Paul's Letters To Timothy
by Greg Williamson (c) 2014, 2019
Featuring the text of the New American Standard Bible *
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Intro | 1 Timothy 1:1-11 / 1:12-17 / 1:18-20 | 2:1-8 / 2:9-15 | 3:1-7 / 3:8-13 / 3:14-16 | 4:1-6 / 4:7-12 / 4:13-16 | 5:1-16 / 5:17-25 | 6:1-2 / 6:3-10 / 6:11-21 | 2 Timothy 1:1-7 / 1:8-12 / 1:13-18 | 2:1-7 / 2:8-13 / 2:14-18 / 2:19-26 | 3:1-9 / 3:10-12 / 3:13-17 | 4:1-4 / 4:5-8 / 4:9-22 ** | Articles & Definitions | Sources

(2 Timothy 1:13-18)

13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
15 You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.
16 The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains;
17 but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me --
18 the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day -- and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.

Perhaps some of the “enemies” that attacked Timothy are attacking you and making you want to give up. Shame: Paul was not ashamed of the gospel or of the Lord. His friend Onesiphorus was not ashamed of being identified with Paul. Carelessness: Paul committed the message to Timothy, and Timothy’s responsibility was to guard it and share it with others. Again, the Spirit of God enables us to be faithful. - Warren Wiersbe [ref]

QuoteWorthy: Worth The Suffering
The message that saves and the grace of God it announces are worth the suffering, and the Spirit has been given to provide strength to persevere. - Philip H. Towner [ref]

2 TIMOTHY 1:13 - Summary Charge to Timothy (vv. 13-14)
Mentoring Others

Spiritual leaders should develop a core of faithful men and women who can multiply their efforts. (see 2 Timothy 1:13-2:2) [ref]

"Throughout the centuries God’s work has been done by men and women who stood steadfast in their hours of trial. It would have been convenient for them to have compromised, but they stood firm. Paul was such a man, and he encouraged Timothy to follow his example in a twofold loyalty [to God's Word (2 Timothy 1:13-14) and to God's servant (2 Timothy 1:15-18)]." [ref]

Retain the standard of sound words (2 Timothy 1:13)
The thought here is: "Keep holding on to the pattern of faith expressed in sound words" [ref]; "[E]ver 'have' before your mind and thus ever use the words you have heard from me as a model." [ref] "Retain the standard" actually "conveys a double intent that can be lost in translation. The ideas of both (1) preserving the integrity of the truth that Timothy learned from Paul and (2) modeling that truth in his life are included. This expression joins several in this letter to emphasize Paul's concern for Timothy's spiritual survival and effectiveness (see 2 Timothy 2:2, 14-15; 3:10-14; 4:1-2)." [ref]

"The word hupotupōsis ['the standard'] signifies the sketch, plan, or outline of a building, picture, etc.; and here refers to the plan of salvation which the apostle had taught Timothy." [ref] "Timothy was to view what he had heard from Paul as the essential outline or sketch of sound teaching (lit., 'healthy doctrine'; cf. 1 Timothy 1:10) and was to keep or maintain it." [ref] Where is that outline today? It is in Paul's NT writings. [ref]

From Paul's day until ours, there has always been those who insist on substituting man's foolishness for God's wisdom. And while we should always be looking for "new ways of teaching old truths," we must be very careful not to twist or corrupt those truths in the process. [ref]

"‘Sound’ words are ‘healthy’ words, the Greek expression being used in the Gospels of people whom Jesus healed. Previously they had been maimed or diseased; now they were well or ‘whole’. So the Christian faith is ‘the sound teaching’ [2 Timothy 4:3], consisting of ‘sound words’, because it is not maimed or diseased but ‘whole’. It is what Paul had previously called ‘the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27)." [ref] In retaining "sound teaching and doctrine" [ref], Timothy will simultaneously be rejecting false teaching, which is by its very nature unsound, impure, unhealthy. [ref]

THE FALSE TEACHERS. "Paul is conscious still of the threat of the false teachers and is mindful of giving Timothy support to combat the threat. The most urgent thing is for Timothy to keep (lit. ‘hold’) as the pattern of sound teaching, defined as what you heard from me." [ref]

in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:13)
"[T]he spirit in which one clings to the truth and passes it along to others" [ref] matters very much. And so Paul reminds Timothy to do so "in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus." "Faith in God and his redemptive revelation, love toward him and the brotherhood is the spirit in which Timothy must hold on to the true doctrine." [ref] Timothy's zeal for Gospel truth must be balanced by faith and love, "virtues which ultimately come only from being 'in Christ' (1 Timothy 1:14)." [ref] [ref]

"'Faith' is confidence that God’s Word is true, and 'love' is kindness and compassion in teaching that truth (cf. Eph. 4:15)." [ref] Timothy is to trust or have faith in these sound words, and his "love (intelligent and purposeful) is ever to use them in all his loving work of teaching and guiding others." [ref]

One commentator notes well the meaning of "faith and love" for every Christian in general and every Christian leader in particular:

Faith here has two ideas at its heart. (a) It has the idea of fidelity. The Christian leader must be for ever true and loyal to Jesus Christ. He must never be ashamed to show whose he is and whom he serves. Fidelity is the oldest and the most essential virtue in the world. (b) But faith also has in it the idea of hope. The Christian must never lose his confidence in God; he must never despair.

