Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE ORIGIN AND DESIGN OF THE APOSTLESHIP. "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God."
1. He was an apostle.
(1) Not by the will of man, even of other apostles.
(2) Nor by his own will; for he did not take this honour upon himself.
(3) Nor was it owing to his personal merits; for he always speaks of it as "the grace of apostleship."
(4) He was an apostle by the will of God, whose "chosen vessel" he was for this purpose.
2. The design of his apostleship was "according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus. Its design was to make known this promise.
(1) It was life eternal;
(2) promised in Christ Jesus, because
(a) it was promised before the world began" (Titus 1:2);
(b) in Christ, who is the Prince of life, who procured it, who applies it by his Spirit.
II. THE PERSON ADDRESSED. "To Timothy, my beloved son." Not, as in the former Epistle, "my true son," but a son specially dear to him in view of the approaching severance of the earthly tie that bound them together.
III. THE GREETING. "Grace, mercy, and peace." (See homiletical hints on 1 Timothy 1:2.) - T.C.
death when St. Paul wrote this Epistle. Beneath all the gaieties of Roman civilization there was decay of morals, and corruption of the inner life. Suicide, as we have seen, was common in Rome, and men, tired of themselves, and disbelieving alike in present or in future joy, put an end to their earthly existence. St. Paul was now enduring his second imprisonment at Rome. In the year A.D. the great conflagration, for which that master of crime, Nero, was responsible, took place, burning half the city. He falsely charged his own crime on the Christians, some of whom were covered with the skins of beasts and thrown to the dogs; some were covered with inflammable materials, and burnt as human torches, which illuminated the gardens; while the bestial Nero drove abroad in his chariot, and indulged his base delight in the carnival of fire and blood. St. Paul, knowing his own end to be near at hand, in a city where his second imprisonment had become much more severe than the first one had been, had now no opportunity of preaching, as he did under the milder treatment he was subjected to before, and gives this second charge to Timothy, whom he exhorts to be courageous and earnest in the defence and proclamation of a faith which the imprisoned apostle could proclaim no more.
I. THE PROMISE OF LIFE IS SPOKEN OF AS THE REVELATION OF CHRIST. It is in Christ Jesus. That is to say, we as believers have in vital union with him, the pledge and promise of immortality. No power of earth or hell could touch that life. St. Paul feared not those who could kill the body, and after that had no more that they could do. He knew that the life within no sword or flame could slay, and he rejoices in the triumph of faith in Christ.
II. THE PROMISE OF LIFE IS SPOKEN OF AS A DEVELOPING POWER. It was a promise, an earnest, of the inheritance. He was yet to have life more abundantly. He looked forward to a time when his environment would be heavenly in its atmosphere, and ever without the blight of sin or the blastings of temptation, he should enjoy the fruition of life at God's right hand forevermore. - W.M.S.
the promise of the gospel, which like a rainbow spans our sky in this dark world. It is the promise by preeminence; for its object is life, which is a name for all that can be needed here, or manifested under better conditions. It is a promise which has actually secured sure footing in Christ Jesus, being the realization of the sure mercies of David. But, in order that this promise may become the means of life to men, it must be proclaimed; and this points to the employment of an instrumentality by God. It was according to the promise in this view that Paul was employed as an apostle. It is further to be observed that his true child in the First Epistle is here his beloved child. If the one points to the possession of his spirit, the other points to the love that is properly founded on it. Good past to be followed by a good future.
1. Personal association in giving thanks. "I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers in a pure conscience." He implies that Judaism was the forerunner of Christianity, and lays claim to the possession of a godly ancestry. The pure conscience (notwithstanding Acts 23:1) is not to be absolutely applied to his whole life. He did turn aside from the godly direction in an unenlightened and culpable resistance to Christianity as seeming to threaten the existence of his inherited and beloved Judaism. But in the Christian position which he had so long maintained, as he had been indebted to godly forefathers, so he had preserved the godly continuity in his family. It is in view of what he has to say about Timothy that he makes this pleasing and interesting reference to his forefathers.
2. Feelings toward Timothy in giving thanks for him. "How unceasing is my remembrance of thee in my supplications, night and day longing to see thee, remembering thy tears, that I may be filled with joy." Always in the underground of the apostle's consciousness, the thought of his beloved Timothy came up uninterruptedly at his times of devotion. Every night and morning he felt the spell - so tender was this strong man's heart - of the tears shed by Timothy at their parting; and the desire rose within him that he might be filled with the joy of another meeting.
