Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE APOSTLE'S AUTHORITY. "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ according to the commandment of God our Savior, and Christ Jesus, who is our Hope." The apostleship was his, not merely because he was called to it (Romans 1:1), or destined to it by the will of God (1 Corinthians 1:1), but according to express Divine commandment.
1. It was the commandment of God our Savior, evidently in allusion to the command of the Spirit at Antioch, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have appointed them" (Acts 13:2), but more distinctly to his earlier call (Acts 26:16), as "a vessel of election" (Acts 9:15), to preach the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles. As the things of the Father are the Son's, so the things of the Son are the Spirit's. Thus God - Father, Son, and Holy Ghost - gave him his original appointment. Thus the salvation would be seen to be of God's purpose and agency; for he is "God our Savior."
2. It was also the commandment of Christ Jesus, our Hope. Therefore his ordinary title is "an apostle of Jesus Christ." The aged apostle, in the near prospect of death, dwells on the thought of Christ as his one blessed hope. He is our Hope:
(1) as its Author;
(2) as its Object;
(3) as its Revealer;
(4) as its Procurer;
(5) but, above all, as its Substance and Foundation.
He is our very "Hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).
II. THE APOSTLE'S GREETING. "To Timothy, my true child in the faith."
1. His early life. Timothy was a native of Lycaonia in Asia Minor, probably of Lystra, one of its towns. His father was a pagan, his mother a pious Jewess, named Eunice, who trained him early in the principles of true religion. It is an interesting fact that the apostle's more intimate companions were Gentiles, or with Gentile blood in their veins - Timothy, Titus, Luke, and even Demas.
2. His relationship to the Apostle Paul.
(1) He was converted by the apostle.
(2) He was associated with the apostle during a longer range of time than any other disciple.
(3) He was an interesting disciple of the Lord.
(a) There was great personal affection between Timothy and Paul.
(b) There was "no one like minded" with Timothy who could be brought to take care of individual Churches.
(c) Timothy was a constant organ of personal communication between the apostle and individual Churches.
(d) He seems to have been of a soft and, perhaps, timid temperament.
(e) He was very abstemious in his habits (1 Timothy 5:23).
3. The salutation. "Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord."
(1) The blessings invoked upon Timothy.
(a) Grace - a fresh discovery of Divine favor, an increase of grace, a fuller enjoyment of the gifts of the Spirit.
(b) Mercy - a fresh application of the pardoning mercy of God in Christ. It occurs only here and in the Second Epistle to Timothy suggested, perhaps, by the nearness of his own death, and the increasing difficulties of his last days; for he hopes that Timothy may share in the mercy he has sought for himself.
(c) Peace - peace of conscience through the blood of Christ, so necessary "to keep heart and mind" in the midst of the perturbations and distractions of his service at Ephesus.
(2) The Source of these blessings. They spring alike from the Father and the Son - a proof of the coequal Godhead of the Son; for they are strictly Divine gifts. - T. C.
vain jangling in the sixth verse. Some had swerved, or literally turned aside, as an arrow that misses the mark. Paul speaks of "questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith." And there are questions mysterious, questions curious, which unregenerated hearts may discuss to the hindrance of true religion. This salutation of the young apostle begins, therefore, with a high spiritual tone: "Grace, mercy, peace."
I. WHO THE GIFTS WERE FROM. "God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord." But in the first verse Paul speaks of God as our Savior. Notice this; it is peculiar, and may keep us from confining ideas of pity and tenderness to Christ alone. God is the Author of salvation, He sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Here, then, we come to the Fountain-head of the river of grace. Paul cannot give grace, mercy, and peace; they are from "God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord." Paul was the ambassador of the gospel, not the author of it; a preacher, not a priest. The priest never dies, because proud human nature never dies. Men like to say," through us." In after years, when Paul was dead, there might have come some temptation to Timothy to say, "I derived my apostolate from, I stood next to, him." But a salutation is not a consecration.
II. WHAT ARE THE GIFTS THEMSELVES? Emphatically Christian gifts. The Roman motto would have been, "Courage, skill, force." The Athenian motto would have been, "Pleasure, beauty, philosophy."
1. Grace. God's favor. The beautiful Divine nature revealing itself on the cross as forgiveness, and in a life of tenderness, pity, and holiness to which the Christian is to be conformed. Grace forgives and grace renews. It is a large word. It carries at its heart all that we mean by moral loveliness and gracefulness. It is the fulfillment of the ancient prayer, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us."
2. Mercy. What a picture of cruelty we see in the Roman age, with its amphitheatres, its gladiators, its horrors on a Roman holiday, and its slave quarters! No hospitals for the sick, no asylums for the poor and needy. "Mercy." The cross meant mercy. The parables meant mercy. The prayer was fulfilled, "Lord, show us the Father."
3. Peace. The Jews had their disputations about eatings and drinkings and genealogies. Their Church was alive, only with vigorous disputation. The gospel meant true peace - peace, not of condition, but of conscience. Ever must it be so. Peace with God! Peace with our brethren! Peace within ourselves! So the Savior's legacy was realized: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." - W.M.S.
1. Sender. "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and Christ Jesus our Hope." It is usual for Paul to begin his letters by taking the designation
I. CONSIDER THE TENDER CARE WHICH THE APOSTLE TAKES OF THE EPHESIAN CHURCH, "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, so do I beseech thee now that thou charge some that they teach no other doctrine." As Timothy was with the apostle in his first journey through Macedonia (Acts 16:3, 12; Acts 20:3, 4), this must refer to a later journey, occurring after the first imprisonment at Rome.
1. Mark the affectionate style of his address - "I besought thee;" whereas to Titus he said, "I gave thee command" (Titus 1:5). Timothy received no authoritative injunction, but merely a tender request that he would prolong his stay so as to check the waywardness of false teachers who had risen to mar the simplicity of the gospel.
2. Mark the tendency of the purest Churches to be spoiled by false doctrine. The apostle had foretold the rise of a separatist party when he was addressing the elders of Ephesus at Miletus (Acts 20:29, 30). They may have been few - "some;" but if they were like "the grievous wolves" of the prediction, they might succeed in "drawing away disciples after them, speaking perverse things."
II. THE CHARGE WHICH THE APOSTLE GIVES TO BE ADDRESSED TO THE FALSE TEACHERS.
1. It was a charge that they should teach no doctrine different from the gospel. "That they teach no other doctrine."
(1) This implied that the apostle's doctrine was the true standard of teaching by which all other teaching was to be judged.
(2) There may have been no doctrinal heresy at Ephesus; but the teaching, being of a morbid, unedifying, speculative character, would tend to reduce the warmth of "the first love" of Ephesian saints, if not to lead to serious departures from the faith.
(3) Ministers must take special care that no false doctrines be broached in the Church of God.
2. It was a charge that the errorists should give no heed to fables and genealogies.
(1) Fables. Evidently rabbinical fables and fabrications in the regions of history and doctrine. The Talmud is full of them.
