Introduction to 2Timothy
Section 1. Time and Place of Writing the Epistle
There has been much diversity of sentiment on the question when this Epistle was written. That it was written at Rome, and when the apostle was imprisoned there, is the unanimous opinion of all who have written on the Epistle, and indeed is apparent on the face of it; see 2 Timothy 1:8, 2 Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 4:6. But whether it was written during his first imprisonment there, or during a second imprisonment, is a question, on which critics even now are by no means agreed. The most respectable names may be found on each side of this question, though the common opinion has been that it was during a second imprisonment. Of this opinion are Mosheim, Michaelis, Benson, Mill, Macknight, LeClerc, Paley, Stuart, Clarke, and Doddridge. The reasons for this may be seen at length in Hug's Introduction, pp. 761-763, Macknight, and in Paley's Horae Paulinae. Dr. Lardner, Baronius, Witsius, Lightfoot, Hammond, Hug, Hemsen, and others, maintain that it was written during the first imprisonment, and that it was sent about the same time as the Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon. The reasons for this opinion may be found in Hug's Introduction, pp. 556-559, and in Lardner, vol. 6, pp. 38-72. It is not consistent with the design of these Notes to go at length into an examination of this question, and it is not material in order to an exposition of the Epistle.
After considering the reasonings of Lardner and Hug to prove that this Epistle was written during Paul's first imprisonment at Rome - that is, as they suppose, during his only imprisonment there, and not long after the First Epistle was written - it seems to me still that there are insuperable difficulties in such a view, and that the evidence is clear that it was during a second imprisonment. The reasons for this are briefly the following:
(1) In the Epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon, written during his first imprisonment, Paul confidently looked forward to a release, and to a speedy departure from Rome. In this, he had no such expectation. Thus, he tells the Philippians Phi 2:24, "I trust in the Lord, that I myself shall come shortly." In the Epistle to Philemon PLamentations 1:22, he says, "But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you." In this Epistle, however, the author had no such expectation; 2 Timothy 4:6, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness."
(2) in 2 Timothy 4:16, the apostle uses the following language: "At my first answer, no man stood with me, but all forsook me." It is true that this may refer to a hearing which he had had before Nero during the same imprisonment at Rome in which this Second Epistle was written; but the most natural interpretation is to suppose that he had had one hearing, and had been discharged, and that the imprisonment of which he speaks in this Epistle was a second one. This seems to me to be confirmed by what he says in the next verse: "Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." Here it appears:
(a) that he had been delivered, on that occasion, from death - "I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion," which is equivalent to saying that he was discharged;
(b) that after that discharge he was permitted to preach the gospel - "that by me the preaching might be fully known;"
(c) that he had been permitted after that to travel and preach "and that all the Gentiles might hear," which is just such an expression as he would use on the supposition that he had been discharged, and been permitted to go abroad and preach the gospel extensively, and is not such an expression as he could have used if he had been imprisoned but once.
(3) the expression occurring in 2 Timothy 4:20, "Erastus 'abode' at Corinth," implies that he had made a second journey to Rome. The word rendered "abode" - ἔμεινεν emeinen - is such as would be used where two were traveling together, and where one of them chose to remain at a certain place. It implies that, at the time referred to, the two were together, and that one chose to go on, and the other to remain. But it is capable of very clear proof that, when Paul was sent to Rome by Festus Acts 26-27, he did not stop at Corinth; and if Erastus had been with him then, he would have passed by that place with him on his way to Rome. Further, when Paul left Corinth, as related in Acts 20, on his way to Jerusalem, Timothy was with him. This is the last time that Paul is mentioned as having been at Corinth before coming to Rome, and there could have been no need of informing Timothy of the fact that Erastus remained there, if this were so, because that fact would be known to Timothy as well as Paul. Besides, that departure from Corinth took place some five years before Paul wrote this Second Epistle to Timothy; and what would be the use of his reminding Timothy of this after so long an interval? It is clear, moreover, that Paul refers to some recent transaction. He is urging Timothy to use all diligence to come to him before winter; that is, as soon as possible; 2 Timothy 4:21. But how could it be a reason for this urgency to say that, "some five years before," he had been forsaken by one fellow-laborer, and had been obliged to leave another one sick on the way?
