Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. (NKJV)
As he does in all of his letters, Paul identifies himself and to whom he is addressing the letter. He doesn’t always proclaim his apostleship as he does here. Often, he says he is an apostle by the will of God, but here, he says He is an apostle by the command of God and Jesus. Opening the letter like this places a special emphasis on what he is about to say. We don’t have apostles in the same sense as Paul and the others who were with Jesus. However, if we did, I think I would pay special attention if I got a letter from someone in this position. This isn’t a letter about newsy subjects, it is serious.
Since God’s Word can be applied to each of us, I should view this with the same seriousness and search for its application to me, personally. As I read ahead in the letter, I can see that the serious nature of the letter was intended to encourage Timothy and provide instructions on how to be the shepherd of a church of essentially new believers. In fact, Timothy isn’t very old in the faith and he is rather young. Whether I’m new in the faith or old, this letter can help me continue where I’m planted to serve God with the same assurance that Paul was giving to Timothy – as an apostle by the command of God.
God is our Savior – this is a foundational thing to remember whether we are facing difficulty or ease in our lives. Ps 65:2-5 O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple. You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. (NIV) God our Savior is the one who hears our prayers. There isn’t anyone else we can pray to who hears. By hearing our prayers, I’m not saying that He simply registers our requests, but that He actually does something. Isaiah 59:1-2 clarifies that God hears everything, but that our sins will keep Him from acting on our behalf. There, He says He will not hear meaning that He will not respond.
Our primary need is to be forgiven. When we pray to have our sins taken away, He will always hear that prayer. In the Psalm, it says that when we are overwhelmed by our sins, He forgives. I can’t come to God with the cavalier attitude about my sin. I must be weighed down, crushed, and convicted to the point where I admit that I need God to save me. Now there is a lot more to, including true repentance and submission to God as Lord, but the Psalms don’t always go into detail. That is understood by studying other verses.
The benefits of having God as my Savior include getting filled with good things. Note this doesn’t say I get good things but I’m filled with them. I get to participate in His house and His holy temple. The Holy Spirit comes to live in me and I’m filled with Him. I am then a temple of the Holy Spirit. How awesome is that?
That didn’t come without a price. It took some extreme deeds of righteousness on God’s part. Timothy say that Jesus is my hope. The Psalm says that God our Savior is my hope. Jesus had to perform that marvelous act of righteousness, taking my sins on Himself on the cross so that I can have hope. The Old Testament often speaks of salvation in terms of the nation of Israel. But here, when salvation is from our sins, the hope is for all the earth. David makes sure that I’m included in this salvation as he poetically includes all parts of the earth and oceans.
Jesus is personified as our hope. What is this hope? Rom 15:12-13 And again Isaiah says, "There shall come the root of Jesse, And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope." Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (NASB) Jesus, the promised Messiah, was described hundreds of years ahead of time to be the hope of the Gentiles, those who are not Jews. That hope is expressed in three ways.
One aspect of Jesus being our hope is that He will physically rule over us in His millennium kingdom. When Jesus returns to rule the earth, we will see the benefits of His rule. My hope for that thousand-year rule is that sin will be suppressed because He will quickly and justly deal with it. Peace and prosperity will fill the earth in His wise and fair kingdom. For those who reject God and don’t want to have anything to do with Him, that doesn’t sound hopeful, and it won’t be. They will prevented from engaging in activities that are clearly unbiblical. Greed, pornography, adultery, living together without being married, stealing, lying, murder, abortions, and homosexuality will all be either stopped before it happens or will be quickly punished. Jesus’ rule will be fair because He knows all things and also knows exactly what God the Father wants. John 5:30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (NIV)
After His thousand-year rule is finished, my hope is for eternity with Him. Col 1:27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (NKJV) When Jesus lives in me by faith, I have the hope of glory in me. That glory is eternity in the presence of God. When Paul spread the word about Jesus, a majority of people in the Roman Empire were slaves. They had no hope of becoming anything in this life. When they heard about Jesus, they had hope for the future. They knew that whatever happened on this earth, a far better eternity awaited them. That same hope is mine. When Jesus took up residence in me, eternity became a reality. Sin will not be suppressed but completely eliminated. I will not have a desire to sin and there will be no one to tempt me. All those who have not let Jesus rule in their hearts will be in hell – separated from God and those who enter eternity with Jesus.
My hope is also for the present. In Rom 15:13 above, Paul’s prayer for me, and all who let Jesus rule in us now, was for God to fill us with joy and peace. That joy and peace is a result of hope. That hope is a result of the power of the Holy Spirit living in me. This is what Paul also prayed for Timothy, including grace and mercy. That hope, peace, and joy in this life can’t be found in sinful living. Some may delude themselves in thinking they are happy with their sinful lifestyle, but it won’t last. Lasting joy and peace can only come in submission to Jesus because that’s the way God originally made us.
Paul called Timothy his true son in the faith. Most likely, Paul introduced Timothy to Jesus and when Timothy believed, he became Paul’s son in faith. Having faith in Jesus is the only way to have all the blessings of hope, now, in Jesus’ millennium kingdom, and for eternity. That faith comes from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. If you haven’t asked for that faith, do it today so you too can have real hope.