William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,2 Timothy Chapter 1
The opening salutation of the Epistle as usual is instinct with the spirit of all that is to follow. Deep seriousness and tender affection pervade the whole. It is no longer a question of order in the house of God on the earth when the apostle is obliged to speak of a great house where are not only gold and silver vessels, but also wooden and earthen, and some to honour and some to dishonour. Then not discipline only, but purifying oneself from these at all cost becomes a paramount duty, if one is to be personally a vessel to honour, sanctified, meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work. It is a question in short of the firm foundation of God with its unfailing comfort on one side and its inalienable responsibility on the other. But, thank God, come what may, that foundation stands, whatever the disorder of the house; and the consequent obligation of the faithful abides, the more peremptory for His glory because of general defection. Faith never despairs of good, never slights evil, and is free only to please God, instead of easing self by the choice of the lesser wrong.
It could not be, however, in these circumstances, but that a tone of importunate earnestness should prevail. Therefore is the need urged more than ever of courage and endurance, as well as of high jealousy for the will of God and detestation for the evil way of man - of man now alas! associating the Lord's name with the worst wickedness of Satan. The modest but apparently timid character of Timothy called forth the apostle's heart under the power of the Holy Ghost to prepare him for the arduous labour and conflict which lay before him on the speedy departure of his spiritual father. Even more thoroughly and with less exception do its exhortations apply to the faithful now, than do those of the First Epistle because there was more of the official element in the First, whereas what is moral predominates in the Second. Be it ours therefore to profit fully from this consideration. For unquestionably the difficult times of the last days have long since come, and the darkness of the closing scenes of lawlessness are already casting their shadows before.
"Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus, by God's will, according to promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus, to Timotheus [my] beloved child: Grace, mercy, peace, from God [the] Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (vers. 1, 2).
It is observable that here, as in the First Epistle, Paul puts forward his. great commission. Intimacy was never meant to enfeeble that divinely-given place and authority. Sometimes the apostle might merge it; as we see with gracious beauty in his Epistle to Philemon, where authority would have jarred with the chord he wished to strike in that valued believer's heart. Here apostleship was demanded, not only by the nature of the First Epistle, but in order to give weight to the moral directions of the Second. The path of Christ which lay through the perilous dilemmas of the last days required the highest expression of divine authority. Without this sanction even the most necessary step of righteousness must expose the man of God who took it in faith to the charge of innovation, of presumption, and specially of disorder because the general state of Christendom was itself one of fixed, traditional, and all but universal departure from God's word.
But in the First Epistle it is "apostle according to the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope." This is evidently more in relation to mankind, since much to the saints is external as compared with the terms of the Second Epistle. "By God's will" is here, as in 1 and 2 Cor., Eph., and Col. It was requisite or wise at first, and it abides to the last. The "will" of God admits of a far larger and deeper application than-His "commandment," however important the latter may be in its place. Many, who would shrink from insubjection to a commandment of God, might be comparatively little exercised about His will, which takes in a vast variety of spiritual life exercised outside the range of a formal injunction. We may observe a kindred distinction which our Lord draws in John 14 between His commandments and His word (vers. 21, 23, 24). This addition in the Second Epistle quite falls in with its broad and deep character.
But there is more difference still. Paul was apostle "according to promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus." This clearly connects the closing Epistle of Paul with the opening one of John, where eternal life in all its fulness in Christ is the characteristic doctrine. Not that this was ever absent from the Pauline Epistles. We see it in those to the Romans and the Corinthians, to the Galatians, the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, if possible still more brightly and in practical power. But here "life" is in the most prominent way bound up with his apostleship and of course, therefore, with the entire bearing of this, his last written, communication. The Spirit of God for the first time puts it undoubtedly in the fore-ground.
But I think that the method employed has not been at all rightly apprehended. The preposition (κατά) holds its more ordinary sense - "according to" - in conformity with, rather than in pursuance of, or with a view to the fulfilment etc. Not the object and the intention of the apostleship are expressed thereby, but its character. Undoubtedly Paul's apostleship did further and made known the promises of eternal life; but the truth revealed here is that he was thus called of God according to, or in keeping with, this promise of life. His office was not merely to be minister of the gospel in the whole creation under heaven; nor yet only to be also minister of the church which is Christ's body (Colossians 1:23-24). He now for the first time describes himself as by God's will apostle "according to promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus." Never did Timothy, never do the faithful, need so much the comforting strengthening knowledge of that life as in view of the horrors and dangers which this Epistle contemplates. If aught be real in a world of vain show, it is the life which is in Christ; it is eternal, as it is meant to overcome by faith. Without that life even the power of the Holy Ghost might work in a son of perdition. "Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by Thy name, and by Thy name cast out demons, and by Thy name do many powers? And then will I avow unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, workers of lawlessness" (Matthew 7:22-23). Power without life is most ominous and fatal; with life, most blessed and eminently characteristic of Christianity. We shall see this carefully put forward for our consolation in this very chapter of this Epistle. But life has indisputably the prime place in the character here given of Paul's apostleship. No one had prophecy as he had; none knew all mysteries and all knowledge like him; and who, as he, had all faith, so as to remove mountains? But he had also that love which is of God, surpassed perhaps by none; for he lived the life which is in Christ Jesus. We can but admire, therefore, as we here read of his apostleship characterized, not by display of spiritual energy, but "according to promise of life that is in Christ Jesus."
