Lesson 1: Passing the Torch

2 Timothy 1:1-5

We are beginning a study of the most touching and personal of all Paul's writings. Second Timothy is Paul's last letter and has been called his last will and testament. In it, Paul is passing the torch of leadership to a new generation of believers, especially young Timothy, the leader of the church at Ephesus.

Paul wrote this letter during his second imprisonment in Rome about a.d. 66 or 67. After his first imprisonment Paul was apparently released for a couple of years. During this time the Roman emperor Nero blamed Christians for the burning of Rome and made Christianity an illegal religion. Sometime after that, Paul was again arrested and later executed.

During his first imprisonment... Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him (Acts 28:30-31). However, what do we learn in 2 Timothy 2:9 & 4:11a about his second imprisonment?


Many believe Paul was in the Mammertine prison in Rome. It was a cold, damp, lonely dungeon with no sanitation facilities and a hole in the ceiling for light and air.

Paul gave up everything to follow Christ. He had been the rising star of Judaism and would almost certainly have been named to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court, with all its prestige, power, and prosperity. Instead, he spends his last days in a dark, damp, cold dungeon. Paul had earlier lost all his Jewish associates and friends, and now many of his Christian friends and associates, such as Demas (4:10), have deserted him. Paul has become an embarrassment to most of his Christian friends. How does 2 Timothy 1:16 indicate this?


Onesiphorus [on ee SIF oh rus], a Christian friend from Ephesus, overcame any fear for his own safety to visit and minister to Paul in prison. With visitors few and far between, Paul is confined to a dungeon, with no prospect of relief except by death, for he writes: the time of my departure is at hand (4:6). Cold and alone, Paul ends his last letter by asking Timothy to come quickly before winter and bring his coat (4:13). We do not know if Timothy made it to Rome before Paul was executed. In the first verses of this epistle we discover that to have a "journey to a faithful finish," we, like Paul, must pass the torch with purpose, parental affection, prayer, and praise.

We must pass the torch with purpose


Paul begins this letter: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1:1a). Though life at this point seems so unfair, Paul has no misgivings about God's purpose for his life in spite of his suffering. Therefore, he reminds his readers he is an apostle (apostolos), which means, "one sent forth with a message." It is the modern equivalent of "missionary." Paul was not one of the original twelve, but he was personally called and commissioned by the Lord. As with each of us, God had a special purpose for Paul's life. What was the divine purpose for Paul's life, according to God's revelation to Ananias in Acts 9:15?


Paul was an apostle not because he sought the position but by the will of God (2 Timothy 1:1b). As Paul comes to the end of his life, he can say with confidence his ministry was the product of God's will or purpose for his life. Though he certainly doesn't understand it all, Paul knows somehow God has a good purpose for the Roman axe in his near future.

Suffering is not an indication we are out of God's will. Being in the center of God's will is always more difficult than being out of it. Doing God's will usually requires sacrifice and suffering. Choosing to do God's will for our lives often requires making the same choice as Moses. How is his choice described in Hebrews 11:25?


Following Jesus Christ is always more difficult than following the way of the world. That's why Jesus said: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). Your cross is whatever makes it difficult for you to fulfill God's will for your life.

Paul was an apostle according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus (1:1c). The promise of life was the reason God called Paul to be an apostle. The message had to be declared. That is part of God's purpose for all of us: to declare the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.

When passing the torch, we need to remind people that although following Jesus is not necessarily easy, it sets us free to fulfill God's purpose. Nobody wants to live a boring, dull, and insignificant life. Paul's life was life as God intended it to be—a life of purpose, a life that made an eternal difference in the world. God has a meaningful and exciting purpose for us even before we are born. How does Ephesians 2:10 indicate this truth?


When passing the torch, we need to be sure those who follow after us know God has a purpose for their lives. Paul's life is just one example of how God uses our personalities, intellects, talents, experiences, and passions to fulfill His purpose for our lives.

We must pass the torch with purpose, and...

We must pass the torch with parental affection


Paul warmly writes: To Timothy, my dearly beloved son (1:2a). Paul probably first met Timothy when he and Barnabas visited Lystra on the first missionary journey (Acts 14:8-21). On the second missionary journey, Paul again met Timothy and was so impressed with him that he wanted to take him along, which he did (Acts 16:2-3).