He must never slacken in love. To love men is to see them as God sees them. It is to refuse ever to do anything but seek their highest good. It is to meet bitterness with forgiveness; it is to meet hatred with love; it is to meet indifference with a flaming passion which cannot be quenched. Christian love insistently seeks to love men as God loves them and as he has first loved us. [ref]


2 TIMOTHY 1:14 - Summary Charge to Timothy (vv. 13-14)

Guard ... the treasure which has been entrusted to (you) (2 Timothy 1:14)
Paul expressed this exact same thought at the end of his first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:20). Here, as there, "guard" (Greek phylassō) means "to hold someone in close custody -- ‘to guard closely’" [ref], and "which has been entrusted to you" (Greek parathēkē) means "that which has been entrusted to the care of someone -- ‘what is entrusted, what is someone’s responsibility to care for.’" [ref]

Here, however, Paul adds the word "treasure" (Greek kalos), which pertains "to a positive moral quality, with the implication of being favorably valued -- ‘good, fine, praiseworthy’" [ref] and "expresses beauty as a harmonious completeness, balance, proportion." [ref] The thought is: "That fair, honorable trust, good and beautiful in itself, and honorable to him who receives it." [ref]

"The treasure" = the "sound words" of the previous verse. [ref] [ref] It was Timothy's responsibility to preserve and pass on authentic Gospel-oriented teaching. The very real and ever present danger was that this sound teaching would become "corrupted through distortion, dilution, deletion, and addition." [ref]

"Timothy was to guard that treasure -- not by burying it and keeping it hidden, but by entrusting it to faithful men and women, who would teach it to others, who in turn would teach it to others, and on through the centuries. Because men like Timothy 'guarded the treasure' as Paul had commanded, two thousand years later we too have the true gospel, the sound doctrine, that we are commanded to entrust to others. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit could the truth remain untainted, guarded, and protected as it passed through the centuries." [ref]



Basic evangelistic message proclaimed by the earliest Christians. More fully, it is the proclamation of the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus that leads to an evaluation of his person as both Lord and Christ, confronts one with the necessity of repentance, and promises the forgiveness of sins. The kerygma is drawn from two sources: (1) the fragments of pre-Pauline tradition that lie embedded in the writings of the apostle, and (2) the early evangelistic speeches of Peter in the Book of Acts. When these two sources are compared, a single basic message emerges.

The kerygma is essentially the same as the gospel, although the term itself emphasizes the manner of delivery somewhat more than the message that is being proclaimed. In the ancient world the king made known his decrees by means of a kerux (a town crier or herald). This person, who often served as a close confidant of the king, would travel throughout the realm announcing to the people whatever the king wished to make known. It is this note of authoritative declaration that is so appropriately transferred to the evangelizing activities of the primitive church.

Most current discussions of the kerygma, however, center on the content of the apostolic message. In The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments (1936), C.H. Dodd laid the groundwork for all subsequent discussions of the kerygma. Beginning with fragments of early Christian tradition embedded in Paul’s letters and then comparing these with the early speeches of Peter in the Book of Acts, Dodd arrived at the outline of an apostolic gospel. The gist of this kerygma is that with the first coming of Christ the prophecies of the OT were fulfilled and the new age was inaugurated. Christ was born of the seed of David. His ministry, death, and resurrection led to his exaltation by God as Head of the new Israel. He will soon return to judge the people and bring the messianic age to its conclusion. For this reason all persons are to repent.

While hailing Dodd’s work on the kerygma as plowing new ground, not all have agreed with him at every point. Another evaluation of the same basic material concludes that in simplest outline the kerygma is made up of: (1) a proclamation of the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus, seen as the fulfillment of prophecy and involving human responsibility; (2) the resultant evaluation of Jesus as both Lord and Christ; and (3) a summons to repent and receive forgiveness of sins. However, on the basis of a careful study of the actual texts themselves the kerygma did not contain: (1) a declaration of the dawn of the messianic age, (2) any reference to the life and ministry of Jesus (in contrast to his death and resurrection), or (3) a major emphasis on the second advent as part of the evangelistic proclamation. While all of these issues are part of the larger theological presentation of the NT, they do not appear to have been included in the essential apostolic gospel. In any case they are missing from the various texts which provide the source for the kerygma.

It is evident that the resurrection plays the central role in the drama of redemption. The kerygma always focuses on the resurrection. This supernatural act of God in history authenticates the words and works of Jesus and constitutes the basis for the Christian hope of immortality. Without the resurrection, the church would be no more than a group of well-intentioned, religious people who had placed their faith in the superior philosophical and ethical teachings of an unusually fine man. The resurrection is proof positive that Jesus is who he said he was. Only if he is the Son of God can his death provide an appropriate and sufficient sacrifice for human sin. Essentially, the kerygma is a declaration that Christ is risen from the dead, and by that great act God has brought salvation.

When Peter finished his great sermon at Pentecost, the crowd cried, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). They could not withstand the logic of the apostle’s conclusion that by the resurrection of Jesus, “God has made him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter responds by admonishing them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). The kerygma is not a dull recital of historical facts but a dynamic confrontation between the Holy Spirit and the sinful heart of man at the point of its basic need. Who can deny that the reality of the resurrection validates the claims of Christ? Who can resist the compelling logic of the resurrection as it leads irresistibly to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth is the living Lord? To repent and believe is to enter the kingdom of God. The kerygma has as its ultimate goal not a sophisticated theology but a transformed life. It is the declaration that in Christ the new order of eternal life has already entered into time and history.

- Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible [ref]


Christian writers of the late second and early third centuries, especially Irenaeus, Tertullian and Origen, present statements of what Irenaeus calls “the faith [which] the church, though dispersed throughout the whole world . . . , has received from the apostles and their disciples” (Irenaeus Haer. 1.2) and what Origen calls “the proclamation of the church . . . preserved unaltered handed down in unbroken succession from the apostles and existing to this day in the churches” (Origen De Princ. 1">presc. 2). These summaries are usually termed the rule (Gk kanōn; Lat regula) of faith or truth. They are trinitarian in structure, considerably longer than any formula noted so far and not verbally fixed, as is evident from different texts of the rule within a single writer.

