Paul’s literary style in 2 Timothy distinguishes it not only from the general Pauline Epistles but from the other Pastorals as well. Paul was writing to Timothy from prison, sure that he would not be free again (quite different from the situation of Acts 28:30-31 and Phil 1:21-26). Paul longed for Timothy to bring him a cloak and the books and parchments containing the Old Testament (2 Tim 4:13). Even though Paul did not have copies of the Scriptures when he wrote 2 Timothy, his mind was so steeped in them that he weaved them through the course of his exhortation for Timothy to remain faithful to the end.
(1) In 2 Tim 1:7-2:2, Paul portrayed God’s call on him and Timothy in language that was used to describe God’s call on Joshua. In Joshua 1, the author recorded the Lord’s exhortation to Joshua as Moses’ apprentice prepared to lead Israel into the Promised Land. The Lord promised Joshua that He would be with Joshua just as He was with Moses (Josh 1:3-5, 9). Joshua was thus to be strong and courageous and give attention to the law that the Lord had given Moses (Josh 1:6-8). Paul called Timothy to endure the difficulties that would come upon him as he guarded the deposit of the gospel (2 Tim 1:1-2:13). Paul exhorted Timothy to zealously use his gifts (2 Tim 1:6), reminding Timothy that God had given them a spirit of courage and strength (2 Tim 1:7). Yet, reflecting the framework of Josh 1:6-9, Paul exhorted Timothy not to be ashamed of the testimony about Jesus as Lord (2 Tim 1:8). God Himself had entrusted that message to Paul (2 Tim 1:12) and to Timothy (2 Tim 1:13-14). Paul urged Timothy to pass along the entrustment to faithful men who would guard God’s word generation after generation (2 Tim 2:2).
(2) In 2 Tim 2:19, Paul referenced Num 16:5 to encourage Timothy to be confident in the Lord despite opposition. In Numbers 16, Korah led a group of more than 250 leaders to rebel against Moses (Num 16:1-3). They accused Moses and Aaron of lording their authority over the people. Korah and his league claimed that the entire Israelite community was holy and therefore everyone should have equal input into future decisions. Moses replied, “Tomorrow morning the LORD will reveal who belongs to Him, who is set apart, and the one He will let come near Him. He will let the one He chooses come near to Him” (Num 16:5). Like Moses, Paul knew that the Lord would vindicate him, and Timothy, from the attacks of unbelieving opponents. Paul urged Timothy to be diligent as a servant of God, correctly handling His word (2 Tim 2:15). Timothy’s speech was to be reverent and God-centered (2 Tim 2:15-16). Some of Timothy’s opponents had proposed that the resurrection of believers had already taken place (2 Tim 2:17-18) and Paul told Timothy to avoid engaging these false teachers lest their heretical messages gain a wider audience. Paul’s warning for Timothy to avoid debating those in error had a theological foundation. Quoting Num 16:5, Paul encouraged Timothy, saying, “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim 2:19a). As Timothy and company avoided the rebellious ones of their own day, they showed themselves set apart to the Lord. Abstaining from the passions of argumentation, disputes and quarrels (2 Tim 2:22-23)—while displaying gentleness, intelligence, and patience (2 Tim 2:24)—they would show themselves to be holy to the Lord.