The last letter Paul wrote was 2 Timothy, written from prison around 66-67AD. He refers to ‘my chains’ (1:16) and he knows there will be no release this time. He will go out to execution – ‘the time has come for my departure’ (4:6). He is concerned for his ‘spiritual son’ Timothy, pastor in Ephesus. Timothy seems to have had a timid disposition and Paul is concerned that he may be intimidated by the sufferings of the apostle and his ministry will be damaged (see v8). The antidote is to focus on the Lord and his work of salvation. Consider 2 Timothy 1:9-10 The God who saves and calls.
1. The purpose of God
Note Paul’s call – ‘do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord or ashamed of me his prisoner’ (v8). There are many factors in our present situation that could cause us to be ashamed of the Lord and his servants. Paul’s call is to ‘join with me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God’. This leads to a powerful summary of the heart of the gospel we are to believe and proclaim. The ‘power of God’ is demonstrated above all in the fact that he ‘has saved us’ (v9) through the work of Christ ‘our Saviour’ (v10). He sets us free from all that holds us spiritual prisoners. We also see the power of God in the fact that he ‘called us to a holy life’ (literally ‘called you with a holy calling’). This is God’s sovereign, effective call, the work of the Holy Spirit that inevitably results in repentance and faith. It is the inner call that brings the gospel home to the sinner’s heart. The effective call of God transforms sinners. This is ‘not because of anything we have done’ (v9). We cannot contribute to salvation. It is rather ‘because of his own purpose and grace’, not motivated by anything outside himself. The heart of the gospel is salvation by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8).
2. The provision of God
- Grace bestowed: ‘grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time’. This is the eternal election of sinners to salvation. It is the action of pure divine love, establishing a covenant union with Christ before any of us existed. Full provision for our salvation by grace was made in eternity, but that does not mean that we are saved before we are born again and brought to Christ in this life. God’s grace assures us that the point of response will come.
- Grace revealed: ‘but it has now been revealed’ (v10). We are now in the arena of time and history – ‘the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus’. In view is the first coming of Christ – the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Son of God incarnate. This is the redeeming mission that flows from grace and election. Paul highlights the issue of death – the spiritual death that is the result of sin (Genesis 2:17), including bodily death. Paul deals with 2 aspects of the issue:
– negatively: Christ ‘has destroyed death’, having dealt with sin and hence with the penalty for sin. Death’s dominion and fear have been removed.
– positively: Christ ‘brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’. He gives ‘life…to the full’ (John 10:10) for both body and soul, with the hope of resurrection.