Introduction and Commentaries on 1 Timothy
What we have said in the Introduction to the First Letter to Timothy is equally suitable for this second letter. It is supposed to have been written by Paul from his prison in Rome, shortly before his death. There is no reason for doubting the authenticity of a few details that Paul gives on his situation while awaiting his sentence. As for the rest, both Paul and Timothy are only pseudonyms: the counsels and the warnings are actually those the unknown author wanted to give the ministers of the Church, some decades after the death of the apostle.
• 1.3 Fan into a flame the gift you received. See 1 Tim 4:14. Paul tries to give his own energy to Timothy and he reminds him of God’s love and promises.
The sound doctrine… the precious deposit… which you have heard from me (13-14): see 1 Tim 1:3. The doctrine of the faith cannot be altered, but neither can it be put in storage. It must be lived, which brings into play our creativity as well as that of the Holy Spirit that lets it be rediscovered each day.
He saved us and called us: see Eph 2:8-10.
He is capable of taking care of all I have entrusted to him (v. 12). These words invite us to remember the exact meaning of the word “faith.” In Hebrew, for the Old Testament, the word “faith” had the same root as “to be firm,” or “to lean on something.” In Greek, the word that has become “faith” signifies both the trust that could be had in a debtor, and the guarantee given to the creditor. So Paul considers all his apostolic life as the deposit he has placed in God’s hands. Like Paul a person of faith is not deceived by the mirages of a happy life but prefers to use his life in an often thankless labor and persevere as if he already saw what couldn’t yet be seen (Heb 11:27).
• 2.1 Entrust to reliable people (v. 2). We have seen in Paul’s first missions that he took care to establish elders in each community (Acts 14:23; see also Titus 1:6). They must be able to preserve the faith in full. We often give more importance to immediate effectiveness of our actions rather than to doctrinal exactitude. In the long run, there is never an error that is not paid for. Saint Irenaeus affirms that the primary mission of the Church is to maintain in the world a true knowledge of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. See however the com. on Galatians 2:5.
Then Paul invites Timothy to surrender completely, with the assurance that his efforts will be rewarded.
Be strong with the grace you have in Christ Jesus, Christ’s witness must be courageous and strong, as the messenger of the victorious Christ. His own conviction will convince others. He must avoid the many ways of wasting time and getting off track in his mission: idle conversations devoid of value. Things that do not promote a better service of God (1 Tim 1:4): false religious problems unrelated to real life.
No soldier gets involved (v. 4). It happened at times that Paul earned his living while preaching (2 Cor 11:9; 2 Thes 3:7), but now here the letter speaks for those who waste their time in working for a living when the community has the duty of seeing to their needs. For a minister of the Church, work can be a way of placing oneself in the world and in the midst of people; but it could also be a way of escaping the difficulties and humiliations of every apostolic task.
• 14. Return to the experiences of the apostolic worker. In time the converted are tested: some make progress and others are lost. The apostle should not be astonished: no fall, no scandal can shake the solid foundations laid by God (v. 19): the Church will never be defeated.
They hold that the resurrection has already taken place (v. 18). Faith in the resurrection was accepted with as much difficulty in those times as it is today, and many wanted to keep the word without being embarrassed by a God who shatters our way of thinking. Perhaps those named here held that a spiritual resurrection took place at baptism and there was nothing more to hope for after death. On this subject, see in the Gospel of John the precision given in 5:28 immediately following 5:25.
• 3.1 In the last days (v. 1): see 1 Tim 4:1. Even the presence of evil in the Church should not surprise us.
The paragraph 14-17 gives us in a few words a full message on biblical meditation: the Scriptures will give you wisdom (v. 15). Biblical meditation is the best means of making faith mature (15-17). When these lines were written Scripture was essentially the Old Testament, but already the Church possessed and considered as Scripture several Gospels and some of Paul’s letters.
Just before the mention of Scripture we read: Continue with what you have learned—knowing from whom you received it. “Tradition” means precisely what we receive from our elders. The reading of the Bible is inseparable from the “Tradition of the Apostles,” which is the “Tradition of the Church,” and it is a way of understanding the Bible, just as Jesus immediately after his resurrection opened to his apostles a new way of reading salvation history. This tradition is the second support of faith.
All Scripture is inspired by God (v. 16) and there we look for a message from God to his people rather than an occasion for personal speculation. The same Spirit that directs the Church has equally inspired the biblical authors.
For many years, we spoke of the ”inspiration” of the Bible, not so much to encourage the reading of it in the family or community, but to affirm the fact of it being without error. It was also because some people saw contradictions between Bible and science. These problems have partly disappeared. Each book is as the human authors wrote it, reflecting their culture and their limitations (before the coming of Christ, faith had not attained full maturity; before rational science, people could not express themselves according to scientific views). The entire book is also from God and every text is part of a definitive message. It is there we find the truth of God, and not in the exactitude of details and literary form, which we necessarily must adapt to our modern language.
Above all we must remember that the Word of God is the normal nourishment of faith. It is not only useful for teaching: Bible reading has the value of a sacrament for the faithful. No preaching, no catechism even though “biblical” can replace the frequent meditative reading of the word of God for the development of faith.
• 4.1 Preach the Word (v. 2): this is Paul’s last advice. It must be the first concern of the Church and of any church leader.
Paul knows that he will not be freed and that he will be condemned to death. He embraces his own sacrifice just as Jesus did.
We find the comparison of the soldier and the athlete that Paul liked so much. In those days athletes received a crown of laurels as a symbol of immortality: As for me the time of sacrifice has arrived, and the moment of my departure has come.
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