Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE NEED OF SPIRITUAL STRENGTH. "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."
1. Strength was necessary to meet the difficulties and dangers of his official life at Ephesus.
2. The admonition was probably needed on account of the discouragements which Timothy himself must have felt at the conduct of the Asiatic deserters.
3. Strength is the spring of happy activity in any sphere. "The joy of the Lord shall be your strength."
II. THE SOURCE OF THIS SPIRITUAL STRENGTH. "The grace that is in Christ Jesus." It seems strange to say, "Be strong," to a spiritually discouraged man, as it would be strange to say the same thing to a physically weak man. The injunction is reasonable, however, when we consider that the source of our renewed power is at hand. The grace of Christ is the inward power which enables us "to will and to do of his good pleasure." "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might" (Ephesians 6:10). Here lies the true source of our strength. The apostle declared he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him. - T.C.
I. PRELIMINARY EXHORTATION.
1. As to personal strength. "Thou therefore, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." As the apostle's power of working was already much crippled by close imprisonment, he naturally felt anxious regarding the future of Christ's cause. In calling Timothy his son, he does not formally name him as his successor. At the same time, he may be regarded as looking to him as one like-minded, who had youth on his side, to continue the work which he felt was passing out of his hands. While Phygelus and Hermogenes were untrue to him, and Onesiphorus was dead, Timothy must stand forward. For this he would require a liberal supply of strength. With paternal anxiety, then, he points him to the great Source of strength, viz. the grace that is in Christ Jesus and obtained by him for us, or the lordly power to bless without respect to the merit of the recipient. In John 1:14 he is said to be fall of grace, and, in the sixteenth verse following, it is said that it is out of his fulness that all his people receive. As the Fountain, he supplies all that depend upon him with all that is necessary for the proper discharge of their duties. To whom else, then, could he point Timothy? In spiritual work there is a giving out of strength, for which there is needed renewal. There are also occasions for which there are needed special supplies of strength. At all times there is a tendency to a culpable and enfeebling supineness, against which there is needed a gracious supply. Let the Christian minister, then, find his empowering for his work in the grace that is centred in Christ.
2. As to the regular transmission of the truth. "And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." Paul himself heard directly from Christ, who is as full of truth as of grace. But he points to a definite and solemn occasion, when he was the speaker and Timothy the hearer, viz. the occasion, repeatedly referred to, of Timothy's ordination. What he heard then was by the mediation of many witnesses, i.e. the presbyters who were present at his ordination, and laid their hands on him, and who, by the part they took in it, gave their attestation to the charge. What Timothy received then has repeatedly been called his deposit, or talent of the catholic faith. This, in turn, he was to commit to trusty men, i.e. men who could be entrusted with the keeping of the deposit. They, in their turn, were to teach others, so that they also could be entrusted with the deposit. Thus there was to be a regular succession of teachers for the handing down of the truth. There is a place assigned to tradition here; but, as it is made to depend on the trustworthiness of each individual in the chain of succession, we must think of a tradition that is to be tested by Scripture. At the same time, there is a handing down of Scripture truth with traditional associations embodying the Church's thinking out of the truth, and, if this is what it ought to be, then it is important that it should be handed down by means of a regular succession of teachers. All encouragement, then, is to be given to the proper education of young men for the ministry; and yet a theological institution will fail of its end unless there is the proper keeping up of the Church's life, which is needed to influence the right class of young men to devote themselves to the ministry.
II. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTER IS TO BE PREPARED FOR HARDSHIP. Three figures suggestive of hard service.
1. The soldier. "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service entangleth himself in the affairs of this life; that he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier." The soldier, above others, has to have his mind made up to experiencing hardship. He has to leave home and friends. He may have to encounter hardships on the march. He has especially to face the hardships and dangers of the battlefield, "seeking the bubble reputation, even in the cannon's mouth." So the Christian minister is, in a special manner, a soldier of Christ Jesus. He is one whom Christ has in a solemn way bound to himself, he has to fight under Christ and for Christ in an unfriendly world; and he need not be surprised if he is called upon to experience the hardships of a soldier. Let Timothy, then, willingly, nobly, take his part along with Paul and other soldiers of Christ. But the apostle draws attention to a special condition of excellence in a soldier. He does not entangle himself in the affairs and businesses of this life. In choosing to be enrolled under a commander, he leaves his former employment behind. He is henceforth at the will of his commander for whatever hard service he may need him. Especially does this condition apply to a soldier on service. Before entering on a campaign, he would need even to have family affairs arranged, that he may give himself up undistractedly to the service required of him. Only thus can he expect to approve himself to his commander. The Christian minister is in the same way to be unentangled with businesses, which he leaves to others. Paul was not always able to free himself from the necessity of making his own bread; but it is advisable that a minister should be left free in this respect, and it is wrong for him unnecessarily to divide his energies, or to mix himself up with what can be better done by others. For it is only when his mind is thoroughly undistracted and absorbed in service that he can approve himself to the great Commander.
2. The athlete. "And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully." The Greeks were great admirers of physical perfection. Even their men of genius, like Plato, engaged in athletic contests on public occasions. Great encouragement was given to the athletic art. The successful athlete was crowned under very inspiriting circumstances. There were many subordinate rules to be observed by the athlete, but the great rule was to go through a course of very hard preparation. Only thus could he expect to be crowned when the occasion of the games came round. The minister is, in the same way, to aim at efficiency in his art. He has many examples of this placed before him. And there is great encouragement given by that royal Personage who is to preside on the occasion of award. The successful minister is to be crowned. There are many subordinate rules to be observed by him, but the great rule is that he is to subject himself to severe discipline. Only thus can he expect to have a fadeless crown for efficiency in the ministerial art.