(2) Endless genealogies. The genealogies of the Pentateuch were actually made the foundation of allegorical interpretations by Jews like Philo, who largely influenced their countrymen. There may have been a disposition likewise, on the part of Jews, to establish their genealogical connection with Abraham, as if the bond of a physical relationship could add strength to that firmer bond which allies all to Abraham, whether they are Jews or Gentiles, who believe in Christ (Galatians 3:29).
3. Consider the ground upon which the apostle condemns this injurious teaching. "Inasmuch as they minister questions, rather than the dispensation of God which is in faith."
(1) The teaching was unprofitably disputatious. It ministered questions not easily answered, and which, if answered, had no practical bearing upon Christian life.
(2) It did not tend to promote the scheme of salvation as set forth by the apostles - "the dispensation of God which is in faith."
(b) This dispensation has its principle in kith; unlike the fables and genealogies, which might exercise the mind or the imagination, but not the heart. Faith is the sphere of action upon which the dispensation turns.
(3) The apostle's anxiety to check this false teaching at Ephesus had evidently two grounds.
(a) This rabbinical teaching, if allowed to enter into the training of Gentile congregations, would cause Christianity to shrink into the narrow limits of a mere Jewish sect. Judaism might thus become the grave of Christianity.
(b) It would despiritualize the Christian Church, and rob it of its "first love," and prepare the way to bitter apostasy. - T.C.
I. THE END OF THIS TEACHING IS LOVE.
1. The teaching, as opposed to "fables and genealogies," is of the nature of a solemn charge or practical exhortation. It is not
(1) the Mosaic Law, nor
(2) the evangelical law, but
(3) sound doctrine in its preceptive, and therefore practical form.
2. The end or aim of it is love. "The end of the charge is love." It is love to men, not to God; for the charge stands in contrast with "the questionings which minister strifes" (2 Timothy 2:23). Practical religious teaching has a tendency to unite men in love.
(1) It is hard to maintain brotherly love in presence of active differences of doctrine.
(2) It is impossible to edify without love; for "love edifieth" (1 Corinthians 8:1), as speculations and contentions cannot.
II. THE NATURE OF THE LOVE WHICH IS RELATED TO THIS GOSPEL CHARGE. It is "love out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." This is the threefold foundation on which it rests.
1. It springs out of a pure heart as its inward seat.
(1) Such a heart is purified by faith (Acts 15:9).
(2) Sprinkled from an evil conscience by the blood of Christ.
(3) Directed into the love of God (2 Thessalonians 3:5).
(4) Inclined to God's testimonies (Psalm 119:36).
(5) Therefore it is a heart pure from selfish desires, ignoble aims, and sinister policy.
The love springing from such a heart must be "without dissimulation;" for it is loving with a pure heart fervently.
2. It springs from a good conscience.
(1) Such a conscience is made good by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, which reconciles us to God. Thus we have the answer of a good conscience before God.
(2) It is purged from dead works to serve the living God.
(3) Therefore a man is enabled to keep a conscience void of offence toward God and man; to be true to his convictions of truth and duty, and to respond faithfully to every moral obligation. Love springing from such a source will have its actings wisely determined.
3. It springs from faith unfeigned.
(1) This is its true origin; for "faith worketh by love," and must therefore be in existence before love.
(2) It gives reality and power to love, because it is itself not the pretence of faith, but faith in real existence and power. There was thus a marked contrast with the life of the false teachers - corrupted in mind (1 Timothy 6:5), seared in conscience (1 Timothy 4:2), and "reprobate concerning the faith" (2 Timothy 3:8).
4. Mark the order of grace here followed. In the order of nature, faith must be placed first. The apostle follows the order of practical working. Furthest down in man's inner nature is the deep well of a purified heart; then the love, as it comes forth into exercise, must be arrested on its way by a good conscience, to receive restraint and regulation; then, to sustain the vigor of love in its continuous exercise, there must be faith unfeigned, grasping the promises of God, and in intimate relation to things not seen.
III. THE EVIL EFFECTS OF SWERVING FROM THIS THREEFOLD FOUNDATION OF LOVE. "From which things some having swerved have turned aside to vain talking.
1. The persons referred to had evidently belonged, if they did not still belong to, the Church at Ephesus. Timothy could not otherwise have exercised authority over them.
2. The swerve was moral in its nature, but it would have intellectual effects of an injurious character. How often does the heart determine the bias of the mind!
3. Its actual result was a persistent habit of vain talking. It was empty babbling, without sense or profit - about mere trifles, to the neglect of weightier matters of doctrine.
IV. THE PRESUMPTUOUS IGNORANCE OF THIS PARTY, "Desiring to be teachers of the Law, not understanding either what they say, or concerning what things they confidently affirm."
1. It is no new fact in life to find the least qualified the most ready to undertake the task of instruction. They were ignorant and unlearned men, who were only able to wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction.
2. Their ignorance was of the most unquestionable character; for they neither understood their own averments or arguments, as to their nature and drift, nor did they comprehend the things concerning which they were so ready to give their foolish but deliberate judgment.
(1) It is evident they did not reject and disparage the Mosaic Law, but rather exalted it by their interpretations.
(2) They were not mere Judaists such as the apostle contended with in Galatia and elsewhere; for they are not charged with any attempt, either to maintain the ancient customs or to bring in legal observances out of their proper place.
(3) They rather, as misunderstanding the true nature and design of the Law, tried to work up a compost of Judaic and Gnostic elements, which explained the Law according to the philosophic views of the East. Therefore their theology was marred by fanciful allegorizings of the Law, which eliminated its moral element, and thus robbed it of all power to touch the heart or conscience of men.
(4) The case in hand illustrates the progress of error in the Church. The incipient Gnosticism of Ephesus gradually developed into the more pronounced Gnosticism so pointedly condemned by the Apostle John in his First Epistle. - T.C.
truth, that it may be a life. It is not to be mere doctrine, or mere ritual. We may be fiery disputants without being faithful soldiers. We may even be workers in the vineyard, without the faith which worketh by love. Ecclesiasticism is not necessarily religion. There may be Church uniformity, Church harmony, and aesthetic ceremonial, and yet, so far as Divine life is concerned, there may be "no breath at all in the midst of it." Let us confine ourselves to the first word.
I. CHARITY IS HIGHER THAN UNIFORMITY. With Constantine Christianity meant uniformity, with Hildebrand it meant supremacy. But in its spirituality and simplicity the gospel remains the same in all ages. We are to live Christ; and to live Christ is to live in love, as Christ also loved us, and gave himself for us. Ecclesiasticism is often a system of severe outward drill, an obedience to outward rite and cult. So the Romish Church in Spain, centuries ago, forcibly converted the Moors by dashing holy water in their faces, and so admitted them into the communion of the Church. The gospel cannot be spread by a rough-and-ready "multitudinism" like that. It must begin in personal faith, and work in the spirit of love.
II. CHARITY FINDS ITS IMAGE IN GOD. We need not ask what this love is. For we have seen it incarnated in the words and deeds of the Christ, and in his sufferings for "our sakes" upon the cross.
1. It is not the selfish love which gives affection where it receives affection, and turns even a gift into barter and exchange.
2. It is not the costless love which will be an almoner of bounty where there is no personal self-denial and suffering; but it gives itself.