(4) Similar remarks may be made respecting what Paul says in the close of the same verse 2 Timothy 4:20; "Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick." Paul, when sent by Festus to Rome, did not stop at Miletus; for the course which the ship took on that occasion is minutely described Acts 27, and there is every certainty that there can be that it did not put in at that place. The time, then, to which Paul must refer here, unless he made a second journey to Rome after he had been once discharged, must have been several years before; certainly as far back as when he took leave of the elders of the church of Ephesus, as recorded in Acts 20. But this was about five years before; and what would have been the pertinency of informing Timothy that, some five years before, he had left a fellow-laborer sick there, as a reason why he should then hasten to Rome as soon as possible? It was evidently a recent occurrence to which the apostle refers here; and the only natural supposition is, that, not long before his arrival at Rome, he had parted with both these friends, and now needed, in consequence, especially the presence of Timothy. Of course, if this be so, Paul must have made another circuit through these countries, of which the Acts of the Apostles gives us no account, and which must have been after his first imprisonment. It is true that Hug suggests that the word rendered "I have left" - ἀπέλιπον apelipon - may be in the third person plural, and may be rendered "they have left?" But, who left him there? We are not told; and as "nothing is suggested in the context which would supply us with a subject of the verb in the 'third person plural,' we are led naturally to construe it of the 'first' person singular, and, consequently, to apply it to Paul" - Prof. Stuart, in Hug's Introduction.
(5) with this supposition of a second and recent journey, agrees the passage in 2 Timothy 4:13, "The cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments." This evidently refers to some recent affair. Can it be believed that these had been there for some five years, and that Paul had not needed them before? He was at Caesarea for two years. He had abundant opportunity of sending for them. An article of wearing apparel, or books to study, or his own writings, he would be likely to need long before, and it is highly improbable that he should have suffered them to remain during this long period without sending for them.
(6) in the epistles which were written during Paul's first imprisonment, certain persons are referred to as being then with him, who are in this Epistle mentioned as absent. It is almost beyond a doubt that the Epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and to Philemon, were written during Paul's first imprisonment at Rome; see the Introduction to those epistles. In the Epistle to the Colossians, Colossians 1:1, Timothy is mentioned as being then with the apostle. When this was written, of course he was absent. In the same Epistle, Mark is mentioned as with Paul, and unites with him in the salutation to the Colossians 2 Timothy Colossians 4:10; when this Epistle was written, he was absent, for Timothy is ordered to bring him with him 2 Timothy 4:11. Demas was then with him Colossians 4:14; now he was absent, for Paul says, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica;" 2 Timothy 4:10. These circumstances make it quite clear that the Second Epistle to Timothy was not written during the imprisonment at Rome in which the Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, etc., were written, unless a change had taken place in the circumstances of the apostle, which we have no reason to suppose occurred. The probability, then, seems to be strong, that the apostle was imprisoned there a second time, and that the things referred to in this Epistle occurred then.
(7) to these circumstances should be added the fact, that many of the Fathers say that Paul was liberated from his first imprisonment, and afterwards traveled extensively in preaching the gospel. This testimony is borne by Eusebius, Chrysostom, Theodoret, and others; see Calmet's Dictionary, and Lives of the Apostles, by D. F. Bacon, New Haven, pp. 619-621. - If the supposition of a second imprisonment at Rome, during which this Epistle was written, is correct, then it was written probably not far from the year 65 a.d. Lardner, however, who supposes it was written during the first imprisonment, places its date in May, 61 a.d.; Hug, also, in the same year.
Section 2. The Place Where Timothy Was When the Epistle Was Addressed to Him
There can be little doubt that Timothy was at Ephesus at the time when this Epistle was addressed to him. The evidence for this opinion is thus stated by Lightfoot and others:
(1) Paul directs Timothy to salute the household of Onesiphorus, 2 Timothy 4:19. But it is evident, from 2 Timothy 1:18, that Onesiphorus was an Ephesian, and, as the direction is to salute his "household," it may be argued with the more certainty that Timothy was then at Ephesus, the ordinary residence of the family of Onesiphorus.
(2) he directs Timothy to take Troas in the way as he came to him at Rome 2 Timothy 4:13, which was the way that Paul had gone to Ephesus 2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 20:5, thus showing that this was the usual route of travel, and was a way which Timothy would naturally take in passing from Ephesus to Rome. It is true that this does not absolutely prove that he was at "Ephesus" - since, if he had been in any other part of the western portion of Asia Minor, the direction would have been the same - but it is a slight circumstance corroborating others.
(4) in 2 Timothy 4:9, he gives direction to Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, and then adds 2 Timothy 4:12, "Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus." From this it would seem that one reason why he wished him then to come was, that he had appointed one to occupy his place there, so that he could leave without injury to the cause. But it would seem also probable that Paul was not in the habit of calling away a laborer from an important station without supplying his place. Thus, in Titus 3:12, he says, "When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me." It may thence, be inferred that Timothy was at Ephesus at the time when Paul wrote to him, and that he had taken care that his place should not be left vacant, by the appointment of Tychicus to fill it when he should leave.
