Lesson 21: An Introduction to II-Timothy
Paul's Letters To Preachers. Welcome to lesson # 21, starting in the book of II-Timothy. This book of II-Timothy is obviously the last book to be written in the three-book-series which we have called Paul's Letters to Preachers, (the preachers of Timothy and Titus). When we began the book of Titus, we departed from the N.T. order in which we find these books arranged. We did this purposefully; because, the book of Titus was obviously written before the book of II-Timothy, hoping of course, that going back to the original, chronological order in which these books were written it will help in comprehending the text in a more orderly fashion. I trust it's unnecessary to say Paul was the author of II—Timothy, his name appears at the beginning of verse one. Not only was this book written after Titus, this book was apparently the last book written by the apostle Paul. The only exception MIGHT POSSIBLY BE the book of Hebrews, i.e. if Paul wrote the Hebrew letter, this we cannot be sure, so we'll get back to this in another study.
This book, the book of II-Timothy, was written under crisis conditions. Something had happened. Paul was back in Rome and apparently in that Roman prison again, bringing us to what we have referred to before as Paul's second Roman imprisonment. Exactly what happened here, no one knows for sure. The best we can do is guess. If you have a good encyclopedia, under the heading of ROME, you can probably read about the great Roman fire in that city (this is usually dated AD 64) and your encyclopedia will probably quote the cliche: "Nero fiddled while Rome burned." I mentioned this before, trying to get this period of the AD 60"s into a little better focus and trying to get a mental picture of God's people (which in the N.T. are called the church). Some accused Nero of setting that fire (or having it set) as a scheme for cleansing the city of one of its slum districts. Nero in turn accused the Christians of setting this fire. And, so far as we know, the fire may have been accidental. We are simply talking about the politics that followed. And, you know that the politicians and the special interest groups always keep these things so clouded and so muddled that the real truth is seldom known, even at the time that it happened. Whatever the case, tensions between Christians and the Roman government were provoked, and it is said that many Christians were imprisoned in the months that followed. It is generally thought that Paul got caught up (innocently no doubt) in this Roman-Jewish purge. We have mentioned the Roman-Jewish War before and so won't get into all the details just here (however, that war apparently started about AD 66 you might want to keep in mind). Thus, there were tensions, pressures and rumors of these things obviously brewing in the empire possibly even some months or years before the time we're talking about. This war apparently had nothing to do with Paul. I merely mention it as an attempt to get you to see the general Roman conditions, at that point in history. My concept is that the higher ranking Roman officials in general simply looked upon the church as another political arm (or political wing, if you will) of the Jewish people and what was once the Israelite nation. Which is a totally incorrect concept, of course. Traditional history has it that Paul (in prison under Nero during this period) was eventually beheaded at the hand of a Roman soldier, or by what might be called the death penalty they used to execute Roman citizens who ran afoul of the Roman law. Paul WAS a Roman citizen, I trust you will remember. Any facts beyond this is hard to ascertain.
Now, I am not absolutely certain on this point; but, I am inclined to think Tychicus delivered the letter of II-Timothy (I base this conclusion upon II-Tim. 4:12). When this letter arrived, Timothy was still in Ephesus, that same place, that same church where Timothy was when the apostle wrote I-Timothy, which we have already covered. That first letter (to a rather high degree) had to do with the general regulation of church life, prayer, the scope of men and women in public worship, elders, deacons, widows, covetousness. What else do you remember? Just how many months Timothy had been with the Ephesians, grappling with their problems and their needs, we cannot be certain, possibly a year or two. Timothy's time at Ephesus between these two letters (i.e. between I-Tim. and II-Tim.), we don't know, at least several months, possibly two or three years. Paul wrote this letter to Timothy from a prison cell (we have already said) and apparently while the apostle was awaiting execution, or he was being held for execution. I'm sure he was not just waiting around, like I made it sound; he was held against his will, of course. These conditions surrounding Paul are not said just straight forthright in this book, we are left to deduct much of the situation between the lines, so-to-speak. Obviously, Tychicus (or whoever carried the letter) carried also this information surrounding the circumstance of Paul in prison and the background of what had happened to the apostle in a personal way. Thus, I would assume Timothy learned these facts detailing Paul's affairs from one who knew of the matter first hand. We, of course, do not have that advantage. These things do not directly relate to our salvation and thus the Holy Spirit did not see fit to include all such details (here).
