Paul’s final epistle, 2 Timothy, was written two years after 1 Timothy. It was written from a prison cell in Rome, just before Paul’s martyrdom. The wicked and mad Roman emperor Nero was believed to have set fire to Rome. He blamed Christians for the fire and had many Christians arrested, tortured and killed by wrapping them in pitched clothes, tying them to stakes, and setting them on fire to light the streets. Amid this mayhem, Paul was waiting to be tried in court. He knew he was likely to be killed (2 Timothy 4:6). Therefore, he writes to his favourite protégé Timothy, sharing his final thoughts.
Two things can be noted in these opening verses. Firstly, Paul’s strong sense of identity and calling. Paul was clear that he served the living God, the God of his forefathers. He was not a flyby- night preacher who had turned up out of nowhere. His identity was deeply rooted in his rich heritage: the long history of his people, and God’s relationship with them. The God he served was the same God his forefathers served (v.3). The gospel was firmly rooted in the history of his people. Jesus is the Lion of Judah, the Son of David, a Branch from Jesse and the promised Messiah.
Again, Paul emphasises serving God with a clear conscience (v.3). He had got it wrong, of course, before his conversion. But he had served with all seriousness and sincerity. After meeting Jesus, he knew better and all the more served God wholeheartedly and with great zeal. He was convinced of the “promise of life that is in Christ Jesus” (v.1)—that eternal life comes through Jesus. For this reason, he was called to be an apostle; this was not his own choice, but God’s will.
Secondly, we note Paul’s fatherly relationship with Timothy. He addresses Timothy as “my dear son” (v.2). He might have personally brought Timothy to a saving knowledge of Christ. He certainly discipled the younger man. He prays for Timothy “night and day” (v.3) as he remembers Timothy’s tears when they last parted company (v.4). He longs to see his spiritual son again before he dies. These expressions speak of how deeply Paul loves Timothy.
Review Paul’s calling (Acts 9:15–16, 22:14–15, 26:17–18). How do you think Paul’s experience of being called by God so specifically and clearly helped him in his difficult circumstances?
Paul constantly remembered Timothy in his prayers. What do you think Paul would have prayed about for Timothy? Who are the people you need to pray for in the same way?