- Salutation (1:1, 2)
- Exhortation to faithfulness and fervency (1:3 - 2:26)
- Facing difficult times (3:1-17)
- Paul's last charge to Timothy (4:1-8)
- Concluding instructions, greetings and benedictions (4:9-22)
Authorship, date, and background
See the introduction to 1 Timothy. Paul had now come close to the end of his earthly pilgrimage. He was a prisoner at Rome. There he sat in prison where he wrote his last letter of which we have in the Bible. We do not know whether he visited Spain between his first and second imprisonment. He did, however, stop at Crete, Corinth, Miletus, and Troas. The order of these stops is unknown. Evidently he was arrested suddenly and unexpectedly; his travel plans were interrupted. He had left books at Troas, hoping to return for them later, but he never did. He may have been arrested by the authorities either at Troas or Nicopolis. The reason for Paul's seizure is not stated. Some have suggested that it was due to the pique of Alexander the coppersmith, whom Paul mentions in 4:14 and who may be the same person talked about in Acts 19:33. It is possible that Alexander and his fellow tradesmen, whose businesses were hurt by the response of the people to the gospel, may have witnessed against Paul to the Roman authorities. Since Paul warned Timothy against Alexander, he must have been operating within the same general area where Timothy was located.
Characteristics and content
2 Timothy makes clear how intimate the relationship is between Paul and Timothy, whom he addresses as "my dearly beloved son." Paul speaks about Timothy's background and family, his ordination to the gospel ministry, and his own teaching ministry to this younger colleague. Paul mentions his constant prayers for Timothy, and his desire to draw Timothy closer to himself in his imprisonment. Whereas in his first Roman imprisonment he had other colleagues with him, he now seems to be isolated from them and in need of Christian fellowship and the presence of co-workers. He urgently desires to strengthen Timothy for the work he will have to undertake alone since Paul expects his own immediate death. He wants Timothy to approach the task as a soldier of Jesus Christ who is willing to lay down his life for the Lord and the faith. He admonishes Timothy to be a servant without a contentious spirit, helping people to understand the Christian faith.
Paul envisions difficult days to come. This prophetic statement has been partially fulfilled in some of the dark days in the history of the church, and will be one of the chief characteristics of the closing days of this age before the coming of the Lord Jesus. The only way by which the spirit of anti-Christ can be overcome, in that age and in any age, is by the knowledge and use of the holy scriptures "which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (3:15). His final charge to Timothy (4:1-8) is a masterpiece. No one should consider the Christian ministry unless his life and outlook conform the standard Paul lays down for than office.