3. Matter for thanksgiving in Timothy's faith which was hereditary. "Having been reminded of the unfeigned faith that is in thee; which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and, I am persuaded, in thee also." Something had come to the apostle's knowledge which reminded him of the reality of Timothy's faith. It was not feigned faith, that fails under trial. The apostle thinks of it as a kind of heirloom in the family. He could go back himself to two ancestresses of his in whom it dwelt. There was first Lois, his grandmother, who, we can believe, besides being godly according to the Jewish type, was before her end a Christian believer. She had to do with her daughter Eunice becoming a Christian believer. We are told of Eunice, in Acts 16:1, that she was a Jewess who believed, while her husband was a Gentile. She in turn had to do with her son becoming a Christian believer. The apostle had all the greater confidence in the reality, and also vitality, of Timothy's faith that (apart from Jewish influences of a godly nature) he was a Christian believer of the third generation. We have the promise that God will keep covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations. God's intention is that godly and Christian influence should be transmitted. He made one generation to follow another, proceeded on a principle of succession and not of contemporaneousness, that he might thereby have a godly seed (Malachi 2:15). The best established Christians are among those who are of a godly stock. Therefore let the godly upbringing of the young be attended to. At the same time, let those who have had the advantage of a godly upbringing see that they are not left behind by those who have been reclaimed from ungodly society.
1. Timothy is to stir up his gift. "For the which cause I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee through the laying on of my hands." Paul is an adept at exhortation. Timothy, from the memory of Lois and Eunice, must catch fire. Nay, he had a personal association with Timothy, in having laid hands on him at his ordination. On that ground he can call upon him to stir up the gift then received, viz. the ministerial gift. Let him be true to his duties as a minister of Christ.
2. Confirmatory reason pointing to special exhortation. "For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline." Let him stir himself up against cowardice to which, as persecuted, he was exposed, and by this consideration that the imparted spirit in its amplitude excludes cowardice. It is a spirit of power. God has no jealousy of us; he wishes to be served with our strength and not with our weakness. It is a spirit of love; warmth of feeling, and not coldness, God would put into our service. It is a spirit of discipline. So far as this is to be distinguished from the other two words, it points to the guidance of reason. God wishes to be served, not with our ignorance, but with our well disciplined thoughts. With more power in our wills, with more glow in our affections, with more reason in our thoughts, we shall not cower before opposition.
3. Timothy is called upon to be specially on his guard against false shame. "Be not ashamed therefore of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but suffer hardship with the gospel." "Shame attends fear; when fear is conquered false shame takes flight" (Bengel). He had no reason for being ashamed on account of his association with the Lord to whom he testified. Neither had he reason for being ashamed on account of his association with Paul, who was not the Lord's servant, but, more honourably (Galatians 6:17), the Lord's prisoner, i.e. by the will of Christ, more than by the will of Caesar - a prisoner, the disposal of him extending to the time, and all the circumstances, of his imprisonment. To suffer hardship with the gospel involves an unusual collocation of person and thing. It is usual to interpret the hardship as being suffered with Paul for the gospel. But as the thought requires the fixing of the attention, not on the second, but on both of the preceding clauses, it is better to leave indefinite with whom he is associated in suffering hardship.
4. Reason against false shame in the power of God. "According to the power of God." The idea is that we should be free from shame in suffering for the gospel, according to the power on which we have to rely.
(1) It is a saving power. "Who saved us, and called us with a holy calling." Power has already been displayed toward us in salvation, which we can think of as completed outside of us. It has also been operative within us, in our being called. When our unwillingness to accept of salvation was broken down, then we were called of God. It was with a holy calling that we were called, and it belongs to it as holy that we should be above shame in connection with Christ's cause. The power that has already been displayed toward us is all in the direction of our being saved from this shame.
(2) It is a free power. "Not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal." It is a power that is not determined in its exercise by our works or deservings. It was according to his own purpose, i.e. not from outward occasion, but arising in the depths of his own being. It was according to a purpose of grace, i.e. in which sinners, or the undeserving, were contemplated as in need. It was according to a purpose of grace in Christ Jesus, i.e. in which there was a looking to human merit only as in Christ. It was according to a purpose of grace before times eternal, i.e. long before man could have to do with it. Being a power so entirely pending on God, we can have confidence that it will go out, in the freest, most gracious manner, toward us.
(3) It is a glorious power. "But hath now been manifested by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought light and incorruption to light through the gospel." Hidden in God in eternity, it was for a time partially manifested. The time of its full manifestation corresponded with the appearing of Christ, which was also the medium of the manifestation. This is the only place in the New Testament in which the appearing is to be identified with the Incarnation, or the whole of Christ's appearance in flesh. That appearing was as one of the weak things of the world. Especially did Christ seem to be the very impersonation of weakness when he was on the cross. And yet this was the grandest display of power, confounding the mighty; for it is here said that by this appearing he abolished death. He appeared in flesh, and endured death in all its reality, and, by doing so, he has made it no longer a reality to his people. He has made it of none effect. He has made it so that it cannot tyrannize over them. And, though they have to endure death, it is not as a token of God's displeasure, but as his wise and good arrangement, and introduction into a state from which death is forever excluded. The positive side of the benefit derived from the appearing is presented under a slightly different aspect. It is regarded as presented in the gospel. And as death is a dark power, so the gospel is a light-giving power. What it has brought to light is of the utmost consequence. It is life, and life with the superlative quality of imperishableness. Under heathenism men had no right conception of life. Even with all the help that philosophy could give them, the meaning of life was dark to them. The gospel has shown it to consist in the favour of God, and the quickening of all our faculties under the breath of his Spirit. But specially are we to think of life in its imperishableness. We know that, to the heathen generally, the future was an absolute blank. A few of them had glimmerings, not of a resurrection, but of the survival of the thinking part, with some reward for the good. The gospel has brought immortality into the full clear light. It has given us the certainty of our existence after death. It, moreover, holds out before us the prospect of a life that is to be spent, without intermission or end, in the sunshine of God's love, with ever increased quickening of all our powers - a life in which there will be a reunion of soul and body, of which already we have the earnest in the resurrection of Christ. It is our great privilege that we live under this light of the gospel. It is the imperishableness of the life of God that is here begun that has power to nerve the soul, even to martyrdom.