The apostolic fathers’ common conviction is that the rule comprised the teaching handed on by the apostles (no claim is made for the apostolic authorship of its wording) and was everywhere uniform; a fragment of Hegesippus records that on a journey from Palestine to Rome he found very many bishops teaching the same faith: “in every succession and in every city what the law and the prophets and the Lord preach is faithfully followed” (Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 4.22.1, 3). In reality it represented the sum and substance of the public faith of the local church in question, filtered through the particular theological lens of the apostolic father in question. Thus Irenaeus’s rule touches on his distinctive notion of recapitulation, while Origen’s includes paragraphs on the soul and free will.

Again, while the rule is advanced as the essence of the church’s teaching voice ever since its apostolic foundation, it is not set over against the apostolic writings. From one perspective it may be viewed as what the teaching mind of the church receives from the apostolic Scriptures. From another perspective the rule consists of one of three or four strands woven inextricably together in mainstream second-century Christianity’s vindication of its apostolic credentials, in rejection of Gnosticism and other, lesser false claimants to apostolic descent. Within churches of demonstrable apostolic foundation or close association, the rule of faith stands for the unbroken continuity of public (not secret or esoteric) teaching from the time of the apostles onward (not latter-day novelties), carried by a historically recognizable succession of teachers (presbyters or bishops) and by an openly transmitted corpus of apostolic writings (a canon larger than Marcion’s but exclusive of many gnostic gospels, etc.). As such the appeal to the rule of faith had validity for only a limited period of living memory (Irenaeus, c. 200, believed he knew the apostle John through Polycarp; Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 5.4-8); by Origen’s time it is losing obvious contact with the apostolic kerygma.

Since the diverse gnostic platforms chiefly stimulated the elaboration of the rule of faith but always in continuity with earlier trends toward more stereotypical summaries of church teaching seen in Ignatius and Justin, so its content reflected anti-gnostic emphases on the goodness of Creator and creation, the historical reality of the incarnation of the Son, the unity of old and new covenants and the concreteness of the last things.

- D. F. Wright [ref]


The oldest known of the so-called church orders, the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”; it is reckoned among the books of the New Testament Apocrypha Originally composed in Greek, the earliest complete text of the Didache is an A.D. 1056 Syrian version (subtitled “The Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles by the Twelve Apostles”) discovered in 1873 by P. Bryennius in the library of the Jerusalem Patriarchate at Constantinople and published in 1883.

The teachings of the Didache can be grouped into three major sections. The first (chs. 1–6) concerns the doctrine of the “Two Ways,” presenting the ethical alternatives of the “way of life” and the “way of death” (cf. Prov. 4:18–19; Jer. 21:8; Matt. 7:13–14). The second part (chs. 7–10) discusses baptism, fasting, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper (or perhaps rather the Agape feast). The final section (chs. 11–16) concerns various aspects of church life, including the functions of prophets and traveling teachers, qualifications of bishops and deacons, observance of Sunday worship, and eschatological instructions regarding the return of Christ (cf. Matt. 24).

According to some scholars, the Epistle of Barnabas (chs. 18–20) and the Shepherd of Hermas (both writings of the Apostolic Fathers) quote the Didache, a fact which might indicate that the work was written near the end of the first century A.D. Others assign a later date to the completion of the Didache, citing the existence of an earlier source (first or second century) for the first six chapters and a later source (second-fourth centuries) for the remainder. Rather than indicating textual variants, the various extant versions (e.g., Latin, Coptic, Ethiopic, Georgian) suggest that the work represents a developing tradition encompassing several sources and revisions. The original Greek composition originated at the hands of a convert from Judaism, most likely ca. A.D. 100 in Syria, where it was meant to provide a guide to the organization of local churches.

- Eerdmans Bible Dictionary [ref]

Further Study: The Didache | Didache


The Apostles’ Creed is a western baptismal creed, first attested in its present form in the early eighth century in southern Gaul and now used widely in western churches.

A creed is a concise statement of Christian faith and belief. The word ‘creed’ derives from the Latin word credo, ‘I believe’, which is the first word of many Latin creeds. In Greek, a creed was called a symbolon (borrowed by Latin as symbolum). Most true creeds have three articles: God, the Father; Jesus Christ, the Lord; and the Holy Spirit (with other doctrines often added to the third article). Creeds originated in the administration of baptism. Eastern creeds have two parts in the second article: one on the Son’s pre-incarnate existence, the other on the history of the incarnate Christ from his conception to his second coming and eternal reign. Western creeds consistently lack the first part on the Son’s pre-incarnate existence. The oldest form of creeds was probably interrogatory: the one administering baptism asked for a triple confession of faith (see below). Later, especially in the west, the custom of ‘handing over’ the creed to catechumens and having them ‘hand it back’ (that is, memorize and recite it), called traditio and redditio, fostered the development of declaratory creeds. The Apostles’ Creed is one of the many variant forms of the Roman baptismal creed, often called the Old Roman Creed (which was probably first formulated in Greek). The name ‘Apostles’ Creed’ derives from the legend, reported by Rufinus of Aquileia, that the twelve apostles composed the creed before they set out on their missions of evangelization. (Later forms of the legend have each apostle contributing one article.) The Apostles’ Creed reads:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty; thence he will come to judge the living and the dead;
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the flesh, and eternal life. Amen.

The oldest witness to a western, Roman creed is Hippolytus’s Apostolic Tradition 21 (c. 220), which has a three-part interrogatory creed to be used at baptism. It reads:

Do you believe in God the Father almighty?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was born by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died, was raised up alive on the third day from among the dead, went up to heaven, and is seated at the Father’s right hand?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit in the holy Church?

