2 Timothy: a synopsis

Verses 1 - 5

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

2To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also..


Second Epistle of the Apostle Paul to Timothy.

The book is an epistle (letter) from Paul to Timothy; and this is in no doubt since the letter begins with a salutation to this effect as attested to by most of fathers of the modern translations.

1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
2To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Big Idea of the book

The first epistle deals with the house of God as a local congregation and the issue of false or misapplied doctrine. This is not found in the second epistle where the view is much wider: in this case the entire professing church is brought into view - the great house - which no longer has the order in which it was set up: in which vessels to dishonour (2:20) are to be found. Indeed the great house is falling into disrepair, from which recovery is not mentioned. Paul's life in some way is an analogy of the true doctrine of the Church - all eventually would turn away and Paul would be murdered - the Church has turned away from the Canon of Scripture and done away with Truth.[1] The first epistle speaks of some that have turned away but by this letter all have turned away. The sorry state of the Church is reflected in the real and impending doom of Paul. It speaks to a saint as to his faithfulness - contrasting those that have turned aside through unfaithfulness -

You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes (1:3)

At a personal level the writer is looking for devotedness and courage in the individual, Timothy, as a man of God.

Be not thou therefore ashamed (1:8)

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus (1:13)

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2:1)

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them (3:14)

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word!... (4:1,2)

But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (4:5)

Be diligent to come to me quickly (4:9)

Where this book fits into the Bible

This book is the 55th book of the Bible, and hence is part of the New Testament.

The Book is a letter (hence Epistle), and therefore must be read in its entirety, within the historical context of the time, and most importantly with a view of hearing what the author (Paul) was intending the reader (Timothy) to hear.

The Book is not doctrinal in nature but a practical application of doctrine and more importantly, continues to raise the issue of the importance of true doctrine. Indeed, within the Canon, it is a champion of the doctrine of Jesus Christ; nothing else must be allowed to substitute it.

It is continues the warnings given in 1 Timothy and is considered by some to be the Last Will and Testament of Paul, which is a good summation[2].

The Authority of the book

The book was in circulation in the second century, and it is the traditional view that it belongs with the Canon, although many think the actual penning of the letter, especially the second epistle was by an amanueses, perhaps Luke (4: 11 Only Luke is with me).

Who wrote the book

The Apostle Paul definitely wrote this book, what ever worldly and corrupt minds may say. The problem with the minds of men is they cannot understand that the Spirit of God is who gives breath to the words - which Paul states in this very letter. The issue arises by assuming a writer always uses the same tone, style and content in his writings, what ever and who ever the audience. This however does not take into account that the tone, style and content (language) can and does change with time, setting and purpose of any author - to suggest otherwise is ridiculous. The style I use to write a letter concerning health to a medical professional is vastly different to the style I use to write to a dear friend who is suffering some illness. The style I use when free and unencumbered with sorry or pain is different than that when I am about to die. Paul is free and unencumbered in the first letter and in gaol in the second - and about to die. Of course his tone is vastly different. This letter is to a dear friend and fellow worker, not a church, bewitched as in the church at Galatia, or under siege by evil as in the letter to the church at Corinth, or a church that is failing to see the truth of the body of Christ is as in the case of the letter to the church at Ephesus.

Why was it written

Paul has given Timothy apostolic authority to deal with corruption in the church at Ephesus, mainly due to false doctrine introduced by Christians so called, who led the congregation astray.

(Some misconstrue Timothy's role at this point - he is not an elder or bishop of the church - there is no evidence of this - indeed he to appoint elders who had the truth of the gospel in them, but he is a delegate of Paul to carry out a task for which Paul was not in the position to).

The issues arose from Judaisers (those that added elements of the law of Moses to the grace of God) and the wealth of the church leading to lascivious living. The first letter is very specific to these issues and to the church as a household of faith.

The second letter is one of finality; one to encourage perseverance especially in the proclamation of the gospel. In many senses it is a last will and testament of Paul, but to Timothy it is a letter of encouragement recalling his days as a youth and encouraging loyalty to the truth - the true gospel of Christ and the need its proclamation.

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,

9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,

10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

12 For this reason 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 what I have committed to Him until that Day. (1:8 - 1:12)

It is also note worthy that it is a book of names: names of people for and against God, and names of places where those living there supported or deserted Paul (See appendix).

When was it written

It is supposed by some that this letter was written about 65-67 AD; and most believe it was in this decade, at least. It is definitely towards the end of Paul's life because he is in prison and waiting to die (1:16 and 2:9).

