Paul’s Letters

There is treasure hidden in Paul’s thirteen letters, but the path to find it is not obvious. Here is a tip: in the Bible, Paul’s letters are not sequenced in chronological order.

The Bible rarely gives us specific dates about events it addresses, which can be frustrating for modern readers. As an example, this is a very brief timeline of the first four decades of Christianity that is probably correct to within a few years:

27 AD to 30 AD           Ministry of Jesus

30 AD to 39 AD           Death, resurrection of Jesus; Christianity spreads among the Jews

40 AD to 48 AD           Christianity spreads increasingly to non-Jews

48 AD to 57 AD           Paul’s three missionary journeys

58 AD to 70 AD           Paul’s imprisonment; Paul’s death; Temple destroyed

Paul wrote his letters within the two decades of 48 AD to 68 AD. His thirteen generally accepted letters are arranged in the New Testament in two blocks: the nine written to churches, then the four written to individuals. The nine written to churches are generally placed in order by length. (This also assumes Hebrews was not written by Paul.)

Second Timothy

Paul probably wrote the letter known as Second Timothy while imprisoned in Rome the second time. Paul thinks his life is near an end, although he believes Timothy has time to travel from Ephesus to Rome to be with him. In this letter he instructs Timothy to refute false teachers and to be faithful to God.

Throughout the letter Paul pleads for Timothy to remain faithful to him and to God. Paul opens the letter calling Timothy his “dear son” and reminds him of their early acquaintance on the Second Missionary Journey. In the first and fourth chapters, Paul gives names of people who have deserted him and those who have remained faithful to him. He even says that “everyone” in the province of Asia has deserted him.

Paul uses his life as an example that being an evangelist is not easy, but is full of hard work, self-discipline, and danger. With that caveat, Paul encourages Timothy that the price is worth prize. Not only will Timothy and Paul be rewarded, but others will receive eternal salvation because of their efforts.

Paul encourages Timothy to behave in such a way that he will be like an approved worker who correctly handles the words of truth. Then he will be able to refute false teachers who preach such falsehoods as: the resurrection has already come; it is unimportant how you behave; and false information that results in foolish arguments.

Timothy is warned to watch out for certain characteristics that mark false teachers and their followers. Paul’s words in the beginning of Chapter 3 and continuing into Chapter 4 could lead modern readers to conclude they are living in the last days, just as Timothy probably thought he was. Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 are vital for modern Christians to remember. All Scripture is God-breathed, not just some of it.

2 Timothy 4:3 is one of the great warnings of the Bible. It shows the importance of sound teaching and sound listening. It is always tempting to find teachers who teach what we want to hear. Instead, Paul instructs us to find teachers who teach the truth.

Primary Scriptures:
2 Timothy 1-4
Story Summary:
Paul’s second letter to Timothy
Roman Empire; Asia; Ephesus
AD 30 Jesus crucified and resurrected; Pentecost; Holy Spirit arrives AD 48 Paul’s “famine visit” to Jerusalem; First Missionary Journey starts AD 50 Council at Jerusalem; Start of Second Missionary Journey. AD 53 Start of Third Missionary Journey AD 67 Paul writes Second Timothy