Life, like faith, is individual, yet obedient and therefore valuing, next to Christ, the walking to His glory with those who are His. But do any walk well together who have not faith to stand alone if His will requires it? Life therefore is thus brought forward in this capital place. If ever its value was felt more than before, it was now: the strait of times called for all that is of Christ. Glory on earth had been the idol of the Jew at his best; heavenly glory in and with Christ is the Christian hope; but one has now life in Christ, a "promise" incomparably beyond those to Abraham, David, and any other worthy. We have it in Him now, and with Him shall manifestly have it when glorified. The earth, the world, was the theatre of God's dealings, and will be of His kingdom in power and glory when Christ appears and reigns. But as Paul was apostle according to promise of the life that is in Christ, so we having Him have that eternal life which will enjoy its own proper sphere at His coming above the world of which its nature is wholly independent.
"To Timotheus, [my] beloved child." In the First Epistle he was designated "true" (γνησίῳ) child. It might have seemed impossible to have missed the intended difference. For the words necessarily intimate in the latter case that Timothy was no spurious son but his genuine child, and this not merely in "the" faith as an objective possession but in "faith" as a real living principle in the soul. In the former case there is the express declaration of the apostle's positive and personal affection, which was apparently no formal or unmeaning phrase. Yet a German annotator of some repute (Mack) asks, "Can it be accidental that instead of γνησίῳ ôέêíῳ, as Timotheus is called in the First Epistle 1: 2, and in Titus 1:4, here we find ἀãáðçôῳ? Or may a reason for the change be found in this that it now behoved Timotheus to stir up afresh the faith and the grace in him, before he could again be worthy of the name γνησίïí ôέêíïν in its full sense?" And this shallow remark, which misses the true inference from the use of the designation in Titus (who never draws out the strong feelings of the apostle as Timothy does in both Epistles, and yet is styled no less γν. τ.), has had the most deleterious influence on Dean Alford's general comparison of the two Epistles, and misled him on not a few details of importance. Bengel, Ellicott, and others are much more correct in this; so that the regret expressed for their misapprehension might have been well spared. The failure in discernment really belongs to those who affect to see loss of confidence in the Second Epistle; and it is only made conspicuous by allowing more love. "More of mere love"! is a strange phrase, and unworthy of a saint, who ought to know better its real and inestimable worth.
"Grace, mercy, peace from God [the] Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." Here we have the same words precisely as in the First; and as to both so famous an expositor as Calvin dares to apologize for the apostle, if it be not to censure him. "He does not observe the exact order; for he places first what ought to have been last, namely, the grace which flows from mercy. For the reason why God at first receives us into favour and why He loves is, that He is merciful. But it is not unusual to mention the cause after the effect for the sake of explanation."* Such is his comment on the first occasion, which is repeated substantially on the second. It is plain that the scope of the blessed wish of the apostle has escaped him. For grace is the general term for that energy and outflow of divine goodness which rises above men's evil and ruin, and loves notwithstanding all; and so is most correctly, as it is uniformly, in the first place in the salutation, whether to assemblies or to individual saints. "Mercy" most appropriately finds its place in the desire of God's pitiful consideration for individual weakness, need, or danger, and so is found not only in 1 and 2 Tim., but also exceptionally and of special purpose in Jude, as it disappears from Philemon where the assembly in his house rightly modifies the formula. But mercy being thus subordinate, however sweet individually, with unquestionably good reason holds the second place. By none is it doubted that "peace," being an effect rather than a spring, is found where it should be, as indeed each and all have been shown to be. Yet how sorrowful and humiliating that such apparently unconscious but real disrespect to scripture should stand unchallenged in the final shape as well as in a modern translation of Calvin's writings, who is generally allowed to be in nothing behind the very chiefest Reformers! If reverence for God be attested by trembling at His word, may we be warned by such an example.