3. It is not the love of a passing mood, which ministers in affectionate ways in times of high-wrought emotion; but a love which is full of forbearance with our faults, and is triumphant over our faithlessness. So the end of the commandment is worthy of the God who gives the commandment. Like himself, it is charity. And we have reached the highest vision-point in Revelation, when we see in its sublime teachings, not were commandments which may be arbitrary, but an unfolding of the nature of God. - W.M.S.
I. THE HEART IS THE TESTING-PLACE OF WHAT WE LIKE. Here I would give emphasis to the fact that "the good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things." There must be passion in all true life. As Mr. Ruskin truly says, "The entire object of true education is to make people not merely do the right things, but enjoy the right things; not merely industrious, but to love industry; not merely learned, but to love learning; not merely pure, but to love purity; not merely just, but to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Taste is not only a part and index of morality; it is the only morality. The first and last and closest trial-question to any living creature is - What do you like? Tell me what you like, and I'll tell you what you are." Exactly! So says the gospel. "Out of the heart are the issues of life;" "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." This is a true teaching, and may open up a new view of moral and spiritual life to the thoughtful mind.
II. THE HEART IS THE REVEALING PART OF THE TRUE MAN. You must watch life in its temper and spirit at all times and in all places. You may be deceived by good actions. Men may build almshouses and yet live so as to break hearts; they may be courageous in confronting tyrannies abroad, and yet live impure lives in the indulgence of besetting sins. Think of this. Good actions do not make a good man; it is the good man that makes the good actions. A man may be beneficent and give thousands to hospitals, or brave and rescue drowning men from death, or patriotic and save a nation in perilous times, and yet he may not have the mind of Christ, and his heart may be unrenewed. "A pure heart." We all love pure things - the white marble, the rain-washed sky, the peerless alabaster, the silver wings of the dove. So Christ would have us all desire and seek the pure heart. - W.M.S.
conscience. We here come to the ethical region of rectitude, showing us how complete the gospel is, and how it stands related to the whole of our complex nature. We notice here the connection of "good" with conscience; let us see what it means. May there be another conscience that is not good?
I. THERE MAY BE THE CASUIST'S CONSCIENCE. We see this in the ease of the scribes and Pharisees in the time of our Lord. The simple instincts of justice and mercy were perverted by ecclesiastical routine, and the minutiae of legal ordinations. They overlaid the Law, which appealed to the native instincts of conscience, by their traditions, which did not so appeal, and which were burdensome and troublesome. So in Luther's time the consciences of men were in the keeping of the priests, and an artificial and Jesuitical morality made even immorality sometimes expedient and lawful. Men lost the native instincts of right and wrong in obedience to an artificial and ecclesiastical code of morals; they worried themselves about sins that were no sins, and they lost the consciousness that men may be sinners even when they are obedient sons of the Church.
II. THERE MAY BE THE WORLDLY CONSCIENCE. This makes custom into a god. Conscience is ruled and regulated by what is expedient, or what society expects of men. They are pained at the sin which brings shame before men, but are not disconcerted at desires, emotions, and actions which are evil in the sight of God. It is a wonderful interesting study this - the relation of society to sin. For there are fashionable vices and respectable sins which are heinous in the sight of God, but the conscience is at ease because the spirit of the age does not condemn them. How important, then, it is to keep conscience enlightened by the Word of God and invigorated by the Holy Ghost! The end of the commandment is in the best sense to make you a law unto yourself. It is important to have the Bible in our heads, but it is most important to have Christ enthroned in the tribunal of conscience within. - W.M.S.
love, the argument is this, that the faith which is to be worked by such a glorious inspiration of charity must be an honest, earnest, real faith.
I. WE MUST BELIEVE IN HUMANITY BEFORE WE CAN LOVE MEN. Believe, that is, that there is an ideal of God in every man; that underneath his depravity and degradation there is a moral nature which may be renewed, and a life which may be transfigured into the glory of Christ. For man's conscience was made to know the truth, his heart to feel it, and his will to be guided and energized by it. If we think of men cynically or contemptuously, then there will be no earnest efforts to save that which is lost.
II. WE MUST BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF CHRIST AND HIS CROSS, OR WE SHALL NOT BE ENTHUSIASTIC IN PREACHING THEM. No doubter can be a good preacher. Men know and feel the power of ardent faith. The arrow will miss the mark if the hand of the archer shakes, or distrusts its weapon. The one great element of success is unfeigned faith - a faith which says, "I believed, and therefore have I spoken." There may be a variable faith, like that of the Vicar of Bray's, which believed anything - Romanistic, Rationalistic, or Evangelical - for the sake of position. But the mask soon drops, anti men, instead of receiving the truth, despise the raise teacher. "We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God," is the essential basis of a true ministry. Such a faith will be touched with enthusiasm like unto his who said, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ Jesus our Lord."
III. WE MUST BELIEVE IN A VITAL SENSE SO AS TO LIVE OUR BELIEF. An unfeigned faith is one that we practice ourselves; one that fills every channel of our being - our ethical life, our philanthropies, our missionary endeavors, our home joys and sanctities. There is a faith which is merely dogmatic - which holds fast the Christian doctrines, but fails to translate them into life. The atonement itself, so august and awful, must ever stand alone as a Divine sacrifice; but its moral effect is to be lived. "We thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead; and that we who live should not henceforth live unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us and rose again." Faith is not to be a waxwork fruit - something artificial and unreal - but the living vine, of which Christ is the root. - W.M.S.
I. THE LAWFUL USE OF THE LAW. Scripture sets forth its design in plain language.
2. But it only brings us to Christ as it reveals to us our imperfections and our sins. "For by the Law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). It was, indeed, "added because of transgressions" (Galatians 3:19). The Law shows us our sinfulness, and drives us to the Savior. It thus "shuts us up to faith" (Galatians 3:23).
II. THE UNLAWFUL USE OF THE LAW.
1. To make it the occasion of endless logomachies - of vain talking, of "strivings about the Law."
2. To seek justification by obedience to its precepts.
3. To strive for the attainment of holiness by a use of the Law, interpreted, not in its plain sense, but with meanings imposed upon it by mystical allegorizings and theosophic culture. The errorists at Ephesus were no Pharisaic legalists or mere Judaists, but persons ignorant of the true nature and design of the Law; who abstained from things lawful and good, and were yet morally corrupt (Titus 1:10; Revelation 2:9, 14, 20, 24).
III. GROUND OF THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN ITS LAWFUL AND UNLAWFUL USE. "Knowing this, that the Law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless"
1. The Law is not made for a righteous man.
(1) This does not mean that a righteous man - that is, a man right with God, whose experience has made the principles of righteousness habitual with him - has no relation whatever to the Law.
