Paul’s Final Handoff of the Faith
Philippe R. Sterling
Do faithfully and fervently everything God has assigned and empowered you to do.
Paul writes to Timothy who was in Ephesus from a prison in Rome about AD 65-68. With the time of his death approaching, he writes to encourage Timothy to fulfill his ministry and to come to him in Rome. The letter has a very personal tone.
Literary Structure and Content
I. Opening of the Letter: Paul greets his beloved spiritual son Timothy extending to him God’s grace, mercy and
A. The Sender (1:1) — Note how Paul, suffering in prison, identifies himself: he is an apostle; he holds his office
by divine appointment; it is in accordance with the promise of life in Christ Jesus.
B. The Recipient (1:2a) — Timothy is Paul’s beloved spiritual son.
C. The Greeting (1:2b) — Paul desires that Timothy experience three blessings from God the Father and
Christ Jesus the Lord: grace, mercy and peace.
II. Body of the Letter — Extended Exhortation: Do faithfully and fervently everything God has assigned
and empowered you to do, and come to me (1:3–4:21a).
A. Introduction to the Body of the Letter: Paul explains why he is writing (1:3-7).
1. Paul thanks God for three things which he remembers about Timothy (1:3-5):
a. Paul remembers the fatherly relationship which inspires his repeated prayers for Timothy (1:3).
b. Paul remembers the tears which inspires his desire to see Timothy again (1:4).
c. Paul remembers the multi-generational faith which inspires his confidence in Timothy (1:5).
2. Paul exhorts Timothy about his gift from God involving his assignment and enablement (1:6-7).
a. Stir the gift into flame — assignment from God that was affirmed publicly by the laying on of hands
(1:6; see Acts 16:1-3). Stir up your God-given ability and use it — renewed intensity in service to God.
In the NT “gift” often means divinely bestowed abilities for the service of God and the edification of
b. Don’t hold back out of fear for God has equipped us for ministry with power, love, and self-control
through the Holy Spirit — enablement (1:7).
B. Primary Content of the Body of the Letter: Do faithfully and fervently everything God has assigned
and empowered you to do — fight the good fight of faith as Paul has done, fulfill your ministry and finish
1. Be willing to endure suffering in order to protect and propagate the correct message — pass on the
teaching to faithful people. (1:8–2:13).
a. Be willing to suffer as Paul suffered in order to tell the good news (1:8-12).
b. Continue to pattern your message after Paul’s and preserve it without change (1:13-14).
c. Let God empower you, and entrust the message to loyal people (1:15–2:2).
1) Paul informs Timothy of wide-spread departure of many from him with the one exception
of Onesiphorus who provides a good example to follow (1:15-18).
2) Let God empower you and entrust the message to loyal people (2:1-2).
d. Be willing to suffer for Christ and gain the reward of reigning with Him (2:3-13).
2. Keep reminding teachers of the correct message and charge them not to quarrel; and be sure that
you yourself are the kind of person of whom God will approve — keep the faith pure from false
a. Remind teachers of the correct message and charge them not to quarrel; be sure that you are pleasing
to God by teaching the message correctly and by opposing what is bad (2:14-15).
b. Avoid discussions which are unprofitable and detrimental to your proper service (2:16-19).
c. Avoid what is defiling spiritually and resolutely do what is right (2:20-22).
d. Avoid discussing foolish questions and gently teach the truth with a view to recovering some from
the devil’s trap (2:23-26).
3. Be aware of future trends and conditions and turn away from those who practice evil (3:1-9).
4. Continue in the truth in which you have been instructed (3:10-17).
5. Fulfill your ministry especially by preaching the word (4:1-8).
C. Secondary Content of the Body of the Letter: Paul expresses his desire that Timothy come to him soon
1. Do your best to come to me soon (4:9-13).
2. Expect opposition from Alexander and be on guard (4:14-15).
3. The Lord will rescue me from everything bad and bring me safe to His heavenly Kingdom (4:16-18).
4. Greet my friends there and make every effort to come before winter (4:19-21a).
III. Closing of the Letter: Paul expresses the greetings of others and closes with a benediction of grace (4:21b-22).
Theological Reflection and Application
We often focus on a long-distance race as an illustration of the spiritual race of the believer. There is another race that provides a parallel, the relay. Passing the baton from one runner to the next is crucial for the success of the team. Each runner must make sure that the succeeding runner has the baton.
Paul’s story showcases the need to train up a new generation of faithful believers. On his first mission trip, he and Barnabas took John Mark with them (Acts 13:5). On a later mission trip, he refused to take Mark again because he had abandoned them and left for home (Acts 13:13; 15:37-39). He replaced him by picking up Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). With the time of his death approaching, Paul writes a final letter to pass the baton to Timothy. He summons Timothy to Rome and also asks him to bring along Mark who is now useful to him (2 Tim 4:9, 11).
We can pick up four statements of Paul which reflect the passing of the baton:
1. “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in
Christ Jesus” (1:13). Hold on to the word.
2. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men
who will be able to teach others also” (2:2). Entrust the word to others.
3. “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom
you have learned them” (3:14). Abide in the word.
4. “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead,
and by His appearing and His Kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season;
reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not
endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers
in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (4:1-5).
Preach the word.