* "Secundum hoc, hoc est, Misericordiae nomen, praeter suum morem interposuit, forte singular) erga Timotheum amore impulsus. Porro, non servat exactum ordinem: quod enim posterius est priore loco posuit gratiam scilicet quae ex misericordia manat. Nam ideo nos in gratiam initio recipit Deus, et deinde amore nos prosequitur, quia misericors est. Verum non est insolitum, causam subjungi effectuii, explicationis causa" Calvin, (Opp. vii. 438. Amstel. 1607).
It is interesting to note how often in the last words of an old man one hears the recall of earlier facts in his life or recollections. Inspiration does not set this aside. The apostle speaks now of his "forefathers," as he reminds Timothy of the faithful predecessors in his family. "I thank God whom I serve from my forefathers in a pure conscience how unceasingly I have the remembrance of thee in my supplications, night and day longing to see thee, remembering thy tears, that I may be filled with joy, calling to mind 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" (vers. 3-5). There is a difference in the way in which Paul speaks of his forefathers as compared with the female line of believers before Timothy. He does not affirm that his ancestors were faithful in the same sense as were those of his child in the faith. It would not seem to be more than what he predicates of "our whole twelve tribes" in Acts 26:7. He however assuredly served God with pure conscience and could speak of giving Him thanks in the remembrance of Timothy. It was not merely a gracious affection for his sorrowing and anxious fellow-labourer; but he had the remembrance of Timothy in his supplications unceasingly, whilst night and day he longed to see him. Both were true. One cannot conceive a grosser delusion than that faith destroys affection. There is no life so influential as Christ's, no bond equal to that of the Holy Spirit.
But there is more to be observed here: Paul remembered Timothy's tears, without particularly telling us why he shed them. The context however, implies that it was the bitterness of parting from his revered leader; for the joy, with which the apostle desired to be filled, would be in their seeing one another again. No doubt there was the added feeling for Timothy, but the Spirit of prophecy had over and over again predicted the bonds and imprisonment, if not death, that awaited Paul.
Again, we may notice there was this further for which the apostle was thankful to God: "calling to mind the unfeigned faith which [is] in thee" - faith deeply called for in the increasing perplexities of God's people here below.
It is indeed great joy to think of a beloved soul here and there, thus marked out by the Spirit, not only in time but for eternity; to think of such as an object of God's love, and in the nearest relation to Christ. It is a sweet comfort in shame and sorrow to look on a friend who by "unfeigned faith" is witness for God in an unbelieving world. Such was Timothy in the apostle's eyes, which, if they were soon about to close on that world, looked back at the faith which dwelt first in his grandmother Lois and in his mother Eunice, as he emphatically adds, "and, I am persuaded, in thee also." Timothy was not the less but the more dear to the apostle, because he had been deeply exercised and severely sifted. But he could not leave him under possible discouragement, nor simply bring before him those who had preceded him in faith, nor cheer himself in a merely general way. He adds, "For which cause I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands" (ver. 6).
This gift (χάñéóìα) was the special energy of the Holy Ghost imparted to Timothy. There is no reasonable doubt that it is the gift spoken of in 1 Timothy 4:14. Only there it is said to have been given through prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the elderhood; here. through the laying on of Paul's hands. The presbyters were associated with Paul; but the power was solely in the apostle. He only was the divinely employed channel of so great a gift. And this is indicated by the difference of the prepositions "with" and "by."
But the apostle takes occasion to speak of that which, thank God, is not special and in no way calls for prophecy. Rather is it the abiding spring of power for the church of God, the standing privilege guaranteed by the Lord (John 14-16) to every believer in the Lord resting on redemption during this present interval since Pentecost. Hence the change of language: "for God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but of power and love and sobriety of mind" (ver. 7)
What can be more comforting now in the utter ruin of the outward character of the church, which caused the apostle such intense grief when he descried its beginnings! Signs and wonders, if they could be in consistency with God's will and glory, had been no such source of joy and blessing. They were most important in their season and for their end. They attested the victory of the risen Man over Satan; they proclaimed the beneficent power of God just vested in the hands of those that were His, and in the midst of a ruined creation. They were calculated, as they were used, to arouse the attention of a dark and slumbering race to the new ways of a God active in goodness, Who was putting honour on Him Whom man had rejected to his own shame and irreparable loss.