3. The husbandman. "The husbandman that laboureth must be the flat to partake of the fruits." The husbandman has to extract bread from the unwilling ground; and he may have to do this under unfavouring conditions of weather. He has need, then, for hard and persistent labour, especially in the season of spring. In the sweat of his face he has to prepare the soil and put in the seed. It is only the husbandman that thus exerts himself that comes to the front in the time of fruit. He is eating of the new corn, when the husbandman who has not exerted himself is far behind. In the same way the minister has to extract good products from unwilling hearts, and not always under favouring conditions from without. Hard work is needed to prepare the soil and to put in the seed. If he engages in hard work, he has the prospect of the farmer, viz. the fruit of his own labour. He will have joy in those for whom he has laboured - partly in this world, chiefly in the next world. It is the minister who does not grudge hard service that comes to the front in the enjoyment of fruit, while he who gives grudging service lags behind in the reward. Appended call to attention. "Consider what I say; for the Lord shall give thee understanding in all things." What Paul said was easily understood; but it needed to be thoroughly weighed so as to become spiritual strengthening to Timothy. It plainly meant that he was to set himself to hard work, and that he need not expect easy outward conditions of working; when the mind is made up to it, the hardest work is often felt to be light. This was a lesson which he wished Timothy to learn, with the Lord's promised and all-sufficient assistance.
III. ENCOURAGEMENTS UNDER HARDSHIP.
1. Example of Christ.
(1) Victorious aspect of Christ's resurrection. "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead." Paul's principal encouragement is to go back in memory upon the historical Jesus at the victorious point of his history. He seemed to be utterly defeated in death. His body was laid in the tomb, a stone rolled against the mouth of it and sealed, and a watch set; and the rulers thought they had conquered. Could he be released from the power of death and the grave? Let not the most distressed, the most maltreated of men, despair; for it was when Christ seemed to be utterly defeated that he victoriously got for his people victory over sin and over death and the grave.
(2) His resurrection culminating in his present mediatorial dignity. "Of the seed of David, according to my gospel." As of the seed royal, he was raised, and raised to sit upon the throne of his father David. That is the high position he has won for himself. The government of the universe is at this moment upon his shoulders. Under all outward defeat, then, let us enter into the spirit of the victorious termination of our Lord's career of suffering.
2. Example of Paul.
(1) Appearance of defeat. "Wherein I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a malefactor." He had not yet resisted unto blood. But though he had not gone the length of the Master, he bad gone the length of bonds, and, with his Master, was numbered with the transgressors.
(2) Promise of victory. "But the Word of God is not bound." Not only was his conviction strong that the Word proceeding from God could not be bound by any tyrant, but he had the fact to lay hold of that much freedom was enjoyed in the preaching of the Word.
(3) Victorious for the sake of the elect. "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." God has appointed for the elect the salvation which is in Christ Jesus. It is a salvation which is to blossom forth under a sunnier sky into glory. This glory will be ample compensation for present sufferings, not only in its quality, but in its being eternal. How, then, was he to help forward the destiny of the elect, and at the same time his own destiny? He could not preach in his dungeon; but he could follow up the preaching of others by a brave bearing. He could show that he could act what he had preached. And did not much depend on his going forward bravely to martyrdom?
3. A saying of the martyr times. "Faithful is the saying."
(1) How the Christians encouraged one another to constancy! Past act. "For if we died with him, we shall also live with him." They first went back to a definite act in the past, viz. the profession of faith with which they commenced their Christian career. They thus in obligation came up to the martyr point. They said they were willing, should the Master call them to it, to share death with him. If this was the true reading of their act, the bright side of it was that they would also be called to share life with Christ. Abiding state. "If we endure, we shall also reign with him." They next thought of their present suffering calling for an abiding spirit of endurance, and they used to say to one another, that, if they did not flinch, their future would be brightened to them by their being called to sit with Christ on his throne.
(2) How the Christians discouraged one another against apostasy! Future act. "If we shall deny him, he also will deny us." They next thought of their being put to a severe test in the future. The time might come when their choice would be between Christ and life. Far be it from them, for the sake of life, to deny Christ; for that act of denial on their part would carry with it an act of denial on his part. Abiding state. "If we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself." They next thought of an act of denial followed by no penitence, and they said to one another, that if that was their permanent state, their future would be darkened, even by reason of the unchanging character of their Saviour. It was impossible for him to contradict himself, and, as surely as he shows his approval of faith, must he show his disapproval of unbelief. The martyr times had already commenced. The first persecution was under Nero in the year 64, the last under Diocletian in the year 303. The first persecution had not yet ceased. The Christians, charged with setting fire to Rome, were subjected to the most inhuman treatment. As the historian Tacitus informs us, they were sewn in sacks made of the skins of wild beasts, and thrown to be torn by dogs. They were smeared with pitch, and set on fire as torches to illuminate the imperial gardens at night. "This persecution extended beyond the walls of Rome, and continued with more or less severity to the end of Nero's reign, four years afterwards." It was in the last year of Nero's reign that Paul was now awaiting his martyrdom. This martyr saying may be viewed as the fruit of those years of persecution. As here incorporated by Paul into this Epistle, it would be a precious legacy to the Church in the many years of persecution to come. - R.F.
I. THE TRUST TIMOTHY IS TO DELIVER TO FAITHFUL MEN. "The things which thou heardest from me among many witnesses."
1. Timothy heard these things from the apostle at his ordination, but oftener still during his long missionary travels, when he would hear the apostle discourse to large and varied congregations of both Jews and Gentiles.
2. The substance of his Trenching would be the grand outlines of Pauline theology, as they are exhibited in the Epistles, Jesus Christ being the central theme.
