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Paul’s Final Epistle

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child.”

- 2 Timothy 1:1–2

Luke ends the book of Acts with Paul “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (28:31). But this is not the only information we have about the apostle’s life (although it is the only inspired information we have); otherwise, we might think he died in peace. Yet the church father Clement wrote that Paul’s missionary activities extended to the “extreme limit of the west” before his martyrdom (1 Clem. 5), which would mean that the apostle was released from his Roman imprisonment described in Acts, possibly reaching Spain or even Britain.

First Timothy and Titus, we have seen, were composed during this period, the early to mid-60s AD. Leaving Titus in Crete (Titus 1:5) and sending Timothy to Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3), Paul also spent time in the eastern part of the Mediterranean world, planting and strengthening churches there. But even though the apostle was blessed with a fruitful ministry then, he also faced problems that might discourage most people. He felt the pain of seeing friends and disciples like Hymenaeus and Alexander apostatize (1 Tim. 1:20). And finally, Paul was taken in chains to Rome one last time for the sake of the gospel he preached (2 Tim. 1:16–18; 2:9). There the Apostle to the Gentiles sat, nearly alone (4:11), until sometime between AD 65 and 68 when he was beheaded under Nero in his final act of witness to Jesus Christ as the one, true Lord of all.

Yet Paul knew his life was in the hands of a sovereign God, and he did not let such trying times keep him from pressing on in his calling. While in a Roman prison awaiting his execution, Paul wrote what is now known as 2 Timothy, the last of the three Pastoral Epistles. This is the last letter we have from the apostle’s pen, written to encourage Timothy in his struggles and to stay the course amidst great travails. It may be the most personal of all of the Pauline epistles, and it gives us most of what we know about Timothy and his background.

As Paul’s last letter in the canon, 2 Timothy shows us what the apostle views as most important for the church’s future leaders. Paul exhorts Timothy and all who follow him to “guard the good deposit” of faith entrusted to them (1:14).

Coram Deo

Take some time today to skim over 2 Timothy in preparation for our study over the next few weeks. Consider the themes of the epistle — the unchanging Word of God, the importance of holding onto faith while suffering for the gospel, the faithfulness of God to His promises — and ask yourself if your life has reflected these Christian truths. Pray that the Lord will open your eyes and make you willing to serve Him in all circumstances.

Passages for Further Study

2 Chronicles 34:1–2
Acts 14:21–22
2 Timothy 1:8; 2:8–9; 3:16–17; 4:18

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.