But there is a still deeper grace in the permanence of the Holy Ghost given to the Christian as also to the church. And the more so as we learn how every truth has been enfeebled, every principle corrupted, all the ways of God not only misunderstood but misinterpreted, so that His testimony as a whole is wrecked in Christendom. Nevertheless, as the firm foundation of God stands, and as the Head of the church is exalted at His right hand infallibly to love, cherish, and nourish His body, so is His great gift to us unrevoked, and is not a spirit of cowardice. To supplant it alas! might well seem to become us, when one realizes the present ruin of all that bears the name of the Lord here below. On the contrary, He is given to abide in and with us for ever, and His gift is that of power and of love and of a sound mind. This was meant to cheer Timothy; and we have yet deeper need. So much the more therefore ought it to cheer us as nothing else can.
For we must remember that the Spirit of God is given us for present enjoyment and service. It becomes us therefore neither to sit down helplessly in dust and ashes, nor to show how unbroken we are, if not profane, in saying, while we go on with wrong, that Christ will set all to rights when He appears in glory. The more we are led of Him, the more deeply we shall feel that, as the evil around is irreparable, we must now cleave to His name, separate from evil and be associated godlily. We shall not give ourselves up to despair, but rise in faith and faithfulness. We shall be strengthened in obedience, and filled with the divine cheer of the Lord's presence, as we keep His words and look for Him from heaven.
The consciousness of the Holy Ghost in us will be power, not to work miracles, but to do the will of God, as this will draw us out in the love of God, and impart a sober judgment of all that becomes His saints in the midst of ruin. This is worthy of Christ in an evil day; and what can we desire more till He Himself comes, the crown of divine goodness and glory?
In the path of Christ the time surely comes when faith is put to the proof. It is one thing in the confidence of grace and at the summons of the truth to turn one's back on the fairest pretension opposed to His name; it is quite another to stand firm and unabashed when not only the world turns from us, but desertion sets in among those that confessed Him. How few can stand the loss of valued associations, not to speak of their taunts and persecutions! This abnormal state was dawning on the sensitive and distressed spirit of Timothy. It has long been the ordinary experience for the faithful in Christendom. What a frightful illustration of it even recent years have furnished!
"Be not ashamed therefore of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner; but suffer hardship with the gospel, according to the power of God, Who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times everlasting, but hath now been manifested by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, Who abolished death and brought life and incorruption to light through the gospel, whereunto I was appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher" (vers. 8-11).
It is only ignorance of self which makes it to many difficult to understand why Timothy should be thus ashamed. When the tide of blessing is at the full there is little or no room for shame. It is far otherwise when the ingathering is small and when the love of the many waxes cold, when the world becomes more hardened and contemptuous and the saints cower under its reproaches. Faith alone keeps the eye upon Christ and the heart warmed with His love in an atmosphere so chilling. His reproach (for it is Christ's assuredly) becomes then glorious in our eyes; and "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:37). For the testimony though it may seem to fail is none the less the testimony of our Lord, and the suffering witness under the unjust hand of human authority is His prisoner. "Be not therefore ashamed" is the word. Grace identified the witness, who may not be perfect, with His testimony which is absolutely so. Why should we ever stand for that which is less than divine' We are not called to suffer or to bear shame for anything but Christ. He has still His objects, precious in His eyes, here below. Be it ours to find our lot only there, and let us not be ashamed in a day of grievous departure.
But more; Timothy was called to "suffer evil (hardship) along with the gospel" as an object assailed and involved in all possible trial. It is a grievous blank where a servant of God has only the gospel before his soul, lacks heart for the glory of Christ as Head of the church, fails in faith to enter into the mystery of Christ and His body, and takes the scantiest interest in the joys and sorrows which those blessed relationships entail. It is wrong to be absorbed even with the gospel, so as to abnegate our part in these high and heavenly privileges and consequent duties, so near to Christ and inseparable from God's counsels and Christ's love. But there is the opposite error, which though more rare is at least as dangerous and even more dishonouring to Christ because it is more pretentious and seductive - the danger of occupying the mind and life with the truth of the church and its wondrous associations to the depreciation of the gospel and the despising of those who faithfully addict themselves to this work. The apostle to whom we are indebted more than to any other inspired instrument for the revelation of the church not less strenuously insists on the all-importance of the gospel. Christ is most actively and supremely concerned with both, and so should His servants, though one might be neither a teacher on the one hand nor an evangelist on the other. Still more responsible, because of the grace given to him, was Timothy, being both an evangelist and a teacher. He is here enjoined to suffer evil with the gospel, but according to the power of God. Nothing can show more forcibly the deep interest in it to which he was called. When worldliness enters, suffering hardship disappears. When the church becomes worldly, one gains honour, ease, emolument; and so it is with the gospel when it becomes popular. If the gospel and the church engage the heart and testimony according to Christ, suffering and rejection cannot but ensue. Timothy, therefore, was called to take Christ's part in the gospel; and God's power would not be lacking, however he might suffer.
