Matthew Poole's Commentary
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.2 Timothy 2:1-14 Timothy is exhorted to constancy and perseverance in
the discharge of his duty, as a good soldier of
Christ, looking for a certain reward of his fatigues
2 Timothy 2:15,16 to divide the word of truth rightly, and to shun
profane and vain babblings.
2 Timothy 2:17,18 The dangerous error of Hymenaeus and Philetus.
2 Timothy 2:19 The foundation of God standeth sure.
2 Timothy 2:20,21 Of vessels honourable and dishonourable.
2 Timothy 2:22-26 Timothy is taught what to flee, and what to follow,
and how the servant of Christ must behave toward all men.
The sense is either: Show thyself a stout and valiant man, not being affrighted at the dangers that threaten thee in the publishing and defence of the gospel which brings the glad tidings of the grace of Jesus Christ: or: Be thou strong through the gracious influence of Christ Jesus, without which thou canst do nothing.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses; the doctrine of the gospel which thou hast heard from me, confirmed by the testimony of many of the prophets of old, or, which thou heardest from me committed to thy trust, there being many witnesses present, when thou wert ordained. or set apart to thy office.
The same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also; commit unto others that shall be set apart for the ministry; but let them be such as have an ability to communicate their knowledge to others, and such as thou shalt judge will be faithful to their trust.
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.Endure hardness; in the Greek it is, suffer evils, that is evils of affliction, expect them, and encounter and patiently eudure them.
As a good soldier of Jesus Christ; remembering that the life of a minister is not a life of ease and pleasure, but the life of a soldier, whose life is a life of hardship, exposed to numberless hazards and dangers.
No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.Having told Timothy that his life was to be the life of a soldier, in which he would be exposed to many difficulties, and dangers, and hazards, he here mindeth him of the law and custom of soldiers, who being once entered in the muster-roll, use to sequester themselves from other employments in trading, husbandry, or the like, that thereby they might be at the command of their general, or captain, to be called out upon what service he pleaseth. So he who is a minister of the gospel ought not voluntarily and of choice engage himself in secular employments, but give up himself wholly to the ministerial work, that so he might please the Lord Jesus Christ, who hath chosen him to be his soldier.
And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.And look as it is in the public games in use amongst you, where divers strive by wrestling, fighting, racing, where there is a crown proposed as the prize for those who are the conquerors in the game; they have not that crown set upon their heads, unless they keep to the laws of that game wherein they are exercised. So it is in the spiritual warfare, or contest; there is a far greater reward, even a crown of glory, proposed for such as overcome; but none shall have it, unless those who keep to the laws which God hath made for those who exercise themselves in that spiritual combat.
The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.As the apostle had before compared the minister of the gospel to a soldier, and from thence concluded his duty not to entangle himself unnecessarily in secular employments; and to those that exercised themselves in their public games, and from thence concluded the obligation upon him to keep to the Divine rule in the management of his office, and of himself under the opposition he should meet with; so here he compares him to a husbandman, (as Christ himself had done, Matthew 13:1, &c.), either to mind him of his duty, first to look to save his own soul, then the souls of others, or of his advantage, it being the privilege of a husbandman, being the proprietor of the fruits, (if he will), first to eat thereof, thereby intimating the privilege of those who turn many to righteousness, Daniel 12:3.
Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.Consider what I say; weigh these things with thyself in thy own thoughts.
And the Lord give thee understanding in all things; but thou wilt not effectually understand them without a Divine influence, opening thy mind to a comprehension of them, and thy heart to a reception of all these things, and all other things which it is reasonable for thee to know and understand.
Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:The apostle passeth from his former discourse, wherein he had armed Timothy against the afflictions of the gospel, to a discourse about the doctrine of the gospel; and here mentioneth two principal heads of that doctrine, the incarnation of Christ, and his resurrection, which he instanceth in, as more particularly to be remembered and pressed upon Christians, in regard they were those two points of the gospel which were either at that time denied, as that of the incarnation was by the Jews, or he knew would first be opposed; and the latter that which
declared Christ to be the Son of God with power, Romans 1:4, and upon a faith in which Christians’ salvation and consolation much depended, Romans 4:25 8:34; he therefore calls to him especially to
remember that Jesus Christ was of the seed of David, truly man, and the true Messiah, who was to be the seed of David, (as the Jews themselves confessed): the manhood of Christ, soon after the apostle’s times, was denied by the Marcionites and Manichees, &c. And that he
was raised from the dead deserved Timothy’s remembrance, both because upon that depended the great evidence of Christ’s Divine nature, and the salvation and consolation of believers.