Where was it written

From prison in Rome - some of his friends that are with him are Latin. The Acts of the Apostles does not cover this period of Paul; hence it is sketchy as to what occurred up to this point from Acts 28. He clearly left Troas in a hurry, leaving behind a cloak and more important an invaluable parchment (i.e. portion of the Bible). Some believe it was here he was arrested, which accounts for the missing items (leaving behind such a precious parchment would have been unlikely to have been mere forgetfulness).

To whom was the book written

To Timothy, a man of God, who has been given apostolic authority by Paul the Apostle, to root out false doctrine in the Ephesus Church and set the congregation right.

Of what or whom it speaks[3]

The character of the book is Christian; it speaks to a Christian, of Christians and for Christians and in particular in the context of the Church. Unlike the first epistle, this letter is a much broader view than just the church at Ephesus - its view is the whole professing church.

This book cannot be understood outside this context, for the church was a mystery to Old Testament saints. It speaks of and to the saints of the church at Ephesus and in particular Timothy, a young friend of Paul. The wide view is that of the whole Church, the Assembly of God; the great house that has vessels to honour as well as to dishonour.

It speaks at a personal level of Paul - in that "all in Asia had turned away" from him, however there was one that cared for him in prison which he is grateful (contrasted against Jesus Christ who had no-one - all forsook him).

The underlying theme is the heart's of men - who either hold fast to the faith or turn from it. Paul knows who he has believed and knows the reward - the crown of righteousness awaits him:

. 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. 1:12 (KJV)

Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (4:8)


Divisions see footnote[4]

1.      Salutation by Paul to Timothy (1:1-2)

2.      An exhortation and encouragement to hold fast (1:3 - 1:18)

3.      An exhortation to be strong in endurance in the time of conflict (have stamina) (2:1 - 26)

4.      Exhortation to be faithful in the last days which will be full of peril (3:1 - 4:8)

5.      The last words of the Apostle Paul, with greetings to friends (4:8 - 4-22).

Principal or Key Verses

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. (1:13)

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2:1)

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (2:3)

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (3:16, 17)

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (4:1, 2)

Relevance to the Canon

This book forms an important part of the Pastoral Epistles, so called, because they are essentially to the leaders of the churches. Although a personal letter to Timothy, the letter would have been read by the elders and deacons and to the entire church at Ephesus, and very soon to those around. Unlike the first letter, it gives details of the consequences of certain eschatological (events of the last days) events, foretold by Paul:

For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. Acts 20:29 - 31 (NKJV)

Its place in the Canon is to address challenges to godliness and faithfulness in the church and warn of the dangers of false doctrine.

It is the last writing of Paul, who gives his epitaph:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (4:7, 8)


Divisions 5 (Salutation, then by chapter)

Chapters 4

Verses 83[6]

Words 1666

Main ideas

The letter is full of contrasts which give rise to a stark vision and realisation that following Christ is one of separation - good from evil, truth from lies, light from darkness.

In particular it contrasts the triumph of Paul (I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race), who writes from prison, but who has been successfully done the will of the Lord, with those that are ungodly and have deserted the Lord. (Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some 2:17,18).


Paul suffered for Christ, and there is no reason why this will not happen to Timothy or even us, as Christians. We need to hold fast and know who we have believed, because, Jesus Christ is able to deliver all that He says he will - everlasting life with Him.

1.      Suffering through humiliation - for which Paul is not ashamed (1:12)

2.      Suffering requires endurance, knowing that the preaching of the gospel will lead the elect to come to the saving knowledge of Christ (2:8-12)

3.      Persecution will occur to all those that love Christ Jesus (3:12)

False Teachers

1.      Our basis of our knowledge of God, the gospel and the way in which we aught to conduct ourselves, is on the Bible, and the Bible only. (2:15, 3:16)

2.      False teachers will attempt to subvert the Bible as the Canon of God.

3.      Endless arguments are useless and will lead to some turning away from the truth - false teachers are to be put out of the Church (1 Corinthians 5). The minutia is to be put aside. (2:15,16)

4.      Our approval is before God, not men; so how eloquently we argue some trivial point is of no use in our conduct before God (2:15)

The Bible is our teacher, rod and correcting agent

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete (perfect), thoroughly equipped for every good work. (3:16,17).