(5) it may be added, that the errors and vices which Timothy is directed to oppose, are the same which are referred to in the First Epistle, and it may be hence, inferred thai he was at the same place.
How long Timothy had been in Ephesus is not certainly known, and is not material to be known in order to a proper understanding of the Epistle. It does not appear, from the Acts , that he was with Paul during the two years in which he was in Caesarea, nor during his voyage to Rome; yet it is certain that he was in Rome when Paul wrote to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon, because he is named in the titles to those Epistles. In Hebrews 13:23, Paul says that Timothy was "set at liberty," or, more probably, "sent away" (see notes on that verse), but to what place he had gone is not mentioned. Nothing would be more natural, however, than that he should visit Ephesus again, and it is not improbable that Paul would leave him there when he again visited Rome.
Section 3. The Occasion on Which the Epistle Was Written
The Epistle was evidently written when the apostle was expecting soon to be put to death; 2 Timothy 4:6-8. The main object of writing it seems to have been to request Timothy to come to him as speedily as possible; 2 Timothy 4:9. But, in doing this, it was natural that Paul should accompany the request with such counsel as Timothy needed, and such as it was proper for Paul to give in probably the last letter that he would write to him. The particular reason why the apostle desired the presence of Timothy seems to have been, that nearly all the others on whom he might have supposed he could rely in a time of trial, had left him. Thus, he says that Demas had forsaken him; Crescens had gone to Galatia; Titus to Dalmatia, and Tychicus he had himself sent to Ephesus; 2 Timothy 4:10-12. No one remained with him but Luke 2 Timothy Luke 4:11, and he was, therefore, desirous that Timothy and Mark should be with him; 2 Timothy 4:11. He did not ask their presence merely that they might sustain him in his trials, but that they might aid him in the work of the ministry 2 Timothy 4:11, for it would seem that all hope of doing good in Rome was not closed.
If the view of the time when this Epistle was written which has been taken in this introduction, is correct, and if this is the last Epistle which was written by the apostle Paul before his martyrdom, then it occupies a very important place in sacred canon, and is invested with great interest. It may be regarded as the dying counsels of the most eminent of the apostles to one who had just entered on the ministerial life. We should read it with the interest with which we do the last words of the great and the good. Then we feel that every word which they utter has a weight which demands attention. We feel that, whatever a man might do at other times, he will not trifle then. We feel that, having little time to express his wishes, he will select topics that lie nearest his heart, and that he deems most important. There is no more interesting position in which we can be placed, than when we sit down at such a man's feet, and listen to his parting counsels. To a young minister of the gospel, therefore, this Epistle is invaluable; to any and every Christian, it cannot fail to be a matter of interest to listen to the last words of the great apostle of the Gentiles, and to ponder his last written testimony in favour of that religion to the promulgation of which he had devoted his talents and his life.
The principal design of 2 Timothy 1 is to exhort Timothy to steadfastness and fidelity as a Christian and a minister; and to entreat him to adhere to the truth, and live as became a Christian, in the midst of all the temptations by which he was surrounded, and while so many were turning away from the Christian faith. Timothy was young; he was exposed, like others, to trials; he could not be unaware that not a few had apostatized; he knew that his father in Christ was in bonds, and he was liable to become disheartened, or to be led astray. In these circumstances, the apostle seems to have resolved to place before him strong reasons to induce him to devote himself steadfastly to the cause of religion, and not to allow those things which might tend to alienate him from Christianity to have any effect on his mind. After the usual salutations, therefore 2 Timothy 1:1-2, he proceeds to present these considerations to the mind of Timothy:
(1) He commences the chapter with "delicate praise" of his young friend - one of the most happy methods of inducing him to persevere in the course of life on which he had entered; 2 Timothy 1:3-5. We naturally desire to perfect that in which we already excel; we feel encouraged for future efforts in a cause in which we have already been successful. The apostle, therefore, reminds Timothy of the manner in which he had been trained; of the piety of his mother and grandmother, and assures him of his belief that their efforts to train him up in the ways of religion had not been in vain.