By the early fourth century, the declaratory Old Roman Creed had emerged, attested in Greek in a letter addressed by Marcellus of Ancyra to Pope Julius c. 340, and attested more exactly in Latin by Rufinus of Aquileia, c. 404. As reconstructed from Rufinus’s commentary, it reads:

I believe in God the Father almighty;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary; who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried; on the third day he rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, whence he will come to judge the living and the dead;
and in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the flesh.

Many western churches used variants of the Old Roman Creed. Augustine of Hippo, for example, quotes three creeds in his writings: the creeds of Milan and Carthage, and a variant of the Roman creed.

The Apostles’ Creed differs from the Old Roman Creed mostly by its length: phrases are added to the former, but virtually none are removed. The two most noteworthy additions are ‘he descended into hell’ and ‘the communion of saints’.

The eighth-century text reads descendit ad inferna, ‘he descended into hell’; more recent usage prefers descendit ad inferos, ‘he descended to those below’, as being less problematic. Rufinus already knew a creed with a similar clause. The phrase may be eastern in origin. In ancient interpretations, the phrase was taken to mean that, between his death and his resurrection, Christ either preached the saving gospel to the righteous dead of the Old Testament or that he liberated those imprisoned in the underworld.

The most-discussed phrase in the Apostles’ Creed is ‘the communion of saints’ (sanctorum communio). The words are first attested in the creed that Nicetas of Remesiana commented on (in the late fourth century). The phrase may simply paraphrase ‘the holy catholic Church’, if sanctorum is masculine in gender. But if sanctorum is neuter, it could mean ‘sharing in the Eucharistic elements’ and thus be a rare reference to the Eucharist in creeds. While this latter interpretation may be attractive, the former is more probable.

- Joseph T. Lienhard, Society of Jesus [ref]

through the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:14)
This was a monumental task that Timothy could never do alone, nor was he expected to. "Timothy could count on the assistance of the indwelling Spirit of God (cf. 1 John 3:24; 4:13) who desires to promote the truth about Christ (John 16:13)." [ref]

dwells (2 Timothy 1:14)
"The 'indwelling' of the Spirit is not only the mark of true belief (Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Tim 1:6-7) but also the only source of enablement for the Christian's life and ministry (Rom 14:17; 1 Cor 2:10-16; 2 Cor 10:1-6; Gal 3:3)." [ref]

Meaning to be/live/reside/dwell in, "dwells" (Greek enoikeō) is used in reference to the "indwelling":

  • of God in believers (2 Cor. 6:16)
  • of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11; 2 Tim. 1:14)
  • of the Word of Christ (Col. 3:16)
  • of faith (2 Tim. 1:5)
  • of sin in the believer (Rom. 7:17) [ref]

"[T]he Spirit’s mediation and assistance are enough. His dwelling in us enables him to work through us." [ref] It is his working, and not simply human effort, that has resulted in the preservation of the Holy Scriptures and the Christian Church [ref] -- not conincidentally the two places where the Gospel is preserved and proclaimed.


2 TIMOTHY 1:15 - Desertion: The Way of Unfaithfulness

Asia (2 Timothy 1:15)
This is "the Roman province of Asia, primarily the western part of present-day Turkey." [ref] Ephesus was the capital [ref] or leading city. [ref] "On his third missionary journey Paul had spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31), longer than anywhere else. While he was there, the preaching of the gospel reached every part of the province (Acts 19:10)." [ref]




In the New Testament not the continent, nor Asia Minor, but the W. of Asia Minor, with Ephesus as its capital, including Mysia, Lydia, Caria. Attalus, king of Pergamus, left it to the Romans 138 B.C. It was placed by Augustus among the senatorial provinces, as distinguished from the imperial provinces. Hence it was governed by a "proconsul," as Acts 19:38 (anthupatos), with the minute propriety which marks truth, incidentally intimates. It had its "assize days" (agoraioi, margin "the court days are kept.") Here were the seven churches addressed in the Revelation. In the Old Testament "Asia" does not occur.

- Andrew Robert Fausset [ref]

"The contrast between the faithful and the unfaithful, the strong and the weak, the trustworthy and the unreliable, is striking. The many in Asia (2 Timothy 1:15) portray the very things Paul had been warning Timothy against -- cowardice, shame, self-indulgence, infidelity. Onesiphorus, on the other hand, demonstrated the characteristics Paul had been recommending to Timothy -- courage, love, self-discipline, boldness, and faithfulness. Clearly the negative and the positive examples were designed to strengthen Timothy’s resolve to be counted among those who were willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with the apostle." [ref]

turned away from me ... Phygelus and Hermogenes (2 Timothy 1:15)
It seems that Paul "had in mind the way the Christians had not stood by him at his trial. Those who did not stand by him would have included all those from the province of Asia living in Rome, such as Hermogenes and Phygelus, of whom he might have expected better things." [ref] As commentators explain the situation (with some degree of conjecture):

