Paul was on death row (IITim.4:6) yet after his introduction in this epistle his opening words are “I thank God” (1:3). Is that how you’d open an epistle if you were facing imminent death? This shows that even in the direst of straits you can always find something for which to be thankful. After a horrendous two-week storm, Paul thanked God for food (Acts 27:14-35). And despite Paul’s dire situation on death row, he thanked God for Timothy. He was especially thankful for him since all in Asia had just left him! (1:15).
This marks a dispensational difference. In the psalmist’s dire situation, he encouraged himself with memories of the miracles the Lord had done for his people in the past (Ps.77:2-11). But by the time Paul wrote this epistle, God had ceased delivering His people as He did when He broke Paul out of jail miraculously (Acts 16:26). So Paul didn’t comfort himself with memories of that, but with memories of Timothy instead. You too should comfort yourself with God’s sufficient grace and with His people, just as Paul did!
Paul also thanked God he’d served God from his forefathers, a comforting thought when facing death. The only other time “forefather” is found in Scripture is a verse that shows that Paul came from a long line of forefathers that didn’t obey God (Jer.11:10), and Paul used to be standing in that long line (Acts 23:6). I believe Paul mentions this because he hoped to start a new line of men who would serve God in obedience to His Word instead of in defiance of it, starting with Timothy, his son in the faith, whom he later told to have sons of his own (IITim.2:1).
Paul thanked God that he had served Him from his forefathers with “a pure conscience” (1:3), another thing that can comfort you as you face death. But this means Paul had a pure conscience when killing Christians (Acts 23:1) because he believed he was doing the right thing. This means it is not enough to serve God with a pure conscience, you also need the pure Word of God (Ps.119:140). A conscience is only as good as the truth it is enforcing. Paul thought he “ought” to kill God’s people (Acts 26:9cf. John 16:2).It’s vital to know the Word of God.
But Paul knew the Word (Acts 22:3)! He just didn’t know it rightly divided. Persecuting the Lord and His followers was right according to the law, for He had claimed He was God (John 19:7). If a man claimed he was God in Daniel’s day, Jews would have been right to execute him, for according to Daniel’s timetable in Daniel 9, it was not time for Messiah to appear. But when the Lord appeared when Daniel said He would, His execution was wrong dispensationally. So it’s not enough to have a pure conscience, or even a conscience illuminated by the Word. It has to be illuminated by the rightly divided Word!
Paul “greatly” desired to see Timothy (1:4 cf. 4:9,21), “mindful” of his tears rather than of his own. If the great apostle Paul longed for fellowship (cf.Phil.1:8) and had others pray that he might have it (Rom.15:30-32), you should seek it too. Of course, while Paul rejoiced in all fellowship, to fill him with joy, you had to obey him, as Timothy did (1:4; Phil.2:19-22) and as others did (Phil.2:2).
“Feign” (1:5) means to pretend (cf. Lu.20:20). The word “faith” though means faithfulness (cf.Rom.3:3). God is always looking for unfeigned faithfulness (ITim.1:5), and Timothy’s faithfulness was legit, unlike Phygellus and Hermogones (IITim.1:15). They were probably faithful, but “feignedly,” not with their “whole heart” (cf. Jer.3:10).
Timothy’s faith started when his mom and grandmother taught him the Scriptures (1:5 cf. IITim.3:15). Perhaps the reason David mentions his mom a couple of times (Ps.86:10; 116:16) is because she taught him the Scriptures.
It is interesting that Paul said he had to be “persuaded” that the faith that first dwelt in Timothy’s mother and grandmother now dwelt in him. I’m sure Timothy’s natural timidity made Paul wonder if he could be someone God could use, but Timothy’s faithfulness eventually persuaded him. Would Paul be persuaded by your faithfulness?