Who Wrote the Book of 2 Timothy?
As with 1 Timothy, Paul names himself as the author in the very first verse. In the past 200 years or so, Paul’s authorship of 2 Timothy has been questioned. Critics have claimed that these writings differ in style from that of Paul’s earlier letters, but the evidence for these claims is not substantial. Style and vocabulary can change much in part to a person’s personal growth and creativity, and the early church would have rejected and removed anyone from office who wrote under false pretenses. Therefore, there is good reason to believe the straightforward statement in scripture that claims that 2 Timothy was written by the apostle Paul to Timothy.
Context and Background of 2 Timothy
Although it does not appear last in the arrangement of the New Testament, 2 Timothy was actually the last letter that Paul wrote. Scholars believe he penned it on his fourth missionary journey between AD 64-68. Scholars have evidence to believe that 2 Timothy was written while Paul was serving his second Roman sentence in prison. He is writing to Timothy as he is “chained like a criminal” (2:9) and has been accused of a crime that is punishable by death. Paul is nearing death and is writing to Timothy, who is still in Ephesus where Paul originally left him. Paul also instructs Timothy to share the letter with the church of Ephesus (2:2, 2:14).
Main Theme and Purpose of 2 Timothy
The main theme of 2 Timothy is a bold call to stand firm in the face of opposition and suffering for the sake of the gospel. As Paul is nearing death (4:6-8), he writes to his “beloved son” (1:2) in order to spur him on in the faith, despite the trials and devastations that may come his way. In this letter, Paul mentions that several friends have abandoned him, and others are away on their own journeys. Therefore, one of the main purposes for this letter was to ask Timothy to visit Paul in prison and to instruct him in who and what to bring with him before his death (4:9, 4:21, 4:11-13).
The second purpose that we see in this letter comes from a wider scope. In Paul’s final letter, we see him recount of God’s faithfulness in the life of Timothy and reflect on their relationship. Many scholars believe this to be a farewell discourse of Pauls. With this in mind, we see that Paul’s second purpose for writing this is to leave Timothy with a final letter of personal encouragement, instruction, and wisdom for his ministry (1:5-14, 2:1-16, 2:22-26, 3:10-4:5).
What Can We Learn from 2 Timothy Today?
As Christians today, we can gain great encouragement and exhortation from Paul’s final letter to Timothy. First and foremost, we can learn to expect suffering in the life of a Christian and to boldly persevere through it for the sake of the gospel. Paul starts his letter off by encouraging Timothy to lay aside all fear and timidity through the power of God’s spirit (1:7). He calls Timothy to “join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God” (1:8). He then transitions in chapter 2 by stating that he “endures everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus” (2:10). Suffering should not be a surprise to the Christian (3:12), but rather, we should be armed and ready to persevere “like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2:3).
Paul also brings about multiple references to the daily need, doctrine, and purpose of scripture in the life of a believer. We as believers must continue to learn, grow in, and believe the scriptures that are “able to make you wise through faith in Christ Jesus” (3:15). Paul states here that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (3:16). If we believe this verse to be true, then we must learn to come to scripture ready to lay down our own ideas, opinions, perceptions, and filters. We must allow God’s word to teach, rebuke, correct, and train us “for every good work” (3:17). We must not seek people who will preach only what our “itching ears want to hear” (4:3), but rather we must seek to read and understand the Word on our own, and learn to be under the preaching and authority of sound doctrine that will “correct, rebuke, and encourage us - with great patience and instruction” (4:2).
Our Favorite Verses from 1 Timothy
2 Timothy 4:2-5 — “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
2 Timothy 3:14-17 — “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 2:8-10 — “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”
2 Timothy 2:14-16 — “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.”
2 Timothy 2:22-26 — “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
2 Timothy 1:7-12 — “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—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 Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”
- Moo, D. J. (2015). The Letters and Revelation. In D. A. Carson (Ed.), NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message (p. 2470). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
- Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2167). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
- Kassian, M. A. (2017). The Bible and Women. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1931). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2335). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
- Hughes, R. K. (2013). 2 Timothy. In B. Chapell & D. Ortlund (Eds.), Gospel Transformation Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1637). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
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Stephanie Englehart is a Seattle native, church planter’s wife, mama, and lover of all things coffee, the great outdoors, and fine (easy to make) food. Stephanie is passionate about allowing God to use her honest thoughts and confessions to bring gospel application to life. You can read more of what she writes on the Ever Sing blog at stephaniemenglehart.com or follow her on Instagram: @stephaniemenglehart.