According to my gospel; this, he saith, was suitable to the doctrine of the gospel which he had preached to them: he calls it his gospel, because committed to his trust to publish; so Romans 2:16, and Romans 16:25, which he expoundeth, Galatians 1:11, the gospel preached of me: he speaks in the plural number, 1 Thessalonians 1:5 2 Thessalonians 2:14; declaring that the gospel was no more his than others’ also who were ministers of it.
Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil-doer, even unto bonds; that is, for which I suffer affliction, as if I were an evil-doer, to that degree that I am put in chains.
But the word of God is not bound; but yet I preach the gospel, or the gospel is preached; though they have restrained me, they are not able to restrain that.
Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.Therefore I endure all things; that is, all things which I do endure, reproach, imprisonment, &c., for he had not yet resisted to blood.
For the elect’s sakes; as for Christ’s sake, to imitate his example, and testify my love to him; so for the sake of those whom God hath chosen to eternal life, that they, seeing my patience and constancy, may be confirmed in the faith of the gospel, and by that means may obtain eternal life, salvation, with eternal glory, which is to be had in Christ.
It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:It is a faithful saying: see the notes on 1 Timothy 1:15, and 1 Timothy 4:9, where we had the same phrase.
For if we be dead with him: we are said to be dead with Christ two ways:
1. By our dying to sin, as he died for sin, Romans 6:5.
2. By our suffering in testimony of the truth, 2 Corinthians 4:10, which is that being dead with him which is here mentioned.
We shall also live with him: there is also a twofold living with him, by a rising again to a newness of life, Romans 6:5, and hereafter in glory, which latter is here intended.
If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:If we suffer, we shall also reign with him; that is, if we suffer for his name’s sake, for a constant owning and adherence to his doctrine of faith, or discharge of any trust he hath reposed in us, we shall reign with him in glory.
If we deny him, he also will deny us; but if we, upon prospect of danger, deny his truth, or desert the profession of him, he in the day of judgment will not own us before his Father and the holy angels, Matthew 10:33 Mark 8:38 Romans 8:17.
If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; whether we believe or believe not, or whether we be faithful to our trust or be not, yet God will show himself faithful, either to his promises made to them that believe, or to his threatenings denounced against those that believe not.
He cannot deny himself; for it is impossible that he who is truth titself should be otherwise, that were for him to deny himself.
Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.Of these things put them in remembrance; that is, put other teachers in remembrance of all these things which I have given thee in charge.
Charging them before the Lord; charging them as in the sight of God, who most certainly observeth and taketh notice of them, and will call them to an account.
That they strive not about words to no profit; that they spend not their time in their pulpits in contests about words which tend to no solid advantage of their hearers.
But to the subverting of the hearers; but may tend to the subversion of them, and the destroying their steadiness in the faith, drawing them into parties and factions, the fruit of which is nothing but envy, and contentions, and different opinions in matters of faith; as to which it hath been always observed, that the affectation of new phrases hath been introductive of a novelty in opinion.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.Study to show thyself approved unto God; let it be thy study, not to please men, to get their hum and applause for speaking quaintly, learnedly, or smoothly, but to approve thyself to God, who is thy Master in this work, and whom thou oughtest to serve.
A workman that needeth not to be ashamed; a workman that doth his work so well, and faithfully, that he need not be ashamed, whoever looketh and judgeth upon it.
Rightly dividing the word of truth; oryotomounta, rightly cutting out; we translate it rightly dividing: it is not material whether the metaphor be drawn from the priests right cutting out their sacrifices, so as all had their shares in them; or from carpenters cutting out their timber, cutting off the sappy part, and by a right line dividing the other parts; or from cooks, or carvers, or parents rightly dividing a dish of meat among several guests or children; or from those that use to cut out ways; or from husbandmen cutting out furrows, &c. The sense is, rightly handling the word of God, and giving to all their portion. For their notion who would make the sense of it, cutting out a right way for others by thy example, because the word oryotomein sometimes signifies to cut a right way, it no way agreeth to the text, for whatever the verb signifies alone, he is meanly skilled in the Greek that knows not it cannot have that sense, being joined (as here) with ton logon thv alhyeiav, the word of truth.
But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.But shun profane and vain babblings; by these dishonourable terms the apostle defameth all impertinent discourses in discharge of the ministerial office, such as he had called fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, 1 Timothy 1:4; profane and old wives’ fables, 1 Timothy 4:7: here he calls them kenofwniav, empty, vain, and unprofitable discourses, which though possibly not profane in themselves, yet were profane as used in the discharge of the ministerial office, where nothing ought to be discoursed but the solid, useful truths of the gospel.
For they will increase unto more ungodliness; these, he saith, will issue at last in errors and ungodliness of life.
