Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus are commonly known as the Pastoral Letters. In them Paul shows a deep concern for the personal responsibilities that he had entrusted to Timothy and Titus in the places where he had left them. They show the warm personal relationship that Paul had with his fellow workers. They also show how church life had developed over the years since Paul first set out on his missionary travels.
Background to 2 Timothy
Some time after writing 1 Timothy and Titus, Paul left northern Greece. The Bible gives no details of route he followed, but among the places he visited was Corinth in southern Greece (2 Tim 4:20). He also visited Miletus, a town near Ephesus in western Asia Minor (2 Tim 4:20), and Troas, a town farther north (2 Tim 4:13). It seems that soon after this, Paul was arrested and taken to Rome once more. From Rome he wrote his final letter, 2 Timothy (2 Tim 1:8; 2:9). When the government authorities in Rome laid their charges against Paul, former friends deserted him. This was a great disappointment to Paul, but God protected him from violence and gave him the opportunity to make known the gospel to his captors (2 Tim 4:16-17).
Paul knew he had little chance of being released; he expected rather to be executed (2 Tim 4:6-8). He therefore urged Timothy to come to Rome as quickly as possible (2 Tim 4:9), and to bring Mark with him (2 Tim 4:11). (Mark was probably working in Colossae, a town not far from Ephesus; cf. Col 4:10.) Paul was lonely in prison. He had been visited by Onesiphorus of Ephesus (2 Tim 1:16-18) and by some of the local Roman Christians (2 Tim 4:21), but only Luke was able to stay with him (2 Tim 4:11). Various friends and fellow workers had gone to different places in the service of God, though Demas, who had been faithful to him during his previous imprisonment, had now left him for no good reason (2 Tim 4:10,12; cf. Col 4:14). Apart from giving Timothy details concerning his circumstances in Rome, Paul wanted to give him added encouragement concerning the church in Ephesus. The Ephesian church was still troubled by false teaching, and Paul wanted Timothy to stand firm in his defence of the gospel.
Contents of 2 Timothy
The letter opens with Paul’s encouraging Timothy to exercise his God-given gifts with boldness and to defend the gospel against all attacks (1:1-14). He mentions Onesiphorus as an example of wholehearted faithfulness (1:15-18), and impresses upon Timothy the need for endurance (2:1-13). Paul then deals specifically with the problem of the false teachers. He urges Timothy to concentrate on the main truths of the Christian faith and to avoid useless arguments (2:14-26). He warns that opposition to the truth of God will increase (3:1-9). In view of this, Timothy is to be an example to all, through enduring suffering patiently and preaching the Word constantly (3:10-4:5). Paul looks back on his own service for God with satisfaction (4:6-8), and concludes with details and advice in relation to his present circumstances in Rome (4:9-22).