(a) Because the Law had relation to
(α) Adam in innocence, who had the Law written in his heart;
(β) to Abraham, who was a righteous man;
(χ) to David, who was a righteous man;
(δ) and to all the Old Testament saints;
(ε) it had even relation to Jesus Christ himself,
(b) Because the Law has relation to believers under the Christian dispensation; for this very apostle enforces the obligation to obey it, specifying six of its enactments (Romans 13:8, 9; Ephesians 6:1). James says that believers who show respect of persons become "transgressors of the Law." Therefore, when the apostle says "the Law is not made for a righteous man," he does not mean that the righteous man is no longer bound to obey it. He delights in it; he actually serves it (Romans 7:25). If any should say that the apostle means that the righteous do not need the Law to direct them, we answer that they might as well say they do not need the Scripture to direct them, as the Law is already in their hearts. How is a righteous man to know sin but by the Law? "For by the Law is the knowledge of sin."
(2) His statement has an abstract cast, like our Lord's saying, "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
(a) The Law was not made because of righteous, but because of wicked, men. "It was added because of transgressions." It is similar to the statement of the apostle concerning the nine graces of the Spirit - "against such there is no Law" (Galatians 5:23). The Law does not, cannot condemn, any one of these graces.
(b) The Law was never made for the righteous man in the sense in which it was made for the unrighteous man, to condemn him; for the righteous man is redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13). Its penalty cannot affect him; its burden does not weigh him down; its terrors do not bring him into bondage. On the contrary, he delights in it as he serves it. Thus, while in one sense the righteous man delights in it and serves it, he is in another sense "not under the Law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14). It may be further observed that if Adam had continued in his original righteousness, the Law of Sinai would never have been given to man. "It was added because of transgressions."
2. The Law is made for the wicked. They are described according to the two tables of the Decalogue. Those in the first table go in pairs.
(1) The lawless and unruly. These terms describe opposition to the Law - the one in its more subjective, the other in its more objective side; the one representing, perhaps, a more passive, the other a more active hostility to Law.
(2) The ungodly and sinful. These terms describe the opposition to God - the one without reverence for him, the other living in defiance of him.
(3) The unholy and profane. These terms describe the manifestation of the wicked and godless spirit toward the Name or ordinances of God. They touch upon the violation of the first four commandments.
(4) Those in the second table in with
(a) sins against the fifth commandment: "smiters of fathers and smiters of mothers;"
(b) sins against the sixth: "man-slayers;"
(c) sins against the seventh: "fornicators, sodomites;"
(d) sins against the eighth: "men-stealers" - this special form of transgression being selected because the theft of a man himself is a far more serious offence than the theft of his goods;
(e) sins against the ninth: "for liars, for perjurers" - the one being a great advance in enormity upon the other.
(f) Strange that the apostle does not enumerate the tenth, which operated upon himself so powerfully (Romans 7:7). Perhaps it was designed by the inclusive reference no longer to the committers of sin, but to the sins themselves: "And if there be any other thing that is contrary to the sound instruction, according to the gospel of the glory of God which was committed to my trust." This language implies
(1) that the list is not designed to be exhaustive of the various forms of evil in the worm;
(2) that the Law and the gospel are in perfect harmony respecting what is sin;
(3) that the design of the gospel is to set forth the glory of God's mercy, goodness and love;
(4) that the gospel is a precious deposit committed to human hands, to be dispensed for the benefit of the race of man. The apostle did not shrink from such a solemn trust, but rather rejoiced in it. - T.C.
feeling alone, have wandered, being led by the ignis-fatuus of imagination alone.
I. PAUL SEES IN HIMSELF WHAT THE GOSPEL CAN DO. "Take me," he says; "I was before a persecutor, and injurious." What could account for such a change as is embodied in the man who from Saul became Paul? No theory of moral dynamics can stand, that suggests he lifted himself into so great a change. Neither could the Hebrew Church of that age, which was coldly ritual, sterile, and barren. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Christ Jesus might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." No man can be so ardent about a cure as he who has tried a physician; no man admires the great artist so much as he who has tested his own feeble powers. And now "what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son," had done, and done in Paul: he is a proof of the gospel before he becomes a preacher of it.
II. PAUL GIVES A NEW SIGNIFICANCE TO THE WORD "GLORY." On his lips glory takes a new meaning. He had seen the glories of the Caesars, who raised their thrones on hecatombs of human lives, and filled their courts with unbounded luxuries and lusts. Surrounded by soldiers and courtesans, their glory was in their shame. He had seen the glories of the architects, sculptors, and artists, at Athens, Corinth, and Rome. But the glory of which he spoke was in a life that gave itself - that came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and that on the cross died for the sins of the whole world. It was the glory of goodness, the glory of compassion, the glory of self-sacrifice.
III. PAUL REJOICES TO TELL THE GOOD NEWS OF THIS GLORY. It is the glorious gospel, or the glorious "good news" for all men - Greek and Jew, barbarian and Scythian, bond and free. How simple a thing it seems - "good news!" and yet it is speech that moves the world! Homer is remembered, when the military heroes of Greece are forgotten. Syncs live longer than thrones. This good news was of a Christ who had died, and risen, and was working then in the hearts of men. Paul lived long enough to plant Churches, and to show that the cross could turn men "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." He could show them not only the root, but the tree; not only the seed, but the flower. It was good news in relation to man himself - to his present history and his everlasting destiny. The gospel had made life desirable, and checked the false euthanasia of Roman suicide; and it had spread a great sky of immortality above men's heads, so that to live was Christ, and to die was gain. - W.M.S.
I. THIS IS A DESCRIPTION OF THE DIVINE NATURE. Not of some of the attributes of that nature, but of the very heart and center of it. Not the Omnipotent, the Omnipresent, the Omniscient; but the Blessed! Look at nature! Study its purity, its harmony, its exquisite adaptations of provision and plenty to the varied wants of all living things, show that God is not a Being of mere power or wisdom, but One whose works are very good, One who wished his creatures to share in his own blessedness.
1. Look at his revelation. Do we want beatitudes? Duty turned to joy? We find the way of peace and rest and joy in obedience to his will.
2. Look at the Christ himself. Blessed within, amid all outward forms of temptation and all endurances of trial. "That my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full."
3. Look at the cross. Designed to make atonement, to reconcile man to God, and so to renew his image within, and to make man understand that separation from God was the root-cause of all his misery. The gospel is not only a revelation of doctrine; it is an unfolding of the Divine nature, into which we may be changed "from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
II. THIS IS THE UNIQUE REVELATION OF THE GOSPEL. False religions give prominence to aspects of power, and merge into dreads. The gospel alone shows that God is Love. And in revealing the blessed nature of God in his Son, it has shown us that evil is misery because it is another nature. Life apart from God is death - death to peace, purity, harmony, holiness. Men have in their experience testified to this. All is vanity apart from him. Over all life may be inscribed, "Nihil sine Deo" - "Nothing without God." So Christ would lead us to the Father, unite us with the Father, and transform us into the likeness of the Father - One who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. - W.M.S.
I. THE GOSPEL IS OURS IN TRUST. Water is sweet, but others are perishing with thirst. The open sky is beautiful, but others are in prison. Peace is restful, but others are in pain. What do you think in earthly matters of fraudulent or neglectful trustees? You rank them amongst the very worst of men. How ninny sons and daughters of the careful and. the prudent have been ruined through the long years by negligent trustees!
