For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough


This appears to have been Paul’s last letter, written, it is  believed, between 67 and 68, the generally accepted year of his death.  He was in prison in Rome awaiting execution, see 4:6, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.”


1:1.  “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,”

For comments on Paul as an apostle, please see the notes on 1 Timothy 1:1.

“... according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,” simply means that what Paul was, and what he was doing, were related to the fact that he possessed that eternal life which God has promised to everyone who trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, and his ministry was two fold: through his preaching, to lead sinners to accept God’s gift of that eternal life, and through his teaching to lead believers into the enjoyment of it.

1:2.  “To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Timothy, as noted in our study of the first Epistle, was Paul’s spiritual son, but the two were united by a bond of love stronger than that which exists between many a natural father and son, and was strengthened, no doubt, by their common devotion to the things of God.

Since Paul himself could not bestow grace, mercy or peace, the implication is that this was the expression of his desire that God would grant these blessings to Timothy, and certainly the young man had need of them in view of the situation at that time, for it was when the fires of persecution were blazing fiercely against the Christians, and when the love and zeal of many were in corresponding measure beginning to wane.  It was just about three or four years after the great fire of 63 which had destroyed much of Rome, and which Nero (suspected by many of being the real arsonist) blamed on the Christians.  The result was that they were mercilessly persecuted, and put to death by every cruel method conceived by Nero’s diabolic mind and that of his supporters.  History records that some were crucified; others were covered in pitch and used as human torches; while others were sown in animal skins and then hunted and devoured by packs of dogs.  Many a believer in that era was called upon to seal his testimony with his blood.

Paul knew that following his death, much of the responsibility for the general care of the churches would fall on Timothy’s shoulders, and since he was apparently of a timid disposition, and frail in health, he had great need of God’s grace, for apart from that grace the task would have been beyond him.

But God’s mercy would also be needed to protect Timothy from what a more robust individual would have been better equipped to deal with. 

And how much His peace was needed!  If His young servant was to assume the enormous responsibility of teaching, exhorting, and comforting the saints in the midst of persecution on the one hand, and waning love and flagging zeal on the other, while rebutting false teaching, and enduring persecution, then he needed peace, as it is written, “Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus,” Php 4:6-7.  Relative to the keeping of hearts and minds, alternative translations are, “shall guard your hearts and thoughts ... be a garrison to guard your hearts and minds.”  The need for hearts (emotions) and minds (thoughts) to be guarded by a divine garrison (a body of troops stationed in a fortified place), will be better realized when we consider how vulnerable emotions and thoughts are to the attack of Satan.  The believer who doesn’t walk in the peaceful assurance of knowing that every event is ordained or permitted by God for our ultimate blessing, will accomplish little for God.

The equality of Christ with the Father is declared in that grace, mercy, and peace are bestowed by both.

1:3.  “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;”

The first half of this verse is not teaching that Paul, in his unconverted days, was serving God with a pure conscience, but rather that since his conversion, he served Him with a clear conscience, according to the form used by his forefathers, i.e., according to OT scriptural order, and as they had taught that form to him.  In connection with this it is necessary to understand that until AD 70 Jewish Christians worshiped according to the Levitical order, in addition to using the two Christian ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  This was because until AD 70 Israel was still being offered the millennial kingdom in which the Levitical form will be the universal method of worship for Jew and Gentile alike.  The separate order governing the worship of the Gentile believers between AD 32 and AD 70, was because God foreknew that Israel’s unbelief would prevent them from entering the millennial kingdom, and it was His intention to make the Gentile order that of the Church following the dissolution of Jewish autonomy in AD 70. 

It is failure to recognize the legitimacy of the Levitical form of worship for Jewish Christians between AD 32 and AD 70 that has resulted in much misunderstanding of the book of Acts.

Prior to his conversion Paul, with a clear conscience, thinking he was serving God, persecuted believers, and through them, the Lord Himself, see Ac 9:4, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” and a very necessary lesson to be learned from this is that the conscience must be clear according to the Word of God, and not according to the principles of some religious system, or our own concept of right and wrong.

The reference to his “prayers night and day” indicates the priority prayer had in Paul’s life, and its necessity in ours.

1:4.  “Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;”

Paul’s great desire to see Timothy again, and the joy such a visit would give him, continue to speak of the great love he had for Timothy, while the reference to Timothy’s tears (probably shed at the time of their last parting), assures us that the love was mutual.

1:5.  “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.”

“Unfeigned” means simply “sincere, genuine.”  The reference to its having been also in his grandmother and mother assures us that there was nothing superficial about their faith: it too was strong, genuine, sincere.  The past tense “dwelt” relative to his grandmother and mother may indicate that they had died.

1:6.  “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.”

