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 3:10-12)

10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance,
11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!
12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Perilous in [2 Timothy 3:1] means “difficult,” “hard to deal with,” or “dangerous.” It is the same Greek word used to describe the demoniac in Matthew 8:28 and translated “exceedingly fierce.” How do we live for Christ in such terrible times? Follow the right examples. We tend to emulate the people we admire, so be careful about the heroes you select. Modern-day Christian celebrities may not exemplify the life-style God wants us to have. - Warren Wiersbe [ref]

QuoteWorthy: Troublesome Standards and Clashing Loyalties
If anyone proposes to accept a set of standards quite different from the world's, he is bound to encounter trouble. If anyone proposes to introduce into his life a loyalty which surpasses all earthly loyalties, there are bound to be clashes. And that is precisely what Christianity demands that a man should do. - William Barclay [ref]

2 TIMOTHY 3:10 - The Charge to God's Worker (vv. 10-17)

Standing Firm on Scripture

As people become more and more corrupt in their thinking, attitudes, and actions, we must continue to stand firm on God’s message in the Holy Scriptures. (see 2 Timothy 3:1-17) [ref]

2 Timothy 3:10-11 includes "[j]ust a few lines, but oh, how much they call to mind! They present practically all of Paul’s labor as an apostle and all that was intertwined with it, namely Timothy’s labor and life as the apostle’s disciple and more than a disciple." [ref] Paul is actually comparing himself to the false teachers, and it is as if he were saying: "'You know me, Timothy. These false teachers are charlatans. They do magic tricks. They talk in riddles. They’re impressive for a moment or two, but you know what I’ve been through on behalf of the gospel. You know what kind of man I am." [ref]

Now you followed (2 Timothy 3:10)
"There is a strong emphasis on the pronoun you in contrast to the people described in 2 Timothy 3:2-9." [ref] Hence the ESV's and NET's "You, however, have followed." "In stark contrast to the contemporary decline in morals, empty show of religion and spread of false teaching Timothy is called to be different, and if necessary to stand alone." [ref]

"Followed" (Greek parakoloutheō) "literally means to follow alongside; but it is used with a magnificent width of meaning. It means to follow a person physically, to stick by him through thick and thin. It means to follow a person mentally, to attend diligently to his teaching and fully to understand the meaning of what he says. It means to follow a person spiritually, not only to understand what he says, but also to carry out his ideas and be the kind of person he wishes us to be. Parakolouthein is indeed the word for the disciple, for it includes the unwavering loyalty of the true comrade, the full understanding of the true scholar and the complete obedience of the dedicated servant." [ref]

"Now you followed" could be paraphrased: "You were attracted as a disciple to me on account of." [ref] Here "Paul is reminding Timothy not simply that he has ‘fully known’ (AV) or ‘observed’ (RSV) his doctrine and conduct, as if he were merely an impartial student or a detached observer, but that he has become a dedicated disciple of the apostle’s. No doubt he had begun by taking pains to grasp the meaning of Paul’s instruction. But then he went further. He made it his own, believed it, absorbed it, lived by it. Similarly, he doubtless began by watching the apostle’s manner of life, but then he went on to imitate it." [ref]

To Paul, Timothy was a son, "companion, associate, [and] assistant." [ref] To Timothy, Paul was a father; "leader; head and guide to inspire, direct, and lend courage; example and friend with whom ever to clasp hands." [ref]

As one Bible commentator explains well:

The contrast with the first paragraph of this chapter is obvious [see 2 Timothy 3:1-9]. The men described there were following their own inclinations (they were lovers of self, money and pleasure), and their pathetic converts had been carried away by their own impulses. Timothy, on the other hand, has followed an altogether different standard, namely the teaching and the example of Christ’s apostle Paul. So Paul goes on to list the characteristics of his life, in contrast to that of the self-lovers whom he has characterized in [2 Timothy 3:2-5]. The emphatic words are the personal pronouns and possessive adjectives. They bring out the contrast clearly: ‘For men will be lovers of self … They will be and do this and that. But as for you, Timothy, you (as distinct from them) have followed me, my teaching, my conduct, etc.’ [ref]

Similarly, Paul has a definite purpose for extolling his virtues:

Why, however, does Paul give us in [2 Timothy 3:10-11] this catalogue of his virtues and sufferings? Is it not more than a little immodest, even conceited, that the apostle should put himself forward like this? Perhaps it is understandable that he should mention his ‘teaching’, but why go on to blow his own trumpet about his faith and love, his purpose and conduct, his sufferings and his endurance? Is it not rather unseemly that he should boast like this?