3. There is nothing here to countenance the Roman idea of tradition, as if Timothy was to transmit a body of oral instruction to the latest generations, through successive generations of teachers. The instructions in question are actually contained in the Scriptures, and are no longer committed to the doubtful custody of human memory.
II. THE PERSONS TO WHOM THE TRUST WAS TO BE COMMITTED. "The same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."
1. Timothy was to judge of their qualifications. They were not to judge of their own fitness; they were not to find their place as teachers by self-appointment.
2. Their ordination in itself was to be no qualification; for they might possibly have been wholly destitute of teaching gifts. There is nothing in the passage to justify the idea of apostolic succession.
3. Their qualifications were to be twofold.
(1) Faithfulness; for "a steward of the mysteries of God" must be faithful, not betraying the charge committed to him, declaring the whole counsel of God, and keeping back nothing that is profitable.
(2) Teaching power. "Who shall be able to teach others also." The bishop must be "apt to teach," with a true understanding of the Scriptures, a gift of explication, and a faculty of edifying speech. - T.C.
I. THE DUTY OF SUFFERING HARDSHIP IN THE GOSPEL. "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ."
1. The minister is a soldier of Christ, enrolled by him, trained by him, armed by him, supported by him, as the Captain of our salvation. The ministry is a warfare, involving, not only the "good fight of faith," but an increasing struggle against false teachers.
2. As a good soldier, he must be prepared to suffer hardships. Like the soldier, he must often leave home and friends, expose himself to cold and hunger and fatigue; he must fearlessly meet the enemies of his Lord, and die, if need be, in the arms of victory.
3. The apostle strengthens his admonition by an appeal to his own hardships and sufferings. Timothy took a sympathetic interest in the career of the greatest of the apostles. The tried veteran appeals to the young soldier.
II. ENCOURAGEMENTS TO BE DRAWN FROM THE DUTIES AND REWARDS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. There are three pictures presented to our view - one military, another agonistical, and another agricultural.
1. The supreme unembarrassed devotion of the soldier to his commander. "No one that serveth as a soldier entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who enrolled him to be a soldier." The Roman soldier was isolated by express law from all trades and interests and agencies that would interfere with the discipline of his profession.
(1) The minister who is supremely concerned about the affairs of the next life must stand free from the entanglements of human occupation, so as to devote his whole energies without distraction or dispersion of thought to the business of his Master. The apostle had himself occasionally to resort to industry for his own support, under circumstances of a purely exceptional nature; but he demands an extrication of the ministry from all secular engagements in his elaborate plea to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9.).
(2) His sole motive is to please the Master who enrolled him in this service. It is not to please himself, or to please men by seeking ease, or emolument, or social position, but to please the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose book of life his name is written.
2. The severe training and lawful striving of the athlete in the games. "But if any one also strive in the games, he is not crowned unless he have striven lawfully." The figure was a familiar one to the people of that age who dwelt in cities.
(1) It is implied that ministers, in striving for the crown of life, must strip off all encumbrances" laying aside every weight" - that they may the more easily press to the mark, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
(2) It implies that they must undergo the discipline of severe training to fit themselves for the work of ministry, and carry on their service according to the high laws of the kingdom of Christ.
3. The reward of the labouring husbandman. "The labouring husbandman must needs first partake of the fruits of his labour."
(1) This does not mean that the husbandman would be the first to partake of the fruits, but that he must first labour before he obtained the reward. There is evidently an emphasis on the fact that a laborious husbandman was the most fully entitled to reward.
(2) The minister of Christ must plough and sow before he can reap; he must use all laborious diligence in his calling, not discouraged because he does not at once see the fruits of his labour, for the seed may not sprout up quickly, but ever looking upward for the dews of Heaven's grace to descend upon the wide field of his ministry.
III. THE DUTY OF GIVING CONSIDERATION TO ALL THESE FACTS. "Consider what I say, and the Lord will give thee understanding in all things."
1. It is the Lord only who can give us a true insight into both doctrine and duty.
2. Those who enjoy this Divine help are under the greatest obligation to use their understandings upon the highest of all themes. - T.C.
I. IT IS HARD TO SUBJUGATE THE PRESENT WORLD. In the fourth verse Paul speaks of the "affairs of this life," in which Timothy, like the rest of us, was in danger of" being entangled;" and unquestionably, apart from evil, the innocent side of the present life is most attractive to us, in all its forms of pleasure seeking and outward prosperity and honour.
II. IT IS HARD TO SUFFER REPROACH AND SHAME. How hard only those know who have felt the constant irritant of a relentless persecution for righteousness' sake. "I suffer trouble," says Paul, "as an evil doer. And this was the great trial of the early Christians - not merely bonds and imprisonments, but the calumnies which made them the scorn of men. The grace of God can sustain us in all our tribulations; but it requires "hardness" to "endure as seeing him who is invisible" when the character is subjected to human scorn and hatred. - W.M.S.
I. CHRIST THE PERPETUAL OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN REMEMBRANCE. "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel." The two great facts that were to be ever present to Timothy's mind were the Incarnation and the Resurrection - the two miracles that stood, respectively, at the beginning and the end of his earthly history. The one would speak of the hopes of the race of man springing from the Saviour's assumption of our nature in the royal line of David; the other of the completeness of the redemption sealed by the resurrection from the dead. Timothy would be encouraged to bear his trials by the thought of Christ's victory over death.
II. CHRIST THE PERPETUAL THEME OF THE GOSPEL. "According to my gospel."
1. These two facts are fundamental in the gospel. Take them away, there is no hope for man, no atonement, no blessed life hereafter.
