Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy

Discovery for Teachers

Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy


2 Timothy 1:1 through 4:22

“But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)


The Book of 2 Timothy is probably the last recorded words of the Apostle Paul. After a period of freedom following his first house arrest in Rome, Paul had been imprisoned again under much more stringent terms. In that setting, this intimate admonition by a veteran minister nearing the end of his life’s assignment to his “son in the faith” was written.

It is possible that Timothy’s family (his mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois) was converted on Paul’s first missionary journey through Lystra and Derbe. Paul warmly spoke of the “unfeigned faith” which seemed to belong to all three generations. Later, Timothy joined the missionary team of Paul and Silas as they traveled through Lystra and Derbe dur-ing Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:1). He accompanied Paul to many locations, including Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Berea, and possibly even Rome. Apparently, he later became Paul’s emissary to the church in Ephesus. Tradition suggests Timothy was the first bishop, or pastor, of the Ephesian church.

Scholars generally date the composition of this letter to be approximately A.D. 67. In A.D. 64, a great fire in Rome devastated much of the city. Emperor Nero subsequently began a period of persecution of Christians in an effort to turn the blame for the fire from himself to Christians. During this time, Paul was imprisoned in a Roman dungeon, and it was from that prison he wrote this letter to Timothy.

Paul’s final instructions included personal encouragement to Timothy to stand as a strong witness in the face of opposition and persecution. The Apostle warned of false teachers and instructed Timothy in how to counter them and their teachings. His advice was sprinkled with gems of wisdom acquired during his years of ministry that he passed on to Timothy and others who would later read this letter. Paul concluded with his “last words,” charging Timothy to remain faithful in his ministry, and indicated that his own ministry was coming to an end.

Tradition holds that after this letter was written, Paul was beheaded for his faith in Jesus.


  1. How did Paul address Timothy in verse 2 of chapter 1? What does this indicate about their relationship?

    He addressed the younger man as “my dearly beloved son.” This indicates a very close relationship as spiritual father and son. The characteristics that made this relationship possible were their mutual faithfulness to Christ, Paul’s careful teaching, Timothy’s evident desire to learn and follow instruction, and the trust both of them had in the “promise of life.” Ask your class to share personal examples of mentoring relationships they have been aware of or been blessed by participating in.
  2. In reading 2 Timothy 1:6-12, we find indications that Timothy had apparently come under fire for his youth, his association with Paul, and his leadership. Paul encouraged Timothy, who perhaps was more timid by nature than the older man, to persevere and to stand up for the truth he had received. Paul stated that he was “not ashamed” of the testimony of Jesus. What are some ways we can show the world that we are not ashamed of the Gospel?

    Class discussion may bring out such thoughts as being quick to say a word for the Lord when an opportunity arises, giving our testimonies, being faithful in fulfilling our Christian responsibilities, making sure our lives align to the principles of godly living, etc. It might be good to encourage the class to share times when this is not easy, such as praying over their meals in a group of unsaved peers, standing up for beliefs when challenged in a school class, reading one’s Bible in front of others, etc.
  3. The three illustrations Paul used in verses 3-7 of chapter 2 are that of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. What point is brought out about each of them individually? What attributes do they all have in common?

    A good soldier is not afraid to suffer. He is wholly committed to the cause for which he fights, and willing to lay aside other entanglements for the good of the cause. He endeavors to please the one in authority over him.

    An athlete strives to be the best he can be. He knows that to win the prize, he must abide by the rules of the game.

    The farmer reaps the rewards of his own labor even before the final harvest. Those who labor in God’s service are blessed in this life and hereafter.

    Discussion should bring out that being a successful soldier, athlete, or farmer requires discipline, patience, ambition, willpower, diligence, focus, etc.

  4. In chapter 2, Paul warned Timothy to avoid “words to no profit” (verse 14), “profane and vain babblings” (verse 16), and “foolish and unlearned questions” (verse 23). In contrast, Paul encouraged Timothy to “be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves” (verse 24). What outcome to this approach is given in verse 26? How can we develop these positive attributes in our lives?

    The outcome given in verse 26 is that lost souls are recovered out of the snare of the devil.

    Class discussion of the second question should bring out that a gentle, meek, patient approach can be developed by first recognizing the value of it. Change begins with recognizing our need for it, or with praying for a sensitivity to what needs to be changed.

    We can look to Jesus as our supreme Example, and strive to model our dealings with others by contemplating what Jesus would do or how He would respond in any given circumstance. We can pray for patience, wisdom, and grace, knowing that God has promised to provide these when we ask. We can seek out a mentoring relationship with Gospel veterans who have learned these virtues.

  5. The main point of chapter 3 is the fact that the last days will be characterized by sinfulness and “perilous times” for believers. These perils will include self-centeredness, materialism, delinquency, pleasure seeking, and superficial Christianity. According to verse 14, how do we combat these influences?

    We must continue in the things we have learned, resisting any influence to abandon the faith or modify the doctrine. Paul counseled Timothy to look to his past, and to hold to the basic teachings of the Gospel that are eternally true. We must do the same. Like Timothy, we are surrounded by negative influences, but we must not allow our society, or even trends within the religious world of our day, to crowd out God’s eternal truth. As we spend time each day in the study of God’s Word and in prayer, we will be fortifying the foundation of our Christian faith.
  6. The theme of 2 Timothy 4:1-5 is a charge to preach God’s Word. How does this charge apply to those who are not preachers?

    Whether or not we are preachers, we are all called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through our words and through our lives. We know of the Gospel today because people like Timothy were faithful to their call to promote and disperse the message of truth. Through the years, Gospel veterans have proclaimed, without fear or compromise, God’s power to save the repentant heart, sanctify the converted soul, and pour out the Holy Spirit on sanctified believers. We must be faithful also — always prepared, courageous, and responsive to God-given opportunities to share the Good News. Faithfully passing the Gospel from generation to generation may be more effective than a few preachers proclaiming the Word.

    It might be interesting to point out to your class that the word charge, as used in this verse, indicates more than a simple command. It implies a moral obligation to be carried out.

  7. What three great statements does Paul make about his earthly life in 2 Timothy 4:7? Why was he able to make these statements with such assurance?

    Paul said that he had fought a good fight, that he had finished his course, and that he had kept the faith. He was able to make these statements with assurance because he had prepared for eternity. Ask your students to consider whether they have that same confident expectation of meeting Christ. We can be ready! The heavenly reward is not just for giants of the faith, but for all those who make their peace with God and keep themselves in a state of readiness for Heaven.
  8. Paul knew his time on this earth was short, but he was “ready to be offered.” What were the benefits awaiting Paul for overcoming the trials of this world? Are these benefits unique to Paul? 2 Timothy 2:11; 4:6-8.

    Eternal life, a crown of righteousness, and the privilege of being with Jesus await “all them also who love his appearing.”


Paul’s final admonition to Timothy was to remain faithful to the truth that had been delivered to him. That truth had brought Paul through every challenge, and at the close of his life, he had the assurance that he was ready to receive a “crown of righteousness.” The same truth will bring us safely to the goal as well.