No, Paul is not boasting. He has reasons quite other than exhibitionism for drawing attention to himself. He mentions his teaching first, and then goes on to supply two objective evidences of the genuineness of his teaching, namely the life he lived and the sufferings he endured. Indeed, these are good (though not infallible) general tests of a person’s sincerity, and even of the truth or falsehood of his system. Is he so convinced of his position that he both practises what he preaches and is prepared to suffer for it? Have his beliefs made him a better man, even in the face of opposition? Paul could answer both questions affirmatively. The false teachers lived lives of self-indulgence, and it would be quite out of character to expect them to be willing to suffer for their views; they were altogether too soft and easygoing for that. The apostle Paul, however, lived a consistent life of righteousness, self-control, faith and love, and remained steadfast to his principles through many and grievous persecutions. [ref]

Paul's example actually provides us with a test for identifying true spiritual leaders:

• Their lives are open for all to see.
• They teach true doctrine.
• They practice what they preach.
• Their purpose is to glorify God.
• They are willing to suffer. [ref]

my teaching (2 Timothy 3:10)
Paul's list can be divided into three categories: 1) duties (teaching, conduct), 2) qualities (purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance), and 3) experiences (persecutions and sufferings). [ref]

"My teaching" means "my method of teaching" or "my manner of giving instruction." [ref] Specifically it refers to Paul's teaching and training of Timothy, including the tasks assigned to him by Paul. [ref] As for the content of his teaching, Paul taught Christ; and he taught Christ well because he knew Christ well. [ref]

This has tremendous significance for us today: "No matter how appealing a preacher may be, if he does not preach the truth of God’s Word, he does not deserve our support. On radio and TV today, we have a great deal of 'pseudo-Christianity' which is a mixture of psychology, success motivation, and personality cults, with a little bit of Bible thrown in to make it look religious. Beware!" [ref]

The fact that Timothy already knows all about Paul's teaching means there is no reason for Paul to spell out in detail all the major doctrines of the Christian faith. Likewise there is no reason to assume -- as, in fact, some skeptics do -- that because some of Paul's great themes are missing from his pastoral epistles they must have been written by someone other than Paul. [ref]

In the Greek, "my" clearly applies "to each of the words in the series" [ref]: my teaching, my conduct, my purpose, etc. [ref]

conduct (2 Timothy 3:10)
This refers to Paul's "manner of life" [ref] [ref] (so KJV/NKJV), "his whole demeanour and way of life." [ref]

"Timothy had lived and traveled with Paul. He had seen Paul happy, sad, angry, and worried; he had watched Paul handle difficult people and problems; he had seen him study and had heard him pray. Paul's way of life should have been a shining example to Timothy. Paul could easily say to Timothy, as he had said to the Corinthians, 'Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ' (1 Corinthians 11:1 NRSV)." [ref]

To be a genuine Christian is to both know and be: "The Christian life does not consist only in knowing something; it consists even more in being something. The task of the apostle is not only to tell men the truth; it is also to help them do it. The true leader gives training in living." [ref]

purpose (2 Timothy 3:10)
This refers to "the spiritual ambitions which motivated [Paul] and made life meaningful for him." [ref] Rather than "selfish gain," Paul's set aim in life was "the glory of God in Christ." [ref]

"Timothy knew Paul's purpose in life, his central mission, his chief aim. Traveling with the tireless missionary must have quickly convinced Timothy of Paul's single-minded focus on his mission. God had said of Paul, "He is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel" (Acts 9:15 NRSV). Paul never took that calling lightly." [ref]

Every other time Paul uses the word "purpose," it refers to God's purpose (Romans 8:28; 9:11; Ephesians 1:11; 3:11; 2 Timothy 1:9). [ref] [ref]

faith (2 Timothy 3:10)
"Faith" is "complete belief that God's commands are binding and that his promises are true." [ref] It necessarily includes "fidelity, or faithfulness." [ref] [ref]

patience (2 Timothy 3:10)
Meaning: "tolerance or long-suffering towards aggravating people." [ref] It "is the ability not to lose patience when people are foolish, not to grow irritable when they seem unteachable. It is the ability to accept the folly, the perversity, the blindness, the ingratitude of men and still to remain gracious, and still to toil on." [ref]