2. These two facts needed to be taught in an age when false teachers denied a real incarnation, saying that the Saviour had a phantom body, and a real resurrection, because a bodily resurrection was not to be thought of, as matter, being essentially evil, could not attach to a Divine being. - T.C.
I. TIMOTHY WAS TO BE ENCOURAGED BY THIS EXAMPLE. "Wherein I suffer hardship unto bonds as a malefacto." He was now a prisoner at Rome, because he preached the gospel of Jesus and the resurrection, and suffered as much as if he had been a breaker of all laws, human and Divine.
II. THE APOSTLE'S IMPRISONMENT DID NOT IMPOSE FETTERS UPON THE GOSPEL, "But the Word of God is not bound." This was said for the encouragement of Timothy, who may have feared that the Roman imprisonment would be fatal to the progress of the gospel. The apostle, though a prisoner, had liberty to add many pages to that Word of God which Nero could not bind, for we have no less than three or four prison Epistles in the canon of inspiration. The imprisonment of John Huss in a fortress on the Rhine gave him leisure to write the truth he could no longer proclaim with fiery lips to the Bohemians. The Wartburg seclusion of a year gave Luther the leisure to translate the Scriptures for his German countrymen. Verily the Word of God is not bound.
III. THE MOTIVE OR DESIGN OF THE APOSTLE'S SUFFERINGS. "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."
1. The zealous minister of Christ thinks no sufferings too great that are needed for the sake of God's elect. The apostle's life was one long career of labour and affliction on their behalf.
2. Ministers must labour for the salvation of the elect. Human instrumentality is clearly recognized and honoured in this great work. Paul, Apollos, and Cephas were "ministers by whom the Corinthians believed."
3. There is a salvation provided for the elect. They are "chosen in Christ" before the foundation of the world "unto holiness" (Ephesians 1:4).
4. The salvation is only to be obtained in and through Jesus Christ.
5. It is a salvation that finds its true termination in "eternal glory. - T.C.
I. FAMILIAR TRUTHS WITH A CONSOLATORY ASPECT. "If we died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him." There is here an expressive climax, setting forth two different aspects of the union between Christ and his people.
1. Identification with Christ in his death. All believers died with him, as their Head and Representative, and thus died to sin, through the efficacy of his death, so as to be planted together in the likeness of his death; and thus, being made conformable to his death, they have fellowship with him in his sufferings.
2. But identification with Christ in his life follows as a consequence of this identification in death, because we rose with him from the dead, to be planted in the likeness of his resurrection, that we should walk in newness of life; and thus, being made alive unto God, we live a life of holiness and sanctification with him (Romans 6:5-8).
3. Identification with Christ in endurance involves identification in his reigning glory. Believers who suffer shame and loss and outrage for Christ's sake shall reign with him in glory hereafter, as they reign in the kingdom of grace with him now; for they are "a kingdom of priests," destined foreverlasting glory (Revelation 1:6).
II. FAMILIAR TRUTHS WITH A THREATENING ASPECT. "If we deny him, he also will deny us; if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself."
1. The denial of Christ is fatal. It is to reject the only Saviour. Some deny his Messiahship; some deny his Divinity; some deny him by their works, being ashamed of him and refusing to confess him; some deny him by open apostasy. In all these cases the denial involves our Lord's denial of them (Matthew 7:23; Matthew 10:23).
2. Our unbelief does not affect the essential faithfulness of Christ. "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful."
1. This does not mean that he will save us whether we believe in him or not; for he has just said that if we deny him he will also deny us, and faith is always an essential condition of salvation.
3. It means that he will abide faithful to his word of threatening, as well as to his nature and perfections; for he cannot falsify his declarations that "he that believeth not shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16). He will say to apostates in the last day, "I never knew you." It would be to deny himself to act otherwise. He cannot consistently with his character regard faith and unbelief as the same thing. Thus the apostle stimulates Timothy to fidelity by an exhibition at once of the bright and the dark sides of Divine truth. - T.C.
I. CHRISTIAN PEOPLE NEED TO BE REMINDED OF THE TRUTH IN ALL ITS ASPECTS. "Put them in remembrance of these things."
1. We are apt to forget the consolatory aspect of truth under the pressure of present trial, as worldly men are apt to forget its threatening aspect under the absorbing worldliness of their lives.
2. The Lord has made provision, to "put us in remembrance," through the ministry and through the Word of God, to which we do well to take heed as to a light shining in a dark place.
II. CHRISTIAN PEOPLE NEED TO BE WARNED AGAINST RUINOUS STRIFES ABOUT WORDS. "Solemnly charging them in the sight of the Lord, not to contend about words, to r o profit, to the subverting of them that hear."
1. There are many religious controversies which turn rather upon words than upon things, and thus involve a waste of intellectual energy. These "strifes of words" were characteristic of the false teachers (1 Timothy 6:4).
2. There is nothing in the passage to warrant a disregard for "the form of sound words," for the "wholesome words of the Lord Jesus, which cover things as well as thoughts.
3. The apostle condemns a wrangling about terms which brings no advantage to truth, but rather tends to the subversion of the hearers, misleading their judgments and overturning their faith. Simple-minded people might begin to doubt the truth of a gospel about which contending controversialists were so much at variance. Unsettlement of mind is dangerous, while it lays an arrest on all earnest work. - T.C.
I. METHOD OF THE HERETICS. "Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they strive not about words, to no profit, to the subverting of them that hear." The method of the heretics called for solemn warning from Timothy. Its essential character was word fighting. It dealt with the form, and not with the reality; and so it came to be controversial. The word is not unimportant, but it has no importance apart from its being the vehicle of the truth. The moral defect of the method was its want of regard to edification. The disputants only used it for dialectic display. There was, therefore, no good result to be laid to their account. The only result to be expected was the subversion of any who, by hearing, placed themselves within their influence.
