2 Timothy 1:1-18

When referring to himself as an “apostle of Christ Jesus through God’s will,” Paul acknowledged that his apostleship and the authority associated therewith came from God as an expression of his gracious favor. The words that follow (“according to the promise of the life that [is] in Christ Jesus”) could indicate that Paul’s call to be an apostle proved to be in harmony with God’s promise for humans to be reconciled to him and come to possess the newness of life that is made possible by coming to be at one with his Son. Another meaning may be that Paul, as an apostle through God’s will, had the commission to make known God’s promise about the life that is in Christ Jesus or the life that is to be enjoyed by being at one with him as a member of his body. (1:1)

Modern translations contain various interpretive renderings of verse 1. “God sent me to tell about the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.” (NCV) “He gave me the promised life that Jesus Christ makes possible.” (CEV) “From Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, whose promise of life is fulfilled in Christ Jesus.” (REB)

The apostle affectionately addressed Timothy as his “beloved child,” for he was like a father to him, having taught him by word and example. Paul then continued with the prayerful expression, “Favor, mercy, [and] peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” The gracious favor or unearned kindness would include the help and guidance the Father and his Son would provide. For Timothy to be a recipient of “mercy” would mean that he would continue to experience their compassionate care, Christ’s intercession, and his Father’s forgiveness. “Peace” would be the sense of well-being, tranquility, and security resulting from Timothy’s continuing to experience the love of God and Christ. (1:2)

Translators have chosen various ways to make the Greek text more explicit regarding Paul’s expression of thanks to God. “I thank God as I always mention you in my prayers, day and night.” (NCV) “Night and day I thank God whom I serve with a pure conscience as my ancestors did.” (NJB) “Night and day I mention you in my prayers. I am always grateful for you, as I pray to the God my ancestors and I have served with a clear conscience.” (CEV) “I give thanks to the God of my forefathers, whom I worship with a clear conscience, when I mention you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day.” (REB) The context does not specifically indicate whether the rendering of thanks specifically relates to Timothy, more specifically to the good remembrance Paul had of him or the recollection he had of Timothy’s commendable faith. Possibly the giving of thanks is more general in nature, including everything for which the apostle was grateful. (1:3)

Paul’s forefathers were worshipers of YHWH, the only true God. So the apostle could speak of himself as serving God as did his ancestors, doing so with a pure conscience. The apostle earnestly endeavored to conduct himself in an upright manner, preserving a clear conscience before God and fellow humans. “Night and day,” or always and at any time of the night or day, Paul, whenever praying, never failed to remember Timothy in his supplications. (1:3; compare Acts 23:1; 24:14-16.)

The apostle recalled the tears Timothy had shed. This must have occurred at a time they parted and when the possibility existed that Timothy might not see Paul again. Finding himself in prison and expecting to be condemned to death (1:8; 4:6), the apostle yearned to see his beloved fellow worker, knowing that this reunion would bring him joy. (1:4)

Paul remembered Timothy’s “unhypocritical faith,” a genuine faith that was not just a mere expression of belief but manifested itself in positive action that honored God and Jesus Christ. The faith that was “in” Timothy had first resided in, or been the inmost possession of, his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Paul expressed the confidence that the same genuine faith was also “in” Timothy, existing as part of his inmost self. (1:5)

“For [this] reason” (in view of Timothy’s having a sincere faith), Paul reminded him to stir into flame the gracious gift of God. Timothy had come to possess this gift when Paul laid his hands on him, designating him for special service. Based on Acts 16:1-3 and the apostle’s earlier comments in 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul chose Timothy as his fellow worker and, with elders from the community of believers joining him, laid his hands on Timothy, thereby appointing him to special service in Christ’s cause. The gracious gift of God that Timothy then received equipped him to fulfill the commission for which he had been designated. This gift was one he should then use to the fullest extent possible, stirring it up into a blaze as one would a smoldering fire. (1:6)