Paul was long-suffering "towards [his] adversaries, and the false teachers; towards brethren in bearing their infirmities; towards the unconverted, and the lapsed when penitent (2 Timothy 4:2; 2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12)." [ref]

love (2 Timothy 3:10)
This is love "towards both God and man, as opposed to the false teachers’ love for self, money and pleasure." [ref]

Specifically "with respect to people, including enemies." [ref]

Love "is God's attitude to men. It is the attitude which bears with everything men can do and refuses to be either angry or embittered, and which will never seek anything but their highest good. To love men is to forgive them and care for them as God forgave and cares -- and it is only he who can enable us to do that." [ref]

perseverance (2 Timothy 3:10)

  • "the patient endurance of trying circumstances" [ref]
  • "conquering endurance" [ref]
  • "not a passive sitting down and bearing things but a triumphant facing of them so that even out of evil there can come good. It describes, not the spirit which accepts life, but the spirit which masters it" [ref]
  • "the brave patience with which the Christian contends against the various hindrances, persecutions, and temptations that befall him in his conflict with the inward and outward world" [ref]

Three times in his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul connected perseverance with hope (Romans 5:4; 8:25; 15:24). With that in mind, it is probably not too much of a stretch to see in this current list an allusion to, if not example of, "Paul’s favourite triad of graces": faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 1:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8). [ref]



Didaskalia [refers to t]eaching or instruction as spoken of:

  1. The art or manner of teaching (Romans 12:7; 1 Timothy 4:13, 16; 5:17; Titus 2:7). With the meaning of warning (Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16 [cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11]).
  2. The thing taught, instruction, precept, doctrine: as coming from men, perverse (Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7; Ephesians 4:14; Colossians 2:22; 1 Timothy 4:1; Sept.: Isaiah 29:13); from God meaning divine teaching (1 Timothy 1:10; 4:6; 6:1, 3; 2 Timothy 3:10; 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1, 10). A distinction must be made between the process of teaching and the subject matter of teaching. The Eng. word "teaching" may mean either the act of imparting truth or the body of truth imparted. Sometimes the biblical usage includes both meanings by way of double entendre.
  3. The NT employs two terms for teaching, didachē, and didaskalia. Generally speaking, didachē means the substance of teaching and didaskalía the act of teaching. In the KJV this distinction is not made so apparent since both didachē (Matthew 7:28; 16:12) and didaskalia (Ephesians 4:14; 1 Timothy 4:1) are usually rendered "doctrine." Both didachē and didaskalia are used in the act. and pass. senses, i.e., the act of teaching and what is taught. The pass. is predominant in didachē which always means the act, and in many instances both the act and the content of Christian instruction. It also stresses the authority of the teacher while the latter, didaskalia, stresses the act of teaching and literally means that which belongs to the teacher (didaskalos). The content of teaching suggested by this term is apparent from such phrases like "precepts and doctrines" (Colossians 2:22), "sound doctrine" (1 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9), and without any qualification "the doctrine" (1 Timothy 6:1, 3; Titus 2:10). Didachē occurs sixteen times and didaskalia occurs seventeen times in the NT.
  4. Teaching (didaskalia) was numbered among the charísmata, spiritual gifts of grace, which resulted from the bestowal of the Holy Spirit and which included such gifts as prophesying, healing, working of miracles, and tongues (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:10 f.).
  5. Teaching and preaching are mentioned in close association. The gift of teaching was regarded as conferring on its recipient a distinct function in the ministry of the Word. In the Gospels our Lord is described first as "preaching" the glad tidings of the kingdom (Mark 1:14) and then as "teaching" His disciples the inner meaning and principles of the gospel (Mark 4:1). In the early church preaching was distinguished from teaching, although in certain instances they were often combined (Matthew 4:23; Acts 5:42; Acts 28:31). Preaching was primarily the proclamation of the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, whereas teaching was the systematic instruction in the details of Christian truth and duty which followed the summons to repentance and saving faith. While preaching and teaching were distinct as functions, they might, in some cases at least, be united in the ministry of one person (1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11), especially as the content both of the preaching and the more elaborate instruction was necessarily often the same (Acts 5:42; 15:35; Colossians 1:28). Teachers are mentioned after apostles and prophets (1 Corinthians 12:28 f.; Ephesians 4:11), and in a less formal list of spiritual functions, teaching is mentioned after prophecy (Romans 12:6 f.). However, in 1 Corinthians "the word of wisdom" and "the word of knowledge," which together constituted the gift of teaching, are placed before prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:8, 10), and "a teaching" comes before "a revelation" (1 Corinthians 14:26).
  6. Prophecy was a specialized form of teaching. The differences between the two apparently lay in the fact that while prophecy was the utterance of a revelation received directly from God, teaching was the utterance of that which one had gained by thought and reflection. The teacher must be led and guided by the Spirit to be a true teacher and have genuine spiritual teaching, but what he said was in a real sense his own. Some prophets were able also to teach, but not all teachers were able to prophesy.
  7. The apostles might also teach. Paul speaks of himself as appointed to be both an apostle and a teacher (1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11). Teachers, like apostles and prophets, traveled about from place to place, being greatly honored. They were not officials appointed by a church body. Teaching was not an office, for even as late as the fifth century laymen are called teachers (Apostolic Constitutions VIII, XXII). Local congregations tested both the message and the moral character of these visiting instructors.
  8. Teachers were more like the apostles, prophets and evangelists who were itinerant up to and during the postapostolic period unlike pastors. At a later stage it was one of the qualifications of a bishop that he should be "apt to teach" (1 Timothy 3:2) as teaching is a major part of his ministry.
  9. Instruction was often given collectively, in public or in private, in the temple and at home (Acts 5:42), in the Christian congregation (Acts 11:26), and more generally in the meeting for edification such as Paul describes in detail in 1 Corinthians 14. According to this chapter, teaching came between the "psalm [or hymn of praise]" and the prophetic "revelation" (1 Corinthians 14:26). Supplementary teaching was given privately "from house to house" (Acts 20:20) or to individuals (Acts 18:26).
  10. Individuals instructed were to contribute toward the support of their teacher (Galatians 6:6). In later times many churches came to have regular schools for the teaching of individuals, that of Alexandria being especially famous. The teaching was mostly oral. As time progressed, however, the epistles were also used for teaching. The teaching consisted of mainly a recital of the facts concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:3 f.; 1 Corinthians 15:1 ff.; Galatians 4:4 f.). Also Christian ordinances (or, sacraments) were explained (1 Corinthians 11:23 f.).
  11. Meaningful instruction was to be conveyed through "hymns and spiritual songs" (Colossians 3:16) which could include admonition (Colossians 1:28), exhortation (1 Timothy 4:13; 6:2), and even reproof and rebuke (2 Timothy 4:2). The administration of these called for patience and longsuffering.
  12. The Christian teacher taught "in the name of Jesus" (Acts 4:18; Acts 5:28). He used the doctrines of the OT inasmuch as they bore witness of Christ. He repeated the teaching given by Christ with the formula "remember the words of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:35). He continued "in the apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2:42), and as occasion arose he applied the principles underlying the teaching of Jesus and relating to the doctrinal and ethical problems that arose within the church. In the later epistles a conservative tendency is noticeable. The content of Christian teaching came to be fixed and authoritative. It was called "the teaching" (1 Timothy 6:1; 2 John 1:9 [cf. Revelations 22:18 f.]) or "sound doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:3). Paul warns the Romans against departing from "the doctrine which ye learned" (Romans 16:17). Later Timothy is called a good minister because he had been "nourished up in the words of faith, and of good doctrine" (1 Timothy 4:6), and in which he continued. The content of the teaching may be inferred from the fact that it is described in 1 Corinthians 12:8 as the "word of wisdom" and as the "word of knowledge." The word of wisdom was an acquaintance with "God's wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:21) or the divine plan of redemption which Paul calls elsewhere "the mystery of God" (Colossians 2:2). The knowledge (gnōsis) came by intuition and consisted of insight into truth through spiritual illumination but must not be taken as apokalupsis, revelation. Wisdom enabled the teacher to explain the truth, and knowledge as a divine gift qualified him to interpret it.
- The Complete Word Study Dictionary [ref]


2 TIMOTHY 3:11 - The Charge to God's Worker (vv. 10-17)

persecutions, (and) sufferings ... at Antioch, at Iconium (and) at Lystra (2 Timothy 3:11)
As one Bible commentator explains well:

The reference to ‘steadfastness’ or ‘endurance’ naturally leads on to the ‘persecutions’ and the ‘sufferings’ which Paul had had to endure. In particular, he mentions the three Galatian cities Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, because Timothy was a citizen of Lystra and had possibly himself witnessed the occasion when the apostle had been stoned by a hostile mob, dragged out of the city and left in the gutter for dead, though from this and all other persecutions so far the Lord had rescued him. Perhaps Paul’s courage under persecution had even played a part in Timothy’s conversion, much as Stephen’s bravery in martyrdom had done in Paul’s. At all events, Timothy had ‘followed’ Paul’s persecutions, first watching them, and then discovering that he must himself share in them, for he could not be committed to Paul’s teaching and conduct without becoming involved in his sufferings also. [ref]

persectuions, (and) sufferings (2 Timothy 3:11)
"Paul mentioned his suffering here to contrast his experience with that of the pleasure-seeking false teachers." [ref]

"Persecutions" is "[f]rom a Gr. verb that lit. means 'to put to flight.' Paul had been forced to flee from Damascus (Acts 9:23–25), Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:50), Iconium (Acts 14:6), Thessalonica (Acts 17:10), and Berea (Acts 17:14)." [ref]

For some of the hardships Paul endured besides those at Antioch and Iconium and Lystra, see 2 Corinthians 11:21-33. [ref] [ref]

Antioch, Iconium, Lystra (2 Timothy 3:11)

  • In Antioch, "the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town" (Acts 13:50 NLT).
  • In Iconium, "the people of the town were divided in their opinion about [Paul and Barnabas]. Some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. Then a mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. When the apostles learned of it, they fled to the region of Lycaonia -- to the towns of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area" (Acts 14:4-6 NLT).
  • In Lystra, "some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead" (Acts 14:19 NLT).

"These persecutions are selected for mention, not necessarily because they were the first which St Paul had to endure, or the most severe (for he suffered worse things at Philippi), but because they were especially well known to Timothy, who was himself of Lystra (Acts 16:2), and must have been matter of common talk in that district when Timothy was a youth." [ref] And, lest we forget: "Against significant opposition, Paul succeeded in establishing a church in each city (Acts 14:21–23)." [ref]

Maps of Paul's Journeys: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

the Lord rescued me (2 Timothy 3:11)
"The Lord ever rescues his people, frequently from death, sometimes by means of death. Either way, nothing ever separates them from his love (Romans 8:38-39)." [ref] For his part, "Paul knew that God would deliver him as often as needed until Paul's work on earth was done." [ref]

"Suffering for the faith is normal, but so is the Lord's 'rescue.' Paul, writing from prison, cannot have meant rescue from persecution, but rather rescue in the form of the power to endure, to carry on in spite of such pressures, and perhaps rescue from death. But, as [2 Timothy 4:18] shows, death may be the result of suffering for the faith, and the promise of God's rescue (to his eternal kingdom) is still good." [ref]

QuoteWorthy: Paul vs. Contemporary Leadership
I wonder how Paul would match up with today’s concept of a Christian leader. He would probably fail miserably. If he applied for service with a modern mission board, would he be accepted? He had a prison record; he had a physical affliction; he stirred up problems in just about every place he visited. He was poor, and he did not cater to the rich. Yet God used him, and we are being blessed today because Paul was faithful. - Warren Wiersbe [ref]

all who ... live godly ... will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12)
As one Bible commentator notes well:

Paul makes it clear that his experience was not unique. He sought to live ‘a godly life in Christ Jesus’, loving and serving God rather than himself, and he suffered for it. Timothy had found the same thing. For all Christian people who ‘in Christ Jesus’ (i.e. through union with him) ‘desire to live a godly life … will be persecuted’, and indeed are bound to suffer persecution. The godly arouse the antagonism of the worldly. It has always been so. It was so for Christ, and he said it would be for us: ‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you’ (Jn. 15:18–20; cf. 16:33).

It is important to notice the situation in which Christ here told his followers to expect persecution. He envisaged that they would be both in the world (living among godless people) and at the same time ‘not of the world’ (living a godly life in Christ). Those who are in Christ but not in the world are not persecuted, because they do not come into contact and therefore into collision with their potential persecutors. Those who are in the world but not in Christ are also not persecuted, because the world sees nothing in them to persecute. The former escape persecution by withdrawal from the world, the latter by assimilation to it. It is only for those who are both in the world and in Christ simultaneously that persecution becomes inevitable. As Calvin comments, ‘it is in vain to try to detach Christ from his cross, and it is only natural that the world should hate Christ even in his members’ (Calvin, p. 327). [ref]



2 TIMOTHY 3:12 -- Are all who live godly lives persecuted, or only some?

PROBLEM: Here the apostle makes the sweeping statement that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” This appears to be in flat contradiction to Solomon’s claim that “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7). How can both be true?