II. THE TRUE METHOD. "Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the Word of truth." The heretics sought to be approved unto them that heard them, for their skill in word fighting. Timothy was to follow another course, and to display his zeal in quitting himself so as to be approved unto God. The way in which he was to do this was by answering to the idea of a workman. He was not to amuse himself with profitless disputation, but he was to give profitable work. He was to work with such rigorous regard to the Divine rule that, whether he met with approval or disapproval from men, he did not need to be ashamed. Especially was he to show the better way of dealing with the Word. He was to cut rightly, or cut straight, the Word of truth. Whatever the metaphor is, there can be no doubt that the idea is that, instead of trifling with the Word, he was to go right into and lay open the Divine truth it contained.
III. WHY THE METHOD OF THE HERETICS WAS TO BE AVOIDED. "But shun profane babblings: for they will proceed further in ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a gangrene." The method of the heretics is characterized in keeping with what has been already said. It was using empty speech, or speech without reference to reality. That, applied to Divine things, was necessarily profane. Its natural association was God-dishonouring representations, operating against devout feelings and corresponding practice. This ungodly tendency had not taken its worst form. The heretics would yet say worse things. Their word was of the nature of a gangrene, that eats into the life, and, always in an aggravated form, spreads over the spiritual body.
IV. TWO HERETICS NAMED. "Of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some." The way in which these men were heretics, or darted aside from the truth as the mark, was by applying the method described to the doctrine of the resurrection. Under the influence of an incipient Gnosticism, in which the body was regarded as evil, they got rid of the reference of the resurrection to the body by quibbling about the word. The word was simply "rising again," and its meaning was sufficiently met by what had already taken place in a Christian believer, viz. the rising of the soul to newness of life. With their verbal skill, they were succeeding in the case of some. But what was success to these dialecticians was to those with whom they succeeded nothing less than the subversion of their faith, so essential is the resurrection of the body to Christianity.
V. THE STABILITY OF THE CHURCH. "Howbeit the firm foundation of God standeth." Though the faith of some is overturned, the Church standeth. The Church is not thought of as a completed structure, which it will not be till ages still have passed. But it is thought of as a substructure in a satisfactory state, as having, indeed, been laid by God. It had that firmness which is essential for the commencement of a building. As firm, it was standing, notwithstanding the strain to which it had been subjected. As firm, it promised to stand a long time, and the promise has not been belied. For upon the foundation part of the building much has been laid since, and we have no reason to fear its overthrow, but rather increased reason to anticipate its completion. The Church is a structure in connection with which there is solemn engagement. "Having this seal." The seal on the substructure has two sides.
1. The obverse, or Divine side. "The Lord knoweth them that are his." The language from this point to the close of the twenty-first verse seems to have been suggested by a memorable passage in Jewish history, recorded in the sixteenth of Numbers, viz. the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. These men charged Moses and Aaron with taking too much upon them in acting, the one as prophet by pre-eminence and the other as priest by pre-eminence. The reply of Moses, as given in the Septuagint, was that God knew them that were his, i.e. would maintain their cause against opposers, as he did signally in that case, in causing the earth to open and swallow up these men and their company.
2. The reverse, or human side. "And, Let every one that nameth the Name of the Lord depart from unnghteousness. The Jewish congregation was composed of them that named the Name of God, i.e. that professed to worship him as the Most Holy One, and to obey his commands. In the case referred to, the Divine call to the whole congregation was, "Depart from the tents of those wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins." The application is the following: Let Timothy be comforted by the thought that the Lord would judge between him and such opposers as Hyraenaeus and Philetus, who would not be able to move the substructure that had been laid. On the other hand, let Christian congregations be warned. They are composed of those who name the Name of the Lord, i.e. profess faith in Christ as their Saviour, and promise obedience to his laws. In the Christian religion, even more than in the Jewish religion, unrighteousness appears as receiving terrible condemnation. Let not, then, a Christian have anything to do with departure from the truth and fellowship with ungodliness.
VI. MIXED SOCIETY. "Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some unto honour, and some unto dishonour." In the Jewish Church (which is called the house of God) there were faithful and unfaithful, with degrees of faithfulness and degrees of unfaithfulness, compared here, the one class to vessels of gold and of silver, and the other class to vessels of wood and of earth - vessels put to honourable uses and vessels put to dishonourable uses. In the former class were Moses and Aaron, and in the latter class Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, as shown in the day of trial. The Christian Church is also a great house, presided over, as we are told, not by a servant, but a Son. "And Moses indeed was faithful in all God's house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken; but Christ as a Son, over God's house; whose house are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end." The Church is meant to be a pure society, but it is impossible under present conditions to have this realized to the fullest extent. In the apostolic circle around Christ there were vessels of gold and. vessels of silver - of superior use and of inferior use in the service of the Master; but there was also shown to be a vessel of more than ordinary baseness of material put to the most dishonourable use. In the Church as it was forming there were men and women with gold and silver in their natures, "who having lands or houses sold them and laid the prices down at the apostles' feet;" but there were also Ananias and Sapphira, whose earthliness moved them to keep back part of the price. So while Paul was of gold use, we may say, at that period of the Church's history, and Timothy comparatively of silver use, Hymenaeus and Philetus belonged to the other category, having nothing better than wood in them, and put to no honourable use.