5. Reason against false shame in the example of the apostle.
(1) Suffering connected with his office. "Whereunto I was appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher. For the which cause I suffer also these things." As in 1 Timothy 2:8, he takes a threefold designation of office. As preacher or herald, it was his duty to cry aloud. As apostle, he was specially invested with authority. As teacher, he had to go among the Gentiles. It was a glad. message in relation to which he exercised his office, and it should have brought him many a welcome. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!" But it brought him many a rebuff, and much outward disgrace; for at this time he was suffering his second imprisonment in Rome, and was nearing his martyrdom.
(2) Triumph over shame. "Yet I am not ashamed." The apostle does not exhort Timothy without setting him an example. It was no small matter to him to be counted by men only worthy of imprisonment, and, very soon, of death. But he was so much impressed with the supreme importance of the gospel, that he heeded not the shame.
(3) Its personal assurance. Its strength. "For I know him whom I have believed." As he is here speaking of his being a prisoner, we naturally take the reference to be to him whose prisoner in the eighth verse he declared himself to be, viz. the Lord. He had lived a life of faith on Christ; and he could speak confidently, from his own experience of him. Not I think I know him, but, as one would speak of a friend whom he has long and intimately lived with, I know him. Without experience we cannot have the assurance that excludes doubt. Only when we have tried Christ, and found him sufficient for us in all positions of life, can we rise above the language of hesitation. Its well supported nature. "And I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day." What is guarded is literally my deposit, and, as in the thirteenth verse "deposit" is something committed to Timothy, so some would think here of something committed to Paul, viz. his stewardship. But, as the guardian is also naturally the holder, we naturally think of something committed by Paul to Christ; and what was that but his interest, his stake in the future world, dependent on his faithfulness in this? How did Paul know that it would not turn out a blank, or be much diminished by future failure? The explanation was that he had put it into Christ's hands, and he trusted in him being able to guard it for him against that day, viz. the day of judgment, when it would become irreversibly, gloriously his, being as it were handed back to him by Christ. One who has this well grounded assurance can meet death even triumphantly.
6. Timothy is further called upon to attend specially to his orthodoxy.
(1) The pattern. "Hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." There is a form of sound words, i.e. there is a correct expression of truth which is to be coveted, because on this depends the healthfulness of the life. To this form Paul had shaped his preaching. He had not indulged in logomachies, or private speculations, or adaptations to other systems, but he had kept himself, as a well disciplined thinker, to a plain, rational, forcible statement, and urging of what he believed to be necessary for the salvation of souls. Timothy was familiar with his truthful and healthful style; let it be the pattern to which he disciplined his thoughts and his preaching. He could only hold the pattern in the Christian element of faith and love.
(2) The good deposit. "That good thing which was committed unto thee guard through the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us." This is the same thing under a different aspect, viz. the talent of the catholic faith, which a preacher has to guard. It is good, has vast blessings connected with it; therefore it is not to be neglected, it is to be kept from all mischances. The preacher must pray, think, use the help of the rule of faith, practise himself. But all his keeping, to be of any avail, must be allowing the Holy Ghost to keep, who is not far to seek, but is an Indweller in our souls. "So he giveth his beloved sleep," delivers him from the consuming restlessness which would haunt him, if the keeping simply depended on himself. - R.F.
I. THE APOSTLE'S AFFECTIONATE INTEREST IN HIS YOUNG DISCIPLE. "I give thanks to God, whom I serve from my forefathers in a pure conscience, as unceasing is the remembrance I have of thee in my prayers night and day; greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy."
1. The apostle begins all Epistles with the language of thanksgiving. God is the Object of thanksgiving, both as God of nature and as God of grace, and there is no blessing we have received that ought not to be thankfully acknowledged.
2. It is allowable for a good man to take pleasure in the thought of a consistently conscientious career. His service of God was according to the principles and feelings he inherited from his ancestors "in a pure conscience" (Acts 23:1; Acts 24:14).
3. Ministers ought to be much engaged in prayer for one another so as to strengthen each other's hands.
4. The thought of approaching death makes us long to see the friends who have been most endeared to us in life.
(1) The apostle remembered Timothy's sorrow at their last parting.
(2) Though he had commanded him before to stay at Ephesus, he now desired to see him, because he was alone in prison, with Luke as his only companion.
(3) The sight of Timothy in Rome would fill him with joy beyond that imparted by all the other friends and companions of his apostolic life.
II. THE APOSTLE'S THANKSGIVING FOR TIMOTHY'S FAITH. "Being put in remembrance of the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that also in thee."