1.      Doctrine - set out what is right

2.      Reproof - sets out what is wrong, or not right

3.      Correction - Sets out how to put right the wrong

4.      Instruction - Sets out the method to stay right.

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2:15)

1.      It is essential that the Bible is read and applied correctly - this is a topic in its own right.

2.      The Bible can be divided by time, age and dispensation - know when and how to divide the Scriptures.

3.      Context - never use a verse, paragraph or chapter out of context - know where in the Bible the passage arises, when in history it arises, of what period it speaks (past, present or future), whom it speaks and to whom it as written in the specific sense (the entire Bible is given us, but each of the 66 books was written with a primary audience in mind). Is it Israel? Or Christians? Or some other person or persons etc?

4.      Know who wrote the passage, who is was to, and the purpose it was written.

5.      Examine the passage in order to assertion what the author was saying and what he expected the hearer to hear - if Jesus says 'love your neighbour' what did he intend the crowd to hear? The obvious question is 'who is you neighbour?' In this case Jesus provides the answer.

6.      Ask lots of questions of the passage - use Scripture to answer these or go to a mature Christian or Biblically based source.

7.      Scripture is for application - doctrine, reproof, correction or instruction, NOT INTELLECTUAL DEBATE!

8.      Application - apply it to yourself first before ever trying to make other people confirm to your views of a particular passage.

9.      Decide whether the application is mandatory (love your neighbour), time/place/gender specific (Israelite men must go to Jerusalem three times a year - not applicable to a Christian), conditional (If you say you love Christ, obey him), optional (keeping Passover) or trivial (these are unimportant generally).


One key attribute emphasised in this epistle is loyalty:

1.      Loyalty in suffering (chapter 1) where there is a contrast between those that forsook Paul and those that did not, such as Luke.

2.      Loyalty in service (chapter 2), where hardships need to be endured: a contrast of Jesus Christ, Paul and those that were ungodly (Hymenaus & Philetus).

3.      Loyalty in the days of apostasy (chapter 2 to 4:5), where in the last days many, if not most will forsake truth for a lie, accompanied with persecution.

4.      The loyalty of the servants of God (chapter 4: 6 - 22), and in particular Paul himself.

The Coming Apostasy (Chapter 3)

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (ESV 3:1 - 5)

The last days will be difficult for Christians both from evil and wickedness within the church and from without.

The second sentence of these verses describes the materialistic western world well.

The modern worldly church is described by "having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power". Note these attributes are those to be found in those calling themselves Christian, and in some cases making them worse than the infidel or heathen.

1.      Lovers if self - the "me first generation"

2.      Covetous - lovers of money - see also 1 Timothy 3:3, 3:8 and 6:10

3.      Proud boasting and elevating themselves

4.      Arrogant

5.      Abusive or blasphemers - in reality, haters of God

6.      Disobedient to parents, including attacking the family, not honouring father and mother in their age (that is children are obliged to care for their parents in their age) Matthew 15:4 to 6.

7.      Ungrateful, or unthankful - how many people say thankyou for even the simplest things these days?

8.      Unholy - directly attacking God in their every day conduct, including accepting homosexuality as normal, when it is abominable before God.

9.      Heartless or without natural affection - goes with pleasing self, caring nothing for a neighbour.

10.  Unappeasable or trucebreakers - unable to keep a deal

11.  Slanderous, false accusers, not knowing the truth from a lie

12.  Without self-control due to being not beigncontent - characterises the present society.

13.  Brutal, savage, untamed - no better than a wild animal - brutal beasts - just try our cities at night.

14.  Not loving good, or haters of good.

15.  Treacherous and traitors who lie and destroy the church

16.  Reckless

17.  Swollen with conceit, proud, conceited

18.  Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - characterises modern Christendom

19.  Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power - most members of churches these days - those that lack the fundamental truth of obedience to God's Word.


