The Command to Be Strong
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2:1)
As mentioned in the Introduction and the previous chapters of this commentary, Timothy was facing a time of spiritual vacillation and weakness. He may have been questioning his calling or his gifts or the sufficiency of God’s provision. He was mired in difficulties of some sort and could not extricate himself. Whatever the particulars, Paul realized that his son in the faith needed “to kindle afresh the gift of God which” was in him (2 Tim. 1:6). As we noted in the last chapter, he did not need more from God but needed to use, with commitment and confidence, the divine provisions he already possessed. He needed to remember and to exercise the “power and love and discipline” (v. 7) that the Holy Spirit had provided him and provides every believer. He needed to discard his being ashamed of “the testimony of the Lord” and to be willing to join Paul in “suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (v. 8). He needed, like the apostle, to be “convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (v. 12), to “retain the standard of sound words which [he had] heard from [Paul], in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (v. 13), to avoid faithless church members such as Phygelus and Hermogenes, and to identify with faithful believers such as Onesiphorus and those in his household (vv. 15–16).
Summing up that counsel, Paul said, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” The verb be strong is an imperative, making it a command. Yet it is a command tempered by Paul’s deep love for Timothy, his son. There was tenderness in Paul’s heart because there is tenderness in God’s heart. Even the Lord’s strongest commands are given in love. He admonishes His children firmly but lovingly, and that is the way Paul admonished his spiritual son Timothy. Because Timothy had “sincere faith” and was nourished in that faith by his godly mother and grandmother (1:5), because he was specially gifted by God and ordained by the laying on of Paul’s hands (v. 6) and the hands of the Ephesian elders (1 Tim. 4:14), and because of the abundant resources mentioned in the remainder of chapter 1, Timothy had no reason for not being strong. Paul was saying to Timothy, “My son, the Lord’s work in Ephesus depends on you, its divinely appointed and divinely endowed minister.” The effectiveness of his ministry depended not simply in his having that call and those resources but in his faithfully using them in God’s power and to God’s glory.
It is an amazing paradox, but fully biblical, that, although God is sovereign and all-powerful, He nevertheless entrusts His adopted children with propagating the saving gospel of His true Son, Jesus Christ.
The verb be strong is also passive, however, indicating that the source of Timothy’s strength was not in himself but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. A somewhat better rendering would be, “by means of the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Just as we are saved solely “by grace … through faith; and that not of [ourselves, but by] the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8), we also are kept saved by the grace of God, who “is faithful and righteous [to continue] to forgive us our sins and [to continue] to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our only effective spiritual strength is “in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10). We build ourselves up in the “most holy faith” by “praying in the Holy Spirit” and keeping ourselves “in the love of God” (Jude 20–21).
God’s continuing grace in the lives of believers operates in justification and sanctification, in forgiveness and in holiness, and in His grace applied to our service. The same grace that forgives us and makes us holy is the grace that empowers us. Because we belong to Christ, we are continually in the sphere of grace. But to enjoy the sphere of blessing, we must live in the sphere of obedience.
In 2 Timothy 2:2–6, Paul presents four key elements of a strong, obedient, spiritual life, using the vivid analogies of teacher (v. 2), soldier (vv. 3–4), athlete (v. 5), and farmer (v. 6).
1a “You” (sy, GK 5148) continues Paul’s emphatic address to Timothy (1:18) and marks a new section (similarly, 1 Ti 2:1; cf. 2 Ti 3:10; for the phrase “but you,” sy de, see comments at 1 Ti 6:11). The phrase follows the apostle’s reference to the Asiatics’ defection (1:15) and his commendation of Onesiphorus (1:16–18). “Then” (oun, GK 4036; cf. 1:8) grounds Paul’s following instruction in his previous exhortation to Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” he had received (1:6), to join him in “suffering for the gospel” (v. 8), and to “keep … the pattern of sound teaching” entrusted to him (vv. 13–14). “My son” (teknon, GK 5451) reiterates earlier endearing designations (1 Ti 1:2, 18; 2 Ti 1:2; cf. Tit 1:4).
1b Beginning here, a series of three exhortations ensues. First, Timothy must “be strong”—not timid (1:7)—in “the grace” that is not in himself but “in Christ Jesus” (cf. Stott, Message of 2 Timothy, 49). Paul himself knew how to be “strong” in the Lord (endynamoō, GK 1904; Php 4:13; 1 Ti 1:12; 2 Ti 4:17; cf. Ac 9:22) and earlier had issued a similar exhortation to the Ephesians (Eph 6:10). He had urged Timothy to suffer with him for the gospel “by the power of God, who has saved us … because of his own purpose and grace [charis, GK 5921]” (1:8–9). Timothy must continually rely on God’s gracious enablement as he performs his ministry (cf. 2 Co 9:8; Tit 2:11–14).
2:1 / This opening imperative, which in a general way gathers up the concerns of 1:6–14 and anticipates those that follow (2:2–13), is tied to what has preceded with an emphatic su oun (you then). You then stands in contrast to the general defection of the Asians (1:15) but in keeping with the likes of an Onesiphorus. The oun is at least resumptive (“then”), perhaps consequential (“therefore”), and goes back to the imperatives of 1:13–14.
You, therefore (having already been urged to suffer and keep the trust, and now in the light of the Asians and Onesiphorus), be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The imperative be strong (cf. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:12; Rom. 4:20; Eph. 6:10; Phil. 4:13) is present tense (i.e., “keep on being”), passive voice, whose proper force is that one is being strengthened by God. The phrase in the grace can be either instrumental (“by means of the grace”) or locative (“in the grace,” so niv). Though it is true that grace is the means by which we are saved and by which we are enabled to walk in God’s will, it is also true that that same grace is the sphere in which all of Christian life is lived (cf. Rom. 5:2). In light of the usage of this phrase in Ephesians 6:10 and elsewhere in the pe, Paul probably intends the latter. He wants Timothy to be strengthened by God himself as he stands inthe grace that he has received. The source of such grace is to be found in Christ Jesus (cf. 1:13).
Thus Paul places the specific imperatives of this appeal (“Don’t be ashamed,” 1:8; “Take your share of suffering,” 1:8, 2:3; “Guard the deposit,” 1:14) within the context of this more general imperative of allowing God to strengthen him for his task of ministry. One should note the similarities with 1:6–7, 8c, and 14.
2:1. Having just shared his disappointment over the growing apostasy spreading through Asia, Paul turned to Timothy and wrote, You then, my son, be strong. Difficult circumstances, our own weaknesses and fears, and the negative attitudes or unfaithfulness of others should not determine our course in life. Just as Paul wrote of the power which comes from the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 1:7), so now he wrote of the strength which comes from Jesus Christ.
No doubt Timothy knew, as Paul did, that he could not find adequate strength within himself to fulfill the responsibilities thrust upon him on to endure the hardships ahead. Our confidence and ability to live successfully as followers of Christ comes when we are strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Paul knew that God’s grace not only saves us; it enables us to carry out the life of faithful obedience.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (pp. 37–38). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Köstenberger, A. (2006). 2 Timothy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 573). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Fee, G. D. (2011). 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (pp. 239–240). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 280). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.