And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;And their word will eat as doth a canker; in the Greek it is: And their word will have pasture (or place to feed upon) as a gangrene: we have ill translated the word a canker, for it signifieth a gangrene; both our English word gangrene and the Latin word are derived from the Greek. There is a great difference between a canker and a gangrene, in the causes of those two diseases, and the nature of them, and the time in which they destroy the body of a man; only they both agree in their infecting the parts contiguous, the canker eating them, the gangrene mortifying them; and for this, the words of erroneous persons are here compared to this disease, because either of them will have something to feed upon; so nomhn signifieth, John 10:9. Most errors in matters of faith are contagious and infectious; the reason is, because ordinarily an error is broached by some, and entertained by others, in satisfaction to some lust, as favouring some evil desire and inclination of our minds, and so naturally pleaseth those who have the same evil propensions.
Of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus: of Hymenaeus we read before, 1 Timothy 1:20, there he is joined with Alexander; but not of Philetus, nor do we find him further mentioned in holy writ.
Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.Who concerning the truth have erred; these two he saith had already erred as to the doctrine of faith, giving heed to profane and vain babblings.
Saying that the resurrection is past already; their particular error was in the business of the resurrection, which they said was past. That there shall be no resurrection is a very pleasing doctrine to men that have lived sensual lives; those whose lives have been nothing but eating and drinking, do very unwillingly think of dying, but seeing they cannot avoid that, they would gladly there should be no resurrection: so that it was no wonder if such an error as this did spread and mortify like a gangrene. Upon what pretence these men denied the resurrection, we are neither told in holy writ, nor with any certainty by any other authors. Some say, that they held that it was past in the resurrection of Christ, and those mentioned Matthew 27:52. Others think they confounded the resurrection with regeneration, and glorification, which they allowed only as to the souls of believers. Others say they maintained no other resurrection than what men have in the procreation of children. Others, that they denied any resurrection but that in baptism. The resurrection of the body was denied by the Sadducees, by these in Paul’s time, and afterwards by those that followed, Marcion, Basilides, Valentinus and Apelles, and others. Some in our times also have trodden in their steps, and are still treading (unless they think God will be more kind to those infinite numbers of heathens in the country of the Great Mogul than to Christians; for as to them, they tell us they cannot believe any such thing). Two sorts of men have been guilty of this:
1. The philosophers of the world, that think they must be able with their reason to span all articles of faith.
2. Men of sensual and sottish lives, who having lived like beasts, are willing to believe they shall also die like brutes.
And overthrow the faith of some; those who are tainted with this error do both themselves deny the faith, divers principal articles of which depend upon it, such as the resurrection of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:1-58, and eternal life, &c., and also subvert the faith of others; for whoso can persuade another that there shall be no resurrection, makes him an infidel. Such heretics therefore were never endured to keep any station in the Christian church, it being always judged reasonable, that those who were turned infidels should be turned out of the flock of Christ to their proper herd.
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure; notwithstanding that these two men (possibly of some note in the church of Ephesus) have fallen from the faith, and have been ill instruments to subvert the faith of others, yet God hath a number in the world, who are built upon the rock Christ Jesus, Matthew 7:25; these are founded surely,
having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; sealed, and confirmed in their state by the eternal decree and counsel of God, who hath foreknown his elect, both as to their number and perseverance; but God hath from eternity known who are his, and therefore such as truly are so must be kept through faith by his power to salvation, and it is not possible that these should be totally and finally deceived.
And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity; and every one that nameth the name of the Lord must depart from the tents of wicked men, who have made shipwreck both of faith and a good conscience. Therefore let not the apostacy of these men be a temptation to thee to think that the church of God may or shall fail; that cannot be, there can be no more lost than the sons of perdition, such as God never knew as his, though they put on a mark of Christianity and godliness, and deceived many. Those who have God’s seal upon them, and are of his foundation, shall stand and keep themselves from those damnable errors. Only, to let us know that neither the certainty of God’s decree or promise doth excuse our endeavours and using means for obtaining the thing decreed or promised, the apostle puts the verb in the imperative mood: Let him depart, &c.
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.Look as it is in a great house, there are several vessels, made of several materials, and for several ends and uses; some are made of gold, some of silver, some of wood, some of earth; some made and bought for more noble and honourable uses, others for more vile, base, and dishonourable uses: so it is in the church of God, which is large, and like a great house. In it are many members; some have obtained like precious faith with us, who are as gold tried in the fire, or like silver purified seven times, by the word of God, and his Spirit sitting as a refiner upon their hearts. But all they are not gold or silver who glitter in an outward profession; some of them have earthy, wooden souls, savouring only sensual things, having nothing of precious faith in them, and are not yet purged from their filthiness, wanting all truth of grace, or sincerity of love. Some, whose work is to honour God, being created to good works, and whose reward will be to be honoured and glorified by him: others, who, by their apostacy from their faith and profession, and by their wicked lives, will dishonour him, and will be eternally rejected by him, as reprobate silver, and sons of perdition.
