After Paul was released from his first imprisonment (cf. Phil 1:23-26; 2:19-24; Phlm 1:22), he wrote the first letter to Timothy and the letter to Titus. Paul has written this second letter to his young friend during his second imprisonment. His second imprisonment is much heavier than his first one. He also knows that he will not be released again, but that he will be sentenced and will suffer the martyr’s death.
If you bear this background in mind you will experience the power of the letter while reading. The bold witness and the confidence in God in hard times come from a man who is willing to die for what has been entrusted to him by God. Therefore this letter is a warning and an encouragement for the man of God in the last days.
You may call this letter a farewell message of Paul, like the farewell (or last) words we have from Jacob (Gen 49), from Moses (Deu 33) and from Samuel (1Sam 12). Maybe it is still better to speak of the spiritual testament of the apostle. In a testament a person declares what he wants to be done with his properties after his death. Paul knows that his earthly life will soon end. He leaves a spiritual inheritance behind: the truth that God has committed to his trust. How are the believers supposed to deal with it when he is not there anymore? In this letter he will exhibit it.
Paul has established and built the church of God on earth through the gospel. His work is finished. But as it happened to everything that God has given into the hands of man, it will also happen to the church on earth. Paul foresees the deviation and decline of it. Thereby he sharply takes note of the condition the church will end up to after his death (cf. Acts 20:29). He sees the decline that will increase after his death. The instructions he writes down in this spiritual testament are therefore of great importance for the church through the time from the death of the great apostle.
You encounter much passion and emotion in the letter. Paul was a man of the same nature like us. He looks back at his life work and sees what has become of it. He doesn’t do that like an emotionless analyst who looks at the cold statistics. He again experiences his work and he also has a presentiment of how things will develop. From those feelings he passes on guidelines for a time that all things will deteriorate even more and that the origin of the church will be hardly recognizable.
When you read the letter you hear him sharing the concerns of his heart with a (young) man who is concerned about that, just like him. He does that in a way that makes the letter important for all times. That’s why it is evidently a letter that is inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore it is a part of the Bible. Through this letter the Spirit teaches us about the deviation of the church from its original state.
The letter also informs what the way of security is for those who seek God and desire to live to His honor. That way of security rests on two principles from which everyone in the midst of mixture and confusion can find consolation, like the apostle did. These two principles are:
1. the firm foundation of God and
2. withdrawing from injustice.
What that means will become clear when we discuss chapter 2.
Beside the warning and encouraging character of this letter, it is also pugnacious, for in spite of all decay you should not despair. The greater the decay, the greater the challenge to be a man of God (m/f). A man of God is someone who shows Who God is in an environment that does not consider the rights of God. We do not have the power in ourselves to do that, but in the Spirit of God Who is operative in a man of God, even when Christianity is full of complacency. I hope you want to be a man of God.