1. The quality of this faith. "Unfeigned." Timothy was "an Israelite indeed," who believed with the heart unto righteousness, his faith working by love to God and man, and accompanied by good works.
2. its permanent character. "It dwelt in him." Faith is an abiding grace; Christ, who is its Author, is also its Finisher; and salvation is inseparably connected with it.
3. The subjects of this faith. "First in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice."
(1) Lois was his grandmother by the mother's side, for his father was a Greek; and Eunice, his mother, was probably converted at Lystra, at no great distance from Tarsus, the native city of the apostle (Acts 16:1; Acts 14:6).
(a) It is pleasant to see faith transmitted through three generations. It is sin, and not grace, that is easily transmitted by blood. But when we are "born, not of blood, but of God," we have reason to be thankful, like the apostle, for such a display of rich family mercy.
(b) We see here the advantages of a pious education, for it was from the persons named he obtained in his youth that knowledge of the Scriptures which made him wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).
(c) How often Christian mothers have given remarkable sons to the ministry of God's Church! (Augustine and Monica.)
(2) Timothy was himself a subject of this faith. He did not break off the happy continuity of grace in his family, but worthily perpetuated the best type of ancestral piety. - T.C.
I. IT WAS A CLEANSED CONSCIENCE, AND SO PURE. St. Paul is never weary of preaching the great doctrine of the atonement - that we are redeemed and renewed through the precious blood of Christ; and he rejoices to know that the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth from all sin.
II. IT WAS AN OBEYED CONSCIENCE, AND SO PURE. We have to consider that the conscience may speak truly and authoritatively, and be enlightened by the truth, and yet we may not obey the truth; for duty may be recognized as duty, and yet not discharged as such. Conscience may not be pure as regards the question of accountability.
III. IT WAS FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT, AND SO PURE. "The Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us" is an expression of St. Paul's; and only so far as we have the "indwelling of the Spirit" in thought, imagination, conscience, and desire, can we be said to be pure within. - W.M.S.
I. HERE IS ALREADY AN HISTORIC PEDIGREE OF CHRISTIAN PEOPLE. The gospel had been long enough in the world to have a history in families. We find three generations here. The grandmother Lois, the mother Eunice, and "thee also."
II. HERE IS THE TRUE SPIRIT OF THE GOSPEL MANIFESTED. Unfeigned faith, or undissembled faith. No mere creed. No mere appearance of piety, in that age men of education despised the pagan faiths which they yet professed to believe. They kept up their actual adherence to heathen worship because of custom or family tradition, or because they believed religion in some sort to be the protective police of society, without which there would be revolution. This unfeigned faith was the faith of conviction - the faith that so believed in the risen Christ that it could endure persecution and suffer loss, and live or die for the sake of Christ, with the sure hope of eternal life. - W.M.S.
I. THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS POSSESSED BY TIMOTHY. "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance to stir up the gift of God which is in thee by means of the laying on of my hands."
1. He refers to the special gift received by Timothy with a view to his niece as an evangelist. It was not anything either natural or acquired, but something bestowed by the Spirit of God which would fit him for teaching and ruling the Church of God.
2. It was conferred by the hands of the apostle along with the presbytery (1 Timothy 4:14).
II. THE NECESSITY OF STIRRING UP THIS SPIRITUAL GIFT.
1. It is possible there may have been some slackness or decline of power on Timothy's part, arising from various causes of discouragement, to make this injunction necessary.
2. The gift was to be stirred up by reading, meditations, and prayer, so that he might be enabled, with fresh zeal, to reform the abuses of the Church and endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. - T.C.
create a gospel, but to preach one. The facts and doctrines were matters of revelation, and Timothy had the humbler task of expanding and applying them. All through his gospel was to be that of the faith once delivered to the saints.
I. REMEMBRANCE IS NEEDED. Why? Memory is liable to slumber and to sleep. Do we mourn over this fact, and ask why this precious faculty was not stronger? Consider! Could you live in peace or joy at all, if all your sorrows and bereavements kept their clear details before your mind? No; their harrowing spectacles would deaden all the springs of life, and crush the heart. If those past griefs preserved their fulness life would be unendurable. There is a beautiful side, therefore, even to forgetfulness. Memory may slumber, but it does not die. It may be awakened and quickened for high and noble ends. Thus all Christians need to be "put in remembrance," that they may hold fast the Word of life.
II. REMEMBRANCE IS COMPREHENSIVE. There are many springs to be touched. We become proud, and need to remember, as the Hebrews did, that we "were slaves." We become self-dependent, and need to be reminded that "without Christ we can do nothing." We become so interested in life that we try to make "home" here, and forget that we are pilgrims and strangers. We become negligent, and forget that responsibility is great and time is short. - W.M.S.
ἀναζωπυρεῖν) the fire!" There may be fuel - even of God's Word - but all fires die out unless from time to time they are stirred up.
I. THE FARE WAS THERE. His heart's altar fire had been lighted. It had descended as a Divine flame from on high. But in the best of men there is danger of absence of watchfulness, for, like the light on the Jewish altar, the fire is not to die out night nor day.