If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.If a man therefore purge himself from these; from these wicked men that subvert the faith of others, or from their wicked opinions and courses.
He shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use; God will honour him; and he will by it be set apart, and made fit for Christ’s use in his church.
And prepared unto every good work; and made fit for every good work; which men are not, while they are either tainted with pernicious, damnable errors relating to the doctrine of faith, or the companions of those fools.
Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.Flee also youthful lusts: by youthful lusts he means such sinful desires, propensities, and inclinations of mind as are most incident to youth, whether they be lusts of the flesh, or spiritual lusts, such as are the vices of the mind ambition, ostentation, pride, vain-glory, contempt of others, &c.
But follow righteousness; follow justice, or innocency, which wrongeth none, but rendereth to every one his due; or, the righteousness of a holy life.
Faith, which teacheth a soul to receive Divine revelations steadily, without perverse disputings.
Charity, which is kind, envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, 1 Corinthians 13:4-6.
Peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart; a union, not with men of corrupt minds and practices, but with all such as serve and worship God purely and sincerely.
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.It is a precept or caution of the same nature with those, 1 Timothy 1:4 4:7; and 2 Timothy 2:16. The repetition of this precept of the apostle four times in these two short Epistles, lets us know how important a thing he judged it, that ministers of the gospel should not spend their time in their discourses to their congregations, in things that tend nothing to the building up of their hearers in faith or holiness, being either old wives’ fables, like the stories in the popish legends, or the apocryphal stories of Bel and the Dragon, Tobit and his dog, and the swallows dunging in his eye, &c.; or sifting out genealogies, or vain and impertinent discourses, or idle, fruitless questions, which tend not to edifying, but to satisfy curiosity, and increase strife and ungodliness; which kind of preaching the apostle also had defamed, 1 Timothy 6:4, as the issue of pride, and ignorance, and dotage, and here he calls such questions
unlearned in the same sense, because impertinent to the end of preaching. The vanity of human nature, and their non-subjection to the will of God, appeareth much in this, that notwithstanding the unreasonableness of such preaching, and the direct opposition of it to the so often repeated precepts of the apostle, and to Titus, Titus 3:9, and Paul’s proposing of his own example to the contrary, 1 Corinthians 2:1-4; yet for many years in the times of popery the people were fed with little besides these husks; and too many yet, either out of pride, to show their parts and reading, or ignorance of the mysteries of godliness, and the true end of preaching, or dotage about unprofitable speculations and niceties, can find little better food than these husks for poor people’s souls.
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,He that is the servant of the Lord in the work of the ministry,
must not macesyai, fight or strive; he must neither be a striker nor a brawler, neither fight with his hands nor his tongue.
But be gentle unto all men; but show himself to all courteous, of a soft temper, meek and gentle.
Apt to teach, patient: see the notes on 1 Timothy 3:2,3.
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; without passion better informing such as have sucked in an error, not reviling them, but gently instructing them, and labouring to convince them of their mistake; for all those who for a time may oppose the truth, are not such as never repent, nor do it out of malice or hatred, they may do it out of ignorance and weakness.
If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and God may give them a power, and a heart to repent, and to acknowledge that truth, which they at present oppose; and although this must be God’s work, yet he doth it by ministers as his means and instruments, who are to use probable means in order to it; such are not railing and reviling, but meek instructions, and a kind and gentle behaviour to them. A foul-mouthed minister is seldom an instrument to cleanse another’s heart.
And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.And that they may recover themselves; the Greek word ananhqwsin properly signifieth to awake out of a drunken sleep. A state of sin is a kind of drunkenness, in which men have lost the use of their reason.
Out of the snare of the devil; by the snare of the devil he means his temptations, which like snares are set covertly to catch souls.
Who are taken captive by him; Hebrew word signfies persons taken captive in war; in such a miserable captivity are sinners.
At his will; ezwgrhmenoi, which we translate at his will, may as well be translated to his will; and so the will of God may be meant, and the whole referred to the first sentence thus, may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil to the will of God; and that is the sense some make of it: but it seems more proper to refer it to the participle, taken captive, for that is next it; and so it signifieth the miserable state of sinners, who are captives at the devil’s command and will, that if he saith to them, Go, they go; if he saith, Come, they come; if he saith, Do this, they do it.