  • "It is probable that several leading Christians in the province of which Ephesus was the capital had been asked by Paul to come to Rome in order to appear on the witness-stand in his favor. However, with the possible exception of [Onesiphorus], no one had complied with the request. In all likelihood fear had held them back." [ref]
  • "When Paul was imprisoned his friends abandoned him -- most likely out of fear. The Romans would never have proceeded against him on a purely religious charge; the Jews must have persuaded them that he was a dangerous troublemaker and disturber of the public peace. There can be no doubt that in the end Paul would be held on a political charge. To be a friend of a man like that was dangerous; and in his hour of need his friends from Asia abandoned him because they were afraid for their own safety." [ref]
  • "The story is this: when Paul was arrested and charged with a capital crime he appealed by letter or by messenger to notable Christian men to come to Rome and to testify in his favor. 'They all with one accord began to make excuse.' The journey, the risk to themselves, the hopeless outlook for Paul even if they testified caused them to turn away as Timothy knows only too well. Paul could, of course, not ask Timothy to testify, for he was an assistant who aided and abetted Paul in the alleged crime. Paul could ask only such men who would have a standing with the imperial court. We take it that even elders would not do." [ref]
The aorist tense of the verb ‘turned away from me’ seems to refer to some particular event. The most likely allusion is to the moment of the apostle’s re-arrest. The churches of Asia, where he had laboured for several years, had depended heavily upon him. Perhaps his arrest seemed to them to indicate that the Christian cause was now lost. Perhaps they reacted by repudiating and disowning him. We know nothing of Phygelus and Hermogenes, but their mention suggests they were the ringleaders. In any case Paul saw the turning away of the Asian churches as more than a personal desertion; it was a disavowal of his apostolic authority. It must have seemed particularly tragic, because a few years previously, during Paul’s two and a half years’ residence in Ephesus, Luke says that ‘all the residents of Asia’ heard the word of the Lord and many believed (Acts 19:10). Now ‘all in Asia’ had turned away from him. The great awakening had been followed by a great defection. ‘To every eye but that of faith it must have appeared just then as if the gospel were on the eve of extinction’(Moule, p. 16). [ref]

This incident actually helps to confirm the fact that Paul himself wrote this letter to Timothy, since it "is hardly the sort of detail a later pseudepigrapher writing in Paul’s name would have made up about the end of his ministry. (Later hagiographers sometimes described the rejection of their heroes, but the narrative was normally accompanied by a description of the awful judgment that befell the apostates who rejected them.)" [ref]

The apostasy from the faith that Paul first encountered in Ephesus seems to have spread while he was imprisoned in Rome. The expulsion of certain ringleaders (1 Tim 1:20) apparently did not produce their repentance (2 Tim 2:17). Instead, they may have taken their teaching beyond Ephesus to churches throughout Asia Minor in the time between the writing of 1 and 2 Timothy. Furthermore, given their triumphalist view of the Holy Spirit, the imprisonment of Paul might have been used to demonstrate to their listeners the eclipse of Paul's ministry. To continue to side with Paul was to side with a "loser." In any case, Paul's everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me indicates how drastically the tide had turned. Two individuals are singled out, as in 2 Timothy 2:18 and 1 Timothy 1:20, which means not only that Timothy knew of them but also probably that they were leaders in the churches. Perhaps it is hard to imagine Timothy joining this movement, but with the church's mission and the gospel at stake, to retreat from this battle when the spiritual resources to persevere were readily available was much the same thing. [ref]


2 TIMOTHY 1:16 - The Way of Faithfulness (vv. 16-18)

The Lord grant mercy (2 Timothy 1:16)
"As [Onesiphorus] showed mercy to the apostle, the apostle prays the Lord to show mercy to him." [ref]

to the house of Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16)
"In Graeco-Roman society, the household included not only the immediate family but also slaves, laborers, and tenants." [ref]

Why did Paul name "the house of Onesiphorus" rather than Onesiphorus himself? There are several possibilities:

  • "Onesiphorus, having appeared in defence of a prisoner accused of a capital crime and having shown great interest in his case, was himself arrested and imprisoned. Hence, Paul's heart, filled with sympathy for the hero's family, utters the wish that the Lord may show mercy to these dear ones." [ref]
  • "Paul knows that the departure of Onesiphorus -- from Ephesus to Rome -- had caused worry to those whom he had left behind, but that they had nevertheless readily consented. Hence, not only Onesiphorus but also his household deserved to be specially mentioned by Paul. Besides, in circumstances that were 'trying' for all the members of the family, the Lord's mercy was needed by all." [ref] [ref]
  • Regarding the idea that Onesiphorus had died: "Onesiphorus was no longer alive (having been executed?). Hence, Paul expresses the wish that the Lord might grant mercy to his household!" [ref] "This household is saluted in 2 Timothy 4:19. It is most natural to suppose that Onesiphorus himself was dead, both from this expression and from the pious wish in 2 Timothy 1:18. Prayer for living friends is normally and naturally in regard to objects which will be realised here in earth. The evidence of 2 Macabees 12:44-45 proves that an orthodox Jew of our Lord’s time could have prayed for the dead." [ref]
  • "The fact that Paul keeps distinct his allusions to Onesiphorus on the one hand [2 Timothy 1:18] and to his household on the other could equally well mean that they were separated from each other by distance as by death, Onesiphorus being still in Rome, while his family were at home in Ephesus." [ref]

he often refreshed me (2 Timothy 1:6)
The original idea behind "refreshed" (Greek anapsuchō) is: "to cool; to revive by fresh air." [ref] It "is the language of hospitality, which included housing travelers; Onesiphorus must have had a large home and housed Paul whenever he came to Ephesus." [ref]

not ashamed of my chains (2 timothy 1:16)
"Others turned away from the poor prisoner, whether through fear of a like fate at Nero’s hands, or through the dislike which many people have to associate with the unfortunate more intimately than is necessary; not so Onesiphorus." [ref]

As another source puts it: "When the church is under fire, to give aid to an imprisoned pastor becomes a courageous act of faith. At one of the worst, most dangerous times for Christians, this is precisely what Onesiphorus did for Paul. The apostle was in prison in Rome in the time of Nero. By repeatedly visiting him at this time and giving aid, Onesiphorus identified himself closely with this enemy of the state and his illegal religion. It is certainly not exaggerating to say that this friend risked his life in order to help Paul. This is 'unashamed' loyalty to the gospel." [ref]

QuoteWorthy: Unashamed Loyalty
How do we react when challenged by friends, family, classmates, colleagues who ridicule the Christian message as anti-intellectual, old-fashioned, narrow-minded or sheer fantasy? - Philip H. Towner [ref]


