Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-4
2 Timothy was written by Paul, and perhaps the last letter that Paul ever wrote before he was executed in Rome. Paul seems to be under great distress while he is in prison abandoned by all save a few people. But in spite of this, Paul encourages Timothy to be faithful under pressure and hardship.
Timothy at the time was pastoring the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was a large metropolis boasting 300,000 – 400,000 people during the First Century. It was the largest city in Asian region in the Roman Empire which occupies modern day Turkey. The city had a temple to Artemis and an open air theater that would seat some 25,000 spectators. The city already had a Jewish synagogue there. Paul preached at this synagogue in Acts 18 where he proved from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ to the Jews. Paul on another journey through Ephesus came into the city. God was performing miracles through Paul and people were coming Paul for healing because of this. The Ephesians saw Paul as a threat and caused a riot against him, dragging him into the amphitheater. The Ephesians were fiercely loyal to the Greek goddess Artemis and had a cult devoted to her. People would make pilgrimages to the city to worship her there. The craftsman profited from this religious worship. Paul spent a substantial amount of time in Ephesus. He started the church there, spending 2 or 3 years getting the work started. After this time, he entrusted the church to elders that he loved dearly. They came to see him as he was passing by on a journey to Jerusalem. Many feared that Paul would not return if he went to Jerusalem. He charges them to be on guard for their flock (Acts 20:28). Even in spite of opposition, by the end of the Second Century, Christianity had supplanted the worship of Artemis in Ephesus.
The fierce opposition to the Christian movement in Ephesus is displayed in book of Acts. It is apparent that the opposition did not stop because Paul makes similar charges to Timothy while he is pastoring the church at Ephesus. Timothy was one of Paul’s most loyal followers. Timothy is first mentioned in Acts when Paul is making his way back through Asia and visits Lystra (Acts 16:1). Acts says that Timothy was a disciple, a believer, and the son of a Jewish woman and a Greek father. Timothy had been raised up by Paul to become a leader among the churches in the Greek-speaking world. Timothy was Paul’s emissary to the church at Corinth to help straighten out the messes there (1 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Corinthians 16:10), to the church at Philippi (Philippians 2:19), and the church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-4).
In his tenure at Ephesus, Timothy received two letters from Paul. The second one, as mentioned, was probably the last letter Paul wrote. Paul is encouraging Timothy to remain strong in the faith in spite of the opposition that he was facing. Paul makes an appeal for Timothy to remain true to the doctrine that he received from Paul and also to the scriptures that Timothy himself likely learned as he grew up with his Jewish mother and grandmother. Undoubtedly, the attacks against Timothy and the church itself were mounting from the outside by the worshipers of Artemis and Jews, and also from the inside from people that wanted to be Christian but not abandon their old ways either. The charge to Timothy at the end of the book serves as a sober reminder to all Christians to take charge of the things they know and be faithful to the truth, even under intense pressure from the outside. For more information about the book of Second Timothy, check out introduction to the book at bible.org.
Lord, help me to remain faithful to the truth!