“... stir up” is used in the sense of continuous action, i.e., he was to keep on continually stirring up his spiritual gift.  It is also translated “keep blazing; keep alive the flame; fan the flame; kindle afresh,” the relation to fire, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, reminding us that it is He who gives each believer his spiritual gift, see 1 Cor 12:8.  Here activity is being emphasized relative to spiritual gift, but in 1 Tim 4:14 we have warning relative to inactivity in the same connection, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee....”  Gift is not to be neglected and thus allowed to lie dormant, for while spiritual gift is not the same as natural talent, the same principle governs both: effort must be expended in developing each, otherwise it will never be known that it exists.

It is also to be noted that it is “gift” singular.  There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that any believer is given more than one spiritual gift, the Apostles, of course, being the unique exception.  Further confirmation that each believer is given only one spiritual gift is found also in Ro 12:6-8; 1 Pe 4:10.  That every believer has been given a spiritual gift is declared in 1 Cor 12:7,11; 1 Pe 4:10.  2 Tim 4:5 indicates that Timothy’s gift was evangelism, i.e., the preaching of the gospel.

“... by the putting on of my hands,” may have reference to 1 Tim 4:14 which records the laying on of the hands of the presbytery (elders), an act in which Paul probably joined.  It is to be noted that the laying on of hands was a Jewish practice having no validity for the Church after AD 70.  It may be that Timothy received his spiritual gift when Paul laid his hands on him, or it may be that the laying on of Paul’s hands together with the those of the elders, simply signified their recognition of his having the gift, and of his effective use of it.  The normal order for the Church age is that each believer appears to receive his spiritual gift at the moment of conversion.

1:7.  “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

“Spirit of fear” is literally “of fearfulness, timidity, cowardice,” in other words, we can be sure that fear, timidity, and cowardice are not of God, but of Satan.

Relative to the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind, the word “spirit” here refers not to the Holy Spirit, but rather to the fact that as a result of His indwelling, we are assured that His power is now available to us, as declared in Php 4:13,, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” 

His indwelling also enables us to act in love towards all men, something impossible to the natural man; and the link between love and lack of fear is revealed in 1 Jn 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear .... He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

“... of a sound mind,” is associated with the idea of having the ability to make sound judgments, have self-control, use  discretion, this ability also being ours as a result of having the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.  It is to be noted, however, that His power is available to us only as He is ungrieved and unquenched, in other words, as long as we obey Him.

1:8.  “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;”

The “therefore” is the link between the power available to us through the Holy Spirit, and the natural tendency, particularly of those who are naturally of a timid disposition, as Timothy appears to have been.  The Holy Spirit supplies the power to make right judgments relative to testimony for Christ.  He will give us the courage to overcome the shame and fear induced by man’s mockery or other intimidation, and to bear a fearless witness even in the face of all that might deter us naturally.  Part of the sound judgment given is the wisdom to live our lives in view of the judgment seat of Christ.  Anticipation of the Lord’s commendation for faithfulness will outweigh the natural tendency to avoid the mockery or persecution of men.

“... nor of me his prisoner,” goes beyond Paul, and reminds us that as Timothy wasn’t to be ashamed of his association with Paul, neither are we to be ashamed to be associated with those who also suffer shame or persecution for Christ’s sake.  Timothy’s willingness to associate himself with those who were mocked or persecuted for Christ’s sake would make him what Paul encouraged him, and us, to be: “partakers of the afflictions of the gospel,” for he who takes a stand for Christ will assuredly suffer affliction from a world that hates the Savior and those who are His, as the Lord Himself warned, “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” Jn 16:33, and again, “... because ye are not of the world ... therefore the world hateth you.... The servant is not greater than his lord.  If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” Jn 15:19-20.

“... according to the power of God,” means that we are to have reliance on God that He will give us the strength for each trial.  He wont leave us to our own feeble resources.

1:9.  “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”

We have been saved not just to continue living as we had prior to conversion, but to live holy lives, so that we may be instruments in His hand, His grace having given us the opportunity and the fitness to do the work He assigns us for the advancement of His own purposes.  His having ordained this for us before the world began doesn’t mean that we have been predestinated either to be saved or to serve.  We are saved by our own freewill choice, and we render Him service also according to our own freewill choice.  He will neither compel sinners to be saved, nor saints to serve.  His having given us this grace in Christ before the world began means that in eternity past He determined to make available to believers the opportunity to willingly render Him whatever service He might require.

“... not according to our works” assures us that nothing we could ever do would make us worthy of this blessing.  It was all of His rich grace in bestowing undeserved blessing.