2 TIMOTHY 1:17 - The Way of Faithfulness (vv. 16-18)

in Rome (2 Timothy 1:17)
"Very many people in the first century traveled to Rome; Onesiphorus, as a well-to-do patron in the prominent Asian city of Ephesus, would naturally be able to do so." [ref]

he eagerly searched for me and found me (2 Timothy 1:17)
Within "the crowded metropolis" [ref] of Rome, "[i]t was probably no easy task to find one obscure prisoner, among the large numbers in bonds at Rome for various offences." [ref] What's more the believers in Rome, no doubt scattered due to Nero's efforts at persecution, likely would be hesitant to reveal Paul's location to a stranger. [ref] Similarly, for Roman Christians to inquire of the authorities regarding Paul's whereabouts "would likely precipitate his death or would make his state worse besides bringing dire results on themselves." [ref]

And so doubtless Onesiphorus's was a cautious but persistent life-risking search. [ref] [ref]


2 TIMOTHY 1:18 - The Way of Faithfulness (vv. 16-18)

the Lord ... the Lord (2 Timothy 1:18)
This may refer to:

  • "God ... God" or
  • "Jesus Christ/God the Son ... God the Father" [ref] [ref] or
  • "God ... Jesus Christ." [ref]

on that day (2 Timothy 1:18)
This refers to "the day when Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16) stands before Christ to give account for his service (cf. 2 Timothy 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10)." [ref]



2 TIMOTHY 1:18 -- Does Paul’s prayer for Onesiphorus support the Roman Catholic doctrine of praying for the dead?

MISINTERPRETATION: The apostle Paul prayed for Onesiphorus, “May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus” (NIV). Some Catholic scholars cite this verse to support the doctrine of praying for the dead. Is this what Paul referred to here?

CORRECTING THE MISINTERPRETATION: That Paul prayed that God would have mercy on Onesiphorus on the day of his reward does not at all support praying for the dead for one very fundamental reason—Onesiphorus was still alive when Paul prayed for him! Praying that someone alive will receive mercy on the day of judgment is a far cry from praying for them after they have already died.

There is no indication in the Bible that anyone should ever pray for another after they die. Luke 16 speaks of a “great chasm” between the living and the dead (v. 26). Paul speaks of death separating loved ones until they are reunited at the resurrection (1 Thess. 4:13–18). Any attempted contacts with the dead are not only futile but forbidden (Deut. 18:11) because of the possibility of demonic deception (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1).

When David’s baby was alive but seriously ill he prayed for him fervently. However, when the baby died he ceased praying for him immediately (2 Sam. 12:22–23). When Jesus lost his close friend Lazarus by death he never prayed to God for him. He simply resurrected him with the command, “Lazarus, come forth!” Rather than pray for the dead, Jesus prayed for the living.

Praying for the dead is contrary to the all-sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ. His mediation and intercession for them (1 John 2:1–2) is more than sufficient to address the needs of those who die in him. When Jesus died and rose again the work of salvation was finished (John 19:30; cf. 17:4; Heb. 10:14). When he purged our sins he “sat down” at the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3) since there was absolutely nothing more to do for our salvation. So the whole concept of praying for the dead, that they might be freed from sin, is an insult to the finished work of Christ, who freed us from our sins by his blood (Rev. 1:5). Jesus not only obtained salvation from all our sins at one time but, as our great High Priest (Heb. 7), he alone implements it for all time.

Praying for the dead can be an idolatrous practice. Praying the rosary focuses on the intercession of Mary, or the saints are invoked. It is a form of worship and only God should be worshiped (Exod. 20:3). One of the Ten Commandments declares clearly, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in the sky above or on the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exod. 20:3–5a NKJV). Praying to saints, making images of them, and/or bowing down to them violate this command.

The practice also insults the intercession of the Holy Spirit. Much of the Catholic justification for praying to the saints is based on the seemingly plausible argument that, because of their position in heaven, they may be better able to intercede on our behalf. This is a practical denial of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, whose task it is to do this very thing on our behalf. And who is better able to make intercessions for us than another person of the blessed Trinity? The Bible says, “we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26b NASB). Paul adds in Ephesians, “For through him [Christ] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18 NASB). Since beyond our explicit prayers to God the Holy Spirit intercedes for us perfectly “according to God’s will” (Rom. 8:27) there is no need to call on anyone else in heaven to do so. To expect any human being to be more efficacious with God the Father than God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:1–2) is to insult his divinely-appointed role.

- Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe [ref]



The custom of praying for the dead is a traditional practice independent of any biblical support: ‘If you look in Scripture for a formal law governing these and similar practices, you will find none. It is tradition that justifies them, custom that confirms them, and faith that observes them’ (Tertullian, de cor., 4. 1). The only scriptural text where such prayer is clearly recorded is 2 Macc. 12:40–5. There is, however, ample evidence for its use in the inscriptions of the catacombs, with their constant prayers for the peace and refreshment of the souls of the departed, and the early liturgies commonly contain commemorations of the dead. Of the early Fathers, Tertullian, Cyprian, and others are witnesses of the regular practice of praying for the dead, and in the 4th cent. one of the counts against the heretic Aerius was that he denied its efficacy and legitimacy.

