This letter is written to Ephesus (1:3). It helps to know a few things about Ephesus to understand the letter. Ephesus was the center of the worship of the goddess Artemis (the Romans called her Diana of Ephesus) who was called the "mother of the gods and men". The worship of Artemis was so ingrained in the psyche and mindset and economy of the Ephesians that any threat to it led to rioting (see Acts 19:21 ff). Ephesus was considered the gateway to Asia. Ephesus was also a strong center for gnostic philosophy and religious influence. The gnostic mythology "upside-downed" the bible. In the two Timothy letters we find reference to "fruitless discussions, drivel and nonsense which oppose God." Notice also in chapter 1:4 the reference to endless genealogies and speculation rather than divine training. These are arguments against the gnostic influence. The gnostics (and the cult of Artemis) taught that all wisdom was passed down through women (only women and eunuchs were permitted to serve as priests to Artemis). In Chapter 2 we will see that the gnostics revered Eve (from Genesis) because she "ate from the tree of good and evil" and therefore gave us more knowledge. It was also taught by the gnostics that Eve preceded Adam. They taught a dualistic theology that said that all matter was evil and only spirit was good. Because of this teaching they rejected (or ridiculed) the creator God of the Old Testament (because any maker of matter must also be evil). The word "gnosis" is Greek for knowledge. The gnostics believed that only by having this special knowledge could one be saved. The Timothy letters as well as other places in the New Testament are often arguing against this ancient philosophy. It is an argument that continued for centuries. Gnosticism still exists in the modern world in many forms. Christian Science is, perhaps, the best example in the modern world.
I love 1:15 "The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -- of whom I am the foremost." What a perfect example of God's grace at work in a broken vessel, like Paul. Paul then encourages his young friend, Timothy, to "fight the good fight" and by having faith and good conscience (19). If the situation in Ephesus is as described keeping faithful in the face of determined opposition must have been difficult indeed.