II. THE GOSPEL AFFECTS ALL TRUSTEESHIPS. Its spirit is to pervade all that we have and are. Men are coming to see that knowledge, skill, wealth, are not only to be enjoyed for personal gratification, but to be used for the uplifting and bettering of others. These will, and always must be, "our own;" but we are to look also "on the things of others." Do not fence in the park of your life, but act the steward of its beauties and its joys. Rights of possession there are, and yet responsibilities of possession too. Look at Christ.
1. He knew the secret of blessedness, and came to earth to reveal it.
2. He knew the grandeur of human nature, and came to live in it and to restore it.
3. He knew the mastery that evil had over us, and he came to break the fetters.
4. He knew that sin separated us from God, and he came to die, "the just for the unjust, to bring us unto God." Our captains at sea are guardians of life, and bravely do they do their duty. Our soldiers are trustees of a nation's honor, and never have failed in the great crises of her life. And our great citizen-fellowships are trustees of broad rivers, open commons, and the health and well-being of the poor, and have striven to protect their interests. As Christians we are each and all trustees of the gospel. It is no mere ecclesiastical privilege; for, alas! ecclesiastics have too often been trustees only of their own rights, or the rights of their special Churches. We are all trustees of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and woe be to any of us who shirk our responsibilities or idly neglect our trust! - W.M.S.
I. THE SUBJECT-MATTER OF HIS THANKSGIVING. "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, that enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to the ministry."
1. The Lord gave him strength for his work. "He enabled me." He gave him all his intellectual abilities, all his capacity for winning men to the truth, all his firmness, endurance, and patience in preaching the gospel.
2. The Lord gave him his appoint-melt to the ministry.
(1) The apostle did not thrust himself into it, nor take this honor to himself, neither was he called unto it by men.
(2) It was the Lord himself who made a minister of him; for the apostle speaks of "the ministry which I received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). The ministry here signifies the more humble service, rather than the apostleship; for he refers rather to the work to be done than to the prerogatives of his office.
(3) The Lord counted him faithful for the work; not that the faithfulness was a foreseen quality which became the ground of his call to office, but that he counted him faithful because he made him so, for he speaks of himself as" one who hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful" (1 Corinthians 7:25). Faithfulness must be the pre-eminent quality of the steward of God (1 Corinthians 4:2).
II. HIS THANKSGIVING IS GREATLY ENHANCED BY THE THOUGHT OF HIS DEEP UNWORTHINESS. "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and a doer of outrage." These are words of bitter self-accusation.
1. He had been a blasphemer. He spoke evil himself of the Name of Jesus, and compelled others to follow his example (Acts 26:11). This was the highest sin that could be committed against God.
2. He had been a persecutor. "I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women" (Acts 22:4). He "breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1). He not only spoke evil of Christ, but persecuted Christ in his members.
3. He had been a doer of outrage. Not content merely with reproachful words, he broke out into deeds of violence. His conduct was contumelious and injurious in the last degree. - T.C.
I. THANKFULNESS FOR BEING APPOINTED BY CHRIST TO HIS SERVICE. "I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his service." At the close of the eleventh verse Paul brings in his relation to the gospel of the glory of the happy God. It was a trust committed to him, i.e. it was made his great business to convey the message of happiness to his fellow-men. And as He was made responsible, so also He was empowered. He was not sent a warfare on his own charges. He was supplied with all that was necessary for the discharge of the duties connected with the trust. And so he cannot refrain from turning aside for a little, to pour forth his soul in gratitude to him who empowered him as he also gave him the trust, even Christ Jesus our Lord, the great Head of the Church, from whom proceed all ministerial appointments and all ministerial qualifications. What called forth his gratitude was, that Christ reposed confidence in him in appointing him to his service. He saw that he was one who could be used and trusted for the furtherance of the gospel; and so he gave him the appointment and the qualifications. To be assured of this as Paul was is great joy. How thankful ministers should be, if they have some evidence, in their own earnestness and in the fruits of their ministry, that they have not mistaken their calling!
II. THE CONSIDERATION OF HIS PREVIOUS LIFE. "Though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief." The gratitude of the apostle was enhanced by the consideration of his persecuting career. He was before a blasphemer, his evil speaking being directed against the Name of Jesus of Nazareth. He was also a persecutor even in this respect, that he compelled others to blaspheme. And he rose to the full conception of a persecutor in the tyrannical way in which he went about the work of' persecution. At this stage of his life he was far removed from being the minister of Christ. But though he showed no mercy, he obtained mercy. There was this to be said for him, that what he did against Christ he did ignorantly. He acted under an erroneous impression. It was not that he knew Christ to be the Son of God, and hated him for his Divine credentials, especially because he manifested the Divine goodness. But he was carried away by zeal for the Jewish religion, which, he thought, was greatly endangered by the triumphs of Christianity. He was thus not in the most direct, most deliberate way, against Christ. And, so far as he was not throwing away the most sacred convictions, he was within the pale of mercy. He was within the scope of the Savior's intercession from the throne, if we are to regard it as conformed to his intercession from the cross, which was in these words: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" - words which are echoed by Peter in his address to the Jews, "And now, brethren, I wet that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers." It was in a state of unbelief that he was ignorant. This implied that he had not followed his lights as others had followed theirs, not greater than his. He had been directed away from Christianity by confidence in his own righteousness. And be had given way to the disposition, so natural to the depraved heart, to make a tyrannical use of power. He was, therefore, most culpable, standing in need of repentance and forgiveness, as Peter went on to impress on the Jews in the address just referred to: "Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."
III. GRACE ABOUNDING EXCEEDINGLY. "And the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." In Romans 5. Paul says of sin that it abounded; here the same word is used of grace, with an addition to it which gives it the force of a superlative. He labors to express the stretch of grace which our Lord had to make toward him when he, a guilty persecutor, was saved. His salvation was accompanied by the two graces, faith and love. From being a disbeliever in Christianity he became a humble believer in it, even preaching the faith of which formerly he made havoc. From having the spirit of the persecutor he came to have the spirit of the Christian, forgiving those who persecuted him, and seeking to subdue men, not by force, but by the power of Christian truth and example. It is said of this love that it is in Christ Jesus - subsisting in him, and determined in its outgoings by him. We can understand that his own experience of salvation had to do with his eminence as a minister of Christ. It filled him with deep personal gratitude to his Savior. It urged him to labor, so as to take revenge on himself for the evil he had done. It fitted him for sympathizing with others in such condition as that in which he had been. And it enabled him the better to understand the sweet gentle spirit of the religion of Christ, that he could contrast it with his own unlovely persecuting zeal.
IV. THE GOSPEL THROUGH WHICH GRACE OPERATED.
1. Reliableness of the gospel. "Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation." When our Epistle was written, this was one of the sayings that passed as proverbs in Christian circles. This profatory formula is peculiar to the pastoral Epistles. The first clause, which occurs five times, points to the certitude of the gospel. The would-be teachers of the Law - apparently Essenes - dealt in fables for which there was no ground of certainty, and in genealogies or namings of intermediate agencies, which only ministered disputings as to the names. The apostle regards the gospel as the embodiment of certainty. Venturing our immortal souls upon the truth of this saying, it will not prove a myth, but a glorious reality. The second clause, which occurs twice, points to the saying as worthy of a universal welcome. Let all men lay hold upon it as an essentially good saying - good for the whole nature; it is only the reception it deserves.