In the E. Church no limits are placed on such prayer. In the Liturgy of St Chrysostom, the Eucharistic sacrifice is offered for (huper) the saints and martyrs, and there is authority for praying for those ‘bound in Hades’ (Service of Kneeling, Pentecostarion, Rome, 1883, p. 414) and for pagans (cf. Apophthegmata Patrum, Macarius, 38). In the W. prayer for the dead was closely connected with the development of the doctrine of purgatory (q.v.); gradually such prayer was limited to prayer for the ‘holy souls’, i.e. the souls in purgatory. The W. Church does not pray for the martyrs, because they are believed to be in full possession of beatitude immediately after death, a refusal later extended to all canonized saints. Nor, it is held, can the damned, i.e. those who have died in unrepented mortal sin, be assisted by our prayers, though who they are is known to God alone. Thus the public offering of Mass for the excommunicate (and even for those outside the RC [Roman Catholic] Church) was long forbidden, though private prayers and Masses for the Dead might be said for them. Acc. to modern RC Canon Law, unless they gave some sign of repentance before death, Masses for the Dead and funeral rites are not to be conducted for notorious apostates, heretics, schismatics, public sinners, or for those who for anti-Christian reasons desired cremation. If, however, their own minister is not available, baptized persons belonging to another Church or ecclesial community may be given RC funeral rites, unless it is established that they did not wish this (CIC (1983), cans. 1183–5).

At first the Protestant Reformers continued the traditional custom of praying for the dead. But before long they came to denounce it, partly because they believed it to be without biblical foundation (2 Macc. 12:40–5 was dismissed, since the ‘Apocrypha’ no longer ranked as Scripture), partly through their rejection of the doctrine of purgatory and the practices associated with it. In the C of E [Church of England] express prayers for the dead have been absent from the BCP [Book of Common Prayer] since 1552 and the practice is denounced as unprofitable in the Homily ‘On Prayer’ (part 3) on the ground that it is useless to intercede for the dead, who are already either in heaven or hell. The liturgy of the Nonjurors, however, included prayers for the dead, and since the middle of the 19th cent. the practice has been increasingly adopted in the C of E. Prayers for the dead were included in an authorized ‘Form of Intercession’ put out in 1900 on behalf of the forces serving in South Africa and since then in other official forms of service. In a veiled form they were inserted for optional use in the proposed revision of the BCP in 1927–8; they are allowed in CW [Common Worship] and some (though not all) other modern Anglican liturgies. Prayer for the dead is still avoided by those of marked Evangelical belief and in the Free Churches.

The traditional Catholic teaching was reasserted at the Council of Trent, sessions 22 (cf. can. 3) and 25 (for both, see Denzinger and Hünermann (37th edn., 1991), nos. 1743, 1753, 1820), as well as in the Decree of Union subscribed at the Council of Florence of 1439 (ibid., no. 1304).

- The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church [ref]

The earliest Christian Father to refer to the practice of praying for the departed, Tertullian, admits also that there is no direct biblical authority for doing so. Third-century inscriptions indicate the kinds of petitions made in these prayers, usually a simple and general request for the dead person to be with God or to know the forgiveness of sins. It is possible that such prayers arose out of the confused ideas over the consequences of postbaptismal sin, which caused much debate in the church of Tertullian’s time. One suggested solution to this problem was the idea of a purgatorial discipline after death, which was discussed at Alexandria in the early third century and spread in the West through the powerful advocacy of Augustine and Gregory the Great. Meanwhile, at Jerusalem in the mid-fourth century the Eucharist came to be regarded as a propitiatory sacrifice which could be offered on behalf of both the living and the dead. Consequently intercessions for the departed came to be inserted in the anaphora, or canon of the Mass. In the Roman Church, a Mass offered specifically for a dead person is called a “requiem,” although since the early Middle Ages the dead have also been remembered in the daily Mass.

In England, Cranmer’s second Prayer Book (1552) abolished all prayers for the dead; but a thanksgiving for the faithful departed was added to the intercessions in 1662. In modern times pastoral needs in the Church of England, where many non-churchgoers are given Christian burial, have led to the consideration of a form of prayer to include the unfaithful departed, and this has been included as an option in the Series 3 Orders for Holy Communion and Funerals. There remains a tension in Christian thought between the best way of expressing the biblical truth of an unbreakable fellowship of believers in Christ, and a sub-Christian desire to provide for, and communicate directly with, the spirits of the dead.

- John Tiller [ref]

Judaism often spoke of departed heroes as “of blessed memory,” and some later tomb inscriptions eulogized the righteous dead with “May he [or she] be remembered for good.” Posthumous acts of atonement were sometimes offered for the dead, but prayers for the “salvation” of the dead in the strict sense seem to be either minimal or altogether lacking in first-century Judaism.

- Craig S. Keener [ref]



Prayer Results from a Theocentric Worldview
Paul’s life was lived in moment-by-moment consciousness of the eternal existence of a holy, sovereign God [1 Tim 6:15–16; cf. 1 Tim 1:17]. Since “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom 11:36), it was impossible for the apostle to conceive of any human activity apart from God [Acts 17:28]. This totally theocentric worldview fundamentally shaped Paul’s spiritual life and prayer.

Prayer As a Creaturely Obligation
Prayer, especially thanksgiving, is a logical, natural and necessary consequence of the apostle’s understanding of reality. Paul’s basic theology of prayer was constructed on the rational certainty that God exists and personally and providentially sustains the creation (cf. Col 1:16–17).

Thanksgiving Motivated by Salvation
In Paul’s mind, being turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God -- receiving full rights as God’s child -- was so astounding that it virtually compelled ceaseless thanksgiving [1 Thess 5:16–18]. Hence, Christians are characterized as “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:20).

Prayer Essential to Service
[Paul] requested prayer (Eph 6:19–20; Col 4:3–4) that God would: (1) open a door for the word of the gospel; (2) give him uninhibited boldness or confidence in preaching; and (3) give him facility of speech in his proclamation. Prayer to God was essential in the apostle’s understanding of evangelistic work. It was neither the preacher nor the convert, but God who supernaturally intervened through the Spirit’s call and justified those who believed. Prayer was also expected on the convert’s part.