The gospel is well worth the while, "for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes," being entirely above the distinction which the law or circumcision made. It is of the Spirit, not of the flesh, not national now but personal. God "saved us." It is the fruit of His work in Christ; and that work was finished on earth, and accepted in heaven, and abides for ever, complete and unchanging. Men may be moved away from the hope of the gospel by ordinances on the one hand or by philosophy on the other. Both are of the world, and almost equally worthless; both are absolutely inefficacious to save, though one be a sign, the other purely human. But God "saved us and called us with a holy calling." Here "holy" is emphatic and most suitable to the Epistle and the state of things contemplated. Always true, it was urgent now to press its "holy" character. It is a calling on high or upward, as we read in Php 3:14, in contrast with the earthly things in which men find their glory to their shame. It is a heavenly calling, as we see in Hebrews 3:1, which those needed especially to consider who were used to the external calling of Israel in the land. It is God's calling with its hope in and with Christ where the creature disappears from view and His eternal counsels for the glory of His Son are developed for the soul, as in Eph. 1 and 4. But now in the growing declension of such as bore the name of the Lord the apostle binds together God's salvation with His holy calling. An evil time is not at all one for lowering the standard but for unveiling it and for pressing its importance.
Further, being divine, God's salvation and call are not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace. Even the saint was to pray, "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant; for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified" (Psalm 143:2). There are good works in every saint: "For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before prepared that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10); they are not only to be fair morally but they ought to be such as suit those on earth who are united to Christ in heaven, responsible to reflect heavenly grace - no longer earthly righteousness merely. Such works alone are properly Christian. "Against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:23). But they are quite distinct from those of legal obedience, were it ever so exact. Nevertheless God's salvation is according to Christ's work, not ours. Nor is it of him that willeth nor of him that runneth but of God that showeth mercy (Romans 9:16), according to His own purpose and grace, Who would thus perfectly honour the Son as we do in our measure by our faith.
This, again, was given us in Christ Jesus before everlasting times, a most weighty and blessed truth. It is not merely security assured without end, but grace given in Christ Jesus before time began. It was not so with Israel: they were called in time. God's purpose about us, Christians, was in eternity before any creature existed. To make it only endless security in the future is to lose this wondrous fact of the divine will about the saints who are now called in Christ to His glory. Their blessing was a counsel bound up with Christ before the world was or any question of creature responsibility entered: God purposed to justify His love and glorify Himself in having us with Christ in His presence and like Him of His own sovereign grace; therefore are we so much the more bound to walk, now and here, as He walked, in righteousness and holiness of truth as the new man after God was created (Ephesians 4:24).
But the manifestation of this purposed grace to us came in with Him Who was manifested in flesh and justified in the Spirit. Even so, though all depended on the dignity of His person, and awaited the completion of His work, and His return as man into that glory whence He had come as God the Son that thus it might be the Son of man Who had glorified God in Himself; and this straightway (John 13:31-32). Manhood, now that the infinite work of suffering for sin was accomplished, was in His person at least raised from among the dead and glorified on high according to the fullest counsel of God. His purpose and grace was no longer a question of gift only as before the ages of time, but manifested now through the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, having annulled death and brought life and incorruption to light through the gospel.
This helps to the more distinct understanding of verse 1; for it is the promise of life, that which is in Christ Jesus, fulfilled. Grace was thus distributing its incomparable stores. Death was brought to naught as Satan's empire over sinful man, and Jesus was manifestly Lord of all and Conqueror over all hostile power and Giver of infinite blessing in communion with God His Father; and all this in truth and righteousness. For sin had been borne and borne away, as the gospel declares to all men in itself and applies the good news to ourselves by faith individually.
Where is man's wisdom then? For ever put to shame in His cross of which it was ashamed. Where is the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us? Effaced for ever and taken out of the way by Him Who nailed it to the cross, as the resurrection cast its glorious light on the incorruption of the body pledged to us in Him risen. No wonder the apostle told the Roman saints long before that he was not ashamed of the gospel, destined to be imprisoned and slain and cast out in the person of its witnesses in that city more than in any other that professed it, not to speak of the loathsome imposture and harlotry which supplanted and still supplant it there. No wonder the apostle there imprisoned for its sake, and anticipating the speedy pouring out of his blood as a drink-offering (2 Timothy 4:6), adds with triumphant thankfulness, "unto which [gospel] I [emphatically] was appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher [of Gentiles]." Some few high and varied authorities ( A 17) omit "of Gentiles," which from the character of the Epistle seems to me probably right; and the rather as the copyists were profoundly insensible of such a trait but disposed to assimilate the second letter to the first, where "of Gentiles" has its suited and certain place.
