1:1-2 Paul identifies himself as an apostle—an authorized messenger—of Christ Jesus. Paul didn’t apply for the job. He served in the role because it was God’s will, allowing him to make known the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus (1:1). This is to be both the motivation and mission of all who are called into ministry. This is Paul’s second letter to Timothy (1:2), his son in the ministry. It’s also the last New Testament letter he wrote before his martyrdom.
1:9-10 Why should we be willing to suffer for the gospel? Because through it, God saved us—not according to our works—but in accordance with his own purpose and based on his grace, which he showed us through his Son, Jesus Christ. In his love, God planned this before time began, but it has been made evident through the appearing of the Son as our Savior. Through his sacrificial atoning death on the cross, Christ abolished death and brought us life and immortality . . . through the gospel. Even the possibility of death should not nullify an effective ministry since it is no longer an issue for the believer.
1:11-12 It was for the ministry of this gospel that Paul had been appointed by Christ himself as a herald (proclaiming the good news), an apostle (serving as God’s authoritative leader and messenger), and teacher (instructing in the Word of God) (1:11). Because of his faithfulness to the message, Paul had been persecuted. Nevertheless, in spite of the pain and sorrow, suffering brought him no shame or regret. For the apostle was persuaded that God had the power to care for him and deliver him through any obstacles and trials until that day when he would call him home (1:12). He wanted Timothy (and all believers) to have that same confidence in God.
1:13 So Paul encourages Timothy to hold tightly to the pattern of sound teaching that he had heard from Paul, and to do so in faith and love. Thus, trusting confidently in God (1:12) is combined with serving God’s people. The horizontal and the vertical must always go together in ministry.
1:14 Paul charges him to guard the good deposit, the good news of salvation and the good work of ministry to which he had been called. God had committed to him this sacred treasure. We carry the message of eternal salvation. We must recognize the gospel’s value and not treat it casually. With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, we must guard the gospel, proclaiming it faithfully and defending it against error and ministering its truth to others for their spiritual development.
1:15-18 Paul reminds Timothy of the trials he endured. He was aware of those who had deserted him (1:15). But Paul also knew that God had provided for him in the midst of the negative treatment. A believer named Onesiphorus (1:16), unknown to us apart from this mention, is immortalized in the pages of Scripture because of his love and care for the aging apostle. Previously, he had ministered to Paul at Ephesus (1:18). But Onesiphorus was no fair-weather Christian. He sought Paul out and refreshed him even when he was a prisoner in Rome. Onesiphorus was not ashamed of the gospel or Paul, its spokesman. Therefore, Paul prayed for God’s mercy on him and all his household (1:16-17). We too must pray for God’s favor on those who support the ministry and its ministers.
Paul shared this with Timothy as a means of encouraging the young gospel minister. He could have focused solely on who had deserted him. Instead, Paul recognized how God had graciously provided support that offset the mistreatment received. In order to persevere through the struggles and difficulties of ministry, Timothy would have to do as Paul had done: see with eyes of faith and celebrate God’s grace in his life. You need to do the same.