given to us in the New Testament, and are determined to “conserve” the whole biblical faith. This was the apostle’s charge to Timothy: “keep the deposit,” conserve it, preserve it, never relax your hold upon it, nor let it drops from your hands.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 311f)

‘From the beginning of human history, Satan has opposed God’s Word. “Yea, hath God said?” was Satan’s first word to mankind (Gen. 3:1), and he continues to ask that question. Throughout the history of the church, the Word of God has been attacked, often by people within the church; yet it still stands today. Why? Because dedicated men and women have (like Paul and Timothy) guarded the deposit and faithfully handed it to a new generation of Christians.’ (Wiersbe)

1:15 You know that everyone in the province of Asia deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. 1:16 May the Lord grant mercy to the family of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my imprisonment. 1:17 But when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me. 1:18 May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day! And you know very well all the ways he served me in Ephesus.

At first sight, vv15-18 seems irrelevant to the context.  However, this section is very much continuing the theme of ‘not being ashamed’.  In this verse, we have many who were ashamed, and, in 16-18 we have one who was not ashamed.

Fee points out that personal notes of this kind present peculiar problems for those scholars who hold that the Pastoral Epistles were pseudonymous.

You know – He well knew, since he was living at the very time in the area.  However, it is precisely because Timothy already knew what had gone on in this region that we do not! (Fee)

The province of Asia – Paul had visited this area on his 3rd missionary journey, evangelising the whole area (Acts 19; 20:31) and saying nearly three years in Ephesus.  The seven churches of Asia (Rev 1-3) were all in this area.  It is part of modern-day Turkey.

Everyone…has deserted me – As many had deserted Jesus, Jn 6:66.  This must have been a grievous blow to Paul.  But he has already testified to his faith in the God who will never forsake him.  This expression probably implies that they had abandoned the gospel too.  Cf. 2 Tim 4:10.

The aorist tense in the original suggests that a specific event is in Paul’s mind (‘everyone deserted me’).  Stott suggests, quite reasonably, that this happened at the time of the apostle’s re-arrest.  Paul had laboured for some years amongst the churches of Asia.  Now his arrest seemed to indicate that the Christian cause was lost.

Hendriksen thinks it probably ‘that several leading Christians in the province of which Ephesus was the capital had been asked by Paul to come to Rome in order to appear on the witness-stand in his favor.’  The one exception was Onesiphorus.

There had once been a great awakening in Asia (Acts 19:10); now there was a great defection. (Stott)

‘To every eye but that of faith it must have appeared just then as if the gospel were on the eve of extinction.’ (Moule)

‘This is hardly the sort of detail a later pseudepigrapher writing in Paul’s name would have made up about the end of his ministry.’ (IVP Background Commentary)

Phygelus and Hermogenes – These may have been mentioned because they were known to Timothy.  They, are many others, may have deserted Paul when he was arrested and imprisoned for this second and final time.  We may think of this pair as ‘two who were ashamed’.

Onesiphorus – We may assume that he was a Christian believer of some means.  His ‘household’ would have included servants as well as relatives; he was able to offer frequent hospitality to Paul; and he was also in a position to travel to Rome.

In addition to Lois and Eunice, and Paul himself, Onesiphorus is mentioned here as one who was faithful, and ‘not ashamed’.

Refreshed is the language of hospitality.  In prison, Paul may well have been dependent on gifts of food.

He…was not ashamed of my chains – Throughout, the word ‘ashamed’ connotes, not simply embarrassment, but disgrace.

In his first imprisonment, Paul was under house arrest, Acts 28:30; but now he was in a Roman dungeon, heavily guarded.

Why Paul refers to the household of Onesiphorus in this way is not clear.  It is possible that Onesiphorus himself had died, or that, being away from his home in Ephesus his family would have found his absence trying.

‘Paul’s point to Timothy is clear enough.  “Don’t you be ashamed of the gospel or of men, Christ’s prisoner (v8).  Some have (v15), but not Onesiphorus (vv16f); so be like him.”‘ (Fee)

May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! – Stott remarks that Roman Catholic commentators have tended to regard the fact that Paul mentions Onesiphorus and his family separately as indicating that Onesiphorus was dead at the time of writing.  This would make v18 a prayer for the departed.  This is conjectural, however.  The separation may well have been by distance rather than by death, with Onesiphorus still being in Rome, and his family at home in Ephesus.

Fee, on the other hand, thinks that Onesiphorus was dead at this time (adding to Paul’s feelings of loneliness).  However, he disagrees that we can derive a doctrine of prayers for the departed from this text: ‘Such an idea is quite singular to this one, not totally certain, text and that it merely expresses Paul’s sentiment toward, or desire for, Onesiphorus.  It is not, in fact, intercessory prayer (cf. the difference with Eph 1:17, e.g.); rather, it is an acknowledgement that even one like Onesiphorus has only God’s mercy as his appeal.’

‘Those must have been lonely hours for the aged apostle in prison, facing almost certain death and forsaken by his friends. It is difficult for us to understand why God’s servants who have given themselves in sacrificial service to others should suffer like this at the end. But Paul knew that the glory of the next life would repay it all.’ (EBC)

The wish that Onesiphorus will find mercy can hardly be a prayer for his salvation: it is evident that he was already a committed believer.

He helped me in Ephesus – His support of Paul while during his final imprisonment in Rome was not an isolated example.  It was, rather, part of a pattern of support that he had given in more than one place and over a period of time.  Consistency of mutual support is as important as intensity.

Looking back over these verses, Stott states: ‘There is great encouragement here. Ultimately, it is God himself who is the guarantor of the gospel. It is his responsibility to preserve it. ‘On no other ground would the work of preaching be for a moment endurable.’ We may see the evangelical faith, the faith of the gospel, everywhere spoken against, and the apostolic message of the New Testament ridiculed. We may have to watch an increasing apostasy in the church, as our generation abandons the faith of its fathers. Do not be afraid! God will never allow the light of the gospel to be finally extinguished. True, he has committed it to us, frail and fallible creatures. He has placed his treasure in brittle, earthenware vessels. And we must play our part in guarding and defending the truth. Nevertheless, in entrusting the deposit to our hands, he has not taken his own hands off it. He is himself its final guardian, and he will preserve the truth which he has committed to the church. We know this because we know him in whom we have trusted and continue to trust.’

Stott offers a further summary: ‘We have seen that the gospel is good news of salvation, promised from eternity, secured by Christ in time, offered to faith.

Our first duty is to communicate this gospel, to use old ways and seek fresh ways of making it known throughout the whole world.

If we do so, we shall undoubtedly suffer for it, for the authentic gospel has never been popular. It humbles the sinner too much.

And when we are called to suffer for the gospel, we are tempted to trim it, to eliminate those elements which give offence and cause opposition, to mute the notes which jar on sensitive modern ears.

But we must resist the temptation. For, above all, we are called to guard the gospel, keeping it pure whatever the cost, and preserving it against every corruption.

Guard it faithfully. Spread it actively. Suffer for it bravely. This is our threefold duty vis-à-vis the gospel of God as expounded in this first chapter.’