II. THERE WERE MANY ENEMIES WHO WOULD QUENCH THE FIRE. The Judaizing teachers would have put out the true gospel light, by turning the gospel into a merely refined Judaism. The world would quench it, as it did the faith of Demas. And there is in us all the danger of spiritual slumber, which leaves the fire to die out by indolence and sloth. Therefore by meditation, by prayer, and by earnest endeavour, by admiration and emulation of heroic lives, we must "stir up the fire" that is in us. - W.M.S.
I. NEGATIVELY. "For God did not give us the spirit of cowardice."
1. This refers to the time of the ordination of Timothy and of the apostle. Courage is an essential qualification for ministers of the gospel.
2. Cowardice is unworthy of those who have received the gospel in trust. The fear of man has a very wide dominion, but those who fear God ought to know no other fear.
(1) This fear tends to unworthy compliances.
(2) Trust in God is a preservation from fear (Psalm 27:1).
(3) Our Lord exhorts us strongly against such fear (John 14:27).
II. POSITIVELY. "But of power, and of love, and of self-control."
1. The spirit of power, as opposed to the weakness of cowardice; for the servants of Christ are fortified against persecutions and reproaches, are enabled to endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ, and to quit themselves like men.
2. The spirit of love. This will make them earnest in their care for souls, indefatigable in labours, fearless in the midst of trying exigencies, and self-sacrificing in love.
3. The spirit of self-control. This will enable the servant of Christ to keep his whole being in subjection to the Lord, apart from all the solicitations of the world, and to regulate life with a due regard to its duties, its labours, and its cares. - T.C.
I. THE MINISTER OF GOD MUST NOT BE ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL. "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me his prisoner."
1. The testimony of the Lord is that borne concerning his doctrine, sufferings, and death; in a word, the gospel itself.
2. No Christian can be ashamed of a gospel of such power, so true, so gracious, so useful.
3. No Christian can be ashamed of its confessors. The apostle was a prisoner at Rome for its sake, not for crime of any sort. The gospel then laboured under an immense load of pagan prejudice, and Timothy needed to be reminded of his obligations to sympathize with its greatest expounder.
II. THE MINISTER OF GOD MUST SHARE IN THE AFFLICTIONS OF THE GOSPEL. "But be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God."
1. Though it is a gospel of peace, it brings a sword wherever it goes, and involves its preachers in tribulations arising out of the perverseness of men who thwart and despise it.
2. We ought to suffer hardship for the gospel, by the consideration that the God who has saved us with such a strong hand is able to succour us under all our afflictions. - T.C.
I. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE POWER OF GOD HAS BEEN DISPLAYED TOWARD US. "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."
1. The power of God has been displayed toward us in salvation. God is the Author of salvation in its most comprehensive sense, as including both its impetration and its application. The salvation may be said to precede the calling, as
(1) it has its origin in the "purpose of God,"
(2) as Christ has procured it by his death.
2. It has been displayed in our calling.
(1) The call is the act of the Father (Galatians 1:6).
(2) It is a "holy calling,"
(a) as its Author is holy;
(b) it is a call to holiness;
(c) the called are enabled to live holy lives.
3. The principle or condition of our salvation. "Not according to our works."
(1) Negatively. Works are not
(a) the moving cause of it, which is the love and favour of God (John 3:16);
(b) nor are they the procuring cause, which is the obedience and death of Christ (Romans 3:21-26);
(c) nor do they help in the application of salvation; for works done before our calling are not good, being without fairly; and works done after it are the fruits of our calling, and therefore not the cause of it.
(2) Positively. "But according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ before the world began." Salvation has thus a double aspect.
(a) It is "according to the purpose of God." It is a gift from eternity; for it was "before the world began," and therefore it was not dependent upon man's works.
(b) It is according to "his grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Though those to whom it was given were not in existence, they existed in Christ as the covenant Head and Representative of his people. They were chosen in him (Ephesians 1:4).
II. THE MANIFESTATION OF THIS PURPOSE AND GRACE IN THE INCARNATION AND WORK OF CHRIST. "But manifested now by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ."
1. The nature of this manifestation. It included
(1) the Incarnation; for the Son of God appeared in the fulness of time to make known the "mystery hid from ages," even himself - "the Hope of glory" - to both Jew and Gentile;
(2) the work of Christ, in the obedience of his life and the suffering of his death - in a word, the whole work of redemption.
2. The effects of this manifestation. "Who abolished death, and brought to light life and incorruptibility by means of the gospel."
(1) Its action upon death. It has abolished or made it of none effect. Death is regarded both in its physical and its ethical aspects.
(a) In its physical aspects, Christ has
(b) In its ethical aspects, as working through a law of sin and death, Christ has caused us "to pass from death unto life" in regeneration (1 John 3:14), and secured us from "the second death" (Revelation 2:11).
(2) Its revelation of life and incorruptibility.
(a) Life here is the true life, over which death has no power - the new and blessed life of the Spirit. This was, in a sense, known to the Old Testament saints; but Christ exhibited it, in its resurrection aspect, after he rose from the dead. It was in virtue of his resurrection, indeed, that the saints of the old economy had life at all. But they did not see it as we see it.
