In writing to Timothy, Paul writes how appreciative to God he is for him. Just seeing Timothy would give Paul joy. Paul says that he worships God with a pure conscience; this worship is the same kind of service his ancestors rendered unto God. Part of his worship is to make unceasing remembrance of Timothy in his prayers both night and day, recalling his tears. Paul affirms to Timothy that he knows just how sincere his faith is by attributing it to a matrilineal line. The same faith was first in his grandmother, Lois; the same faith was also in his mother, Eunice; and Paul declares that he is convinced it is in fact in Timothy.
It is for this reason, that Timothy has the sincere faith, that Paul charges him to remember to rekindle the gift of God that is in him, a gift that was generated by the laying on of his own hands on his beloved son in the faith. The gift was his ministry. The gift was his ordination. He was to keep his ministry aflame, but, as with any fire, it must be constantly tended to. Paul is telling Timothy not to forget to tend to his fire, which is his ministry.
Paul then tells Timothy a very empowering theological truth: God has not given to us a spirit of cowardice or timidity—a lack of mental strength—but, rather, he has given us a spirit of power—capability—and love and prudence or self-discipline. Paul is explaining to him why he needs to tend to his ministry and keep it aflame. It is because God has given us a capable, loving, and self-disciplined spirit. In the ministry, God provides the strength to keep it aflame. But it still requires action.
At this point, Paul provides the theme for the rest of the letter. Timothy is not to be ashamed of the witness of the Lord nor of Paul in his chain. Instead, he is to co-suffer with Paul for the gospel according to God’s power (Remember the spirit God gave to us?). Paul then breaks out in a hymn of some sort, which succinctly sums up the gospel. God saved us. God called us with a holy calling. God did not call us according to our words, but according to his own purpose and grace. God gave this purpose and grace to us in Christ Jesus before the dawn of time, but now they have been revealed in the appearance of Christ Jesus, who is our savior. This Savior abolished death but brought life and immortality through the gospel.
Paul then recounts his function in God’s plan. He was placed as herald, apostle, and teacher of the gospel. As a result, he suffers imprisonment, but he is not ashamed, because he knows Christ, the one in whom he has believed and continues to believe; he knows the one in whom he has put his trust in and continues to trust that he is able to guard his deposit in the final days of this age.
The theme is suffering for the gospel. It is co-suffering that is done by the strength of God. It is neither by our own works that we are saved nor by our own power that we suffer for God’s kingdom. It is both by the grace and the power of God.
So, Paul charges Timothy to hold to the standard of sound instruction and guard the good deposit through the Holy Spirit. Again, it is by God’s empowerment that we are to carry out through the suffering. But part of this suffering also entails keeping the ministry aflame, and Timothy’s ministry was to build up the church in Ephesus in Paul’s absence. Paul is here charging him to hold fast to sound doctrine—healthy teaching. We know from the rest of the letter that Timothy is facing opposition filled with unsound doctrine. It is no easy task attempting to overcome fierce opposition, and for this reason it is fitting that the task of sound teaching is part of Timothy’s suffering for the gospel.
Now, Paul goes off on a tangent regarding his desertion. Everyone deserted him in Asia, and, in particular, Phygellus and Hermogenes. Onesipherus also deserted him, but Paul expressed gratitude for him and his household and even asked that God would forgive him despite deserting him.
Paul’s suffering was loneliness. In a way, he was empathizing with Timothy. To stand up for what is right when everyone else is not is essentially to stand alone. Paul recognizes this fact, and so he finds a way to relate with Timothy. They both must suffer for the gospel together and not be ashamed. Paul is alone in prison, and Timothy is alone in sound doctrine.