The Mystery of Zoe Life: 2 Timothy 1:1-2
“1) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 2) To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭1:1-2‬
Three to four years may have elapsed between the writing of 1 and 2 Timothy. Some believe Paul was released for a few years between the two letters but was back in prison again. This time, Paul and many Christians were being falsely accused as a scapegoat for Nero’s burning of Rome. He was now being charged as a criminal against Rome. (2 Timothy 2:9) It ultimately led to his martyrdom. He wrote this book with the full awareness that the time of his departure was at hand.
This adds meaning to his words in verse one that he held to “the promise of life in Christ Jesus.” Note that he used the word “Zoe” and not “Bios” in this verse. The common word “bios” refers to biological or physical life. By contrast the word “Zoe” refers to spirit or soul life. It is a reference to the higher life that Jesus Christ imparts to every born-again believer through His Spirit.
Zoe life starts at the moment of salvation, but extends into eternity. It is a kind of life that can only be experienced by Christians. It is a higher level of life experienced by those walking in the Spirit.
Some wonder if it is possible to be a Christian and fall short Zoe life? Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 2:10-3:3 that it is possible be a carnal Christian and not live in the Spirit. This same discussion is developed in Romans 8, Galatians 3:1-5 and Galatians 5:1-26.
I had been a Christian for many years before stumbling on the distinction between these two Greek words for life. God used this marvelous truth about Zoe life to fuel personal revival within me and deepen my understanding of the inner ministry of the Holy Spirit.
I marvel that Paul was facing his own eminent martyrdom and yet wrote this letter to Timothy with such fervor and passion. The only explanation is that Paul was fully embracing Zoe life. Philippians 1:21 captures his mindset; “21) For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Paul set his mind not on himself, but on the many others who would take up the baton after his departure.
It seems that Paul was motivated to write this second letter to Timothy because he was seeing danger signs in his young students life. His fire was going out. (See 2 Timothy 1:6) Timothy was going through the motions of Bios life but was falling short of the glory of Zoe life. Ministry had become a grind. Timothy was experiencing burn out! Paul was writing this second letter to rekindle the fire within Timothy.
Many Christians go through times of burn out. Be honest, has the fire in your walk with Jesus gone out? This letter from Paul to his beloved son in the faith might be for you. I pray that God uses our study of 2 Timothy to bring personal revival into the life of many Christians.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global