Although Paul preached in many places, here he mentions Antioch (in the Roman province of Pisidia), Iconium and Lystra (in the Roman province of Galatia). Paul preached the gospel in all three of these cities during his first missionary journey (Acts 13:14-14:20) against significant opposition! He planted a church in each city (Acts 14:21-23).
Read the account of what happened to Paul in these places —
- In Antioch—of Pisidia (Acts 13:14-51).
- In Iconium—(Acts 14:1-5).
- In Lystra—(Acts 14:6-20).
According to Knight:
These towns were in the area from which Timothy came. Timothy was aware of these episodes when he agreed to join Paul in the ministry (Acts 16:1-6). Paul mentions these earliest persecutions rather than later ones, probably because he wants to remind Timothy of his commitment to the apostle and his ministry from the very beginning and that from the very beginning that ministry has involved persecutions.
According to Milne:
Timothy had been privileged to watch Paul in action – listening to his preaching, observing his lifestyle, studying his professional goals, and learning from his leadership qualities such as faith, love, patience, endurance. Paul had made himself a role model for his younger colleague and disciple, so that when his time for responsible leadership arrived he would know how to react and what to teach.
Suffering and persecution are part of the Christian life. The Lord had rescued Paul (2 Tim. 4:18; cf. Psa. 34:19) from countless trials and tribulations (cf. 2 Cor. 11:16-33) and he would deliver Timothy and others as they faithfully follow in his footsteps of loyalty (cf. 1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 4:9; 2 Thess. 3:7, 9) to the covenant of God. This lesson assumes greater importance as Paul was very close to death (2 Tim. 4:6). Because of God’s grace, Paul was faithful in trials and tribulations, faithful to Christ, to the covenant, to the church, faithful in purity, in his service and ministry, and faithful to death.
Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted — 2 Timothy 3:12-13.
Life on earth for the Christian is a “school of suffering,” and the New Testament teaches that Christians should expect persecution (Matt. 10:17-18; John 15:20; 1 Pet. 4:12; 5:9).
As Hughes writes:
Fittingly, Paul gave Timothy a spiritual axiom to remember. The first part was specifically for him: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Jesus, the very “mystery of godliness” himself (1 Timothy 3:16), gave this truth classic expression: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.'” (John 15:20). Jesus (both God and the godliest of men) was the most persecuted man ever! “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7).
Since Christ suffered, the saint should expect the same. But “evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” These words make it clear that Paul had in mind troubles that come from false teachers in the visible church (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
The church today is living in these terrible times of “the last days.” There are churches today that are governed by all kinds of false doctrines. Those that submit to such false doctrines – and others – will persecute by word and deed those that oppose them. These deceived will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Paul exhorts Timothy to continue in the teachings of the Holy Scriptures which had enabled him to know what he should do to be saved through faith “which is in Christ Jesus”.
Paul states that the authority behind the Scriptures is God himself. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Since God is the authority or author, the Scriptures are able to make the saint complete and fully equipped for every good work.