SOLUTION: Neither of these passages should be taken universally. Proverbs were only general statements, not universal truths. Likewise, Paul’s statement seems hardly appropriate for persons who die shortly after becoming believers or who live in a Christian environment all their life.

Even if taken with strict literalness, being at “peace” with one’s enemies does not mean they are not persecuting us. It simply means that the believer, like Christ commanded, is not retaliating against his enemy or fighting back (cf. Matt. 5:39–40).

- Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe [ref]



In most NT references to persecution the Greek word is diōkō. It means “to run after or pursue,” particularly to pursue with the intention of doing harm -- thus, to persecute. Of its forty-four occurrences in the NT, the word is found some thirty times in this sense. On two occasions “persecute” is thlibō, “to put pressure on,” “to oppress” (1 Thessalonians 3:4; Hebrews 11:37), and in one passage (Matthew 24:9) it is a related word, thlipsis. In one instance the NIV translates kakoō “to do evil or harm to”; i.e., to persecute (Acts 12:1).

What does the Bible teach us about persecution? Jesus warned, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). One who lives as a Christian and actively represents God’s point of view to a lost world should not be surprised if he or she is persecuted. The same active antagonism that Jesus experienced may, as Jesus warned, come to the believer (Matthew 5:11; Luke 11:49; 21:12; cf. Acts 7:52; 22:4).

How do we respond to persecution? We remember that suffering persecution is part of what it means -- in certain situations at least -- to live as a Christian (1 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Timothy 3:12). Like Paul, “when we are persecuted, we endure it” (1 Corinthians 4:12). We respond by loving and blessing our persecutors and praying for them (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:14). And through it all, we remember that we are surrounded by the love of Jesus. For no “hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger” will ever be able to separate us “from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 39).

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref]

[Persecution:] Infliction of suffering, injury, or death on another. The Bible begins with the persecution of the righteous by the unrighteous (Gn 4:3–7 “regard for Abel”; Mt 23:35; Heb 11:4). The Wisdom of Solomon (2:12–20) dramatically illustrates the envy and guilt that prompt such persecution. Lot’s experience likewise illustrates the suffering involved in refusing to conform to popular behavior (Gn 19:9; 2 Pt 2:7, 8). The ill-treatment of Israel in Egypt, like her later oppression by the Philistines, Midianites, and others, had economic and political grounds. Persecution for religious reasons, of those who refused the royal policy of syncretism and official tolerance of injustice and pagan immoralities, becomes frequent from Elijah’s period onward (1 Kgs 19:10). Later prophets, as spokesmen of uncompromising truth and the claims of divine Law in face of social evils, suffered severely at the hands of the ruling classes, so that persecution became, in Jewish eyes, the hallmark of the true prophet (2 Chr 36:15, 16; Mt 5:12; 23:29–37; Acts 7:52; Heb 11:32–38).

Daniel’s stories illustrate persecution during the exile. On the return under foreign rule, strict Jews (“saints,” “holy ones,” “the poor righteous”) sought to preserve the nation’s identity and religion amid alien pressures and the compromises of lax Jews anxious for accommodation and prosperity (1 Mc 1:11–15; 2:42–48). The result was the social oppression and harassment which made the repeated pleas for vindication and divine intervention, in such psalms as 10, 69, 140, and 149, painfully relevant in postexilic worship. This persecution reached a horrifying climax of cruelty during the Maccabean age, provoking armed resistance in response (2 Mc 6, 7; Heb 11:35–38).

Thus, despite her confidence in God’s sovereignty and “protection,” Israel learned that right does not always prosper in God’s world, that faithfulness to truth does not ensure immunity from suffering, sacrifice, or martyrdom.

This acceptance of the high cost of righteousness was inherited by Christianity. Jesus repeatedly warned of persecution, even within households, and urged “armed” preparation for it, promising the Spirit’s assistance at judicial examinations (Mt 5:11, 12; 10:16–23, 34–36; 23:34; Lk 6:26; 22:35, 36). Jesus was deeply angered by the murder of John the Baptist by Herod (Lk 23:9), and foresaw his own fate. Because he criticized the legalism and nationalism of the Pharisees, and the compromises of the Sadducees to protect their own privileges (Jn 11:47–50); because he disappointed both the militarist and the miraculous hopes centered upon the Messiah by the common people, Jesus knew he would be rejected. His call to discipleship came to include warnings of danger, reviling, slander, accusation, flogging, arraignment before courts, hatred, and death. He frankly invited followers to prepare for crucifixion, as the only way to life and the kingdom (Mt 16:21, 24–26; 20:17–19, 21, 22; Mk 10:29, 30; Jn 15:18–25; 16:1–4). Jesus was killed on the charges of subverting the nation, forbidding Roman tax payment, claiming to be king (Lk 23:2).