The apostle no sooner introduces himself and his appointed place in service than he names those sufferings of his which were at least as wonderful as his labours.
"For which cause also I suffer these things; yet I am not ashamed; for I know Whom I have believed; and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted [or, my deposit] against that day. Have an outline of sound words, which [words] thou heardest from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. The good thing entrusted [or, the good deposit] keep through the Holy Spirit that dwelleth in us" (vers. 12-14).
No one was more remote from superstitious penalties or self-righteous pains; yet where was ever such a life-long endurance in the most varied ways for the testimony of Christ? "In stripes beyond measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Five times from Jews I received the forty stripes save one; thrice I was scourged with rods; once I was stoned; thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I spent in the deep; in journeyings often; in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my countrymen, in perils from Gentiles, in perils in town, in perils in wilderness, in perils at sea, in perils among false brethren; in labour and toil, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness" (2 Corinthians 11:21-27). And this is but the mere external part in what he calls his "folly," that is, in speaking of himself instead of Christ, extorted from him as it was by the detractors at Corinth. But what a life of love such sufferings indicate, what devotedness to Him Who had appointed him a herald and apostle and teacher!
Was he "ashamed" then? Rather did he boast of what humanly speaking is a humiliation. If it is needful to boast, says he, "I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity," "most gladly therefore will I rather boast of my infirmities [not faults or sins assuredly], that the power of the Christ may dwell upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, in straits, for Christ; for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). As that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God, so to the spiritual mind there is nothing so glorious for a saint here below as reproach, rejection, and suffering for Christ's sake and His testimony. This was the cause for which Paul was suffering then as all through his course, since the Lord said, "I will show him how much he must suffer for My name" (Acts 9:16). But it was also great grace that, instead of complaining like Jeremiah, he should abound in courage, joy, and triumph, NOT shame.
Was Paul then a man of iron constitution, a heart of oak, which threw off all blows and wounds, as if unfelt? "Ye know," said he to some who should have known him well, "that in weakness of the flesh I preached the gospel to you at the first; and my temptation which was in my flesh ye did not slight nor reject with contempt; but ye received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus" (Galatians 4:13-14). His circumstances were as trying as his health was infirm; yet went he on for years, night and day, admonishing each with tears, coveting no one's silver or gold or clothing, but his hands ministering to the wants of others as well as his own. Truly in nothing was he ashamed; but with all boldness of grace, as always, so now also magnifying Christ in his body whether by life or by death.
What sustained him? "For I know Whom I have believed." It is faith, but it is the Person Who is believed, and a real inward knowledge of Him thereby formed. No other knowledge has such sterling value for eternity; yet there is communion with God in it now, as now the Holy Spirit communicates it through the word. The voice of Christ is heard and believed and known; for there is, though the channels may be many, but that One, and the voice of any other is only the voice of a stranger. His words are spirit, and they are life; and that life depends on Him Who is its source; Who draws out confidence the more He is known without enfeebling dependence. In Him we have redemption through His blood; and as He is, so we are in this world: acceptance is complete and perfect, according to the glory of His person and the efficacy of His work.
Hence the apostle adds, "and I am persuaded that He is able to keep my deposit - that which I have entrusted unto Him - against that day." By "my deposit" is to be understood all that I as a believer entrust to the safekeeping of God, not only the security but the blessedness of the soul and the body, of the walk and the work, with every question conceivable to be raised in the past, present, or future. As responsibility is clearly in question, the reference is as usual to "that day," which will declare the measure of every saint's fidelity when each shall have his praise from God. The coming or "presence" of the Lord, as is well-known, is the aspect of pure grace when all shall be caught up in the likeness of the Lord to be with Him for ever.
This leads the apostle to impress on his fellow-labourer an all-important exhortation regarding his own service of Christ with others. "Have an outline of sound words, which thou heardest from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (ver. 13). "Hold fast" goes far beyond the force of the first word, as "the" form is also unwarranted. Timothy had been used to hear the things which are freely given us by God spoken in words, not which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth, or, as they are here described, "sound words". But there had been no formula which he was called and bound to keep; simply the truth conveyed in divinely taught expressions, which, heard before from Paul, he was to heed jealously now that the end of that mighty testifying was near.
