David Couchman
David Couchman is the Director of Focus and the producer of the 'God: new evidence,' 'God and the Big Bang,' 'After Life?' and 'Jesus Myths' video series. More...

Digital Evangelism blog

A teaching outline of 2 Timothy

How long do you want to take to teach through 2 Timothy?  It is a short letter, and if you plan to cover it in four weeks, you can do so effectively by covering one chapter a week. John Stott's commentary in The 'Bible Speaks Today' series gives the following chapter titles:

  • Chapter 1: The charge to guard the Gospel
  • Chapter 2: The charge to suffer for the Gospel
  • Chapter 3: The charge to continue in the Gospel
  • Chapter 4: The charge to preach the Gospel

The following outline assumes you want to take a bit longer than this - about eight weeks.

Why did Paul write?

Paul knew that he was soon going to be put to death (4:6-8). He was consciously 'passing on the baton' to the next generation (2:2). The 'promise of life' which he mentions in 1:1 would have meant a lot to him at this stage.

  • He wanted Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible (4:9, 4:21)
  • He wanted to encourage Timothy to be faithful in his calling.

One good way to understand the letter is to look for the imperatives (commands) that Paul gives to Timothy.

First study: 1:1-7

  • 1-2: Greeting
  • 3-5: Paul thanks God for Timothy
  • 6-7: 'Fan into flame the gift of God.'

Paul wants to make sure that Timothy will not, through timidity, let his gift and service for the Lord lapse.

Second study: 1:8-2:1

  • 8-12: 'Do not be ashamed... but join with me in suffering.'
  • 13-18: 'Guard the good deposit.'

Paul encourages Timothy to be strong in his own personal life (2:1) - to endure the suffering that goes with his calling, and to guard the truth of the Good News carefully.

Third study: 2:2-13

  • 2:2: 'The things you have heard me say... entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.'
  • 2:3-7: Don't be distracted. Three illustrations: the soldier, the athlete, the farmer.
  • 2:8-13: Paul is continuing to encourage Timothy to stay faithful. He does this by focussing on why he is suffering - for the Good News (8b-9a), and for the salvation of God's people (10)

Fourth study: 2:14-26

Paul tells Timothy to avoid 'quarrelling about words' (14),  'godless chatter' (16),  'foolish and stupid arguments' (23).  It is worth identifying contemporary situations where we are likely to quarrel about words.  V. 17-19 are a specific illustration of this tendency.

By contrast, Timothy has to avoid being willing to engage in quarrels (20-22) and to make sure he handles God's Word faithfully and accurately (15).

Rather, Timothy has to respond to his opponents with the right spirit and the right actions (24-26).

Fifth study: 3:1-9

What does the future hold? Paul does not give us any encouragement that things will get better. Rather, he says, they will go from bad to worse (1).

In 2-4, he lists nineteen(!) characteristics of people in the last days. From v.5, it is clear that he is talking about practising Christians, not about people in general. Not only are they practising Christians, they are false teachers (6-7). However, the outcome for them will be failure (9) and ultimately rejection (8). The true Christian teacher is to have nothing to do with them (5).

It is important, in teaching this part of 2 Timothy, to make sure it is grounded in our experience through plenty of contemporary examples.

Sixth study: 3:10-17

Paul warns Timothy to expect persecution (12-13) - and he gives the example of his own experience (10-11).

Timothy must not give up (14) because he is convinced that the Bible's message is trustworthy (15-17). What questions about, or issues with, the reliability of the Bible, are your listeners likely to have? How can you respond to these?

In 15-17, Paul describes some of the things that the Scriptures can do. It is worth taking time to reflect on these.

Seventh study: 4:1-8

The heart of this section is Paul's charge to Timothy in v. 2-5: 'Preach the Word...' 'Be prepared...' 'Keep your head...' 'endure hardship...' 'Do the work of an evangelist...' 'discharge all the duties of your ministry...'

In v. 1, Paul motivates Timothy by setting his charge in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge our service.

In v. 3-4, Paul warns Timothy of a coming time when people will not accept sound teaching. It is in the light of this that he encourages Timothy to keep his head and to keep on with the work.  Our response to false teaching, and to rejection of the truth, must be to keep going.

Eighth study: 4:9-22

Paul's closing comments and greetings. What can we learn from Paul's example as he faces death - from his attitude to study, ministry, and leadership?

This could also be a great opportunity to look back over the whole letter, and to review the main things Paul has said to Timothy, and how they apply to us today.