(2) he urges various considerations to induce him not to turn away from that holy purpose to which he had devoted himself. The considerations which he urges, are these:
(a) he had been solemnly consecrated to the work of preaching the gospel, 2 Timothy 1:6;
(b) God had imparted to him, as to others, a spirit of love and power, and a sound mind, 2 Timothy 1:7;
(c) the grace of God had called him to his great work, and he possessed that gospel by which life and immortality are brought to light, 2 Timothy 1:8-11;
(d) Paul urges his own example, and says that, amidst all his own trials, he had never seen occasion to be ashamed of the gospel, 2 Timothy 1:12-14; and,
(e) he reminds Timothy that all his other friends in Asia had turned away from him, specifying two of them, and urges him, therefore, to maintain a steadfast attachment to the principles which he had professed, 2 Timothy 1:15.
(3) the chapter closes with the expression of an earnest prayer that the Lord would bless the family of Onesiphorus, and with a grateful mention of his kindness to him, 2 Timothy 1:16-18.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, - See the notes at Romans 1:1.
By the will of God - Called to be an apostle in accordance with the divine will and purpose; see the notes at Galatians 1:1.
According to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus - In accordance with the great promise of eternal life through the Saviour; that is, he was called to be an apostle to carry out the great purpose of human salvation; compare Ephesians 3:6. God has made a promise of life to mankind through faith in the Lord Jesus, and it was with reference to this that he was called to the apostleship.
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.To Timothy, my dearly beloved son; - See the notes at 1 Timothy 1:2.
Grace, mercy, and peace - see the notes at Romans 1:7.
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers - Paul reckoned among his forefathers the patriarchs and the holy men of former times, as being of the same nation with himself, though it may be that he also included his more immediate ancestors, who, for anything known to the contrary, may have been distinguished examples of piety. His own parents, it is certain, took care that he should be trained up in the ways of religion; compare the Philippians 3:4-5 notes; Acts 26:4-5. The phrase "from my forefathers," probably means, after the example of my ancestors. He worshipped the same God; he held substantially the same truths; he had the same hope of the resurrection and of immortality; he trusted to the same Saviour having come, on whom they relied as about to come. His was not, therefore, a different religion from theirs; it was the same religion carried out and perfected. The religion of the Old Testament and the New is essentially the same; see the notes at Acts 23:6.
With pure conscience - see the notes at Acts 23:1.
I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day - see the notes at Philippians 1:3-4.
Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;Greatly desiring to see thee; - see 2 Timothy 4:9, 2 Timothy 4:21. It was probably on, account of this earnest desire that this Epistle was written. He wished to see him, not only on account of the warm friendship which he had for him, but because he would be useful to him in his present circumstances; see the introduction, Section 3.
Being mindful of thy tears - Alluding probably to the tears which he shed at parting from him. The occasion to which he refers is not mentioned; but nothing is more probable than that Timothy would weep when separated from such a father and friend. It is not wrong thus to weep, for religion is not intended to make us stoics or savages.
That I may be filled with joy - By seeing you again. It is easy to imagine what joy it would give Paul, then a prisoner, and forsaken by nearly all his friends, and about to die, to see a friend whom he loved as he did this young man. Learn hence, that there may be very pure and warm friendship between an old and young man, and that the warmth of true friendship is not diminished by the near prospect of death.
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee; - notes, 1 Timothy 1:5. On the faith of Timothy, see the notes at 1 Timothy 4:6.
Which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois - That is, the same faith dwelt in her; or, she was a sincere believer in Christ. It would seem probable, from this, that she was the first of the family who had been converted. In the Acts of the Apostles Act 16:1, we have an account of the family of Timothy: - "Then came he to Derbe and Lystra; and behold a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek." In this account no mention is made of the grandmother Lois, but there is no improbability in supposing that Paul was better acquainted with the family than Luke. There is, at any rate, no contradiction between the two accounts; but the one confirms the other, and the "undesigned coincidence" furnishes an argument for the authenticity of both. See Paley's Horae Paulinae, in loc. As the mother of Timothy was a Hebrew, it is clear that his grandmother was also. Nothing more is known of her than is mentioned here.
And in thy mother Eunice - In Acts 16:1, it is said that the mother of Timothy was "a Jewess, and believed;" but her name is not mentioned. This shows that Paul was acquainted with the family, and that the statement in the Epistle to Timothy was not forged from the account in the Acts . Here is another "undesigned coincidence." In the history in the Acts , nothing is said of the father, except that he was "a Greek," but it is implied that he was not a believer. In the Epistle before us, nothing whatever is said of him. But the piety of his mother alone is commended, and it is fairly implied that his father was not a believer. This is one of those coincidences on which Paley has constructed his beautiful argument in the Horae Paulinae in favor of the genuineness of the New Testament.
Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.That thou stir up the gift of God - Greek, That thou "kindle up" as a fire. The original word used here denotes the kindling of a fire, as by bellows, etc. It is not uncommon to compare piety to a flame or a fire, and the image is one that is obvious when we speak of causing that to burn more brightly. The idea is, that Timothy was to use all proper means to keep the flame of pure religion in the soul burning, and more particularly his zeal in the great cause to which he had been set apart. The agency of man himself is needful to keep the religion of the heart warm and glowing. However rich the gifts which God has bestowed upon us, they do not grow of their own accord, but need to be cultivated by our own personal care.
Which is in thee by the putting on of my hands - In connection with the presbytery; see the notes at 1 Timothy 4:14. This proves that Paul took part in the ordination of Timothy; but it does not prove either that he performed the duty alone, or that the "ordaining virtue," whatever that was, was imparted by him only; because:
(1) it is expressly said 1 Timothy 4:14, that he was ordained by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, of which Paul was doubtless one; and,
(2) the language here used, "by the putting on of my hands," is just such as Paul, or any other one of the presbytery, would use in referring to the ordination of Timothy, though they were all regarded as on a level. It is such an expression as an aged Presbyterian, or Congregational, or Baptist minister would address to a son whom he had assisted to ordain. Nothing would be more natural than to remind him that his own hands had been laid on him when he was set apart to the work of the ministry. It would be in the nature of a tender, pathetic, and solemn appeal, bringing all that there was in his own character, age, and relation to the other, to bear on him, in order to induce him to be faithful to his trust. On other occasions, he would naturally remind him that others had united with him in the act, and that he had derived his authority through the presbytery, just as Paul appeals to Timothy, 1 Timothy 4:14. But no one would now think of inferring from this, that he meant to be understood as saying that he alone had ordained him, or that all the authority for preaching the gospel had been imparted through his hands, and that those who were associated with him only expressed "concurrence;" that is, that their presence there was only an unmeaning ceremony. What was the "gift of God" which had been conferred in this way, Paul specifies in the next verse 2 Timothy 1:7. It is "the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." The meaning is, that these had been conferred by God, and that the gift had been recognized by his ordination. It does not imply that any mysterious influence had gone from the hands of the ordainers, imparting any holiness to Timothy which he had not before.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.For God hath not given us the spirit of fear - A timorous and servile spirit. This is said in order to encourage Timothy, who was not improbably modest and diffident.
But of power - Power to encounter foes and dangers; power to bear up under trials; power to triumph in persecutions. That is, it is the nature of the gospel to inspire the mind with holy courage; compare, however, Luke 24:49.
And of love - Love to God and to the souls of men. The tendency of This, also, is to "cast out fear" 1 John 4:18, and to make the mind bold and constant. Nothing will do more to inspire courage, to make a man fearless of danger, or ready to endure privation and persecution, than "love." The love of country, and wife, and children, and home, makes the most timid bold when they are assailed; and the love of Christ and of a dying world nerves the soul to great enterprises, and sustains it in the deepest sorrows.
And of a sound mind - The Greek word denotes one of sober mind; a man of prudence and discretion. The state referred to here is that in which the mind is well balanced, and under right influences; in which it sees things in their just proportions and relations; in which it is not feverish and excited, but when everything is in its proper place. It was this state of mind which Timothy was exhorted to cultivate; this which Paul regarded as so necessary to the performance of the duties of his office. It is as needful now for the minister of religion as it was then.
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord - Do not be ashamed to bear your testimony to the doctrines taught by the Lord Jesus; John 3:11, John 3:32-33; John 7:7; compare Acts 10:22; Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 1:6; Revelation 22:16. Paul seems to have apprehended that Timothy was in some danger of being ashamed of this gospel, or of shrinking back from its open avowal in the trials and persecutions to which he now saw it exposed him.
Nor of me his prisoner - Of the testimony which I have borne to the truth of the gospel. This passage proves that, when Paul wrote this Epistle, he was in confinement; compare Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 6:20; Philippians 1:13-14, Philippians 1:16; Colossians 4:3, Colossians 4:18; Plm 1:9. Timothy knew that he had been thrown into prison on account of his love for the gospel. To avoid that himself, there might be some danger that a timid young man might shrink from an open avowal of his belief in the same system of truth.
But be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel - The sufferings to which the profession of the gospel may expose you; compare the notes at Colossians 1:24.
According to the power of God - That is, according to the power which God gives to those who are afflicted on account of the gospel. The apostle evidently supposes that they who were subjected to trials on account of the gospel, might look for divine strength to uphold them, and asks him to endure those trials, relying on that strength, and not on his own.
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,Who hath saved us; - See the notes at Matthew 1:21. He has brought us into a state in which salvation is so certain, that Paul could speak of it as if it were already done.