The fact that this is described as being “according to his own purpose in grace,” reminds us that it is grace on His part that accords us this high and holy privilege of having a part in the accomplishment of His plans: it is not because He has need of us.  He who called the universe into existence simply by a word has no need of help from anyone.  It is a privilege of inestimable worth to be allowed to serve Him, and to be given an eternal reward for doing so.

1:10.  “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:”

What has been revealed by Christ’s incarnation is the vast extent of God’s grace that would not only make His priceless gift of eternal life available to believing sinners, but that would also accord them the privilege of serving Him in the accomplishment of His eternal purposes.

“... who hath abolished death,” means simply that by submitting Himself to death the Lord Jesus Christ has annulled the power of death: it can now do no more than cause the believer’s body to sleep until the resurrection of life, when it will be raised a glorious, powerful, spiritual, immortal body, similar to His own resurrection body, see 1 Cor 15:42-44 and Php 3:21.

“... and hath brought life and immortality to light.”  The Lord has not only annulled the power of death: He has revealed life which is immune to corruption (spiritual or eternal death), for as He said Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jn 14:6.  He is Himself that incorruptible eternal life, and the glad tidings of the gospel are that whoever receives Him, i.e., trusts Him as Savior, receives that new eternal life.  He receives the very life of Christ Himself, which means that he becomes a part of Christ, as it is written, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particulars,” 1 Cor 12:27, and again, “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones .... and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church,” Eph 5:30-32.

“... through the gospel.”  The gospel is the announcement of these glad tidings, of this good news, that through faith in Christ men pass for ever beyond the power of death, and become the possessors of eternal life, the very life of Christ.  Its being said that “he hath brought life and immortality to light” means that through the gospel He has made available a far more detailed knowledge of what is involved in death and resurrection than was available to men prior to His own death and resurrection.

1:11.  “Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.”

As noted already, preaching is specially connected with the telling out the good news of the gospel, and it is to be noted that Paul’s appointment, like that of every other believer, was by God, not man.  It is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit, not only to endow each believer with a spiritual gift, but also to assign each believer his sphere of service.  No believer, not even an elder, has authority to assign or direct the work of another believer; nor does Scripture even hint at God’s authorizing the setting up of committees or boards to engage in such activity.

His being an apostle was also by God’s appointment, and while “apostle” in the general sense simply means “messenger,” it is recognized that the twelve and Paul were apostles in a unique sense, part of their qualification for that office being that they “have companied with us (the eleven) all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection” Ac 1:21-22.  These qualifications clearly preclude the idea of apostolic succession.  Only those living at that time could meet the requirements.

“... and a teacher of the Gentiles,” reminds us that Paul’s unique calling was that of apostle to the Gentiles; as Peter’s was to be the apostle to the Jews, see Ga 2:7, “... the gospel of the uncircumcision (the Gentiles) was committed unto me Paul, as the gospel of the circumcision (the Jews) was unto Peter.”

His being “a teacher of the Gentiles” goes beyond preaching the gospel: it emphasizes the instruction of converts in sound doctrine; and the writings of Paul declare the extent to which the ministry of teaching was committed to him.

1:12.  “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

The cause for which Paul was suffering is given in the preceding verse, his sufferings having been foretold at the time of his conversion, “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake,” Ac 9:16.  He had been appointed by God as a preacher, apostle, and teacher of the Gentiles, and it was because of his faithfulness in doing the work which God had given him to do, that he had suffered much, and was now in prison awaiting execution, that final sacrifice being described in 4:6, “For I am now ready to be offered (as a drink offering), and the time of my departure is at hand.”  That he had perhaps anticipated such an end is indicated in what he had written about seven or eight years earlier to the Philippians, “Yea, and if I be offered (as a drink offering) upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all,” Php 2:17.

His being in prison, condemned to death as a lawbreaker, would have been (in fact was) viewed by many as cause for shame, but Paul viewed all things from the perspective of heaven.  He remembered that his Lord had endured far greater shame, far greater suffering, in order to redeem his (Paul’s) soul from hell and the lake of fire; but he remembered also that that same Lord now sits at the right hand of the Father on the throne of heaven, crowned with glory and honor, having promised His own that for everything endured for His sake there would be also a corresponding measure of eternal glory in that same heaven, “... there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time ... with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life,” Mk 10:29-30.  In 1 Cor 2:9 it is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  See also 2 Tim 4:8; Jas 1:12; 1 Pe 5:4; Re 2:10 for the promise of a crown of righteousness, of life, of glory, of life.

Paul’s confidence in the assurances of future glory and honor, was based on his knowledge of the One who had given those assurances.  The Lord could be trusted to keep His word; and that He has the power to perform all that He has promised is demonstrated in His own resurrection, for nothing is impossible to Him who has vanquished death.