For man is not competent to set the truth in new forms without trenching on it and thus impairing if not corrupting the testimony of God. It is not enough to have the things of the Spirit; the words in which they are conveyed need to be of the Spirit also, in order to communicate God's mind in perfection; and hence, to be a rule of faith, we must have God's word. Now that the inspired authorities no longer exist, scripture only is this; and it is as distinct from ministry on the one hand as from the assembly on the other.
Ministry is the regular service of Christ by gift to communicate the truth, whether to the world in the gospel, or to the saints in the truth generally. But even if not a word were amiss (which is rarely the case - indeed far otherwise), it is not inspiration and therefore in no way a rule of faith.
Still less can the assembly be rightly so viewed. It is responsible to receive and reflect the word of God. It is the pillar and stay of the truth, the responsible keeper and corporate witness of holy writ; as Israel of old was of the law and the prophets, the living oracles committed to them. But scripture itself abides the rule of faith.
And hence in this last Epistle of Paul we have the reiterated forms which urge the duty of taking heed to the sound words heard from the apostle. Outline or sample of such words he was to have, the authority of which was imprinted on them from God; for Timothy was no such authority, and less if possible were the saints who were to profit by them. But Timothy's state of soul was much for their happy use with others; and therefore "with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" has its importance. Memory, however exact, would not suffice. Faith and love, which have their power in Jesus Christ, would make them so much the more impressive.
The verse that follows appears to me to summarize what its predecessor exhorts in detail: "Keep the good deposit through the Holy Spirit that dwelleth in us" (ver. 14), the latter having a sort of antithetical reference to verse 12. There it was the apostle resting with holy satisfaction on God's keeping what he had entrusted to Him. Here is the other side, in which Timothy is called to keep what he was entrusted with, for which God provides help in the Holy Spirit that dwells in us. For the Spirit given abides with us for ever. He may be grieved by our sins and folly; but He does not abandon the saint since redemption. He is there, when self-judgment corrects the hindrance, to act in His own gracious power to the glory of Christ Who sent Him down for this very purpose.
It will be noticed that the Spirit's dwelling is not said to be "in thee", but "in us". So it is in scripture habitually, and is incomparably better than if predicated of Timothy alone. On him had been conferred by apostolic prerogative a special gift; but he or any other saint shared the unspeakable boon, for Whose mission it was expedient that even Jesus should go away (John 16:7). This is the common and characteristic power of the Christian; and therefore it was fitting that, while Timothy should be reminded of One so competent to help our infirmity, he should have it clearly before his soul that the saints at large have the divine Spirit no less truly dwelling in them. It was well for both him and them to have the comfort and the stimulus of so blessed, yet solemn, a fact indelibly before them.
We cannot too strongly urge that the precious privileges with which God's grace in Christ has invested believers are standing facts, and not mere ideas or transient feelings. They are indeed calculated to exercise the mind and fill the mind to the full, and wretched is his state, who, possessing what so transcends human thought or affection, seems to estimate them less than the passing things of the day or the trifling objects on which man spends his care. But the life of Christ, His death and resurrection, redemption through His blood, union with Him on high, His intercession at God's right hand, are facts on which the soul can rest, no less than on His Deity and His humanity in one person. Just so is it with the presence of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, and His varied operations in the assembly and the individual. The believer stands in divine present relationship with them all, which are as certain and infinitely more important than the links of natural kin or country, which nobody in his senses disbelieves. What a reproof to the thoughtless saint! and what solid cheer to the trembling heart! We have only to reflect on what grace has made ours in Christ to run over with thanksgiving and praise.
There is more, however, than hardship or suffering to be faced in the testimony of our Lord, and no one proved it more than the apostle. To be persecuted by foes may be bitter, though glorious for His sake Who really entails it as the world now is. But what is this to compare with desertion by friends? Here, the life that is in Christ finds fresh scope. For glorifying the Lord in such an experience how deep the value of the word, and how energetic the power of the Holy Ghost which dwells in us! A single eye to Christ alone can sustain in it, and as the apostle was then feeling it to the uttermost so does he not hesitate to bring it before the tender spirit of his beloved child.
"Thou knowest this, that all that are in Asia turned away from me; of whom is Phygelus and Hermogenes" (ver. 15). Of these two we may be wholly ignorant. Not so Timothy any more than Paul, who singles out their names as the most painful examples of the abandonment which cut the apostle to the heart. Timothy knew well what made their heartlessness such a distress to the servant, such a dishonour to the Master. It is not Christian to treat such conduct with contempt any more than with resentment. We can afford to hear all, however humbling as well as grievous. For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Their defection would prepare Timothy and countless others for that which might be similar in its kind and time. Scripture records nothing in vain. It is true that we are nerved and strengthened for the conflict by looking not to deserters but to the Captain of salvation. But it is well to be prepared for that which has been, for what might be, not to say for what from the same causes is sure to be, from time to time. And it was the more important to speak of it to Timothy at this time, because he was so soon to lose the cheering presence and burning exhortations of the one who was writing to him, at least to lose his voice as a living man, though ever to be heard, ever to abide as the word of the living God.