Not according to our works - Titus 3:5; notes, Ephesians 2:8-9. The idea is, that our own works have nothing to do in inducing God to call us. As, when we become Christians, he does not choose us because of our works, so the eternal purpose in regard to our salvation could not have been formed because he foresaw that we would perform such works as would be a reason why he should choose us. The whole arrangement was irrespective of our deserts.
Which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began - That is, which he intended to give us, for it was not then actually given. The thing was so certain in the divine purposes, that it might be said to be already done; compare the notes at Romans 4:17.
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:But is now made manifest - The purpose to save us was long concealed in the divine mind, but the Saviour came that he might make it known.
Who hath abolished death - That is, he has made it so certain that death will be abolished, that it may be spoken of as already done. It is remarkable how often, in this chapter, Paul speaks of what God intends to do as so certain, that it may be spoken of as a thing that is already done. In the meaning of the expression here, see the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:54; compare the notes at Hebrews 2:14. The meaning is, that, through the gospel, death will cease to reign, and over those who are saved there will be no such thing as we now understand by dying.
And hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel - This is one of the great and glorious achievements of the gospel, and one of the things by which it is distinguished from every other system. The word rendered "hath brought to light" - φωτίζω phōtizō - means to give light, to shine; then to give light to, to shine upon; and then to bring to light, to make known. Robinson, Lexicon. The sense is, that these things were before obscure or unknown, and that they have been disclosed to us by the gospel. It is, of course, not meant that there were no intimations of these truths before, or that nothing was known of them - for the Old Testament shed some light on them; but that they are fully disclosed to man in the gospel. It is there that all ambiguity and doubt are removed, and that the evidence is so clearly stated as to leave no doubt on the subject. The intimations of a future state, among the wisest of the pagan, were certainly very obscure, and their hopes very faint.
The hope of a future state is styled by Cicero, Futurorum quoddam augurium saeculorum - "a conjecture or surmise of future ages. Tusc. Q. 1. Seneca says it is "that which our wise men do promise, but they do not prove." Epis. 102. Socrates, even at his death, said, "I hope to go hence to good men, but of that I am not very confident; nor doth it become any wise man to be positive that so it will be. I must now die, and you shall live; but which of us is in the better state, the living or the dead, only God knows." Pliny says, "Neither soul nor body has any more sense after death, than before it was born." Cicero begins his discourse on the subject with a profession that he intended to deliver nothing as fixed and certain, but only as probable, and as having some likelihood of truth. And, having mentioned the different sentiments of philosophers, he concludes, - "Which of these opinions is true, some god must tell us; which is most like to truth, is a great question."
See Whitby, "in loc." Such doubts existed in regard to the immortality of the soul; but of the resurrection and future life of the body, they had no conception whatever; compare the notes at Acts 17:32. With what propriety, then, may it be said that these doctrines were brought to light through the gospel! Man would never have known them if it had not been for revelation. The word "life," here, refers undoubtedly to life in the future world. The question was, whether man would live at all; and that question has been determined by the gospel. The word "immortality" means, properly, "incorruption, incapacity of decay;" and may be applied either to the body or the soul. See it explained in the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:42. It is used in reference to the body, in 1 Corinthians 15:42, 1 Corinthians 15:53-54; in Romans 2:7, it is applied to the future state of rewards, without special reference to the body or soul. Here it seems to refer to the future state as that in which there will be no corruption or decay.
Many suppose that the phrase "life and immortality," here, is used by hendiadys (two things for one), as meaning immortal or incorruptible life. The gospel thus has truths not found in any other system, and contains what man never would have discovered of himself. As fair a trial had been made among the philosophers of Greece and Rome as could be made, to determine whether the unaided powers of the human mind could arrive at these great truths; and their most distinguished philosophers confessed that they could arrive at no certainty on the subject. In this state of things, the gospel comes and reveals truths worthy of all acceptation; sheds light where man had desired it; solves the great problems which had for ages perplexed the human mind, and discloses to man all that he could wish - that not only the soul will live for ever, but that the body will be raised from the grave, and that the entire man will become immortal. How strange it is that men will not embrace the gospel! Socrates and Cicero would have hailed its light, and welcomed its truths, as those which their whole nature panted to know.
Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.Whereunto I am appointed a preacher - That is, I am appointed to make these truths known; see the notes at Ephesians 3:7-8.
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.For the which cause I also suffer these things - That is, I suffer on account of my purpose to carry the gospel to the Gentiles; see the notes at Colossians 1:24.