“... that which I have committed unto him,” has not enjoyed universal interpretation: some take it to mean that it is the keeping of Paul’s soul that has been entrusted to Christ’s keeping; others, that it refers to what the Lord has entrusted to Paul’s keeping, that is, the work of preaching the gospel and teaching the converts: in other words, Paul might die, but the gospel would continue to be preached.  My personal view is that the reference is to the safe keeping of Paul’s soul.

“... against that day” is generally understood to refer to the day of the Lord’s return to the air to rapture His Church home to heaven, with emphasis upon what will follow, that is, the judgment seat of Christ, where faithful service will be abundantly recompensed.

1:13.  “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”

The “sound words” are literally that teaching which he had received from Paul, and which promotes spiritual health; and as Paul had been impelled by faith and love to teach Timothy sound doctrine, so was Timothy, in the same spirit of faith in God and love towards men, to cling to that doctrine, and teach it to others.  The need of love relative to doctrine cannot be over emphasized, for it is possible to be doctrinally sound, but unloving in practicing that same doctrine.

Relative to “the form of sound words,” William MacDonald’s comments seem worth quoting.  He writes, “... it is sometimes suggested that we should abandon such old-fashioned expressions as ‘being born again’ or ‘the blood of Jesus.’  People want to use more sophisticated language.  But there is a subtle danger here.  In abandoning the scriptural mode of expression, they often abandon the very truths which are communicated by these expressions.  Therefore, Timothy should hold fast the very pattern of healthful words.”

1:14.  “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.”

The “good thing” which had been entrusted to Timothy was the sound doctrine taught him by Paul, and he was not only to hold it fast, that is, obey it, but also to guard it, because it was a very precious thing of which Satan would strive to rob him.  And as the doctrine was as a precious treasure which Satan would seek to seize, so would it require more than human strength and vigilance to keep: it would require all the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer.

That same treasure of sound doctrine has been committed to every believer, requiring each one of us to avail ourselves of that same indwelling supernatural power to guard it, for in our own strength we are helpless against the adversary.  It is therefore necessary that we not cut ourselves off from that power by quenching and/or grieving the Holy Spirit through disobedience.  We quench Him by refusing to do what He commands, and we grieve Him by doing what He has not commanded.

1:15.  “This thou knowest that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.”

Were it not that it is recorded in Scripture, it would be hard to believe that every Christian in Asia had turned away from Paul, but the fact that they had deserted him (as Peter had deserted the Lord in the hour of His greatest need), should warn us that we need to be constantly on guard lest we too be turned aside, either by the enticements or the intimidation of this evil world.

An interesting comment relative to the turning away of the Asian Christians is given in the JFB Commentary: “All who are there now, when they were in Rome ... turned from me.”  Few commentators, however, appear to accept this view, though it appears to have merit.

There is no other scriptural mention of Phygellus and Hermogenes, so we know nothing of them except that Paul’s mention of their names indicates that they may have been men of some prominence in the church.  If we are right in drawing this inference, the lesson is that when tested by adversity, men of seeming importance may prove to be just as vulnerable as any other.

1:16.  “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:”

1:17.  “But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.”

1:18.  “The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.”

The only other scriptural reference to this man is in 4:19, where Paul, concluding this letter, writes, “Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.”  The repeated reference to his household indicates that his whole household were faithful and generous in their ministry to the saints.  Many scholars believe that the reference to “the house of Onesiphorus” indicates that he himself was dead at this time.

If he was still alive, the plea that God would extend mercy  was undoubtedly prompted by the knowledge that such faithful ministry to Christians at that time was very likely to invite persecution, confiscation of his possessions, imprisonment, and possibly death.  That Onesiphorus was willing to risk all of these things is declared in that even after Paul was imprisoned as a lawbreaker, he still went to great trouble to locate the apostle and minister to him, even though that activity was almost certain to invite the unwelcome attention of the Roman authorities, and make him also a prisoner.

The plea for mercy in verse 18 is different from that of verse 16.  As noted already, that of verse 16 related to protection from harm; but here in verse 18 it relates to the judgment seat of Christ, and expresses the hope that there the Lord will recompense the faithfulness of Onesiphorus, and those of his household, with an abundant reward.  That Paul’s hope will be fulfilled in a measure beyond his greatest expectation is assured by the high value the Lord sets on kindness done to those who are His, as it is written, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” Mt 25:40.

“... unto me” of verse 18 is not in the best manuscripts, so that the emphasis is on the service rendered, not just to Paul, but to others also.

“... thou knowest very well” is literally “thou knowest better than I,” and was written because Timothy had been in Ephesus longer than Paul, and therefore had fuller knowledge of the kindness of Onesiphorus.

[2 Timothy 2]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough