New Testament Introduction

Louis Berkhof

The Second Epistle to Timothy


The contents of this Epistle falls into three parts:

I. Considerations to strengthen Timothy’s Courage, 1: 1—2:13. After the greeting, 1, 2, the apostle urges Timothy to stir up his ministerial gift, to be bold in suffering, and to hold fast the truth entrusted to him, 3—14, enforcing these appeals by pointing to the deterrent example of the unfaithful and the stimulating example of Onesiphorus, 15—18. Further he exhorts him to be strong in the power of grace, to commit the true teaching to others, and to be ready to face suffering, 2:1-13.

II. Exhortations primarily dealing with Timothy’s Teaching, 2: l4—4: 8. Timothy should urge Christians to avoid idle and useless discussions, and should rightly teach the truth, shunning vain babblings, 14-21. He must also avoid youthful passions, foolish investigations, and false teachers who, for selfish purposes, turn the truth of God into unrighteousness, 2: 22—3: 9. He is further exhorted to abide loyally by his past teaching, knowing that sufferings will come to every true soldier and that deceivers will grow worse, 10-17; and to fulfil his whole duty as an evangelist with sobriety and courage, especially since Paul is now ready to be offered up, 4:1-8.

III. Personal Reminiscences, 4: 9-22. Paul appeals to Timothy to come to Rome quickly, bringing Mark and also taking his cloak and books, and to avoid Alexander, 9-15. He speaks of his desertion by men, the protection afforded him by the Lord, and his trust for the future, 16-18. With special greetings, a further account of his fellow-laborers, and a final salutation the apostle ends his letter, 19-22.


1. II Timothy is the most personal of the Pastoral Epistles. Doctrinally it has no great importance, though it does contain the strongest proof-passage for the inspiration of Scripture. In the main the thought centers about Timothy, the faithful co-laborer of Paul, whom the apostle gives encouragement in the presence of great difficulties, whom he inspires to noble, self-denying efforts in the Kingdom of God, and whom he exhorts to fight worthily in the spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness, that he may once receive an eternal reward.

2. It is the last Epistle of Paul, the swan-song of the great apostle, after a life of devotion to a noble cause, a life of Christian service. We see him here with work done, facing a martyrs death. Looking back his heart is filled with gratitude for the grace of God that saved him from the abyss that yawned at his feet, that called and qualified him to be a messenger of the cross, that protected him when dangers were threatening, and that crowned his work with rich spiritual fruits. And as he turns his eyes to the future, calm assurance and joyous hope are the strength of his soul, for he knows that the firm foundation of God will stand, since the Lord will punish the evil-doers and be the eternal reward of his children. He already has visions of the heavenly Kingdom, of eternal glory, of the coming righteous Judge, and of the crown of righteousness, the blessed inheritance of all those that love Christs appearance.


1. Occasion and Purpose. The immediate occasion for writing this Epistle was the apostles presentiment of his fast approaching end. He was anxious that Timothy should come to him soon, bringing Mark with him. In all probability he desired to give his spiritual son some fatherly advice and some practical instruction before his departure. But we feel that ths alone did not call for a letter such as II Timothy really is. Another factor must be taken in consideration. Paul was not sure that Timothy would succeed in reaching Rome before his death, and yet realized that the condition of the Ephesian church, the danger to which Timothy was there exposed, and the importance of the work entrusted to this youthful minister, called for a word of apostolic advice, encouragement and exhortation. It seems that the Ephesian church was threatened by persecution, 1:8; 2:3, 12; 3:12; 4:5; and the heresy to which the apostle referred in his first epistle was evidently still rife in the circle of believers. There were those who strove about words, 2:14, were unspiritual, 2:16, corrupted in mind, 3: 8, indulging in foolish and ignorant questionings, 2: 23, and fables, 4:4, tending to a low standard of morality, 2:19, and teaching that the resurrection was already past, 2:18.

Hence the object of the Epistle is twofold. The writer wants to warn Timothy of his impending departure, to inform him of his past experiences at Rome and of his present loneliness, and to exhort him to come speedily. Besides this, however, he desired to strengthen his spiritual son in view of the deepening gloom of trials and persecution that were threatening the church from without; and to fore-arm him against the still sadder danger of heresy and apostasy that were lurking within the fold. Timothy is exhorted to hold fast the faith, 1: 5, 13; to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, 2: 3-10; to shun every form of heresy, 2:16-18; to instruct in meekness those that withstand the Gospel, 2:24-26; and to continue in the things he had learnt, 3:14-17.

2. Time and Place. From 1: 17 it is perfectly evident that this letter was written at Rome. The apostle was again a prisoner in the imperial city. Though we have no absolute certainty, we deem it probable that he was re-arrested at Troas in the year 67. The situation in which he finds himself at Rome is quite different from that reflected in the other epistles of the captivity. He is now treated like a common criminal, 2: 9; his Asiatic friends with the exception of Onesiphorus turned from him, 1: 15; the friends who were with him during his first imprisonment are absent now, Col. 4:10-14; II Tim. 4:10-12; and the outlook of the apostle is quite different from that found in Philippians and Philemon. It is impossible to tell just how long the apostle had already been in prison, when he wrote the Epistle, but from the fact that he had had one hearing, 4:16 (which cannot refer to that of the first imprisonment, cf. Phil, 1: 7, 12-14), and expected to be offered up soon, we infer that he composed the letter towards the end of his imprisonment, i. e. in the fall of A. D. 67.


The canonicity of this Epistle has never been questioned by the Church; and the testimony to its early and general use is in no way deficient. There are quite clear traces of its language in Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, and Theophilus of Antioch. The letter is included in all the MSS., the old Versions and the Lists of the Pauline Epistles. The Muratorian Fragment names it as a production of Paul, and from the end of the second century it is quoted by name.

The Epistle has some permanent doctrinal value as containing the most important proof-passage for the inspiration of Scripture, 3:16, and also abiding historical significance in that it contains the clearest Scriptural testimony to the life of Paul after his first Roman imprisonment. But Lock truly says that “its main interest is one of character, and two portraits emerge from it.” We have here (1) the portrait of the ideal Christian minister, busily engaged in the work of his Master, confessing His Name, proclaiming His truth, shepherding His fold, defending his heritage, and battling with the powers of evil; and (2) the “portrait of the Christian minister, with his work done, facing death. He acquiesces gladly in the present, but his eyes are turned mainly to the past or to the future.” (Lock in Hastings D. B. Art. II Timothy) He is thankful for the work he was permitted to do, and serenely awaits the day of his crowning.