2. Particular form in which the gospel is presented. "That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." This is the gospel in all simplicity, to which the aged apostle cleaves. The Anointed of God for salvation said of himself, "I came out from the Father, and am come into the world." The world is to be understood in the physical sense; it is the earth, however, not in the purity of the conception, but the earth as it has become the congenial abode for sinners. It could not be said of Christ when he was here, that this was his original or congenial abode. He came into the world, he came from a pure world, from the Father, and that meant a world of highest purity. And what drew him to this world, with all its uncongeniality? Jesus, the Name which he has made his own, the Name which is above every name, points to his nature as love. It is of the nature of love to find a congenial outlet in saving. But whom on this earth did Christ come to save? Men who were wronged, upon whom superhuman powers were causelessly inflicting tortures? Did he come to assert their innocence against their strong oppressors? No; men who were in the wrong themselves, who were wrongers of God, and were the causes of their own misery. It was sinners that drew the Savior down to earth. He longed to save them from their misery, from themselves as the guilty causes of their misery, from their sinful habits and associations, and to make them pure as the heaven from which he came. In saving sinners, he had to suffer from sinners, in his purity coming into contact with their impurity, and exposing him to their hate. He had especially to suffer in the room of sinners, in all the loneliness of a pure, perfect life, treading the wine-press of the Divine wrath against sin.
3. Individualization of the gospel. "Of whom I am chief." He was not at the head of sinners in this sense, that at one time he had reached a point beyond which sinning could not go in heinousness. He had not committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. He had not sinned like Judas, in close neighborhood to Christ and in clear impression of his Divinity. He had never been, in sinning, beyond the pale of mercy. Neither was he in the position to compare himself with all who had obtained mercy, and to say infallibly that he was the greatest of them all. But he was at the head of sinners in his sense of his own utter unworthiness apart from Christ. That unworthiness he viewed chiefly, we may say, in the lurid light of his persecuting career. It was so complete a self-revelation, that he could not keep it from coming up before his imagination when he thought of sell. But this self-revelation was not all before his conversion. He knew how self was ever seeking to mingle with all he did. In the whole discovery, then, of what he was apart from Christ, as one for whom the gospel was intended, he could say in all truthfulness of feeling, and with no decrease of truthfulness as he advanced in the Christian life, but rather an increase, that he was at the head of the class of sinners.
V. ENCOURAGEMENT TO SINNERS. "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his long-suffering, for an ensample of them which should hereafter believe on him unto eternal life." There was a fitness in Paul as chief in obtaining mercy also coming at an early period in the history of the Christian Church, for the sake of future generations. He was a typical illustration in what happened in his case of the fullness of the long-suffering of Christ. For the first thirty years of his life he was going in the wrong direction altogether. As he drew near the end of that period he seemed far enough away from believing, in the active violent part he took against Christ. But Christ did not, as he could have done, make his hostility to recoil upon his own head. But he treated him magnanimously, as one who is conscious of pure intention and forgiving love can do his foe. He treated him without haste, giving him space for experience, for thinking about the Divine dealing, and for seeing his error. And, in the end, Paul was subdued into believing, to the praise of the long-suffering of Christ. Whoever thinks he is far enough away from believing, in resistance to the Divine leadings, in hostility offered to Christ, Paul would have him to be encouraged by his example to believe on Christ, the certain end, of this believing being eternal life, or possession, up to our capacity, of the blessedness of the Divine life.
VI. DOXOLOGY. "Now unto the King eternal, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." The apostle concludes his personal digression with a doxology which is unique in its character, and, we may be sure, appropriate. God is styled, as he is nowhere else in the Scriptures, literally "King of the ages," i.e. Sovereign Controller of the vast periods under which centuries and millenniums are included. Outside of them himself in his absolute eternity, he sways all that takes place in them. He can be long-suffering as he is in Christ; he does not need to be in haste, having the ages in which to work out his purposes. He is also styled "incorruptible," as he is also in Romans 1:23; and "invisible," as he is in Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 2:27. There is great difficulty in all religions in rising above gross notions of God. As a pure Spirit there is denied of him the corruptibility and visibility which pertain to our corporeal nature. There is not, therefore, permitted a corporeal representation, or any image of him, as tending to degrade our conception of him. He is further styled "the only God," as in 1 Timothy 6:15 he is styled "the only Potentate." This seems to be chiefly directed against the Essene religion, which invested their intermediate agents with Divine powers of creation. To God, as thus exalted, is ascribed, with a fullness of expression, honor and glory (as in Revelation 5:13) to the ages of ages over which the Divine existence extends. - R.F.
I. THE LORD'S MERCY TO HIM. "I obtained mercy."
1. The mercy included the pardon of his great wickedness. It was mercy unsought for as well as unmerited.
2. It was mercy with the grace of apostleship added to it.
II. THE GROUND AND REASON OF THIS MERCY. "Because I did it ignorantly in unbelief."
1. The true ground of mercy is nothing whatever in man, but the compassion of God himself (Titus 3:5).
2. The apostle does not signify that he had any claim to God's mercy, for he calls himself in the next verse "the very chief of sinners."
3. He does not mean to lessen the enormity of his guilt, but sets it forth, in all its attending circumstances, as not being such as excluded him from the pale of mercy, because he had not sinned against his own convictions.
(1) He did it ignorantly; but ignorance was no excuse where there were the means of knowledge; and unbelief, out of which the ignorance springing could not be accepted as an excuse, since he had heard the statement of Stephen. Besides, all sins spring from ignorance, and are aggravated by unbelief.
(2) But he did not sin willfully against light and conscience, and so commit the sin against the Holy Ghost.
(3) He who has compassion on the ignorant had compassion upon him, when he found him an ignorant and blinded zealot. Thus were confirmed the words of Christ, that every sin against the Son of man will be forgiven, so long as there is no blasphemy against the Spirit (Matthew 12:31). The apostle had not deliberately set at naught the counsel of God, but stood on exactly the same ground with those sinners converted at Pentecost, who had acted "in ignorance" (Acts 3:17). The sin was great in both cases, but it was not unpardonable.
(4) There is nothing in the apostle's statement to justify the opinion that those who have never heard of Christ will be forgiven on account of their ignorance. Our Lord's words warrant the expectation that there will be a mitigation, but not a remission, of punishment in such cases. "He that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes" (Luke 12:48). The language in both passages justifies charitable judgments even respecting persecutors. - T.C.
I. THE MERCY OF THE LORD OVERFLOWED IN GRACE ON GOD'S SIDE. "But the grace of our Lord super-abounded." His salvation was of free grace. He had done nothing to deserve it, but rather everything to forfeit his claim upon it. It was grace first that made him a Christian, and then made him an apostle.
II. THE MERCY OF THE LORD OVERFLOWED IN FAITH AND LOVE ON MAN'S SIDE. "With faith and love that are in Christ Jesus."
1. These two graces are the fruits of grace. When grace abounds, they will necessarily abound.
2. Faith stands in opposition to his old unbelief. It is that grace which receives every blessing from Christ, and gives him all the glory, bringing peace, joy, and comfort into the heart, and ending in eternal life.
3. Love stands in opposition to his former rage and cruelty. He now has love to God and man.
4. His faith and love find their true spring in Jesus Christ, as in him all fullness dwells. - T.C.
I. THE TRUTH AND CERTAINTY OF THE GOSPEL REVELATION. "Faithful is the Word, and worthy of all acceptation." Five times does this phrase occur in the pastoral Epistles. It was a sort of formula or watchword of the early Christian Churches.
1. The doctrine of salvation is entitled to all credit. It is certain that Christ came to save sinners.
2. It is to be received by all sorts of people, with heartiness and gladness, as a doctrine suitable to the necessities of all men. With what zeal it ought, therefore, to be set before men!
II. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE GOSPEL REVELATION. "That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."
1. This language implies Christ's pre-existence. He left the glory which he had with the Father before the world was (John 16:28).
2. It implies that he came voluntarily of his own free will. It is true that God's love is manifest in the sending of Jesus, but Christ's love is equally manifest in his advent. It was necessary that he should come into the world, because he could not otherwise suffer and die in our stead. The fact that he came as man in the fullness of time implies that the mere forth-putting of spiritual power from heaven did not suffice. A man's work had to be done that God's mercy might reach us.
3. It suggests the true design of his coming. "To save sinners."
(1) This implies the revelation of God's will to man.
(2) The impetration of salvation through Christ's suffering and obedience.
(3) The application of the salvation to the objects of it.
(4) That sinners need salvation, and are lost without it.
(5) That the greatest sinners have no right to despair of salvation - "of whom I am chief."
(a) The apostle speaks of himself in the present tense, not in the past, for he still feels himself to be but a believing sinner.
(b) The language recalls his frequent allusions to his persecutions of the Church of God. God had forgiven him, but he could never forgive himself. He places himself in the very front rank of transgressors because of his share in the devastation of the Church.
(c) The language implies his deep humility. It was an element in his spiritual greatness that he had such a sense of his own sin. He calls himself elsewhere "less than the least of all saints" (Ephesians 3:8).
(d) It is well to be mindful of our sin in a way of godly sorrow, as a means of keeping us humble and thankful for the rich grace of the gospel dispensed to us. - T.C.
I. THE EXERCISE OF THE LORD'S LONG-SUFFERING TOWARD THE APOSTLE. "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy."
1. The mercy takes the form of long-suffering; for the Lord bore long with the ways of this fierce persecutor of the saints, when he might have cut his career short in judgment.
2. It took the form of positive deliverance from guilt and sin and death. How often "the long-suffering of the Lord is to usward salvation" (2 Peter 3:9)!
II. THE DESIGN OF THIS REMARKABLE EXHIBITION OF MERCY. "That in me as the chief Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting."
1. The long-suffering is exercised by the Lord himself. It is he who is wounded in the persecutions of his members. "Saul, Saul! why persecutest thou me?" Yet it is he who shows mercy.
2. The greatest persecutors may not despair of mercy. The Lord will tarry long with them if peradventure they may repent and turn to him.
3. The case of Paul - "the chief of sinners - ought to encourage sinners of every class and sort to exercise hope and trust in the Lord, as well as to meet the misgivings of those who think they have sinned too much to warrant the expectation that the Lord will have mercy upon them.
4. Trust in Jesus Christ necessarily brings with it eternal life. There is nothing needed but faith for this purpose. He that hath the Son hath life."
III. ASCRIPTION OF PRAISE AND THANKFULNESS TO GOD FOR HIS MERCY.
1. Consider the titles by which God is addressed. "Now to the King of the ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God."
(1) He is King of the ages, as his kingdom is called the kingdom of all the ages (Psalm 145:13); because as God, knowing the end from the beginning, he fixes the periods or stages of the development through which this world is destined to pass, shaping all events according to his pleasure, and making all things work together for good to them that love him.
(2) Incorruptible; because "he only hath immortality" (1 Timothy 6:16).
(3) Invisible; for no man hath seen him at any time, as he dwells in light inaccessible.
(4) The only God; in opposition to the false gods of the heathen, or to the multitudes of angels and principalities and powers.
2. Consider the doxology. "Unto him be honor and glory for ever and ever."
(1) They already belong to him alone.
(2) They will belong to him to all eternity.
(3) The thought of the overruling wisdom and. mercy and goodness of God in his case leads to this devout acknowledgment. - T.C.
I. IT IS NECESSARY FOR EVEN GOOD MINISTERS TO BE REMINDED OF THEIR DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES. "This charge I commit to thee, my son Timothy."
1. The charge may have indirectly alluded to the commands already given, but refers immediately to the good warfare in which he is to war as the fulfillment of his calling.
2. It is committed to him like a precious deposit to be guarded and kept. How anxious the apostle is that Timothy should be faithful to his position and his responsibilities!
II. IT IS A SOLEMN THING TO INVOKE THE MEMORY OF PROPHECIES OR PIOUS ANTICIPATIONS IN AID OF A DIFFICULT CAREER. "According to the prophecies that went before on thee, that by them thou mightest war a good warfare."
1. The allusion is to prophecies uttered probably at his ordination by the prophets of the Church, foretelling his future zeal and success. Such prophetic intimations were not uncommon in the primitive Church. We trace them at Jerusalem (Acts 11:27, 28), at Antioch (Acts 13:1), at Corinth (1 Corinthians 14.), at Caesarea (Acts 21:8-10).
2. Such prophecies would act with a stimulating, self-protective power upon a temperament like that of Timothy, inclined, perhaps, to softness and timidity. They would encourage him in the midst of his present perils and trials at Ephesus.
3. It is a serious thing to disappoint the hopes of the pious.
III. THE PURPOSE CONTEMPLATED BY THE COMMAND AS WELL AS ITS IMMEDIATE SUBJECT. "That by them" - that is, in virtue of them - "thou mightest war a good warfare." The figure is a familiar one with the apostle (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4; 2 Timothy 2:3).
1. Christian life, and above all that of a minister, is a good warfare.
(1) It is good because it is against evil - the world, the flesh, and the devil;
(2) because it is directed toward the good of men;
(3) because it is for a good end, the glory of God.
2. It is to be carried on
(1) under Christ as Captain (Hebrews 2:10);
(3) with an enduring hardness (2 Timothy 2:3, 10);
(4) with self-denial (1 Corinthians 9:25-27);
(5) with prayer (Ephesians 6:18).
IV. THE WEAPONS IN THIS WARFARE ARE FAITH AND A GOOD CONSCIENCE. "Holding faith and a good conscience. The two must go together, but faith must necessarily go first. You cannot have a good conscience without faith, nor faith in its reality without a good conscience. There must be faith in your teaching, conscience in your actions.
1. Faith. There is "the shield of faith." It is not the mere doctrine of faith, but the grace of faith. It is by this faith we overcome
(1) the world (1 John 5:4, 5);
(2) the flesh (Galatians 5:24);
(3) the devil (1 John 2:14);
(4) everything that exalts itself (2 Corinthians 10:5);
(5) death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54, 55).