The Role of the Mind in Prayer
Romans 10:9–14 connects salvation with faith, confession and prayer. It is evident that Paul did not regard the faith from which authentic prayer issues as a kind of blind leap in the dark. For him, prayer comes from an intelligent or rationally informed faith and is grounded in the certainty that God is not “unknown” (cf. Acts 17:22–28) but rather, has revealed himself in creation, history, Christ, Scripture and the gospel. Modern tendencies to divorce faith from reason find no support here.

A similar emphasis on the use of the intellect when praying occurs in 1 Corinthians 14:14–17. The apostle thanked God that he spoke in tongues “more than all of you” (1 Cor 14:18), and in 2 Corinthians 12:1 he claims “visions and revelations” (perhaps associated with prayer) during which he heard “inexpressible things.” But he seems to have regarded a rational mental state as less open to abuse or misunderstanding when praying, especially in public meetings (cf. 1 Cor 14:32–33).

Prayer Essential to Perseverance
Paul saw the Christian life in this world as an unending struggle [Eph 6:12; cf. 2 Cor 2:11]. He saw persecution and life-threatening opposition to his ministry as manifestations of this hostility and asked for prayer for deliverance (Rom 15:30; 2 Cor 1:8–11). He was convinced that believers needed the supernatural armor of God to resist temptation and “stand against the devil’s schemes.” He thus exhorts: “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Eph 6:18).

Offering Converts to the Returning Christ
The apostle regarded the whole Gentile mission as an act of worship and expected to present his converts as an “offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16). In his letters Paul connects this theme with prayer in three ways:

  1. The steadfast faithfulness of his converts results in praise to God [1 Thess 3:9].
  2. Their need for spiritual growth motivates the petition that he might visit them as he prays earnestly [1 Thess 3:10].
  3. His long-term concern about their state at the parousia motivates many of his intercessory and wish-prayers [1 Thess 3:12–13].

Paul wanted his converts to “eagerly wait for the Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (1 Cor 1:7), and his concern for their holiness, given the immediacy of Christ’s return, is a prominent feature of many of the intercessory prayer reports.

The Spirit of Adoption
The Pauline understanding of Christian prayer places major emphasis on the believer’s relationship with, and personal access to, God as Father. This privilege is an aspect of the Christian’s “adoption” as God’s child, and is grounded solely in the finished work of Christ [Eph 3:12]. For Paul prayer originates in the indwelling Holy Spirit who gives the believer assurance of adoption. Those who take prayer seriously will pursue holiness and strive to avoid sin which “quenches” or “grieves” the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19; Eph 4:30).

Prayer and the Will of God
Paul does not envision a striving with God to bend his will to personal desires or to the needs of others. Rather prayer is part of the believer’s struggle to discern, affirm and participate in doing God’s will against the pervasive influence of the power of evil. Commitment to living as well as to praying according to God’s will constitutes the essence of what Paul means when he calls his readers to pray “in the name of Jesus” (Eph 5:20).

The priority of God’s will was underscored for the apostle by the reality of importunate, persistent, yet unanswered prayer in his own life [2 Cor 12:7-10]. Through this type of experience he came to understand that (1) adversity, suffering, insults and persecution were opportunities for God’s power to be made “perfect,” or completely manifest, through human weakness. Furthermore, (2) suffering in the will of God produces perseverance, character and hope which does not disappoint (Rom 5:3–5). And, finally, (3) suffering and “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor 4:17; cf. Rom 8:18). He thus urges “patience” as Christians wait and pray for the final realization of “our adoption as children (huiothesia), the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23).

The Intercession of the Spirit
[See Romans 8:26–27.] For Paul, asking in accordance with God’s will (cf. 1 Jn 5:14–15) is the primary issue. The Spirit’s intercession from within believers on earth is paralleled by ongoing intercession for believers by Christ himself in heaven (Rom 8:34). To pray “in the Spirit” means “to pray in that awareness of God which the Spirit brings, to be able to approach him in simple trusting confidence as a child to his father” (Mitton, 228).

The Pauline Prayer Focus: Eternal Rather Than Temporal
1 Timothy 2:2 urges prayer for political stability “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives” in an environment which fosters the progress of the gospel. And the apostle gives instruction concerning prayer which touches on practical issues such as worship (1 Cor 11:5; 14:13–17) and table grace (Rom 14:6; 1 Cor 10:30; 11:24; 1 Tim 3:3–5). But it is striking that in the reports which constitute our major window into Paul’s patterns of prayer, we see virtually no petition for many practical things such as daily bread, health or healing, improved economic conditions, etc. This is especially obvious in the two lengthy intercessory prayer periods of Ephesians 1:15–23 and [Ephesians 3:14–21].

The apostle’s priorities come to the fore when he encourages the Corinthians to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:18). The missionary-pastor is neither ascetic nor unmindful of the importance of the practical affairs of daily living. But in terms which recall the words of Jesus, he urges believers to live (and pray) in ways which give first priority to the values of the present and coming kingdom [1 Tim 4:8].

- W. B. Hunter [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)

you know very well (2 Timothy 1:18)
The thought here is: "You know better than I" [ref] or "You know better than I can tell you." [ref] "Even before he went on his mission to Rome, Onesiphorus, still in Ephesus, had rendered many valued services to the cause of the gospel. This labor of love had been performed under the very eyes of Timothy." [ref] [ref]

Onesiphorus's example should cause Timothy to want to "show similar stedfastness, loyalty, and courage." [ref]

It is interesting to notice the contrast in meaning for the names Paul lists:

  • Phygelus (Greek phugellos) = "a fugitive" [ref]
  • Hermogenes (Greek hermōgenēs) = "begotten of Hermes[/Mercury]" [ref] [ref]
  • Onesiphorus (Greek ōnēsiphoros) = "profit bringing" [ref]

*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. ( | **This outline is from The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe