After vividly expressing his own commitment to the Lord, his affection for Timothy, and the purpose of his writing, Paul issues the first actual instruction of this letter in chapter 1:8 – “don’t be ashamed of either the Lord’s ‘testimony’ or of me as a prisoner for His sake.” The word “ashamed” has the same range of meanings in our English bibles as in the original Greek text; a sense of guilt or remorse, fear of embarrassment or humiliation, lacking courage to stand up for something. Paul is telling this young brother in Christ to refuse, to deny such feelings toward both the “testimony” of Jesus and the fact that Paul was imprisoned because of what he had believed and preached.
The “testimony” of Jesus is generally understood as a reference to the “story” or information about Him – the gospel message. Paul’s inspired word choice, however, probably says more about the attitude many people hold about a Savior Who would sacrifice Himself for others: Just as the (ruling-class) Jews refused to accept a Messiah who did not fit their “image” for him, the idea of a sacrificial Savior of mankind violated the pagan world’s commonly-held image of a “god” as well. The word for “testimony” is marturion, the root of our English word martyr (someone who dies for their beliefs, rather than renounce them). Much of the pagan world would consider a “Savior” who would die for his message and his followers’ sake to be merely a crazy person. Paul is drawing on his own willingness to face imprisonment (WITH the prospect of execution) to encourage Timothy to continue being faithful, even though some people would consider it “embarrassing” to worship and serve such a Savior.
Paul sets up five points in this context to help reinforce Timothy’s determination to continue being a faithful servant of the Lord.
First, he had reminded Timothy of the abilities and assurances God had provided (vv. 6-7). Timothy had received from Paul one of the spiritual/miraculous gifts (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10) the apostles were able to impart to others – we have no way of knowing which one, but Paul urges him to “inflame” it, to make full use of it. Likewise, he reminds Timothy that God would approve of his words and actions because He is the Source of the “attitude” behind them (vs. 7).
Second, Paul stresses in verse 9 that Timothy should share in his own motive for continuing to preach and teach the message of Jesus, even in the face of opposition: Gratitude. By saving us from the consequences of sin, Jesus has both given us a new purpose for our lives in this world (a “holy calling according to HIS purpose”) AND a reason to speak out and share with others what we have received from Him.
Third, Paul again offers himself as an example for Timothy to imitate (vs. 11), in that he was then imprisoned and facing execution because of his own determination to follow the example set by Jesus Himself (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1 & 1 Peter 2:21).
Fourth, in verse 13 Paul offers Timothy a very practical illustration of the meaning of “do not be ashamed” – don’t let go of or change the “pattern of sound words” he had taught Timothy. Like Paul, Timothy would face both the pressure and the temptation to “moderate” or “soften” the Lord’s instructions for salvation, so Paul gives this command to keep safe or hold onto the gospel exactly as he had first received it.
Fifth, the result if Timothy followed Paul’s instructions would be that HE would do the same thing with Jesus’ message of forgiveness and hope that Paul had done – cling to it himself, and teach others to share it with others as well, 2 Timothy 2:1-2.