Lesson 22: "Thank God. . .I Have Remembrance of Thee. . ." (II-Timothy 1:3)
Paul's Letters To Preachers. Welcome again! This is lesson #22. In this lesson we would like to begin a textual study of II-Timothy. But, first, let's begin by trying to tie the introduction, i.e. our last lesson to the content of this letter (which I trust you have now read and re-read). I believe the first thing you need to do is try to get a good mental picture of Timothy at Ephesus. A country boy from back in the hills of Turkey (or what was then called Asia Minor). Timothy's hometown was Derbe, located in the southeastern corner of the province of Galatia. He at this time had been a gospel preacher for some twenty years, perhaps longer. The apostle had left Timothy at Ephesus to nurture and encourage the mission work in that large city polluted with the Diana worshippers, the astrologers and people like Alexander the coppersmith who did Paul much evil (II-Tim. 4:14). Aquila and Priscilla (you will remember this faithful tent making couple) had returned from Rome and were again back at Ephesus laboring with Timothy (II-Tim. 4:20). It means so much to a gospel preacher to have a few trusted, proven and devoted Christians around him who really care and will weather any storm with him. Undoubtedly, there were several other dedicated and faithful disciples at Ephesus working with Timothy, e.g. Onesiphorus, that Paul saluted in that same verse (II-Tim. 4:20), a disciple from Ephesus of which Paul told of his dedication and concern for the apostle when he was once in Rome (this is found in II-Tim. 1:16). And, Timothy was not likely at that Ephesian congregation because it was necessarily his choice of locations; but, because it had been determined by the apostle it was probably the place where he was most needed. That congregation was at that time passing its first decade mark. The leadership there was not as effective as it should have been. You will remember in Paul's first letter to Timothy; the apostle discussed elder qualifications and deacon qualifications. There was apparently some problem in caring for the widows and distinguishing between "widows in deed" and those other widows of the congregation. The apostle recommended and charged that the ladies adorn themselves in modest apparel (I-Tim. 2:9) and not usurp authority over the men of the congregation. However, he admonished the women that they WERE TO LEARN in silence and in subjection. Just your ordinary people, with nerves, pain, fatigue, passions, economic problems, covetousness. Do you remember the way the last letter ended: "the love of money is the root of all evil..." (6:10). "Some [have] coveted after [and] have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Sound familiar? You get one problem solved and another is waiting for you or brewing to the point of beginning to jingle the lid a little. Paul charged and demanded that Timothy be impartial in all these matters (I-Tim. 5:21). The work of an evangelist is not easy. We said before Timothy was no doubt the closest one person to the apostle Paul, and we could spend a whole tape recounting and recalling their experiences together starting with Timothy's circumcision (back in Acts 16:3), the Macedonian call, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, and the establishment of the church at Ephesus. Timothy had acted as liaison, traveling with Paul and for Paul many times. This preacher was with Paul (at least most of the time) during Paul's first Roman imprisonment. Luke, the physician, was (at the time of this writing) with prisoner Paul; but, the old apostle wanted Timothy nearby to give him comfort and to make him feel more secure. Timothy was a real dedicated disciple. He was like a son to this old imprisoned apostle. Their fondness for each other was mutual. One interesting tid-bit here (that gives you a feeling of their real values); is that Paul said to Timothy in closing this letter (II-Tim. 4:21), "Do thy diligence to come before winter." In other words, the work of the church comes first, just like Jesus had said: "seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33). The work of the church at Ephesus, teaching the new converts, getting elders ordained, keeping unity in that congregation AND preaching Jesus took precedence over even Paul's most urgent needs. That went without saying. Incidentally, the winter mentioned here, I'm inclined to think was the next winter following the season when Titus went to be with Paul at Nicopolis, you will remember Paul's request in the letter to Titus. Now it's possible, of course, those plans were interrupted and this was the same winter; however, as we read II-Tim. 4:10 we learn that Titus had (at the time of this writing) gone on to Dalmatia. Also, it would appear Paul had done some travel recently, i.e. since their last communication, he said: "Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletus sick." Both of these places are seaport cities located on the opposite sides of the Aegean Sea. However, at this writing, Paul sees winter approaching again. Deep winter was simply a time when people did not travel on that big pond called the Mediterranean Sea (or at best) travel was very limited.