(c) The means of this revelation is the gospel, which makes this life perfectly known to men, as to its nature, as to the way into it, as to the persons for whom it is prepared or designed.
III. THE CONNECTION OF THE APOSTLE WITH THIS REVELATION OF LIFE. "For which I was appointed a herald and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles." He rehearses his titles of dignity at the very time that he points to them as entailing suffering upon him. - T.C.
I. HIS APOSTLESHIP WAS THE CAUSE OF HIS SUFFERINGS. "For which cause I also am suffering these things" - imprisonment, solitude, the hatred of Jew and Gentile. He estranged the Jews by preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, and he offended the Gentiles by denouncing their idolatries and undermining their lucrative superstitions.
II. HE OWNS NO SHAME IN THE GOSPEL. It may be an offence to the Greek and a stumbling block to the Jew; but he is not ashamed of it, because he is not ashamed:
1. Of its Author.
2. Of its truths and ordinances.
3. Of his own faith in it.
4. Of his sufferings for it.
III. THE REASON WHY HE IS NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL. "For I know whom. I have trusted, and am persuaded that he is able to keep my deposit till that day."
1. He knows his Redeemer through faith and love and experience. It is "eternal life" to know him (John 17:3). It is not that he merely knows of him, but he knows him - what he is, what he can do, what he has promised to do - and therefore he can trust him.
2. His trust is in a known Person.
(1) The apostle would have been very foolish to trust an unknown person. We distrust strangers. We will only entrust that which is dear to us - our children or our money - to those known to us.
(2) There are foolish people who think it a wiser, as well as a more meritorious thing, to believe without knowledge; like the Spanish Jesuit who said, "I believe in this doctrine, not in spite of its impossibility, but because it is impossible." The apostle held a very different view.
(3) There are some people of whom we may say that the mere they are known the less are they trusted. A fuller experience discovers flaws in their character forbidding confidence. But our Saviour is One who is trusted the more he is known, in all the various circumstances of human life.
3. The apostle has placed his soul, as a precious deposit, in the hands of Christ, with the assurance of its perfect safety. "I am persuaded that he is able to keep my deposit till that day." Several circumstances enhance the significance of this act of the apostle.
(1) The value of the deposit. What can be more precious than the soul? (Mark 8:37).
(2) The danger of its loss. The soul is a lost thing, and but for grace eternally so.
(3) The sinner feels the deposit is not safe with himself. Man cannot, any more than man's brother, save his own soul.
(4) Who will take charge of this deposit? Many shrink from responsibility in cases of a difficult and delicate nature. But Jesus Christ has undertaken for us; he will take us completely in charge; he will keep our deposit till the day of judgment.
(5) Mark the limit of time as to the safety of the deposit - "till that day." No day short of that - not even the day of death; for the completed glory is reserved for the day of judgment. That will be the day for the bestowal of the crown of life.
4. Mark the assurance of the apostle as to the safety of his deposit. "I am persuaded that he is able to keep my deposit." This shows
(1) that assurance is a possible attainment (1 John 5:13);
(2) that it is a cheering and sustaining experience. - T.C.
I. THIS INJUNCTION IMPLIES THAT THE DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL HAD BEEN ALREADY MOULDED INTO A CERTAIN SHAPE OR SYSTEM WHICH WAS EASILY GRASPED BY THE POPULAR MIND. As necessity arose, there was a restatement, in a new form, of the faith once professed so as to neutralize false theories. Thus the Apostle John recast the doctrine of Christ's manifestation in the world in his Epistles. There are other examples of such restatement. As errorists often seduce by an adroit use of words, it becomes necessary to have "a pattern of sound words," not merely as a witness for the truth, but as a protest against error. Timothy was in this case to adhere to the form of what he had heard from the apostle, and received with such "faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
II. THE USE OF SUCH A FORM.
1. It was a centre of doctrinal unity to the Church.
2. It exhibited the truth in a consistent light to the world.
3. It afforded a rallying point in the conflict with systems of error.
4. It tended to spiritual stability. - T.C.
I. THERE IS A SYSTEM OF TRUTH DEPOSITED IN THE HANDS OF THE CHURCH. "That good deposit keep through the Holy Ghost who dwelleth in us."
1. The truth is not discovered by the Church, but deposited in its keeping. This is the significance of the words of Jude, when he speaks of "the faith once delivered to the saints." That is
(1) "the faith" - a system of gospel doctrines recognized by the Church at large;
(2) "delivered," not discovered or elaborated out of the Christian consciousness;
(3) "once" delivered, in reference to the point of time when the revelation was made by inspired men;
(4) deposited in the hands of men - "to the saints" - as trustees, for its safe keeping. It is "a good deposit;" good in its Author, its matter, its results, its end.
II. IT IS THE DUTY OF MINISTERS AND MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH TO KEEP THIS DEPOSIT.
1. They ought to do it, because it is a commanded duty.
2. Because it is for the Church's edification, safety, and stability.
3. Because it is for the glory of God.
4. They cannot do it except in the power of "the Holy Ghost who dwelleth in us.
(1) Because he leads us into all truth;
(2) because he by the truth builds up the Church as a habitation of God;"
(3) because he gives the insight and the courage by which believers are enabled to reject the adulterations and mixtures of false systems. - T.C.
I. THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF HIS LOSS. "All who are in Asia turned away from me."
1. As to its nature. It was not a repudiation of Christianity. It was a desertion of the apostle himself, either through fear of persecution, or through a repudiation of his catholic ideas on behalf of the Gentiles. The Christian Jews seem everywhere to have forsaken him. In one of his prison-letters he can only name two or three Jews who were a comfort to him in the gospel (Colossians 4:11).
2. As to its extent. The Asiatic desertion may have probably taken place in Rome itself, probably at a time when his life, and that of all Christians, was threatened by Nero; probably at the time referred to in the end of this Epistle, when he could say, "No man stood by me; all men forsook me." Those who would identify themselves with the apostle of the Gentiles at such a time would probably be Gentiles rather than Jews. Thus the number of the deserters might not be great. If the desertion took place in Asia Minor, it would only suggest a widespread falling away from the aged prisoner at Rome, but not from the gospel. The apostle singles out two persons quite unknown to us - "Phygelus and Hermogenes" - as the ringleaders of this movement. The fact that so few names are mentioned tends to reduce the extent of the sad misfortune.
II. THE EFFECT OF THIS DESERTION. The apostle does not dwell upon it, but rather dismisses the deserters in a single sentence. Yet:
1. It would be a severe trial to the faith of the aged apostle in his dying days. The desertion of friends is always a sore trial, but when the friendship is cemented by religion, its intensity is peculiarly enhanced.
2. The apostle refers to it with the view of stimulating Timothy to still greater courage in the cause of the gospel. - T.C.
I. PHYGELUS AND HERMOGENES. "This thou knowest, that all that are in Asia turned away from me; of whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes." The defection here referred to was from Paul and his interests. It extended to all that were in Asia, i.e. all Asiatics who at one time had been attached to the apostle, and whose attachment was put to the test when in Rome during his imprisonment. It was to have been expected of them that they would have found their way to his dungeon; but, as if they had put it to themselves whether they would go or not, they chose the latter alternative. They turned away from him. They probably found some excuse in the pressure of business; but in the real character of their action it was turning their back on the imprisoned apostle. In this not very numerous class Phygelus and Hermogenes are singled out for notice, probably because they had showed the greatest unbrotherliness. We know nothing more of them than is mentioned here. It has been their destiny to be handed down to posterity as men who acted an unworthy part toward a noble man in his extremity. They did not know that such an evil immortality was to attach to their action; but their action was on that account only the more free. Let all our actions be upright and generous; for we do not know by which of them we shall be known among men. This defection is referred to Timothy as being within his knowledge; for by their example he was to be deterred from cowardice, and his bravery was to be all the greater that these men were cowards.
II. ONESIPHORUS. There is a distinction observed between the house of Onesiphorus and Onesiphorus himself. With regard to the house of Onesiphorus they are objects of present interest. Blessings are invoked upon them in the sixteenth verse, to the manifest exclusion of Oncsiphorus himself. At the close of the Epistle the same thing is observable: "Salute the house of Onesiphorus." With regard to Onesiphorus himself, nothing is said about his present: the past tense is used of him, and a wish is expressed about his future. It may, therefore, be regarded as certain that Onesiphorus was dead.
1. Interest in departed friends shown in kindness to beloved ones left behind. "The Lord grant mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus." There are around us the three circles of lovers, friends, acquaintances (Psalm 88:18). Our love to the innermost circle is to be most intense, which it can be without interfering with our love to the second circle of friends. The proper cultivation of our affections in our homes will the better qualify us for loving our friends. There is an absence of reserve, and openness to influence, in friendship, which makes it, when properly based, a great blessing. There are duties which we owe to our friends when they are with us, and our duties do not end with their death. Onesiphorus had been the friend of Paul, and, now that he is gone, the large-hearted apostle, in writing to Timothy from his dungeon, breathes a prayer on behalf of the house of Onesiphorus. The Lord, i.e. Jesus Christ, the great Overseer of the Churches, and Appointer for the several households of which the Churches are composed, grant them mercy. They were objects of sympathy, in being deprived of their earthly head on whom it devolved to provide for them, to assist and counsel especially the beginners in life. The Lord mercifully make up for them what they had lost. Would this prayer return from heaven unanswered? Would not this kindly remembrance of them, read in their desolate home, bring good cheer to their hearts, and be an influence for good in all their future life? Would it not also be the means of raising up friends for them?