Let us consider more precisely what appears to be meant by these affecting words. Asia, pro-consular Asia, had been the scene of signal triumph for the gospel. It was there that the word of the Lord mightily grew and prevailed, and this in its capital city, Ephesus. To the saints there the apostle had written his most elevated and richest Epistle, with the singular feature of there being no occasion to occupy himself or them with faults or dangers then existing in their midst, though not without warning against the worst and lowest evils into which Satan might betray, and betray so much the more surely if that height of grace and truth were departed from or despised. And Timothy knew Asia well, especially Ephesus. There the apostle would have him remain when he himself was going to Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3) that he might keep up the testimony which had been planted there and guard the saints against all the trash of man which Satan would use to supplant it.
But now, the apostle can assume that Timothy knew that desertion of himself which filled his heart, not with dismay but with grief. Such is the effect of divine love shed abroad in the heart, and Paul would have Timothy to feel it according to Christ. This, undoubtedly, adds to the anguish but it delivers from selfishness as well as from acrimony. And Timothy needed to have it brought before him thus, even though he knew the fact. The language supposes, it would seem, a definite act, rather than a general state, though no doubt there was an antecedent state which prepared the way for that act to affect them so unworthily.
It is true that turning away from Paul is very different from forsaking the gospel or the church, from giving up this truth or that. But where the Lord was giving His most honoured servant to suffer, not for any failure of his own, but for the divine deposit, for His testimony here below, that any should desert such a servant at such a time would be lamentable: how much more so that the desertion should be general and in a moral sense universal where the truth was best known and grace could be brought out in all its height and depth and breadth as nowhere else! I should judge from the context that the fact which brought out this most deplorable and guilty desertion was the apostle's imprisonment. The enemy took advantage of human shame put upon the greatest servant of the church and of the gospel. And those who had been the abundant fruit of his labours in divine power did in effect join the world in spirit, cowering under its shame where faith and love ought to have given them identification with the apostle's suffering as bringing glory to the name of Jesus.
But the turning away from Paul was not absolutely complete even in Asia. There was at least a bright exception, as a time of general evil is ever used in the grace of God to bring out singular fidelity and devotedness. "The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus; for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chain; but being in Rome he sought me out diligently and found [me]; (the Lord grant him to find mercy from [the] Lord in that day). And in how many things he ministered at Ephesus thou knowest very well" (vers. 16-18). The contrast helps much and definitely to show us where the general defection lay; and the Lord repaid "the house of Onesiphorus" with compound interest the grace He had bestowed on its head. "He often refreshed me," says the gracious apostle: how like the Master Who could say to the poor disciples, "Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations; and I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as My Father appointed unto Me . . ."! (Luke 22:28-29).
But Paul also singles out the crucial fact: "and was not ashamed of my chain." Love evinces its truth, character, and power in the hour of need. How was it with "all that were in Asia"? They were evidently ashamed of it. Fleshly prudence blamed the zeal for Christ which gave the occasion; and worldly spirit shrank from all solidarity with the imprisoned apostle. How did the Lord regard such selfish timorousness" The Holy Spirit marks its baseness indelibly on the everlasting page of scripture. But He singles out the blessed exception of one whose heart crave the more to the apostle, not merely in the province of Asia, but in the proud metropolis where the apostle was bound. "But being in Rome he sought me very diligently";* and not in vain. He found the deserted apostle: "the Lord grant him to find mercy from [the] Lord in that day"! This, it is true, we are all awaiting in faith (Judges 1:21); but none the less sweet or comforting is the apostle's prayer, surely not less efficacious than that of an Abraham of old for the present government of God. Nor is this all that is said; but he appeals to Timothy as knowing very well how much service Onesiphorus rendered in Ephesus. The apostle does not limit it, as the Authorized Version does with others, to ministering to himself: the general phrase leaves room for what was personal, of course, but it implies much more, as the apostle carefully states. None knew this "better"* than Timothy who needed no further explanation.
* It is the comparative in both verse 17 and 18, not the positive nor the superlative: a favourite Greek idiom, which if the ellipse were expanded would express, "more diligently than could be expected" (ver. 17) and "knowing better than to require more said of it." (ver. 18).
To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;
Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
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,
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.
This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.
The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:
But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.
The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.