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2 Timothy 2:8-15

Commentary: This letter is Paul’s last of the thirteen attributed to him in the canon. Paul wrote from prison (1:8, 12; 2:9-10) with the anticipation of his impending death (4:6-8). Psychological factors figure significantly in the interpretation of this particular letter as Paul awaits his trial (4:16) and anticipates his own death. Paul gives advice to his protégé, Timothy, about his ministry to ensure the authenticity of the Christian faith for Timothy and those under his care.

One of the recurring themes of this letter is the contrast which Paul highlights between the examples of proper conduct and the examples of improper conduct. Within the unit of Scripture in which the passage appears, Paul depicts himself as a positive example of endurance in suffering (2:8f.) and the negative example of Hymenaeus and Philetus as defectors from the faith (2:17-18). See also chapter 3 where Paul juxtaposes the example of the opposition of Jannes and Jambres (v. 8) with his own example (v. 10f.). His purpose is hortatory: he challenges Timothy to endure any circumstances which he might face. Endurance of suffering is one of the repeated themes of this particular letter (2:3, 10, 12; 3:10-11; 4:5).

In a recurring pattern in the opening units of the epistle, Paul makes general statements about the gospel (1:9-10; 2:8a) which he immediately particularizes to himself: “I was appointed herald…” (1:11) and “This is my gospel…” (2:8b). These statements in which he underscores his close identification with the gospel are the cause which result in his own suffering for sake of the gospel (1:12; 2:9). Paul then contrasts his own sufferings with the overcoming power of the gospel: “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed…” (1:12b) and “But God’s word is not chained…” (1:9b). These elements are depicted in the chart below:

The basis for Paul’s line of argument here is again hortatory as depicted in his admonition “join with me in suffering for the sake of the gospel” (1:8). Paul’s argument is that Timothy should fully identify with the gospel and its concomitant sufferings, and in so doing, he will identify with Paul who is suffering for the gospel’s sake; as a result, Timothy will not himself be shamed through condemnation at the final judgment (2:15). The above discussion underscores that a recurring theme of this section of the letter is shame (1:8, 12, 16; 2:15; 3:14).

Another theme of this passage of Scripture is the idea of remembering or the preservation of the Christian faith. The imprisoned Paul had, no doubt, some time for reflection and had been doing some reflection of his own. In this letter, Paul exhorts Timothy to remembrance and to preservation of the faith (1:6, 13, 14; 2:7, 8, 14). The passage opens with the admonition, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David” (2:8), and near the end, Paul reiterates the admonition to Timothy: “Keep reminding them…” (2:14), forming an inclusio.

Homiletical Lenses: There are numerous ways one might approach this passage of scripture.

1. Identity Crisis: The hortatory passages regarding endurance and the references to shame may indicate that Timothy was undergoing an identity crisis of some kind (or at least Paul seemed to believe it). Christians often experience uncertainties, insecurities and confusion which threaten their faith. Preachers of this text could use the text deductively to strengthen