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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

2 Timothy 1



Verses 1-18

IN HIS OPENING words, presenting his apostleship, Paul strikes a note which is prominent all through this epistle. He is an apostle, not only “by the will of God”—that gave him his authority—but also “according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus”—that conferred upon his apostleship an unconquerable character. Nature furnishes us with many illustrations of the extraordinary power of life. Here is a green sapling so tender that an infant could crush it in its tiny fist yet under certain conditions the life that is in it will force it through pavements or cause it to displace great stones weighing hundredweights. Here again is life of a certain order with its distinguishing characteristics. From these characteristics no one can divert it try as they will. Neither training nor cajoling nor whip will make a dog express its pleasure by purring nor a cat do so by wagging its tail. The life of the animal with its innate characteristics will conquer all your efforts.

In nature life is an immense force, but the life in Christ Jesus is unconquerable. The life of nature in all its forms, the life of Adam—which is human life—included, ultimately meets its match and is conquered by DEATH. The life in Christ is beyond the reach of death, for it was as having died and risen again that He became the Fountain-head of life to others. That life was promised before the world began (See, Titus 1:2) and brought to light in the Gospel (See, verse 2 Timothy 1:10 of our chapter). Its fruition will be seen in ages yet to come. Hence it is spoken of as a promise here.

We start the epistle therefore with that which will survive all the failures and defections of believers and all the other ravages of time. How good to be connected with a sheet-anchor which never moves before we face the storms indicated in the epistle. Everything that is “in Christ Jesus” abides to eternity.

Having saluted Timothy the Apostle in verse 2 Timothy 1:3 expresses his prayerful remembrance of him; in verses 2 Timothy 1:4-5 he calls to mind the features in him which were to be commended, and then from verse 2 Timothy 1:6 and onwards he exhorts and encourages him in the fear of God.

Both Paul and Timothy came of good stock. The former could speak of serving God from his forefathers with a pure conscience; that is, without defiling his conscience by doing that which he knew to be wrong. He was true up to his light, though, as he confesses elsewhere, once his light was so defective that he was found opposing Christ with conscientious zeal Timothy was the third generation to be marked by faith. Indeed his faith is called “unfeigned,” and faith of a very genuine order is a prime necessity when times of declension and testing set in. Moreover the Apostle can speak of his tears and these indicated that he was a man of deep feeling and of spiritual exercises.

The very remembrance of Timothy’s tears filled Paul with joy. How would he feel about us? Would he turn from us sad and disappointed at our feeble faith and general shallowness of conviction and feeling? Depend upon it, unfeigned faith, the maintenance of a pure conscience and the deep spiritual feelings which express themselves in tears are immense assets wherewith to face the difficulties and perils of “the last days.”

Timothy possessed in addition a special gift from God, which had been administered to him through Paul, and gift carries with it a responsibility to use it in a proper and adequate way. A person of quiet and retiring mind, as

Timothy seems to have been, is sorely tempted to lay up his pound’ in a napkin when confronted by trying circumstances. On the contrary, difficult circumstances are really a trumpet call for the stirring up of any gift that may be possessed, and this is possible for God has given to us His Holy Spirit, and thereby we have a spirit of power and love and a sound mind and not a spirit of fear.

“Power” here does not mean “authority” but rather “might” or “force” We have the force but it needs to be controlled by love, and both force and love must be governed by “a sound mind” or “wise discretion” if the energy that we have by the Holy Spirit is to be rightly employed. We are not therefore to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.

There was no danger of Timothy being ashamed of the testimony in earlier days when as recorded in Acts 14:1-28; Acts 15:1-41; Acts 16:1-40; Acts 17:1-34; Acts 18:1-28; Acts 19:1-41, it was triumphing in spite of bitter opposition. Now however it was in reproach, believers even were growing cold and Paul, the chiefest of its heralds, was in prison with no hope of release. There is nothing more trying than to come into a movement when it is on a rising tide of prosperity and then to see it pass its crest and a heavy ebb tide set in. This is the thing to test one’s mettle.

Timothy’s mettle was being tested, but the Apostle’s call to him was that he should now partake of the afflictions of the Gospel. We are all glad to partake of the blessings of the Gospel, and many of us are glad to have a share in the work of the Gospel so that we may partake of its successes, and finally of the rewards in the coming kingdom for faithful service in it, but to partake of its afflictions is another matter. This is only possible “according to the power of God.” Here as in Colossians 1:11, power is connected not with that which is active but with that which is passive—suffering.

Power is in itself a cold impersonal thing. In this passage however the warm personal touch is given to it by verses 2 Timothy 1:9-10. The God, whose power it is, is known to us as the Author of both our salvation and our calling. These two things ever go together, for they give us what we may call the negative and positive sides of the matter. We are saved from that we may be called to. We are delivered from the misery and peril into which sin has plunged us in order that we might be designated to the place of favour and blessing which is to be ours according to the purpose of God.