The general tenor of this letter (that we call II-Timothy) is that Timothy should immediately drop all else and come to Paul. In II-Tim. 4:9, the apostle said: "Do thy diligence to come shortly." As we said back at the end of the book of Titus, Tychicus (who was from the province of Asia and most likely from this very city of Ephesus, according to Acts 20:4) was to replace Timothy at Ephesus, i.e. continue in the work that Timothy was doing.
Well, what was happening at Ephesus? Anything new, we might ask? In answer to that question, I am inclined to think that things might have degenerated a bit (since that last letter) if anything. Paul had fears that Timothy might be molested in some way. It is amazing, if you continue to teach the pure unadulterated gospel, how that those who resist the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ become verbal and resentful over a period of time. In the first chapter (v.15), the apostle said: "This thou knowest that [i.e. you are surely aware that] all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of which are Phygellus and Hermogenes." In other words, there in Asia, the very province where Timothy was laboring, there was some sort of movement underway against Paul and obviously against the gospel that he preached. To identify this movement, Paul mentioned a couple leaders in the movement, Phygellus and Hermogenes of which we know nothing else. They may have been in Rome or some place else, simply citizens of Ephesus. We don't know the details here; we're just given a little smidgen of a hint. Near the end of the book (4:14-15), Paul said: "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works, of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words." Now, whether this is the same Alexander mentioned at Ephesus back in Acts 19:33, or not, I'm not sure. However, to me this shows that Paul had fears that Timothy might get caught up (or crossed up, in some innocent way) in that movement, that extended (really) even to Rome it would appear. I've never quite understood how their communications system was so effective in those days; but, actually you might think of the Roman empire as the shore line around a big pond (called the Mediterranean Sea) with those big fluttering sailboats constantly traveling in every direction. What we might call the national news, i.e. the rumors of war, political ramifications, actions taken by Nero and the Roman Senate and all the newsy stuff like that, traveled fast. Actually, it appears to me that Paul might have become somewhat of a household name in Ephesus (about the second largest city in the empire), where Paul had started a congregation something like a decade before and spent three years there. He operated a preacher school (or something of that nature) in the house of one Tyrannus (Acts 19:9) for two years that eventually precipitated a riot by the Diana silversmith's union, I trust you remember. Luke said (Acts 19:23), "there arose no small stir about that way," i.e. about the Christian movement in Ephesus. Some times when things start turning sour, it happens fast. Look at the case of Jesus. Paul suddenly found himself in prison again and his prospects were not good. Paul told Timothy, "At my first answer [I suppose, what we would call a hearing, and I would assume before Nero, Paul said:] no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge." (II-Tim. 4:16). You can see, the pressure was on. The apostle mentions one man, by name (a man named Demas) that had forsaken him (II-Tim. 4:10). Most of Paul's other dependable co-workers were scattered over the empire on missionary efforts very much like Timothy in Ephesus. Paul said, "only Luke is with me" (4:11), i.e. that Luke who wrote two books of the N. Testament. Incidentally, for whatever it's worth, it would appear that Titus went to Paul (as Paul requested in his letter to Titus, you will remember) and had possibly spent the previous winter with Paul, undoubtedly in the place of Nicopolis; but, had since gone on to a work in Dalmatia (this is II-Tim. 4:10). This tells you a little about the timing. Now, the place of Dalmatia was a whole country (really). Paul called this same territory "Illyricum" (back in Rom. 15:19), which is another word for Dalmatia or what we called Czechoslovakia back when I went to school; but, you are undoubtedly aware, the name has (now) been changed again. At any rate, you get the picture: Paul in prison, only Luke, the beloved physician (Col. 4:12) was in Rome with Paul. Timothy in this letter received an urgent plea to come to Rome quickly.