Timothy was not to allow anything to hinder him from making full use of his gift. “For,” as Paul continued, “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but of power and of love and of sensibleness.” The God-given spirit may refer to the holy spirit or to the spirit or disposition believers come to have on account of their having received the holy spirit. Through God’s spirit, believers are made bold or courageous, not holding back from declaring and living the faith that has Christ as its focus. Cowardice, fear, or dread is the very opposite of what God’s spirit produces. Unlike the weakness and timidity that is associated with cowardice, the God-given spirit is one of power, making it possible for believers to withstand the strains and pressures to which they are subjected on account of their faith. Love drives fear away. Motivated by love, the individual is not restrained from taking action, fearing possible personal difficulties or even harm because of selflessly coming to the aid of those in need or on account of advancing Christ’s cause. Cowardice clouds good judgment, resulting in inaction or inappropriate behavior. The God-given spirit produces soundness of mind and action that is right under the circumstances, reflecting good judgment, reasonableness, or self-control. (1:7)

In keeping with the disposition that God’s spirit produces, Paul urged Timothy, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord nor of me, his prisoner.” On account of bearing testimony regarding the Lord Jesus Christ, Timothy would face ridicule, misrepresentation, mistreatment, and suffering. The demeaning and hateful treatment to which he would be subjected was not to cause him shame, for it was an honor to suffer in the service of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Paul’s confinement had resulted from his faithfully serving in the interests of God’s Son. For this reason, the apostle spoke of himself as the Lord’s prisoner. Paul considered it an honor to endure distress for Christ, and so did not want Timothy to be ashamed of him in his situation. Instead, he desired that Timothy share with him in suffering for the good news about Christ. Timothy’s suffering “according to the power of God” would signify his enduring the distressing circumstances with God’s help or with the power he supplies by means of his spirit. (1:8)

Paul and Timothy had good reason for enduring, considering everything that God, through Christ, had done for them and all other fellow believers. He had saved them, forgiving them of their sins and delivering them from the condemnation to which sin leads. His call was an invitation for them to become his reconciled children. In its being a “holy calling,” it had as its purpose their living “holy,” pure, or upright lives. The call had not been extended on the basis of “works” or any personal merit on the part of the called ones. It was an expression of God’s own purpose (originating from himself) and favor or unearned kindness. He granted his gracious favor “in Christ Jesus before eternal times.” From the very beginning and before the ages began, God purposed that humans would be at one with his Son. Whatever the Father expresses to be his will is as good as accomplished. Thus when he, in the indefinite past, purposed to grant his gracious favor to humans, all those who would come to be believers in the future could be spoken of as having been recipients thereof before “eternal times.” (1:9)

With the coming of the Savior Christ Jesus to the earth, God’s gracious favor was fully revealed. Jesus’ life and activity, including his sacrificial death, made it clear how humans could be forgiven of their sins, delivered from the condemnation to which sin leads, and be reconciled to God as his beloved children. By his own death, Christ Jesus broke the power of death. All who respond in faith, accepting his having surrendered his life for them, come to enjoy a newness of life as persons forgiven of their sins and no longer under condemnation. They come into possession of eternal life, the life of an enduring relationship with God and his Son and which life will ultimately be enjoyed in the sinless state for all eternity. (1:10)

“Through the evangel,” the “good news” or the message that he proclaimed and which his life revealed, Jesus Christ brought life and incorruption to light. For the first time, humans could learn how they could come to have the real life, the eternal life, and cease to be subject to death and corruption. With specific reference to this evangel or good news, Paul was appointed to serve as a proclaimer, apostle, and teacher. He proclaimed the message about Jesus Christ and what he accomplished through his death. Paul faithfully discharged his commission as an apostle, one specifically sent forth to advance Christ’s interests. He also functioned as a teacher, imparting instruction about Jesus Christ and his example and teaching in a manner that listeners could understand and apply. (1:10, 11; see the Notes section.)