What God does in saving and calling is always according to His purpose. It was so when He saved Israel out of Egypt, for He called them to bring them into the land that He had purposed for them. There is a great difference however between Israel’s salvation and calling and ours. They were saved in a national way from foes of flesh and blood in this world. We are saved from every spiritual foe and in an individual way. They were called to the Land of Promise with its attendant earthly blessings. We are called into heavenly relationships with their attendant spiritual and heavenly blessings. The kingdom, of which Israel will be the centre-piece was purposed by God “from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34), and their land was mapped out for them from the time when “the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance” (Deuteronomy 32:8), that is, from the time of Babel. Our calling, as we are told here, is according to divine purpose which dates back “before the world began.”

Moreover the calling which we enjoy as Christians is according to grace as well as purpose. In this too we see a contrast, for Israel brought out of Egypt was put under law, and being thus put on their own responsibility they very soon forfeited their inheritance. Our calling rests upon what God Himself is and does on our behalf, and therefore it can never pass away. Yet once again, both our salvation and our calling were given us in Christ Jesus,” and this could not be said of Israel in the Old Testament. The covenant established with them addressed them as natural men and all stood upon a natural basis, and hence did not stand for long. All that we have is ours not as natural men having our standing in Adam, but as those who are before God in Christ Jesus.

Our holy calling was thus purposed before the world began, and its full blessedness will abide when the world has passed away. As yet we have not entered into its full blessedness, still it has been made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour, and we have a foretaste of it inasmuch as death has been annulled by His death and resurrection and life and incorruptibility have been brought to light in the Gospel. “Annulled” and not “abolished” is the right translation. Death most evidently is not yet abolished, but its power is annulled for those who believe in Jesus. Also “incorruptibility” is the word and not “immortality.” The souls of the wicked are not subject to death, but we have the larger hope of being finally placed beyond corruption, where the last breath of it can never touch us.

Paul had been appointed a herald of this Gospel in the Gentile world and his diligent labours had brought him into all this suffering and reproach. Men were beginning to shrug their shoulders and say that his cause was a lost one. He himself began to see the glint of the executioner’s axe as the termination of the dark tunnel of his imprisonment. How did he feel about it?

“Nevertheless I am not ashamed” were his words. Of course not! How could he be? The very Gospel he carried was the glad tidings of life in the present and a glorious state of incorruptibility to come, consequent upon the breaking of the power of death. Who is there that really believing and understanding such tidings as these will be ashamed of them? Moreover his mission and authority proceeded from One whom he knew and believed, and this knowledge gave him the persuasion that all was safe in His hands.

Paul had committed his all to Christ inasmuch as he was a man that had “hazarded” or “delivered up” his life “for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 15:26). He had “suffered the loss of all things” (Philippians 3:8). He had deposited his reputation and his cause in the hands of his Master, and he had the full assurance that in the day of Christ he would be fully vindicated and recompensed. With that blessed assurance in his heart how could he be ashamed?

All this has been mentioned by the Apostle in order to enforce his earlier exhortation to Timothy that he should not be ashamed of the testimony in days when reproach was increasing. In verse 2 Timothy 1:13 he gives him a second exhortation of great moment. If the adversary cannot intimidate us into defection from the truth he may nevertheless succeed by filching away the truth from us.

Now the truth to be of any practical use to us must be stated in words, and in this the devil may find his opportunity. Timothy had heard the truth from the lips of Paul to whom it was first revealed. It was a good thing—a good deposit—entrusted to him and it was to be kept by the indwelling Holy Spirit, but it only could be preserved intact as he held fast the form, or outline, of sound words in which Paul had conveyed it to him. There are plenty of deceivers today who under cover of zeal for the “idea”, the “conception,” the “spirit” of the truth advocate extreme latitude as to the words used. They ridicule verbal accuracy and especially “verbal inspiration;” but this in order to make it very easy for them to abstract from the minds of their dupes the divine idea and substitute for it ideas of their own. We have never heard Paul personally but we have the form of sound words in his inspired epistles.

He can say to us, as well as to Timothy “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me”—only we have received it not from his living voice but through his pen, which is after all the more reliable way. If held fast “in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus the truth will be operative in ourselves and effective in others.

Alas! it is very easy to turn away. All in Asia had already done so. The context would indicate that this turning away from Paul was in connection with his inspired unfolding of the truth, to which he had just referred. These Asians were evidently ashamed of Paul and of the testimony. On the other hand there was Onesiphorus who was not ashamed and for whom a bright reward is waiting in “that day.”


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on 2 Timothy 1:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

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