Nevertheless I am not ashamed - compare the notes at Romans 1:16.
For I know whom I have believed - Margin, "trusted." The idea is, that he understood the character of that Redeemer to whom he had committed his eternal interests, and knew that he had no reason to be ashamed of confiding in him. He was able to keep all that he had intrusted to his care, and would not suffer him to be lost; see Isaiah 28:16.
And am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him - That is, the soul, with all its immortal interests. A man has nothing of higher value to intrust to another than the interests of his soul, and there is no other act of confidence like that in which he intrusts the keeping of that soul to the Son of God. Hence, learn:
(1) that religion consists in committing the soul to the care of the Lord Jesus; because:
(a) We feel that we cannot secure the soul's salvation ourselves.
(b) The soul is by nature in danger.
(c) If not saved by him, the soul will not be saved at all.
(2) that the soul is a great and invaluable treasure which is committed to him.
(a) No higher treasure can be committed to another;
(b) In connection with that the whole question of our happiness on earth and in heaven is entrusted to him, and all depends on his fidelity.
(3) it is done by the true Christian with the most entire confidence, so that the mind is at rest. The grounds of this confidence are:
(a) what is said of the mighty power of the Saviour;
(b) his promises that he will keep all who confide in him (compare the notes at John 10:27-29;
(c) experience - the fact that those who have trusted in him have found that he is able to keep them.
(4) this act of committing the soul, with all its interests, to the Saviour, is the true source of peace in the trials of life. This is so because:
(a) having done this, we feel that our great interests are secure. If the soul is safe, why need we be disturbed by the loss of health, or property, or other temporal comforts? Those are secondary things. A man who is shipwrecked, and who sees his son or daughter safe with him on the shore, will be little concerned that a casket of jewels fell overboard - however valuable it might be:
(b) All those trials will soon pass away, and he will be safe in heaven.
(c) These very things may further the great object - the salvation of the soul. A man's great interests may be more safe when in a prison than when in a palace; on a pallet of straw than on a bed of down; when constrained to say, "Give us this day our daily bread," than when encompassed with the wealth of Croesus.
Against that day - The day of judgment - called "that day," without anything further to designate it, because it is the great day; "the day for which all others days were made." It seems to have been so much the object of thought and conversation among the early Christians, that the apostle supposed that he would be understood by merely referring to it as "that day;" that is, the day which they were always preaching about, and talking about, and thinking about.
Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.Hold fast the form of sound words; - see the notes at 1 Timothy 1:3. On the Greek word here rendered "form," see the notes at 1 Timothy 1:16, where it is rendered pattern. The word means a form, sketch, or imperfect delineation - an outline. Grotius says that it here means "an exemplar, but an exemplar fixed in the mind - an idea." Calvin says that the command is that he should adhere to the doctrine which he had learned, not only in its substance, but in its form. Dr. Tillotson explains this as meaning the profession of faith which was made by Christians at baptism. There seems to be an allusion to some summary or outline of truth which Paul had given to Timothy, though there is no evidence that it was written. Indeed, there is every presumption that, if it refers to such a summary, it was not committed to writing. If it had been, it would have been regarded as inspired, and would have taken its place in the canon of Scripture. It may be presumed that almost none of the sacred writings would have been more sacredly preserved than such a condensed summary of Christian truth. But there is no improbability in supposing that Paul, either at his ordination, or on some other occasion, may have stated the outlines of the Christian religion to Timothy, that he might have a clear and connected view of the subject. The passage, therefore, may be used as an argument for the propriety of some brief summary of doctrine as a matter of convenience, though not as having binding authority on the consciences of others. "Of sound words;" compare the notes at 1 Timothy 6:3. The Greek is the same in both places.
Which thou hast heard of me - This proves that he does not refer to a written creed, since what he refers to was something which he had heard.
In faith and love which is in Christ Jesus - Hold these truths with sincere faith in the Lord Jesus, and with that love which is the best evidence of attachment to him.
That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.That good thing which was committed unto thee; - see the notes at 1 Timothy 6:20. The reference here in the phrase, "that good thing committed to thee," is to the sound Christian doctrine with which he had been intrusted, and which he was required to transmit to others.
Keep by the Holy Ghost - By the aid of the Holy Spirit. One of the best methods of preserving the knowledge and the love of truth is to cherish the influences of the Holy Spirit.
This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me - That is, in that part of Asia Minor of which Ephesus was the capital. The name Asia was often given particularly to that part of Asia Minor; see the notes at Acts 2:9; Acts 16:6. This passage proves that Timothy was somewhere in that region when this Epistle was written to him, for otherwise he could not be supposed to Know what is here said. When Paul says that "all" were turned away from him, he must use the word in a general sense, for he immediately specifies one who had been faithful and kind to him.