Paul calls Timothy my dearly beloved son, which reveals the intimate relationship between them. Apparently, Timothy's father was not a believer, so Paul became his spiritual father. This is an example of when there is a vacuum in our lives, God has a special way of sending someone to fill it. My parents divorced when I was two years old, and I grew up without a dad. However, when I became a Christian, my spiritual father was my pastor, Bud Jenkins. He taught me everything from basic Bible doctrines to how to tie my tie, for which I will be eternally grateful.

One of the blessings of being a Christian is belonging to a spiritual family with spiritual parents, brothers, and sisters. Jesus makes a wonderful statement when His mother and brothers, who think He has lost His mind, come to take Him back to Nazareth. They wait outside and send someone to tell Jesus they are there. Then, what does Jesus say (see Mark 3:34-35)?


Here Jesus reveals His followers are a spiritual family, characterized by a bond of love that is longer lasting than any physical family. God's family has no orphans. Like Paul, we all need to have sons and daughters in the faith to whom we can one day pass the torch.

We must pass the torch with purpose, parental affection, and...

We must pass the torch with prayer


This is why Paul prays a triple blessing for Timothy: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord (1:2b). Paul is expressing his genuine desire for God's best in Timothy's life. Grace is a request for supernatural strength, like God gave Paul for his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Mercy (eleos) is a request for kind acts beyond what is expected or deserved. God's peace (eirene) refers to inner tranquility that only comes from experiencing God's grace and mercy. Peace is the spiritual tranquilizer that keeps us from panic.

Chained and sitting in a cold, damp dungeon, Paul can no longer preach or travel, but he can write and pray, so he does. Paul writes: I thank God... that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day (2 Timothy 1:3). This could be where Willie Nelson got the idea for the hit song, "You Were Always on My Mind." When Paul prays, Timothy is always on his mind. As Jesus is passing the torch, what two things does He pray for His followers in John 17:15 & 17?


As Paul and Jesus did, all of us need to have people for whom we pray, who will one day take the helm of leadership in God's kingdom.

To have a "journey to a faithful finish," we must pass the torch with purpose, parental affection, prayer, and...

We must pass the torch with praise


Few things prepare people to take the torch of leadership like praise. Paul is a master in this area because he knows the power of praise. The phrase being mindful of thy tears (1:4) probably refers to the tearful parting when the apostle was arrested and shipped off to Rome. Paul had a similar bond and parting with the elders in Ephesus. After Paul kneels down and prays with them, how does Acts 20:37-38 describe his departure?


Paul's life shows that the people with whom we have the strongest bonds are those we have helped find and prepare for God's purpose for their lives and who will someday receive the torch of leadership in God's kingdom.

Paul also says, greatly desiring to see thee... that I may be filled with joy (2 Timothy 1:4). There is no greater praise than letting people know their presence brings joy to our lives. There are precious few people in my life who bring such joy that I have cried when we have had to part.

Paul's praise continues: When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also (1:5). Timothy's father was a Gentile, and nothing is said of his faith, so he may not have been a believer. However, it is clear Timothy's unfeigned faith was modeled by his mother and grandmother, who were possibly won to the Lord by Paul. The word unfeigned (anupokritos) literally means "unhypocritical" or "sincere." This means we possess an authentic faith that enables us to defeat discouragement and temptation. The best way to help someone develop a sincere faith and prepare them for the torch is to praise them regularly. The Evil One uses discouragement, which is often the result of a lack of praise, to lead many of our brothers and sisters into temptation.

Paul's life gives us an excellent example of how to have a "journey to a faithful finish." Answer the following questions by looking at the diagram of Paul's Christian life on page 12:

How many epistles did Paul write? _________

How many years between his conversion and martyrdom? _________

How many of his epistles were written during his imprisonments?__________

A big part of having a "journey to a faithful finish" is preparing others to take the torch of spiritual leadership. To do this, you must pass the torch with purpose, parental affection, prayer, and praise. Which of these do you most need to work on, beginning this week, so the torch can be passed successfully in your church?