The first persecution of the church by Jewish authorities was provoked mainly by Peter’s accusations concerning the murder of the Messiah. As apostolic influence increased, official action came to include imprisonment and beating (Acts 5:17, 40). The powerful advocacy of the Hellenist Stephen provoked a Jewish mob to stone him (Acts 6, 7), the signal for “a great persecution,” scattering most Christians from Jerusalem. The conversion of the arch-persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, marked a resounding victory over opposition, and Herod’s sudden death just after attacking the church “to please the Jews,” was another (Acts 12:1–3, 20–24).

As Christianity moved into the Gentile world, a new cause of Jewish persecution arose from disturbances in the synagogues (Acts 13:44, 45, 50; 14:1–6, 19; 17:1, 5, 13; 18:4–6, 12). The healing of the slave girl at Philippi led to a brief imprisonment (Acts 16:19–24); at Ephesus, the effect of Christian preaching on the trade of idol makers occasioned a dangerous threat, which the authorities averted (Acts 19:23–41). Twice warned of persecution, Paul was arrested at Jewish instigation, with more than 40 men involved in a plot to ambush him (Acts 21:4, 5, 10–15, 27–36; 23:12–15). The Book of Acts closes with Paul awaiting trial before Caesar (28:30, 31).

Throughout this period persecution of Christians was sporadic, local, and mainly Jewish, provoked by envy of the church’s missionary success. Officially, Christianity, as a Jewish sect (Acts 24:5, 14), shared the state’s legal recognition won by the Jews. Thus Paul received Roman protection at Paphos, Philippi, Corinth, Ephesus, and Jerusalem from governors Felix and Festus and their adviser Herod Agrippa, and from the centurion conveying him to Rome. This explains Paul’s confident appeal to Caesar; an imperial acquittal would ensure Christianity freedom from harassment throughout the empire.

Paul’s attitude to persecution included regretful remembrance of his own persecuting days (Acts 22:4; 26:9–11; Gal 1:22–24), deliberate acceptance of risks in obedience to Christ (Acts 20:22–24; 21:13), continual warning that tribulation is inseparable from discipleship (Acts 14:22; Rom 5:3; 12:12; 1 Thes 3:4), and assurance that in every form of tribulation, Christians are more than conquerors (Rom 8:35–37).

Almost certainly, Paul was beheaded during fierce persecution at Rome following the fire for which the Christians were blamed. Christians were often accused of “atheism” (rejecting polytheism), of appealing only to slave classes, of “scandalous” love feasts, and unsociable, austere behavior (cf. Jn 15:19), making them a popular target for blame during public disasters.

About this time, Peter warned Christians in the East of the danger confronting the church. For a little while, “various trials” (cf. Heb 10:32–34) only prove the genuineness of faith. Slander should be answered by blameless living. Honor should be paid to the authorities. Suffering for righteousness should be accepted without fear. Let Christians prepare respectful defense, with consciences clear of blame. If they suffer for doing right, remember that Christ did too -- for them. Thus they must “arm themselves” for suffering, not be surprised at persecution as “something strange.” They are sharing Christ’s sufferings. His final word is “Stand fast!” (1 Pt passim).

Mark, too, is thought to have written at this time for the benefit of the suffering Roman church. His Gospel dwells upon Christ’s conflict, its causes and forms, and vividly portrays Christ’s own heroic death. Like Peter, Mark meets persecution by pointing back to the suffering Lord.

Somewhat later, Christianity was exposed as an “illegal religion,” no longer a protected sect of Judaism, by the introduction into synagogue services of a prayer against “Nazarenes” which Christians could not offer. Thereafter, the church was liable to official suppression. Rome readily incorporated old, national religions into state rituals for the sake of imperial unity, but she resisted new, nonconformist movements, especially those with secret meetings (as for the Eucharist), as politically dangerous (cf. Acts 17:6, 7).

Towards the end of the century, faced with a growing church and political unrest, the state required public “worship” of “the genius of Rome” alongside any other religious rites, and in Domitian’s reign (A.D. 81–96) this became worship of the living emperor, with elaborate temples and an official priesthood. When Christians refused, acknowledging Jesus alone as divine Lord, official, and increasingly barbaric, persecution began.

