Paul wrote Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon while in a Roman prison cell. But it is also a known fact that Paul wrote his 2nd Letter to Timothy during a later imprisonment. It is traditionally accepted as the last letter he wrote before his execution by beheading by Nero Caesar. You see several hints to this situation in his comments during these four chapters.  It was a very discouraging time for the Apostle of the heart set free (As F. F. Bruce calls Paul).  During Paul’s first imprisonment, he seemed to have been more under house arrest, with friends coming and going. It wasn’t that way during this incarceration. Hughes says, “Many think, as tradition suggests, it was the Mammertine prison in Rome. If so, it was a dismal underground chamber with a single hole in the ceiling for light and air. He was lonely. Demas had abandoned him ‘because he loved this world.’ Crescens had gone to Galatia, and Titus was off to Dalmatia. At the same time, things had deteriorated in Ephesus, where Timothy was pastoring. Not only were there desertions, but Hymenaeus, whom he had excommunicated, was still doing his evil work.” With this in mind and the fact that Paul was aware that he was facing death, it is interesting that he opens his letter to Timothy by speaking about life. He says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.”

According to an article by Rick Warren, Paul and Timothy went through three stages in their relationship.[1] He suggests that it begins with Paul being Timothy’s spiritual father. In his first letter to Timothy, he addresses him as “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Then, he is the “Pace-setter” for Timothy, according to Warren, but I like to this of this stage as simply leadership and coach for Timothy. Paul always leads by example, and in 2 Timothy 3:10-11, Paul says to Timothy, “You know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance.” Finally, Paul considers Timothy an equal partner. We see that at the end of Romans, chapter 16, verse 21, where Paul sends Timothy’s love to the Romans. It says, “Timothy, my fellow worker, sends you his greetings.” Warren concludes, “Timothy has gone from being a son to a student and now to being a colleague and a co-laborer.”

Amid their trials in life and ministry, Paul reminds Timothy that they share in something more important than all of that; “the life that is in Christ Jesus.” A TV commercial once offered a particular credit card as the key that could open the door to the good life, flashing a definition of success on the screen: ‘Success is the freedom to live your life the way you want to.’ The scene then shifted to a couple using their credit card in a Swiss resort!” Instead of a French resort, from a prison cell in Rome, Paul defined success differently. To him, “success is to live your life the way God wants you to.”[2] John Piper closes one of his sermons with this, “So I think it is clear that when John says in John 1:4, “In him was life,” he means spiritual life, eternal life, life that saves from judgment. If you have the Son, if you have Jesus—if he is in you and you are in him—life is in you, and you are in life. You have life forever. Vital union with Jesus is everything.”[3]


[2] Demarest, Gary W., and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. 1984. 1, 2 Thessalonians / 1, 2 Timothy / Titus. Vol. 32. The Preacher’s Commentary Series. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.