VII. PURGATION. "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work." There was a purgation of the congregation of Israel in connection with the rebellion that has been referred to. Every Israelite was to get up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; that was the condition of his being classed among the pure - of his being, according to the language formerly used, a vessel unto honour. We may think of the censers used by the two hundred and fifty of Korah's company; their sacredness was recognized by their being taken out of the fire, and put to another sacred use. "The censers of those sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar." The same thing has to take place in the Christian Church. A member of a Christian congregation is not to have fellowship with such subverters as Hymenaeus and Phitetus were, or with those, whether subverted or not as to creed, who engage in ungodly practices. He is not even to throw himself into the society of the merely indifferent. Thus only can he be a vessel unto honour. Three things are said about him who is a vessel unto honour. They turn upon the idea of usefulness; for that is essential to a vessel. The first has reference to an act of consecration. The second has reference to a use the Master has for the vessel. The third has reference to a course of preparation for the use. Christians are set apart to holy uses. This is partly their own act, in the dedication of themselves to God; and partly the Divine act in the sprinkling of the blood of Christ and anointing of the Holy Ghost. There is a use the Master has forevery Christian. This use may be said to be (distributively) every good work. A Christian can be turned to more uses than a particular kind of vessel. It rather needs all kinds of sacred vessels to express his usefulness. His preparation, then, is no simple matter; it cannot be carried through in a day or a year. In and through experience, embracing our own exercise of soul and the Divine blessing, we acquire habitudes for various kinds of service, which are not always in actual requisition, but may at any time be in requisition. Let us, then, be in such a state of preparation that the Master of the house can, as it were, take us up, and use us for whatever work he has to be done.
VIII. PURE FELLOWSHIP. "But flee youthful lusts, and follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." In this punctuation peace is not specially connected with what follows. The idea is certainly, even from the context, pure fellowship. Timothy was to act his part well in the Christian society with which he was connected. He had yet youth on his side, and, while that had its large possibilities of service, it had also its risks. It had fiery impulses, from which even a youthful minister was not exempt, and by giving way to which the Christian society would be seriously injured. Let him flee to a distance from his peculiar temptations; on the other hand, let him be in close pursuit of the virtues on which pure fellowship depends. There is that universal virtue, righteousness, which may be thought of as the observance of the Divine rules, Then there is faith, or reliance on promised strength. Then there is love, or proper regard for the common or individual good. There is, lastly, peace, or the keeping up of cordial intercourse and cooperation with brethren. The society by which he has to do his duty is regarded as composed of "them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." All the more that some called on the Lord without the pure heart must he be faithful to the terms of communion with all who, in good faith, were servants of the Lord.
IX. TREATMENT OF OPPOSERS.
1. Avoidance of controversy with them. "But foolish and ignorant questionings refuse, knowing that they gender strifes." The apostle does not say all questionings; for some might arise from honest difficulties, and these deserved to be met. But he says such questionings as were foolish, i.e. betrayed no honest struggle after the truth, and such as were ignorant, i.e. betrayed ignorance of the position questioned. Such questionings as, arising from egoism, did not deserve to be met, and the proper course was to have nothing to do with them. For they could not gender conviction, but petty strifes, in which the contest is not for the truth, but for personal or party victory.
2. The arts of gentleness with them. "And the Lord's servants must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves." The Lord's servant, such as Timothy was in a special sense, was not to strive. For how in that way could he be the servant of him who did not strive, nor cry, nor let his voice be heard in the streets? What became the Lord's servant was to practise the arts of gentleness towards all. His part was, not to fight but to teach, not to be fiery under opposition, but to be patient. In accordance with his being a teacher and not a mere disputant, he was to communicate knowledge of the truth, by way of correcting false impressions to those who opposed themselves; and, in doing so, he might expect provocation, but in the character of the Lord's servant he was to exhibit meekness.
3. Object aimed at. "If peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by the Lord's servant unto the wilt of God." The interpretation which is introduced into the Revised Translation in the concluding words is not likely to find acceptance. There is a strong characterization of the opposers. They are in the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him at the will of that person whose will, it is hinted, is decided enough for evil. The grammatical objection holds no more in Greek than in English; the thought is the badness of their case, for whom notwithstanding he asks efforts to be made. In connection with these efforts it was not impossible for God to grant them repentance, that change of moral disposition which was necessary to the right appreciation of the truth, and thus to recover them as from a state of spiritual intoxication, and to bring them out of the devil's snare. The Lord's servant is not soon to give up, but is to hope on, even with those who seem to be the devil's willing tools. - R.F.
I. HE MUST BE LABORIOUS. The term "workman" implies this fact as well as the direct admonition to "give diligence" to his ministry. The ministry is a good work, demanding industry, study, and care, and no man is sufficient for it without the grace of God. It is a comfort as well as an honour to think that ministers are "workers with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9).
II. THEY MUST SEEK GOD'S APPROVAL IN THEIR WORK. They must not study to please men, else they will not be the servants of Christ; but they must approve themselves to God, showing all good fidelity, and commend themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
III. THEY MUST WORK WITH A SINCERITY AND EFFICIENCY THAT WILL NOT BRING SHAME UPON THEMSELVES. The negligent, or unskilled, or ignorant workman will produce work which may well put him to shame. But the true workman loves to produce good and abiding work, such as will stand the fiery test of the last day (1 Corinthains 3:13). He may often fee] his insufficiency; but he will never be ashamed of the gospel, nor of his sufferings, nor of his faithful ministrations of the Word.
IV. HE MUST HAVE SKILL IN THE USE OF THE WORD OF GOD. "Handling aright the Word of truth."
1. His one book, his one weapon, his one interest, is the Divine Word. His mind, his heart, his will, must be concentrated upon this Word. It must form the matter of his preaching, the mould of his thoughts, the inspiration of his imagination.