It is probable that Revelation reflects this situation (Rv 1:9; 2:13; 6:9; 13; 19:2). So the Bible ends as it began, with persecution of the people of God.

- R. E. O. White [ref]



A number of Hebrew and Greek words are translated “endure” or “endurance.” The NT terms especially suggest patient waiting, but they do not imply passivity. Inspired by hope (1 Th 1:3), the believer finds an inner strength that enables one to hold up under persecutions and hardship (2 Ti 2:3; 3:10). Although it is God who gives endurance (Ro 15:5), patient endurance remains one of the virtues by which Christian character can be measured (2 Co 1:6; 1 Ti 6:11; 2 Ti 3:10; Tit 2:2).

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref]

Basically “endure” has two meanings: (1) “last,” “remain”; (2) “tolerate,” “suffer.”. In Job 8:15 the reference is to a house that does not hold up when leaned against.

(1) In the sense of “last” or “remain,” “endure” is used of God. His years (Ps. 102:26), His glory (Ps. 104:31), His dominion (Ps. 45:6 [MT 7]; Lam. 5:19), His righteousness (Ps. 111:3), His faithfulness (Ps. 117:2), and His steadfast love (in Chronicles and frequently in the Psalms, esp in Ps. 136) do not cease. In comparison with God’s unending life, human life is brief (Ps. 102:24), and prayers are made that the king may live a long life (Ps. 61:6; 72:17; cf. 89:36). In the moral dimension, truthful lips (Prov. 12:19; in contrast with the lying tongue) and human righteousness (e.g., Ps. 112:3, 9; 2 Cor. 9:9, quoting Ps. 112:9) last.

(2) In the sense of “bear” or “tolerate,” Paul tolerated all things in order that Christ’s gospel would not be an obstacle to some (1 Cor. 9:12; cf. 2 Tim. 2:10), and stated forcefully that Christians bear all things in love (1 Cor. 13:7).

At times God’s people must endure persecution (Ps. 119:84). In the NT particularly, believers accept persecution (1 Cor. 4:12; 2 Cor. 1:6; 2 Tim. 4:5; cf. Rev. 1:9) and are urged to bear divine discipline (He. 12:7). But they are reminded that suffering leads to endurance, which in turn produces character (Rom. 5:3f) and in the end leads even to salvation (Mt. 10:22; 24:14 par Mk. 13:13).

- R. W. Vunderink [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)


2 TIMOTHY 3:12 - The Charge to God's Worker (vv. 10-17)

all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12)
Here we see that "Paul does not regard his experience as peculiar, but only part of the price of loyal service to Christ." [ref]

"All who desire" expresses "not a mere passing desire, but the continual bent of the will." [ref] "To live godly" means "the whole energy of their life being devoted to Christian piety." [ref]

This demands a proactive faith that will be resisted by the world, sometimes violently so. "The reason why persecution awaits all those who are firmly resolved to adorn their confession with a truly Christian life is that in the midst of contradictions coming from every side they refuse either to stop their ears or to cringe and compromise. Instead, they face the foe and challenge him to combat. They go right ahead, boldly defending the faith against every attack, and courageously assaulting the fortress of unbelief. The result is persecution, at times very bitter." [ref]

"It is undoubtedly true at all times, and will ever be, that they who are devoted Christians - who live as the Saviour did - and who carry out his principles always, will experience some form of persecution. The 'essence' of persecution consists in 'subjecting a person to injury or disadvantage on account of his opinions.' It is something more than meeting his opinions by argument, which is always right and proper; it is inflicting some injury on him; depriving him of some privilege, or right; subjecting him to some disadvantage, or placing him in less favorable circumstances, on account of his sentiments." [ref

What is it about genuine Christianity that makes it so odious to the world? Answer: the same things that make it impossible to be a genuine Christian in our own strength and only possible with the strength that God gives us. The Christian faith:

1. condemns all other religions, some established for ages
2. it enjoins precepts ungrateful to flesh and blood, the mortifying of the flesh, the love of enemies, and the bearing of the cross
3. it enforces these seemingly unreasonable precepts by promises seemingly incredible; not good things such as afford complacency to our senses, but such as cannot be obtained till after this life, and presuppose what then seemed impossible, the resurrection
4. it predicts to its followers what would seem sure to keep most of the world from embracing it, persecutions [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