2. Interest in the living founded on the past kindness of the dead. "For he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but, when he was in Rome, he sought me diligently, and found me." This was after his first answer, apparently during his second imprisonment, when awaiting his second answer. Paul leaned very much on human sympathy. On one occasion he said, "The Lord that comforteth them that are cast down, comforted me by the coming of Titus." So the Lord refreshed him by those visits of Onesiphorus. This friend was true to his name; he was a real help bringer - bringer of comfort and strength to the great warrior whose battles were nearly over. He was a helper in presence of difficulties. He was not ashamed of his chain, i.e. braved all the dangers connected with his being regarded as the prisoner's friend. There was difficulty of access to him, such as there had not been during the first imprisonment, when he had his own hired house, and received all that came to him; but Onesiphorus sought him all the more diligently that he knew of his unbefriended condition, and overcame all official hindrances. In the strange working of providence, Onesiphorus came to his end before Paul, but his good deeds lived after him, and caused him to be remembered by Paul, and in that form which, had he been conscious of what was taking place on earth, would have been most pleasing to Onesiphorus. And this was not to be wondered at. Onesiphorus loved his home circle - this is an element in the case; but it did not absorb all his attention. He had a place in his heart for friends, and was ready to render them services. And this was acting more truly for the interests of his loved ones than if he had selfishly confined his attention to them. For when he was gone - taken away at a time when he was greatly needed by his children - there were those who were their well wishers for the father's sake. There was the missionary, by whom there had been so much benefit, invoking his blessing on them. The psalmist says, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." And this can be explained without bringing in a special miracle. Indeed, the psalmist so explains it in the following verse: "He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed." That is to say, by his good deeds when he is alive, he raises up friends for his children when he is dead.
3. Interest in departed friends shown in pious wishes with respect to their future. "The Lord grant unto him to find mercy of the Lord in that day." The following is to be noted as the teaching of Luther: "We have no command from God to pray for the dead, and therefore no one can sin who does not pray for them. For in what God has neither commanded nor forbidden, no man can sin. Yet because God has not granted us to know the state of the soul, and we must be uncertain about it, thou dost not sin that thou prayest for the dead, but in such wise that thou leave it in doubt and say thus, 'If this soul be in that state that thou mayest yet help it, I pray thee to be gracious unto it.' Therefore if thou hast prayed once or thrice, thou shouldest believe that thou art heard, and pray no more, lest thou tempt God." Beyond that Paul does not go. He follows Onesiphorus into the next world, and, when he thinks of him coming to the settling for what his earthly life had been, he devoutly breathes the wish that he may be mercifully dealt with. Such an expression of feeling is not to be forbidden us as we think of departed friends going forward to judgment; it is to be found in inscriptions in the catacombs. But it has no connection with a belief in purgatory, and is very different from the formal inculcation of prayers for the dead.
4. Reference to Timothy as to services rendered by Onesiphorus at Ephesus. "And in how many things he ministered at Ephesus, thou knowest very well." This was additional to services rendered by Onesiphorus to the apostle at Rome. He had not mentioned it before, because it had been within the sphere of Timothy's own observation. But he brings it in now, as what was fitted to support the charge of constancy he is laying on Timothy. - R.F.
I. THE KINDNESS OF ONESPHORUS. "He oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was at Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me."
1. The apostle, as well as Timothy, had had an earlier experience of this good man, who was probably an Ephesian merchant, who went from time to time to Rome to do business, for he says, "In how many things he ministered at Ephesus, thou knowest very well."
2. He did not probably come to Rome from Ephesus for the special purpose of visiting the apostle, but, having found himself there, he made it his business to visit the apostle.
(1) He took pains to find out the apostle. "He sought me out very diligently." Why was it so difficult to discover the prison in which the apostle was confined? There were many prisons in Rome, and he may have been transferred from prison to prison. But where were the Roman Christians who met the apostle on his first visit to the city, that they could not inform Onesiphorus of the place of the imprisonment? Had they too turned away from him? Or had Nero struck an unworthy terror into their hearts? Onesiphorus persevered, however, in his search, and found him in his prison.
(2) He "oft refreshed the apostle, and was not ashamed of his chain." This implies
(a) that he visited him more than once;
(b) that the imprisonment, though severe, did not quite debar all access to the outside world;
(c) that the Christians at Rome were impliedly ashamed of the apostles' chain, else such prominence would not have been given to the kindness and courage of this noble Ephesian saint.
II. THE RETURN WHICH THE APOSTLE MAKES FOR THE KINDNESS OF ONESIPHORUS. "The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus... the Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day." He cannot make any other return for kindness than a fervent prayer for Onesiphorus and for his family.
1. The prayer suggests that though the apostle is shut up from the world, the way to heaven is still open. He cannot pay his visitor the compliment of seeing him to the door, but he can remember him at a throne of grace.
2. He remembers the household of this good man. What blessings descend upon householders who are blessed with such a head! The apostle prays for "mercy" on this happy household. Every blessing is included in the term.
3. The prayer for Onesiphorus himself is likewise a prayer for mercy. Some have inferred that he was now dead, and that we have here an example of prayer for a dead man. The supposition is entirely gratuitous. Onesiphorus may have been absent from Ephesus, as he necessarily was on his visit to the apostle. Besides, his visit to the apostle, must have occurred only a very short time previously, for it is admitted on all hands that the apostle's last imprisonment was very brief, and it is rather improbable that Onesiphorus should have died immediately after his visit to Rome, or that the apostle should have heard of it. Oncsiphorus would have the blessing promised by our Lord in the memorable saying, "I was in prison, and ye visited me." - T.C.