Before we get down to our reading and while you are trying to envision the conditions surrounding Paul and Timothy, get mentally oriented and get your detective badge all shined up; let's take just minute to mentally rendezvous with the church at Rome. What was the situation with that congregation? A local church right there in the city where Paul was in prison? That congregation to which Paul so enthusiastically wrote the book of Romans almost a decade before. Paul makes no mention of that church other than the message he conveyed to Timothy in closing (4:21): "Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the brethren." Were these members of the Roman congregation? That would be my guess; although, none of these names appear elsewhere. Also just to keep a good balance, you might review and stir into your thinking (just here) the rumors of war, Nero's accusation of Christians connected with the city fire, Paul's imprisonment and the pressures of/on that big capital city congregation begin to glare up at you even through history.
Now, if you are beginning to get a mental picture of Paul in that jail cell under guard and how frustrating it must have been, go one more step and try to mentally envision the day when Paul obtained a clean scroll, possibly with the help of Luke, and he began with a big feather-quill-pen to put-the-ink-to-the-paper, so-to-speak. Be careful not to push your imaginations into the realm of fantasy. Be cautious on this! However, a rustic, realistic mental picture and a little —putting yourself in Paul's place— can go a long way in comprehending this book.
With that much background and if you are in the mood, let's begin our reading. Here we go, v.l-2 (II-Tim. 1:1-2), this is what Paul wrote that day to Timothy: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the. will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dear beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." O.K., even if Paul had NOT put his name up front, as he did, you would obviously recognize this as the way Paul usually started his letters. Or as the commentators would say, this letter is very Pauline in design. I have said this before in almost every letter we have covered; but, Paul puts the inspiration factor right up front. Don't miss it! Paul was an ambassador for Christ (Eph. 6:20). He was in bonds, yes. However, he was an ambassador and spoke in behalf of (or on behalf) his sovereign, the Christ of glory. "An apostle of Jesus Christ" (do you see it?) and that was not of his own doing, please note, that was "by the will of God." In keeping with almost every letter he said (in behalf of his sovereign), "Grace, mercy, and peace, FROM God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." We have covered these thoughts before; but, don't forget it's significance. The promise of life, i.e. heaven, or eternal life is where? Underline that word "promise." Where is that promise? "In Christ Jesus." The doctrine that Paul preached was so ingrained, it just came oozing out and dripping out of everything he said. Now, if you have never read the Bible before, even a PhD (as literate as they claim to be) can read right over top of this and never see it. Paul put his claim of inspiration right up front. Who was this letter written to? Timothy. Paul called Timothy "my dearly beloved son." Was Timothy Paul's son in the flesh? NO! How do I know? Timothy's father was a Greek. We don't know Timothy's father's name but, the man is mentioned (in Acts 16:3). Paul had undoubtedly taught and converted Timothy to Christianity and had been instrumental in molding this gospel preacher then at Ephesus, and he couldn't have been any closer to Paul if he had literally been his son in the flesh. It is very easy for your brothers and sisters in Christ, real Christians, to be closer to you than your own family, just like Paul and Timothy.