It was because Paul had advanced the good news about Jesus Christ as a proclaimer, apostle, and teacher that he then suffered as a prisoner. His distressing circumstances, however, did not make him ashamed, thinking that he might have been wrong in the course he had pursued. (1:12)

Paul knew the one whom he had believed. He had put his faith or full trust in God’s Son, confident that his having done so would never lead to disappointment. The apostle did not doubt that Jesus Christ would be able to guard what he had entrusted to him “until that day.” If the reference is to what Paul had entrusted to Christ, it would be the “treasure” he had laid up in heaven through his loyal service to him. On “that day,” which would denote the time when Jesus Christ would return in glory, Paul’s record of faithful service would prove to be like a secure trust under Christ’s guardianship and would be rewarded. (Compare Matthew 6:19-21.) Another possibility is that Jesus Christ would guard what had been entrusted to Paul, assuring that he would fulfill his commission and be found approved on “that day.” (1:12; see the Notes section.)

From Paul, Timothy heard “healthful words,” or sound teaching about God and Christ. The apostle urged him to hold to the “pattern” or “standard” of these words, making sure that he conducted himself accordingly and imparted sound teaching to others. Timothy’s faithful adherence to the pattern, standard, or norm of the “healthful words” was to be “in the faith and love that [are] in Christ Jesus.” This could mean that Timothy’s attachment to sound teaching was to be with the kind of faith or trust and love that the Son of God exemplified while on earth. Another meaning could be that Timothy, in his adherence to the healthful words, was to live a life of faith and love as a believer possessing these qualities because of being “in” or at one with Christ Jesus. (1:13)

Paul admonished Timothy to guard the “good trust,” the precious treasure of healthful words or sound teaching, with the aid of the holy spirit that dwells in believers. The spirit’s influence is holy or pure. Therefore, by letting the spirit be the controlling power in his life, Timothy would have continued being exemplary in his conduct and teaching. (1:14)

“All” the ones from the Roman province of Asia (an area that is now in the western part of Turkey) who deserted Paul would not have been all the believers in cities of that Roman province but persons who were then in Rome and could have been of help to him. Prominent among those who had forsaken him were Phygelus and Hermogenes. Likely, because of fearing adverse consequences, they failed to render aid to Paul while he was imprisoned or when he made his defense. At the time the apostle wrote, Timothy already knew about what certain ones from the province of Asia had done. (1:15)

Unlike Hermogenes, Phygelus, and others who forsook Paul, Onesiphorus searched diligently for him when he came to Rome and succeeded in finding him. Onesiphorus was not ashamed to identify himself with the chained prisoner Paul, fearing that he might be endangering his freedom or safety. He often refreshed the apostle, probably not just by his personal presence but also by attending to his needs. (1:16, 17)

At the time Paul wrote, Onesiphorus may no longer have been alive, for later greetings are conveyed only to the household of Onesiphorus. (4:19) Additionally, the apostle made his prayerful expression for the household because of what Onesiphorus had done for him, often refreshing him and not being ashamed of his situation as a chained prisoner. “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus.” The mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ would include his continued compassionate care and concern for the members of the household. (1:16)

Paul deeply appreciated what Onesiphorus had done for him, looking for him in Rome until he found him. The apostle’s prayerful expression for Onesiphorus was that the Lord Jesus Christ would grant him “mercy on that day.” “That day” would be the time when Jesus would return in glory and would show his mercy or his great kindness to believers by having them join him as his approved ones in the heavenly realm. It was not just while in Rome that Onesiphorus had proved himself to be a loving brother. As Paul mentioned, Timothy knew about how much service Onesiphorus had rendered in Ephesus. (1:18)


After “teacher” (in verse 11), many manuscripts add “of nations.” Instead of “teacher,” a few manuscripts read “servant.”

The reference to what had been entrusted to Timothy (verse 14) provides a basis for concluding that verse 12 may be understood to mean that Jesus Christ would guard what had been entrusted to Paul. The Greek text could be understood to have this meaning or to apply to what Paul had entrusted to Christ, and this is reflected in the renderings of modern translations. “I know whom I have trusted, and am confident of his power to keep safe what he has put into my charge until the great day.” (REB) “I know the one I have faith in, and I am sure that he can guard until the last day what he has trusted me with.” (CEV) “I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.” (NRSV)