Now, I don't want to be anticlimactic; but, this is all we know. Did Timothy go to Rome? What was Paul charged with? How many hearings did Paul have before Nero? Was Paul beheaded as traditional history has it? What happened to Luke and Timothy? We are simply left hanging, so-to-speak. Unfortunately, we don't know the answer to these questions. If you will permit me to do a little "hop-scotch" right here, let me take a moment and touch something that will come up when we get into the book of Hebrews. At the very end of that book (13:23), the Hebrews writer says: "know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty." In other words, Timothy was released from prison. Now, of course, the first question that pops into your mind is: when was Timothy in prison? And, I'm sorry; but, I can't rescue you on this one. I don't know the answer. In the next verse, the Hebrews writer says, "they of Italy salute you." In other words, the book of Hebrews was written from Italy and most probably from Rome, the capital city. Was this gospel preacher, named Timothy, put in prison after he arrived in Rome responding to Paul's request (II-Tim. 4:9) "Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me?" I'm not a palm reader or a card shark; but, I believe any good detective would allow for this possibility. Like I said, that's free! No charge! However, you must tie your own bundle. In other words, I'm not sure on this point and we'll get back to it.
Remember, we're trying to introduce the book of II-Timothy. Why did Paul write this letter? Where did he write it? When was it written? WHY was it written? What did Paul say in this book? Well, up to now, we have simply touched a few peripheral connections. We have not summarized the book's primary content. Neither did the apostle let this Neroan threat on his life deter him from his purpose as an apostle, nor did Paul slight Timothy with respect to apostolic advice. The work of the church came first. In other words, these things did not change Paul's attitude the slightest, with respect to the work that needed to be done. Nero could say: kill Paul! Or, Nero could say: release Paul! In either case, it did not change Paul's relationship to/with his God, and it would not change his relationship to Timothy. Paul was spiritually mature, he was not a half-baked renegade that would accept anything that would feather his nest. In this preacher school, your professor is the best that God has. Timothy and Titus are examples of the greatest students you'll ever find, God's choice. When you read from these books and learn at the apostle's feet, you are drinking from the original source. Learn to get your water from the source, don't drink spiritual water that has been recycled, disguised or exposed to the enemy. Drink from this great well springing up to eternal life. Jesus told the woman at the well: "the water that I shall give...shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14). This is a Bible principle. Back in Eph. 4:13 the apostle gave a little treatise on "the unity of the faith." He said: "henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive..." Yes; but, Bro. Horsley all churches have some good in them! We all have the same goal. Water that comes from a manure pit may appear sparkling clear and actually taste O.K., and you can easily develop a taste for it; but, it will kill you. You can take a cyanide pill thinking it is aspirin, and it will still kill you. Your opinion, as innocent as it may be, will not change that. Check out the source! It's a Bible principle. It's a Bible principle you better learn, NOW. One denomination MAY BE as GOOD as another; but, they are all wrong. They are all contaminated! It is so easy to be sucked into spiritual death by a big smile, a pat on the back and a lying, deceptive tongue. Many of those who perpetuate contaminated religions are not themselves aware of the danger. It takes courage to get your spiritual water from the source. It's not easy. Thus, Paul said to Timothy in this letter: "endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." (II-Tim. 2:3). Paul called Timothy "my dearly beloved son," (II-Tim. 1:2). Paul said to Timothy, "Remember!" [did you get that?] "Remember that Jesus Christ...was raised from the dead, according to my gospel." (II-Tim. 2:8). "If we be dead with him, then we shall also live with him...if we deny him, he also will deny us..." (II-Tim. 2:11-12). In the next chapter, II-Tim. ch. 3, the apostle discussed those "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof [he said to Timothy] from such turn away." (II-Tim. 3:5). The old apostle with his head practically on the guillotine did not relent the slightest. In the very last chapter, he said: Timothy, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine." Doctrine? You better believe it! After spending several verses on the meaning of baptism, this apostle (in Rom. 6:17) said: "ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you." In the next verse, he said this was the thing that made them free from their sins. Between now and our next session, please get off by yourself, pray and collect your very best intellect. Read and re-read this book about five times. Have a good day!