2. He must be able to handle it aright, with due regard for the authority of God, to its own intrinsic claims, and to the welfare of the souls of men. He must be able to "divide it aright," distributing to babes in Christ and to full grown men according to their capacities and their circumstances; he must not pervert it or wrest it from its true sense; he must not keep back anything that is profitable, but declare the whole counsel of God. He must not wander to the right or left, but keep a straight course forward in the path of truth. - T.C.
I. THE DUTY OF THE MINISTER TOWARD SUCH BABBLINGS. He is to shun them, because they are profitless - a mere sound of words, without solid meaning; great swelling words of vanity, not only unprofitable, but contrary to the doctrine that is according to godliness. The minister must shun, discourage, and repudiate them in the interests of truth and piety.
II. THE TENDENCY OF SUCH BABBLINGS. "They will proceed further in ungodliness." The allusion is not to the babblings, but to the false teachers.
1. There is a close connection between lax doctrine and a loose life. The error of the false teachers had not yet appeared in its fully developed form, but its true moral tendency was clearly foreseen from the first.
2. There is a tendency in false teachers to carry their principles to their last logical results. They have thrown off the checks of authority and conscience; they have been emboldened, perhaps, by a temporary success; and so they insist on wresting the whole Scripture to their own destruction as well as that of others.
III. THE EFFECTS OF SUCH FALSE TEACHING. "And their word will eat as doth a gangrene."
1. It will spread further and further.
(1) Through the subtlety of seducers;
(2) through the unwary simplicity of Christian professors;
(3) and as a judicial infliction upon such as, possessing no love of the truth, receive delusion to believe a lie.
2. It will have corrupting and destroying effects. The strong figure of the apostle sets the matter in an impressive light.
IV. THE RING LEADERS OF HERESY. "Of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some."
1. The leading apostles of error.
(1) It is a solemn thought that the Spirit of inspiration has given an immortality of infamy to these two names. If they were ambitious of notoriety, they have gained it far beyond the extent of their expectations.
(2) Hymenaeus is evidently the person referred to already (1 Timothy 1:25), whom the apostle had "delivered unto Satan;" but he seems to have profited in no way in the interval by the severe discipline applied to him. Of Philetus nothing is known. It is a Greek name, but it occurs in Roman inscriptions.
2. The nature of their error. Their principal error, which is mentioned, was a denial of the resurrection in its true sense.
(1) They probably perverted the words of the apostle himself when he spoke of a spiritual resurrection (Romans 6:4, etc.; Colossians 2:12), of which they could say truly enough that "it was past already;" but they denied a resurrection of the body, which was just as expressly taught by the same apostle.
(2) The error had its origin in the Greek philosophy, which regarded matter as essentially evil, and as therefore unworthy to share in the ultimate glorification of the redeemed.
3. The injurious effects of their error. "And overthrow the faith of some."
(1) The doctrine of the resurrection is founded on the resurrection of Christ, which is the foundation doctrine of Christianity. Those errorists seem to have touched with unholy hands this cornerstone of Christian hope.
(2) The influence of the errorists, evil as it was, was only partial. It only affected "some;" but even this thought was a sad one to the apostle. - T.C.
I. THE CHURCH OF GOD IN ITS EVER-DURING STABILITY. "Howbeit the firm foundation of God standeth."
1. The Church is very properly called a foundation, because it is placed in the world as the platform on which the whole future household of faith is to rest (Ephesians 2:20). Christ is the Cornerstone of the foundation.
2. It stands firm from age to age on its unshaken foundation, notwithstanding all the efforts made to destroy it. It was to be the constant witness to the truth amidst all error and apostasy.
II. THE CHURCH OF GOD WITH ITS TWOFOLD INSCRIPTION. "Having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and, Let every one that nameth the Name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness." It was an ancient custom to engrave upon a building an inscription which told of its origin and purpose. The names of the apostles were written in the twelve foundations el the apocalyptic city of God (Revelation 21:14). The Church has a seal with a double inscription, which displays the true character of the edifice.
1. One inscription is the legend of comfort and hope. "The Lord knoweth them that are his." What a comfort there is in the thought of this individualizing knowledge! What a hope there is in the thought that the saints are God's "purchased possession"!
2. Another inscription is the legend of duty. "Let every one that nameth the Name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness." There is no place for unrighteousness in the Church of God. Therefore believers must separate themselves from all evil. - T.C.
I. THE CHURCH IS LIKE A GREAT HOUSE WITH VARIOUS SORTS OF VESSELS. "Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some unto honour, and some unto dishonour."
1. It is contended that the great house here is not the Church, but Christendom, that is, all that calls itself Christian, because the Church consists only of saints.
2. It is the Church, however, of which the apostle is speaking in the context, and not the world; but whereas in the last verse it was the invisible Church, it is here the Church visible - that is, the Church in the aspect it presents to the world. The distinction between the Church visible and the Church invisible is clearly recognized in Scripture. The one represents the Church as it is seen by God; the other, as it is seen by man. The one represents the Church as to its true idea and constitution; the other, as it has appeared in the world as a mixed communion. The Church visible appears like a great house with two distinct kinds of vessels - some very precious and durable, others comparatively valueless, easily and soon broken. There are vessels for honour and vessels for dishonour. The idea is much the same as that of the dragnet in the parable (Matthew 13:47-49).
II. THE DUTY OF SEPARATION FROM THE VESSELS OF DISHONOUR. "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall he a vessel unto honour, sanctified, meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work." The thought of separation from the false teachers was, no doubt, uppermost in the apostle's mind, but it has a wider scope.
