This short letter contains the “last words” of Paul, the great apostle, to his beloved co-worker Timothy. Writing from a Roman military prison around A.D. 67, Paul is alone and senses the end is near. Indeed, his martyrdom at the hands of the Romans would soon follow. But he wants to deliver one last set of challenges to Timothy and all the believers: Be strong. Do not fear. Hold to sound doctrine. Suffer hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Preach the gospel. Fight the good fight.
He begins by thanking God for Timothy and for the uncommon blessing of Timothy’s spiritual heritage, experiences, and gifts. “Fan those gifts into flame!” Paul urges, for the Spirit that God has given us is powerful for boldness, love, and self-discipline. Knowing this, Paul tells Timothy to be ready to suffer disgrace for the sake of the gospel. But he challenges his young friend not to be ashamed. Paul knows that a prison cell was not an honorable setting from which to write a letter, yet he isn’t ashamed of the gospel or being imprisoned for it.
One measure of faithfulness is how we handle God’s Word. We shouldn’t approach God’s Word to engage in fruitless debates; instead, we should recognize it as an explanation of how to walk rightly before Him and abstain from wickedness. By fleeing selfish desires, God’s people can position themselves to be useful to Him. At the close of 2 Timothy 2, Paul tells Timothy to patiently and gently persuade his opponents to submit to God’s Word, even though difficult times were coming in these last days as men and women love what they shouldn’t—themselves, money, pleasure, etc.—and fail to love what they should, namely, God and His wisdom.
In addition to the power of the indwelling Spirit, Timothy had two additional advantages to guide him: the conduct of Paul that was worth imitating, and Scriptures he could believe. Paul promised that as Timothy followed Jesus, he would suffer persecution because suffering is normal for Christians. Yet, as evil people go from bad to worse, believers in Christ are to be transformed by the Word of God and equipped for every good work.
Paul closes his last letter with passionate urgency, charging Timothy in the presence of God and Christ Jesus to preach the Word. He exhorted him to be ready in season and out of season—to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction (4:3). Paul told Timothy that he (Paul) had fought the good fight and kept the faith. Finally, he passed the baton on to Timothy and gave him an important charge: hold firm to the faithful preaching of the Word.
Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians from a Roman prison in the early 60s. He wrote to the believers who lived in Ephesus (3:1, 4:1). Ephesus was a port city. Some of its economy was dependent on the worship of idols (Acts 19). Ephesians 1–3 unpack the glories of God’s mystery and His plan to overcome disunity and bring peace through Christ. This plan will culminate when heaven reunites with earth in Christ, Paul wrote, but even now Paul saw glimpses of it unfolding. Christ exercised His power to reconcile sinners to God and to one another in the church. The news of His victory spread to more and more people through servants like Paul who engaged the unreached.
In Ephesians 4–5, Paul urged believers to live as servants of Christ. It takes hard work to live together in unity, and our unity with Christ and as believers is best displayed to the world through our closest relationships: husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee. The manner in which we live out our closest relationships will influence and affect our relationships with those in the church and the world. Preserving unity with one another in the church and promoting disunity with the world’s ways of relating and thinking embody faithfulness to God’s plan. Through its unity and love, the church showcases the glory of Christ’s reign to the world.
Understanding this, Paul concluded the letter in Ephesians 6 by calling the Ephesians to be strong in Christ. As believers in a world at war, we must prepare ourselves for spiritual battle, Paul wrote. Our “enemies” are not necessarily the unbelievers who cross our paths; instead, they’re “victims of the enemy.” By outfitting ourselves with the spiritual “equipment” we need to face the battle, we gain understanding of the true forces of evil at work in our world and can stand firm against those forces while reaching out in love to those who need the gospel.
1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
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