Appendix: Names and places in alphabetical order

Alexander A Jew and coppersmith of Ephesus who took a prominent part in the uproar raised there by the preaching of Paul doing Paul much harm. Paul asks that the Lord repay him according to his works and warns Timothy to be beware of him, for he greatly resisted Paul’s words (4:14).
All the brethren Sent their greetings to Timothy (4:21) – these a probably local Roman Christians, given that three of the names in the list are Latin.
Antioch A city in Syria about 26 kilometres from the Mediterranean, and approximately 480 kilometres north of Jerusalem.  It ranked third, after Rome and Alexandria, in importance, of the cities of the Roman empire. A place were Paul was persecuted and afflicted (3:11)
Aquila A native of Pontus, by occupation a tent-maker, whom Paul met on his first visit to Corinth (Acts 18:20) whose wife was Priscilla. A friend of Paul to be greeted by Timothy (4: 19)
Asia All in Asia who knew Paul turned away (1:15)
Carpus A Christian of Troas, where Paul had left his cloak, books and parchments. (4:13)
Claudia Sent her greetings to Timothy (4:21)
Corinth A Greek city It is about 77 kilometres west of Athens. where Erastus stayed (4:20)
Crescens Perhaps a disciple of Jesus himself, departed for Galatia (4:10).
Dalmatia A mountainous country on the eastern shore of the Adriatic, a part of the Roman province of Illyricum.
Demas Forsook Paul, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica (4:10). A companion and fellow-labourer of Paul during his first imprisonment at Rome (Philemon 1:24 Colossians 4:14)
Ephesus The capital of proconsular Asia, which was the western part of Asia Minor, where Tychicus was sent by Paul (4:12), and were Timothy was (1 Tim 1:3).
Erastus A companion of Paul at Ephesus, who was sent by him along with Timothy into Macedonia (Ac 19:22). He lived in Corinth (4:20)
Eubulus Sent his greetings to Timothy (4:21)
Eunice Timothy’s mother (1:5)
Galatia A province of Asia Minor
Hermogenes Turned away from Paul (1:15)
Hymenaeus Taught false doctrine, uttered profane and idle babblings, words that spread like cancer, overthrowing the faith of some, an ungodly man who strayed from the truth (2:16, 17)
Iconium The capital of ancient Lycaonia an island province of Asia Minor. A place were Paul was persecuted and afflicted (3:11)
Jambres As he resisted Moses, so did he resist the truth, a man of corrupt mind, disapproved concerning the faith and will progress no further, for his folly was manifest to all (3:8,9).
Jannes As he resisted Moses, so did he resist the truth, a man of corrupt mind, disapproved concerning the faith and will progress no further, for his folly was manifest to all (3:8,9).
Linus Sent his greetings to Timothy (4:21)
Lois Timothy’s grandmother, genuine faith first dwelt in her (1:5)
Luke A biblical author who was with Paul at the penning of 2 Timothy (4:11)
Lystra A town of Lycaonia, in Asia Minor, a place were Paul was persecuted and afflicted (3:11)
Mark A disciple who was useful to Paul in Ministry; Timothy was instructed to bring him to Paul (4:11b)
Miletus A seaside town of Ionia were Trophimus lay sick (4:20)
Onesiphorus A Christian who often refreshed Paul and was not ashamed of his imprisonment. (1:16, 4:19)
Philetus Taught false doctrine, uttered profane and idle babblings, words that spread like cancer, overthrowing the faith of some, an ungodly man who strayed from the truth (2:16, 17)
Phygellus Turned away from Paul (1:15)
Prisca Friend of Paul to be greeted by Timothy (4: 19)
Pudens Sent his greetings to Timothy (4:21)
Rome The city from where Onesiporus came (1:17). Rome was the most noted city at the time of Christ, founded in approximately 750 (Easton).
Titus A companion of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, and who accompanied them to the council at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-3,  Acts 15:2). Here he departed for Dalmatia – the reason is not given (4:10).
Troas A city on the coast of Mysia, in the north-west of Asia Minor, named after ancient Troy (4:13)
Trophimus Ephesian who accompanied Paul during a part of his third missionary journey (Acts 20:4 21:29) and was with Paul in Jerusalem, Paul left him in Miletus because he was sick (4:20).
Tychicus A Christian, and "faithful minister in the Lord" (Ephesians 6:21,22) who Paul sent to Ephesus (4:12).


[1] Hunt, D & McMahon (1985) The Seduction of Christianity: Spiritual Discernment in the Last Days, Oregon, USA: Harvest House.

[2] Chuck Missler (2008) Supplementary Notes: The Pastoral Epistles, Idaho: Koinonia House.

[3] "If in this book you choose to look
Five things observe with care
Of whom it speaks,
To whom it speaks
Why and When and Where"

[4] Note these are not always clear in some books, and are not set in stone. For example Chuck Missler divides the book: afflictions of the church, activity of the church and allegiance of the church while Arno C Gaebelien divides the book: Personal word to Timothy, faith's conflict and the believes path, the last days and their perils, and the last words of Paul

[5] KJV

[6] Therefore is much smaller than the first letter Paul wrote to Timothy, having 113 verses.

KJV = King James Version of the Bible
NIV = New International Version of the Bible original work copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
NKJV = New King James Version original work copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc
ESV = The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles

David L Simon (31 January 2010 CCC)
Edited June 2011
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