Of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes - We know nothing of these individuals but what is here mentioned. It would seem that they were prominent persons, and those from whom the apostle had a right to expect other treatment. "The ecclesiastical traditions allege that they were of the seventy disciples, and in the end became followers of Simon Magus. We imagine that this is little more than conjecture." It is a sad thing when the only record made of a man - the only evidence which we have that he ever lived at all - is, that he turned away from a friend, or forsook the paths of true religion. And yet there are many men of whom the only thing to be remembered of them is, that they lived to do wrong.
The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus - The family of Onesiphorus - for so the word house is often used. He was himself still living 2 Timothy 1:18, but not improbably then absent from his home; compare the notes at 2 Timothy 4:19. He was evidently of Asia, and is the only one who is mentioned from that region who had showed the apostle kindness in his trials. He is mentioned only in this Epistle, and nothing more is known of him. The record is entirely honorable to him, and for his family the apostle felt a warm interest on account of the kindness which he had showed to him in prison. The ecclesiastical traditions also state that he was one of the seventy disciples, and was ultimately Bishop of Corone. But there is no evidence of this. There is much force in the remark of the Editor of the Pictorial Bible, that "the pretended lists of the 70 disciples seem to have been made out on the principle of including all the names incidentally mentioned in the sacred books, and not otherwise appropriated."
For he oft refreshed me - That is, showed me kindness, and ministered to my needs.
And was not ashamed of my chain - Was not ashamed to be known as a friend of one who was a prisoner on account of religion. Paul was bound with a chain when a prisoner at Rome; Philippians 1:13-14, Philippians 1:16; Colossians 4:3, Colossians 4:18; Plm 1:10; see the notes at Acts 28:20.
But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.But when he was in Rome - What was the employment of Onesiphorus is not known. It may have been that he was a merchant, and had occasion to visit Rome on business. At all events, he was at pains to search out the apostle, and his attention was the more valuable because it cost him trouble to find him. It is not everyone, even among professors of religion, who in a great and splendid city would be at the trouble to search out a Christian brother, or even a minister, who was a prisoner, and endeavor to relieve his sorrows. This man, so kind to the great apostle, will be among those to whom the Saviour will say, at the final judgment, "I was in prison, and ye came unto me;" Matthew 25:36.
The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day - The day of judgment; notes at 2 Timothy 1:12. This proves that Onesiphorus was then alive, as Paul would not offer prayer for him if he was dead. The Papists, indeed, argue from this in favor of praying for the dead - assuminG from 2 Timothy 4:19, that Onesiphorus was then dead. But there is no evidence of that. The passage in 2 Timothy 4:19, would prove only that he was then absent from his family.
And in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus - This was the home of Onesiphorus, and his family was still there; 2 Timothy 4:19. When Paul was at Ephesus, it would seem that Onesiphorus had showed him great kindness. His affection for him did not change when he became a prisoner. True friendship, and especially that which is based on religion, will live in all the vicissitudes of fortune, whether we are in prosperity or adversity; whether in a home of plenty, or in a prison.
This chapter is full of interest, and may suggest many interesting reflections. We see:
(1) A holy man imprisoned and about to die. He had nearly finished his course, and had the prospect of soon departing.
(2) he was forsaken by his friends, and left to bear his sorrows alone. They on whom he might have relied, had left him; and to all his outward sufferings, there was added this, one of the keenest which his Master endured before him, that his friends forsook him, and left him to bear his sorrows alone.
(3) yet his mind is calm, and his faith in the gospel is unshaken. He expresses no regret that he had embraced the gospel; no sorrow that he had been so zealous in it as to bring these calamities upon himself. That gospel he still loves, and his great solicitude is, that his young friend may never shrink from avowing it, though it may call him also to pass through scenes of persecution and sorrow.
(4) in the general apostasy, the turning away of those on whom he might have relied, it is refreshing and interesting, to find mention made of one unshaken friend; 2 Timothy 1:16. He never swerved in his affections. He had been kind to him in former years of comparative honor, and he did not leave him now in the dark day of adversity. It is always interesting to find true friendship in this world - friendship that survives all reverses, and that is willing to manifest itself when the great mass turn coldly away. There is such a thing as friendship, and there is such a thing as religion, and when they meet and mingle in the same heart, the one strengthens the other; and then neither persecution, nor poverty, nor chains, will prevent our doing good to him who is in prison and is about to die; see the notes at 2 Timothy 4:16.