1. It is our duty to withdraw from error. This withdrawal may be effected in several ways. The apostle says to Timothy, "From such withdraw thyself" (1 Timothy 6:5); he says to Titus, "A man that is a heretic avoid" (Titus 3:10). The separation may take place by the heretic being cast out of communion; or avoided in the intercourse of life; or, in the last resort, the believer may withdraw himself from the society which fails to cast him out. Or the believer may be called upon to "purge himself" - terms which seem to imply personal defilement in a separate walk of holiness and purity. He must purge himself from heresy and impurity.
2. The right dedication and destination of the vessel for honour.
(1) He will become "sanctified," in its double sense consecrated to God and walking in the purity of a separated life.
(2) He will be serviceable to the Master of the house in all the various ministries to which he may be called.
(3) He will be prepared unto every good work. Unlike the unwise and the evil man, who is to all good works reprobate, he is, as created in Christ Jesus unto good works, enabled to run in the way of the Lord's commandments. - T.C.
Lord as well as our Saviour. We are under a Master, and must bring our thought in captivity unto him.
I. MEETNESS. For in man there is a power that grows by culture. Not so with the inferior animals. Take the bee: the first cell it makes is as geometrically perfect as the last. So take the bird: the first nest it makes is as soft and complete as the last. But man can grow in meetness. Self-discipline meetens. Sorrow meetens. Suffering meetens.
II. MINISTRATIONS. Use. This characterizes all the works of God. The river is not only a silver thread running through the landscape; it brings freshness and verdure, and the cattle come to the banks to drink, and there is emerald verdure by the riverside. Ships, too, float on its waters. We are to be of use to the Master. He deigns to use us. "Son, go work today in my vineyard." Many in this age dislike the word "Master;" but we are always under some master, consciously or unconsciously. We serve God or Mammon, and we cannot serve both. We are to attend to spiritual means of grace, and to seek out modes of service, so as to be of use to the Master. - W.M.S.
I. NEGATIVELY. "Flee youthful lusts."
1. These refer to those passions and desires which are so tempting to youth. They "war against the soul," and are most inimical to holiness and salvation. The indulgence of corrupt passions would also lead to serious scandals.
2. They refer likewise to those vehement and headstrong passions which often lead young men into foolish courses, or to the rage for novelty and the egotistic vanity which so often lead to religious errors like those of Hymenaeus and Philetus.
II. POSITIVELY. "Follow after righteousness, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart."
1. Righteousness. Fidelity in all human relations especially, but a right manner of life. Believers are:
(1) To yield their members as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).
(2) To be armed with righteousness as a breastplate (Ephesians 6:14).
(3) Righteousness tends to life (Proverbs 11:19).
(4) It brings its own reward (Proverbs 11:18).
(5) Its effect is quietness and assurance forever (Isaiah 32:17).
2. Love. Love to all men.
(1) It is of God (1 John 4:7).
(2) It is taught by God (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
(3) It is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
(5) The greatest sacrifices are nothing without it (1 Corinthians 13:3).
(1) Its nature and advantages
(a) It springs from heavenly wisdom (James 3:17).
(b) It is necessary to the enjoyment of life (1 Peter 3:10, 11).
(c) There is a blessing for the peacemaker (Matthew 5:9).
(2) Its objects. "Them that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart." That is, believers. We are to endeavour to have peace with all men (Romans 12:18). But we are to seek the peace of the Church (Psalm 122:6-8) - of those who worship Christ with all purity of heart, as contrasted with those "whose mind and conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15). - T.C.
I. THE MINISTER OF CHRIST MUST AVOID INAPT DISCUSSIONS. "But foolish and ignorant questions avoid." The false teachers wasted their energies upon questions of this class, because they had no just idea of the relative importance of truth, taking small things for great and great things for small. The matters in dispute were useless and unedifying, being foreign to the true wisdom of the gospel. Four times in these two Epistles does the apostle repeat this grave warning.
II. THE TENDENCY OF SUCH DISCUSSIONS. "Knowing that they do gender strifes." They break the peace of Churches, alienate the hearts of ministers, and impede the progress of the gospel. - T.C.
I. THE TRUE TEMPER OF THE MINISTER OF CHRIST.
1. Negatively. "The servant of the Lord must not strive." This does not mean that
(1) he is not to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 1:4); but
(2) that he is not to fight about trifles, nor to argue with acerbity of temper, nor for mere victory. The "bond of peace" must be maintained in controversy.
(1) "But be gentle unto all men;" cultivating a spirit of habitual conciliation, while using arguments of the greatest cogency.
(2) "Apt to teach;" showing capacity and disposition to instruct the ignorant and the obstinate.
(3) "Patient;" bearing with the infirmities of weak brethren, with the irritating oppositions of adversaries, and with the reproaches of evil men generally.
(4) "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves" to the truth as it is in Jesus, thwarting or perverting the gospel. The minister must be ready to instruct such persons in a meek and humble spirit, because they may be ignorant, or ill-informed, or deeply prejudiced from the circumstances of their early training.
II. THE BENEFITS THAT WILL ACCRUE FROM SUCH METHODS OF INSTRUCTION. "If God peradventure will give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by the Lord's servant unto the will of God."
1. A meek and gentle address may bring such errorists to repent of their sin and accept the true doctrine of faith. It is possible to repel them by our harsh reproaches. We ought rather to show them the truth without passion, and enforce it with all the kindly urgency of true affection. The necessity of repentance in such a case marks the essentially sinful character of opposition to the truth.
2. The servant of the Lord may be the means of recovering out of error as well as sin.
(1) Error is the devil's snare as well as sin, for it leads downwards to sin. It acts like a stupefying drink.
(2) Some errorists awake out of their intellectual intoxication, if they are wisely dealt with, and open their eyes to the blessed truth of the gospel.
(3) The will of God once established in such hearts, as the guiding principle of life, completes the recovery from error. - T.C.