A mere intellectual belief could not produce such results; for "the devils believe and tremble."
2. A good conscience.
(1) It is good because it is sprinkled with the blood of Christ (Hebrews 9:14).
(2) Because it helps to keep the faith in purity (1 Timothy 3:9).
(3) Christians ought to seek the approval of their consciences in all things (Acts 24:16).
(5) Ministers ought always to commend themselves to the consciences of their people (2 Corinthians 4:2).
V. THE WOEFUL SHIPWRECK OF CONSCIENCE. "Which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck." The figure is a nautical one. When the cargo or ballast of a good conscience is tossed overboard, the ship becomes unmanageable, and is easily shipwrecked. "Some" at Ephesus resolutely stifled the admonitions of conscience, and thus turned faith into a mere matter of speculation, with no influence whatever upon their practice.
1. These persons made shipwreck of the doctrine of faith; for they held that the resurrection is past already (2 Timothy 2:18).
2. If they made shipwreck of the grace of faith, it may not have been a total shipwreck; for the discipline imposed upon them by the apostle was for the saving of the spirit, "not for the destruction of the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:5).
3. The apostle's method of dealing with these off riders. "Of whom are Hymeaeus trod Alexander; whom I delivered unto Satan, that they may be taught not to blaspheme."
(1) Hymenaeus was almost certainly the same as the impugner of a future resurrection (2 Timothy 2:17); and Alexander was probably, but not so certainly, the same as Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14), who was a resolute personal enemy of the apostle.
(2) The apostle delivered them unto Satan, which seems to have included
(a) a solemn excommunication from the Church, carried out no doubt by the Church at the apostle's command; and
(b) the infliction of bodily disease. Cases of the exercise of this terrible apostolic power are those of Ananias and Sapphira, Elymas, and the incestuous person at Corinth.
(3) It was not an irrevocable sentence, for its remission depended upon the return of the offenders to faith and. repentance. "That they may be taught through chastisement not to blaspheme." The design was the recovery of the offenders; but neither this Epistle nor the next throws any light upon the ultimate effect of the severe discipline inflicted by the apostle. - T.C.
1. The charge. "This charge I commit unto thee, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that by them thou mayest war the good warfare; holding faith and a good conscience." The reference seems back to ver. 3, which, though distant, is the only charge which has been defined, viz. the charge laid on Timothy, that he should charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine, neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies. This involved his coming into contact with these men, and so there is naturally introduced the idea of warfare, He was to embrace his opportunity in Ephesus of warring the good warfare. "Knighthood" is Luther's word, the suggestion being the whole service in war that is required of a good Christian knight, such as he would wish the youthful Timothy to be. It is the good warfare; for it is not mere romance, but a warfare against all forms of sin - a warfare in the Name of the Savior and with his gospel, and a warfare which has the promise of success. To call forth the knightly qualities in Timothy, Paul calls up the prophecies which went before on him. These were founded on the good hopes which he awakened in good men, when first he began to show his qualities; he must not disappoint these good hopes. As prophecies, or uttered under the inspiration of the Spirit prior to or at his introduction into office, they were to be taken as a Divine indication that he was being put to his proper work. They would also, we may believe, point to the hard work which, as a good knight, he would not fear to face. Thus using the prophecies, they would be a Divine assistance to him; they would be as amour in which he was clad. Especially, however, with a view to what is to follow, would the apostle impress on him the importance of holding faith and a good conscience. Prophecies, expressions of good opinion, are only useful in so far as they help us to lay hold by faith upon the great Source of strength, in whom alone we can show all knightly activity and endurance. They are also useful, only if we do not allow them to seduce us to part with a good conscience, our better self - that inward monitor that from moment to moment points to us our duty, and in whose approval we can feel that we have the approval of God.
2. Warning. "Which some having thrust from them made shipwreck concerning the faith: of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I delivered unto Satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme." For Timothy's warning, Paul points to the heretics. Instead of holding faith and a good conscience, these thrust away from them the latter, as men, with a certain violence, put away something that is disagreeable. Their truest friend they thrust aside, as they would a troublesome creditor. The result was, that they made shipwreck of their faith. Throwing away all that was needed to direct them, all that served as chart, compass, rudder, they made shipwreck of themselves concerning faith in Christ, thus coming short of eternal life. How disastrous, especially for those who seemed to make a fair start in the voyage of life! The teaching of the apostle is suggestive regarding the causes of heresy. "As unbelief nearly always leads to grosser or more refined immorality, so not rarely it begins from an immoral ground, at least when faith existed before (Romans 1:21). This is a deep mental truth; for it is far too common to represent faith or infidelity as a matter of abstract opinion." Earnestness in life leads to correct opinion (John 7:17), whereas moral indifference makes it for Our interest to doubt. Heresies have a secret moral genesis which will one day be made plain. Two notable heretics are mentioned here - Hymenaeus and Alexander. In 2 Timothy 2:17 Hymenaeus is associated with Philetus in this, that their teaching did eat like a cancer. He and Alexander (not the coppersmith of 2 Timothy 4:14) are here referred to as having been delivered unto Satan. This seems strong language to us who have nothing to impress us in the shape of such apostolic discipline in our time. It is properly regarded as "a form of Christian excommunication, declaring the person to be reduced to the state of a heathen, accompanied with the authoritative infliction of bodily disease or death." In this case the infliction of punishment was with a view to reformation. There was nothing to hinder their being received back into the Christian Church. Their probation was not at an end; there was reason for further dealing, and what was suitable to their case was the hard. dealing here referred to. Better that men should be excommunicated - with which power the Church is still invested - better that men should have disease sent upon them, than that they should remain in a state of religious indifference or be spreaders of error. - R.F.
vice, and folly. Paul associated loss of character with loss of faith. "Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having lint away have made shipwreck."
I. SHIPWRECK SOMETIMES COMES AT THE VERY COMMENCEMENT OF THE VOYAGE. The ship scarcely leaves the river before she runs aground. There has been too much self-confidence, and the Divine Pilot has not had the ship in hand.
II. SHIPWRECK SOMETIMES COMES AT THE CLOSE OF THE VOYAGE, when the ship is almost home; when from the masthead land was almost in sight. But the watch has not been kept. In the voyage of life we may have the cross on the flag, and the chart in the cabin, and the compass on the deck; but we sleep, as do others, and we are wrecked with the land almost in sight.
III. SHIPWRECK AFFECTS THE VERY HIGHEST ELEMENTS OF OUR BEING. "A good conscience," the sweetest meal to which ever a man sat down! The sublimest music, which no Beethoven or Mendelssohn can approach! The noblest heritage that a Moses could sacrifice Egypt for! A conscience cleansed by Christ's blood, enlightened by the Word of God, and quickened by the Holy Ghost. "A good conscience!" Wealth cannot purchase it, envy cannot steal it, poverty cannot harm it, and naught but sin can denude it of its crown. It is the strength of the confessor's endurance, the luster of the sufferer's countenance, the peace of the martyr's heart. "A good conscience." Wreck that, and all is lost; and the sun of the moral firmament sets in darkness. - W.M.S.