Alright, let's read some more! This first chapter is blended together in such a way that I find it difficult to segment out into outline form a convenient block for discussion purposes. Like I said, one sentence blends into the next to such an extent, you can't break it up exactly on the basis of thought. I think whoever broke this up into chapters and verses, many years ago, must have had the same problem. They must have latched onto that big word "therefore" at the beginning of what they made chapter two as a convenient place to fold it; but, even that word is a blending word which ties very tightly back to what has already been said. Starting in this first chapter, beginning in v.3, the thought is something like this: I THaNK GOD FOR YOU TIMOTHY, YOU HAVE BEEN A GREAT INSPIRATION TO ME (PAUL). Blended onto that thought, the apostle relates and fuses and merges his thankfulness back into Timothy's past. And then starting in about v.6 and using this as a spring board, the apostle says in effect: TIMOTHY, HANG-IN THERE; BE ZEALOUS AND WILLING AS I HAVE BEEN TO SUFFER FOR THE GOSPEL. The apostle uses himself as an example. What would you call that? A pep-talk (the athletes might call it)? Well, I'm sure like most of us, Timothy needed all the pep-talks and encouragement he could get. Then the apostle continues in effect: TIMOTHY, SUFFERING IS JUST PART OF IT...DON'T BE ASHAMED...JUST HANG-IN THERE. And then the apostle ties this into some examples of how some others have turned away from him and disappointed him and how still others (faithful to the cause) have ministered to Paul, i.e. encouraged Paul, the apostle. Then this thought, which I might summarize in Paul's words: "endure hardness, as a good soldier" (2:3) continues on into chapter two.
But, right now let's just chop off a piece to start with. Let's read v.3-4-5. You might note (in the KJV) this is just one big long sentence. Are you with it? Here we go (II-Tim. 1:3 beginning): "I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also."
O.K., now take your fine tooth comb and run through that two or three more times. Paul begins with that same approach he has used before, TIMOTHY, I PRAY FOR YOU, REGULARLY. I THANK GOD FOR YOU TIMOTHY, THAT SAME GOD I HAVE KNOWN AND LEARNED FROM MY ANCESTORS (I'm paraphrasing). How many times has Paul used his prayers to tell and to teach and admonish those to whom he wrote? If we back up to the Ephesian letter, you will remember he said to those brethren at that same place: "I...cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers" (Eph. 1:16). At the end of the Ephesian letter, Paul solicited their prayers, like this: "Praying always...for me, that uttrance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel." Not only did Paul pray for those people he wrote to, he solicited their prayers in his behalf. To the Philippians during his first imprisonment, the apostle wrote: "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from that first day until now..." (Phil. l:3ff). Near the end of the Philippian letter, the imprisoned apostle said: "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God." (Phil. 4:6). In the Colossian letter the apostle said of himself and Timothy (who was with him at that time): "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you..." (Col. 1:3). Paul told the Colossians how fervently that Epaphras prayed for the brethren at Colossie. (Col. 4:12). This point could be made in I-Thess. and II-Thess. and a good many other places. In this urgent letter to his friend Timothy, the apostle wanted him to know he was still praying for Timothy, "greatly desiring to see thee." And, Paul said that as he prayed for this faithful gospel preacher, he kept remembering his tears; I'm inclined to think as they prayed together at their last departure. Notice in v.4 and beginning of v.5, the apostle said it give him joy to pray for and to think back upon Timothy, what a faithful servant he was. Timothy's faith was not superficial, or something just on the surface. The word translated "unfeigned faith" (here, v.5) Vine, the Greek authority, says the Greek word means: "without hypocrisy." And, as Paul thought upon Timothy he couldn't help but remember the faith of Timothy's Jewish grandmother named Lois and Timothy's mother (whose name was Eunice) had shown the same disposition and tendencies.
What do we learn from this? Faith is important! Paul had told the Ephesian brethren, those Christians in that same large metropolitan area (Eph. 6:16), that their faith is like a shield, that instrument of war used by soldiers in battle back in those days to stop the firey darts of the enemy, i.e. the arrows of battle, their bullets. One's faith is like a shield. If you know the Bible, God's word...if you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ...if you know your purpose here and where you are going (spiritually); then, you can stop false doctrines and perverted religious teachings just like that shield of a soldier could stop a deadly threatening arrow in battle. And what does that say about false doctrines? Now, if your faith is thin and your understanding that developed that faith is weak (faith cometh by hearing, Rom. 10:17); then, you leave yourself vulnerable to being taught error by the forces of Satan, you see. The old apostle could conscientiously say, I THANK GOD FOR YOU TIMOTHY! Oh! how badly we need more Timothy’s today. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing the word of God. Then James said: "be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only" (Jas. 1:22). Have a good day!