Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: A review of Paul's introduction to his second letter to Timothy informs us of the Apostle's view of his call and service.

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus…” [1]

Reading Paul’s letters, I’m always struck by his introductions. With the exception of his missives to the Philippian saints, the Letters to the Church in Thessalonica and his letter to Philemon, Paul always introduces himself as an Apostle. Why should it be necessary to emphasise that he is an Apostle? If I am corresponding with people who know me, I do not normally feel compelled to iterate that I am a pastor. It is passingly strange that Paul does this.

Perhaps an examination of this inclusion will be instructive to our understanding of the Apostle. Candidly, I am certain that our appreciation of Paul’s labours will be heightened through even a cursory study of his introduction penned to the various churches. Today, however, it should prove beneficial to think why Paul would need to stress to Timothy that he was an Apostle of Christ Jesus.

APOSTLES ARE MADE, NOT BORN — “Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” When we concluded 1 Timothy, Paul was on the road. He stated in his First Letter to Timothy, “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” [1 TIMOTHY 3:14, 15].

Now, however, Paul was chained and in the Mamertine Prison in Rome. This was a dank, dark underground chamber with a single hole in the ceiling for light and air. He had already had a judicial hearing that he alludes to when he writes, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” [2 TIMOTHY 4:16-18].

This is not Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. You will remember that he had been accused by the religious leaders, and when Festus suggested that Paul appear in Jerusalem for trial the Apostle appealed to Caesar. In his first incarceration, he had lived in relative comfort in a rented house [see ACTS 28:30, 31]; now he was isolated in the dreaded Mamertine Prison. In his first imprisonment he was visited by many friends. This time, he was deserted by many. Demas had abandoned the Apostle because he was “in love with this present world” [2 TIMOTHY 4:10]; Crescens had gone to Galatia and Titus was dispatched to Dalmatia [2 TIMOTHY 4:10, 11]. In his first imprisonment in Rome, Paul had enjoyed many opportunities to witness for Christ. In this imprisonment he was securely locked away; and though he was permitted opportunity to read and to write, he was unable to interact with many people as before. In his first imprisonment the Apostle was expecting freedom [see PHILIPPIANS 1:19, 24-26; PHILEMON 22]; in this final imprisonment, he expected execution and afterward, heaven [2 TIMOTHY 1:8-12; 2:8, 9; 4:6-8, 18]. Paul was imprisoned the first time from about sixty to sixty-two A.D.; it is now five years later.

Was Paul’s confinement not sufficiently worrisome in itself, matters had deteriorated in Ephesus where Timothy was pastoring. Hymenaeus, whom Paul had excommunicated, still vexed the Apostle as he performed his wicked deeds [see 2 TIMOTHY 2:17]. Thus, the Apostle wrote out of deep concern for the congregation and under personal duress arising from his personal situation. Paul knew that he would soon be killed because of his faith, but he does not fear death. He does fear dishonouring the Saviour who redeemed him. Therefore, he will ask Timothy to come, bringing some items of clothing for warmth, but especially to bring the parchments—copies of the Scriptures—that he had not been able to bring with him. We will never know in this life if Timothy and Mark were able to reach Rome before Paul was executed, but the request was made, nevertheless.

So, Paul writes this second letter to the Pastor of the Church in Ephesus. Again, note that he identifies himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus.” I find it odd that Paul would need to identify himself in this manner, especially since Timothy had travelled with Paul during so many of his missionary journeys. I can imagine several reasons why Paul would have felt the need to identify himself as an Apostle in this letter. It is possible that though he was writing a letter to Timothy, Paul knew that his ultimate audience was much broader. In other words, it is conceivable that Paul knew that he was guided by the Spirit of God to pen a missive that would ultimately be included in the collection of writings that we know as Scripture. This is a position adopted by many commentators both now and in days gone by. I am not convinced, however. There must be another reason that Paul felt it necessary to identify himself as an apostle.

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